Self-Promo Discussion

- - Promos

Jasmine DeFoore, former Redux rep and current photographer consultant, has a 3 part self-promo series running on her blog starting today. She rightly concedes that nailing down creatives on what works is impossible because if you “ask 5 different people [you will], get 5 different answers.” The general consensus as noted by DOP Brenda Milis is “not a lot of money needs to go into making a good, impactful photo promotion” and DOP Allyson Torrisi who says “great talent will stand out on a single postcard with two images. The goal is to drive me to your website to see your work.”

It’s well worth a visit (go here) because there are lots of examples and even discussion of certain promos.

Molly Roberts, Director of Photography, Smithsonian

Molly Roberts, Director of Photography, Smithsonian

In The Future Clients Will Visit Shoots Remotely

- - The Future

I ran into this post from Christopher Kilkus (here) about a shoot that the client couldn’t attend, so he setup a computer with a webcam so they could watch the shoot remotely. What initially struck me as creepy and weird on second thought makes sense when you think about cutting cost and collaborating with people all over the country. Heck, Nick Knight pioneered studio shoots live on the web 10 years ago with his SHOWstudio site. There’s even remote webcams that could roam around set controlled by the client (here). Anybody else have experience with this?


Ask Anything – Employee Wages

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.


I would love to see a post on employee wages. I am looking to hire studio manager and a full time first or possibly a hi-bred and am curious what people get paid for this sort of work. It would need to be broken down by experience I guess – New Grads, 3 yrs working experience, 5 yrs plus or something.


I don’t have a studio manager now but I think that when I did I paid something like $130 a day.

As much as anything I think it has to do with where you’re hiring. A qualified person in New York is far more expensive than most places in the rest of the country. The high cost of living is part of it, but it’s also that people don’t move to New York to be studio managers or first assistants, so if you hope to keep them around for long you have to pay them well.

We have only had part timers that work hourly. Most with little or no experience that we train- attitude is the best, not as much experience. We also give perks of using our equipment, us showing stuff in exchange…etc.

Advice on hiring someone that would be beneficial to your company… it is a marriage.. use ones intuition when hiring. Look at experience, desire and sense of humor… then give direction and let the person make decisions, make mistakes, be accountable for all successes and failures and work together from a positive platform of teaching and learning each others strengths and weaknesses… trust, observe and encourage… that’s it.

I personally would not hire someone full time until I could pay them at least $16 an hour or $30,000 a year.


I think it really depends on where you live. We’ve only ever hired recent graduates so I don’t have any data on salaries for people with substantial experience.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve hired 7 people for full-time staff positions. Each time, we set the salary at a point that was pretty similar to an entry level admin assistant position (in our area right now, that would be $28-30,000 plus full benefits (health insurance, disability insurance, vacation, sick leave, etc.). We have not seen a big discrepancy between salary expectations for studio manager/in-house marketing work and full-time assistants, at least not among recent grads in this area.

Over time, we usually increase salaries by 5-7% per year and our employees have been content with that for several years. Employees that have stayed with us for more than a few years are also offered profit sharing.

One other thing that may be worth mentioning, especially since it sounds like your original query is from someone who may not have much experience with employees, is that the atmosphere of the workplace makes a huge difference. I stress, to feel good about their lives, people either have to make a lot of money or get a lot of personal satisfaction from the work they’re doing. So, if you’re not going to pay people at the top of the earning spectrum, you need to make sure you’re creating an environment where they’re able to get enough personal satisfaction out of the work they’re doing to feel good about working for you. Otherwise, you’re either going to have incredibly high turnover rates or a hostile and destructive work environment.

The question asked about a “studio manager” not a “full time assistant.” These are two different positions.

Unless you are shooting more days than not, keeping assistants on staff does not make practical or financial sense. I have not employed full time assistants for over 15 years, however I have two great assistants that work with me on a first option basis.

I have not employed a studio manager for over two years. My last two studio mangers had over 5 years experience each and were paid $60K annually plus health plan, pension benefits and bonuses. (Keep in mind that the actual cost of an employee is approximately 30% higher than their payroll compensation.)

The studio manager’s responsibilities included day-to-day office organization, billing, some client and vendor communications and production coordination. One on the studio managers had great PR experience, which provided considerable added value to her employment. Having someone in the office with good phone and client skills was important when people actually used the telephone, but 95% of all communication is now via email.

I have found that with agents on each coast and a great freelance producer, that a full time studio manager is no longer needed. My staff on a non-shooting day is just me and my retoucher. This means I need to pour my own coffee, straighten up a bit, pick up the phone, and do some office work, but that’s not a big deal given the gross savings from the overhead is nearly $100K annually.

This is the perspective of a busy advertising photographer that keeps a small studio, and typically rents production stages for most shoots. A photographer maintaining a larger and busy commercial space would likely need a full-time studio manager.

I don’t keep a full time person in house, but when I bring someone in for a non shoot day– I pay $200 a day or $15-25 per hour (depending).

We get asked this question in regards to billing clients for employees – so we reached out to an Art Producer to see how she feels about photographers charging for assistants (who are really PAID STAFF) on estimates/invoices:

I actually want to see these items outlined in estimates. I know ultimately I’m going to be charged for them anyway, rolled into the photographer’s fee or not. However, when they’re outlined I feel like I have more information and I’m able to see/get a feel for how many people will be on set without me having to ask/challenge the photographer on this. It helps me make sure that everything that I know my client is expecting will be covered. Also, when challenging budgets are presented, outlining as many aspects as possible really helps me see where I can cut, if needed.

To Summarize:
Finding the right person to run your studio or work along side you – has a lot to do with their personality. Some of the best assistants and managers have been TRAINED in the studio and were hired because of their personality. Find someone who compliments not only your work habits, but also your personality and the personality of your STUDIO. They have to be able to work well with others and play the role of second in command (but still know how to take charge).

Call To Action:
If you are unsure if you can manage someone in your studio – take on an intern to test the waters (many interns will do it for free just for the experience). Put money aside as if you are paying them (for 3-6 months) and see if you can really swing it. If you can – then you have 3-6 months of salary already put aside.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

its really a matter of trying to reconcile the conceptual considerations of the subject and the storyline with the logistics and the budget

- - Blog News

A lot of people like to use reference material for guidance and sometimes it can be appropriate to “pay homage” to a certain image or style, but I find it to be a little like cheating to rely to heavily on other images. I prefer the painful approach of trying to squeeze a few drops of an idea out of the moist sponginess of my own brain. I am going to assume that everybody does this but I go into every shoot with a strong notion of what I am planning on doing and then as the circumstances dictate, I improvise. And, as you can imagine, every possible scenario plays out over time.

via Q&A: Michael Lavine on Feature Shoot.

World Press – No Crap Please

- - Blog News

“Don’t send in something just because you shot it,” jury chair David Burnett advises. “Look at your work with a sharp eye. Don’t get tempted by fond or fuzzy memories, because the jurors will not have those. Be your own toughest editor. If you’re not tough on yourself, we will be. One bad picture in a story takes away the merit of two good ones.”

via PDN Pulse.

Visit for more information.

New Service Aims To Help Photographers Price Their Work

Shakodo is a new website where photographers can share pricing information and from what I can tell it looks like it’s going to be an awesome tool for everyone. The features and design of the site are top notch but the real interesting part is going to be seeing real pricing information and debates over what should be charged.

From the press release:

Photography is one of those professions without any fixed prices; with almost everything being negotiated. Until recently, the photographic market was very isolated and the skill of price negotiation was one of the key success factors for professionals.

With the influx of talented amateurs a market-shift began to take place. With their lack of experience and knowledge about current market rates and not understanding client’s budgets and needs, these talented amateurs have settled for lower price offers. As a result, they have unintentionally undercut professionals while leaving money on the table because they are not aware of the true market value of their photos or services.

Let me know what you think.


Gallery Will Exhibit Your Work If You Pay Them

- - Gallery, Just Plain Dumb

I wrote a post on this practice over a year ago with a gallery in Montreal (here):

That one looked like a steal compared to the terms on this pay-to-play group show: £2200 for a group show. Times must be tough…

Dear [redacted],

Artspace-Galleries would like to invite you to take part in our upcoming group exhibitions in the hearts of Mayfair London and Paris. This presents a fantastic opportunity for you to move into the international market and to exhibit your artwork in two of the most significant art centers of the world.

The group exhibition includes all of the following:

  • One week exhibition in London
  • Two week exhibition in Paris
  • One art opening in both London and Paris
  • On-going promotion to our client list
  • PR & Marketing of the exhibition
  • Five year presence in the Events section of our website
  • One year presence in the Buy/Sell section of our website
  • Eligibility to be selected into the New & Emerging Artist Reward Program
  • No gallery commission on artwork sales

Group exhibition guidelines:

  • We are currently accepting registrations for group exhibitions in 2011 and 2012. We have a limited number of spaces available, so we urge you to register as soon as possible to ensure you will be able to exhibit.
  • After you register your profile and submit five samples of your artwork online, Artspace-Galleries will determine if you would be suitable for a group exhibition.
  • Once selected, we will organize and promote your group exhibition with direct mail & online marketing and targeted public relations. The total fee for these services is £2200, and we take no commission on the sale of your artwork.
  • When you have registered and have been selected, you will be asked to pay a £500 deposit, which will be applied towards your total fee. This will reserve your space in the group exhibition, and we will start promoting your work on our website and to our client base. The remaining balance of your payment should be paid in full 8 weeks before your mutually agreed-upon exhibition date.
  • Your group exhibition will bring together the works of six different artists, with each artist having the chance to exhibit up to six canvases or ten sculpture/installation pieces.
  • We offer shipping of artwork from the artist to London, from London to Paris, and from Paris back to the artist for the following fees:

£600 to/from Africa, North & South America, Asia, Australia, or Oceania

£200 to/from Europe

(These rates are based on a maximum of 20 kg and no wider than 1.5m. You may provide your own shipping, however your artwork will have to be shipped from one city to another within two days.)

New & Emerging Artist Reward Program:

  • At the end of the year, the jury of Artspace-Galleries consisting of art professionals, highly qualified art directors and curators will identify the six most outstanding group exhibition artists of the year.
  • If chosen, you will be rewarded with one year of online promotion and a two week group exhibition in both London and Paris, free of charge, based on sales commissions of 50/50.

Submission and additional information:

We look forward to hearing from you,

Elina Steinhauer
Group Exhibition Consultant
Prestigious  international art galleries In London Mayfair and Paris

Here’s the contract if you’re interested (here)

The Future of Advertising

Several Advertising Photographers sent me this article in Fast Company on the future of advertising (here). The story opens with a scene from a digital boot camp for agency veterans (average age 38) where hard-core immersion in the chaos digital technology has wrought takes place. I’m a little surprised by this and by the age of the participants, because I figured, if anyone had a grip on the opportunities of this groundswell it was the chameleons of the advertising world. But, the article goes on to tell us how the practice of advertising has “sat virtually unchanged for the last half-century” and that it appears to be next in line (news then music) to be destroyed by digital technology.

What’s got all these agencies in a tailspin?

“their clients’ ultimate fantasy — the ability to customize a specific message to a specific person at a specific moment — is within their grasp”

“while there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it’s never been harder to connect with consumers”

“sites such as Engadget and Yelp can make or break a product”

“With clients in a tailspin, the very role of agencies is in question”

“Producing an ad doesn’t have to be an expensive multiperson affair these days, given that commercial-quality high-definition video can now be shot on cameras that cost less than $2,000″

So, the agencies have begun to splinter into smaller specialist agencies (Kraft has assembled a growing Rolodex of 70 new specialist partners), most notable was Alex Bogusky leaving CPB this year. With digital many agencies wrongly assumed they were simply dealing with another medium, but were in fact facing a creative revolution.

Like news and music, much of what’s wrong with the agencies can be traced to the bloat from the fat and happy days of the 80’s and 90’s. Many firms rely on a 15% commission from the clients media spend and to drive that spend up the 30-second spot still anchors the creative. Clay Shirky doles out some tough love for agencies with his insight that “complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond.” Societies like the Romans and the lowland Mayans fell because further reductions became too uncomfortable for those in power. “Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification,” writes Shirky. “When the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity,” he writes, “it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.”

Trending – Making Sense Of People, Their Behavior, Needs, And Mind Set

- - Creativity

While visiting NYC for the expo I met Karen DSilva, a former founding partner at Spark Visual Research and current creative consultant. At the Sony party she was telling me about a talk she gave at ShootNYC on trending and how to harness the power of societal trends to get your photography to connect. Now, I tell a lot of people that making a connection to someone with your photography is a lot less linear than they think, but I’ll admit I was a little nonplussed at the buzz-y sounding idea behind trending. Well, her talk has spawned a workshop and considering her pedigree (creative depts at Photonica, Getty and Image Bank) I asked her to explain it further. After reading her explanation, I have to say, this sound pretty awesome for the right person:

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with images (television, books, internet, newspapers, packaging, billboards…) so the million dollar question now becomes, how do you get your images to stick? The secret to creating an image that resonates is simple, your images need to connect with people. When an image connects, it is because your image holds meaning for the viewer. Maybe there is an emotional connection or your image provides inspiration, or possibly it makes them feel empowered. Decoding our society is all about understanding how it evolves and what makes people tick. How do we do this? Two words, understanding trends.

Trending is about making sense of people, their behavior, needs, and mind set. It is about the direction in which something is moving. When we experience a shift or change in the way we live as a community, that reaction is a trend being born. For the last few years, life quite frankly has been a little scary. War, terrorism, foreclosures, and unemployment, need I say more? As a society we push back by craving something safe, something comforting. What gives us a sense of security? Historically, safe + comforting + security = tradition (the ultimate comfort zone). In the marketplace, we refer to this trend as HERITAGE. Heritage is thick wool sweaters, tweed, beards, old fashion barbershops, curves, artisan food, suits, and smart looking hats. It’s old world quality and time honored tradition. Heritage gives us a sense of identity, timeless elegance, and a soulful spirit.

Now, going back to getting your images to stick. As a photographer, when you tap into a trend like Heritage, you’re adding relevance to your image. Of course, the next question becomes how does one apply heritage to your images? First of all, it’s a lot easier to recognize a trend and even discuss the effects of a trend than actually incorporating the trend into your work. In order for it to be meaningful, the trend needs to complement your aesthetic and take into consideration the stories within your work. A true connection is made when an image embraces the spirit of the trend, rather than just adding a trend wash. Mixing in the trend of Heritage into your work, can add a modern marketplace vernacular to your images. Bottom line, it’s that extra something. The old “I’ll know it when I see it” client answer to the eternal question “what are you looking for?”

So, on December 6th (with the support of APA), myself and 2 other trenders are hosting our first trending, brainstorming, workshop extravaganza. The aim is to download our photographer audience on the trends of Heritage, Transparency, and Cinematic. We’ll break up into small groups and walk through different stations designed to make you apply these trends to your work. This is going to be about thinking outside the box, collaborating together, being creative, and just plain having fun. Go here for more information:

There is no future in low-end web advertising

- - Blog News

Media buyers may know many of their measures of performance are misleading; the savvier ones know clickthroughs are an indicator of the blindness, senility or idiocy of readers rather than the effectiveness of the ads. But — on the agencies’ spreadsheets — garbage inventory from garbage sites aggregated on garbage networks often shows a lower cost per click. Many web advertisers, even those that buy banners, treat it as a direct marketing medium.

For premium media properties such as ours, this is a contest that should be avoided at all costs. It’s a race to the bottom — for the lowest quality ads and the least valuable visitors.

via Why Gawker is moving beyond the blog.

Adhesive Event at Sweet & Vicious November 30th

- - Events

Photographer Tony Gale visited the Adhesive Event for APE and here’s what he saw.

Photographers And Their Effing iPad Portfolios

- - Portfolio, Working

I’ve heard more than one Art Buyer and Photo Editor comment that if they see another iPad portfolio they’re going to scream. Of course, for photographers the allure of a $500 portfolio is too much to resist, so it’s good to keep tabs on this as it surely evolves. I firmly believe the iPad makes a great supplement to the traditional portfolio and as more photographers add motion, it becomes essential for showing that work. And as a way to show depth or recent material that can impact a hiring decision what a money saver this will be. I don’t think we will find many photographers that don’t have one handy on set, at lunch, at an event and even walking down the street; loaded with all kinds of portfolios of their latest work.

The Photoshelter Blog has a post where 3 photographer talk about how they’ve incorporated the iPad into their portfolio presentation. I liked Darren Carroll’s solution of incorporating it into custom made Brewer-Cantelmo books containing high impact prints. The other two photographers, Steve Boyle and Shawn Corrigan have cool iPad only portfolios that are worth checking out as well.



Things don’t replace things; they just splinter

- - Blog News

Things don’t replace things; they just splinter. I can’t tell you how exhausting it is to keep hearing pundits say that some product is the “iPhone killer” or the “Kindle killer.” Listen, dudes: the history of consumer tech is branching, not replacing.

TV was supposed to kill radio. The DVD was supposed to kill the Cineplex. Instant coffee was supposed to replace fresh-brewed.

But here’s the thing: it never happens. You want to know what the future holds? O.K., here you go: there will be both iPhones and Android phones. There will be both satellite radio and AM/FM. There will be both printed books and e-books. Things don’t replace things; they just add on.

via State of the Art –