Times Are Changing – Less Books, More Video and Profits Are Up

- - Photography Agent

Speaking with an agent recently (small to mid-size, top shelf roster) who told me that last year 20 or more books would go out the door each week and now it’s more like 2.

Also, 80% of jobs now come with requests to see a video reel. They commented that it reminded them of when the internet got hot and everyone wanted web rights but they had no idea what they were going to do with it.

Finally, they told me last year’s profits were up. This was chalked up to clients wanting to go with safe, proven photographers.

The books slowing down I would have predicted but that’s a pretty dramatic drop. I didn’t really think video woould take-off so quick but it makes sense that clients are asking for it even if they don’t need it or have any clue what to do with it. The profits? There are still big campaigns up for grabs each year so I’m guessing while most people are flat or down if you are a small shop and land a few of those, things are looking pretty good.

There Are 37 Comments On This Article.

  1. My books don’t move like visits to the website these day. But, I’m still meeting creatives at the agencies- I come prepared with personal work mostly and maybe I show an easy-to-handle size portfolio. I think it’s still cool to just bring them something interesting to hold and see.

  2. Im curious did you get the sense Rob that 2 books were going out was an indication of lack of assignments to bid on, or are assignments there but web sites were being used as reference where books were called for in the past?

    • @selina maitreya,
      They didn’t want to be quoted directly because they feared people would think they weren’t busy only sending out a couple books a week.

      The volume of work is the same just the books going out fell off a cliff.

      • michaelGIORDANO

        @A Photo Editor,

        Just got off the phone with a rep in Atlanta and she told me they never send out books that it was all media (PDF’s) and I clarified with her that it wasn’t video. She confirmed…no video.

  3. I’ve not showed a book in almost a year. Most people visit the website. Why do you need to show a printed book if the image is going to be used on the web? I plan on getting an iPad so that when I do meet with creatives in person I can show them work on the iPad that’s not online.

  4. Here’s a few questions:

    *Was the rep talking about all of 2009? So, on average, did 20 books go out the door during an average week in 2009?

    * We’ve been through 6 weeks of 2010. Could this be a slow start to 2010? Time will tell.

    I have assumed for some time that well known photographers were cutting their rates for projects and taking away more of the “middle,” from photographers “mid career. This started happening 3 or 4 years ago. Since Art Buyers want to be sure they get a quality product, I’m guessing this is fine and dandy with them.

    Re: Video. I was asked 3 or 4 years ago to shoot a still and video for a major American auto company. With the new Canon and Nikon cameras and their video capabilities, life in the business is changing fast and dramatically!

  5. I’m still showing my book all the time. I have three meetings next week and a few more in the weeks following. Some are being mailed out to out-of-state agencies, others are being dropped off and I’m meeting some personally. So I still think its important to have more than just a web site (as many in the past have suggested). I don’t think we can land the “big” job without meeting personally and showing work – unless you are a well known or come with great references. I do agree with Bob Scott that showing more than what is on the web site can be a good thing. I always have recent work to show that is not in the book. Fortunately for me I live in NYC and can see people regularly and I love meeting and calling people (yes still frustrating at times though…).

  6. I still think a print book has massive power. I recently had a client that had seen my work on my website but as soon as I showed my book he commissioned me for 4 shoots and sponsored an exhibition of my work complete with a launch party and a guest list of important creatives.

    Images on the web look great but the power of a well printed and presented book is amazing, I’ve consistently had exceptional response to the print quality. Plus it means you have to work harder to get face time where a client can really assess who they are about to work with, and I always get more commissions from face time than giving a link to my site.

  7. Glenn Cratty

    80% requesting video? Eeek. Pardon the naive question but at what point do we stop calling ourselves photographers and start calling ourselves videographers, cinematographers or even directors?

    The titles may not be important but I view them as different and seperate occupations and industries requiring a certain degree of expertise and experience I’m their own right. Is that old-school thinking or should I bust out my 5D Mark II and start making an Avatar copycat?

    • @Glenn Cratty, I think the opposite is happening. Much like in broadcast or movies, there are camera operators, who are guided by cinematographers and directors. So it seems that some ADs might be viewing stills photographers as simply camera operators.

    • @Glenn Cratty, I forget which rep it is, but they are now calling their photographers: “Image Solution Providers.”

      Most photographers I know want to be “Directors,” when they work in video.

    • @Glenn Cratty, Just try out the HD settings on your MKII. You’ll love it. I first used iMovie to mess around then after getting really excited made a fun video called Gravity

      and I was hooked. Now I’m getting more work with my motion then my stills. I think the cool thing with cameras like the 5D is that you shoot video just about the same way as you do with stills.

      Try it out and have fun. If it helps business and inspires creativity then you win.

      • michaelGIORDANO

        @Giulio Sciorio,

        Thats great stuff! So…are you billing more for the motion picture gigs or are you billing around the same rate as a still shoot?

        -michael

        • @michaelGIORDANO, Yes and no. Motion jobs are often longer and more involved with pre production then still shoots so gross is higher yes. But if a motion job was just one day it would be less then a still shoot as far as what I take home. I’ve not done a one day motion shoot except for personal stuff.

          Also in the cinema world a photographer can be a DP or a director and if the scale of the project is smallish then you’re doing both but for normal sized jobs if you’re going to direct you’re going to need a good DP. I would say decide as soon as possible if you’re wanting to be a DP or a director and focus on that part of the job.

          If you’re going to be a director learn how to write and direct a good story.

          Glad you dig Gravity. That little video got me a lot of production work which I learned so much its priceless.

          The sequel is coming in Jan.

  8. I agree that print books still have power that a website can’t compete with. There may be less calls for books overall but that doesn’t mean they have less impact.

    Would be interested to know if the rep mentioned above has a roster that already had motion reels before those type of requests started coming in?

    • @Mark Peterman,
      I didn’t see any motion reels. I don’t think there’s a repped photographer in the world who isn’t testing with motion right now to see if they can gather a decent reel. Several photographers I’ve spoken with are dusting off old video reels from the MTV days. They used to shoot video but the demand dropped and now it’s back.

  9. The irony of this video situation is that actual DPs are grumbling about photographers shooting video for bottom of the barrel prices in EXACTLY the same way that photographers complain about Flickr users selling their photos for stock.

    • @Cletus, I couldn’t agree more. It seems a lot us are more comfortable complaining rather than finding ways to push our work to higher creative heights.

  10. If I had wanted to shoot video, I would have decided to shoot video long ago.

    I don’t. So I won’t.

    Video is not a new thing, its been around for more than a century.

    This same thing happened in the newspaper industry about 3 years ago. Everyone thought they needed to rush to shoot video. In the end, they ended up diluting their brands with the crap they were pushing on their websites and most abandoned it.

    Top guys in our industry like Vincent Laforet and Chase Jarvis are producing video that can only barely compete with a senior year film student project.

    Choose a medium, specialize in it, become an expert and stick to it. Try new things, but try to have an idea for when its going too far.

    You could all open up your revenue streams by becoming an attorney or a doctor too, doesn’t mean you should.

    • @Mike S, The video produced by photographers will most likely be a product featured on websites. As website video explodes as a need, the demand for photographers who shoot video has and will rise. Just as the public doesn’t see much difference between travel photos licensed from i-stock illustrating a piece in a magazine, I believe the public is not going to demand a 100k budget video from a production company. Therefore, the demand for cheaper video shot for the web is the niche that many photographers should be able to fill.

      • @Greg Ceo,

        99% of the talk on this website is all about doing things at a top elite level.

        How and why would you or any photographer want to be a top tier still photographer who shoots “cheap video” for web ?

        There is nothing stopping a DP who has worked in motion their entire career from doing “cheaper” web video also. They can certainly buy a 5D just like the rest of us.

    • @Mike S, I bid jobs 3 or 4 years ago where the client, a major automobile company, wanted the still for print and then a 20 second video. It was part of a package estimate. What I think is more likely to happen is Film/Video shooters learning how to shoot digi stills and trying to throw the still shot in as an add on.

      Psychologically, I think it is difficult for a Production Company who is used to 100k plus productions, to shoot a web video for 20k. There are Union issues too that we will all be dealing with soon. This is a HUGE clash of industries.

      Re: Doing things at a top, elite level. Most of the time, the web doesn’t require it. Advertising dollars are moving more and more to the web. Video is increasing everywhere on the web. Somethings got to give.

  11. Greg, I can certainly respect shooting a 20 second video for 20k if its being offered AND if you have interest.

    For me, I chose years ago between doing motion and still. I chose still. I have no interest in doing the other. I suppose thats my main point.

  12. Hi Mike,

    Yes, many photographers feel the same way you do and I’m not pushing anyone into video, it just may be a reality to shoot video to get certain jobs.

    One thing I think will become increasingly evident is that as digital video resolution gets better and better, using frame grabs from video will replace shooting a still in some cases. Yes, it is already happening with the Red Camera, but the resolution will only get better.

    • @Greg Ceo, Two bigger issues are shooting at 1/30 second (or slower) and continuous lighting. No matter how good frame resolution becomes, motion stills will appear different than regular stills.

  13. Went to a seminar with Alex Bogusky of cp+b a couple years ago. The things that stood out from that, relevant to this discussion, is that producing for the web does not cost less than producing for broadcast or print, but there is a perception that clients have that because access to the internet is low cost, that means production should be lower. The second thing was that Bogusky saw hi-res going out, and low-res coming in.

    Video is not necessarily cheaper because it ends up on the internet. Delivering good low resolution work is a growing market, but I think we need to maintain the ability to re-purpose some content. Doing many things often means doing them at an acceptable level, but I think to really thrive we need to be exceptional. Don’t dilute your brand.

  14. Great thread, there is much to discus here.

    Historically feel photography is where lithography was at the end of the nineteenth century. The democratization of image making that the digital revolution has brought upon us is exactly the same as the one that photography brought to print back then.

    It will soon wipe away the worth of those of us who have been doing this as since the difficult days of E6 etc, and demand we seek different revenue streams as the world turns to streaming media. I’m lucky enough to be enjoying a moment of being ‘the sure thing’ because I’ve been around a while, and know how to run a day well, but I’m not expecting any of it to last.

    The pollution and cost involved in the printing and distribution of paper media is sinfully wasteful, and that makes me thrilled that the trees of our world are going to get a break from the iPad and its fellow digi-tabs. However this revolution has arrived at a most unfortunate time, because most of us are the servants of the corporate media, be it full time or freelance. The pain and suffering that our still crumbling economy is going to exert on them, and thus us, force all of our worth down to levels we have not ‘enjoyed’ since we were kids.

    This is my first reply here, though I have read many of the great posts here. The blogs I spend more time on are the ones that detail what is happening in the economy, like the excellent ZeroHedge.com. All of ‘us’ should be following them, because reading those blogs has saved my 401K, and allowed me to understand the position of the sailboat of our industry in the vast ocean currents that are defining our time, but I digress, back to images.

    Am I the only person who thinks the Red is rubbish? Usable stills at 500th of second just like any other 35mm digi-stills camera, but clean video only at a 50th or less? It maybe two cameras in one, but to me it is an overweight, over priced compromise. The Canon on the other hand is heaven! I’ve now created content with both, and never want to see the daft red dot again. Why, oh why are clients so obsessed with the stupid thing?
    (Because they don’t have to use it!)

    • @Andrew Macpherson,

      Andrew, have you considered the environmental costs of digital? Certainly page for page, image for image the cost of production and distribution of a digital image vs a print image must be less of a footprint. That’s my assumption though, I truly don’t have facts.

      However digital distribution adds accessibility. So the scale – vis-à-vis *free* content is significantly larger than the distribution of most print publications. What are the costs of holding and transmitting all that data electronically? How much electricity and hardware is being used in this system? Flickr alone has 2 billion images. In the last minute 7000+ uploads. Facebook apparently has 10 billion images.

      Streaming content/moving content will no doubt increase the environmental costs of content exponentially. Viewing moving content is also a greater cost of our time. A single static image may communicate emotion far more efficiently than moving content.

      Of course this is all just chatter, as humans are not always known for making the best choices with regard to time, money, the environment.

      • @Bob, I have a roof full of solar panels which work hard to keep pace with the consumption of the machines here, so I’m trying to keep the foot print clean!

        Of course everything in the electronic media consumes power, but the great thing with electricity is there are so many ways to generate it. What if we could harness the tides? That is the greatest constant natural force on the planet, and it remains completely untapped.

  15. When demand for established photographers is up in current times, I can’t imagine why the same people would turn to a stills photographer with 6 months experience in motion when probably for the same amount of money you can get a very experinced motion director.