Mr. Ai was reached on his cell phone shortly before 12:30 a.m. Thursday. “I’m released, I’m home, I’m fine,” he said in English. “In legal terms, I’m — how do you say — on bail. So I cannot give any interviews. But I’m fine.”
Before I made it to this stage, I spent many years working overtime just to get my work out and there were many times I’ve come close to being broke. It was not an easy journey, but it was definitely worth it.
In the process of proofing film I started developing an eye for what works and what does not in a frame. How color and texture are effected by lighting. And how much is needed or not to tell the story or sell the product. There was also a lot to be learned from what photographers were leaving on the cutting room floors.
by Bill Cramer, Wonderful Machine CEO
A few months ago, I got my first assignment from Fast Company. I was happy to hear from Assistant Photo Editor Lisa Parisi, who asked me to photograph a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for a story they were doing on robots. Fast Company tends to use great photography, so I was glad to have the opportunity to try to impress them.
Lisa was very organized about the assignment, which was really helpful. She sent me a Call Sheet with all of the details of the shoot – including contact info for the subject and a list of situations they wanted to cover. She also sent a Photo Directive that provided general guidance about what kind of pictures Fast Company likes to use, as well as nuts-and-bolts reminders about shooting with and without eye contact, horizontals and verticals, posed and off-moment pictures, a variety of angles, expressions and scale. Lisa also sent about 30 photographs to show examples of their idea of a successful environmental portrait. Having said all that, she was also quick to point out that if her expectations didn’t match up with the reality of the situation, I was free to take the pictures in whatever direction I thought was appropriate.
In her first email to me, Lisa said, “Our budget for the Fast Talks are typically flat fees of 1500. But I realize the travel might make it higher in this case.” She elaborated on the phone, saying that she could cover hotel, mileage, parking, tolls, meals. I took that to mean that she didn’t want to pay for a travel day for me or my assistant. It would be a five-hour drive to Pittsburgh, which we would do the night before. I would shoot in the morning and then drive back to Philly. In retrospect, I probably should have pressed at least for the additional assistant time, but I didn’t (of course, I paid my assistant for that time anyway).
Whenever I work for a flat fee, I back out the expenses that I would otherwise charge, to see what the creative fee really is. For a shoot like this, I normally charge 250.00 for an assistant (in this case, it would be more like 400.00 or so with the travel). I normally charge 300.00 for a digital fee, which includes cameras and the initial processing and posting a web gallery. If the creative fee is generous, I typically don’t charge separately for strobes or file prep. Otherwise, I’ll charge 150.00 − 300.00 for the strobes on a basic editorial portrait shoot, and 25.00 for each file prep. 1500 − 400 − 300 − 200 = 600. A modest fee, factoring in the travel. I asked Lisa if they pay space when they use more or bigger pictures and she said they didn’t. She said for this section, they usually use one or two medium to smallish pictures, and that they pay more for features and covers.
At this point, I usually ask the client if they have a contract they’d like me to look at. After all, the fee for the job doesn’t mean much without knowing how the client intends to use the pictures. But with the shoot coming up on such short notice, Call Sheets and Photo Directives to absorb, and some reading to do on my subject, I chose to concentrate on the creative rather than spend what little time I had reviewing and negotiating a contract. That’s not my normal operating procedure, of course. Negotiating terms after the fact can be awkward to say the least. But I had met Lisa before and I had worked with her Director of Photography Leslie Dela Vega when she was at Time, so I was confident that we would be able to come to terms amicably afterwards. If Lisa had sent me the contract before the shoot, I would have been obliged to read it carefully before accepting the job. If I had the contract in hand but let the negotiations go until after the shoot, it would be harder for me to press for changes at that point because it would be reasonable for her to say that I knew the terms in advance.
Photographers should be aware that there are some unscrupulous clients out there who will intentionally withhold sending a contract until after a shoot, thinking that the photographer will have diminished leverage to negotiate at that point. The fact is that both parties are equally disadvantaged in those cases. After all, the client can’t publish the pictures without the photographer’s permission and the photographer won’t get paid until they have reached an agreement with the client. That was not the case here.
I enjoyed the shoot. Here are a few of my favorite pictures along with a tear sheet:
A few days after I delivered the job, Lisa did send over their Photography Commissioning Agreement (modified, signed version). As far as magazine contracts go, it was more photographer-friendly than some and less than others.
Here’s a breakdown of the terms:
1. Fees. This says that we’ll negotiate the rate separately for each assignment. That’s fine. Though my preference has always been to structure editorial fees on the basis of a day rate vs. space. That way, the compensation is proportionate to the use and you only have to negotiate the expenses on a case-by-case basis.
2. Grant of Rights. Exclusive first worldwide rights. Fine. Archiving rights. Fine. Web use. Fine. Use in the publisher’s other magazines at their normal space rates. Fine. Anthology use is starting to push it a little. If they’re going to create a new product that generates new revenue, I think that deserves additional compensation for the photographer. I didn’t think the point was significant enough to object to, so I let it be. Reprint rights. Not fine. When a third party licenses editorial photos as part of an article, they’re typically used for promotion, which is essentially advertising. That has real value and should be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. I struck that line. Foreign language editions. Okay, but also pushing it. Again, if the publisher is making significant new revenue, I think the photographer should too. In this case, I don’t think they have foreign editions. So I chose not to fight that battle. Advertising use. In retrospect, I should have clarified that they could use the pictures for advertising provided they were used in the context of the magazine. As a practical matter, I think this is what they would do anyway. Syndication and other third party use. No. Again, if my photograph is generating new revenue, I think I’m reasonably entitled to some of it.
3. Services. The photographer will follow instructions and adhere to professional standards. Of course.
4. Expenses. Publisher will pay for travel expenses. Fine.
5. Publisher’s Expenses. Publisher will arrange and pay for studio and location fees. Fine.
6. Submission and Acceptance. Photographer will turn in the photos as soon as possible and the magazine has no obligation to run them. Fine. What it doesn’t specifically say is whether they’ll pay the photographer if they reject the photos. I take that to mean that they will. I’ve seen contracts where the client wants to pay a kill fee if they choose not to use the photographs for any reason. I think it’s reasonable for the photographer to reshoot the job at his own expense if the pictures were unusable because of his negligence. But I also think it’s reasonable for the client to pay the photographer in full if they choose not to use the pictures for any other reason.
7. Payment. Publisher will pay photographer in the ordinary course of business. Okay. But specifying 30 or 60 days would be better. Photographer will provide copies of receipts and will be issued an IRS 1099 form on the total invoice (which the photographer will have to claim as income). Good. Some magazines want original receipts, which is not reasonable. (The photographer needs the originals in case of an audit.) If the client does insist on originals, they should 1099 you for just the fees rather than the fees plus expenses.
8. Exclusivity. 90 days from on-sale date. A little on the long side, but fine.
9. Models, Etc. Photographer will get releases signed when asked by the photo editor. Fine.
10. Retention of Photographs. Publisher may hold on to original photographs until publication and duplicates thereafter. Okay, but not ideal. I’m shooting digital, so it’s a moot point. But photographers delivering original transparencies should put a limit on how long a magazine can hold the pictures without publishing them (this goes for exclusivity too).
11. Credit. You will get a credit, but we’ll decide what it looks like. Okay.
12. Representations and Warranties. You shot the pictures, they’re yours to license, and their publication won’t infringe on anyone else’s rights, and the photographer will cooperate in defending any third party claims. Fine.
13. Term. The agreement will be effective until terminated by either party. Okay, but not ideal. I think it’s better to have an actual termination date. The contract is going to evolve one way or another. Having multiple contracts can make it unclear which contract affects which assignment.
14. Independent Contractor. The photographer is independent for tax, unemployment, insurance and liability purposes. Fine.
15. Miscellaneous. The contract is governed by the laws of the State of New York. Fine.
I then sent my invoice with the appropriate back-up. (You’ll notice that I only had one hotel room. I actually didn’t share a room with my assistant. Our shoot happened to be close to her parent’s house, so she stayed there.)
Last week, Leslie Dela Vega was kind enough to field a few questions from me. Leslie has been the Photo Director at Fast Company since last November. After receiving a photography degree at San Francisco State University in 1998, Leslie landed an internship at Vibe Magazine. In between, she has also worked in the photo departments of Self, Premiere, Teen People, then back at Vibe as DP, Fortune, Time and Essence. Leslie is a frequent speaker and panelist and she has helped judge competitions for SPD Awards, American Photo Awards and Communication Arts Photography Annual. If that’s not enough, she has also continued to pursue her own photography when time allows.
The robot shoot I did for Lisa was for your Fast Talks section. The rate was 1500.00 plus travel expenses. Do you have standard rates for other sections of the magazine and for the cover? And if so, what are they?
We have just the front of the book, then features. For the front of the book our budget is usually 1500.00 which includes all expenses. Unless of course, there is travel involved. For the feature well, it usually depends on what is being photographed, how it is photographed, is there a concept, additional props, studio, etc. It’s a little more production heavy so the budget varies. But they usually start at 1500.00 and go upward.
How much/how often do you stick to those rates and how much do you negotiate depending on the photographer?
We stick to those rates all the time, unless of course, there is a special circumstance, like more equipment is needed for a particular shoot. At times, some negotiating is required if there is a photographer we really want to work with and travel is needed, etc.
Of the photographers you work with, what proportion of them sign your contract as-is and what proportion successfully negotiate revisions?
Most of them sign the contract as is. If there are any revisions, it’s usually the 3rd party clause, which is understandable. But [even when] that clause … is not revised, I will ALWAYS reach out to the photographer and discuss the situation (if it arises) with them so they are fully aware and will work with them.
Do you have any experiences you can relate or advice you can give photographers about how to best approach the negotiating process with magazine photo editors?
Please remember that most photo editors, if not all, are on the side of the photographer. We know how hard you work, and if we have a relationship with you, there is a trust involved. So you should be able to feel comfortable in negotiating any assignment and we will try as much as possible to accommodate you, if not more. Our goal is to bring incredible imagery to our magazines and we can only do that with you. It’s a 2 way street. We need each other.
Speaking of Apple, Carey downplayed the skirmish between publishers and the software maker, saying that Hearst didn’t understand the quibbles other publishers had over Apple’s 30 percent cut and its refusal to share consumer data. With newsstand copies, Hearst doesn’t get any information about who’s buying them, and only collects 55 cents on the dollar for those copies, he pointed out. “We’ll take a 70-30 split any day of the week,” he said.
Rob: I want to talk with you about the post you made last week on your blog (here) where you asked people to guess the camera you used to make an image then revealed it was a frame grab from the Red Epic M digital cinema camera.
Vincent: First of all, this is not a philosophical discussion between the value of a photograph versus the value of the moving image. Because no one can win that one, there is no answer to that question. And I’m not looking to challenge either side of that argument because I find it utterly pointless. The value of a still image versus the value of a movie or a still frame from a movie means different things to many different people. Each discipline has its clear strengths depending on how each is used and for what purpose it is being used. I am just looking at emerging technology and how it could potentially affect our future.
A still image is still going to be the entry point for everything in the future.
I’m not so sure anymore. YouTube gets more than 2 billion visits a day…
How can you get a message across quickly using video? When we’re talking about information overload and trying to catch someones attention with a piece of advertising video doesn’t have a chance compared to a still image.
Remember “Minority Report”? I don’t remember seeing too many still image billboards when he was walking through the mall, ever.
Right, but that’s a film maker’s idea of the future. It was probably the same in “Blade Runner”, right?
It was. And in “Blade Runner”, they actually hired a futurist who studies these things and helps technology companies design future products. The point is, no one knows the future and to proselytize about it is kind of pointless. I’m fortunate enough to work with a lot of leading companies out there and get a glimpse into, and often a private glimpse, into what they’re working on years ahead of time, as well as introduced to what I would call forward thinking people. Some of them are geniuses who are literally inventing the products of the future.
And when you get to sit down with these people, you’re fortunate enough to get a pretty good glimpse of what the future might bring.
You’re not going to tell us, are you?
I don’t know that much more about the future than anyone else reading this blog, but I have been exposed to what the leaders in different industries are actively working on and thinking of.
I think anybody involved in producing content or in the advertising world would love the 30 second commercial to live forever. It’s an expensive buy, it’s an expensive thing to produce. They would love that. But maybe the like button is the future, one dumb little button that I press and tells all my friends that I eat Cheerios. There’s a pretty big gap between those two ideas.
Sure. I want to make sure we stay focused on what I know, which is not the secret to advertising in the future. And, how to keep people’s attention in the future, when most viewers have the attention span of say – a mosquito. What I have been exposed to, is what camera manufacturers, computer companies, network companies, distribution companies, et cetera are working on. Whether it’s holographic imagery, chairs that move in your living room based on the input from the action movie you’re watching, new delivery methods online and ways to interact with the content so that you can purchase it from your TV or browser, technology that tracks all of your likes and customizes advertising to what you know. To what cameras will be shooting, what resolutions, what ISOs, the form factors, new changes in lens technology.
Yeah. So given with all that you know and have been exposed to, has shooting with the Red made you really stop and think, “OK, one camera that does it all…” I mean, is that what blew your mind?
I’m not going to go as far as to say that the Red is the camera that does all of it yet. It’s definitely the single closest thing I’ve used to date that made me say “wow.” But, given the pace at which things are going, it’s only a matter of years until these live action cameras, the Reds or other cameras, are taking hundreds of images a second at the same resolution that our 5D Mark II’s are shooting today. And many will doing so in a raw format.
And my reason for talking to you is not to freak everyone out, but everyone should look at this technology and look at the examples out there more closely. I think they need not ask themselves: “Well, how can I apply this today?” Instead they should at least ponder how all of this might come to be applied in a few years from now. That’s what we need to be thinking about, because we have the power to influence and sculpt that as creatives.
Why is this future camera that does both, that allows you to pull still frames out of motion, so important?
On the one side there’s technology pushing things but on the other side we have the manufacturers of television sets, the magazines publishers, as well as advertisers that are also going to push their agendas. The choices of what we shoot, how we shoot and with what we shoot is often made by executives, or worse: bean counters… not necessarily creatives.
So you’re saying that the convergence is a matter of cost and convenience?
It’s one of the big factors, is going to be that, absolutely. And I guess that’s a bit of a negative way of looking at it. There are positives to this. It’s a complicated matter. This is not a “one answer, one solution fits all” deal.
For certain uses, it’s really obvious that there are a great series of tools that are coming out. For example this morning I was about to leave my home to go to work. I had my Epic with me and my daughter got into her ballerina dress for the first time. And I had a choice between my Leica M9 or the Epic, two very different tools, to very different ways of shooting, and two very different results obviously. One’s noticeably heavier. But with the Epic, I get 5k resolution stills. I’m shooting it at 96 frames a second, at a 200th of a second. And I’m able to get incRedibly sharp 14 MP stills from the camera.
I’m most likely not going to print poster images of my daughter- as much as I love her. But I will definitely print 8×10, 11x14s with a 14 megapixel camera, which is what the 5k can do. And it’s going to allow me to pick one of 96 frames every single second. And I also have the benefit of having a video clip to go along with it. Slow motion video that is @6 times the resolution of 1080p content as a result. So why would I choose the Leica other than the form factor, obviously? And the fact that it’s a still image and slightly higher resolution.
You’d choose it for price.
We’re talking about the future here. Not what things cost today. My iphone shoots better pictures than my $20,000 Canon D2000 shot 10 years ago.
All right. You’ve seen the future.
No, but I have seen what the future can potentially bring. I’ve seen that I shoot more than 60 percent of my personal images now on my iPhone. Because guess what? They’re more than good enough. Two years ago I would never have dreamed I’d be doing that, because the iPhone’s quality was nowhere near where it is now. These days, I hesitate between running up to go get my 5D MKII or Leica if it’s not near me or pulling my iPhone out of my pocket. So form factor and price are always a big factor, of course. But the reason we’re talking about the future is the technology that’s in the Red Epic today could very well someday be in a very small Red Epic, or perhaps even in your cell phone or your still camera. The question is: what will you shoot then? Especially when you can get both high resolution stills plus video simultaneously? THAT is the question. Other than the amount of data you are shooting – if you don’t need to make a choice between the two – will you?
Here’s what’s important, if you can shoot 120 frames or 96 frames per second at a high resolution, it removes one of the single most difficult aspects of being a photographer, which is to capture the “decisive moment.”
You just said something very outrageous, you realize that? Camera manufacturers have eliminated the need to focus and the need to nail exposure, now you’re saying no more decisive moments. Christ.
Yeah. That’s the key point here and a whopper of one. Focusing was a technical skill once that made it very difficult to break into sports photography. Exposure was a technical skill that was another barrier. Granted, both can be used for artistic purposes of course. But the decisive moment, to me after 21 years of taking still images is still the number one most difficult thing to do. By now, after 21 years of shooting, I can do expose without a meter. I can frame a shot without thinking about it too much. And I can most of the time either auto focus or manual focus relatively easily by now.
The one thing that’s going to make me miss or succeed as a photographer is capturing “the” moment, because that involves anticipation and predicting the future. It involves a lot of skill, a lot of guess work, and experience. And I think ultimately knowing when to press that shutter is one of the greatest skills you can develop as a still photographer.
And eventually, there’s going to be no shutter to press.
Precisely. The cameras can now be recording all the time.
So doesn’t that just transfer the job of capturing the decisive moment to editing the decisive moment?
Editing is going to become one of the most important, sought after skill sets in the next five to 10 years. I think we’re going to see such an incredible amount of data coming in, to the likes of which we’ve never seen before that editors are going to become one of the most important job positions out there.
So there will be a need for a photographer to pair up with an editor?
I don’t see how a photographer/videographer can do all this on their own. They would never sleep.
Ok, let’s talk about the workflow. I mean that’s probably the biggest issue. There’s so much data and you’ve got to edit it and deal with it and save it and archive it.
The workflow is a bear. There’s no way around it. I shot, yesterday afternoon and this morning, for probably half an hour each. And I have half a terabyte to copy over.
[laughter] That’s ridiculous.
It is ridiculous. And people are going to roll their eyes right now and go oh well, this is all crazy! But wait a minute. Firs, I’ve got 96 frames of every second I shot in those two periods of time to pull beautiful stills off of and then of course the video. It’s all raw which why it’s so huge. Now you can do the type of color correction you expect to do on your Canon or Nikon raw file with your video. And then you can project this footage on any motion picture screen in the world. All this with a camera that’s not that much bigger than a Hasselblad. The data is crazy now. But has hard drives get bigger, and compression formats and workflows get better – it will become irrelevant.
And you think this is going to get down to the Canon and Nikon type of situation?
I don’t know if it’s going to. The point of the discussion is not to wave any flags of any color, white flags or red flags or black flags, but just to get people to think, that’s all, about what we’re going to be doing in a few years, and to think about it positively, not with fear, but with eager anticipation.
When I look at the imagery I’m getting off this camera, I get absolutely nothing but joy in terms of what I’m seeing in the moving image as well as in the still images coming from the footage. It’s an incredible pleasure to get to see both. The only downside to the technology so far is the post.
And that should improve as well, right?
It always improves. And creatives should not be worried about that stuff. Other than keeping an eye on it for their productions. Creatives should be worried about creating different visual pieces of art and other types of art. If you get bogged down into, “Oh, my God, look at the post workflow,” you’re losing sight of what your job is.
Tell me, how does this compare to what happened to you three years ago when you discovered HDSLR filmmaking?
I haven’t felt this sort of excitement or urge to get my hands on a camera and start playing with it since I saw the 5D Mark II. And I should point out that back then certain people at Canon told me I was making a huge mistake, that this was not a video camera. This was meant to be a still camera that happened to have a video feature. And that a lot of people outright attacked me on the Internet and in person for saying that I was crazy thinking anyone would ever shoot with these HDSLRs. So I’m eagerly awaiting the inevitable comments coming my way.
Keep in mind that I’m not trying to change anything. I’m just trying to remark or observe on what I’m seeing happening, and what I’m hearing people working on for the future, and how it’s going to possibly change the way things are.
Again, I’m not getting into a debate on what has more value, the still or motion. Nor am I really commenting on where things are right this minute. I’m looking at where things are likely headed.
I’m also reacting to something a cinematographers told me a few years ago that left a mark, something that I think is very relevant, and that we should all worry about as we discuss our job titles and our careers. When the Red One came out, they had the ability to save stills to an external card. And I went up a DP who was on stage at a Red event, and I asked, “Who in the world would want to shoot a still image with this huge Red camera with a Cine lens? It’s insane. Why wouldn’t you go out with my 5D Mark II that shoots RAW?” His response sent shudders down my spine. He said very bluntly, in a German accent, “We want to take your still jobs away from you, just like you want to take our video jobs away from us with your HD SLRs.”
So for the readers of your blog, who I assume are mostly on the still end, we’re very often focused on how we can evolve our career into the video world, and add that as another set of skills or another service that we produce. We don’t often discuss on the fact that most film makers, videographers, directors, DPs, are feeling the exact same pressures we are from their clients and are very eager to move into commercial photography. Not because they want to be commercial photographers, but because they want to land that job at all costs.
“We want you to shoot the commercial, and we would like to pull some stills from the footage to use for print ads and Internet billboards.”
Exactly. Don’t forget that most people in the motion world are “work-for-hire.” So they don’t get the same type of deals with still imagery that we do with still commercial photography contracts. Don’t think that that’s not going to effect the still market. And lastly, don’t think that I’m happy about this. I have no joy in sharing that thought or seeing it happen.
No. I think we don’t have to emphasize it, hopefully people realize that you’re not trying to destroy anything. You’re trying to help people understand, because you do have access to $30,000 cameras to mess around with and you can explain what might happen if it was a $5,000 camera.
Here’s another revolutionary part of the equation, I’m carrying my entire Epic kit with matte box, filters extra batteries and cards, in my backpack. I have a motion picture camera in my backpack. That’s going to shake things up a bit as well in some areas. You still need a full crew for a major studio film, but for some work (such as what Tom Lowe is doing at Timescapes.org) you no longer do. One other quick note photographers should pay attention to, I’m having to modify the standard DGA (Director’s Guild of America) contracts I sign now to prevent clients from pulling images from my commercial shoots. Just recently a still client and agency pulled a still from a commercial I shot for them. I had a previous relationship with them as a still photographer. They had also hired a still commercial photographer for the still portion of the shoot. But when the client asked to use a frame grab from one of my clips they did so without hesitation. They were unapologetic. Lesson learned. Most directors being hired out there aren’t thinking yet about whether or not their clients are going to pull stills from their footage.
Since you witnessed what happened with the HDSLR in the last 3 years, can you predict how quickly this will evolve and people will adapt to it?
I think that the HDSLR movement was much more rapid and far-reaching because of the types of market we’re talking about. Everyone from amateurs to professionals can afford to buy one. Price is a major factor. This will have a slower effect, but a more noticeable one, on the high end. Bruce Weber, Mark Seliger and Annie Leibovitz are shooting with the Epic already.
Yes, and tons of fashion photographers. The higher production people are going to be using this camera. And it’s going to have an effect. I don’t know how fast, how quick it is. But ultimately, I think you have to try your hand at this technology, you can’t sit back. I’m not saying you change your business model, or even own an Epic. But I think you need to have some experience with it, and rent it for a weekend. So that when you’re client calls you and says, “Do you know how to do this?” You don’t say, “No, I’ve never tried.”
Because not all video requests require Technocranes and 50 member crews. Some of it’s relatively simple. If they just want you to roll some video on that certain types of shoots, then the answer can be “absolutely,” for most photographers.
So is this your advice for most photographers, to prepare themselves for what you see as a convergence?
Dip your toe into it or make someone in your studio at least know something about it. Keep your mind open. And more than anything, the hardest thing to do is, instead of reacting to the change with fear (which is a natural human instinct that we all know about) react to this change as something that’s exciting and full of new opportunities and new ways of being creative.
It’s very difficult to be original as a photographer these days, given how long the medium has been around and how many photographers there are out there. But this is a new medium, in effect. It’s a cross over medium that’s becoming viable and offers up a lot of really interesting new ways of communicating. You’ve probably seen those example of photographs, where part of it is in motion, right? That’s a new medium that’s developed out of this technology. And that’s exciting, I’m excited. I’m not scared of any of this. I guess that’s just the way I look at it, but it does not scare me. I find it’s tremendously liberating to not have to choose between shooting video or stills. That doesn’t mean I won’t be making the choice between the two anymore of course – every job has the right tool. But I now have a new tool in my toolbox.
You seem to be walking very carefully around making any declaration that the still camera is going to be dead in the future. You don’t see that?
I guess I’ve gotten a little older, perhaps slightly wiser, and realized that you can probably make the same point, and get people to think more, without making huge declaratory statements. I think big statements like “the camera is dead” or “game changer” starts to fall deaf on certain people’s ears after a while.
I think it’s more important to say, “Take note of this new technology and try it out if you can. And if you can’t try it out, think about its potential uses and how that might benefit you in a future assignment, your creativity, or your business.”
the shift by readers and advertisers online will limit the growth of print, the industry’s lifeblood. While magazines’ print and circulation revenue combined will hit $25.1 billion in 2015, growing at a compound annual rate of 3.5 percent, it will still be lower than its 2007 level of $25.4 billion.
There’s some good news: Advertising is starting to recover. After plunging 26.8 percent from 2007-2009, it crept up 2 percent in 2010.
by Heidi Volpe
Deborah Schwartz of DSReps is well known for sending out impressive promos that can’t possibly be thrown away. When I heard this years was a box of prints representing each of her photographers I had to see it and ask her a few questions about it.
Heidi: Would you say you are pretty sure all your promos get opened?
Deborah: Yes, especially for this particular promo. There was a great amount of hype from last year’s similar promo, so people were excited and anticipating the arrival of this years’.
How did you select who got a box of prints?
I spent the most time that I have ever spent on a list for this promo. I gathered a combination of lists that included our clients from the last few years, adbase lists and a targeted list of people who we want to have as clients. We then called each and every agency and magazine and design firm on the list to check the names and make sure that important Creatives were not left off.
Was it agencies first and then editorial and then studios?
I would say that it was more about a gathering of lists of clients (editorial graphic design, client direct and advertising) and then adding wish lists of clients found through research. And we printed a few extra boxes of the promo so that we can still give some away to new clients or new potential clients throughout the year – and before the next promo comes out.
Are you concerned about offending someone who doesn’t get one? Was it like making an invite list for a wedding?
Yes and YES!! Which is why I specifically made the list 200 total short of our total number of promos. And over the next few months, we will send promos out to anyone who did not get one and should have – and then add them to the list for next years. Even when we call and talk to a reliable source at each agency, some names get left out inadvertently. There is no way to avoid human error.
Do you have a less expensive promo to give out to reach a larger audience?
Yes – each of the photographers do a much larger run on a smaller promo each year so that it can go out to more clients and potential clients. We try to space it out so that it is sent out at least a few months after the DSREPS promo.
How are your 2011 promos different from last year?
A slightly different package, the NEW office in New York City is listed on the promo, a few changes to the roster and a newly curated group of images for our photographers.
How much editorial vs commercial work do you think this promo garnered from last year?
A good mix of both. We sent the promos to ad agencies and magazines alike, and got great response from both parts of the business.
Is this the second year you worked with Perfect Holiday? Why them?
Yes – Bryan (the owner) is very creative and collaborative and he has a great design style. I think that his style and our style are a good fit.
What was some of the feedback you’ve gotten?
It has been so nice for me to get such great feedback. Everyone is so thankful and excited to receive the promo – and it has been referred to multiple times in thank you notes as a “gift”.
Did the photographers have a voice in the the final edit?
Yes – we all work together so that they are happy with the edit in the end. Sometimes there is some back and forth, and in the end – both sides are happy with what is picked.
I like the fact that is titled “ready to hang”, it has a more casual feel to it. More longevity then a post card but less precious then a fine art print.
Where do you hope these promos end up? Do you think they are shared with respective staff?
Yes they are being shared based on feedback that I have received. And they are apparently ending up on many, many walls – both in offices and homes. From what people have said, there are framed DSREPS promo images everywhere. Which is nice. ; )
Is the cost of putting something like this together off-set by new work you receive?
Believe it or not, the promo was actually cost effective. The promo costs are split among the 12 photographers, and it is costing less than a spread in a sourcebook per photographer – including design, printing, box construction and mailing of 2,000 pieces. Having only made 2,000 total pieces did force us to do a much more targeted mailing, but I feel that the specialness of the promo makes it worth that sacrifice.
Have you ever had a promo cost more then the results yielded?
Was it hard to edit the individual prints and then string them together as a series?
No – this is the part that I love the most about my job. It IS in the end a commercial business – but I love to be able to have this opportunity to curate something of theirs that is more about their art work. I feel like Creatives really love to see artistic images. And then we sell the photographers’ ability commercially by showing “work” on their sites in order to sell them through to the client.
What lead you to this type of promo? Did you feel you weren’t having success with your book series you did years prior?
Not at all. The book series was very successful, but I got to a point last year where I felt that I wanted to make a leap into something a bit more bold. And I have been wanting to curate something for a long time – so this became my outlet for that. I hope someday to have the time to open a gallery.
What other types of promos do you do? And how often?
I do one big DSREPS promo per year, and I encourage my photographers to do at least one of their own each year. And we do still send out e-promos, but I am very aware of the sensitivity around these since so many Creatives feel bombarded by e-mailings. Although I will say that from my experience, if an e-promo is great, it is VERY well received. An example of this is the e-promo that we did for Jason Nocito after he shot the MTV Skins campaign. This campaign was all over the place, and it was so cool. When we sent out the e-mailer, so many people were excited to receive it and had been wondering who shot it. The percentage of people who opened that e-promo was off the charts compared to others. The other e-promo that had that same level of success was Chris McPherson’s Microsoft Windows 7 campaign. Again, the billboards had been everywhere, and people loved them and were excited to know who had shot them.
Aside from yours, what has been the most memorable promo you seen distributed?
Commune did a really cool newsprint poster promo that I absolutely loved.
Google is adding the ability to do searches with just an image (official announcement here) which looks to compete directly with TinEye.com a site I use whenever I want to see who shot something or where it has been used (*what’s up with all these Russian blogs with copies of your images on them, makes zero sense). I see this being a very useful tool for photo editors who want to fact check something in an image or find out who shot something they like. Also, it seems like it would deter any legitimate businesses stealing images off the web. A simple image search will reveal the source (*sometimes I’ll see a suspicious image on a site and do a google image search for the keywords on the story and discover they pulled it off page 1. Really!?).
We’ll have to see how it plays out, but on the surface it seems like a good development for professional photography. With so much imagery flying around there’s a need for things that are original and unique.
Note: Looks like they will turn this feature on at 6 PM, PST today.
Question from a reader:
Is there an “industry standard” for compensating photographers when their photographs of contributor writers (journalists) are printed in a magazine?
The writer is a friend, whom I cheerfully and with pleasure photographed a few years ago, seeking to provide him with publicity photographs, etc. At the time, I worked pro bono for him–my choice–with the understanding that, as far as he knew, I should be compensated each time my photograph gets used in a publication. Sure enough, a few months later, I received an e-mail out of the blue from a large and very well regarded publishing house with a request for payment delivery details, etc. for a single use in a monthly magazine. Very nice.
Soon after, though, a different large publishing house sent a request for the writer’s photo. I submitted the file digitally, and then when I had heard nothing more (received no compensation) a few weeks later, I sent a polite inquiry, which was rebuffed with the explanation that the magazine understood I had submitted the photograph as a courtesy. A subsequent, more forceful request was similarly denied, and I let the matter drop.
I was e-mailed yesterday by another magazine in that same (latter) publishing house, this time with a form attached for me to return “at [my] convenience, within a week”. The form granted the publisher my permission to use my photograph of one of their contributors (my writer-friend) without cost to the publisher. I have not responded.
Apart from the detail that the writer is a friend with whom I’m keen to maintain good relations, and whom I happy to promote in any way I can, I’m sure the general situation is fairly common, although I have searched in vain for anything online that addresses general standards with an industry-wide viewpoint. I guess that magazines have independent policies on whether and how much they compensate photographers in all situations, but I would also guess that any self-respecting publisher should at least put a coin in the tip jar.
It’s actually quite simple. Some publications will pay for contributor photos some will not. Why the difference? Some publications place zero value on that image. You will see them publishing crappy snapshots of a writer taken on a fishing trip where everyone else had to be cut out of the image. I would argue that every image in the magazine deserves careful consideration if you are serious about the photography and design of your magazine but, convincing them that professionally created contributor images, a laVanity Fair, add value, can be impossible.
So, how do you deal with giving your buddy publicity images? All but the very densest individuals will understand that when the writer says “contact this photographer for an image,” they will be paying for the use. When they contact you be proactive about the price and ask what their rate is for contributor photos. Be prepared to counter with your minimum, because there’s a good chance it will be below that. Finally, set it up with your buddy what he can use the image for and when he should send them calling for the high res. Lastly, understand that some people will place no value on this image, walk away from it, they’ll be calling him for fishing trip photos no matter what the price.
I love old photos. I know I’m a nosy photographer. As soon as I step into someone else’s house, I start sniffing for those old photos. Most of us are fascinated by their retro look but to me it’s imagining how people would feel and look like if they were to reenact them today… A year ago, I decided to actually do this. So, with my camera, I started inviting people to go back to their future.
via burn magazine.
The goal of this survey is to evaluate and share developing trends of how photographers used social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and others in 2010 as compared to 2009. The 2009 Survey was an incredible success thanks to your participation and word of mouth to your peers.
Go (here) to take the survey.
When I give my Social Media Marketing talk most of the examples I give of photographers having success using it to market themselves involve lots of writing and monkeying around with a blog which can feel ridiculous to present to a group of people who take pictures for a living. That’s why I always end my examples with Jake Chessum’s blog thedailychessum.com where I’ve come to love the simplicity of a daily image from one of my favorite photographers as a brilliant marketing tool.
In my mind it easily represents how social media will allow those in the hiring seat the opportunity to follow photographers they’re interested in, rather than get blasted with emails and promo cards. Additionally, people can easily share his content and if he added a couple simple features it could be on twitter and facebook in an instant.
This is where social media is taking us, to a world where everything comes into our purview after someone endorses it. You don’t have to look further than the survey I did with Art Buyers and Photo Editors to understand that this is how hiring decisions have always been made: someone recommends you, a magazine I like hires you, an agent I trust has you on their roster, you win an award I keep track of. Now there’s just a more efficient way for recommendations to happen.
It’s been a year since he started so I decided to give him a call and ask a few questions.
Rob: Tell me, why did you choose this format to put your work out there?
Jake: Well, first of all I didn’t want to write one of these confessional type of blogs. I think it’s too easy to get yourself in trouble with clients that way. I wanted to be able to put new work up without having to go into the website and reorganize the portfolios. I wanted something immediate, to capture that moment when you’re really excited about something you’ve just done.
What about the time commitment, a photo each day must get difficult for someone as busy as you are?
If I’ve got a job coming up and won’t be around I can post ahead and I always keep a folder with 20 or 30 in the bank. There is pressure to create something and so when I’m in between shooting jobs I’ve got to have the camera with me for when I see something. It’s actually quite good in that it keeps you motivated to shoot.
What about the fact that this is one more thing photographers have to do now?
I remember very clearly as a kid how everyone said that in the future technology was going to do all the work for us. How we were going to be down to a 3 day work week and have loads of leisure time. Turned out to be complete bullshit, the opposite is true. This stuff adds to the workload, but I do feel it’s a positive and necessary thing.
Do you see this replacing any of the traditional marketing you do?
I think the whole industry’s in a transitional period so we don’t know what’s going to happen. Look at vinyl, everyone said in 5 or 10 years nobody will buy a vinyl record but now when an album comes out you’ve got to have a vinyl edition for the collectors. I do know you’re taking a risk if you’re not participating in these emerging outlets.
How well do you think it works as a marketing tool? There’s not really a way to tell if you’ve landed jobs because of it is there?
No not really unless somebody tells you. It does put the pressure on to be on your game. You’ve got to pick 30 pictures a month that you stand by. I couldn’t do it without my wife. She’s a great editor and critic. When I’m traveling around the world on jobs I can post and let people know where I am and they can follow and know what I’m up to. When a shoot is published in a magazine I can post the outtakes, some of which are often favorites, but didn’t make the cut for space or other reasons. Media is changing day on day and the consumption of images is so rapid. The real payoff as I said before, is the immediacy of it. When you’ve done something you’re proud of and you’ve got that great feeling about it, you can publish it, for everyone to see.
I’m moving to a different server this weekend. Might be a couple missing comments and 404’s. Sorry about that.
Stephen Mayes, Managing Director of VII Photo and former Jury Secretary for the World Press Photo Awards (2004-2009) is a leading thinker on the future of photography and of photojournalism in particular. He was speaking at the Flash Forward Festival in Boston last week and Miki Johnson live-blogged his talk (here). Reading her notes, Stephen talks about the traditional role of a photograph as recording something real that happend. Analog photography is about fixing something and creating an artifact but digital is the opposite of this. The photograph becomes more fluid and online it is never static, there are an infinite amount of changes that can be made to it. He goes on to say that while the photography business is in decline this is a moment for invention not dismay.
His solution involves rejecting the idea that the value of photography is in licensing/selling content by the “unit” (book, album, photograph) and instead focussing on the integrity of the photographer or institution. His evidence is that with VII Photo, more than half the money generated has come from integrity, not the sale of images. Companies come to them, not to buy images but to partner and find solutions. This all fits in very nicely with the Blog, Facebook and Twitter information feed that people are plugged into. Distribution of information depends on who it comes from not what it is.
He goes on to outline the different ways photographers have advantages in this new ecosystem: being small and fluid is better than big with large overhead, there’s a huge population of kids who don’t care about newspapers but still care about the issues, you don’t have to rely on print to be recognized, bringing the subject into the relationship structure is very exciting and tailoring the story for the specific distribution platform. He concludes that there is no single solution but instead the answers are limitless.
“To permit one artist the right to use without consequence the original creative and copyrighted work of another artist simply because that artist wished to create an alternative work would eviscerate any protection by the Copyright Act,” concludes Judge Pregerson. “Without such protection, artists would lack the ability to control the reproduction and public display of their work and, by extension, to justly benefit from their original creative work.”
via Hollywood Reporter.