I consider myself a pretty good stock researcher. Mostly because I’ve done so much of it and partially because I like doing it (exceptions here and here). This is what I think makes someone good at stock research: The ability to identify great images as thumbnails, a massive list of agencies to search (here’s mine), persistence and keyword zen.
Keyword zen is the most important part.
The majority of searches begin with a laundry list of different places and things and people and events and activities that I need to find images for. To make it easier I break that down into a list of keywords I want to search, so knowing what makes a good keyword is critical.
Ok, this is the least helpful part of this post: I don’t really know how to explain what makes a good keyword, because it’s like talking wookie, it’s a special stock researcher language all it’s own and until you get in there and do it for a bit and experiment you can’t possible know the structure of a good keyword sentence.
Ok, this might be helpful: A good trick I’ve learned is to just drop in and browse (I call this trolling… as in trolling for sharks) with a couple keywords then when you find an photo you like, check and see what keywords they’re using and use those to head down that path to see where it leads. Another technique I use is to start with the most constrictive set of keywords first (zero hits is the goal) and then start backing out till the results are too much then head back in to the sweet spot and do a search.
The weirdest trick I’ve ever discovered was several years ago when I was looking for a photo that I swear didn’t exist (at least in any semi-publishable form) and was getting nowhere fast so I decided to try misspelling the words. It was like unlocking a secret door and discovering a room full or abandoned pictures, gathering dust, just sitting there waiting to be discovered wondering why nobody ever visits. At 11pm in an empty office in the middle of midtown Manhattan it’s feels like you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole.
Heather Morton made a cool video about a photography project Derek Shapton is working on (here).
125 blank pages of edit with an additional 85 pages of ads (yeah, it’s a dream but we still gotta turn a profit).
A line-up with a wide mix of interesting subjects to assign: far away places, inspiring people, beautiful objects, crazy ideas, elite sport, humor, conflict, mystery.
Complete autonomy with the selection of photographers and final images.
An unlimited budget to get it done (not because I want to spend stacks of cash just because I don’t want to think about the budget when it comes to approach on a subject).
I’ll shoot everything except events, action and landscapes. I like to use pick-up for action and landscape because they’re so condition and weather dependent, but I’ll shoot it if there’s nothing available that I like.
Working as a Photography Director means the decisions about who I hire will be heavily influenced by 3 important groups of people (since I have autonomy from co-workers in this dream): the competition, the audience and the advertisers. Thinking about this bigger picture and articulating to everyone how our photography serves those groups is a big part of my job.
When I look at the competition the first thing I always do is identify their core group of photographers and try to stay away from hiring within that group. If I want to bump someone out of their group I can hire them on a regular basis and usually the competition will stop using them (that is unless they don’t consider my magazine competition). I’ll also think about their overall use of photography and come up with way to differentiate what we’re offering the advertisers and audience. If they use heavy lighting and conceptual images to get ideas across I’ll try for more available light and real subjects as a marked contrast when we cover the same subject. This is even more important on the newsstand where I firmly believe in hiring a couple photographers to shoot all the covers to create a distinct style that readers can pick-up on month after month.
I have a couple goals when it comes to hiring photographers with the advertisers in mind. First, create an environment where they want to be seen. This can involve hiring photographers out of the same pool of talent they draw from and when possible, using those photographers in a way, because of client constraints, they can’t. Next, I feel it’s important to challenge the aesthetics of the advertisers in some of the shoots you commission. If advertisers wanted to hang out with a bunch of sycophants they would just make their own magazine. Including challenging or controversial photography in the mix ensures that advertisers understand you know your audience better than they do and you’re willing to do things they wouldn’t to reach them.
The number one goal with the audience is to present a range of photography styles that will keep them engaged, entertained, challenged and provide fresh entry points into the stories. I think it’s a huge mistake to do to much of any one style of photography so keeping the mix lively is a priority for me. For the average reader presenting challenging imagery over and over turns reading your magazine into homework and needs to be balanced out with pictures that entertain and surprise.
Now, keeping all those factors in mind I can begin to make assignments for the issue. The story mix is never ideal so pieces that would normally have a similar approach running in the same issue need divergent styles from within a genre to avoid repetition.
So, there you have it, the brass ring that photo editors everywhere reach for every month, the perfect mix. Throw in budgetary constraints. overbearing owner, a late breaking assignment, stories suddenly dropping out or any number of curve balls and you’ve got a real mess to figure out. The amazing thing is that I’ve come close to grabbing that ring several times in my career. It always keeps you coming back for more.
Nova releases the raw footage shot for NOVA’s “Car of the Future” documentary.
“This experiment marks the first time we have ever made raw video available to the public, and we’re eager to see what you make from it. It’s because of viewers like you, as the saying goes, that we’re able to produce NOVA. In this age of new media we’re pleased to be able to work more closely with you to make our programming more engaging and to be able to offer you more.”
Unsolicited guest post from:
Deborah Dragon, Deputy Photo Editor at Rolling Stone.
The other day I received a “follow up” phone call from a photographer thanking me for checking out their site and mentioning that they were really interested in working with the magazine and since I was “interested” in their work, could we set up a meeting. I thought “did I click on something” or sometimes I see work that I like and send an email saying so and to let me know when they update their site again. This was not the case, so I googled their name, went on their site and couldn’t understand what happened, because this persons work was completely inappropriate for the magazine.
So, what ever happened to people sending or emailing appropriate mailers to magazines? I would think with the capability of tracking emails and clicks on sites, there would be the possibility of organizing these things better. I get about 150 emails a day from photographers and reps, yes, 150 emails JUST FROM PHOTOG’S and REPS, 50% of them are lifestyle and food. My goal is to visit EACH ONE…HMMM I can’t imagine why photo editors aren’t seeing peoples work. Maybe if the photographers all got together and agreed to STOP loading PE’s email boxes with giant attachments and/or links to images that are not suitable for the publication I could actually achieve my goal. Save your valuable time and figure out what magazines you really want to shoot for, then start shooting.
And, most importantly if you ask me, if I see your work, I like it, and I like it for the magazine… believe me, you will know it and I will contact you. You don’t need to follow up with my clicking on your website.
The American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP) New York Chapter presents
PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS BOOK COVER DESIGN
Prominent book designers Ann Twomey and Henry Sene Yee discussing the role photography plays in their work.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008 from 6:00 pm -8:30 pm
Laura Parsons Pratt Conference Center
281 Park Ave South at 22nd Street
Space is limited. Please RSVP by May 5, 2008 Go (here) to register.
There are only 4 things to consider when looking to hire a photographer.
Ok, there’s actually a fifth that’s like a recommendation or an impression we have of you and informs us what it will be like to work with you but I’m leaving that out of this discussion.
When making an assignment several of these variables may be locked down. If the budget is low then the weight of the decision goes to price and certainly location because that can be a big factor in the cost of a shoot. The genre can be wide or narrow depending on how much you want to leave open to chance and interpretation. Color, shoots men or conversely photo journalist specializing in domestic abuse, portraitist who works with older women. And, you either assign stories that match Genre’s or do the opposite to create something interesting (assigning fashion stories to photojournalists and sending fashion photographers to war zones… ok that last one’s probably not a great idea). The style further breaks down the genre into subgroups of similar looking photographs and derivatives and maybe even a few that don’t really fit anywhere.
For most photographers the Genre and Location are locked down and the price is a function of how busy/new you are. That leaves style as the most important factor in how we find and hire you.
Are you leading, following, pioneering or just pain unsure where you stand?
Who Owns This Image?
Art, Access, and the Public Domain after Bridgeman v. Corel
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
6:30 – 8:00 pm
New York City Bar Association
42 W. 44th Street, New York City
The Great Hall
Read more on the Patry Copyright blog (here).
I’ve heard from a couple people (most recently Andy Anderson) that there’s a scam going around where someone will email a photographer with a 10 day shoot overseas and then ask them to pay half of a work permit to guarantee they will show up for the job. It’s more involved then that with phone calls to a real person supposedly looking to hire a photographer but the idea is to get you to pay the fee. Drop a comment if you’ve had a similar request.
Update: Another version of the scam from the comments.
Another variation is an offer of a shoot in your local area, where they will send a deposit or offer the full fee, where you would keep half the fee if the shoot is canceled. The shoot would then be canceled and they would ask that the half be returned. The original check was bogus and will bounce in about 45 days, but because of a kink in the banking system it appears to have gone through during that time. If you send the refund, you will be out that amount when the check clearing system finally runs its course and debits the bogus check amount.
I haven’t experienced this one, but a few months ago I was nearly scammed on a fine-art print order… a good sized print order came in through my website – a week later I received a cashiers check for almost double the amount of my invoice. The “client” wrote to explain that they were moving and her husband mistakenly included the shippers’ fee in my check… could I please wire the difference to the shipper so they could get started. I was totally suspicious but when the check cleared I was more convinced that it was an honest error. Just to make sure I checked with my bank and indeed, while they made the funds available, it can take up to 2 weeks for a check to clear. Sure enough, 10 days later all the money was deducted from my account. Luckily, all I lost was some time.
If you’re a Photo Editor, Art Buyer, Art Director, Director of Photography, Creative Director or Agent I will help you install wordpress for free. The only cost will be around $9/year to register your domain name and the $8/month hosting fee. You can even do it anonymously if you like.
Here’s what you need to do to make it happen. Register a website name. I use namesecure.com but if it needs to be anonymous you’ll have to use godaddy.com which is a little tricky because they keep trying to sell you shit as you buy the name. For both registrants just skip all the extras they try and sell you and change the registration term to 1 year (or longer if you don’t want to renew every year) but on the godaddy registration choose the deluxe registration which includes the privacy so nobody can see who registered the name.
Next you have to find a host for your wordpress blog. I use bluehost.com but I hear mediatemple.net ($20/month) is pretty nice. I had a big problem with my host when I had people vote for a photographer to receive the free consultation because they put a load limiter on everyone’s account and mine maxed out and kept shutting down. Curiously the next day the CEO of bluehost.com announced they were increasing the amount of traffic a website can receive, so we’ll have to see if they fixed the problem when I do something that will drive heavy traffic like that.
Once you get a host I’ll tell you how to point your domain there and then I will need to access your account to upload the wordpress blog. Make sure you use a password that you can change once I’ve done all I need to set it up. Hopefully I can get a bunch of new industry blogs started this way.
Email me to get started: rob(at)aphotoeditor.com
“Many of Mr. Lois’s covers were controversial, not so say irreverent or deliberately provocative. The Liston cover cost the magazine $750,000 in dropped advertising. But they were immensely successful at drawing attention, on the newsstand especially.”
“What was remarkable then — and seems even more so now, when virtually every magazine cover is a thicket of text lines running behind or on top of one celebrity or another — is that the Lois covers were virtually textless.”
“When Mr. Lois learned that Esquire covers were conceived and assigned by an editorial committee, he likened the process to gang rape…”
Read the whole story at NYTimes.com (here).
I thought I’d air this place out a bit and offer a little transparency in an attempt to move the conversations we have here on to the next chapter. I’m sensing a vibe of suspicion among a couple readers and commenter’s and I’ll offer a little transparency in an attempt to clear the air and make things right. I’ve tried to avoid writing about what I do for a living, what my plans are and in general not turn this into a place where I solicit work but I think that can sometimes make people suspicious of my motivations for doing all this work in the first place. I’ll be very clear, I wouldn’t do this if I thought it wouldn’t lead somewhere. I don’t think anyone knows where blogs and free services offered on the web lead. We’re figuring that out as we go.
The most common question I get is people asking if I’m a trust-funder or millionaire. No, unfortunately I’m not. I have to work for every dime like most of you. I have occasional photo editing, casting and consulting jobs to pay the bills and I’m living unbelievably cheap in Tucson, AZ with a family member. This will change when I move to Durango, CO around May 25th.
Next, most people probably want to know what I plan to do with this blog and all these readers. It’s changed several times since I began because honestly I didn’t set out to create a mainstream photography blog so for pretty much the whole time I’ve done this the answer has been “I don’t know or care.” When I started blogging I only wanted to teach myself how to blog, then it became a fun way to rant about work, then it grew to became very large and time consuming so I started to think I might need to get some advertising on the pages and try to make a living off all the time I spend writing and moderating the comments. I just couldn’t see myself hawking any type of photography equipment here so I gave up on that. It didn’t seem like a very good match for this site.
So, I finally decided very recently that the best way for me to make a living is to offer other products or premium services for a fee. It’s an idea that many web companies employ, you offer a few things for free to drive traffic and to create your own advertising platform and then you sell a product that a small percentage of the visitors are interested in. I’m not ready to discuss what those products are but I can say the blog will remain open and free and I’ll continue to do things like the free promos, media phonebook and photo rank as a way to support the community I’ve created and keep people coming back. As much as possible I’d like the blog to continue to be a place where conversations happen. A few readers have noted that the comments are more informative than the posts and I love that there’s so many people willing to share their experiences and ideas. I’d like that to continue as long as possible but I can’t pay rent with comments or notoriety so I’m developing products that hopefully will.
I’ll note here that I’m very aware that my thoughts on the industry and ideas on how people should behave will slowly lose relevance the longer it’s been since I’ve worked at a magazine. I’m cool with that. I hope other Photo Directors will take up blogging (email me and I’ll set you up for free and give you advice on how not to get caught) to provide that in-the-moment perspective and I’ll continue to interview people and give my opinion on the news and make posts that I feel are relevant. People who no longer find any of this interesting are free to leave. I’m not trying to create a monopoly here or write sensationalist material to drive up traffic. The blog has to evolve into something written by a former photography director. A few readers have commented on how they liked me so much better when I was anonymous and working at a magazine. I’m not going back so let’s hope someone else comes forward.
There’s been recent discussion about my previous anonymity and I’ll explain why I started my blog anonymously. First off, I always told people who I was when they asked. I wanted it to be an open secret. I was only keeping it from my employer because I had a contract that prevented them from firing me without a payout and this could have easily been voided if my blog was discovered. My family and I had moved all the way from Santa Fe to New York and that was my safety net. I’m actually uncomfortable talking about it now because I’m still bound by a non-compete and other contract terms until May 16th.
I offer anonymity to my commenter’s in the hopes that people will leave interesting tidbits they wouldn’t otherwise for fear of something getting back to their employer or client. It works most of the time but in a few cases it’s used for personal attacks. I try and prevent that from happening by patrolling the comments and will block people I think are real disruptor’s and remove comments that are intended to be evil. That being said I’ve decided anonymous commenter’s can remain anonymous forever. I’ll never track you down and if I inadvertently discover who you are I will never tell anyone. The same goes with emails people send me. All are confidential unless you personally tell me I can reprint something. I hope that helps. I recently tried to track someone down (technically I can’t track an IP address only guess who it might be based on city and state) because I wanted to ask why they were leaving nasty comments and I wanted it to stop. I’m not going to do that anymore. If it becomes really aggravating or disruptive I’ll just delete the comment or block the commenter. Additionally, if you impersonate someone who posts here I’ll just delete the comment or let everyone know it’s not the same person.
This leads to the final topic for spring cleaning, my thin skin. I’m going to do a better job of allowing criticism and dissent to my opinions without immediately firing a comment back. As I said before I’d like the posts and comments to be a conversation and other points of view are encouraged. I don’t want to get in the way of that happening.
Interesting experiment over at Vincent Skeltis’ blog where he’s looking for input on the redesign of a magazine called Foam (here). I’d advise them to hire Noe Dewitt to shoot the covers (read the demographic to see why) but then they’d probably run out of cash after the first photo session. Go big or go home I say.
Mikhail Prokhorov — whose wealth is estimated at around $22 billion — plans to spend $150 million setting up a magazine, website and television station called Snob, the general director of the new venture told Reuters on Wednesday.
“It’s for people who are successful and those who want to be successful,” said Andrei
Shmarov, who will run Snob.
Via, BoSacks Newsletter.
June 12-14, 2008. Another great way to bring quality photography to the masses (here).
Advertising is on a self destructive path where you need more louder ads to break through the clutter which in turn creates more clutter. Referral from trusted sources will soon become the way most people find things.
Asking another photo editor has always been one of the best ways to find a photographer.
Read all about it on Copyblogger (here).
I’ve been thinking that National Geographic photographers are uniquely poised to discover all the ways photography can reach consumers next. They already have one of the largest built-in audiences and that yellow border is instantly recognizable by the masses as a source for great photography. Plus, Geographic has always been good about moving the photography and photographers they work with into as many mediums as possible (books, calendars, note cards, videos, lectures, workshops) so consumers are ready to receive whatever they’re offering next. The biggest asset these talented people have going for them is the individual picture stories in their archive can have 100’s of great images no one has ever seen.
Stephen Alvarez is turning his massive 15 year collection of images into a picture-a-day along with a short story blog. He’s got other plans as well so this is just the beginning of attracting a huge following, one picture at a time. Check it out here: PictureStoryBlog.com
And then on Stephen’s site I discovered that David Alen Harvey is planning a New York to California road trip as a personal project to make a “portrait” of America and he’s invited everyone to help him make it happen. As in, help pay for lunch, gas and finding interesting people to photograph. Genius. You can hang out with David, watch/help him make pictures, learn a thing or two and buy him a turkey sandwich. Then, when it’s all over the people he’s met along the way and all their friends will be standing in line at Amazon to buy the book. Hell, I’d sell the magazine story to the highest bidder, it comes with a built in audience and a blog that gets 100 comments on a slow day.
Here’s what David has to say on his blog (here):
“here is the deal….offer me lunch and i give you a portfolio review!!….travel along with us and fill up my car with gas (getting expensive) and you might just get an almost free workshop, or find a great family for me to photograph and get a signed print (see how entrepreneural i have become???)….seriously, all of your ideas are welcomed..”
Look out crabby old media barons, photographers are leading the way.