Photojournalists Push Boundaries With Apps And Computers

- - Contests, Photojournalism

Fantastic debate going on in the world of photojournalism right now as two of the top contests have awarded images that stretch the definition of photojournalism. Wait, there’s a definition of photojournalism!? No, and that’s the reason for the debate. If contest organizers, newspapers and magazines would simply define what’s acceptable and what’s not, there would be no debate. It’s pointless for an all encompassing definition to exist because purists want facsimile’s and populists want aesthetics. What’s important is that contests and publications communicate to their followers the rules they’ve laid out and the purpose for them. If factual information is imperative to your mission then you must fact-check your photography (magazines) or hire photographers who follow your carefully defined rules (newspapers) just like you do with your writing. Asking photographers to police themselves is silly and lame.

The first debate erupted when Damon Winter was awarded 3rd place at POYi for a series of images taken for the NY Times with his iphone and processed in the phone with the Hipstamatic app. The very vague rules for POYi and the NY Times are as follows:

Assistant Managing Editor for Photography Michele McNally (here):

We do allow basic contrast/tonal adjustments as well as some sharpening and noise reduction.

POYi Rules (here):

No masks, borders, backgrounds or other artistic effects are allowed.

WOW. You people are really laying it out for everyone. Good job. Now that cameras are basically mini computers you sound like you’re stuck in 1984.

The second debate bubbled up when Michael Wolf was awarded honorable mention in the Contemporary Issues category at the World Press Photo contest (here) for a series of images taken of his computer screen while looking at google street view. In this case there seems to be not much debate about rules but rather a collective huh from photographers wondering if this really qualifies as picture taking.

FYI these are the equally lame World Press Rules (here):

11. The content of the image must not be altered. Only retouching which conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed. The jury is the ultimate arbiter of these standards and may at its discretion request the original, unretouched file as recorded by the camera or an untoned scan of the negative or slide.

12. Only single-frame images will be accepted. Composite and multiple exposure images will not be accepted. Images with added borders, backgrounds or other effects will not be accepted. Images must not show the name of a photographer, agency, or publication.

So, while the debate about it is great for photography, personally I have no problem with the tools photojournalists choose to tell their story. I do have a problem with contests and publications that claim to uphold the ideals of photojournalism but leave photographers flapping in the wind when it comes to defining what that means.

I highly recommend reading though the different threads on the debate.

More on the Damon Winter controversy:

Chip Litherland – there’s an app for photojournalism

Birds To Find Fish – Drawing the Line

dvafoto – Some thoughts on iPhone pictures and POYi

Gizmodo – Hipstamatic and the Death of Photojournalism

NY Times Lens Blog – Damon Winter Discusses the Use of an App

More on the Michael Wolf controversy: – Michael Wolf Wins World Press Photo Honorable Mention For Google Street View Photos

BJP- Is Google Street View photojournalism?

dvafoto – Some thoughts on Google Street View and World Press Photo

Overall Discussion:

Conscientious – It is that time of the year again

Self-Guided Tour – On Technology and Photography: Damon Winter in POY, Michael Wolf in World Press

Eight trends for journalism in 2011

- - Blog News

I feel better about the state of journalism now than I have in quite some time. That doesn’t necessarily mean that newspapers are suddenly going to begin hundreds of reporters back. That’s probably not going to happen. It doesn’t mean that the old system of scarcity is going to return, because it’s not. But you do have traditional news organizations placing bigger bets on online, trying to create revenue models that can work.

via  Nieman Journalism Lab

Recent Facebook Changes Are Bad For Professional Photographers

- - Social Media

Facebook announced and new photo viewer that they’re rolling out for all their users in the next couple weeks that allows you to upload 2048 pixel wide images to your page. That’s an 8 time increase over the old 720 pixel limit and seems like a boon to professional photographers who use FB to connect with their clients. The viewer also provides a nice way to page through an album of images.


Inexplicably they’ve decided to include a link on all the images that allows users to download the high res image. This seems like it would be something you could turn off as I could not imagine a professional photographer wanting to allow viewers the ability to download the images but there’s no setting in the privacy controls.

National Geographic

If that’s not bad enough one of my readers (Marco Aurelio) alerted me to a change to the business pages (here) that now prevents you from placing links, photos, albums and video albums on the front of any Facebook page. Additionally the header images, now front and center, are chosen at random.

Let’s hope there’s enough protest to these changes that Facebook remedies the situation. They’ve done that in the past so I hope everyone makes a big stink about it.

UPDATE: My readers have pointed out that you don’t actually have to upload high res images to Facebook so really it’s not a big deal if you know what you’re doing.

And the Winner Is

- - Blog News

I have always thought that photojournalism contests lead to bad photography. They encourage young photographers to make images like the ones that won in previous years instead of pursuing their personal vision. Shooting black and white with a 24-millimeter lens at f/1.4, and overprocessing the result, does not automatically make a great image. Following your own passions is more likely to lead to important photographs.

via NYTimes Lens Blog.

Is Editorial Photography Dead?

- - The Future

I’m participating in a 2 day phone seminar with photography consultant Selina Maitreya starting tomorrow ( I think one of the questions she asked me is really interesting so I thought I’d write about it a bit here first. She wants to know if editorial photography is dead, alive or just on life-support?

Editorial photography is alive and kicking, growing even, what’s dead is the idea that editorial anything only lives under the aegis of benevolent newspaper and magazine owners. We’re all familiar with the idea that the cost of printing and distributing content is nearly zero and with the aid of email, facebook, twitter and blogging the reach far exceeds what can be done with delivery trucks and newsstands. When true editorial ceased to exist because the financial crisis gave advertisers the upper hand in making sure the content didn’t come at odds with the advertising message, desperate magazines decided the best way to to keep advertisers happy was to make their content more commercial. The readers current apathy with editorial offerings is evidence that this was counter productive.

So, what happened to editorial content then? Consumers took it upon themselves to produce it. Blogs, forums, product reviews and social networking is filled with editorial content. The rise of social media in general is simply editorial content making a comeback. With true editorial product reviews long gone from most magazines, because of pressure from advertisers the social content cloud is bursting with opinions about products and services.

So, what about professionally produced editorial content, the kind we care about, the kind that gives photographers jobs and livelihoods. Here’s where it gets interesting. A few visionaries have taken it upon themselves to create their own profitable editorial niches. People like Scott Schuman, AKA The Satorialist, who defied the glossy fashion industry by shooting simplistic street fashion pictures. And, The Selby, a blog founded by photographer Todd Selby where he documents the interiors of creative persons homes. Both have not only seen the traffic to their blogs soar but their careers have as well because of it. The photography on both is very editorial in voice.

Here’s what’s about to happen next. Savvy companies are realizing they can attract consumers solely with editorial content. As documented this week in an article by David Walker on PDNOnline, cycling clothing manufacturer Rapha “runs almost no print advertising, and has few retail dealers. Instead, it mostly sells direct through the Web, and has built its brand by sponsoring events and by producing documentary stories and other editorial-style content for its Web site to stir the longings of desk-bound he-man riders of means.” The story talks about hiring Oregon photographer Benji Wagner who spent the last year producing editorial content for them. And for larger companies it’s going to be about producing two streams of content, advertising and editorial. Those companies will be looking for savvy photographers who have the voice and the ethics to produce content that will attract consumers.

So, yes, editorial as defined as something that appears in Magazines and Newspapers is dead, but editorial as a style of photography is on the rise.

Then There’s A Race To The Top

- - The Future

What happened while we weren’t looking was the industrial age ended… 100 years of rising productivity based around bosses who owned factories telling employees to act like human cogs… that system made us all rich… all built around making average stuff for average people… there’s a new revolution here… if what you want to do for a living is do what you’re told, you must understand that the boss can find someone cheaper than you. So, now there’s a race to the bottom… compliant folks are going to get hurt because I can always find someone cheaper. Then there’s a race to the top…

Seth Godin

I end up with one of the worst photos I have ever taken

- - Blog News

Even though the layout was, IMHO, atrocious (unclear conceptually, boring design to the layout, unrealistic POV, etc.), I wasn’t busy that day, and so I said sure, I’d be happy to help. Just so you know, I’ve always thought that part of my job is to help my clients, in whatever way I can. I figured that, somehow, I could transform the idea into something interesting, better, perhaps even compelling, and make the ad work better. Hope springs eternal, right? However, every suggestion about props, wardrobe, location, and talent were turned down. The clients were all happy as clams with what was coming down the pike, and there seemed to be no way to stop this particular juggernaut.

via  John Early Blog.

Don’t Be A Wimp. Be Tough With Yourself – And Your Clients

- - Working

From the blog Personal Scope Creep and the post with the title I’m using above:

As creative professionals, it’s second nature for us to inject a significant level of sensitivity and emotional thought into our craft. After all, the ability to connect with deeper insights during the creation process is part of our expertise and provides us with a unique ability that clients value and (usually) pay for.

What most creative professionals don’t realize is that this sensitivity can cripple your business. Without being able to separate the emotional from the practical, you put yourself at risk of being pushed around by clients, pushed over by colleagues, or even pushed out by competitors – all cases resulting in stunted growth potential.

Before we go further, I want to make clear that I am not an advocate of throwing all emotion out the door or losing the personal connections that make your business yours. Instead, I propose increasing your ability to decouple the personal from the business – just enough to help maintain objectivity and clarity, especially during times of conflict.

The concept is simple and can be adopted by even the most sensitive of souls, and so I present:

Read it here.

Thx, Jess.

Ask Questions With The Visual Material

- - Blog News

A lot of photographers are eager to share what they already know about a place — pints of Guinness in a pub! an antique bookstore! — but fewer photographers ask questions with the visual material that they’re given. It can be a subtle difference, but it’s what keeps us coming back to a certain photographer over time.

via Look Here Blog.

Online Storage For Photographers

- - Working

I’ve been asked a few times about online storage solutions and a recent post by Greg Ceo got me thinking that I should ask everyone here what they use. There are several controlling factors in looking at online/cloud storage solution. Cost, speed to upload, chance of catastrophic failure, chance the company will go bankrupt. The last two are hard to determine but you have to consider that in most cases you’re dealing with heavily in debt VC funded companies and if you remember the Digital Railroad failure of 2008 there’s a chance they will suddenly turn off the lights and lock the doors if they don’t reach a certain level of profitability. My two cents on catastrophic failure are that you get what you pay for. The companies aimed at mom and dad backing up their pc for super cheap probably aren’t running as robust a solution as a company that provides storage for Fortune 500 companies. That theory is untested.

Here are a few I’ve looked at, please add more info in the comments.

Amazon S3

Storage cost 1 TB: $143/month

Can you send in a drive: yes


Storage cost 1 TB: $113/month

Can you send in a drive: ?


Storage cost 1 TB: $70/month

Can you send in a drive: yes


Storage cost 1 TB: $5/month

Can you send in a drive: no. 2 – 4 GB per day.


Storage cost 1 TB: $5/month

Can you send in a drive: no

Note: 1 terabyte = 1024 gigabytes

UPDATE: Check out this post, Your Free Photo Storage Is Worth What You Paid For It

Notes from a rep’s journal

- - Blog News

In our group, the survivors were the ones who had the least amount of overhead, the largest amount saved for a rainy day and hands down, the ones who created the most amount of new work. They kept advertising because we reminded them over and over that if they advertised during a time when their competitors weren’t advertising then their voices would be louder. A lot louder. It worked and they are all still in business.

Now, times are such that photographers can no longer depend on their agents to do all the marketing and sales. It is required that photographers have their own voice and sell themselves and their work. The days of choosing a source book or two and sending out an occasional mailer are over. Frequency, consistency and variety are crucial in any marketing plan. We tell our photographers all of the time that they need to mirror what we are doing for them and have a marketing presence all of their own if they want to survive. When they participate, the power of their marketing is exponential.

via Heather Elder Represents Blog.

Making Money After Shooting Concerts For Free

A reader sent me the following question:

I work with a local magazine to get into the best concerts in exchange for them using my images on their blog for free. My goal was to build my portfolio and market the pictures to the artists publicists in hopes of getting paid. I recently found out that one of the artist took some of my images off the mag’s site and placed it on their website and Facebook. Credit was given but no money. They have since taken the images down from their sites.

I recently photographed a well known artist and used the fact that I was working with the mag to get a photo pass. The publicist is now wanting the link to the pictures on the mag’s site. I have final edit of what I send into the mag and was thinking of keeping the best images for myself and my marketing to publicists and record companies. My question is: Do you think that would rub the publicist the wrong way? (Sending two links 1) the mag link with decent images 2) a protected link with the best images that are watermarked and are only accessible with payment) I am new to concert photography and don’t know how this works. Is it a common practice for publicists to use the photographers images for free?

I appreciate any help you can give. I want to be smart about protecting my work and keeping my music contacts- because I do not have that many.

I thought I’d ask music photographer Jacob Blickenstaff about this because he’s written some good articles about the music photography business over on the photoletariat (here):

There are a lot of issues in here. But to answer the first question directly, I would assume if the publicist wants to see images that they potentially need them for something, usually an image request from another publication. Just because they want to see them doesn’t mean you have any obligation to provide anything for free. As long as you shot for the website and followed through by sending them, you have fulfilled your obligations. The idea of ‘holding back’ the best images may be a mistake, you should always represent yourself publicly with your best work. If you are sending the publication mediocre images, that might hurt your relationship with them. But if you have alternates or do any interesting work backstage or behind the scenes, I think it is fine to hold on to those if it is not needed for the assignment.

Publicists will frequently ask for free images, they work for the bands and labels and their only concern is exposure for their clients, the priority is not making sure the photographer gets paid. The photographer can frequently be put in a tough spot where the publicist needs an image to send to a publication, the publication expects it for free, and then the photographer is pressured to give away the photo to keep everyone happy. This isn’t a great business model for the photographer. The best thing to do in general is to reach out and show the work to the publicist and labels and artists but be clear that if they need use of the images for publicity then there will be a licensing fee involved. Publicists, while good contacts and gatekeepers to the artists, don’t have independent budgets to pay photographers, it’s not their call.

As a general note, I’m not sure who pays for concert photography anymore. There are very few paid assignments for shooting concerts, and the market for current music stock is so saturated that a photographer is lucky to get something picked up for a fee here and there. Getting the photo pass is easy, getting paid anything afterward is hard.

The Daily’s iPad debut

- - Blog News

News Corp.’s much-anticipated, save-the-newspaper app debuted after several delays. You’ve got to love the serendipity of the February 2 been-here-before release: the newspaper for TV, the newspaper for computers, the newspaper for the web, the newspaper for the mobile phone, now the newspaper for the iPad. Each time we get the old newspaper metaphor on a new device.


Gap Pulls A Shepard Fairey

- - copyright, The Future

Here’s a little serendipity for your hump day. This landed in my email box yesterday (thanks Michael Mahoney) just after I’d argued that the value of an image is difficult to determine. Gap appears to have found what I’m sure they consider an unremarkable image of a Jaguar on Flickr (here) and converted it to a graphic for kids onesie’s here and here. And, if you follow Shepard Fairey’s fair use argument where he claims to have transformed something unremarkable into something remarkable (and very commercial to boot) then Gap could argue along those very same lines. Since the AP decided to settle with Fairey we’ll never know what the courts think.

Picture 3