I recently reached out to David Clifford a photographer who works out of Aspen, CO, because I saw a couple videos he made that fit a trend I’ve been seeing with sponsored editorial content. Or at least it’s a trend I’d like to see more of, because I think it’s going to be a significant new source of income for editorial photographers. I already see ad agencies trying to produce this type of content (see this Nike video with 6.3 million views for proof), but I think it’s going to be more effective for companies to pair up with editorial photographers, give them products or people with interesting stories and tell them to go produce something worth watching.
One of the videos David produced (Lucky) won best overall in the 1st Annual APA Members Short Video Contest. His background as the former photo editor at Rock & Ice and Trailrunner magazines makes him the perfect person to talk with about this continuing trend.
Here’s what he told me about the videos:
Everything is moving to the motion realm and I’d been shooting a fair amount of video but nothing that I could put my name on. It was all video clips or I’d shoot something for a client and I’d just be a cameraman. So, I had the opportunity to make a couple videos. One was for Bluewater ropes and the other for a client that in the end didn’t want to pay the usage fee so it became a promo piece. The Bluewater one is interesting because the athlete was in charge of producing something and he came to me to collaborate on it.
With these videos I ended up created this hybrid space for myself where it’s not full editorial and it’s not fully advertising, but it can do either and serves both really well.
The clients I showed the films to responded really well and I recently got hired by Mountain Hardware to shoot in the Grand Canyon where I did 75% video and 25% stills.
I see this being a huge part of my career. People are thinking more in terms of video than stills. In my recent dealings with those in charge of producing content, the photography is an afterthought. Having the whole package is important.
What’s also interesting is that it’s impossible to shoot video and stills at the same time, so you end up hiring someone to do one of those and you become more of a director, which is a little bit weird, because it’s hard to let go of the control.
I feel like the tools have democratized the process and made it so anybody can produce content so it comes down to how good are you at finding the light, how good are you at telling a story and how good are you at managing a project.
I honestly believe photography is 75 percent chance, and 25 percent skill
Montana-based photographer Kurt Markus has spent the last half-century photographing for magazines like Vanity Fair, GQ, and Outside. Though he’s shot fashion, sports, and celebrities, he’s probably best known for his iconic black-and-white photos of Cowboys and scenes from the American West. He’ll be teaching a course at the Santa Fe workshops, starting June 24, called The Portrait: Finding Your Voice. He spoke with Grayson Schaffer from the set of a Vogue Hommes shoot in Georgia.
Grayson Schaffer: What are you shooting today?
Kurt Markus: A cool young guy named Sean O’pry. I guess you could call him the current face of the moment. The idea of the shoot is to come back to his hometown, sort of like when Dennis Stock went to James Dean’s hometown’ in Indiana. I’m photographing him in the place where he grew up— a little town about 15 miles outside of Atlanta.
GS: All natural light?
KM: I bring lights every once in a while and do my best never to open the case. I consider it a retreat, the last card you want to put on the table. I just feel so much more inspired by the light that’s out there, if you just look and if you’re flexible enough to move around. I’m going to be shooting in this house tomorrow. I’ve got a little set up that I call the ACME lighting kit. It’s something straight out of a Road Runner cartoon. It’s like a hardware floodlight with a daylight bulb and a stand. That’s my idea of lighting.
GS: You can get away with that?
KM: I’ve paid my dues. Believe it or not, when people ask me to do pictures for them, I think they just assume that’s what I do. It’s kind of great. I’ve entered into a zone that I think probably some photographers wouldn’t mind being in. And since I’ve got this pass, I’m using it.
GS: People assume you need 2.1 gigawatts of electricity and a room full of octobanks. In my mind, you’re an exception to the rule. A lot of the better known people use a lot of toys.
KM: There’s been a trend there, really, since Annie Leibovitz brought in auxiliary light during the daytime. Her look became so popular that it became the thing to chase if you were a photographer. I think at a certain point that sort of lighting took over and if you couldn’t do it, you weren’t going to get hired. Now, it’s a difficult situation to retreat from if you want pizzaz because that kind of light made color beautiful.
GS: No matter what the natural light was doing, you had a sure thing.
KM: It just made color beautiful because of the photographer’s control of the light. You could push it into a certain tonal range. And the warmth of the light no matter what the natural light was like at your location. But that’s never been my kind of idea of a portrait, so I was never tempted to do it. I feel like I’ve kind of ridden out the storm. And now I’m doing the best work of my life. Something happens over time that you can’t exchange for the moment. And that’s just loving the person that you’re photographing—not spiritually, but you have to really be into that person because the act of doing a portrait is truly collaborative. And that collaboration may be very subtle, but it’s there. There was a time when I never wanted to do a workshop again. It exhausted me. The digital age was really kicking in, and I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer a beginning photographer because everyone wanted to know about histograms and pixels and I had no language, no experience for that. So I said, let’s not do this again. But I got talked into it again last year. What I found was that no one in the workshop really cared if it was digital or not, and figured “OK, I can do this. I’ve got something to say and it’s worth saying.” I’m believer in workshops. It’s a very energizing and valuable experience that you can’t really get any other way. You go home and sift through the wreckage of the week and pick and choose. And it’s good to know there are others out there trying to be the best photographers they can be.
GS: Your work really is more so about the interaction and the moments and the gestures, rather than the technology. Do you think that sort of knowledge is transferable?
KM: Well again, I don’t want to psychoanalyze this whole thing, but if you think that you can make every picture just based on the technique, like “I want to be Irving Penn so if I do everything just based on Irving Penn’s technique I can do Irving Penn’s pictures,” you’re badly mistaken. It’s a lesson to learn, because you see where he uses light, you know what kind of film he uses and you think you can crack the nut by cracking his nut, but it never really works. That may be frustrating but for some people it’s a revelation that “hey, I’m unique, I do my own pictures.” That’s a difficult lesson to swallow, and I think most of us chase other people’s pictures.
GS: Is that something you did early on? I know you’re self taught. Did you start by trying to emulate other people and over time find your own thing?
KM: I think it’s unavoidable. You, as a writer, are influenced by what you’ve read, in certain cadences and word choices. You may pick up the energy from Hemingway or Cormac MccArthy (if you want to drop some punctuation). And photography is like that too. You get some juice from somebody by, for me, Andre Kertesz, a Hungarian photographer who’s not that well known, but he did these really light, lyrical pictures that were very inspiring to me. Just the idea of being lighthanded that I get from Kertesz that I can actually use. I can’t think of setting up a person to pose for Satiric Dancer, which is one of his photos. I would never want to duplicate that. The title of the workshop I’m doing is “Finding Your Voice,” but it’s actually “finding yourself” and learning to express yourself through your work. Trying to figure out what that is.
GS: What actually is going on in terms of how you run your workshops and how you teach ?
KM: The digital era has really helped to make a teaching process out of it. The first workshop I did, they had film. We had to process it, look at contact sheets, it was labor intensive and by the time you were done, you’d kind of missed the moment. My approach to “Finding Your Voice” is to break down the portrait into subcategories. For instance, the Environmental Portrait. I like the idea that you always have a backstop, something to fall back on. Let’s say you’re photographing artists. Someone like Arnold Newman, who photographed artists, is a really good person to look at. His photographs are very architectural, they’re about shape and design and that’s they key. It’s not about a moment, it’s about a moment made. Arnold Newman organizing a photo to make a very strong statement. There’s that sort of picture making and then there’s picture making in a studio environment where you have to light it yourself. So I’ve got examples of different photographers and how they approach the portrait. Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe which is an intimate relationship, and that’s going to affect the portrait too. And then we have assignments like “make an environmental portrait.” It can be hard to move people off center because we can’t help ourselves. We get in a groove and fall back on what we think works. I really try to limber someone up to take chances. A portrait is an extension of every kind of picture ever made, because in a way, even a landscape is a portrait. It’s a portrait of the photographer.
GS: What about the technical side and process? are you still shooting film, are you shooting digital? What’s your process look like?
KM: I shoot film. I don’t think I could do work that I really believe in with the feel and the look that I want if I was shooting digitally. There’s a certain resistance that I’ve got. But the light coming through a 6×7 Pentax lens hitting on film, is something digital can’t duplicate—and I love the look of it. Then I’ll scan the negative and send the file to someone, they can use it in a publication. It’s pretty rare that I try and make prints anymore because they seem to get in the way. But for I picture that I really love, there’s really no substitute for going into a darkroom.
GS: And you do some of your own printing?
KM: I do all my own printing. At one point I had people helping me, but when I go into a darkroom, it’s my print. I don’t really want people helping me. I don’t retouch. I don’t try and manipulate the image into something I like afterward. 6×7 is a very forgiving medium. Black and white film, these lenses, a slow shutter speed. I’ll photograph women and a lot of time they look flawless, but real. When you’ve had a great experience photographing someone, you don’t want anything to get in the way of someone thinking that’s great looking person.
GS: So if someone brings a film camera to your workshop, is there a way to accommodate that?
KM: Oh I’m sure, but I don’t think that’s an issue, I don’t think anyone is shooting film at a workshop. But I’m teaching portrait making not technique. Everything looks good on a monitor, not everything looks good in print. But if you’re going to live with your photograph it can’t just be a screensaver.
To join Kurt at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops for “The Portrait: Finding Your Voice” go (here).
Note: We’ve partnered with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops to interview several of their instructors for upcoming workshops that we find interesting.
I came away impressed by the potential of this approach to smartly extend the definition of photography away from the flat surface of the wall and into the open air of the space in between.
Photographers wonder why their images are weak and more often than not it is because they have overlooked the most basic yet complex issue of composition.
Journalists tell stories. They relay facts. (As much as anyone can agree on the definition of a fact in 2012.) Photojournalists, by extension, tell stories through pictures; they visually encode reality. This happened to that person, and it happened there. Bombings, oil spills, butter-eating contests, all are detailed in a matter-of-fact way.
Artists, by contrast, are trained to make it all about themselves. My vision, my opinions, my composition, my color palette. This is what I think, symbolized in pictures. If you like it, cool. If not, that’s fine too. (Well, that’s the ideal. The reality is probably more like this: “You don’t like my work? I hate you. You’re a bourgeois homophobe. Die.”)
Anyway, I’m musing because I spent the past weekend meeting with photographers and checking out portfolios in Santa Fe. Everyone wants to talk about audience and context these days. If I edit this way, I can can blow them up big and hang them on the wall. A different selection will be more appropriate for the magazine editors, and another still if I want to get commercial clients. Welcome back to the 21st Century Hustle.
I’m not sure how I feel about these developments, but they’re probably here to stay. Fewer employers + many more people searching for work = everybody jostling to stand out. My take is that it makes a personalized vision, with the self-awareness to bend that vision at times, all the more important. How much can I learn about a person through their photographs? Code, if you will.
This week’s book does it very well: “La Résidence,” by JH Engström, published by journal. I had a whole intro today about how I got stuck in Brussels for a few days on my honeymoon, but decided to save it for another time. We’ll stick to Mr. Engström’s anecdotes today. Mine will have to wait.
Here’s what you can learn about Mr. Engström from looking at this book. He got invited to do an Artist Residence in Brussels, and it required visits in 2003 and 2006. That much is explained in the intro. Come, Mr. Engström, visit our fair city, relax and find yourself, then make pictures that reflect your time here. Sounds pretty straightforward.
Look at the book, and you’ll quickly surmise that Mr. Engström was, (I don’t know about is,) likely a lonely alcoholic who quickly adapted to his new surroundings by seeking out the company of the coordination-challenged, “I love you, man”-type, 2 am bar crowds that are so easy to find everywhere. Everyone is your friend when they’ve had enough to drink. (Unless they want to shank you.)
As we turn page to page, we see a succession of haggard-looking Belgian sorts, smoking cigarettes, and trying not to fall off the bar stool. We also see lots of banal, artsy-type visions of random detritus and architectural randomness. They look like the photos you’d take if you had to take photos for a couple of months to justify your stipend, but didn’t really connect to any underlying elements of the culture. (Beyond the aforementioned bar culture, which is transnational.)
What takes the book further, though, is Mr. Engström’s inclusion of text. Poems, musings, and even a starkly honest paragraph about his relationship with his father. Some observations are obvious, others smart, but all make you feel like the artist is letting you into his head. The book becomes far more experiential for their inclusion. (Sample: “These pictures may be an account of my failure to depict photographically a place I didn’t go to for private reasons.”)
Additionally, most of the photos are only accessed by folding the pages out to triple-spreads. It’s laborious and a bit time-consuming, especially as you don’t want bend or ruin the pages when you refold. But the additional seconds enhance the banal-style photography; you feel the photographer’s boredom that this book reflects. (And some of the portrait spreads are amazing.)
I doubt all of you would enjoy this book. It might piss you off. But it’s a terrific example of an artist downloading his thoughts and personality into a bunch of pages, bound and wrapped in linen.
Bottom Line: Boozy in Brussels
Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.
Hank Willis Thomas has a talk and exhibit at Look3 which starts today (more here).
Running a business isn’t all about the money. And it shouldn’t be. As an entrepreneur, you should be passionate about what you do, be motivated to help others, and have a desire to make the world a better place.
But none of that can happen if you can’t keep yourself “in business.”
The best business advice I ever received and what I did about it via Graphic Design Blender | Freelance Design Blog.
Three strong forces surround us all, a declining economic model, a culture of free exchange and an expanding circle of image-makers…
One of our photographers recently contacted me to help him quote on some advertising photographs for a prominent international corportion. He had recently completed a self-assigned fashion shoot, and a promotional mailer from that project caught the attention of the client’s ad agency. Over the past few years, the ad agency had helped the client completely revamp their image, and in the process they had developed one of the most recognizable campaigns in recent years. The agency had now developed an updated concept (which happened to be very similar to the photographer’s promo) representing the next step in the evolution of the campaign, and they wanted to consider our photographer for the shoot. After an initial phone call, the agency sent over a shot list and requested an estimate.
Here is what we knew: The project would involve 2 days of photographing a celebrity spokesperson interacting with various props and products in a West Coast studio. The agency was hoping to cover 5 situations per day, including very specific but subtle variations within each situation. These variations were intended to create a range of expressions and angles from which the agency and client would choose their final selects. The shot list for day 2 was almost identical to day 1, except it consisted of shooting against a different background (at the same studio), which was still to be determined based on further creative direction.
The agency would be coordinating and paying for the talent, hair/make-up, wardrobe stylists, wardrobe, props and a trailer for the talent. All we needed to account for was the photography fees, photo crew, equipment, studio and catering.
I wanted to start by determining the photographer’s fees, so my first question for the art buyer was about the usage and number of images. She replied that they needed licensing for all images captured, though they only wanted 10 selects retouched and delivered. The licensing language that she asked me to include in the estimate was:
All print media now known or hereafter invented (to include, but not limited to consumer newspaper, industrial, in-store, direct mail, brochures and any other collateral material, out-of-home (to include but not limited to billboards, bus shelters, wild postings, kiosks, wall murals, window signage and display work), electronic media (to include but not be limited to worldwide web and client brand portal archiving)
Even though the client intended to use up to 10 images in the campaign, they asked that the quote include licensing for all of the images created rather than just a limited number of selects. Naturally, licensing for more pictures is going to be worth more than licensing for fewer pictures. But if we’re shooting 10 situations with subtle variations of each, it’s not going to be worth much more than those first 10. We do our best to reconcile the discrepancy between what they’re asking for and what they’re likely to do with the images. The licensing needed to include advertising use in the U.S. and Puerto Ric o for 1 year from first insertion.
Digging through similar estimates that we’ve done recently and other pricing guides, here’s what we found:
BlinkBid: National advertising use in print publications, on websites, in collateral and on OOH (out of home/billboards) = a range between $9,450 and $13,500 per image, per year, though these rates didn’t quite cover the scope of the use.
fotoQuote: The new version of fotoQuote has “quote packs” that cover a wide range of usage in various media outlets. The most extensive pack is labeled “All Advertising & Marketing.” This pack includes print advertising in magazines, newspapers and directories, as well as web advertising, web collateral, use on mobile devices, promotional emails, direct mail, in store displays, billboards and transit ads along with a few additional items as well. For this use, their suggested range for 1 image is between $16,090 and $32,181 for 1-year use. This is more in line with our expectations.
Getty: They also offer “Flexible Licensing Packs” including one labeled “All Advertising Pack.” This includes unlimited collateral, print advertising and web use, which is further detailed to include direct mail, electronic brochures, billboards, magazine/newspaper ads, freestanding inserts and directory advertising, web advertising, use on corporate websites as well as on mobile devices, and any indoor or outdoor display. Their price for 1 image in the specific industry for 1 year is $18,790. Again, this is comparable to what we expect to see on projects of this scale with clients of this size and prominence.
Armed with this information along with past estimating experiences, I decided to price the 10 images at $110,000 for this use. Each of the images generated would be somewhat similar to the others. The photographer wasn’t shooting 10 different concepts, he was shooting 10 adaptations of the same concept. The greatest impact and greatest value comes with the first image. In situations like this we feel the first image is worth the full rate and each subsequent image has a lower value. By pricing the first image at 20,000, the high end of the range for this type of licensing, and the additional images at 10,000 each, the low end of the range, we came to rest on a fee of 110,000.00.
Here’s the first estimate we sent over.
In addition to the photographer, we accounted for two assistants and a digital tech. The agency wasn’t looking for any extraordinary retouching or compositing on set, so a basic digital tech was sufficient.
The production day accounted for time to arrange the assistants, equipment, catering, etc.
We included the photographer’s own studio at $2,000/day (the normal rental rate which includes a basic lighting setup and grip equipment) and equipment rental of 1600.00 for a camera system and supplemental lighting.
With a project of this scale, in addition to the work that the digital tech does to manage the files on the shoot day (helping the clients see the pictures and making sure the files are backed up), there will typically be additional time required afterwards to organize, edit and process the images, run web galleries, upload/deliver them to the client. I budgeted 2 digital processing days for that. Then we allotted 20 hours of retouching time to process and retouch the 10 selects.
For catering, we accounted for 15 people at $35 per day for 2 days.
Insurance and miscellaneous accounts for various items that may come up during the production and helps the photographer pay for his standard liability insurance.
We made sure to indicate what production elements the agency had committed to manage and pay for directly.
Still no word on the second day’s background, so we left that off this estimate.
Lastly we highlighted that an advance equal to 50% of the bottom line would be required to initiate production.
A few days after submitting the estimate I received a phone call from the art buyer. Our numbers landed in the middle of the two other estimates she’d received. She wouldn’t reveal names or exact numbers, but did share that the other photographers were not local, and they would be traveling from as far away as Europe. She then told me that all of the estimates would put them over budget, and asked for an estimate limiting the duration to 6 months.
So I had to figure out how cutting the licensing duration from 1 year to 6 months would affect the fee. Of course, I can’t just cut the fee in half. Most ad campaigns are going to have maximum value early on and then diminishing value over time. We generally figure that doubling the duration of use might increase the value by a factor of 1.5. Moving in reverse, if we’re cutting the duration in half, we could divide by 1.5 which would leave us at $73,333. However, at that point I was having second thoughts that my 1 year rate was too low to begin with. So I decided to divide by 1.25 instead which got me to $88,000, and submitted the following estimate:
After more waiting, our contact returned with some news. While they were still deciding on creative direction, she let us know that their budget for set construction for the background on the second day was $10,000. So we included it in the estimate and noted that it will ultimately be based on final creative direction. Also, she told us that instead of using the photographer’s studio, they had a specific LA studio in mind, for which I was able to find rates for.
The additional production coordination warranted bringing on a production coordinator so we added one to the estimate. The photographer had a inexpensive young producer he wanted to use. Also due to the studio change, we had to increase the studio fees and equipment rental fees. He was going to need a medium format camera with a digital back similar to the Phase One P65+ ($550/day) with an 80mm lens ($35/day) and a 120mm lens ($50/day). Also included in the rental would be 3 Profoto Pro7B Packs ($70/day each) with 4 PRO7 heads ($20/day each), as well as various stands, modifiers and accessories.
We then submitted the following revised estimates for 1 year and 6 month usage.
The AB came back and simply asked us to reduce the cost of the 1 year estimate by 8500.00. Remarkable considering the the bottom line. After carefully reviewing the estimate I found that the only thing I could really cut was the licensing fee. One of the most basic rules of negotiating is don’t give up something for nothing. But in this case, that’s what we did. Of course, there’s a range of what constitute a reasonable fee – especially on a large project like this one, and the photographer and I agreed that this one was still reasonable. Here was our revised 1 year estimate:
A few days later, an email popped up in my inbox with the subject line reading “Congratulations.” I was delighted to hear that they awarded the project to our photographer! In spite of our hand-wringing over the 1 year quote, in the end the client opted for the 6 month licensing for $88k.
If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.
Once you accept that all that free money from the middle of last decade is never coming back, you are left with two visions of newspapers’ future: diminution or re-invention. In the Post’s case, if you believe it can only be as good as it used to be by becoming as rich as it used to be, then you believe it will remain diminished, forever stuck doing less with less.
If, on the other hand, you imagine a Post that returns to, or even improves on, its best work, then by definition you are imagining it can somehow do more with less. This problem is not financial—it is foundational. It requires asking anew what good journalism looks like, in a world where the Internet exists.
Clay Shirky, via CJR.