Wanted: Agency Coordinator/Manger

- - Blog News

NY based Artist Management Agency (high end photographers and illustrators) seeks a mature, driven, extremely detail oriented individual who is inspired and fully capable to take the helm of the day-to-day operations of the agency. This is not just an administrative job, but the glue that holds the agency together and one that requires someone with leadership skills and a desire to be a key component of the growth and success of the agency. Email photoagencyresumes@gmail.com for more information.

Real World Estimates – Nature Preserve Guidebook

by  Wonderful Machine CEO Bill Cramer

Here’s a project that began seven years ago and just wrapped up last month. Back in 2004, I got a call from an art director at a landscape architecture firm that was completing a $7 million renovation of a 70 acre piece of land, transforming it into a nature preserve for a non-profit. They had replaced alien plants with species indigenous to the area and they created beautiful bridges, paths and sculpture gardens. They needed photographs depicting plant specimens and landscapes for a guidebook. Oddly, they came to me. I say oddly because I shoot almost exclusively portraiture. I don’t even show still life pictures in my portfolio, let alone plants. But there was something about the personality of my photographs that the client thought would work well for the book. I liked her and the project. And in spite of, or maybe because of how different this project was, I decided that I wanted to do it.

When I met with the AD, she showed me several examples of plant and landscape photographs so I could see what she liked and didn’t like, which was very helpful. She explained that the project would need to take place over a period of a year or more, so we could illustrate what the plants and landscapes looked like in the spring, summer, fall and winter (including snow). The AD was initially a little vague about the actual shot list, but I knew I would need some specifics in order to do the quote. So together we figured out that the final book would need 8 landscape photos and 32 plant specimen photos. We agreed to show the plants close-up, on white background. (I found out that here was a house on the property that we could use as a studio.)

I went home and thought about how I would execute the project, and how I should structure the proposal based on that. I did some test pictures to get a sense of what kind of set-up I would need and how much time it would take to photograph each plant. I had shot lots of people on white background before, but never still life. I wanted the plants to be floating rather than lying on a white surface. So after some awkward and dangerous attempts on a ladder, I bought a bakers scaffold, some ¼” glass, and some plywood so I could build a window with a frame that I could stand on and easily shoot down on the plants – with white paper lit up on the floor below. (I’m sure the real still-life photographers out there will tell me there’s an easier way to do this.)

Even though they were only planning on using an average of 10 pictures from each of the 4 seasons, I figured we would probably want to shoot twice that number to cover ourselves. Then we’d have the luxury of choosing which plants and landscapes looked most interesting for each part of the year. I would plan to shoot landscapes early and late in the day, and the plant specimens in between.

Any time I put together a quote, I try to balance my need to control my costs with the client’s need to understand what they’re getting charged for and to control their costs. For this project, since I wasn’t completely sure about how long it was going to take me to get pictures that I was going to be happy with, and since I wanted to be able to experiment a bit, and since I knew that the project was likely to evolve over the course of a year, I wanted to build some flexibility into the schedule. Figuring that I could comfortably make 10 pictures/day, I budgeted about 2 shoot days for each season. That in mind, here’s the estimate I put together (PDF).

I decided that in addition to the four seasonal shoots, I wanted to build in an initial test phase so that we could be really clear about what the specimen pictures were going to look like (exactly what the white background would look like, what the light on the plant would look like and what the post-processing would look like – and get approval before we were shooting for real).

Even though I was planning on shooting as many pictures as I could, the fee I quoted entitled them to use 40 images in the guidebook. I viewed the actual licensing as somewhere between commercial and editorial. They just needed the pictures for the book itself. They didn’t have other plans beyond that. Even though the nature preserve was a non-profit, they had substantial financial backing. They weren’t hiring me because I was cheap. They were hiring me because they liked my pictures. Since the photographic expenses were all within my control, I decided to bundle them with my creative fee for each segment of the job, and then bill my actual cost for the hotel, travel and meals. I figured on 2 shoot days and a travel day for each of the four seasons (it was a four-hour drive each way), along with a license for 10 images, which I decided was worth 4000.00. Plus I’d need to cover photographic expenses of an assistant (750.00), equipment (500.00) web gallery (350.00) and file preps (10 @ 40.00 = 400.00). 4 shoots plus 1 test phase made 5 segments x 6000.00/segment = $30,000.00.

The client was comfortable with my price and only made a few small revisions to my terms (PDF), they wanted me to have any order changes made in writing, which was fine with me.

The project went remarkably smoothly that first year. I made my quota of pictures, and I only almost crashed through my makeshift window once. But then we hit some snags. We didn’t have any snow that first winter. So we had to wait a year for the next decent dusting. Then the AD fired the designer. Then the AD left the landscape architecture firm, and the client took over managing the project. Then the whole thing was on hold for a couple of years. When the project was revived in 2009, they needed a few more pictures to round things out after deciding to double the size of the book. After we went through a round of file processing and retouching it looked like it would finally be published. Then more radio silence. I would check their website every few months, then forgot about it myself for a while. Then finally, at the end of 2010, I checked their site and there was an announcement for the guidebook, so I bought a copy.

I had known for a while that they were planning to expand the book (and consequently, the licensing). But until it was actually published, there wasn’t anything concrete to bill for. When I got my copy, I had to reconcile the use of the additional pictures. Looking back on my 2004 estimate, I could have been more clear. There is an implicit license for 40 images, “This is a price quote for Bill Cramer to produce a series of 40 photographs…” But it really should have said, “This is a price quote for use of up to 40 images…” Also, I should have specified the cost for additional images.

This lack of clarity put me in the awkward position of justifying to my client’s client (now my direct client) the additional charges for use of the additional pictures. First, I had to make sense of it myself, so created a spreadsheet (PDF) detailing all the invoices I sent and what they covered. Then I composed an email (PDF) spelling out the charges for the additional usage. In an attempt to make up for my sloppy initial estimate, and to account for the fact that I had grouped the fee with photographic expenses in that estimate (leaving the actual licensing fee a little murky), I factored in a charitable discount to send the message that I wasn’t trying to rake them over the coals, but simply get fair compensation for the additional usage.

This task was made a bit easier due to the fact that the folks at the nature preserve went ahead and put several of my pictures on their website without my permission. If they would have otherwise put up a fuss, they were less likely to do so now. Anyway, they paid the invoice (PDF) and sent me a bunch more copies of the guidebook. And it actually looks pretty good, so I’m left wondering if I should start promoting myself as a nature photographer.

Stock Photography Rumors – Destroying Film And Contracts

- - Stock

A rumor has been floating around that images held by Corbis-Sygma will be destroyed unless the owners can be found. The British Journal of Photography spoke with Stéphane Gorrias, the lawyer charged with Corbis-Sygma’s liquidation–Corbis abandoned Sygma after a they were fined 2 million dollars for losing 750 images belonging to French photographer Dominique Aubert (under French law, a photographer retains his rights on all of his images, including when he works for a press agency)–and she told them there are currently no plans to destroy any images. Regardless if you shot for them and have not had your images returned contact her here:
Maître Stéphane Gorrias SCP BTSG
1 place Boieldieu
75002 Paris — France
email: gorrias@btsg.eu
Read the full story (here).

The rumor about destroying the images may be completely true regardless of the statement made to BJP, because who’s going to pay for their continued storage in the state of the art archival repository in Garnay, France? Not a company that wishes to avoid further lawsuits.

In other news “Getty Images will be launching an updated contributor agreement” that is a complete mystery but sounds super ominous, because they are saying “you will need to sign the new agreement in order to continue to submit images because it will contain important changes that will support our forward-looking objectives.”

I assume those “forward-looking objectives” include some kind of sliding commission scale similar to what they implemented over at istockphoto that had the micro-stock community up in arms.

I have a question from a reader if anyone would like to help them out:

Has anyone ever left Getty and gotten all of their pictures back?

Part of being successful is having a belief in yourself and the process

- - Blog News

If you want to work on your art, work on your life. All those personality traits that aren’t working for you will come back to haunt you in your career (i.e. assertiveness, fear of conflict, fear of confrontation.) It’s all connected.

What you think becomes your reality. I always had a belief that if I cleaned out my recycling bin in my studio I would get new work. And guess what, it always happened. If you think the industry is screwed and there is no work to be had, guess what you will find out there?

via Secrets shared

thx Ryan.

Shooting An Album For A Major Record Label

A question from one of my readers:

I am a photographer in Southern California and was approached buy a major record label out of New York asking for a quote to shoot their artists album. They are wanting multiple looks. Is there a good place where I can find a competitive rate so I don’t destroy the industry single handily with a low-ball rate? ha…

I emailed the question to an agent and here’s the response:

As we all know the record industry has been hard hit in more than one way in the last few years. Several of my artists shoot for record labels and although the work can be very creative the rates have not increased in a long time and they have actually gone down in a lot of cases.

When negotiating with the labels the first thing to ask is about usage. Most labels require you to sign a contract for all rights with a distinction of whether it is to include merchandising-for-sale rights or not. Merchandising-for-sale means posters, tee-shirts, calendars – any kind of merchandising that is sold (often at live shows) as opposed to being given away. Most labels will allow a photographer to retain the right to use the work in their portfolios, website and for promotion. The labels need to secure all rights for many reasons but mostly to protect themselves from pirated product.

The next element in determining the creative fees (after usage is determined) is the popularity of the band or recording artist. Larger acts will have a bigger overall budget which makes sense. If a label calls you to shoot a major act then they are going to be expecting a larger fee usually. The other factor is the level of the photographer. A younger or newer photographer will not be able to command the rates that more established photographers can.

I would say an average music fee (not including expenses) these days is anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the rights needed and the artist’s stature and the photographers stature. The budget for expenses can vary wildly depending on many factors.

A junior band at a smaller label with newer photographer you might see the creative fee as low as a $1,000.

One trend I am experiencing is labels coming to us with an “all in” budget to include all of the expenses and fees. We get a call from a client and they say we have $30,000 “all in” to shoot this band, does your photographer want the job? This is usually with the understanding that if you bring the expenses in for less, without sacrificing the quality of the production, your fees can go up. This can be good in some cases, but in others you get the difficult challenge of managing the talents expectations for the shoot with not a lot of support from the label or help from management.

Here’s an example: The band wants to shoot at the Taj Mahal and you have to tell them that the label only has the budget to shoot at the local Motel 6. Or, the artist wants major fashion labels in the wardrobe pull, but the stylist can only have $2,000 “all in” with the overall budget being so low. Or, the artist wants a specific hair or makeup artist whose rate is very high. I will often agree to an “all in” budget if the hair, makeup and stylist is not included in our budget. Then we will try as best we can from the initial creative conversations with the recording artist to reference the budget in a sensitive way.

Also bear in mind that if you need to travel to do a job – which means airfares and hotels etc. as well as more days on your calendar the budgets do not often increase proportionally to cover that. So a budget of $25,000 “all in” is not so bad if you are shooting in your own home town with one recording artist. But that budget to shoot a band with five members in a smaller city in the middle of the country becomes not only more difficult in terms of production but is also immediately less profitable.

So when you get one of those offers you have to consider all the factors and perhaps the offer is to shoot a band that you love and you just say yes to be able to work with them and shoot it!

The other thing that is starting to happen more often is we are shooting these jobs for the artist or band management and not the label. In those cases it most often includes the option of merchandising-for-sale. The management then controls what goes to the label and to the merchandising companies – secure that they have all rights. They will often commission the art direction and design of the package or tour book and deliver a finished package to the record label or vendor.

The need for more control on the part of management and artist (from a marketing standpoint) is due to the changes in contracts between the labels and the recording artists. Also, a lot of major labels do not even have art departments anymore or if they do they are very small, and they often farm the design out to independent art directors and design firms as opposed to having a full time staff in their art department.

For a newer photographer the music industry is a great way to gain experience because you are required to shoot many set-ups on most sessions to cover not only the artwork for the CD packaging but also the needs of the publicity departments at the label. An average session consists of at least six and sometimes up to ten set ups in one day. So depending on the fee you are making it can be hard work for little pay but often a great experience as well as a creative challenge.

Real Secrets Behind Building A Strong And Successful Portfolio

- - Portfolio

Over on Monaco Reps new Look Here blog there’s an interview with Claudia Monaco on the real secrets behind strong portfolios. I’ve pulled my favorite bits to whet your appetite, but you’ve got to read the whole thing (here).

  • I prefer to have at least 200 images to work with when I’m putting together a portfolio.
  • when a client takes a look at it, from page one to whatever, it is clearly one vision, one eye, one style, one artist. In order for many artists to get there, they need to experiment a bit by doing many things before they wind up with a cohesive vision. Here at this agency, I don’t consider repping someone unless they are already at a certain point of that arc of development.
  • a portfolio – which I would like to say right now is NOT a coffee table book, it is not a personal expression. It is a tool for getting assignments. Period.
  • The reason it’s a really strong portfolio is because its foundation is stories.
  • The layout of the portfolio takes much longer than the edit of the images. Depending on the photographer it can take weeks.
  • The use of white in a portfolio should be consciously made, and done sparingly.
  • There has been a shift over the years towards concentrated portfolios; twenty years ago, that was not necessarily the case. Things have become more and more limited in terms of what people want to see in a portfolio.
  • As impressive as technology is, nothing beats the tactile quality of a portfolio, the turning of the pages and the paper, is often a wonderful experience, like opening an envelope with expectations.
  • You have to be able to do things as quickly as possible. So we reintroduced acetate pages back into our portfolios. I have to say I feel much better about our books now. The turn around time for new work can be one day.
  • Our Video in Print pages are actual pages with a video screen embedded into the page:

vip

How do you avoid making a cliché?

- - Blog News

Avoiding clichés requires one of two things: An original approach or an unexplored subject matter and ideally, both. In other words, figuring out a new way to make pictures of a tried and true subject is one way. This usually means telling a specific, dynamic story. The other is to discover or conceive of a subject that hasn’t been trampled to stereotype. Do both and you’re a genius.

via  Mike Davis.

Huffington’s Plunder

- - The Future

The sale of The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million is a sad milestone for media in the internet age. TruthDig columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges grinds down to the point that makes this so painful for journalists.

Any business owner who uses largely unpaid labor, with a handful of underpaid, nonunion employees, to build a company that is sold for a few hundred million dollars, no matter how he or she is introduced to you on the television screen, is not a liberal or a progressive. Those who take advantage of workers, whatever their outward ideological veneer, to make profits of that magnitude are charter members of the exploitative class. Dust off your Karl Marx. They are the enemies of working men and women. And they are also, in this case, sucking the lifeblood out of a trade I care deeply about. It was bad enough that Huffington used her site for flagrant self-promotion, although the cult of the self has reached such dizzying proportions in American society that such behavior is almost expected. But there is an even sadder irony that this was carried out in the name of journalism.

[…] The argument made to defend this exploitation is that the writers had a choice. It is an argument I also heard made by the managers of sweatshops in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, the coal companies in West Virginia or Kentucky and huge poultry farms in Maine. It is the argument made by the comfortable, by those who do not know what it is to be hard up, desperate or driven by a passion to express one’s self and the world through journalism or art. It is the argument the wealthy elite, who have cemented in place an oligarchic system under which there are no real choices, use to justify their oppression.

Read the whole story on Truthdig.

There Has Never Been A Better Time To Be An Artist

- - The Future

…because everyone’s a photographer now. Those two seemingly contradictory statements are the subject of the soon to be released film, “Press Pause Play” which will premiere at the SXSW festival in Austin, March 11. The trailers have been floating around for awhile now and whenever I watch them I can’t help but hear my bullshit alarm screaming in the back of my head, because they’ve interviewed a bunch of people who plan to make millions off all the wannabee artists that are now suddenly empowered by the internet. I would argue that while it’s gotten easier for people to create things and absurdly easy to distribute them, creating something interesting and engaging has remained as difficult as ever.

Yes, supporting and curating that consumer driven content is a new income stream for many people, but what’s routinely touted as revolutionary is simply a byproduct of a recession. Hiring creative problem solvers who can rise above the fray will always win in the end.

via Wonderful Machine Cog

Why We Love Bad Photography

- - Working

Expanding on a story in Salon entitled “Why We Love Bad Writing,” by Laura Miller, the blog 1/125 applies the same logic to photography and asks why people prefer Chase Jarvis over Alec Soth. For literature it comes down to this nugget written by C.S. Lewis in “An Experiment in Criticism”:

a reader, who is interested solely in the consumption of plot, favors the hackneyed phrase over the original… because it is immediately recognizable. ‘My blood ran cold’ is a hieroglyph of fear. Any attempt, such as a great writer might make, to render this fear concrete in its full particularity, is doubly a chokepear to the unliterary reader. For it offers him what he doesn’t want, and offers it only on the condition of his giving to the words a kind and degree of attention which he does not intend to give. It is like trying to sell him something he has no use for at a price he does not wish to pay.

If it requires more effort to consume, many will not bother with it. Think about a story crammed with words you don’t recognize. Taking the time to look those words up in a dictionary adds considerable effort. And, if you consider spending your free time developing your taste for finely crafted prose, you really need to be committed on another level to make that kind of investment. The same applies to photography. Developing your taste is no different than appreciating great literature, food or wine. You need to experience and study it to gain understanding.

What troubles Nick Shere of the 1/125 blog is that with “photography, the situation is somewhat more dire, because it is much, much harder for viewers to move freely between the “unliterary” photographic realm and the “literary” photographic realm. There is hardly any middle ground between them, the way there is with books. Instead of a middle ground, there is a chasm with hardly any bridges across it.”

It’s a great thought because there’s a lot that can be done to create bridges across the chasm and I wanted to point this out to photo editors, because I’ve been in those arguments about photography with editors where factual trumps sophisticated, but I’ve never thought to turn it on them with a literary example. The two articles I’ve linked provide plenty of ammo to do that. I’ve always believed the only way to engage readers is to challenge them. High dollar advertising will always prefer engaged readers over hits. Nick goes on to say:

To provide opportunities for everyday people to expand and improve their photographic tastes without making them feel like they are being sold something they have no use for at a price they do not wish to pay is one of the more important frontiers in photography at the moment, and one which few people are homesteading.

There’s plenty online dedicated to clichés, hopefully more people seize the opportunity to make more bridges.

Thx Santosh for the tip.

PS- My favorite sites for expanding my knowledge: Conscientious, BAG, B, AD Coleman, David Campbell, Notes on Politics, theory & Photography, DLK Collection, and the many photographers who occasionally write about their work.

Fashion photographs made by Philip-Lorca diCorcia over the past decade for W magazine

- - Blog News

I assumed they would be the normal kind of sell-out we often see, where commerce trumps art and the results are less than inspiring. In a photographic year that has so far been generally unremarkable, I am happy to report that these pictures entirely undermined my expectations. I think this is the first photography show of the year that is truly worth a special trip to see, if only because it so consistently defies the standard fashion photography framework.

via DLK COLLECTION

Photography Is Still In Its Infancy And Some Doors Still Need Kicking In

- - Art

Matt Henry, a UK based photographer wrote today’s post.

There’s an interesting précis here of photographer Paul Graham’s lecture at the first MoMA Photography Forum which took place this week. I’m gonna précis a précis here by saying that he was claiming that the art world doesn’t take photography that isn’t somehow representing art in the traditional sense at all seriously. So unless you make sets out of paper and photograph them, like Thomas Demand, dress yourself up in all sorts of elaborate costumes and take self-portraits, like Cindy Sherman, or recreate scenes that you’ve spotted out and about a la Jeff Wall, you ain’t getting written about in any high brow art journals, or splashed about the right gallery walls.

His argument was that the process of snapping ones surroundings in an instinctive fashion like William Eggleston, Gary Winogrand, Walker Evans, or Stephen Shore isn’t understood by an art world obsessed with due thought and process; unless you’ve been slumped in a chair thinking about it for at least five minutes, it somehow doesn’t count. But then he goes on to say that the ‘straight’ photography of these old guys is finally getting its recognition, and it’s more the modern straight photographers that aren’t getting their credit. Perhaps he has a few friends then frustrated that their own recognition doesn’t rival his.

But ‘straight’ photography gets more than its fair share of due; Alec Soth is the rising star of the moment after all, and there are countless others like him. Thanks to the brilliance of Eggleston and pals, most of the language of photography is couched largely in these ‘straight’ terms; if it’s not found, and it’s not real, it’s not worthy of gallery walls (unless of course it’s more recorded sculpture, in the Demand or the Sherman sense). And this is why every other photograph seems to be of an empty car park, a left-over meal in a diner, a suburban home, or an aerial shot of beach goers. Even Jeff Wall’s narratives are often recreations of real events, which is probably what made them palatable to the art world in the first instance.

Which makes me think photography as a medium is still in its infancy and some rotten doors need kicking in. Sure the documentary is a big part of cinema, but most people choose narrative fiction as means of communicating those same themes that artists touch upon; themes that we all need to explore as human beings: life, love, loss, purpose, faith, hope, friendship, ambition, desire, duty…. Yet few have used this medium in any meaningful sense in photography, mostly because those that do are allied to the commercial sector, which in many (though not all) cases is liable to dilute self-expression. Fashion photography is the one genre that openly embraces narrative, yet it’s reliance on great looking people in great looking clothes kind of guarantees a general vacuity. Aside from Crewdson, who doesn’t personally appeal, all my coffee table books are dedicated to ‘straight’ photography. I would very much like a few that explored the world through fiction.