Category "Photography Business"


When an editor tells me they want better pictures in the magazine the first thing I say to them is, “get me better subjects.”

Creating compelling imagery with mundane subjects is best left to great artists. It’s nearly impossible.

When you’re starting out in this business if your friends, your family or where you live is not interesting go find something that is and take a goddam picture of it.

The subject always rules. I know this because when I’ve got a juicy subject for a story I can have the pick of any photographer I want to shoot it.

Define: Professional

I read a great quote from Mario Batali (but suddenly can’t find it) about what makes a professional chef.

He says the difference between an amazing amateur chef and a professional chef is the ability to make that perfect meal 100 times in a row.

That applies to photography too.

Fly’n Photographers

A reader asks me about sending people all over the world to shoot jobs when many times perfectly capable photographers are already there. This mirrors another comment about Vanity Fair sending someone from NY to Durham, NC to shoot a picture of a house.

I’ll start with VF. I didn’t see the piece but I’d be willing to bet when they first conceived of the photography they were thinking the house could be the lead image and as is the case with many, many, stories that are handed to me where the events have already taken place the image you think will be the lead never ends up there. In fact my whole strategy in a situation like this is to figure out what CAN be photographed and attach a great photographer who can make something dynamic out of it because the competition is going to be some matter-of-fact AP image or mug shot that may be sensationalist but does nothing to further the story and reads more like evidence. Editors are fine with this.

As a side note, it’s beyond my comprehension why anyone would buy a magazine to see matter-of-fact photography. It’s available everywhere all the time.

With regards to flying photographers from NY or LA to another country it comes down to trust. There’s a formula that my gut calculates for me in situations like this where x is the cost of plane ticket and hotel and y is the chance a photographer already living there whos work you like will fail and z is the cost of a reshoot and n squared is the number of failed shoots that have occured in the last 3 months and p is the current level of trust the Editor and Creative Director have in my skills as a DP. Phew. That a nasty algorithm that, as you may have guessed, works about as good as google image search.

Greatest Job on Earth (my editor would kill me for writing a headline this bad)

Why, in thee hell, does everyone want to become a photographer?

Maybe it’s because if you make it into the elite group of heavy hitters you will become rich, make your own hours and endlessly satisfy your need to shoot pictures.

Land a huge pharmaceutical job? Guess what, you’re going to get paid a $350,000 creative fee.

Tired of working? Block out your calendar for a month long vacation.

Want to be creative? Cherry pick the editorial jobs with cool subjects and assert complete creative control.

Don’t believe me? I have evidence to back every single one of those statements.

It’s certainly getting harder for people to make it in this industry and there’s some nasty shit that goes down sometimes but guess what? I meet with people every week who are having the time of their lives (I know, I know, goddam jerks).

What are you waiting for?


I prefer wallowing in the trenches.

New Jr. Photo Editor

A reader alerted me to the hiring of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend as a Junior Photo Editor at Playboy.

Link to Page Six.

The new PE is quoted as saying:

“I think readers are sick of seeing the same cookie-cutter blondes,”

I can tell you from experience (not at a skin mag) that the reason all those “cookie-cutter blondes ” appear in the magazine has nothing to do with the photo editing and everything to do with Hef’s taste in women.

Can’t wait to see how long she lasts promoting “real” women to that crazy old man. The problem has always been that rich old men control the distribution of content not that the public prefers the content they deliver.

This will change.


Name Your Price

So, have you heard (here’s my source) about Radiohead selling downloads of their new album on their website where you pay whatever you think it’s worth.

Do you think they’re undercutting fellow artists by not maintaining pricing? I mean just because they’re famous and make all their money off touring and t-shirts doesn’t mean they can just sell a whole freaking album for a dollar.

They also have a box set for sale with 2 CD’s and 2 Vinyl Records (Vinyl?) that goes for $80.

There are parallels to be drawn in the photography industry, I just can’t think of any at the moment.

$10,000 for a stock photo

… in a magazine. I’ll admit it since it’s not my current employer (although they would not be happy to hear of my near criminal spending in the past) and what the hell, it was the perfect photo and I can’t help it if David La Chapelle took it and once everyone agreed they wanted it I don’t have a leg to stand on to negotiate and guess what… DLC doesn’t negotiate.

Also, make sure you don’t credit him. You’ll have to pay 3 times that if you credit him.

$1 Haters

Art buyers hate $1 stock too. Clearing rights is messy not to mention the embarrassing possibility that another ad with the same image will simultaneously appear.

The Death of $1 Stock

Die, die, die you lousy repositories of crappy photography.

Make room for FREE stock photos.

100 Legal Sources for Free stock photos.

For sure, it’s a bad time to be a professional photographer who makes lousy clichΓ© imagery. It’s even worse, if your entire business model revolves around using very expensive equipment to make crappy photos. The writing is on the wall.

It used to be that I had to pay Corbis or Getty a bunch of money to license bad photographs. Now, most of these photos are fairly priced at $1 but it seems that’s not good enough for the market and the new price is freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

How did we end up here?

Now that everyone has computers, digital cameras and access to the web the cost of creating horrible photography is nearly zero.

What’s the value of these websites to professional photographers?

Use these sites to find out where the bar is set to make a living as a professional photographer. If you can’t produce photography that’s better than what’s available on these sites it’s going to be very hard for you to make a go of it.

I’m not talking about a better picture of a kitten or rainbow or metaphor for business I’m talking about an original approach to these subjects because to be honest the public doesn’t care if one kitten photo is marginally better than the other. They only care about the price and the price, is now free.

I’ve bought $1 stock before but the only reason I did it is I couldn’t find a similar photo at the other stock sources and I was told we absolutely had to have a photo to illustrate this very important part of the story.

If a better photo exists, I’ll buy it.

Check is in the mail

- - Photography Business

A reader asks about the best way to deal with a magazine who’s 60 days late paying the invoice.

I think a couple calls to the photo editor to see what’s up is a good idea just in case they’ve been slow getting it to accounting or possibly it’s held up for some kind of error or clarification but then the best course of action is to find out who’s in accounts payable and start hammering them with phone calls.

I always appreciate it when the photographer asks who they should botherΒ  about payment because, to be honest, I’m in the same boat as you. I’d like nothing better than for everyone to be paid immediately so attacking me about slow payment is unproductive.

You all know you’re being used as an interest free bank. Don’t you?


- - Photography Business

I’ve just been informed by a very reliable source that, for high end fashion and beauty the client will book a retoucher before the photographer… (jaw hitting floor) are you kidding me?

Furthermore, they went on to say that if you actually printed an unmolested image in one of these magazines everyone would go screaming out of the room. This retouching business has gotten to the point where normal beautiful women look hideous next to these frankenbarbies.

Now, I work with a lot of photographers who retouch and frankly I’m starting to get concerned with the rising cost of shooting high end digital. With a digi tech on set and all the rentals plus the retouching with match print the digital can take up half the shoot budget.

That would be fine if the result was actually better than film. Perfect but not better.

Why not just hire someone new?

- - Photography Business

A reader asks: 1. what’s the big deal risking a shoot on someone new when you’re only paying them $350-$500? 2. What’s up with those crap rates?

1. If you include all the expenses (assistant, rental, film and process or digital fees, travel, cell phone, messenger, insurance, tips, cab fare, and misc) a one day shoot is easily over $3500. Add to that the availability of the subject and the looming deadline plus the fact that for every failed shoot the editor and creative director give you enormous stink-eye… well it turns into a little more than just $500 out of the budget.

2. The rates. I actually inherited them and while I will agree they’ve been stagnant for many, many years the expenses have gone up considerably and… this is a big and, the theory has always been that you get your clips in editorial and make your money in commercial. Uh, maybe that’s a very bad assumption on the part of photography editors.

Anyway, there should be a better pricing structure for editorial photography. The way writing works and commercial photography works is the better you are the more you get paid. I should be able to pay established photographers more and unproven photographers less.