Rob Haggart is A Photo Editor

Phew. I feel much better now.

On December 14th, after 2 long years, I quit my job as the Director of Photography at Men’s Journal. Before that I was the Photography Editor at Outside Magazine for 5 1/2 years and before that I lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming freelancing as a photo editor for two national startup magazines (outdoor related and now defunct), managed/assisted several local ski photographers and worked with a couple national ski film companies.

I left Men’s Journal because I wanted a change of lifestyle. I like to ski, climb, bike and run as much as I enjoy working with photographers and NYC is not really the place for both so I did my time and… I’m out.

At Outside Magazine I worked with an incredibly talented Creative Director, Hannah McCaughey, who pushed me to hire brilliant photographers and challenged me to refine my taste to the point where I felt it necessary to go to New York City and join the community of photo professionals if I wanted my career to continue to grow. So, when Men’s Journal came calling the offer was too good to turn down and I was excited to meet all the photographers and agents I’d worked with over the years, visit galleries and go to events.

Well, it didn’t work out the way I expected, mostly because the work hours were long and the commute to Connecticut where I moved with my family a pain in the ass, plus I wanted to spend the weekends with my kids playing and I was trying to find outdoor activities to do as well. And, so, I never really got to be a part of that NYC photo community. My job started to get a bit stale and I spent lots of time online reading blogs and enjoying the community that I never engaged with in New York. J.M. Colberg, Andrew Hetherington, John Loomis, Alec Soth and others (Andrew is the only one who lives in New York so maybe they all have the same problem I did). I decided to start a blog. I had no objective other than to engage with everyone and contribute something back and… heeeeyah, holy fucking shit, it’s been nothing short of amazing. All those gallery shows and events and drinks with photographers that I blew off have all been made up by the interactions I’ve had with all of you. Thanks.

I left New York and I’m now temporarily in Tucson, AZ and then next summer I will move permanently to Durango, CO where I plan to pursue whatever comes my way. I’m still a photo editor and I love to work with photographers but I want to spend time outdoors and with my family so you know, whatever I work on has to come after that.

I’m tired of trying to change the media industry from the inside (I have great stories from my efforts that I will share with you in the coming months) and I really want to do something to lead this industry in the right direction. I think the blog is a good start but I have ideas for software and websites that I believe will greatly benefit professional photographers in the future so for the time being I’m going to devote all my energy to that.

Maybe now that you know who I am some of you out in the wings watching will feel like you can comment and we can continue this community and see where it goes next. Last month I had 40,000 unique visitors, so I know there’s a bunch of people just reading and watching. Also, just because I’m no longer anonymous doesn’t mean you can’t continue to be. I needed it to protect me just as some of you will when you have something to say that you don’t want to bite you in the ass later.

Anyway, thanks everyone, it’s been a trip and I hope we can keep on truckin.

Rob Haggart AKA A Photo Editor

Happy Holidays Photographers

The holidays are nearly upon us and unlike the Thanksgiving break where you had to explain to your drunk uncle George that you really do take photos for a living and that “No, I’ve never met Britney Spears,” this holiday is all about your immediate family and friends and their deep appreciation for your unique ability to take fantastic photographs of everyone and everything. There’s no photo editor or art director breathing down your neck and no deadlines to meet nothing really except the pure joy of taking pictures with people you love.

It’s amazing to me that people would deny the presence of talent in the making of a professional photographer. With my knowledge of this industry and exposure to great photography and knowing what goes into making a great photograph and how to identify great photography the holidays are the time of year when I break out the camera and realize that my photos suck. With all that I know I still have a really hard time making much more than above average images. Whatever, eat it.

In the holiday spirit I have a prediction to make about photography in the future. Magazines and Newspapers can squeeze the life out of their contributors all they want, but mark my words from the soon to be smoldering crater of the publishing industry will rise all the original content creators (not the content packagers? doh!) and photographers will prove once and for all, that they are superior, to all other means of communication. Is there any doubt that photography has always trumped words for immediacy and video for introspection? Because, as much as I want to blather on about this and that and the other thing, drowning in the gray space or leaning inches from my screen to stare at a tiny video box with a crappy jumpy picture of some shit-bag getting hit in the nutz with a skateboard what really gets me cranked is amazing photographs that sing off the screen. I think computers were made for photography (editors always bemoan photos printed in the magazine never look as good as they did on the screen) and blogs without photographs suck and those sucky blogs that are currently making money will be trumped by blogs with photographs and those blogs will be trumped by blogs with killer photographs and so forth. And, soon it’s not about undercutting each other it’s about overbidding because there are too many jobs and the only way to fend off the clients is to make insane demands but that never seems to do the trick so you have to just stop showing up for shoots and instead go for a joy ride in your Ferrari smashing empty magnums of champagne against the road signs and prank calling your agent pretending to be the photo editor at some crappy magazine that pays for shit and uses photos like a website from 2007. In the future photographers will rule the world.

I’ll meet you there.

See you Next Year.

The Online Magazine

I haven’t really paid much attention to online magazines because I think websites should be websites and magazines should be magazines and when they try to mix those roles it turns to shit. I especially hate that online reader that allows lazy publishers to turn their newsstand version in an unreadable online/downloadable version. A computer screen is not a piece of paper and people who are sitting in front of their computer screens are in work mode or information gathering mode not hang out and enjoy a good page turner mode.

A contributor on Photo Rank submitted a link (here) to Gutter Magazine (here) and I have to say it’s the first time I’ve thought “that’s how a magazine should look online.” My favorite feature is that I can read it backwards, which is how I read all magazines and the navigation bar on the bottom just feels like the perfect tool for reading an online magazine. Well done Gutter.


State of the Stock Photography Market

Dan Heller delivers this treatise about the state of the stock photography market on his blog based on an interview PDN did with him (here). It’s quite long for a blog read so I pulled a few highlights out here:

PDN: What do you think the license revenue number [for stock] is, if not $2 billion?

DH: That depends upon how you make the calculation, but I would estimate it closer to 20 billion range.

… We can get a sense of this untapped potential in the huge supply of photos being used for free in one form or another, whether it’s intentional give-aways by consumers, or equal indifference to copyright infringements by working photographers.

… Yet, the real opportunity is precisely because of all those free exchanges of images. They could be converted into real dollars if there were a more mature, sustainable and reliable infrastructure that people actually knew about and participated in.

… That microstocks exist is just a byproduct of this mismanagement. But those small companies themselves don’t present major growth opportunities in their current form, and they’ll largely be reabsorbed back into the system, once it eventually materializes again in another form.

… The only thing that affects broad-scale market pricing (up or down) is the fundamental industry-wide infrastructure. Prices are low because of the lack of efficiencies to the pricing/licensing/distribution models.

… It is true that a market-based system causes unit prices to go down with increased supply, but it would only be for those kinds of images where there’s an oversupply anyway (and whose prices were unfairly and artificially supported by the aforementioned mechanisms).

PDN: Let’s assume there is $20 billion worth of photo licensing business worldwide. A lot of sales are so piddling and diffuse, how can individual photographers benefit?

DH: There are two answers: the short term (they can’t benefit) and the long term (lay a foundation for the emerging industry transformation).

Thanks for the Comments

I found this recently and while I know it applies directly to the Photo Rank website I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to the valuable post comments.

I appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating worthwhile comments to my posts.

Distributed karma

an idea for fixing recommendation systems

This sketch refers to systems where a group of users votes on material created/submitted by other members of the group (comments, links), such as reddit or digg. Therefore it doesn’t apply to movie/book recommendation systems, etc.

Vote-based commenting systems, forums, news aggregators have become widely popular, and are considered prominent examples of the web 2.0 phenomenon. The main assumption is that by collecting the opinions of a large number of people, one can somehow distill information that is meaningful for the individual. (“crowd wisdom”)

The system works surprisingly well for a small community of people, who share similar interests. It is efficient in removing spam and obnoxious comments/submissions, and promoting valuable material.

When one tries to scale such a recommendation system, several problems arise:

  • As the community grows, the quality of the average opinion declines. This doesn’t necessarily imply that most people are stupid. As users see their opinions having smaller and smaller effect, they spend less effort in making educated decisions and taking part in quality discussion.
  • As there are more and more users, the average user cannot remember a significant portion of the community, and the chance of finding material created by someone familiar becomes very small. There’s a much smaller chance for influential people to emerge. Newcomers don’t respect the established hierarchies, there aren’t any expert voices. (“Eternal September“)
  • As the community becomes more diverse, the standard deviation from the average opinion becomes larger, and one can hardly identify with it anymore.
  • It is a small minority of the whole community who votes, and this minority is not necessarily the most knowledgeable, etc. Even if everyone votes, expert opinions aren’t given any weight, opposing opinions cancel each other out. We end up having the average review of anything on the internet ‘3 stars out of 5’.[1]
  • Users can easily game the system, by creating multiple identities (sockpuppets), voting and commenting their own submissions, etc.

Towards a solution:

1. Karma.

A first idea would be to have a score of how reputable a user is (karma), then let the karma influence the weight each vote of the person carries. If the votes themselves generate karma for others, this…

More at Sunspot Software (here).

Comments Welcome

A quick shout out to all the commenter’s who add their valuable insight and expertise to my posts. Your contribution to this process cannot be overstated. I visit many blogs daily where the comments amount to nice, wow and shut up asshole.

Your presence makes this website work.

Thanks: Mark Tucker, dude , Bruce DeBoer , Olivier Laude, myles, john mcd., Russell Kaye, Cameron Davidson, Bernd Gruber, Christopher Bush, Red, myles, The Jackanory, avs, John Loomis, Lewis, chris floyd, Mark Harmel, George Fulton, all the anon’s and many, many more…

Working for FREE

So, I just noticed that CNN has an i-report feature added to their website where citizens can submit news stories to be published on the website or even on TV depending on how the producers feel about your reporting skills.

Here’s the “now standard” web 2.0 work for free clause:

By submitting your material, for good and valuable consideration, the sufficiency and receipt of which you hereby acknowledge, you hereby grant to CNN and its affiliates a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to edit, telecast, rerun, reproduce, use, syndicate, license, print, sublicense, distribute and otherwise exhibit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof, as incorporated in any of their programming or the promotion thereof, in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised, without payment to you or any third party.

More importantly in a section called “trade secrets” they tell ordinary people how to take professional photos. Not only are they giving away the “rule of thirds,” a high level top secret technique they’ve got this gem posted:

Take as many photos as you can
It’s always better to have more material than you think you need. And who knows, the photographs you take on a whim may turn out better than your planned shots.

Shit. I didn’t think that one would get out.

Eventually people are going to figure out that CNN is selling advertising against their free content… aren’t they?