Category "Photography Business"

“The truth is very few people really like art.”

“This is the dirty secret that makes a living for artists such as Caroline Shotton. She is a new addition to that august company of artists who have careers, it seems, solely on the back of the joy the public takes in upsetting art critics, especially at Turner prize time.”

[…]”And I sympathise, I really do, if you’re reading this and siding with her for slapping the art snobs’ faces. Critics and museums lie when they claim serious art is accessible. It is obscure and demanding.”

Great story over at the Guardian (here) that I found via JM Colberg

I think we all know that if you want to sell a ton of something to the general public you need to get down to their level of taste. This is what troubles me about the impending upending of the photography distribution system. When consumers have a choice will they pick the imagery that’s easy to digest or moves or has sound or will they sometimes choose complex hard to understand photography.

Copyright and Movies

There’s a great post (here) from A.E. Vogler a screenplay writer in Hollywood. Here’s a couple highlights:

Residuals, along with larger up front fees, are what we writers receive to compensate us for the fact that the studios retain legal copyright (i.e., authorship) over our work. What does that mean? It means that once we turn in our scripts, the studios can do whatever they want to them.


This means that each and every creative decision that’s made becomes not about what’s right for the film, what’s fresh and new and exciting and truthful – but about what the boss is going to say. That’s pretty much the sole criterion in the development process: anticipating the reaction of the big kahuna. And since most bosses are as unpredictable and impatient as they are shrewd and successful, everyone under them tends to default to playing it safe. Avoid anything untried. Do what’s worked before. Stick with proven formulas. And what happens? Anything new and original is weeded out. And everything turns to shit.


We have to retain copyright. Not because we’re smarter or more capable of shepherding scripts to greatness, but because WE WORK ALONE. Film is a collaborative medium. But writing isn’t. Writing is solitary art, born not of a system, but of a single mind.

and the kicker

in ten years filmmakers won’t need studios at all.

I’m watching all these mediums evolve for clues about what will happen to photography next.

Crushing it in the Local Market

- - Photography Business

One of my readers who works at PDN thought the recent discussion about doing time in NYC or LA, for 2 or 3 years, then moving where you want and mopping up would make a good magazine story. I agree. Based on the comments I’d say it’s the hottest topic we’ve covered so far.

So, let’s do PDN and ourselves a favor, so we can see a real reported and fact checked story on this. If you’re one of these photographers or happen to know one you can rat out send an email to: dwalker100 (at) comcast (dotz) net.

The “Business” of Photography

- - Photography Business

Don’t know how I missed this comment from the “Crapshoot” post but It’s really good and worth bringing up front.

BRRRRRR wrote:

It’s admirable to think it could all be about the images, and it’s inspiring to think of the art world as a model. But this is about business, and business doesn’t work that way. Look at most of the content that goes into these stories or ads or whatever the assignments are: it’s silly crap to begin with. How can the hullaballoo that surrounds it not contain a degree of silly crap?

It’s pretty easy to sit outside the big markets and complain about how incestuous they are. Then you step into those big markets and you realize they contain whole universes. The competition is fierce. No, talent does not always rise to the top. But professionalism often does. A temperament and a capacity for managing the business environment, the clients and their often wacked out notions, peers, reps and agents, editors, the egos of all concerned, so on and so forth β€” and then on top of it to get shots: that’s what will get honed in those contexts. You don’t have to like it; hell, many of the people who go through it don’t *like* it. But most of those who manage to negotiate it one way or another will acknowledge they got something out of it, and that it made them β€œbetter” in some sense of the word.

Art, or voice, or vision, or whatever you want to call it, happens as an accident in this world. Everybody in the business is interested in it to some degree, but it’s rare that any of them get the chance to foreground it. Someone else’s expectations are always driving the car, and someone else’s credit card is always putting gas in the tank. Getting the job done β€” whatever the job is perceived to be by the ones who are paying for it β€” becomes priority one. Time matters; familiarity with the game matters; proximity matters; track record matters. You can’t blame people for minimizing risk when that’s part of what they’ve been explicitly charged with doing by the guys who put bread on their tables.

Also, the fact is that there are so many people working in those big markets that you often don’t *have* to go outside them. I guarantee you there are 20 young photographers in Brooklyn who don’t just know Nebraska (or wherever) but actually grew up there, and are willing to fly there tomorrow and work for a song. They are as hungry as anyone else, and a few of them might prove to be as talented. It may be vicious, but it’s also real.

Someone earlier nailed what may be one of the best strategies: do your time in a big market, endure it, get your game on, then take it to a smaller market and clean house. I have a good friend who did exactly that last year, leaving NYC after several tough but productive years and going to a smaller market, where he’s not just surviving but thriving, in part due to all he picked up.

2 Billion Photos on Flickr

- - Photography Business

… and they all… not going to say *it*.

TechCrunch reported a couple days ago that Flickr reached 2 Billion photos (here) and the lucky winning photo is:

Taken by Yukesmooks, who’s flickr page can be found (here). This photo evokes the famous clichΓ© that I am sworn as a member of the professional photo community to never utter (unless I am dying). I think as a randomly selected image it perfectly represents the average of what you will find in the collection.
They are also reporting that Facebook has 4.1 Billion photos on their site. Blap.

What does it all mean? I just decided 5 seconds ago (really, I changed my mind as I was writing this) this is a good sign for professional photographers. It means people love photography and it means the photography business will be booming soon and talented professionals will be needed to shoot advertising and editorial for all the magazines (or websites) these photo lovers will buy. And, all the companies that sell cameras and photography equipment will need endorsements from pros and need multi-million dollar campaigns shot to support the boom. And, people will buy books and visit websites and click on ads that have great photography. How can it not?

Don’t you think Yukesmooks wants to become a better photographer? I think old Yukie does and would now be willing to put some money behind that quest. What if the 2 billionth photo had been something great and not just a photo of wood against sky. He’d be selling tons of merchandise and making money.

Technology is Turning Average Consumers into Freelance Photographers

- - Photography Business

Into the annals of jackassery goes web startup which proposes to have amateur photographers lowball each other for the chance to shoot an “object, structure, or physical location on the planet.” The press release is priceless as pure comedy. In a typical bloated web 2.0 style of over-hyped photo bullshit they provide a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

(openPR) – Inexpensive Digital Cameras Along with Innovations on the Web
Allow the Average Joe to Make Some Money on the Side –

Not long ago, the qualifications to be a freelance photographer were to own an expensive camera and possess the technical knowledge to manipulate shutter speeds and aperture settings in order to take good pictures. Although commercial quality images are still captured by professional photographers, the advent of inexpensive, sophisticated digital cameras along with new innovations on the web are allowing anyone who can push a button to earn a little extra cash.

These amateur photographers are snapping pictures of the multitude of objects and locales they encounter in their daily activities. The service they are providing as a whole is to photograph everything and every place on earth – a task so immense that all of the world’s professional photographers together could not possibly achieve.

The need for photos of almost everything imaginable is being driven by our fast paced society that has grown accustomed to obtaining information on-demand. Even the huge collection of photos available through Google’s image search function is not adequate when very specific images are required.

Where there is a need, there is a business opportunity. Innovative new web services are meeting the demand by harnessing a vast network of amateur photographers. For example, a service named GoSee4Me ( provides photos of any object, structure, or physical location on the planet. The service is inexpensive because amateur photographers bid against each other to provide the photos, driving the price down to a level that is affordable in almost every situation.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a digital image is worth a thousand Gigabytes in the Information Age. Amateur photographers are providing those digital images, and they are being paid for their efforts.

Press Contact:
Josh Rothman
P.O. Box 1983
Tustin, CA 92781

GoSee4Me is a privately-held web service located in Irvine, California. The company provides the first and only service that connects people who need photos of remote objects with other people who can provide those images inexpensively.

Attack of the Former First Assistants

- - Photography Business

There’s no better way to get started in this business than assisting a photographer and if you can get on with one of the big shots you are guaranteed an Ivy League Education and possibly… tons of verbal abuse. There is an art to barking out orders and whipping the assistants into a frenzy and when done properly it feels like something important is about to take place. Next to “napalm in the morning” I love the sight of an assistant in a fast trot coming over the horizon from the grip truck 5 miles away with 150 lbs. of gear and one of those ridiculous belts with shit hanging off everywhere hitting them in the legs and torso.

Every great photographer I’ve ever worked with has an amazing first assistant.

It seems like there’s a new wave of former first’s–there’s always a group roaming around but this one seems to be particularly large–who’ve recently made the leap from shooting like their old boss to defining their own body of work and they’re starting to get a lot of jobs. If you hire a photographer enough you get to know the first’s and when they finally make the break to go out on their own I always meet with them to look at their book. They deserve it.

Catalog Photographer Train Wreck

- - Photography Business

I know, I know, I shouldn’t be giving “The Shot” on VH1 (here) any β€œpress” but it was free on itunes and now I’m hooked (I have a secret love of really bad photography). I think it’s more of a disservice to the young impressionable photographers who read this blog to not point out the fallacies and I can at least highlight the important lessons that can be learned and… oh hell, it’s such an effing disaster I can’t turn away.

Here’s some of the takeaway:

  • Russell James is a master at shooting swimwear with dappled sunset lighting so whoever’s gonna win this thing needs to get the assistants to light everything that way. Russell is the client here and has a certain taste in photography.
  • As long as your photos are good it doesn’t matter if you follow instructions. One team shot a dress twice but their photos were better so they still won. Yeah, follow the art direction but don’t let it get in the way of making good pictures first.
  • Talking about photography is really difficult so people tend to focus on shit they know something about. During the critique it was: Oh, that hair is horrible or that dress is awful or the position of her head is odd.
  • Fashion people love graphically strong images. Russell was hinting at this when discussing the big beautiful ship that no one took advantage of to create strong elements in the background.

When you’re given a bad situation and very little time to make something out of it people rely on instinct and that’s where experience comes into play (this is why you only hire veterans to shoot covers, it’s virtually guaranteed something will go wrong). If you threw Russell James into either of the situations presented in the first episode I’ll bet a million bucks he would recreate something that could be found in his book. That’s just how it works; no one is going to reinvent themselves in 5 minutes.

Unfortunately, that meant the wedding photographer just had to go and recreate a wedding scene. Come on man, time to step up, I’m pulling for you.

I got the photo assistants out of the credits because these guys are probably the only reason any of those photos even came close to working out: Adam Franzino, Doyle Leading, Tim O’Malley and Ben Tietge.

Advice From A Photographer

- - Photography Business

From the comments in the Catalog Photographer post. Solid.

Old Geezer Says:
Old Geezer here. I’m the older brother of Old Yeller. Funny how a post that started about a bad tv show ended up with a bunch of college students asking advice about their future. Well, pull up a chair, boys and girls, and let Old Geezer share some of his hard earned wisdom. I envision a list, of about a hundred items, and we’d have to stop at a hundred, because we’d never remember more than that. Anyone else over the age of forty can chime in too; I’m sure I won’t think of everything.

1. In college, learn as much tech stuff as you can. This will make you more valuable as an assistant. Don’t just be a navel gazer with a 5D.

2. In college, take business classes too. You don’t want to be one of those stoner kids that just reads and ponders life. You want to APPLY what you learned.

3. In college, take as many philosophy classes as you can. Try to think BIG. Try to care about the world. Try to get a grip on the big picture.

4. In college, take a year off and drive across the country, and camp along the way. Do it with good friends that are smart; not dumbasses that just want to get high. Bring some books. Bring some audio books if you can’t read.

5. Make sure and take some acid somewhere along the way. Preferably in Monument Valley or Canyonlands. I know that sounds dumb, but everybody needs to do that once or twice.

6. When you start assisting, consider putting away your cameras entirely for a few years, and concentrate on being a servant. Get into a servant mindspace. Be in a supportive role. Trust me, it helps. This is your time to be a giant sponge and learn as much as you can. It’s not your time to shoot. (Ok, maybe with your iphone, but nothing more serious than that).

7. Think how you can be most useful to a photographer. That will get you hired, and keep you getting hired.

8. Eliminate excess Drama from your life.

9. Live beneath your means. Keep things simple.

10. Be a good conversationalist. Be well read. No one wants to drive five hours with an assistant that doesn’t have anything to add to the conversation. And it better be better than how to make web galleries from Bridge, or something geeky like that.

11. Keep your mouth shut around clients. Just be a good energy, but sure as hell, don’t offer ideas. The photographer has his own agenda, and he needs to work that out with the client.

12. Don’t be late for work. And if you are, call ahead and let the photographer know. Don’t just show up thirty minutes late, especially if it’s on the way to LaGuardia.

13. Be loyal.

14. Go beyond the call of duty.

15. Don’t order expensive drinks after the job, especially if it’s editorial. Be aware of the budget.

16. Turn off your fucking cell phone during the job. Fine to check messages during lunch, when it’s your time, but don’t be sending text messages to your girlfriend, even if nothing is going on in the job. Trust me, even though you’re not aware of it, there is something ALWAYS going on in the job.

17. Reread 16.

18. Be prompt when submitting Invoices. Don’t bitch about photographers always paying late, if you wait twenty days before you Invoice a job.

19. Be a sponge. Notice everything. Notice the way the photographer deals with the client. Notice the issues that the clients have, and be sensitive to these. You, as an assistant, are privy to a ton of valuable unspoken information; make the best use of it. Learn from it.

20. Travel out of the country as much as possible. Learn how other people live. Learn that America is not the center of the universe, and learn that you don’t need your cell phone 24 hours a day. Again, be a sponge, about how other people live.

21. Don’t show up hung over to a job. It’s just not cool. No matter how hard you worked the day before.

22. Dress well. Doesn’t have to be Prada, but try to look competent.

23. Learn your job. Learn the subtleties of a Profoto pack. Learn about the fuses in a Pro 7b. Try to learn CaptureOne, even just the basics of it. You are Support; try to know your craft. Even the geeky details. It’s the geeky details that’ll sometimes save a job. That’s when you’ll be the hero, and you’ll get an extra beer that night at dinner. (But don’t show up the next day hung over).

24. Go to the Times today, and read the Norman Mailer Obit. Try to create your life to be half as interesting as his life. If you do that, you’ll be fine.

25. Always order good Catering. That’s all the client really cares about. And make sure they get put up in a nice hotel.

26. Learn as much technical stuff as you can, because Rule Number One is, the client doesn’t really care about your vision of the world. They care about their vision. If you show one thing in your book, chances are, you’ll be called for something else. So have a good grab bag of tricks, for those days when you walk into a beige conference room, and have to shoot a fat guy on the corner of a desk.

That’s all that Old Geezer knows for now. Maybe someone older can write up another twenty-six.

Good luck with your careers, young people. God knows the world needs another photographer. With SVA and Art Center and the like cranking them out by the hundreds, soon we’ll have enough photographers to handle all those big budget jobs that we all turn down.


Handle your rent; handle your car. Handle your parking tickets. Nobody wants the Sheriff to show up in the middle of a job, with a bunch of parking tickets in his hand, asking to see the assistant. Don’t ask to leave early, β€œcause you gotta go pay your rent or your phone bill”. Handle all that stuff outside of work. Again, you are Support; you are not the star.

And I forgot the worst one, #27: Don’t approach the client to β€œshow him your work sometime”. It’s the cardinal rule. If you’re there on the job as an assistant, then be in the assistant role. Every client will ask you if you shoot, because they don’t know what else to talk to you about at lunch, but trust me, they really don’t care. They might care a little bit, but they don’t want to see your book. The right way to do it is β€” Stop Assisting, then become a photographer. Don’t approach a client when you’re on somebody else’s job.

NYC Photo Snobbery

Oddly, I found this yesterday in a book I’m reading and it’s very appropriate for the comments on the post from yesterday. The nut graph (love that editor term) is at the bottom but it’s a doozy.

From “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

… consider the effect of the first music recording, and invention that introduced a great deal of injustice. Our ability to reproduce and repeat performances allows me to listen on my laptop to hours of background music of the pianist Vladimir Horowitz (now extremely dead) performing Rachmaninoff’s Preludes, instead of to the local Russian Γ©migrΓ© musician (still living), who is now reduced to giving piano lessons to generally untalented children for close to minimum wage. Horowitz, though dead, is putting the poor man out of business. I would rather listen to Vladimir Horowitz or Arthur Rubinstein for $10.99 a CD than pay $9.99 for one by some unknown (but very talented) graduate of the Julliard School or the Prague Conservatory. If you ask me why I select Horowitz, I will answer that it is because of the order, rhythm, or passion, when in fact there are probably a legion of people I have never heard about, and will never hear about–those who did not make it to the stage, but who might play just as well.


Furthermore, I believe that the big transition in social life came not with the gramophone, but when someone had the great but unjust idea to invent the alphabet, thus allowing us to store information and reproduce it. It accelerated further when another inventor had the even more dangerous and iniquitous notion of starting a printing press, thus promoting texts across boundaries and triggering what ultimately grew into a winner take-all ecology. Now, what was so unjust about the spread of books? The alphabet allowed stories and ideas to be replicated with high fidelity and without limit, without any additional expenditure of energy on the author’s part for the subsequent performances. He didn’t even have to be alive for them–death is often a good career move for an author. This implies that those who, for some reason, start getting some attention can quickly reach more minds than others and displace the competitors from the bookshelves. In the days of bards and troubadours, everyone had an audience. A storyteller, like a baker or a coppersmith, had a market, and the assurance that no one from far away could dislodge him from his territory. Today, a few take almost everything; the rest next to nothing.

By the same mechanism, the advent of the cinema displaced neighborhood actors, putting the small guys out of business. But there is a difference. In pursuits that have a technical component, like being a pianist or a brain surgeon, talent is easy to ascertain, with subjective opinion playing a relatively small part. The inequity comes when someone perceived as being marginally better gets the whole pie.

In the arts–say the cinema–things are far more vicious. What we call “talent” generally comes from success, rather than its opposite. A great deal of empiricism has been done on the subject, most notably by Art DeVany, and insightful and original thinker who single mindedly studied wild uncertainty in the movies. He showed that, sadly, much of what we ascribe to skills is an after-the-fact attribution. The movie makes the actor, he claims–and a large dose of nonliner luck makes the movie.

The success of movies depends severely on contagions (Egads, I had to look that word up: The spread of a behavior pattern, attitude, or emotion from person to person or group to group through suggestion, propaganda, rumor, or imitation). Such contagions do not just apply to the movies: they seem to affect a wide range of cultural products. It is hard for us to accept that people do not fall in love with works of art only for their own sake, but also in order to feel that they belong to a community. By imitating, we get closer to others–that is, other imitators. It fights solitude.

Retouching: The Head Pop

I’m all for a head pop or a leg or arm or whatever needs poppin’ as long as it’s from the same photo session who cares and really who can tell when the head in an image is replaced with a head from 5 min. later so you can get the correct facial expression.Retouching is so ubiquitous in photography anymore and really we’ve been doing it forever–I mean check this out (here), you will shit your pants when you see all the images that have been altered over the years–that I really don’t care about switching body parts to get a killer cover that will sell on the newsstand.

But, when you’re the New York Times Magazine and you have a photo alteration policy like this:

Photography and Images. Images in our pages that purport to depict reality must be genuine in every way. No people or objects may be added, rearranged, reversed, distorted or removed from a scene (except for the recognized practice of cropping to omit extraneous outer portions). Adjustments of color or gray scale should be limited to those minimally necessary for clear and accurate reproduction, analogous to the “burning” and “dodging” that formerly took place in darkroom processing of images. Pictures of news situations must not be posed. In the cases of collages, montages, portraits, fashion or home design illustrations, fanciful contrived situations and demonstrations of how a device is used, our intervention should be unmistakable to the reader, and unmistakably free of intent to deceive. Captions and credits should further acknowledge our intervention if the slightest doubt is possible. The design director, a masthead editor or the news desk should be consulted on doubtful cases or proposals for exceptions. Source (here)

and then you clearly run a photo on Steve Nash on the cover (here) that is so perfect if you didn’t pop his head you popped the arm or leg or ball or all of the above:


I’m going to call you out on it.

Finlay Mackay feel free to tell me I’m wrong and I’ll eat crow.

Correction: It appears I’m wrong about Finlay Mackay retouching the image of Steve Nash according to a commenter who I believe was on set when the image was taken.

Fact is I’m a bit jealous at how perfect it is and probably prone to arm and head and leg poppin’ my lazy ass self instead of getting Nash to do 200 goddam takes. My hat is off to you Finlay. Lucky for me my readers have provided a recipe for Crow that I may substitute with pigeon for convenience sake.

Photographer Spam

Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief at Wired posts a list of all the people who spammed him this month (here).

I’ve had it. I get more than 300 emails a day and my problem isn’t spam (Cloudmark Desktop solves that nicely), it’s PR people. Lazy flacks send press releases to the Editor in Chief of Wired because they can’t be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they’re pitching.

A photographer who was caught explains himself in the comments.

So, I’m on this list. dan at I’m a freelance photographer in Canada and I shoot a lot of travel stock. I have your email address and 7000 others by buying a list of what they call “image buyers” from a company called Agency Access. They tell me they get these lists by compiling them from questionnaires etc at trade shows and industry events.

and then there’s this nugget

Now, over the years, I have tried calling many of my intended targets but, when your market is magazine and book publishers all over the world and you have 7 to 10000 potential targets this can get expensive and impossibly time consuming. As well, the vast majority of creative buyers don’t even bother returning your phone call. I’ve tried individual emails which gets an even lower response. So, I started sending out stock list updates via a mass emailing and the response has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Yeah, spam wouldn’t exist if it didn’t work. That sucks.