Category "Working"

Dwell’s New Promo Daily

- - Promos, Working

Dwell Magazine has a new column online called “Promo Daily” where Photo Director Anna Alexander and  Associate Photo Editor Julia Sabot highlight promotional pieces they love. You can view their picks here:

I asked Anna a few questions about the new columns and promos in general:

Tell me about the new Promo Daily?

My associate, Julia Sabot, and I were talking the other day about promos. We love them. I know we’re a rare breed, but we actually do hire people based off of their mailers. So, we started to ponder whether or not photographers knew how important they are and how awesome they are, and that promos aren’t dead. I still have a James Acomb promo from like 2004- when I was at Wired- might be because it’s of Henry Rollins and I have a huge obsession with him, but I still have it pinned to my desk.

The first & only post I did on a promo was of Noah Webb‘s FANTASTIC Berlin Passport ( It blew us away. Yes, I know he’s a Dwell photographer already- but he didn’t just send it to only us. Honestly, we hadn’t commissioned him in a while and it was a big fat HELLO! reminder…so, he did our next shoot that came down the pipes. I got so much photographer feedback from posting that (not just from Noah and his beautiful agent Maren at Redeye). We already occassionally post about photography under the title Photography Focus, as well as Julia’s weekly QA, but we wanted to give something back to the photographers who give us mailers, both email and post mail. We’ll be posting our favorite promo of the day with a little info as to why it’s so awesome- because photographers need to know that they’re not just pimping their art out into the USPS system never to be seen again.

When you speak to photographers about promos what advice do you give them?

The last couple of photo portfolio review events I did, I kept getting asked about promos (including emails- which we will also post) and if photo editors/producers toss them immediately in the trash and erase them from their inbox. I actually got in an argument with Armin Harris across an auditorium of photographers at Texas Round-up…it was awesome. Maybe we’re alone here, but I personally know other PE’s who feel the same way I do about promos. We’re photo editors, it’s in our nature to look at an image and know in .5 seconds if it works. We’re all aware that promos are expensive, as well as a traditional portfolio book which is a huge reason why so many are going digital for promotional materials. It’s unfortunate. I typically advise that they make sure they’re sending it out to a current masthead, with a current address to the company/publication. We still get promos to an old address & for photo editors who left 8 years ago. Also, one should be sent to each member of the photo dept / art buying dept- It takes time, but when something is personally written to us it gets noticed. Know who you’re sending your work to, for some reason we get a lot of wedding photographers.

What’s going on at Dwell with photography these days?

Summer is actually our busiest because of the weather, even though grey days are perfect for natural interior light- the overcast sky blows out the exteriors. Also, we’re working to get more profiles on our pages because there’s too many outstanding portrait photographers out there who we need to show-off.

My photo editor readers will want to know how you became the Photo Director at Dwell. Tell us.

I started at Wired in 1997 as the Photo Intern, left for a year during the tech boom bubble to Industry Standard, then went back to Wired. In October 2011, I got a call from Dwell’s Creative Director Alejandro Chavetta and that was that- I was totally poached. Wired and Dwell photography are COMPLETELY different, that’s no secret- but it’s still the business of editorial photography, and both are known for kickass photography. it’s not like I switched to Cat Fancy (I wish).

Mail and email for your promos:

Anna Alexander
Dwell Magazine
550 Kearny St., ste 710
San Francisco, CA 94108

Julia Sabot
Dwell Magazine
550 Kearny St., ste 710
San Francisco, CA 94108

digital promos to:

California Labor Laws And Work Made For Hire Agreements

Question from a reader about California labor code and an answer from Carolyn and Leslie at the Photo Attorney.

Q. I’m sorry to bother you but I have a question that has not been addressed on any professional photography or photography related website that I can find. In CA the labor code makes work for hire when transferring the ownership of copyright illegal (civil and criminal liability) except in the case of an employer/employee relationship. How does this apply to photographers working in CA when doing small jobs? Is it legal to have work around language that assigns copyright to the person doing the hiring (meaning the agreement says everything a work for hire agreement would say but it doesn’t use the term work for hire); or is it a case of walks like and duck, quacks like a duck, it is a work for hire agreement and therefor illegal in the state of CA?

A. Thank you for this important question.  The issue is not that it’s illegal for an independent contractor to agree to a work made for hire agreement in California.  The problem is that when a photographer is hired under a work made for hire agreement, then the photographer, under California state law, is considered an employee rather than a independent contractor.   Specifically, California Labor Code section 3351.5(c)provides that one definition of an “Employee” is:

Any person while engaged by contract for the creation of a specially ordered or  commissioned work of authorship in which the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire, as defined in Section 101 of Title 17 of the United States Code, and the ordering or commissioning party obtains ownership of all the rights comprised in the copyright in the work.

California Unemployment Insurance Code Section 686 also states that:

“Employer” also means any person contracting for the creation of a specially ordered or commissioned work of authorship when the parties expressly agree in a written instrument  signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire, as defined in Section 101 of Title 17 of the United States Code, and the ordering or commissioning party obtains ownership of all of the rights comprised in the copyright in the work. The ordering or  commissioning party shall be the employer of the author of the work for the purposes of this part.

Once the photographer is an employee, the employer must pay unemployment and worker’s compensation insurance for the employee.  If not, the employer can be subject to one year in jail and up to $20,000 in fines (California Labor Code section 3700.5 and California Unemployment Insurance Code Section 2122).

But there is another way.

If the photographer is operating through a business entity (such as an LLC or corporation), then the Labor and Unemployment Codes don’t apply.  If the photographer is an individual/sole proprietor, then don’t use “Work Made for Hire” language in the Agreement.  Instead, you may assign the copyrights to another through language such as:

Photographer irrevocably transfers and assigns to the Client the copyrights created as part of the project.

Of course, if a photographer agrees to transfer copyrights, hopefully it will be for an appropriately large sum.  And when a photographer hires someone (like a designer) and wants ownership of the material created, also be careful not to violate these laws.  All of this is part of knowing your rights and responsibilities as a professional photographer!

Carolyn E. Wright and Leslie Burns, Law Office of Carolyn E. Wright, LLC (a/k/a the Photo Attorney)


Is There Still Hope For Newspapers? David Simon Of The Wire Thinks So

- - Working

Jonathan, sent me a link to David Simon’s blog awhile back and in the comments of the introduction he gets into a debate with someone about the future of newspapers. I know he’s right about the problem and solution, and despite the occasional idiotic moves by clueless investor/owners the industry will rise from the ashes soon. (I would not bet against Buffett on this.)

The media landscape has indeed changed and is still changing, and honestly, you’re missing it.

Yes, in the past, circulation didn’t support the paper — it was a loss leader. Advertising revenues supported the paper. Why? Because of the costs of circulation: Newsprint, presses, pressmen, trucks, gas, etc. It cost money to get a newspaper to a doorstep, regardless of how much coin you could charge for the product.

But now? Take a long breath and think about it.

Now, for the first time in the history of prose journalism, every paid subscription to a newspaper operating with a paywall is pure profit, save for the static costs of maintaining the digital website. The world has flipped and slowly, belatedly, the newspaper industry is realizing it. In fact, the reason the industry leaders failed to see it for too long was that they were wedded — as you are still wedded — to the model in which advertising with the god of revenue and circulation was the loss leader. But that isn’t true digitally. Now the future of journalism lies in paywalls and a paid circulation base. Now digital advertising can’t command sufficient rates to support first-rate journalism. (You’re wrong about that, too. Digital advertising on free webpages can only command pennies on the dollar of the print ad rates that once sustained journalism.) But digital circulation can sustain such an enterprise. And is doing so: The New York Times goes to a paywall and now has 700,000 paid subscriptions, and on the strength of that figure is being upgraded by Wall Street analysts. Next quarter they will be back in the black for the first time in many a year.

People always paid to have the paper come to their doorstep. Eventually, they’ll pay to have it available on their digital devices. As they are doing with the NYT. And the Wall Street Journal. And the FT. And even some regional papers and chains are now experimenting. Would it have been easier if they had not let the horse out of the barn for a decade or more? If they hadn’t eviscerated themselves in cost-cutting and ushered so much talent and content out of the newsrooms? Of course.

But they did and now the only road back is to nuture the paid subscription model and use revenues to reinvest in the coverage that people want and can’t get otherwise. And digital subscription revenue — which is now profit, not a loss leader as it was in the days of newsprint — will sustain the news-gathering function of a professional newsroom. The NYT at the top of the foodchain is proving it and most every other newspaper chain in the country is either following them or preparing to do so. This is the end of the beginning of a very dark and misplayed era for professional journalism.

Do the research. You’ll see that your argument is about two years behind the actual trend in the industry. Kind of embarrassing when you label people as Old Media and New Media, but then you go on to miscalculate your argument based on an Old Media model that no longer actually applies.

Then in a follow up comment

Every major newspaper chain — every single one — is now planning to eventually maintain paywalls. Again, it is end of the beginning.

You are used to a world that is unsustainable. News organizations have realized they must find a way to create a revenue stream through digitized delivery, and they are engaged in doing so. Your ability to get the best journalism for free is going to become less and less and at some point, if you want to have professional journalism, you’ll pay $10 or $15 or $20 a month for it. As readers did when it landed on their doorsteps every day.

And if the industry really gets their shit together down the road, it will get to the point where you’ll sign up with a consortium for digital access to your choice of various national, regional and local media. As with your cable bill. You want the NYT and the local regional paper and or ESPN and the WSJ, check those boxes and send the monthly bill. Sound crazy? Don’t see why it would be. We all once got television for free. Eventually, they ran the cable into our homes and now we spend $40 or $50 or $100 a month for television. And that revenue supports a multitude of programming that didn’t exist a couple generations ago. Same thing can happen with journalism. But job one is having the major papers get behind the paywall.

Read it all here: David Simon | Introduction.

Taking pictures on an offshore oil rig is serious business

- - Working

This is fascinating. I’m sure there are lots of photography jobs with very strict requirements like this one. Would be fun to do a column on all the weird photo jobs out there. If anyone has one they want to write about let me know.

For starters, due to the risk of flammable gas coming up the oil well, normal electronics are banned outside the living quarters. Smartphones are strictly forbidden and regular cameras require “hot work permits” be opened prior to use.

The idea behind the permit system is that all potentially-hazardous activities must be centrally coordinated by a responsible/accountable person, to ensure that risks are managed appropriately and ongoing operations do not interfere with each other. The permit must be signed by the rig’s on-board management and posted in a central location. The permit then expires when the approver’s shift ends. Even once the permit is approved, you still need to carry a gas detection device when taking pictures, to provide a warning if flammable gas is present. It’s kind of a pain.

So to avoid that hassle, we use explosion-proof cameras. It sounds cooler than it is.

The first time I ever heard the term “explosion-proof,” it was at a job interview for an environmental toxicity testing facility. We were doing a tour and I saw the words “EXPLOSION-PROOF” in big red lettering on the side of a refrigerator! My mind immediately went to putting bombs inside it for safety, but all it really meant was that the fridge would not act as an ignition source if flammable materials (solvents, etc) were placed inside. Kind of disappointing.

Flash forward about six years, and working with explosion-proof equipment is now a part of my job responsibilities. We use airtight seals, gas purges, current-limiting devices, and all sorts of other methods to ensure nothing ever starts a fire if there is a gas release. This is a highly regulated area of engineering with very strict design requirements. Level sensors inside gasoline tanks, blower fans for grain silos, and coal mine excavators all must be designed according to tight standards such as ATEX.

These standards are intended for heavy industrial equipment, and can result in some absurd designs when applied to consumer electronics like cameras. Here’s a picture of our $5,000 explosion-proof camera:

Big, right? For $5,000 and the size of a brick, you would expect a high quality camera, but no. My flip phone in 2002 took better pictures. You have to hold it rock-steady for 5 seconds to get a decent picture, and the auto-exposure adjustment gives you all-white or all-black pictures about 10% of the time. The rechargeable battery (that metal thing bolted to the front) dies in about 30 minutes. Zoom lens? Hah! Macro shots? Hah! It’s a terrible, god-awful camera — and it’s one of the best available. As a result of using this beast, I have gigs worth of blurry, grainy pictures from the rig. They’re good enough to put in a daily work report, but mostly not fit for publication on the internet.

Read the whole piece here:

Photographs Push First Amendment Boundaries

- - Working

I don’t know much about Richard Prince, but I like to think that he’s in the business of operating at the edges of what’s acceptable. Whether he’s pushing the boundaries or just working in the grey area I think it’s important for art to have trouble makers. I’m more comfortable thinking about blank canvasses and drawing on top of images as important for pushing boundaries that other work can be built upon than worrying about whether this is something that will be admired centuries from now. I believe the title of this piece Jonathan Blaustein wrote for me: “You Don’t Always Get Art, But We Still Need More Of It“.

So, what about the grey area when it comes to photography and privacy. This is certainly a contentious and topical issue when it comes to paparazzi chasing celebrities or people taking pictures of slaughterhouses. Recent attempts at legislation in those areas (here, here, here) suggest people would like to limit the first amendment right to photography in public places. An exhibition at the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea seems to be pushing the boundary of privacy and photography. Photographer Arne Svenson shot pictures of residents in a neighboring building with a telephoto lens from his own apartment across the street. In a story for the New York Times Magazine, Photography Director Kathy Ryan contemplates the artistry vs. privacy issue:

These particular pictures are problematic, even for those, like me, who overwhelmingly side with artists and journalists when it comes to questions of freedom of expression. I support the artist’s right to make and exhibit his art and feel Svenson has the right to exhibit these pictures. But if images surfaced in a gallery of my daughter in our home, shot by a photographer using a long lens without our knowledge, I wouldn’t be happy. So the question arises, is it art when it’s a photograph of someone else, but not when it’s you or your family?

(Read the rest here)

I think in the end Arne Svenson may run into “a reasonable expectation of privacy” which is what makes street photography and making pictures in public possible and taking pictures of people in their homes illegal (Note: consult a lawyer, this is just my opinion).

But, I agree with Kathy in her conclusion that “the freedoms enjoyed by artists and journalists are worth possible breaches of privacy.” Boundary pushing is good for art, we don’t always “get it”, but it allows other artists to build upon it.

Sam Jones Launches offCamera

- - Working

Sam Jones is a go-to photographer for many magazines, studios and ad agencies when it comes to shooting actors. In over 20 years of shooting he’s noticed an unfortunate trend working for magazines. Less time; less control over wardrobe, location, heck even what side of the face you get to shoot; less choice in what to shoot with; which in his mind equals less exciting pictures. No unguarded moments or glimpses into their real lives. So, he decided to do something about it and created his own vehicle for “more” called offCamera.

Sam cracked open his formidable rolodex and started calling in favors to have actors, musicians, athletes and artists come into his studio for a simple daylight portrait shoot and one on one video interview with five unmanned cameras rolling. He then turns that into a magazine, a website, a video interview, and even a podcast. His theory, that there are others like him who want to experience long form stories and documentaries, who want simple portraits, who want the photographer, director and writer to be in control again.

I believe this is one more in a trend I see where people decide it’s time to take the power back and do what they want. If the audience and client come with you great, if not you still got to make something your way again. I am actually quite confident, based on evidence of other photographers creating their own publication, that Sam will find his audience and clients who agree with him on this. They will phone up and say “can you do that offCamera thing for us”? As I mentioned to Sam when he first told me about this project, your own publication if anything is an excellent excuse to call someone up and interview them. Inevitably that leads somewhere, either through the connection you just made or the people who are watching what you are doing.

From the editor letter in the first issue:

I started Off Camera to have my own magazine, my own radio station, and my own television studio. I wanted the opportunity to have a non-agenda conversation with anyone that captivated me. I wanted the chance to photograph anyone that peaked my interest, without having an art director or a publicist looking over my shoulder.

I have a strong reaction to over-produced, over-hyped, over-stimulating pieces of short content that leave me feeling like I am learning nothing. It has taken me a lifetime to develop my attention span, and I want to use it. I like a long book. I like a long documentary. I like a 15000 word magazine profile. I created Off Camera for those of us that salivate at the prospect of a good book, a stiff drink, and an afternoon with no plans.

Does Adobe’s Sudden Shift To Subscription Only, Unnecessarily Screw Photographers

- - Working

Last week Adobe announced a sudden shift to subscription only on future releases of Photoshop. This seems inevitable as the whole software industry has moved away from major releases in favor of incremental improvements. An article in Mashable has Adobe explaining the reasoning behind the move from perpetual licensing to subscription:

With the traditional perpetual model, product updates had to happen on a certain cycle. If the Photoshop team wanted to push out a new feature or update, it had to stay on the same cadence as the updates for other apps in the suite. The product life cycle was roughly 18 months, which meant that it would take at least that long for new features to make their way to the final product.

That’s fine for some applications but it meant that Adobe couldn’t be on the cutting-edge with its support for the latest web standards and technologies. To fill in the gaps, Adobe introduced its Edge tools and services as as a way of giving users access to tools developed on a more agile basis.

What Adobe found with its Edge apps was that customers really liked getting new features in their apps more quickly. Adobe could roll out the updates to users automatically and add support for new standards and features outside of the confines of a standard product cycle.

With Adobe CS6, the company started a dual-track for its development, focusing on a core set of features at launch for the product and then adding subscriber-only features for Creative Cloud members. Some of those features — including support for high-resolution displays such as the MacBook Pro with Retina — were rolled out to all users, but the team was basically on a dual-path.

That’s not sustainable and so, moving forward, Adobe CC products will continue to see enhancements and updates throughout the year. Major releases will likely still have some general cadence but the product teams will no longer need to wait to release new features for an app.

The issue for photographers as explained in this article and comments is the $20 a month you must pay to access your photoshop files. If you don’t pay, your files are “digital trash.”

Reporter Beats Out Lumberjack For Worst Job Of 2013

- - Working has an annual ranking of 200 best and worst jobs for 2013 (here) and Reporter takes the bottom spot over last years Lumberjack. Ouch. Maybe we will see Discovery and History channels making a new reality series around reporter like the other worst job staples of Lumberjack, Commercial Fisherman and Mining. Of course rounding out the bottom 20 below Dishwasher but above Corrections Officer is Photojournalist at number 188, so I guess photographers are the best in the newsroom. In the catch-all category of Photographer, which usually includes heavy weighting on positions like cruise ship and theme park photographer, the ranking is 172 just below construction worker but with a positive job growth outlook. Strangely, their description of photographer reads: “Uses shutter-operated cameras and photographic emulsions to visually portray a variety of subjects.”

Getty Announces 5 Decimal Point Payouts!

- - Working

You heard it right, not five figure, five decimal points. Getty recently announced a rounding error on contributor statements where photographers who should have gotten a fraction of a penny in royalties got zero instead. So, to solve this problem going forward all the payouts will include tenths, hundredths and thousandths of a cent. Here’s the email you may have received:

$0 transactions on your January 2013 Connect statement

Many of you noticed $0 royalty transactions on your first Connect statement (January 2013) where we should have shown the micro-royalties (fractions of a cent).  This was a processing error where some royalties earned under $0.00500 which were inadvertently rounded to $0.  Going forward you can expect to see the royalty amount (out to five decimal points) for each image earned, even if it is under one penny.  All fractional-cent royalties are then summed on the statement and rounded up or down to the nearest cent for payment.

We have calculated any additional micro-royalties due to you for those zero transactions (which were fractions of a cent).  If you are due an adjustment, we will add this adjustment amount to your payment on April 25th, however no royalty statement for this adjustment will be available.  If applicable, you may see a description for that additional amount in your payment remittance advice as “Jan2013 Connect zero adj”.

NOTE: Sorry, this is not an April Fools joke, but it reads like one so you may be fooled.