AI Photography Hype

I’ve been seeing lots of hand wringing over the AI Photography engines released recently: and and well… there’s probably something to that tho not the “death of photography” level but more in the injury by a thousand cuts vein. If you are interested in the topic you should definitely check out this Verge article “The scary truth about AI copyright is nobody knows what will happen next

“The training dataset for Stable Diffusion, for example — one of the biggest and most influential text-to-AI systems — contains billions of images scraped from hundreds of domains”

“it is much more likely than not” that training systems on copyrighted data will be covered by fair use. But the same cannot necessarily be said for generating content”

“the current interpretation of fair use may actually change in the coming months due to a pending Supreme Court case involving Andy Warhol and Prince.”

Here is a story on the Warhol and Prince case:

All important topics to think about. My personal opinion is that the images generated by the AI engines will not be copyrightable, giving traditional photography an edge in the world of editorial and advertising.

Here is a deep dive on the topic from a law professor at Vanderbilt:

Pricing & Negotiating: International Hospitality Stills And Video

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Two talent enjoying the amenities of a hotel, captured in both stills and video.

Licensing: Unlimited use (excluding broadcast) of up to 10 images and all video content captured in perpetuity.

Photographer: Lifestyle and hospitality specialist.

Client: Hotel Brand.

Here is the estimate:


This project was part of three other similar shoots the agency was coordinating around the world, and at each one, they hoped to capture two talent enjoying the amenities of the hotel. While stills would be the priority, they asked for some b-roll video content to be captured of the same sets, primarily for web advertising. While we’ve seen higher fees for more limited usage for such brands, it became apparent that the usage would essentially be five images, delivered in both horizontal and vertical. Given the local market where the shoot would take place, and the limited quantity of images and intended usage, I decided to include $10,000 as a creative/licensing fee. I also added two scout days for the photographer.


The agency hoped for a minimal crew to keep the production footprint as small as possible. We included a producer, videographer, assistant, and a digital tech, all with appropriate travel/shoot days and rates for the given market.


We planned to cast from cards, rather than do a live casting, and include $750 for the time to accomplish this. We split the fees for the two talent into three categories; a session fee for their time, a usage fee for their likeness based on the unlimited use, and a travel fee for them to get to the locations.


Rather than a full styling team, and in an effort to keep the footprint small, we included one stylist to help ensure the talent looked presentable and to help with the wardrobe the talent would provide. I typically break out these roles and have a separate person handle hair/makeup while another stylist handles wardrobe, however, the agency preferred to bundle the roles.


We included appropriate fees for both stills and video equipment, along with a rental fee to use the digital tech’s workstation. These rates included cameras, lenses, and all of the supporting grip equipment and sliders needed to get the shots noted in the provided creative brief.

Health & Safety

To maintain public health and safety on set we included a fee that would compensate each crew member, upon providing us with a negative covid test result that they would receive prior to the shoot.


While the client’s onsite services would provide catering, we included $500 for additional meals and $1,750 for unknown expenses incurred during international travel.


Eight people would be traveling to the location, and we included airfare, transportation, and per diems for each of them, based on the number of days they’d be traveling. Despite the client being a hotel where the shoot would take place, they were not able to provide lodging for the crew and asked for us to include lodging elsewhere for the team.

Post Production

Lastly, we included $500 for the photographer to sift through the content and provide a gallery to the agency, along with a fee of $200 per image for the photographer to ultimately retouch the agency’s selects. Additionally, we added $400 for hard drives and shipping.


The photographer was awarded the project.

Need help estimating or producing a project? Please reach out. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs, from small stock sales to large ad campaigns.

Featured Promo – Libby Volgyes

Libby Volgyes

Tell me about your promo.

The magazine was designed by Monashee Photo Consultant and printed by Blurb. We did a first run of 100 to send out to ad reps and marketing reps, and other people I wanted to work with. I suspect I’ll make more to hand out once I’m brave enough to start trying for desk-side meetings.

I’ve sent out print promos before, but this was the first big print campaign, and I enlisted the amazing Monashee that I’ve been working with the last year. I am REALLY terrible at design – so terrible that when I was studying at the University of Missouri-Columbia and taking my Photojournalism Capstone class, Rita Reed made me do an extra project on design because I was so terrible at it. So I think I knew from a pretty early age in my career I was never going to be a photo editor or designer and that I’d always need someone to hold my hand for design projects.

I think, particularly in this day and age of social where we barely have the energy to double-tap an image, there’s something incredibly beautiful about the permeance of prints and collateral. I don’t feel bad at all if anyone throws it out- I can’t stand clutter, so I would understand that. But I hope for the moments when they’re holding, feeling, and flipping through my book that they’re enjoying a couple of moments of peace. And to me, that’s what prints are about. Permanence even in impermanence.

A lot of the images in the book – and most of the ones you featured on Instagram were personal projects. 20 years into this profession, I still just really LOVE taking photos. So when I had some time off, and my food stylist did too – and I’m lucky to have a really wonderful relationships with my food stylist – one I consider “my muse” — we get together and play. It is unbelievably fun. The picture of the fish and the hanging fruit were both play days. Sometimes we look to art – paintings from the Dutch or the Flemish and are inspired by their light and their subjects that we can easily translate realize. Often we’re motivated by beautiful old props or stunning ingredients. That’s enough to make a photo many days!

The portraits are from a project I started four years ago called “Faces of Food” where I wanted to improve my portraiture, so I set about to photograph the faces behind the food industry. It ended up being a huge body of work– I photographed close to 100 food professionals (bartenders, farmers, chefs, pastry artists, etc.) over three days for a final edit of 18. It ran in the local magazine, we had a nice art opening, and I displayed the art around town; finally, it displayed at Food Photo Festival in Vejle, Denmark, where it was a finalist for the Feature Award. Today, I’m still photographing “Faces” whenever I get the chance. Props, similar lighting and the same backdrop. It just keeps being fun for me.

Honestly, I shoot a lot in my spare time. I’m bi-coastal – my husband and dog live in a small town in Oregon (Hood River), and my business is based in West Palm Beach, and I have studios in both places. So I get exposed to different light and different ingredients, and there’s just something crazy intense in me that just loves to shoot for myself. It’s probably a sick compulsion and needs to be medicated but there’s nothing in the world that feels like, “I JUST TOOK A PICTURE THAT MIGHT BE GOOD.” Just for those few moments when the world just stops…and you can breathe … that’s what I can’t wait for.

Announcing The Kurt Markus Photography Scholarship Fund

Portrait of Kurt Markus at Eaves Ranch in Santa Fe, © Christopher Michel

The Kurt Markus Family and Santa Fe Workshops are pleased to continue Kurt’s legacy as a teacher and role model for young photographers by awarding an annual scholarship in his name.

The Kurt Markus Photography Scholarship recognizes artistic promise coupled with a desire to live a photographic life by awarding a full scholarship to a one-week workshop in Santa Fe each summer to a young imagemaker.

Kurt Markus was a visual poet of the American West, creating authentic portraits, classic landscapes, and beautifully seductive fashion images. His photographs touched all strata of humanity and left a lasting imprint that will endure for many generations.

Equally important to Kurt was his role as a mentor. Starting in 2008, he made time each year to teach at Santa Fe Workshops. Instructing solo, co-teaching with Norman Mauskopf, or joining Jimmy Chin and Robert Maxwell for a Santa Fe Workshops/Outside Magazine Master Class, Kurt was dedicated to passing on his knowledge and passion for photography to the new generation of photographers.

The Kurt Markus Photography Scholarship Fund offers the financial support for a young photographer to attend the workshop of their choice to include travel expenses to Santa Fe and return, workshop tuition and fees, car rental, meals, accommodations, and $500 for photographic supplies and miscellaneous expenses. In addition to the workshop in Santa Fe, the recipient will forever be linked to the spirit and accomplishments of Kurt as they traverse their own path forward in photography.

Photographers under 30 years old are encouraged to apply (contact Reid Callanan for more information). Applications for this scholarship will be available on December 1 and due by January 15. There is no fee to apply for this scholarship. Jurors to award this annual scholarship are Laurie Kratochvil, Andy Anderson, and Reid Callanan.

Donations to this fund to honor Kurt and his legacy as a teacher and a mentor are now being accepted. Tax-deductible donations should be made to CENTER, a 501(c3) not-for-profit organization based in Santa Fe. CENTER, founded in 1994, honors, supports, and provides opportunities to gifted and committed photographers.

A generous lead donation of $25,000 has been made to inaugurate this fund.


Suggested Donation Levels: $250, $500, $1000, $2500, $5000.

$7500+ will receive a limited-edition digital print of Monument Valley by Kurt Markus. For details inquire to Reid Callanan at

Please mail donation checks to CENTER, PO Box 8372, Santa Fe, NM 87504 with a notation “For Kurt Markus Scholarship Fund”, or make a donation online at

Featured Promo – Daniel Brenner

Daniel Brenner

Who printed it?

Who designed it?
I did, with some guidance from Ben Rasmussen.

Tell me about the images.
This is a personal project I’ve been working on for a few years. When I transitioned from a newspaper photographer to freelance, I lacked a project I cared about. I met an addiction counselor with an unconventional approach to treatment. He fosters relationships while bonding on a cliff or revisiting a traumatic setting. His experiential therapeutic program is designed for tormented, traumatized, drug-using and self-sabotaging young men.

How many did you make?

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Once a year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
Most certainly. It’s a critical tool to connect with editors, especially now when we are separated by zoom screens and the oversaturation of images on social media.

Featured Promo – Markus Altmann

Markus Altmann

Who printed it?
Königsdruck in Berlin. My designer had worked with them before and knew they would be open to a small project with some challenges.

Who designed it?
Dagmar Dunkelau (who is a graphic designer at BogunDunkelau, and me. I came up with the idea for the layout and the sequencing of the images. I thought two different-sized pages would work well – putting the portraits on a smaller insert in front of a larger double-page landscape image. The inserts are printed on thinner paper too, which adds to the contrast. Dagmar was a great help in the design process. She also did the cover design and handled the final artwork and production.

Tell me about the images.
They are from a personal project I shot a few years ago. Wonder Valley is the name of a community near Twentynine Palms; some of the images were taken around there, some in other parts of the Mojave. Since this is really more a zine than a classic promo, I’ve included an insert in the booklet: “The Mojave Desert northeast of Los Angeles: for some a place of longing, for others tough everyday life. An extraordinary living space, without a doubt, challenging and inspiring at the same time. For a personal project, I visited people who have made it their home – in search of alternative concepts of living, inexpensive land, untouched nature, and freedom. My thanks to all the people who shared their time and home with me. They are just as special as the places where they live.“

How many did you make?
We did a print run of 600, and I mailed out about 400.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I used to send out one every year on average but had stopped a while ago. This is the first one after the start of the pandemic.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
They used to be. I think that if you still do a printed promo, there should be some extra value to it, a reason why you didn’t just send a PDF. Hopefully, it will deliver some inspiration that will get passed on. This promo was really more about keeping in touch than showing new work. And I have received great feedback, especially from people I value much.

Featured Promo – Bill Phelps

Bill Phelps

Who printed it?
It was printed by Brian Johnson at Fresh Color Press in Minneapolis.

Who designed it?
The art direction was a collaboration, inspired by the format and functionality of my international drivers license.

It was designed by Molly Sullivan of Minneapolis.

Tell me about the images.
The images are from various years. A mix of large format Polaroid studio and location shots. The Polaroid work is personal, some inspired by a passion for vintage machines, and European motorsport. The opening frame is a medium format Polaroid shot on the tracks of the JMZ subway line above my own café in Williamsburg Brooklyn.

The color images are from various assignments for Condé Nast. Ireland, Mexico City, Yangon, as well as more personal views.

How many did you make?
On this first round we printed 500 pieces, though we plan to do another printing of them soon, they were incredibly well received.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I find great satisfaction in the power of implied storytelling, beauty and simplicity. The lyric, mystery, story living in the shadows of an image, the inbetween.

I find a similar power in the printed page, the subtlety of design, the tactile, a reconnection.

Pricing & Negotiating: Ambassador Portraits For An Apparel Company


Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Studio portraits of four brand ambassadors for an apparel company

Licensing: Web Advertising, Web Collateral, OOH (out-of-home), and POS (point-of-sale) use in the US and Canada of up to 24 images for one year from first use.

Photographer: Portraiture specialist

Agency: Medium-size, full service

Client: Apparel company

The client had four brand ambassadors that they wanted to photograph in a studio on one shoot day, and we were provided a creative brief showing them interacting with a few props while dressed in the apparel company’s clothing. They needed two looks with three poses each for all four talent, which would yield 24 images.


While the licensing could be limited to one year, they did have broad usage plans, including potential placement on large out-of-home displays and within the retail environments (POS) where the apparel would be sold. Even though they wanted multiple looks and poses for each talent, it was clear from the brief that they’d likely use one final image per subject. I decided to price the usage by the subject, and included $4,500 for each, totaling $18,000, and then added a $2,500 creative fee on top of that. While we typically combine creative and licensing fees into one line item, we were specifically asked by the agency to break these two line items out on our estimate. In addition to these two fees, I also added a pre-light/fit day fee for the photographer at $1,000, which included one day in the studio prior to the shoot — to set up lights and for the styling team to assess wardrobe with the talent.


We included a producer to help line up all aspects of the production, along with two assistants, all of which would attend the pre-light day as well. Additionally, we included a digital tech and a production assistant. Typically, I don’t include half days for crew members, but the photographer had crew at the ready who could jump in for a half-day to help set up lights on the pre-light day, and I based these numbers on local knowledge of rates in this specific market.


While the client would provide all of the apparel, we included a wardrobe stylist for both the pre-light day and the shoot day to manage inventory, prep the outfits, and help the talent try on and ensure proper fitting. We also included a hair/makeup stylist and a prop stylist to acquire a few minor items. We anticipated the prop stylist could procure these supplemental items and just drop them off at the studio, rather than needing multiple shop and return days.

Health and Safety

We included a covid compliance officer and testing as requested by the agency. As a cost-saving measure, they asked us if we could include PCR tests just for the subjects (two of which would have parents in attendance who would also be tested) as well as the two clients attending. Everyone else was approved to just use rapid tests prior to the shoot.


The photographer had a studio in mind that offered a flat $2,000 fee for a half-day pre-light and a full shoot day.


We included an adequate fee for both the pre-light and shoot day for cameras, grip and lighting equipment, plus a fee for the digital tech’s workstation on the shoot day.


I included $60 per person for a light breakfast and lunch on the shoot day.


I added a bit of a buffer for unforeseen minor expenses and also a nominal fee for insurance to contribute to the photographer’s existing policy.

Post Production

We included $500 for the photographer to perform basic color correction of the content and delivery of a gallery, plus $300 for a hard drive. The agency would provide further retouching on the selects.


The photographer was awarded the job.

Featured Promo – Justin Cook

Justin Cook

Who printed it?
I work with Smartpress in Minnesota. Their ordering process is super simple, and they have file prep and print guides.

Who designed it?
I did! One of my best friends, photographer Jared Soares inspired me to make these zines. He makes some killer zine promos too.

Tell me about the images.
The images are a collection of my photos that I made in 2021 while on assignment, and from on-going personal projects, such as my work in Princeville, North Carolina, the oldest town in America founded by Black people, and its complicated relationship with the Tar River and climate change.

I love making zines because print is not dead, and my annual zine is a way to reflect on the year and celebrate my work and the people who helped me make it. Also, I often end up making images while on assignment that are never published, so it’s a way for those images to have life, and to see how my photographs speak to one another.

I am an avid fossil hunter, so at the end of the zine are photos from my fossil hunts in waterways of eastern North Carolina, where you can find the remains of prehistoric sharks and whales from when the eastern part of the state was an ocean millions of years ago.

For the cover, I chose a portrait of a huge old tree that is growing out of the Tar River. My friend and fellow photographer, Megan May, helped me light it as I waded out into chest deep water to make the photograph. I love making lit portraits of old trees using the same techniques I’d use to make a portrait of a person. The name “Old Growth” is a mantra for how I want to work and grow: slow and steady, like that tree.

How many did you make?
This is an edition of 25.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Once a year. I send them to editors I love and editors I’d love to work with. I made my own imprint called Tiburon, so I also sell them in my online store so everyone has access to my printed work. I also keep extra copies so I can give them to people I am photographing on long term projects so they can understand my work and see themselves in it.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I hope so! I often don’t hear back from editors, and many editors were not working in their offices during the pandemic so I have no idea if they see the zines. But I still make them because it’s a fun exercise.

Featured Promo – Eric Thompson

Eric Thompson

Who printed it?
The folded poster promo and packaging was printed by Paper Chase Press in Los Angeles, and the book was printed by Small Editions in Brooklyn, NY. Custom printed washi tape by Continental Tape in Deer Park, NY.

Who designed it?
They were both designed by me.

Tell me about the images.
The images in the folded poster are from a few projects, some personal, and some commercial – They are intended to portray a glimpse into what I do as a photographer, for hire or otherwise. They were chosen to give a good sense of color, energy, and variety in subject matter that I feel is important to represent in my work.

The photobook [Nearest Neighbor] is entirely personal, released as a book and as a gallery show as well. The work in it speaks most honestly to my personal style and viewpoint, and is very close to my heart. It was a tough project to take on from the ground up – learning how to publish and lay it out on my own while trying to retain the integrity and quality of something more bespoke and custom was a huge challenge. It features photos taken around the world while travelling for work mostly, using either a 55mm Voigtlander Bessa III 667W or an 80mm Fuji GF670, which I scanned myself on a Nikon Coolscan 8000/9000. As a project that spanned several years, my gear either changed or broke down, but 6×7 film became the only format I used for quite some time. The photos are meant to explore other peoples spaces + environments, how they are inhabited, shaped, and how often they seem so strange and peculiar from a foreign persons’ eye.

How many did you make?
For the folded posters, I believe it was 150, and for Nearest Neighbor, an edition of 300.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
This is the first set that I have sent out, and I have just completed a printed portfolio with an edition of 50 for 2022. I plan on doing one photobook/lookbook style portfolio per year and two folded posters per year, with the intention of finding specific creatives and art producers to direct them towards as opposed to casting a wide net.

Bookmaking and designing materials [when it comes to my work] has become something I really enjoy, I currently have several books that I would love to make – they end up coming from the strangest places, I kind of feel my way through them. It’s the one thing aside from shooting that continually gives me joy, it’s a bit narcissistic but I love looking through my own photos and creating cohesive collections. I have a deep relationship with them and the stories they evoke in me, so I feel like they’re better in a printed form, out in the world rather than on a hard drive.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
We will see! I have found that having a variety of printed material makes it more likely for something to land in the hands of creatives, when they may not want to take a full book, they are likely to take a small folded poster. My personal photobook has been effective, especially seeing as i’ve done a piss poor job of getting it out there. It has gotten me some work over the years, and for me is really great way to spark a conversation on why I love photography – also something I can speak to at length very easily.

Featured Promo – Paul Treacy

Paul Treacy

Can you tell me about your promo?

No one else is involved in this endeavour. Nor is it a promo piece. Rather it’s an exercise in focusing my mind.

I’ve been a contributor to Millennium Images here in London since 2003. However, I’ve not always been consistent in supplying material for curation, particularly during a period when I was primarily a carer to my two sons. So in an effort to produce work I needed some kind of facility.

Between 2008 and 2020 I had been making work in my neighbourhood of South East London which I put out as a handmade book called Hinterland. I sold about 40 of these and received copious encouragement from my peers. But I didn’t know how to follow it up.

I continued making work during the pandemic which was featured on the BBC. Someone who had moved overseas years earlier had seen this work and it made them homesick. They contacted me and asked me to make work in their old neighbourhood for them over a period of time. I had no idea how to go about this. Their old haunts overlap with mine so I figured I would just keep doing what I was doing where I was doing it. So the Passerby Zine project emerged from all of these influences.

As I love the craft side of self-publishing and have some design chops having studied graphics in art school, I figured I would use the tools I already have to shoot, make and promote a periodical. I’ve been a serious street photographer since the late 80s and have a camera on me all the time so it seemed like an obvious thing to do.

The plan is to gather a handful of decent images every 4-6 weeks then edit and sequence them into a tiny home printed zine. From each edit there should be some strong photographs that can then be submitted to my agency for curation and consideration for editorial and commercial licensing.

As I settle into this project I am already thinking of spinoff projects, including timed print sales and an annual best of book.

Niall O’leary, Creative Director at Millennium Images, said of my work the I “like to find mystery and menace in the everyday”. He’s right. And that’s what Passerby is all about.

Pricing & Negotiating: Photography Retainer For Social Media

by Craig Oppenheimer Wonderful Machine

Concept: Still life and lifestyle images featuring beverages and products

Licensing: Collateral use of up to 10 images per shoot

Photographer: Still life and portraiture specialist

Client: Beverage company

Here is the estimate:


A photographer came to me looking for help with developing a retainer agreement for a beverage company. The photographer had a previous working relationship with this brand, and they required a consistent stream of content for use on their social media channels. Additionally, the company operated multiple brands, and they had the same need for each brand. Each shoot would be similar and would involve a mix of still life images of the beverages, and possibly lifestyle images of people enjoying or interacting with the products as well. The location for each shoot would be provided by the client, and having done this multiple times, the photographer had a good sense of the limited production footprint the client wanted, and a rough sense of what they might be comfortable paying upfront as a retainer.

Pros and Cons of Negotiating A Retainer

Negotiating a retainer agreement can be a bit tricky, but there can be major benefits for both the photographer and the client. For a photographer, the benefit of a retainer is that a client is willing to commit to a large amount of money and multiple shoots upfront. For a client, a retainer allows them to offload finances in one lump sum, rather than having to pay for each individual assignment, and this often alleviates accounting headaches.

However, retainers do sometimes come with downsides. A photographer will need to be able to keep track of how a retainer is being applied, and will ideally be ready to present these numbers to a client when asked. Also, sometimes clients feel that after a retainer is paid, they can control the photographer’s calendar, and that can sometimes become problematic if a photographer has other clients they would like to shoot for as well. A retainer also typically works best if each shoot that is to take place is more or less the same in terms of creative direction, deliverables, and usage. A retainer can be a win/win if the right set of circumstances present themselves, as they did in this case.

Building A Retainer Agreement

The first step was to determine how much to charge for photography fees and expenses and outline the needs of the project. Based on pricing for previous projects, we knew the client was willing to spend about $5,000 for a shoot, inclusive of a $1,500 fee for the photographer, plus expenses. They also anticipated walking away with 10 images to use for collateral purposes (mainly social media). Based on that, and knowing they hoped to do one shoot a month for a year, we came up with a retainer fee of $60,000 ($5,000 x 12 shoots). Below is a breakdown of the expenses we detailed in the agreement.

  • Photographer Fees: We noted that the photographer’s creative/licensing fee would be $1,500/day and include collateral use of 10 images in perpetuity. If a pre-pro day was needed, that would be $500/day.
  • Crew: Most of the projects would just require one assistant, but I listed the fees per day for both a first assistant and a digital tech. I considered adding a producer line item and additional assistants/crew if the projects ever expanded to include talent and a higher production level, but ultimately based the crew list on what was included on previous projects. Additionally, if more crew became necessary with increased project scope, the photographer would still have an opportunity to estimate each project ahead of time and add those elements in at that point.
  • Post Production: We noted that retouching would be $50 per hour, but purposefully didn’t list a total amount of time, with the intention of that it would be quoted with each job.
  • Casting and Talent: Since this could vary wildly, we noted that this was TBD and would be based on the creative direction for each shoot.
  • Equipment: We anticipated $500 per day would cover basic equipment, and the photographer would plan to bring their own gear. If more elaborate lighting setups were needed, that could be quoted on each estimate ahead of time.
  • Styling: We noted appropriate stylist rates for this particular market and noted wardrobe and props would be based on the creative needs of each shoot.
  • Miscellaneous: We simply note that there could be items such as mileage, parking, and meals and that those would be TBD until a specific project scope came to light.

The Fine Print

To ensure the pricing accounted for actual costs, we noted that the expenses were not firm costs and that for each shoot the photographer would create an estimate showing the exact expenses based on the creative needs and each project scope. We also included a clause that stated that after each production, the photographer would provide an invoice that showed how much was being deducted from the $60,000 retainer and clearly show the balance remaining. The agreement states that if the fees and expenses go over the retainer amount, it would be brought to their attention throughout this process and that those funds would be billed on top of this retainer.


The photographer shared the estimate with the client and they agreed to the retainer fee.

Need help estimating or producing a project? Please reach out. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs, from small stock sales to large ad campaigns.

NFTs Part 4 – Michael Yamashita Interview

Part of an ongoing series where I explore the world of NFTs (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Michael Yamashita, a far-east specialist, has been making pictures for National Geographic for over 40 years, and up until 2008, he was the only regularly contributing photographer of color. In addition to over 30 Natgeo magazine assignments over the years, Michael has sold stock, lectured, given workshops, and has made 16 books. In April of last year, Michael started selling his photography as NFTs and is currently listed on as #25 in all-time sales for photography. As someone with such a storied career that has found great success in NFTs, I reached out for an interview.

aPhotoEditor: Let’s start with Instagram. You have 1.8 million followers there. That must help promote any projects you are working on.

Michael Yamashita: It’s great having that many followers from all over the world, but since they changed the algorithm last year, if you are not posting video, you’re not getting any new followers, so Instagram is not as fun anymore for a still photographer. A year ago, I could see 100,000 likes on a post, and now a good post is maybe twenty thousand. And only a small percentage of your followers see all your posts as the formula chooses to send to maybe one-fifth of them. But what we’ve found with Instagram, and this is across the board with my colleagues, is that Instagram people are mostly bucket listers or aspirational travelers. It’s important to be visible on Instagram, but it’s never been a key way to sell anything. We have an occasional book or print sale, but you’d think you’d have more.

When I got involved with NFTs, everyone thought I would pick up sales from my 1.8 million followers, but that didn’t really happen because it’s a very different audience.

aPE: Can you tell me how you got started with NFTs?

MY: Two Harvard MBA grads approached me last year because of my large social media following. And as you know, it’s daunting getting into it; there’s a lot to learn with the vocabulary, dealing with the technical side, and all the Twitter stuff.

The big Beeple sale had just happened, and a bunch of us photographers, all well-known names in the industry, were sitting around trying to figure out how to get into NFTs, and I was the only one who made the leap, and that was mainly because these guys I met were ready to go ahead and help me promote and do what’s necessary to make it happen. We set it up like a photo agency, I chose the photographs, and they handled the technical aspects, and my job was to introduce myself on twitter spaces and get to know the community. It helped that many were already following me on Instagram. Because of that exposure, we got invited into several groups and had several whales who began collecting my work.

We were told initially that photographs would never sell as Nfts, so we teamed up with an NFT artist who for example took one of my best-known pictures – of Tibetan monks and, using AI, added motion and changing facial expressions to the individual monks and that was my first sale. It was bought by a collector, Drew Marshall, who goes by “hydrate.” He loves photography and happens to live close by, so we became friends. He is now part of my team as a consultant and is involved in our strategy.

aPE: Then didn’t you have a very successful sale on, where you are listed near the top of the sales chart?

MY: The Four Seasons of Jiuzhaigou, my second drop – all straight, non-AI manipulated photographs, took about four months to sell out. It was listed as #24 of the most traded NFT photography collections on OpenSea. And then my 3rd drop of photographs from Tibet was on Nifty Gateway in January, and that sold out in 30 seconds.

aPE: How important is marketing the work and selling out vs. the actual photography?

MY: For the NFT crowd, what makes a great photograph is not necessarily what you would choose as a picture editor who is used to seeing a lot of great photography. It’s more like what appeals to an Instagram crowd, people who just love the picture for whatever reason, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be something critical. There is some crossover between Instagram fans and NFT enthusiasts. I often use Instagram as a measure of how an audience is going to react to a particular photograph; when you see one on Instagram getting huge numbers, you can tell it’s something that grabs the attention of a large crowd, who are reacting emotionally to it.

About half the buyers are in this largely for the investment – they want to resell the work on the secondary market. Your value is often determined by the prices on the secondary market. I’ve had the good fortune that some whales have liked and supported my work. But the quality of the photograph still greatly matters – the cream rises to the top. You look at the big players, and they’re good photographers. You may not have heard of them before, but these guys are good. I have personal favorites, Billy Dinh, John Knoph, Dave Krugman, Reuben Wu. There’s some great photography talent out there. They are primarily a younger crowd; I’m easily the oldest guy in the room. But as I’ve gotten to know them, many have become my friends. The community is extremely enthusiastic and supportive.

aPE: You’ve done assignments for National Geographic, lectures, workshops, sold stock, sold prints, sold books and now NFTs. Can you talk about that progression?

MY: The magazine and photojournalism world has changed dramatically. Stock dried up years ago, and what few magazines are left are not at all the same. The covid years were terrible for photography; even with the PPP loans, I don’t know how anyone made it through the year. I had three assignments and no travel. If I didn’t get involved in the NFT sales, which I began as basically an experiment, I don’t know how I would have made ends meet. But at the same time, I got lucky that covid happened and I was not traveling; otherwise, I don’t think I would even have gotten involved. Being home afforded me the time to travel through my archive, finding the photographs to market as NFTs and getting involved with the community. Things are turning around now, and I’m traveling again, but NFTs are a bright spot for photography right now.

aPE: What advice can you give photographers who want to get involved with NFTs?

MY: I’m fielding many calls from my colleagues, and everybody wants in, but It’s a volatile market so you’ve got to embrace the entire experience and be in it for the long haul. The business is constantly morphing. Starting from ground zero is even more difficult now as many more photographers enter the space. Anyone can do NFT 101, but you’ve got to do the work to get your name out there in front of the community. And that is the issue, the marketing, without any recognition, nobody’s going to look at your stuff. Most big names in photography are not necessarily well known in the NFT space. The market is a community, and they expect NFT creators to be accessible and approachable. You’ve really got to network to get your stuff out there in front of this new group. The events where you can go and meet people are important; the Twitter talks, engaging followers on Twitter and discord, all of which can be a lot of fun. Getting your work on a platform like Super Rare is a big deal because some of the whales only go on a platform which is curated and the highest quality.

There’s been discussion about holding back your best work till you become recognized in the space as you can only mint a photograph one time, but I don’t think you can do that. You’ve got to put your best stuff forward which you can afford to do since remember, you’re not giving up your copyright. Once you become a commodity, you become a safe bet; buyers know your work will go for a certain price, and they know further down the line, they can resell it and make money back on their initial investment.

aPE: And are you ok with a market that is not image driven?

MY: The quality of the work is still the most important for me, and I make sure that my NFTs reflect my best work. Most everyone wants to make money in the space; that’s the name of the game if you’re in there as a photographer. We’ve always been in the business of making pictures and selling them. And if you get down to the basics with professionals, you need to make money in order to do what you love to do. NFTs are just another medium to continue that process; this is their moment. Some young photographers who did not have a showcase to sell their work, went into NFTs and found acceptance there and built these groups around them in which they encouraged each other. And when nobody else was buying, they were buying each other’s stuff. The amazing thing is how open and friendly these groups are to newcomers. A lot of the major money has been made by a small number of people and many have become friends.

aPE: What do you see in the future for NFTs?

MY: It’s not going away. When you’re in the twitter spaces, you meet people from all over the world who are getting into this stuff. I went to the Venice Biennale, and they devoted a whole pavilion to NFTs. Sotheby’s and Christies are involved, and galleries displaying NFTs are popping up in cities and art fairs around the world. The potential is huge, assuming the market is going to come roaring back, which everybody predicts. And it’s a big deal that photographers get 10% in perpetuity every time your work sells. That’s another major motivation for photographers to get into it. There’s not a photographer out there that’s not paying attention to NFTs.

As for the future, it’s likely that the bar will be raised collectively within digital art. Meaning, early adopters may have gotten notoriety and sales simply for showing up and making an effort. With many traditional artists and photographers using NFTs as a medium to sell their work, the overall quality of the work in the top sales category should improve.

Featured Promo – Samantha Wolov

Samantha Wolov

Who printed it?
Agency Access, sometime in 2021. Due to a massive mailing hiccup and “a series of unfortunate events”, the booklets weren’t actually sent out until this spring, around six months after their first mailing (thankfully I had extras and could mail out a second batch). Full disclosure: to my knowledge, Agency Access is no longer designing and mailing print promos, but I could be mistaken.

Who designed it?
I can’t actually remember specifics (design and production started in Spring 2021), but this was also with Agency Access. My website is organized by Standards and Deviations—more traditional, classic styling vs. more left-of-center—and the booklet was designed to reflect that division. I know their sister site, Found, produces booklets a few times a year, and I had asked if they could make one specifically for me. When I approached them, I explained I was hoping the booklet would be my “Alan Rickman moment”: before Die Hard, Rickman was working, but not as often as he liked, and only in smaller projects, but was consistently receiving positive reviews and feedback from that work. Then he shot Die Hard, and the rest is history. I see a lot of overlap between my career trajectory and his earlier experiences: under-employed, but fantastic response. I’m just looking for my Die Hard.

Tell me about the images.
I have a fairly unusual background, [feminist, modern] art history and studio art, and I’m a self-taught photographer who learned about making images from painters, not other photographers, so the work itself feels somehow simultaneously extremely niche, and yet, can’t fully be categorized. My general understanding is that people enjoy and respond to my work, but they don’t know what to actually do with me; “I desperately want to hire you, but I don’t know if I actually can”. It’s tremendously flattering but understandably frustrating. That’s why I divide my work into Standards and Deviations, I want to offer some guidance as to how to look at my work. I’m a photographer who can shoot more classic, approachable imagery, but I’m also a photographer who isn’t afraid to experiment and really lean into that studio art background; I’ve made mixed media pieces with my prints, silkscreens using makeup instead of paint, and physically altered the composition of beauty products to use them as art supplies. I can’t have one without the other, I would feel incomplete otherwise.

Tell me more about the images in the Deviations category.
I have Sensory Processing Sensitivity, but what that means for my work is that nothing is purely visual, they appeal to at least one other sense, usually touch. For me, I need to be able to feel an image, not just look at it. I didn’t even realize it was a part of my work until I showed my work at a portfolio review, and someone said he could imagine the smell of one of my images (it featured copious amounts of sunscreen). Since then, I’ve come to understand how unique my SPS is and moving forward, I’d like to print and design booklets that feature images that better represent my mental process, not just my artistic identity.

How many did you make?
I printed 200 booklets, I believe. This was an experiment, so I didn’t want to invest too heavily, but I also wanted to make sure the booklets had a chance to make the impact I was hoping they’d have. This was also all done during COVID, and very few people are returning to offices, so my plan had been to personally reach out to every potential recipient (500+ individualized emails), explain what I was trying to do, and hoped they felt comfortable sharing the appropriate mailing address with me (I recognized most of those addresses would be personal, and I didn’t want to overstep a boundary). Miraculously, people replied. I knew statistically I would only get a small number of responses, but it was enough. I’m thankful I printed as many as I did since as best as I can tell, no one received the original booklets, mailed in November 2021. After waiting until after the holidays (thinking there might have been a massive seasonal issue), I had to mail out a second batch.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I try to send out email promos once every two months, and in the “before times”, I sent out a printed postcard version of the same images to anyone who might not have received the email due to server blocks and whatnot. Now that RTO is hit or miss across the industry, there’s no effective way to send out printed material, but I think print mailers still have their place. Despite all the mailing issues and delays, I’d like to try this again, maybe make a new booklet once a year. I’ve always maintained that a photographer should always present their work in any medium in which it could be consumed, and for me, that includes print.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
The booklets themselves? I’m not sure yet, I haven’t actually heard much about them. Oddly enough, I think what had a bigger impact was the email I would send to a potential recipient asking for a mailing address. Those were personal. I think it’s easy to forget that the names on one’s mailing list are actual people, and those people surely get bombarded on a daily basis by photographers demanding their attention, even if only for a few minutes. I take tremendous pride in being warm and personable, attributes that are nearly impossible to communicate digitally, and the emails I sent asking for addresses were a chance for me to connect with another human being, not a title. I could essentially say, “I admire the work your company produces, and I would love to work with you, but I also recognize that times are weird, and I’m a stranger asking for your address, but maybe we can meet each other halfway, and you can set a boundary for yourself while I attempt to do a somewhat awkward part of my job.” Marketing feels so anonymous, and honestly, it makes me uncomfortable. Before COVID, I attended in-person portfolio reviews religiously, and at least 75% of my jobs came from those meetings—I got booked because they liked me (which is such a wonderful compliment and never ceases to floor me). It’s much harder to make that connection with a person now, and if we’re being honest, I’m struggling with that. But with these booklets and the emails, I was able to approach someone and say, “I made a thing. I worked hard on it. I didn’t make that many. And I want you, you specifically, to have one, because I want you to have one.”

Featured Promo – Jason Willheim

Jason Willheim

Who printed it?
I print all my promos thru Newspaper Club. I just love the Digital Mini I feel its a beautiful presentation of your work

Who designed it?
I have Lisa Thackaberry design my promos. Lisa is my portfolio advisor so, its fun for her to help create these booklets. Plus, she knows my work. We are up to seven booklets and each one gets better. Carsten Steinhausen my retoucher also helps put this together and helps with the fine tuning

Tell me about the images.
The photos for this promo are from The Race of Gentlemen, which is one of the coolest events. Drag Racing on the beach in New Jersey. And I also have photographs, From when they raced in Santa Barbara. The Hot Rods are all pre 1934, thou the engines Can be no later than 1954. The motorcycles are all 1947 and older. Everyone is out to have a fun time, but they get serious about racing. I have realized that all my personal projects are of people that do something because they have a passion for it. It’s not about money. Its for the love of, in this case, being the fastest on the beach

How many did you make?
I usually print out 50, but its super easy and super fast to have more printed if I need them, as I tend to hand them out when I meet with people. I use to mail them, but since Covid and people working at home and not wanting to give out their home address, I also have this set as an email version and then when we meet, they get the hard copy.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
It varies how many promos I create each year. Each promo relates to a portfolio on my web site I am waiting to make three promos, but one will happen, when its finished being retouched and two will happen when the film they are related to is released.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
With more people working from home, I feel email versions of these booklets have been more effective these last two years, but I will continue to create these booklets, as I love to give these Away to clients. I feel that the Digital Mini is a beautiful way to show your work and its not really that expensive and everyone loves them. And after giving this promo to a client, they asked if I would show eight prints in the Agency gallery. And everyone in the agency has been really excited about seeing my work and a few in the agency are looking forward to going to the next Race of Gentlemen.

Featured Promo – Clay Cook

Clay Cook

Who printed it?
Fireball printed the interior pages and Bindery Partners printed the cover as well as assembled and bound the books in a cloth-wrapped, while foil-stamped o-ring bind. We originally had several of the pages die-cut to resemble “ripped paper” which was incredible, but ultimately we had to change printers due to the quality of the cover.

Who designed it?
While I came up with the idea, most of the credit goes to Lindsay Thompson with Wonderful Machine who designed the book. Honore Brown developed the edit of images.

Tell me about the images.
This project was for a start-up tequila brand “Celaya Tequila”. The project took our team to Jalisco, Mexico and Los Angeles, California. Celaya is a startup spirit brand that unites brothers and retired NFL athletes Ryan & Matt Kalil. The goal of the tequila brand is to pay homage to their Mexican ancestry. It all began with their grandmother and the stories of her grandfather, Jose Celaya, who crafted his own homemade tequila on his Sonora Ranch in the late 1800s. Our job was to document Ryan and Matt on the ground as they walk through the process of harvesting and distilling agave in Tequila. They not only needed portrait and documentary photography of their experience, but also still life photography of their final product.

How many did you make?
We printed 125 sketchbooks. All were sent to advertising agencies in the United States.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
It depends on the promo, but I tend to send out one big promo a year. However, this year I intend to send out two. We are already working on the new promo: a full-size poster scroll.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I do, but it can be a shot in the dark without and analytical data. That said, I’ve received many calls over the years with compliments about the promos. I think it can be an excellent way to stick into peoples minds and find a VIP spot in their rolodex. I have converted leads from a big promo push to actual awarded bids.

Featured Promo – David Burlacu

David Burlacu

Tell me about the promo.

Lindsay Bevington who’s an amazing friend and supporter started a printing company about a year ago and we’ve been flirting with the idea of printing a book for this project. I made two other books before this using Blurb but they weren’t really mail friendly (totally my fault, blurb does a good job at printing materials) – the first one was 12in x 12in and the second one was over 100 pages. Neither of these attributes make them ‘promo’ friendly. The printing company wasn’t going in a right direction so she decided to close it down. But before that she really wanted to make something for me. That was the catalyst to put this thing together.

I did the design myself – I wanted it to feel punk and ziney so I used 4×6 white cards, printed the images on my Canon Selphy printer, wrote the copy with a label maker and put it all together with tape. Won’t spend too much time talking about the carpal tunnel I got from the label maker haha. But as the first promo I ever made I wanted it to be as personal as it can get. I’m basically introducing myself to a bunch of people and I want to be as authentic as possible.
Which leads us to the images – when I was in the process of selecting which images will make the cut and which won’t I had my friend Alessia over to help with the process – anyone can tell you it’s not fun to axe your own creations by yourself. So we had 2 walls filled with images, green and red stickers and some negronis. A few hours in she looks at me and says ‘you know I think this is the most comprehensive self portrait I’ve ever seen’. I knew then we were on the right track.

I started shooting these portraits a few years ago mostly because work was slow and I needed to do something to keep me from going nuts. I was living in this place that I still doubt was zoned for residential living. But it did have a private terrace which in New York is basically unheard of. To be fair you had to jump out of my window to get on it. Still not sure if I was supposed to be there. If my landlord is reading this – sorry not sorry.

Most of these guys are people I’ve met in my years living in New York. As the project grew more people were asking to be shot which gave me an opportunity to meet and swap stories with interesting characters. You get pretty chummy when you realize you have to jump out my bedroom window to ‘get to set’.

I kept the project going when I moved from that apartment to the new one & now I moved somewhere else with a killer courtyard that is off limits but I’m hoping I can weasel myself into shooting there as well.

I made about 80 copies and sent out about 30-40 so far.

This is a new endeavor for me so I can’t really tell if it’s going to work or not. I have gotten good feedback from the book and I hope it leads to some jobs but I’m still in the ‘planting seeds’ part of the journey. As a rule of thumb, and this is a direct quote from all my friends that have been working in the industry for years ‘ any way you can get eyeballs on your work is important’. You kind of have to do it all, man – social, print, linkedin, instagram, shouting it from the rooftops whatever is considered a platform. Survival of the loudest, right?!

Featured Promo – Jim Sullivan

Jim Sullivan

Who printed it?
Smartpress printed it.

Who designed it?
Steve Secviar at Less + More in San Diego.

Tell me about the images.
The images I chose to print were ones that I thought might capture my audience within the food and beverage industry. My audience being art directors, editors and even specific restaurants.

How many did you make?
I ended up printing 100 promos based on cost.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I try to send out twice a year. I will be mailing out promos again towards the fall of this year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
In terms of feedback/response from using printed promos, I’ve yet to determine if it’s beneficial. I mean I guess it would be hard to qualitatively determine if the printed promos are helpful, especially with such a strong social media presence these days. But I think most people like having something tangible so I’m hoping that someone who sees it will take into consideration the time and effort that went into making them.