Ask Anything – The Buyout

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


I wanted to ask you about a common thing I have been asked by my larger clients. They are asking for buyouts on many images, which can be good, however I am not sure what to charge that is fair and still keep them as a client.

I know it’s a delicate balance, I can say that they are large corporations, and some are smaller companies that have a license on different products. I think I lost work because some clients can only afford to pay for photography and retouching fees, yet they want a bunch of end uses: internet, Direct Mailers, Promotional items and in store imagery.

I have no idea how to keep them as a client, and get paid fairly, yet not have them totally take advantage of me.

It is a constant effort to educate my clients about image usage, some are great about it and ask permission while others I find out that they run my images in ads when I find them in magazines. Then I have to have a dialogue, invoice them. Kinda awkward but they still send me work.

If it helps I am in NYC. I do not have a rep, I am solo freelance still life/editorial studio.

Amanda and Suzanne: There is not ONE equation you can apply for every client – but we hope you can find YOUR equation that works for you. If you can be guided by the answers below, evaluate the project as a whole that is being requested to estimate and find your comfort zone to estimate the request confidently. If our community can feel comfortable doing this, we know it will raise the bar for everyone.


This a always a hot topic for discussion in my world. Most of my clients want this buyout option. However, in hoping that I don’t seem like a word/usage snob, I like to educate my clients that what this means to them really is an exclusive, unlimited in perpetuity buy. The photographer is never going to completely give up their rights to any images and should be able to use this on their website or for any promotional use. I will also say that I’ve had to refer clients to our signed estimate and what the usage terms really mean when I’ve gotten calls from clients asking me to call the photographer and request that their image be removed from their website/promo material. Yes, this really has happened. Usage terms can really be a huge deal, especially when national exposure is involved. It’s hard to give a specific number to use as a guide for this sort of buy just because for me, it’s usually evaluated on an individual basis. Just keep in mind that not giving this use away for free (or a lower than market value dollar amount) may cost you business, but it also may cost you future business from other clients. So think about this when negotiating costs for this extended use. I want to know for whom a photographer has shot (and will research this) before getting them involved in a project (so that I don’t walk into any surprises with my creative team or client), and may not think of them as an option if they have shot a campaign for a competitor. I can combat this if the campaign images are no longer active.

It’s all kind of crazy in my mind though and I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use an image for more than 5 years. (And that’s stretching it.) Even with an image library, it would most likely be re-done after 5 years so existing work doesn’t look dated. We all know that 2 years is probably plenty. Whenever I’m asked to work off a “buyout” or exclusive, unlimited in perpetuity buy, I always get two additional usage options (outside of the unlimited use, if the photographer will even sell those rights) that are closer to what the client is actually going to use them for. One usually spot on with the proposed media/campaign element plan and another a little larger to allow the client some flexibility so that they don’t feel so boxed in.

Sadly, we’ve lost years of client education with the reduction in the number of seasoned art buyers. Art buyers were often the first to go in the layoffs. Now people doing the art buying are folks that haven’t got a clue about the ins and outs of fair compensation.

Don’t shoot the messenger, but from what I’ve heard from local photographers, the clients they are working with that even ask about a “buyout” don’t want to pay anything additionally for them. Despite the “renting not owning” argument, with pinched budgets, clients have a hard time understanding that they paid for all the inputs but do not have all rights to do what they wish with the images. These photographers have tried everything to educate the clients, but with the market the way it is, the client will have no problem finding someone to shoot it without charging additional usage.

That said, I urge photographers as a group to consider what now constitutes “ownership” now that 100% of the time, images are retouched/enhanced/completely recreated by digital artists. Who truly “owns” the final work? I would hope that the art director also had input into the creation of the image with their layout and with their direction. Isn’t it more of a collaboration now than ever before?

First, if you’re finding your images somewhere they shouldn’t be, there is no awkward situation- they need to pay you and they know it. If it happens on a regular basis, after educating them, they are not as good a client as you think.

Now, you’re right, most clients don’t know the difference between buyout and 3 months internet use. They only see photography of their product. And with today’s economy, they want to get as much mileage as possible out of that image. The main question you have to ask yourself is, “will I be able to use this image for any other client/purpose?” If it’s a specific product and/or client specific image, the fee should be easy to swallow for your client considering the outside use will be limited. As the image gets more ambiguous, you need to determine what other realistic possible uses there are for it. Like the blue book value of a car, the more options you add, the more expensive the car. It should also be handled per client. Larger corporations would pay more then mom and pop shops. But standardize it for each client (a still life image on silo is $xxx.xx, a still life in the environment is $xxxx.xx, a lifestyle is $xxxxx.xx)

For my larger national clients that make it a requirement to “own” the images, I have this in my contract:
“unlimited time and usage for Worldwide distribution. Photographer retains promotional rights with permission and copyright. No third party rights granted.”

To Summarize: A term we like to use is “Unlimited Use in Perpetuity” if they request a BUYOUT…and be sure to add as noted above “Photographer retains promotional rights with permission and copyright. No third party rights granted.” The simple equation is: what are they asking for + what is the industry standard usage they are asking for – what is their realistic budget = what are you willing to shoot this for without walking away from this project and losing this client.

Call To Action: Figure out what you are comfortable with asking for and if you can’t find that comfort zone, ask your peers for support on forming this structure for yourself and your business.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.” Amanda and Suzanne review your comments for 2 days, and then they are off researching next week’s question.

Ask Anything – The Meeting

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


What kind of questions impress AD or AB when showing your portfolio? I know as a photographer that when I meet with other photographers or clients certain topics or questions impress me. I am looking to develop the conversation beyond “so lets see your book” and “thanks for coming in”

Amanda and Suzanne:
This is a subject that we consult with clients often. It is a sensitive subject to navigate. It’s one thing to get the meeting, but what to do or say is a whole other issue. With our clients we often do mini run-through’s to tackle the exact concerns noted above. Digest what your potential clients really want to hear or don’t want to hear and make notes that feel most authentic to you and your personality.


This may be very unconventional but, I like for them to ask about our clients and work that we have done. Makes me think that they interested in working together as a partner and not just showing off their work. Asking things like “where do we go for photography” and “how photographers are selected.” If they have a blog, I’d like to know that and will check that out for sure, if I like what I see in their book. It gives me a glimpse into who they are and how they work. For me that’s just as big as showing good work. I’m big on making sure that I’ve got a strong team on a shoot. There are great photographers that I wouldn’t pair up with certain creative teams but that would work wonderfully with others. Great photographer + great team on the shoot = amazing photos. Though this sort of questioning has be honest and organic (I don’t know if that’s the right word or not) but not pushy at all. Basically I want a photographer to work with us, not for us.

As far as a follow up, maybe an email every now and again updating me with what they’re doing or reminder link to their blog. This one is really tough, because it really depends. If I don’t see anything in their work that I think will be an asset to me/the creative team I probably don’t want a bunch of emails of follow up and I’m probably not going to outright say hey I don’t think your work is good. Yikes, this one is really tough for me. I keep pretty organized lists of photographers that I like and that I’d maybe like to work with in the future. So if I’ve seen their stuff, they’re either on the list or not. I know that doesn’t sound very nice… and now I’m rambling. I guess the biggest thing that I can offer to this question is regardless of what is used for a follow up, if I don’t respond in any way after a few, I would move me to a list labeled as that, so that unnecessary time and money is not spent on me.

For the do not’s… Do not:
-come on too strong and ask who exactly is shooting work going on right now or what projects I can send you now to bid on immediately
-come in expecting me to spend hours seeing a bunch of books of work, less is usually best
-walk in with a chip on your shoulder talking only about all the huge national clients that you have shot for recently. It is nice to know that you can pull off this sort of production, but I want you to be curious about my clients and how you can help them, many of them are not national.
-follow up with me constantly… sometimes once every week after we have met.

Point One
It’s harder and harder to get in-person showings because we are absolutely inundated with requests. It’s not for lack of desire, but for lack of time.

Point Two
It’s presumed that you’ve done your homework on the person and company you are meeting and your work is compatible with the work created by that company.

Point Three
It’s presumed that your portfolio is in top condition with recent work.

When you DO get an in-person showing:

  • Be considerate of the time of the person viewing the work. While looking at potential photographers’ work is part of their job, getting the work out the door is the first priority. They are not being rude, they only have so many hours in the day.
  • First ask how much time you have. If you go over the prescribed time, it should be because your client is engaged and specifically extends the time after you mention that your time is up. “I see that I’ve used all your time. Thanks for meeting with me. Do you have any other questions for me? Is it okay if I keep you on my promotions list?”
  • No need to turn pages for the AB or AD – they are quite capable. If they go too fast, slow them down with an anecdote about a page or two: “That shot was produced in 2 hours and we had less than 3 minutes with that CEO. He was so pleased with the shot that he asked me to come back for a more formal portrait.”
  • No need for constant chatter while they look at the book: it can be distracting and they may absent-mindedly keep turning pages while you talk.
  • Please do NOT ask if they have any jobs for you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s like asking someone if they have any spare change. It’s painful enough that agencies don’t have enough work to keep their own folks busy, but asking for work that they don’t have to give is rubbing salt into the wound. If they have something for you, they’ll let you know.
  • Impress them with your knowledge of their company and their work: “I’ve always been impressed with the work you’ve done for TREsemme, especially the shots for Naturals. Did ____ take those shots?”
  • I’d advise you not to slam the previous work (“I could do better than that.”) because the person you’re talking to may have been the driving force behind those shots and you might’ve insulted them.
  • Respect “personal space” boundaries. What you see in their office, their desk and in common areas is not for discussion. You have been invited into their personal space as a guest, not as family. Please do not become too familiar by asking about things you see around you. Limit questions to business questions that are common knowledge or are easily researched. Of course, this is different if you have a closer relationship with someone, such as being Facebook friends already.
  • I recommend not inviting someone to be a Facebook friend unless you are certain that there was some kind of personal connection between you and the client. LinkedIn or other business networks are different and it’s acceptable to send invitations. If you feel that a meeting did not go well, skip this step!

Follow-Through: What would you do in other social situations? This is no exception. Some kind of acknowledgment is common courtesy and Thank-you notes never go out of style. They could be postcard fashion or thank-yous in envelopes or they could be email thank-yous (use the subject line wisely: “Thank you for the portfolio meeting”). I don’t expect them, but they are nice to receive. I don’t know why but I actually save them (yes, I have quite a stack!)

Some name drop other agencies and that’s not good because we could have just lost an account to that agency so I wouldn’t do that. It’s awkward looking at books while the artist is there. The artist may luv the car shot that they did. I may skip over it because we will never shoot cars and I’m more interested in the product shots. I guess the only other thing is that your promos should be of what your specialty is not of your vacation photos. My guess is that other ab’s may disagree w/ me.

I generally like photographers who are interested in understanding challenges currently in front of me and offering potential solutions. But, offering solutions in a collaborative way by making recommendations, not blanket statements. I prefer recommendations based on a time when the photographer had a similar challenge, how they approached it, and what they learned from it, I find that very helpful. And if you have nothing to offer, then make it clear to me that you’ll bend over backwards to help me figure it out.

Ask me what photographers I currently use or follow/admire. I don’t want to get drilled on this, but it shows me that you’re trying to understand my tastes, needs, production values, approach towards imagery.

What I don’t like:
Photographers who can magically solve all my challenges just by hiring them. Totally triggers my BS meter.

Photographers who show me too much work. Keep it to 12 images or so.

Personal questions… I don’t want to be your friend, I want to get the job done.

Begging. Don’t even hint of being desperate for work, perhaps there is a reason no one else is hiring you?

Smacking down other photographers. I once had a photographer roll their eyes when I told them our budget for a recent project. He implied that I got ripped off because he could have done it for much less. My perception is that he would have cut corners just to get the work or he had a serious lack of production values.

Follow up is tough. I hate email. About a year ago, my inbox became flooded with emails from photographers through ADBASE. I had to resolve my mailbox over-limits (time wasted), remove myself from ADBASE’s list, Multiple times (more time wasted) and I still receive emails from photographers that are HTML (download the images, Even more time wasted). Now I just delete emails that I suspect are photographers because I get so many, and I just don’t have time.

Nothing wrong with a personal letter… Not many people do them anymore so it stands out.

Post cards and mailers are OK IF you have a cool mailer. Most of the mailings I get look like typical stock images so they go right in the trash.

I think you should just be yourself when it comes to being reviewed. For me it’s about the work. I tend to ask questions about their work. Where it was shot? Who was the client? What was it like to shoot that shot? Etc….

I find that the AD or myself as an Art Buyer tend to ask the questions. When it comes to the photographer asking questions I would only wish that they’ve at least done their homework and checked our website to see who our clients are. That helps. Whether they’re right for our clients or not I don’t particularly like it when someone asks me who my clients are during the interview. That’s when I feel like they didn’t take the time to find out before they came. It’s a JOB interview. For the rookie or the vet it’s still a JOB interview.

All the things that I ask of a photographer I do the same when it comes to presenting to the client. I do not tell a client in a triple bid why I think Photographer #2 is really bad. I shouldn’t have presented photographer #2 if I felt that way. The same goes for what pictures you put in you book. I do not want hear someone tell me that they should have put a certain picture in their book. I would like to see what they shoot personally, their passion. I always feel that’s the real portfolio within portfolio. You learn a lot about a photographer through their personal work. I think a simple thank you email is fine. If they’re really listening they will include the picture that I expressed a liking as just a nice reminder of they’re work.

Again…..It’s a job interview. All the same actions apply. Just in a more relaxed setting.

#1 please know who our clients are and what we are working on – its called google, people- i mean really.

#2 know we don’t have much time, so get in, share your work and ask questions about specific things you want to work on- tell me how you see yourself gelling with us! Tell me what you want! It’s not against the rules to speak up about what you’d like to be shooting.

#3 ask which art directors work on and/ or lead those accounts and target them with mailings and emails. Occasionally this is not an easy question to answer depending on the agency size and ways of working, but its worth asking. Without being demanding, ask to see them on that day of your visit- for a quick peek at your book and handshake.

#4 don’t leave anything behind that doesn’t have your name and contact info on it. It sounds simple, but it happens a lot more than you think, so be smart and don’t wind up in the recycle bin.

#5 DO explain how an image was created- using what techniques, something about the story, – At first we like to simply take in the images, so, give us that- but we also like something for us to sink our teeth in, to know more about why you are so great at what you do!

#6 send email and snail mail to remind people of who you are. Include images! Don’t call and say remember me? or remember that mailer I sent you?… don’t.

Overall, you are trying to begin a relationship here – it’s important to make yourself appealing (match up with what the agency does) but also be yourself, be relaxed and content to go with the flow – not nervous or pushy, after all we all like working with good, nice, fun people!

To Summarize:
The most important thing is to figure out first WHO YOU ARE and WHAT WORK TO SHOW and HOW. Then do your research on WHO YOU ARE MEETING WITH and then should be comfortable to have the additional conversations. Remember to smile and keep things light, enjoyable, confident, while still staying professional and creative.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.” Amanda and Suzanne review your comments for 2 days, and then they are off researching next week’s question.

Ask Anything – How Do Assistants Take It To The Next Level

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


I have been assisting fashion photographers in NYC for about 5 years now and feel more than ready to move on to the next phase of the game. I have tried to put together a print portfolio in the past an always end up getting frustrated and scraping it halfway through. What do editors want to see? If I put in complete series, the book becomes way to thick. When I try to edit down each series it feel scattered to me and doesn’t make sense. Should a portfolio show the range of a photographer or a consistent vision? How many pages are too many? Does showing commissioned work matter more than personal? Is a homemade portfolio out of the question?

I shoot all the time and know the work is good but I just can’t seem to grasp the next step…

Amanda and Suzanne: We are excited about this question, because it’s been an ongoing question for decades and I think it’s crucial to have an open mind and know that each individual has to create their own visual voice and take the advice of potential buyers and mold it to represent your vision.


ART PRODUCER #1 This is a tough one to answer as general response. I think it’s a little different for everyone. For sure have someone else take a look at what is included. A photographer is always more attached to the work than anyone and everything holds meaning. Someone outside of that should take a look to make sure that everything included has relevance. Though I will say, usually less is more. Most art producers or editors just don’t have the time to sift through large books of work and if too much is included, may skim over some great pieces instead of really looking at the detail. Specifically show the type of work that relates to the type of assignments in which you are wanting to get. A homemade portfolio (for me) is not out of the question and can give me some insight into your creativity, just make sure that it doesn’t look thrown together and still reflects your overall brand. I also like to see a little bit of personal work. It tells me a little about you as a person and what it may be like working with you. As well, it shows me what you’re passionate about and what you like to shoot. But for sure focus on commissioned work.

ART PRODUCER #2 There is no magic number of pieces to show, nor is there a magic formula for what to show. The answer is: Show enough work to prove to the viewer that you are capable of handling a particular project. In some cases, it may mean showing 20 pieces. In others, only a handful.

This will vary not only by the body of work the photographer has in their repertoire, but by the scope of the project and by the type of client. Clients working at a local level may expect a more broad body of work than a national client, which is usually pinpoint specific in what they are looking for.

ART PRODUCER # 3 Being on both sides of the portfolio gives me a unique perspective on this. The most important thing is to show a cohesive style with aesthetic and technical repeatability. My first portfolios where scattered in terms of style and technical approaches. This was a direct result of being a freelance assistant working with a wide range of fashion photographers. Once instructed to keep things simple, I got back to my roots of graphic design and complied a book of 10-15 portraits all done in the same style and utilizing a very simple lighting scheme. It worked and got me noticed. The next step was to build on that style, introduce new subject matter, but keeping things cohesive and simple, putting the attention on what I wanted viewers to see.

Once you have a large, strong body of cohesive work, you can begin to tailor the portfolio on a case by case basis. I’ve asked photographers to show me that they’ve shot the type of product my client needs advertised. My clients are literal people.

PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER: When putting together a portfolio, I try to convey a personal vision, not the best images in my library. I view my personal vision as a fingerprint and its the only thing I can offer that I’m 100% sure I’m the best at. If you try to put work in your book you think an art buyer wants to see, it will automatically become lost in the flood of similar images.

To Summarize: The viewer has a specific need to fill. You might be able to fill that need or not, but you should not focus on what you THINK they want to see, but show them what makes you, YOU. Stated perfectly: “personal vision as a fingerprint” – use your portfolio to make a mark on that person and their visual memory. You want to be brain googled, meaning you are the first to pop up in your potential client’s mind for a specific project…the real goal of a printed portfolio.

As a side note – when showing commissioned work that does not always mean you have to show the tears, it means show the work you captured for that specific project (this usually helps clients understand your production value and how well you take art direction).

Call To Action: Research Print portfolio options and get one printed:

Some examples to consider:
Paper options:
(consider using double sided paper – – which you can purchase directly from – which is pre-scored) or from
Printer to consider: Lincoln Miller at pushdot studio

Custom book binders:
Brooke – fantastic Book binder:
Nicole Andersen –
Scott Mullenberg –

Also there are perfect bound book options out there…

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.” Amanda and Suzanne review your comments for 2 days, and then they are off researching next week’s question.

Ask Anything – Social Media – What Is Your Definition And What Should Someone Charge?

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


The past week I did 2 separate estimates for different agencies. In my estimates I broke down the usage for print and web, both agencies came back to me and asked if it covered social media. This is the first time I’ve been asked about social media rights and usage. I talked to an AD friend and he suggested I treat it as broadcast. Should there be an extra charge for social media rights/usage ?

Amanda and Suzanne: This is a NEW usage being requested…and we are SO LUCKY to have APE and our AMAZING resources and friends to ask this HOT TOPIC and be able to share this question quickly to our community.


I’m considering social media as web use (unless that social media outlet lives someplace other than the internet) and I wouldn’t expect and probably would not pay an additional fee to use content within social media parameters, if I’m buying a general web use. If I’ve got a smaller budget than I may get very specific with the use in order to still use a preferred photographer, while still working within my budget parameters. However, in my head if it’s specified as (general) web use that includes social media use (as long as it lives on the web).

I think that charging for Broadcast use is way too high. Social Media is typically encompassed within Internet usage. As always, pricing is determined by exposure, uniqueness and the degree of association with a product. One thing to note about Social Media is that there is usually not a blatant advertising message, so there’s often less of a direct association with product. If separated from Internet, the photographer should gauge the degree of association, the uniqueness of the image, and the degree that the imagery itself is delivering the message.

From Wikipedia: “Social media is a term used to describe the type of media that is based on conversation and interaction between people online. Where media means digital words, sounds & pictures which are typically shared via the internet and the value can be cultural, societal or even financial.”
Social Media is web. When I negotiate with an artist, I ask for unlimited web. More people watch TV then scan the social networks so I don’t see this as the same as broadcast.

To Summarize: Social Media should be covered under web usage. You can say Unlimited Web and some might assume that social media will be covered under this. But our advice is to be clear with your wording since this media is a fairly new usage request. Web Usage, including or not including Social Media.

Call To Action: Decide how you feel about the above topic and how you feel comfortable charging for the above. When asked you will be ready to give an appropriate and fair estimate based on your own education from the REAL buyers above.

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

Ask Anything – Treatment Redux

APE: I thought the last post on treatments (here) was a bit confusing because the the example we gave was actually part of a pre-pro book and not a treatment you might submit with an estimate to land a job. I asked Amanda and Suzanne to try and dig one up for us. As you can imagine these things are hard to come by, because they are very personal, private and I’m told people don’t want to get lambasted by photographers leaving comments on the posts. I’ll ask you to be civil, otherwise we can’t look at any of these hot button topics, because I will not have any real life examples to show and I’m not really into sitting around speculating what people do in a given situation.

Amanda and Suzanne:

First we want to say thank you to The Rhoads and to Double Image studios for being willing to put themselves out there and help others in their community.

CREATIVE TREATMENT: One’s personal approach to showing an idea or production approach with visuals (no boundaries on how)

USES of a TREATMENT for a photographer:
1. To use to show the modeling agency or stylist the look you are going for when casting
2. To use after the job is been awarded – but prior to the pre-pro to make sure all casting and wardrobe is headed in the right direction
3. To use in conjunction with your estimate (we are not recommending that all photographers do this or must) but it has been asked before by creatives or photographers have provided this on their own (just stating the facts)
4. In junction with the final pre-pro book – which is to help guide the crew as to how the FEEL/LOOK of the shoot should go and the end result/vibe

PRE-PRO BOOK: The guide of how the day will go from schedules, call sheets, the approved comp of the shoot, talent castings, wardrobe castings, etc…(this may also include the creative treatment as well)

We are showing 2 different samples below. You can use these visual guides for your own vision and decide how you want to approach either of these subjects.

PLEASE NOTE: There is not ONE way of doing any of these approaches. It should be your goal to find your own vision and find a way to communicate it.

call sheet example: this particularly call sheet was added to their treatment once job was booked (see previous post). Combined this would be considered their personal pre-pro book.


This Creative treatment was delivered after the estimate was submitted.


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

Ask Anything – What does a Treatment look like?

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


Certainly others, along with myself, would like to see your Ask Anything series cover the topic of treatments in great detail. Amanda and Suzanne may have visual insight into this they could share.

Are these treatments formal? Scattered thoughts through email? A conference call related to, “This is how I will make your pictures…”?

I’ve searched fairly well with Google and found very little on the topic. For many photographers, the existence of treatments will be new, especially with how they’ll go down when the big job calls.

From Amanda and Suzanne:

We have a joint client who does the most amazing treatments before any photo shoot. The Rhoads have been very kind to let us show you a treatment they submit to every client. And since so many photographers do not create these, we reached out to our friends to get their take on the importance of a treatment.

Picture 4
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Picture 8

Download the treatment here.

We sent the treatment to art producers and art directors. Here is their response:

Senior Art Producer – International Ad Agency

love a treatment, get them all the time, it really helps. with everything being so literal now, the vision from the photographer really helps. directors do it all the time, with the lines blurring still guys are doing this as well.

Art Producer – Smaller Ad Agency

This is usually along the lines of what I’m working on to be prepared for a pre-pro if I’m producing. (If the photographer has their own producer I’m expecting them to put this together for the pre-pro.) I have mixed feelings about it. My control-freak nature would most likely make me feel like I’d need to make tweaks to it and use my client’s typeface, logo, etc; but on the other hand if a bulk of this work is done, it for sure helps me out. I guess it wouldn’t make or break the deal for me.

Senior Art Producer – Large NYC Based International Agency

I think this is visually fabulous. There’s all kinds of clients and all kinds of needs depending on the client want when it comes to pre-pro books. This is evidently a fashion pre-pro treatment. Not to say that they don’t have all the same needs. So below is what I love and what I think is missing.

I like

Concept – I like knowing what the concept or creative treatment is.
Cast- I need to see photo’s not just names.
Setting- I need to see location pictures.
Inspiration/Styling – wardrobe/hair samples – great mood board
Location Shots/Bar & Hotel – great mood board

The following is some of the things that are missing. Now these maybe things that are separate from the pre-pro book. It all depends On how the photographer is handling it. I think of the pre-pro book


Clients name,
Call Sheet/Contact Info.

I think of a Pre-Pro Book as bible…I want any and everything in it. When we’re on shoot’s we really cling to it. This being a fashion shoot

It maybe just enough. Not for my clients or account teams.

Senior Art Producer – International Ad Agency

For large shoots, we absolutely expect treatments from photographers. Some are quite elaborate, others are simple like this one.

Side note: presentation decks (usually PowerPoint pdfs or printouts) have become extremely important in selling through ideas. We would use the treatment in a presentation deck for what we call a “pre-bid” meeting, which is the meeting with the client in which we bring our client up to speed with what we’re thinking regarding photographer choices and other details prior to actually estimating and producing.

Pre-pro decks have become very elaborate because of the need to outline every single detail prior to shooting.

To Summarize:

You heard it directly from their mouths. Treatments are important and often crucial to the success of a shoot. It helps everyone get on the same page visually. We speak visually, so should your treatments. Please note the difference between the treatment as a whole and a pre-pro book. The pre-pro book contains everything everyone needs for the shoot, client name, details of all the people involved and everyone’s contact info, the schedule of the day, etc…including the treatment of visual direction. We recommend the treatment be submitted during the pre-pro meeting as an added bonus to the shoot and to make sure everyone is seeing eye to eye.

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

Ask Anything – Art Buyer Speed Questions

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

Amanda and Suzanne– Rob presented us with questions that everyone had asked awhile back when he put out a request on the blog and we were honored to sit down with Kat Dalager, Manager of Print Production at Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis, and review these with her. We thought sitting down with someone who is in the trenches and who is so giving to our industry was the best way to address these. Not only were her answers truly authentic, but so insightful. ENJOY. Thank you Kat!

Who really holds the balance of power in deciding on a photographer –the creatives, the client or the art buyer? (I want to know how much influence the AB has on the decision making process, and how often the client vetoes an Agency’s recommendation — my hunch is that Art Directors have their opinion on who they want to work with and then they push to get that photog approved, but sometimes the client will opt for a “safer” or “cheaper” option)

Overall, the differences in the advertising world over even just a few years ago is the compression that’s happening because of the economy. Art Buyers are often the first to be let go from an agency, which means ADs have to do that work on top of doing the work of the other ADs who have been let go. Time crunches are a big issue, so convenience and efficiency are huge determining factors. On the other hand, slashed budgets also mean that with fewer original shoots taking place, so it’s important for ADs to produce work that can replenish their portfolio.

“Integrated productions” are becoming the norm. The ability to capture “assets,” both still and moving, in the course of one shoot is increasingly important. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the photographer has to capture both still and moving themselves, but at the very least, they must think beyond the traditional print mediums when approaching a shoot. At times they may have to shoot side-by-side or concurrently with a TV production.

The long answer is: it all depends.

There are some ADs who insist on using either someone they know or someone they’ve always wanted to work with, whether or not they are right for the project. It’s quick, it’s easy.

Others absolutely rely on the ABs to do the legwork and bring possible shooters to their attention. More often, it’s a collaborative process, which is what I prefer.

I find that if legwork is done up front and if the photographer meets the budget, then AEs and clients don’t have issues with the photographer selection.

How do ABs really decide on who gets to bid on a job — is there much thought and hunting and researching to find the “right” photographers or (due to time constraints and busy workloads) is it mostly just going back to who they already know (be it the photographer or a Photo Agency)?

There is safety and convenience going with known commodities, but I still spend a LOT of time researching new photographers and new ways to approach shoots in order to fulfull the creative vision as well as the budget. Other factors that influence photographer selection:

* Photographer or agent willingness to work with the AB in finding solutions to tight budgets
* Having capable producers
* Ability to adapt to constantly changing shoot parameters
* Skill set: do they shoot motion as well as still? Can they work side-by-side with a TV crew?

How often does an AB get to recommend photographers to the creative team vs the creative team telling the AB who they like? (Just curious to know how much Art Directors have their finger on the pulse of photographers and illustrators these days as they used to respect these crafts and love working with talented artists as opposed to just bringing in a supplier.)

see first answer above.

At a national level, it’s seldom about just bringing in a supplier. No one wants to come away with shots that aren’t portfolio-worthy, and with fewer opportunities to expand portfolios, no one wants to take that risk with even simple shots. The price of entry is that the photographer is capable of taking decent photographs, otherwise they won’t even be considered.

Again, it all depends on the individual AD. Some are great at knowing who’s out there, others simply rely on the ABs for resources. Sometimes it’s a photographer or agent simply being at the right place at the right time.

In choosing photographers, how often do they encounter the “red car” scenario? (ie trying to find a photographer that has shot the almost exact same layout before — not just any car, but a red car — to reassure or please the client).

I was fortunate that I never worked with creatives that didn’t have vision.

I have heard of this and it surprises me.

I just witnessed this the other day. I swear that the AD chose the photographer based on the number of images that looked the most like her layouts. I certainly don’t know that it was conscious, but it took place nonetheless. It doesn’t happen often, and I have to say that it happens most with less creative ADs.

Who makes final decisions most about photography at your agency?

Please arrange the following in order from those who make the most decisions to those who make the least:

Managing Art Buyer, Art Buyer, Group Creative Director, Creative Director, Senior Art Director, Art Director, Graphic Designer, Print Production

In my experiences, several people are involved in the final decision. In order of “pull”:

Group Creative Director
Creative Director
Art Director (any level)
Art Buyer
Account Service

How much does the Beauty Contest Conference Call play into who gets awarded the job? You call each of the three, and let each estimating photographer walk you through how he/she would approach/plan/tackle the job?

It’s HUGE. Just like director’s treatments, this call defines a photographer’s approach to a project. It’s not all about money, but about how they can make it happen (see above bullet pointed list). The conversation can quickly reveal if a photographer can put together a great website and/or portfolio, but doesn’t have the chops to pull together the shoot.

Why do some ABs not like to share who else is being considered for a job? Do they understand why it’s something we like to know? Personally I have never understood this but have found when they won’t divulge the information it is because the playing field is not even.

Because it can come back to bite us because there are many unprofessional professional photographers out there. I’ve heard of several instances where the rep or photographer actually called the other photographer and reamed them out for undercutting them or to dig for information. In turn, that creates bad feelings with the photographer which can impact the shoot. As you know, much about shooting is psychological and putting a photographer in a bad place before even clicking the shutter can be extremely detrimental.

There are also some ABs who feel these conversations between photographers can lead to price fixing behind the scenes. (Note: I personally don’t feel this way, but if I ever heard that one of the bidding photographers contacted the winning photographer and gave them a hard time, I would never bid with them again.)

Talent is obviously not the only criteria. Others could be:

1- security (you hire that studio because you know them, have worked with them before, or they are renowned, so a. you know the job will be done in full respect of time and budget and b. if not, no one will ask you ‘why the hell did you hire them?’)

2- money (they are good and not too expensive)

3- additional services (large studio just around the corner, e-capabilities such as real time ftp posting or high class capabilities in formatting, retouching, and digitally enhancing the pictures)

Do you agree with this point of view? If so, can you order this list?

1- This is true because reputation in this business is key. On big campaigns there is a lot of money riding on the photographer and the studio so production is so crucial. So when a photographer has a great reputation with that, buyers will want to work with them.

2- I have heard of big names offering lower fees these days.

I think it would be in the order you have it.

Why do art buyers worry more about having eight people from the agency on a shoot that only requires an art director and an account executive? Why so much focus on saving money on the creative but blowing up the budget making it a vacation for the agency.

Dear God, if photographers think that taking two weeks away from my family to live out of a suitcase in a hotel room, work 20 hour days and miss the school play for the third time in a row is desirable, then I don’t know how to answer this.

Not to say that there are some people who are not good at their jobs and do not function very well during shoots, but exactly as you describe, each person serves a role. I can’t help with the production if I am taking care of the client. Would the photographer prefer that there’s no one there to keep the client occupied and away from looking over their shoulder? Any art producer worth their weight is an essential liaison between the photographer’s team and the agency’s team.

Where do they most often look to find talent for assignments? Workbook, WB online, At-edge, At-edge online, Photo Serve, Archive, CA, PDN? PDN online, Blackbook, Altpick, etc?

I save links. We look everywhere. Workbook, photoserve and still some print. Award shows are good, and many are international and don’t apply to us.

What’s the best way to gain your trust?

Be totally honest!!

What are some red flags that someone is not being professional or trustworthy (credibility and ethics).

When someone tells me they can do something that they can’t or have never – it will hurt my credibility.

More answers from a casual conversation of questions:

Photographers are always complaining about right and usage, what do you have to say?

It makes me laugh when a photographers says that they don’t give away rights – but let’s be honest – I have seen many photographers bragging what they don’t do – but I have negotiated many photographers to a rate that goes against what one’s preach.

How much does region influence your decision to hire a photographer?

Doesn’t have anything to do with us. When you are at that National level. If you are regional client is can matter. We shoot out of the country a lot (opposite seasons) – and we are taking a lot of American photographers out of the country.

Talent pools – are there good talent pools outside of this country (example South Africa).


Is being bilingual important.

It helps, but if you are not, be sure your producer is.

Who negotiates Video – Broadcast or Art Buying ?

I work together with Broadcast producer to blend numbers (but if falls under broadcast to follow procedure like unions) – blending consolidates costs – so it’s efficient.

Is print dead?

We don’t call it print anymore. We call it still imagery (used in interactive, printed media, etc…) and motion.

Are you using still from motion?

Shooting with a red camera – drag stills from it. A recent job I was able to blow up a still from a red camera at 1,000% and it held up beautifully (in store size). Red camera is a very high def video camera.

Virtual Electronic portfolios – how do you feel about them?

People love that personal attention. Use the subject line wisely – example “Shoe Photographer” so it connects.

Portfolios on a iPad?

I have not seen it but I can’t wait. Customization of the cover will be able to be branded which will allow your presentation to wow.

How do you feel about the idea of an Universal Estimate form?

I wouldn’t mind that at all. I have always encouraged it – the ASMP form is a wonderful form. I love BlinkBid too.

What looks are popular, dying and what looks would you avoid?

really punchy is dying

I wouldn’t avoid anything else

The NON produced look is a classic

Funny will be classic as well – as long as the context fits.

Other trends you see?

Total Library buyouts are very popular these days.

How often are you buying stock?

Sometimes- the reason I would use it would be because of lack of access to a specific location.

Are willing to take a chance on someone fresh?

Yes. If I believe in the photographer – I am happy to educate them on our usage or what we need.

Social Networks?

I use Facebook and Twitter. A lot!


We do it in house – but we might use the photographer depending on their skills and the project.

Digital capture vs. RAW?

We don’t use raw…we use cleaned up images. If we do a library we expect no clean up.

What’s an experience with working with a young or fresh talent?

I was once working with the photographer on an estimate and after talking I knew he was not as skilled in production and was not ready just yet for that level. I was honest with their newly signed rep.

Favorite type of e-promo?

File size is small. I don’t want to scroll down and I won’t. Remember I am on a laptop.

Website – if a site takes 20 seconds to upload?

I will bail – I don’t have time – be smart.

How do you feel about template sites?

Template sites like aphotofolio, livebooks and neonsky are perfect. Some flash sites that are difficult to navigate or slow to load don’t work for me.

Portfolio showings?

You need to have a NAME to get portfolio showings (meaning – a large showing with more than one person). I can’t book individual meetings often, because – this is what I am looking forward to an iPad. PDF portfolios – one thing about that I want to note – on a website I can click on what I want to see…when you have a controlled electronic portfolio other than a website a thumbnail view on the First page should be thumbnails of what is in the book – so I can see what I am about to view – because if the first 6 pages isn’t what I want to see – I know something is in there, because I saw it on the thumbnail page first.

To Summarize: After spending time with Kat, we agreed, you can never stop learning (as we learned new things today as well) and you have to be open to hear and absorb how quickly the market changes from day to day.

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

Ask Anything – Editorial Late Fees, Mailer Response Rates and Pursuing Animal Photography

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

Question 1: Editorial Late Fee

Is it possible to add late fee’s to editorial invoices? If so, what is considered standard or even acceptable? Would this even persuade them to pay within 30 days? It seems now, more than ever, that more and more magazines are dragging out payments 60+ days.. a few, even 90+ days. What can change this insane way of doing business?


Established Editorial Photography Team:

We’ve had very few problems with our editorial clients. Every once in a while payment gets dragged out, but it’s usually because the editors are so short-handed that they forget to submit something or it bounces back from accounting for some insane reason and they’re not around to deal with it immediately. God forbid anyone from accounts payable email us directly if they need a W9 or something ;)

I guess we’ve been lucky. We have not resorted to forcing our editorial clients to agree to payment terms. We don’t think it would be very enforceable. We already feel like we’re walking a tightrope with these jobs. The photo editors who we are trying to build relationships with have no control over the other parts of their magazine. New clients get assumptions from us that things will go smoothly. If they are slow to pay or drag things out, we won’t accept future assignments from them. Simple as that.

We did an editorial assignment through Aurora back in November. We’re not represented by them, but we covered the job for a friend….kind of a last minute emergency. We just got paid today. We were about to send them to collections….it was getting really ugly.

SVP – Finance Major Editorial/Publishing Company:

Very few large companies will ever pay late fees on anything.

A better approach is to offer a slight discount for fast payment (i.e. – 2% if paid within 20 days). In effect, that becomes a positive incentive.

Amanda and Suzanne:

Read the terms and payment agreement of the company who is hiring you. Ask the questions about payment upfront and know what you are getting involved. Invoice the project immediately. Unfortunately it’s a leap of faith with a new publisher, you do not know what you are getting into until you do the shoot and wait for the check to be cut. But don’t be afraid to call up accounting and find out where your check is after 30 days.

Question 2: Marketing

Next month I’m sending the first in what will be a series of postcard promos, a first for me. I’ve done email promos in the past, and I have a sense for what industry standard open and click through rates are in the email world, but I don’t really have a sense for what response rates postcards generally yield. Clearly it’s easier to track response rates with opens and click through, but my plan is to include a trackable ‘call to action’ on the back of the postcard (visit this URL, give me a call, etc.) that will give me something to track. In Amanda & Suzanne’s experience, what would they recommend in terms of a system for tracking the success of a postcard campaign? Is there an accepted response rate range that would be considered the average for me to measure my success against, assuming that I’ll be sending a postcard every 1-2 months for the next year?

I ask because my photo industry mentors are on one of my shoulders these days, saying What you need is consistency, with postcards and emails and portal presence and portfolio showings; and on the other shoulder are my MBA-type business mentors, questioning my marketing budgets and asking me questions that I can’t answer, like What’s your expected return on investment for your postcard campaign?


Amanda and Suzanne:

The first question we want to ask is how fabulous do your mailers look (feel free to send to us)? The mailers have to be dynamic, but of course you know this already. So assuming they are amazing you should see about 1% results of your contacts to your website. If you can send out consistently and continue marketing for a long period of time your mass marketing will deliver results in the long run, but we would recommend expecting no return for over 1 year. Can you risk that investment and understand your return is in educating your market right now? If you get work within the first year – you have won the marketing lotto. Not putting all your eggs in one basket–be sure to do more–you will get your best results from showing your portfolio either in person or electronically and connecting personally. Ps – never ask if you call for a meeting if they remember receiving your mailers, let them tell you.

To answer your question, if you get 1% of the total number of people to your site the day it’s received, you can rate your mailing a success.

We think to reach your audience in a better way you should send personalized e-mails, pick a hand full of people you would love to work with and send them a personalized e-mail with your e-promo. E.g. Cindy Hicks, The Martin Agency- Dear Cindy, I love the work you all have done for Geico, Wal-mart and Seiko. I would love to work with you all one day. Here is a link to my website. It shows you have done your research and is also utilizing your database in the most effective way.

Question 3: Animal Shooter

I am a recent graduate, and halfway into my college career, I discovered my passion for photography through shooting animals. I’ve won a few awards for my work, and have been given very positive feedback from my peers and teachers. I feel so strong about my work with animals, that I have decided to focus solely on this very narrow niche. Now I’m done with school, and I don’t know what to do with my work, or if my work is going to pay the bills! (right now, its not!) Currently, I am trying to get work through private clients photographing their pets. I’d eventually like to work for commercial clients, but don’t know how to go about getting those clients. I’d love to work with an agent, but know this isn’t the right time in my career for one- or is it? I’ve researched photographers who also shoot animals, and it seems they also cover other genres like kids and weddings. I’d like to focus on just my animals because this is my true passion, but am afraid of having all my eggs in one basket. Also, what city might I be most successful with this?


Amanda and Suzanne:

Are you willing to do consumer? The Consumer will balance your waiting period to make it and help you build your portfolio. We would also shoot the consumer clients and produce them as you would for an advertising client – so you can build up your portfolio. Example: Milk Bone- Have the box and give it to your dog subject and see what they do. Have them in a fabulous kitchen with a doggie door (of course location scouting is crucial). Also find some animal trainers and wranglers and get them to shoot with. From checking our your site – you have something very cool going on with creature compositions. If you look at Amanda Jones who is strictly dogs and a few cats, Jeff Moore– dogs and kids- they have done a lot of consumer portraits but have been asked to shoot advertising assignments because they are specialist in their field. And then there are photographers like Steve Grubman, Nick Vedros, Karen Morgan and Craig Perman who have diversified to other genres so they are more likely to get advertising assignments since they don’t do consumer. Also, you may want to create a “buzz” with your work like doggie Gaga ( he was mentioned on so many shows like The Today Show and Live with Regis and Kelly.

Call To Action: Health insurance for freelance photographers is killing us! We have been asked to do an article on the insurance business not only for health but business insurance as well. Please send us your struggles with insurance and any advice/remedies you have found that might help others out until 2014 switchover. Send to:

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

Ask Anything – Copying Other Artists

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

Someone emailed this link:

and noted that it’s a very close resemblance to the French photographer’s series:

Which caused quite a stir a few years ago (it’s currently being shown in major art galleries in the US). The person who emailed us wrote: “It is of course quite possible that two like minded people come up with a similar idea at the same time, or within a recent time frame, but surely as an informed practitioner, you have a responsibility to do your research or at least credit the inspiration in some manner. Perhaps I’m being pathetic.”

Amanda and Suzanne:

Which came first the chicken or the egg?  In this case we could say Sam Taylor-Wood. But who inspired Sam – Barbara Morgan (with an urban twist)?  The links could be endless (as Michael Grecco points out below).  Chris, Sam & Denis have all done work similar and all have made a success out of it.

We have both experienced copyright issues in our day of art buying and see it everyday in consulting. Example: An Art Director comes up with a concept and the photographer is hired to do the job – sometimes not aware of the original swipe or where it came from. I (Amanda) once had a job go through my department and the art buyer didn’t see the final until right before traffic/production was about to release the image – it was so identical to the comp (which was swiped) we ended up offering $30k to the photographer our AD swiped it from to be able to take it to print – it was that much of a copyright infringement.

So we asked Michael Grecco for his opinion on this matter.

Photographer Michael Grecco

For me, this issue brings up many visceral thoughts and emotions because not only am I a fan of the underlying images, but also know some of the photographers (other than Chris) who created them. The ads show a hooded figure jumping in a very industrial setting wearing jeans, sweats, and CAT Earthmovers Footwear.

I write this from two perspectives: one, how far should an artist go when mimicking, or borrowing ideas from other artists. Ultimately what is their responsibility to make an idea their own. Two, what is the responsibility of art directors and creative directors in educating their clients about a comp, and how it should be used to begin the creative process, not conclude it.

I would like to first look at the origin of the idea of jumping in photographs since that is the concept of the images and put it in a modern context. As a photographer, we all look for inspiration in everything around us, including other images by other shooters. As a kid, I was always a fan of the work of Philipe Halsman and his series of jumping portraits. Halsman himself ( had a fascinating life and was a regular contributor to Life Magazine. I first came across his work as a kid, when I used to take out the Time Life books on photography as a long term “loan.” His work was prominent, and impressive, leaving a lasting impression on my subconscious. He is best known for the image of Salvador Dali jumping with water traveling through the frame and a cat flying through the air.

As an artist, though, when we get inspiration we have to then make it our own. I will borrow a seed of an idea, and then see where that creative road takes me. If I am shooting for a client, hopefully I have the room to take the image to a very personal place, a place that would be my work, and not that of the borrowed image. This should happen naturally, the pull of your own vision influences you to make “taste” decisions when creating an image that should in theory transcend the underlying image, no matter how good it is. The artist should be chosen for that reason, they should bring something more to the project, otherwise hire the original artist of the work or if they are dead, make it an homage.

Collection examples:

Google Image Search: Halsman Jumping Images

Famous Dali Atomicus:

This leads me to the trail of creativity that created the CAT ads. In each case, each artist has put their “physic” perspective and artistic touches to these concepts. The modern seed for this idea is the work of Sam Taylor Woods, a British artist, who has taken the idea of jumping and made it personal, literally. She shoots self portraits of herself floating through space, separated from the Earth, She calls the series “Suspended.” The images evoke a sense of freedom, of life and death and weightlessness. There is an ephemeral quality I can only believe is inspired by the artists’ experience surviving two bouts of cancer.

Google Image Search: Sam Taylor Woods

The next set of images I feel are a variation and an interpretation of Sam’s conceptual theme. Let me add here that themes or concepts cannot be copyrighted; only the execution of the concept is the subject of legal protection. Concepts themselves are free to live in the world for people to make their own.  It is their execution, in legal terms the “look and the feel” of the images that is the subject of protection legally. The artist that created this next set of images has inspired me for years. I first saw her work in an “alt” magazine many years ago and she has continued to produce great images. I have had the pleasure of breaking bread with Julia Fullerton Batton and her husband Kelvin who is also a photographer, in Arles, France.

Julia’s images deal with issues of isolation and alienation. Many of her subjects are teenage girls, relating to the slightly overly polished or greatly bizarre world around them. She has taken this seed of an idea, flying or jumping, and has now used that in her repertoire to fortify her underlying thesis of the world. In her series called “In Between,” she borrowed a general concept and made it her own. In my opinion, you cannot call these images the same from an artistic perspective (or a legal perspective). They exist as a consistent component of Julia’s body of work that delves into the psychological and socioeconomic world of her subjects.

Images provided by

Julia Fullerton Batten


The last inspiration of mine is a journalistic one. Denis Darzaqu, the French photographer, spent time photographing French Hip Hop dancers in an amazing series called La Chute. The images won a World Press award and were included in the catalog, where I first saw them. I was immediately in love with the jarring flight he had created. Even though they could be viewed as a journalistic document, I also saw them as an original and artistic work of art that was emotionally inspired. My feeling for these images was strong enough to hunt Denis down in Arles to let him just how much I liked the work. They are stunning and I believe they are the true inspiration for the CAT ads. In fact they are so close in look, feel and concept to the ads that I can only think, why did the agency or CAT Earthmover not hire Denis Daraqu to shoot these ads? It stuns me!

Images provided by:



Having shot for many years myself, I know how these things usually happen: the comp proposed by the design firm or ad agency gets the client stuck on exactly the image they see. How the style of the comp has changed over the years has been interesting. To sell ideas and ultimately get clients, pitches now include literal photographic images instead of the line drawings that agencies used to do when making a pitch. It’s a competitive world out there pitching visual ideas to corporate number pushers that might not understand the vision of the agency pitch. To ensure that the client gets and loves the idea and then hires the agency, art directors are forgoing drawings for stock, for “swipe” photographic images.

In Hollywood, this practice is rampant. At the top, Hollywood is a culture of sequel movies and TV shows, remakes, and spin offs. This has transcended into the ad agencies that create the campaigns for the studios and networks, and they “borrow” feverishly. Ideas are often derived from a recently spied coffee table book or magazine feature that has inspired an Art Director or Creative Director. Then they create a campaign around the creative work of others. Creative theft might not be as blatant as that though. The images borrowed might just be for the purposes of bringing the client closer to the agencies vision. After all, why use a crappy line drawing when you can use a photograph?

OK, here’s why: because if you put in a particular image into the comp, that’s exactly what you are going to get, that image. Then it becomes plagiarism; you are intentionally trying to match the execution. It never gets expounded upon and it never becomes the vision of the artist you’ve hired. The client will almost always get stuck on the image you put in the comp. It’s corporate culture. I can hear the executive from marketing now, “if it has been approved by the president, that’s exactly what we have to get from the shoot or I’ll get fired!!!”

I’ve had this happen countless times and have had many conversations with my clients about it. If they are stuck on the image in the comp, I will insist they license it from the photographer that shot the original image, in addition to licensing my image. After all, we are now copying the execution of an image by another artist, the “look and feel” in legal terms. Remember, concepts are not copyrightable, only executions are. Wondering if Denis got paid for his inspiration, I contacted him. He told me that CAT originally asked him to shoot the job, but that they could not agree on a price.

I think the agency “painted themselves into a corner” by building a campaign around another artists work and then having the client not wanting to pay the photographer’s price. I believe that the responsibility of the creatives at the very beginning, going into a pitch, is to make sure that the original artist will get some sort of fee for the “inspiration,” if the client chooses not to use them, for whatever reason. This way all parties get the consideration due them.

The other solution is for creatives to think strategically about what comps the client sees and gets to keep after a pitch meeting. Depending on how literally the client perceives the visuals, their direct literal interpretation of the comp can hinder the ultimate creative process by not allowing the chosen photographer to do his or her creative best.  Or, even worse it can result in plagiarizing the work of another.

Michael Grecco

Amanda and Suzanne, To Summarize: The world of art would not exist if we had nothing to look at.  We copy art all the time. It’s how the world revolves.  Art inspires more art.  But at a certain point you have to decide to make authentic art off of inspiration and not copy inspirational art. Is there anything really original?  We all can look at trends and we all follow them – example the Gap ads of early 2000 with the flare – it felt as though every photographer’s portfolio for 2 years after those ads had done it (and we still see it today).  The over “REAL” post look of 2008 (which is still going strong – example the current Hidden Valley Ranch ads). How many times have you seen Venus redone?  Art Directors use art sometimes to be inspired or mock up ads – which we call Swiping (and it’s come to be an acceptable process in art direction)– and it will continue to happen – it’s part of the process.  Just be smart about how you shoot, what you shoot and do your research.  But also remember that when creating ads it’s not only your responsibility, but also the responsibility of the art director and agency who is guiding you.

Call To Action: Be inspired and Be authentically yourself.  When you receive a comp, research your comp and find a way to push the envelope with your own creative twist.

Here’s yet another example of copying to check out:

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

Ask Anything – Does a photographer need a rep and do they really get you work?

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


A perennial here on the blog is the Rep/Agent question and it’s always good to do another take on it because it’s such an important topic for photographers.

Amanda and Suzanne:

We definitely feel like a rep can be a great asset, but you have to be willing to still do the dirty work and get out there. One of our favorite reps once said “A photographer once asked me ‘what have you done for me lately’ and I responded with ‘you should be asking me, what can I do to help you?’”

REP 1:

What do you require from your talent in order to create a successful partnership?
mutual respect

What do you look for in talent?
unique talent, business acumen, adaptable personalities

What really gets you upset with your talent (i.e. not growing and shooting, no marketing)?
not being a collaborative partner

Do you do your estimates for your talent?

Do you like your talent to market in conjunction with your marketing?

What are the biggest changes you are seeing in the industry?
the way companies are advertising is changing and that of course impacts photography
less emphasis on print portfolios, more online
cg and post production alter the entire realm of what is possible

Do you think print is dying?
not dying, but the emphasis is shifting and other media are taking precedence


Do you look for photographers who have a rep? Does it make a difference?
It doesn’t make a difference as long as I’m being appropriately serviced. That said, many photographers are not as versed as seasoned reps in who to contact. There is sometimes also a prestige associated with having a rep that may open doors faster.

Do you think that some reps can make or break a photographer?
I don’t think it’s “make or break” as much as it’s possible that a poor rep can, at best, not help the photographer, and at worst, damage a photographer’s reputation. It’s about “the company you keep” in this business. That doesn’t mean that photographers should play the victim: a rep cannot effectively service a photographer without essential tools. This includes a continuous stream of new, relevant work. No excuses. An effective photographer/rep partnership requires full engagement in and commitment to the relationship by both parties.

How do you feel with the talent accompanies a rep on a portfolio showing?
It’s fine either way. I know that some art directors like to meet the artists directly.

What are the biggest changes you are seeing in the industry?
Number one, it’s still not robust out there. New photographers are having a difficult time breaking into the business and I fear they will simply find other careers before the economy recovers. Two, the integration of still and moving imagery is becoming more and more prevalent. Three, the use of CGI is replacing extensive shoots, such as cars. I’m predicting a time in the not-too-distant future in which CGI-generated people will supplement or replace expensive models.

Do you think print is dying?
No, I think it is EVOLVING. We have to stop thinking of photography in terms of Print and instead think if IMAGES in terms of ASSETS. Those assets can be still or moving and can be used across a variety of media.


I  have a rep and my relationship with them is like a partnership. They handle a big part of the business that I don’t have to deal with any more, and it’s all commissioned based. I don’t think that “having a rep” automatically gets you work, because ultimately it’s your portfolio of work that gets you paid work. A rep is like a channel that, gets your portfolio out there into the world for people to see. It’s still up to me as the photographer to create better work, and the brand that goes with that. I do think that having a rep will improve your chances when you break down being successful in this industry it comes down to making better images, and showing more people. In a sense you are the one that has to make better images, but a rep will help you show more people. More than that, a lot of times art buyers will use reps as resources to recommend a type of photographer. Another great thing is to be accompanied by a good roster of talent. If you are with a good rep who has great credible talent, that puts you in that status which in turn builds your credibility. If you’re a younger photographer in the game, that credibility (and the credibility of having a rep that’s been in the business vouching for you)is an asset into getting bigger jobs.

Changes in the industry?
More digital, more photographers, more market saturation + crashing economy = less jobs which means you have to be even more at the top of your game to play with the big boys.

Is print dying?
Maybe a slow death. I hope not though. There’s always something great about feeling a printed piece in your hands. Hopefully that’s enough to suffice and not let it die.

To Summarize:

Reps do get you work, but they alone can’t do it by themselves. You have to step up to the plate and bring your game. Also, you have to connect with the right rep, do your research. We have consulted with reps and photographers hiring reps. We asked the hard questions that no one wants to talk about. At the end of the day 3 things matter: Money, Creative ability and belief in work and Personal Skills (these answers apply to the following: getting an estimate request, getting the job, finding a rep, a rep showing interest in you, etc…).

Call To Action:

If you want a rep – Do your research when trying to find a rep. Go to the workbook and find reps whose roster of talent speaks to you the most (visually). Then ask a client (with whom you have great relations with) if they could recommend a rep to you that meshes with your style and personality.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.” Amanda and Suzanne review your comments for 2 days, and then they are off researching next week’s question.

Ask Anything – Should You Tell Your Clients If You Are Pregnant Or Have A Life Threatening Illness?

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

If a woman freelance photographer is pregnant and wants to continue working, how should she proceed? I’ve been told by many NOT to tell your clients as they will take you off the call list for a while. Either thinking that they are doing you a favor, figuring you don’t want to work, or thinking they are protecting you. A couple said it wouldn’t effect them, but it seems the majority think it’s not a good idea. In relation to this, is there a difference between editorial clients, corporate or commercial clients, private clients, etc.? It seems when the male photographer announces he is expecting, everyone is excited and wants to give him work for his family but the female photographer, because she’s the one carrying, gets the congrats, but not the work. Are there other experiences out there?

Amanda and Suzanne: So we reached out to our contacts and got their advice–we went to women art producers, women photo editors, women photographers and women reps. We started to get some great responses, but it got us thinking about a deeper topic-a life threatening illnesses. I (Suzanne) was diagnosed 7.5 years ago with breast cancer. I thought it would be good to have the support of the community, so I told everyone, but what I didn’t realize is that while folks were supportive, my consulting business dropped and it took me over a year to rebound. I did have cancer assurance, AFLAC, and that helped me pay some of my bills. But the financial strain of getting ill and having months of treatment with very little work, made me wonder, should I have told. So I reached out to friends who have faced the same thing and furthered the discussion by asking, “Should you tell clients when faced with a life threatening illness”?



When I had my baby 9 months ago, my business slowed down, as well. My clients were very cautious to not to bother me. It took 3 months to pick up to the pace that I was used to (of course I was uncomfortable with this considering the economic climate). My advice is to be open about your situation as my clients were thrilled to be part of this exciting time for me and they were eager to get back on my calendar at the first opportunity. It is definitely easier being able to look back and see what worked best for you at that time, so listen to your gut and do what is best for you at this moment. I am an eternal optimist and believe all will work out as it should (even when it seems as though the light at the end of the tunnel is non-existent or dim).

Established Art Buyer/Producer #1

As an art buyer, past clients, creatives and I never had any hesitation hiring pregnant photogs. Perhaps if I knew someone was working a week or two before their due date, I would be a little cautious.

That being said, I would never begrudge them for not telling if they felt it would influence them negatively. As you said, some people say it’s not a good idea probably because that was their experience.

As any shoot goes, there is always a chance of some emergency. A male photog would probably not set up a shoot on his wife’s due date as well.

I think we need to hope that when you hire a professional, they will come through for you. If for some reason, something goes wrong that was their doing, I expect them to correct the mishap.

Established Art Buyer/Producer #2

This is no different than when a woman applies for a job at a company. The company is not allowed to ask if the woman is pregnant and she is not required to disclose it unless her pregnancy is a detriment to the job she will be performing. For example, if she is applying for a job at the Fed Ex loading dock and she cannot lift more than 5 pounds, she would not be able to perform the duties of her job.

Unless the pregnancy will affect how the photographer does her job, then there is no reason to disclose it.

Established Art Buyer/Producer #3

When I was working, as a Photo Editor, And I would hear a photographer was pregnant and it really wouldn’t effect my decision to hire them. If I needed them to travel then may It did a little bit only because if they were far along putting them on a plane might not be feasible. But if I wanted to hire them I would ask them rather then making the decision for them. A pregnant photographer doesn’t have anything to do with their talent! So to me, it doesn’t make a difference!!

Established Photo Rep

Several years ago, I represented a photographer through her pregnancy and there wasn’t any negative impact on her work. She was actually shooting a job for the San Francisco Opera right up to her due date.

Established Female Photographer #1

I think the relationship you have with the client matters much more than what sector of the market the client works in and the way we handled this reflects that. For long-term clients, we were very open – we knew that they would want to share in our excitement and that it wouldn’t affect our working relationship negatively. In fact, we felt that keeping the news from them for too long would do more damage – imagine working with someone closely and finding out that they kept that kind of news from you.

Now, in that initial conversation, we were very careful to stress the fact that I’d continue to shoot up until I went into labor and that we had lined up a photographer we trusted to handle any projects that might come up while we were actually in the hospital. So our clients knew that no matter what happened, continuing to assign us work wouldn’t place them at any risk.

We did not raise the issue with new clients until the third trimester as up to that point, it was really a non-issue – we didn’t have enough of a relationship for them to feel one way or another about it personally and it had no impact on our ability to get the work done. When booking projects for the latter half of the third trimester, though, we did start telling people our due date and explaining that we had a photographer lined up to step in if I went into labor. We felt that we had an ethical obligation to give people the option to go elsewhere if that made them uncomfortable. Most people didn’t seem too troubled. Our daughter was born December 28th so my last shooting day was about a week before she was born but that had more to do with the holiday than my pregnancy.

Established Female Photographer #2 (Expecting)

Ok, so I only have a few thoughts about this one … since I am not really sure what to do myself.

So far – I have been keeping pretty quiet about the whole thing. I have been feeling pretty good during my whole pregnancy, so in that way I feel that I have been very lucky. But now, I’m at the point where when I show up for jobs and it’s pretty obvious – I just entered my third trimester. I have been telling clients (all types) after I book jobs but before the job itself, I put it out there while finalizing details of the shoot. I will also mention that being pregnant isn’t affecting my work – which is true, at least for now. That way if a client feels uncomfortable with a pregnant photographer, he or she has time to make other arrangements. The last thing I want to do is show up and have somebody worry that I can’t do the job. I also think that if I show that I’m not too worried about it, they shouldn’t be either … right?

But for the jobs where I know the I won’t see the editor or art director face-to-face …. I haven’t mentioned it at all. I figure that if it hampers my ability to do the job, then I’ll mention it. But if it isn’t really affecting my work – then it really doesn’t matter. If I had some other impairment that wouldn’t affect my ability to do a job – like a cold or my car was in the shop – I wouldn’t mention it either, but find a way to work around it. I kind of feel like this is similar.

For the most part my clients have been just fine with the whole thing. Many have been very sweet about it & encouraging. But then again – this is all new for me. And honestly – my biggest worry is taking off time after the baby is born — I know I am going to have to take time off and turn down jobs … I just hope my clients call me when I’m ready to get back to work.

Established Female Photographer #3

Sorry, my 2 kids are adopted

I can’t really weigh in. My gut says, don’t tell anyone in the bizzzzzzzzz. I never tell my clients that I am on a 5-week holiday, they don’t need to know

Established Female Photographer #4

Working while pregnant: I went ahead and told a few people early on and that news quickly spread around town. It didn’t seem to hurt too much on the front end, I did still shoot some assignments, and I even shot one assignment on location with 5 days to go. My client was concerned but hung in there with me.

And I found myself on a plane with an eight week old and an art director for an out of town shoot. People were still hiring me to do work when I was pregnant, and even shortly after the baby had been born.

I had two kids pretty quickly together and things became much more difficult for me mid-way through the pregnancy. I stopped showing my face at events and social functions, and completely backed off of my marketing efforts. At the same time my phone became ominously quiet, and did not begin to ring again until I made a very concerted effort to let people know that I was back in the game again.

That time out resulted in some of my regular clients establishing new relationships that to this day remain hard to rebuild.

My clients are primarily buyers and art directors from advertising agencies. Kids or no kids, I think my story is a testament to the fact that if you are not consistently reminding your clients that you are out there, they will forget about you and you will quickly be replaced by someone with a more aggressive marketing plan.

Life Threatening Illness With Treatments

Established Photographer #1

I wrote a letter that I sent out to loyal clients. Clients I had worked with for years. People I considered friends and trusted. I let them know what was going on and how I was doing. I was upbeat and positive and told them that I would beat this disease. I kept them updated throughout the process.

Several clients adjusted my shoots to fit my schedule around chemotherapy. Several postponed shoot until after my treatment had run its course.

I choose to not tell several clients including a national level magazine that I shoot for fairly often. I shot a major photo essay for them two days after receiving my first chemotherapy treatment and was maxed out on Prednisone. Two months later I shot a six-day story for the same magazine after finishing chemo but before starting radiation. They never knew until afterward.

The friends who faded away while I was sick and the ones who came closer surprised me. The clients who stuck by me have my loyalty till the day I die.

Established Photographer #2

Another photographer is currently dealing with this situation and has realized it is best NOT to tell anyone even their clients. As freelance people it is really scary to face not only a life threatening illness but the chance or lack of income.

Established Art Buyer/Producer #1

My answer to this question and anything similar is that a professional needs to know when they can perform a job based on their past experience and their portfolio.
Who are we to judge if a photographer is pregnant or has cancer is less able than a perfectly healthy photographer who had too much to drink (or whatever) the night before a shoot?

Established Art Buyer/Producer #2

That’s considered personal information unless it impacts the work.

Please Support One Of Our Own

Facebook – Give It Up For Loni Page

Here is her story:

“I was diagnosed on July 13, 2009 with a very rare form of cancer, and have been unable to work since then, unfortunately. But, I have a lot to say on this subject. Unlike some, I decided to fully disclose my circumstances (after debating about it for a time) to my community, including my clients. I do not regret my decision. If you’d like to talk, I can elaborate on why it was a great decision for me. Our photo community has restored my faith in humankind! …”

Loni was going to write more but the recent round of chemo has taken away a lot of her energy and required her to be admitted to the hospital. I (Suzanne) had the pleasure of interviewing her and getting some pointers to convey on this subject. She decided to trust in the generosity and support of her clients, as well as the photo community to understand her circumstances. She does not regret her decision, as the community, and especially her regular clients, have supported her beyond her wildest expectations.

As soon as she was ready to go back to work, they were there for her, with handpicked assignments that were appropriate for her energy level and physical limitations.

She truly feels that her trust in the community, gave the community an opportunity to trust her. She built her reputation over the last 25 years on honesty and never over-promising. She has been adamant about not taking assignments if she didn’t feel she would be able to deliver the job based on her high standards, as well as the standards her clients have grown to expect from her.

Because of her positive attitude, her friends and family have gone way above and beyond the call of duty to establish the “Give It Up For Loni” fundraising effort, which has produced some overwhelming results, not only financially, but more important, emotionally. The moral support has been invaluable.

Loni says, “The realization of the importance of friends, family and community caused me to begin to conceptualize about the yet-to-be-named “Foundation” which we hope to have launched by mid- summer 2010.”

Please see the web site, and especially the “Personal Message From Loni” to learn more about the idea and how it came about.

Many thanks,
Amanda & Suzanne

To Summarize: Coming into any personal situation like this puts you into protection mode. How can I take care of myself, my health, and business (maintaining existing clients) at the same time? We have all learned from personal experiences and from the generous insights above that you have to do what feels right for you and your clientele. To tell or not to tell, that is personal. But the number one thing we hope you take from this is to take care of yourself and your health and the rest will follow suit. But to be safe….MARKET THE HELL OUT OF YOURSELF while pregnant and during your maternity leave or while you are going through something deeply personal – so when you are ready to pick up the camera, clients will be ready for you. And the best worst case scenario – if the client calls while you are in labor, we would rather you be able to turn down the job, then not be offered it all.

Be well, happy shooting and safe deliveries

Call To Action: Please check out “Give it up for Loni” because she is not out of woods, she has a long journey ahead of her. We are all in this world together and sometimes our fellow man needs a little help.

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

Ask Anything – How Do You Get Started Photographing Fashion?

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

I would like to know the best strategies for non-established photographers pursuing fashion. I find it very difficult to find practical information about pursuing fashion specifically. Maybe you can touch on advertising as well.

If it helps, I will explain my path. My primary income comes from developing models with top agencies in NY. Modestly, I make $2000 – $3000 per month depending on seasonal variables. That’s not so much if you live and work in a studio in NY.

I started out assisting (for one year) but found it shockingly difficult to progress with my work. I knew assistants who had not shot anything of their own for 8 months and beyond. It was like that for me as well. I also knew assistants who were coming off 5 years assisting but they still had to develop their work. I have a really strong itch to work, so I cut my losses.

Beyond model development, what is the next best step for someone in my position? I mean to make money. I’m avoiding stupid magazines, and pursuing hip magazines, which fit my particular style. This however doesn’t really pay.

Emerging Photographer Help!

Established Photographer 1:

Anything is possible anywhere if someone is talented. Fashion is a very, very difficult thing to succeed in, sort of like the NBA. I can’t stress how hard it is. The person should start somewhere they can put a team together and make brilliant photos. They could be in Bangkok or Seattle or NYC. I have never ever known anyone to go from shooting model tests to the big time, but I have known several who have gone from assisting a great photographer to being a great photographer. It gives you the in that you need. But the photographer you work for needs to be a great one. The main thing is that you need to be ambitious to the point of it being worth more to you than anything in life, and then you may have a chance.

Established Photographer 2:

Are you talking about real fashion or small catalogs? If you’re talking about a real career in fashion I wouldn’t even think about it if you weren’t living in NYC, Paris, or Milan. LA is better than anything outside of those cities, but still nothing is close to NY. To be in the fashion industry you have to immerse yourself in it, and it all happens in NYC. I actually laugh when people live in any other city than the above try to be “in fashion.” Plus, these cities are the only cities you can even get top tier fashion models of which companies won’t even think about you unless you have them in your book. The high-level fashion world is very gay (literally) and concentrated in NYC. My straight climbing the ranks fashion photographer friend and I always joke about how you have to be “in the gay” to climb the chains of fashion. Even if you’re straight, you still have to play the game.

Just my 2 cents.

Established Art Buyer:

I think that expanding into Lifestyle or even non-couture fashion gives photographers more options to make money. Real (but good-looking) people in everyday situations; it’s that “aspirational” style that many clients ask for. And if you can test with any top models that you’ve developed relationships with, that’s even better. Based on the current economy, it means starting small, with a smaller hot agency. It doesn’t mean not continuing to build a fashion portfolio, but it means refocusing efforts on projects that will pay for groceries while your portfolio is evolving.

Of course, the questions that need to be asked are:

  • What is the current state of your portfolio?
  • How are you promoting yourself?
  • Have you established relationships with outstanding stylists and retouchers as well as with top models?

More questions than answers…

Big Name Rep In NYC:

When I asked this rep the question, they had a lot of insightful information. They felt that it would be very hard for a photographer to make it in fashion if they were not in New York City or Paris or had a presence or studio there. You must align yourself with a great crew- stylist, hair stylist, make up stylist and top models. They mentioned one young up and coming fashion photographer who befriended a BIG name model and having photos of she and friends, put him on the map. Start with editorial; get great tear sheets and photo credits.

Amanda and Suzanne:

When you are starting out it is really important to work on your portfolio and make sure you have a defined unique style since the fashion world is looking for the next new thing. If you really want to shoot high fashion, New York, Paris and Milan are the biggest towns but LA does have some work. Others have done well in other cities like San Francisco, Miami or Chicago but it is a really hard business to break into. Lifestyle fashion is an easier area to break in, but still making sure you are using the best in talent from models, stylists, make up and hair. Wardrobe is so important. Do not rely on the model for their wardrobe because you have to be in control of the shoot. If you shoot great work then it is easier to get a great talent base for free. The problem with shooting comp cards is that you are scaling back to shoot what the model needs therefore losing control and getting work that represent you. Keep a positive attitude and network like crazy. Get tear sheets with photo credits and PR the hell out of yourself. You should create a “buzz” about yourselves, this is the fashion hype!

Call to Action:

Please let us know tips you have for emerging photographers not only in fashion but other areas as well. A virtual mentorship as it could be known.

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

Commercial Photographer Income

I decided to move the updates from the post on “How Much Money Do Commercial Photographers Make?” here and add a few more that have been submitted:

Photographer 1:
My individual gross revenue* from assignment and stock photography was $362,000
I had $57,000 in out-of-pocket assignment expenses*
I had $120,000 in fixed overhead* costs
My net profit* on my photography was $185,000 ($362k – $57k – $120k)

I’ve been in business for 24 years (started out as a photojournalist working for newspapers and wire services, now I shoot portraits for magazines, corporations and ad agencies). I share facilities, staff, equipment, supplies and insurance with a number of other photographers. The number I quote above was my share of the fixed overhead.

While it’s useful to know what “the budget” is for a particular project, and to know your “cost of doing business” as background when you’re putting together an estimate for a job, those numbers don’t have any impact on the value of a project for a particular photographer. They simply determine whether the photographer is going to be too expensive for the client, or whether the job is going to be too cheap for the photographer.

The value of commercial photography is dynamic. It changes moment to moment, and varies widely depending on who the client is, how unique the photographer is, how busy the photographer is, how badly the client wants that photographer, how badly the photographer wants the project, how much time, energy, and money it will take to accomplish, and of course what the usage is. A smart photographer is going to take a fresh approach to each estimate, just as they would expect to take a fresh approach to the assignment itself.

gross revenue* is the total amount of money you collect in a given tax year
out-of-pocket assignment expenses* are your actual costs for subcontractors, travel, props, rentals (that are specific to an assignment)
fixed overhead* are the costs for your rent, utilities, business insurance, supplies, portfolio, advertising, accountant, etc.
net profit* is what’s left over after you pay all of your business expenses in a given year – it’s what you pay income tax on

Photographer 2:

2009 kinda sucked, I made 30% of 2008!
My billings were $90,000
My net was $54,000
I am an advertising & editorial photographer, lifestyle & portraits
stopped assisting in 2002, so been in biz 8 years.
2010 is starting out much better……… knock on wood.

Photographer 3:

as a commercial photographer who has made between $600,000- 1,000,000 in fees every year for the past half dozen years, i think there are aspects of how you run your business to keep it lean and minimize overheads. as previously talked about, running a corporation allows you to fund and write off capital investments, cars, flights, employees, production and even some ‘entertainment’ pre tax. so it becomes very difficult to judge the true bottom line of where your company expenses end and where your personal income begins. the lines are perfectly and legally blurred. so determining your actual salary is not an exact science.

again, as stated, we all try to make it look as though we make as little as possible and write off as much as is legal, but be for warned, when you then go and try to buy your 2 million dollar dream loft in tribeca, it will really work against you as although your company has billed much, your personal salary will appear to be much smaller. this is a good catch 22.

keeping it lean and not ‘doing an annie’ is critical. for example, i run a still life studio where we have preagreed flat rate fees on studio, cameras, digital capture. so if i use 1 flash head or 20 it is the same price. clients love it cause there are no surprises, but i love it cause there is no cataloging of what was used. no studio manager spending endless hours logging in equipment and then making invoices. people cost money.

i also suggest not doing your own production. in my experience, there simply is not enough of a margin to be made (if at all these days) in doing production and it is a waste of a photographers time to attempt to suck 10-15% out of a budget. you are a photographer. be a photographer. if you are making 50K fees on an ad job and the production is say another 50K, it is simply not worth trying to make another 5K out of the production. as you are holding a lot of overhead which if it goes wrong and/or over budget, you and your business will be held responsible. not to mention the headache. production is for producers.

Photographer 4:

I am a commercial photog in Brooklyn shooting editorial, publishing, some advertising and now doing video producing with partner. I have been in business for myself for 6 years. I do not have a studio, or employees, so overhead is fairly low. I still feel like an “emerging photographer” :) This year has been better a bit because of video work, which is new to my business.

2009 – gross fees: $113k, net will probably be 40-50k – hopefully I can get all my deductions so I am not taxed crazily. I am not incorporated. The past few years have been approx gross 70k fees and net 30-50k.

Ask Anything – Should Photographers be Unionized?

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

Established Photographers

Photographer 1:

I don’t think photographers could ever pull off a Union type situation. Never in a million years.

It is like trying to organize a million man march of independents. They are too much the loner mentality.

Many can’t even follow loose guidelines for rates or usage.

Photographer 2:

I would even love it if we could just get some standard licensing language and standard estimating forms like the film industry uses. Art buyers are already use to standardized forms from the film world. Why can’t we at least do that?

I am a member of the Director’s Guild, and the company I work through is a member of the AICP, which is a very strong and effective union. They have fantastic representation, and they are well respected by the Advertising agencies. They have a very strong voice, and they are quite successful at getting their voice heard and their agenda’s addressed. Witness the whole dust-up when a few of the agencies announced that they were no longer going to approve advances and they were going to go to a third party payment guarantee. The AICP President immediately announced that they would not support it, and that their members would not abide. Photographers on the other hand did nothing. In short it is a very good model, and there are many benefits for their members. Most of the (National) commercial on air … are Union spots. Most of the advertising agencies are Union Signatories, and therefore CAN NOT shoot non- union spots. Usually, only very small shops, and local companies can get away with non- union. So that said, I have no idea of the history, or how it got started. But one of the reasons that photographers are always dealing from a point of weakness is because they have no good solid representation. Here is a quick, off the cuff summary of issues that are already resolved by the AICP:

1. They have a standardized bid form.

2. Mark-ups are accepted and the norm- therefore when the scope of the job is increased, there is some additional profit, even if the fee is not increased.

3. Billing for Payroll tax and Insurance are standard.

4. AICP looks at and approves contracts.. No weird indemnities and other issues being passed off will nilly by the agencies to the backs of the photographers.

5. Payment is customary advance and final payments are scheduled.

One issue for sure is shitty purchase orders with indemnity clause, and work for hire clause written in. Which I ALWAYS STRIKE, I might add successfully. I have two previous employees that have recently struck out on their own, bad timing huh? But even though they were worried about being a small fish, they are usually successful at getting amended p.o.’s

Another huge issue as you know, that I have been railing on about, it is how hard it is to get insurance, how expensive it is, and how many people in our industry go with out it. If photographers were banded together they would have more clout in this area. Health insurance too…

Well off my soap box for now. I feel real compassion for those starting out now.

Photographer 3:

Only employees can form and be represented by unions.

Independent contractors can be members of unions but cannot be represented by unions. No collective bargaining by independent photographers. Illegal.

The one way around it is for photographers to work as employees. But if photographers work as employees, their employers are the “authors” and copyright owners of any images created.

Short answer: unions are a not the answer.

Art Buyers – International Ad Agencies

Art Buyer 1:

I’ll be honest with you. I would be against a union for Photographers. Right now, print is in a precarious place. We fight to convince clients projects need a print aspect as well as web and broadcast. In my experience, unions bring fees that would deter our clients from entertaining print. I’m not referring to photographer or crew fees. We know what the industry standards are and do everything we can to ensure they increase with the changing times. The fees I’m referring to are union dues, insurances, 10 – 20% production costs.

Unions would also create an uneven playing field. Photographers of different calibers would have the same fees. This would eliminate work to those photographers whose skill set does not match the norm.

This could also negatively impact our local market. Sorry to ask this, but how could I keep some jobs local? My local photographers allow me to of bringing work to the area because they’re fees are less than a New York based photographer. The proper term for this is not “under cut.” It’s “lower cost of living.” I’m fortunate to have amazing talent in my backyard. If they had to meet a National Rate, my creative would ask to see all National photographers right for a project instead of me being able to convincing them to stay right here.

Art Buyer 2:

This would be a terrible mistake. Unions within the Broadcast industry are having a terrible time keeping members. Agencies all over the country are dropping their union signatory status and actors are taking non-union jobs just to stay alive while unions look the other way. This is NOT the right time…

Amanda and Suzanne:

To Summarize, a union would not be approved in our current times. But believe us, something needs to be done to encourage talent to charge appropriately and to be taken care of properly on the client side. We need Insurance for our talent (I “Amanda” paid $2k a month for a family plan under a group plan – Highway Robbery). Photography is a demanding career and takes a toll on the body, emotionally and physically. Union is not the answer, but comradery and other creative collectiveness is. Standardized forms and usage and creative fees across the board verses underbidding fellow photographers. It is crucial to understand Agency Advances and fee structure, to know the tax laws in the city you live and the cities you shoot in as tangible property has become very grey. It is important to understand payroll services, since freelancers are not true independent contractors and the potential liability to the photographer on taxes and workman’s comp. The question we have to ask ourselves: “Are we print photographers running our business as if we were in a Union, are we running our business not only effectively but lawfully to protect ourselves?”

Call to Action:
Brainstorm with your colleagues, organizational groups and create ideas that can be shared and eventually (possibly) manifested.

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

Ask Anything With Amanda And Suzanne – How Not To Blow The Face To Face Meeting

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

Our Second Question:

I sent out mailers and emailers to agencies recently and received asurprising amount of positive replies.

I recently drove for 9 hours after an Art Buyer seemed really enthusiastic about my work on the website and replied to my mail saying sure make the trip, I’d love to see your book. We sat down with two of his colleagues and things were going well.

About a third of the way in to the book he started to lose interest and then wandered off like a grazing dairy cow, I was bewildered but continued with his colleagues. He reappeared when the we’d already finished the book. Shook hands, said thanks for coming in and left. I exchanged a few more pleasantries with his colleagues and was left to pack up and let myself out on my own. Humiliated. Ok so this is the industry, not for wimps, fine. Maybe if the book and all the answers were perfect you might still get a jerk or get the right person on the wrong day. But how do you avoided blowing that valuable opportunity?

Our Response combined with the help of a very sought after rep and art buyer:

Just from reading this question – we see many red flags.

Our first thought  when he said – “We were a third into the book and lost interest” and then follows up by saying “We had finished the book” – lets us know he was controlling the book viewing process and dialoging it the whole way through.

We think the first thing to remember is that every one can have a bad day and that may have been the cause.  You never know what someone is dealing with on a personal level.  Maybe the AB had bad news that morning, thought he could handle the meeting but just couldn’t.  Since you don’t know, the best thing to do immediately is to send an e-mail thanking him for his time as you could see how busy he was and that you truly appreciate the time given.  That you will send new work as you shoot it and would love to hopefully work together in the future.  Okay, that being said after the fact what should you do in the future?

  1. Make sure your website and portfolio compliment each other- the best of your work in the beginning of your website while the portfolio has to be consistent throughout.  Sometimes it is best to work with a neutral person like a consultant or a client you have a close relationship with for a non-emotional attachment to the images.  Rob has a huge list (here)- interview the ones you are interested in working with.
  2. Make sure your portfolio is professional and what the industry is expecting to see.  If you portfolio looked thrown together, then you have cheapened the images.  The presentation talks about your attention to details as you would on a shoot- the production value of the book transfers to the production value of a shoot.
  3. Let the viewer look at the images at their pace- don’t comment on every image- wait till they ask a question.  If they don’t ask anything then you need to ask them questions from your research (i.e. about an ad you loved that they did)
  4. Research- who you are talking to and the agency.  This is why a database is so crucial to your marketing.  A database is not only for sending out e-promos and mailers but used more efficiently for research.  We like Agency Access for several reasons- it’s clean, folders tally up total contacts, accounts and titles plus it has map quest to get you to your meeting.
  5. Research the agency by going to their website to see their accounts.  Then research the person you are meeting with.  Also, go to these websites to find award winning work:

Kat Dalager of Campbell Mithun  in Minneapolis has been especially kind to show you how to do this.  The first thing I do is go to my Agency Access account and look her up.  She is listed as the Print Production Manager, but over sees art buying and buys herself.  So when making your list make sure you include art buyer, creative buyer , print producer and print production manager since Agency Access uses their titles but makes sure they purchase photography.



From this page, you have a live link to the agency as well as the map:


And you can see samples of their work:




You can also look at their work at This is a free service but used for new business and marketing managers so it will not give you the creative personnel, hence the reason for a database.



After you have researched the company, research the person:


And you can find a video with her talking about the business:


When we went through more Google pages , we find this:


She is adorable and friendly. You can see that in the video as well. And this from Plaxo:


Read this and find common ground to create a non-invasive conversation- you don’t want to get too personal. But it is good to see who you are talking to. Suzanne found this info on her own and found a lot. You may not find this much information on one person but you can find plenty about the company where they work. Kat reviewed this and she said:

“One thing to mention is cross-checking sources because they are only as current as the information provided to them. For example, we no longer have H&R Block.

Also, since they can see we don’t have any car accounts, it would not be the best use of my time or theirs to send me a car book.

1 technicality: I go by “art producer” rather than “art buyer”

To summarize, some meetings go bad and that’s just part of the process.  When I (Amanda) repped for a short period of time I experienced the same thing, so you are not alone.  I flew to NYC to meet someone and at the receptionist desk I was told she was too busy to meet with me.  I also had an AB look at the portfolio in the lobby.  So there are no prejudices against particular people for meetings – everyone will experience a bad meeting in their lifetime.  We say – good!  That means one important thing – you are doing meetings.  With every 5 bad meetings comes a great meeting.  A client once had a meeting and was told “Great work, but we have no clients that need your style to ever hire you”.  A week later – that same agency called to book him for a job with a new client.  Go figure.  Keep your chin up and just battle through it…it’s part of the game

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

Ask anything with Amanda and Suzanne – How Much Money Do Commercial Photographers Make?

I’m so excited about a great new column I’m kicking off today called “Ask Anything.” Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to explore more of the commercial side of photography (not my area of expertise) and to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

To submit a question you can email me or leave a comment in one of these posts.

The First Question comes from me:

One commercial photographer told me he was bringing in $250,000 in profits and another said he has several million in billings. So, what do successful commercial photographers make? I’ve always believed it was a lot. How has the economy effected the way people price? Are photographers starting to base their usage on their cost of doing business instead of the cost of the use?

Amanda and Suzanne: The responses have been amazing, from photographers with all levels of success to a very high level art producer. We really enjoyed the personal and honest insight we got as to how they bill and the thought process behind it. It reminds you that you are not alone in this negotiating process. Keep reading – we had 1 photographer bold enough to give the answer everyone has been waiting for.

Hot Emerging Photographer:

What is an average successful profit for a commercial photographer? My rep doesn’t price based on CODB, but on what the market bears. And it’s definitely going down from what it used to be (from the mouth of my rep). Times are changing, sadly enough it’s because the high earning commercial photographers with big overheads are struggling to stay alive and taking jobs for much lower fees in order to pay it. In turn, that makes the emerging photogs like us less competitive because we don’t have the experience and portfolio that they do. Then to think about hiring a staff, and having to pay for that. Now I understand why photographers get paid quite a bit. My rep basically bids on what the client’s budget is, we push the production as low as we can to do a good job then create the fee out of the gap. I think if everyone goes by CODB that will drive the market down even more because the smaller guys don’t have as high of a CODB. I vote to keep an industry standard of fees. Especially with this digital era.

Established Photographer 1:

250K in profits! I want to be him. In my best year, I grossed 225K and I was quite pleased. I can’t remember what I net’d but would have to guess around 1/3 of that.

I’m not sure I’m not a great one to compare as I keep it small, simple, and avoid big overhead. I’m happy with a couple of big jobs a year. I’d rather work fewer, better jobs than be cranking at 100% all the time (and burning out). It’s also difficult to compare me to most; I was away from business from 2005-2007 and have had a very challenging economy to grapple with upon my return so there’s no steady recent history for me to gather information with.

I have estimated jobs based on usage, and I haven’t won many of them :-(

Established Photographer 2:

I have always tried to avoid talking about this kind of stuff. Even though I bill well over a Million Dollars in gross billing annually. What you actually pay yourself is much, much less.

I am at the top of my game and probably make about what a halfway decent Attorney makes.

It is quite exaggerated what photographers make.

Keeping up with new equipment, software, insurance, salaries, and repair keep you from making any truly great money.

I assure you the owners of Advertising Agencies make much more money than us guys in the trenches.

Sure there are a few Super Star photographers but they even go broke. Take Annie Leibovitz for example.

Established Photographer 3:

Alas, I am south of 250K…. I think my rep told me once that most guys are around 20 – 25% of their gross, I was typically around that to maybe a bit more. I don’t know specifically what the numbers are, just in a general sense – as I remember that 08 taxable income was about the same as 07 but at less billings in 08.

I don’t do cost of business pricing per se, but can’t say I am a poster boy for usage fees either. I have found that it’s harder to get a premium for bigger usage on some projects (i.e. art buyers ask for a specific usage and then later want unlimited for a year or 2 for the same money or relatively modest increase in the fee). That’s big and small agencies, not across the board, but it’s not unusual. Maybe I am getting played, but it usually happens in competitive bids where they say the other guy will do this usage for this money, so to be competitive I need to come closer to that number – that kind of thing. I typically but not always cave into it, as my costs are relatively low now, I don’t have a staff or a rep, my equipment is paid for and my studio mortgage is relatively reasonable – less than what I was paying in rent a few years ago….. so in that sense my cost of business does figure into it, but I only consider it when pressed to meet another person’s price.

Established Photographer 4:

o.k. here is the poop in Vague terms.

Yes, many years the take home profit (the photographers net earnings after operations) is over 250K but that depends a lot on investments in equipment etc.

Last year for sure the usage is based on the size of the client and the size of the buy. For example a one year print license starts around $2,000 per shot. Big clients/ big media buy $5,000 per client. There are some exceptions for tiny clients and design firms.

Established Photographer 5:

Depending on what you shoot, it’s not necessary to bring in several million or even a million to generate 250k in profit (e.g. – Still life and product shooters don’t have the high production expenses compared to someone who shoots talent). In a good year, I can earn $200k personal salary on $800k in sales. (THIS AIN’T ONE OF THOSE YEARS….). I’m sure those billing 3 million can earn a profit of a million. What their personal salary comes to is another matter altogether.

It’s in our best interests to keep money in the corporation, as a corporation is taxed differently (lower) than an individual. Many buy company cars & new gear at the end of a good year to reduce taxes payable. There are creative accounting (and totally legal) ways to reduce one’s personal salary while maintaining a very nice lifestyle. The perks of running your own business.

Personally, I don’t believe in the CODB model. It’s far to limiting and does not represent what one’s competitors are charging. I don’t believe one’s fees should ever be based on one’s overhead. My overhead is my choice, and so is that of my competitors. But my fees need to be as high as possible while being as competitive as one can be. Low bids are generally not well received by art buyers.

Hi-end guys/gals don’t price themselves as commodities. They tend to price very high to maintain their perception as hi-end.

License model, combined with photographers fee (shown as one line item!!) is the way the top guys estimate.

An Established Photographer with Actual Salary Numbers:

We grossed in 2008, $218,000 in fees alone. In 2009, we grossed $253,000. In 2008, we paid $100,000 in salaries to assistant photographer and myself combined. In 2009, that figure was $125,000. That is most of the picture. There are other benefit issues, such as health insurance, meals and travel, that come out of the business and reduce the net of the company… If you look at our net between 15K-20K each year, after buying gear, bonuses and finding every write-off. We are also a C corp, which makes me a salaried employee.

A Very Established Art Buyer:

Believe it or not, top photographers do gross a million or more in fees. Of course, agent commissions come out of that, but it’s still a nice living. I don’t see top photographers any more willing to compromise on pricing than before the economic downturn. It still comes down to the project and what it’s worth to the photographer.

Usage pricing is all over the board and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. It’s simple survival: people are doing whatever it takes to survive. Sometimes the compensation is reasonable, but I’ve also heard horror stories of unreasonable compensation and even blatant disregard to copyright laws. Unfortunately, in those cases it comes down to who can hold out the longest with lawyer fees.

I wouldn’t say it’s the Wild West, but I certainly don’t see the solidarity in holding out on pricing that an “up” economy allows. There is definitely an air of desperation among many photographers, especially those just entering the market. I don’t know that it’s any different from any other business, though. It’s tough everywhere.

Stock imagery seems to be taking quite a bit of a hit this past year as well. Account reps are disappearing and even the Big Two (Corbis and Getty) are making drastic staffing cuts.

I hope the recovery heads our way soon!

Our 2 Cents:

From across the board – everyone has the same hope and desires – do good work and bill appropriately. Regardless of your status in this market – it all is interconnected. You have to know your worth creatively to bill appropriately. Of course – Joe Blow may gross $500k annually but his overhead could be $300k – which means he is not better off than the wedding photographer netting $250k with very little overhead other than equipment updates. So from a wide range of talents – you can still net 50k – 1MM in our BAD economy. But you have to do your part to get those jobs and keep those clients and ask for what you are worth – NOT WHAT IT COSTS TO PAY YOUR BILLS!

Call To Action:

If you are willing to share your actual annual earnings – what you grossed in fees and what you took home at the end of the day (net) – please email us your exact figure and how long you have been in business and the type of photography you do (editorial, commercial advertising, consumer, etc…). We will be thrilled to be able to share if with your peers – while keeping you anonymous! We respect everyone’s confidentiality. This information in the end is not for us – but for you the photographer!

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

My jobs tend to be fees inclusive of usage, and however high I can negotiate given the client.