How Will CondΓ© Nast Survive?

- - Magazines

CondΓ© Nast will survive the shift of media online because for the most part they produce something that can’t be replicated online.

This is from a story in the NY Times last weekend:

“CondΓ© also consistently sells more ads than its competitors and at higher prices, though some of its magazines make little or no profit. Even so, spending money to make money, and focusing on premium products to attract readers and advertisers, has clearly worked for more than a decade, though its margins are thin compared with those of its competitors. CondΓ© executives say it generates close to $5 billion in revenue, has operating margins of around 10 percent and profits of about half that. Analysts and bankers say that Advance as a whole, which carries no debt, is worth, conservatively, $15 billion.”

Read more (here).

An Important Part of Having a Great Eye is Choosing Subjects

Elisabeth Biondi, visuals editor of the New Yorker magazine on photographer Pieter Hugo’s “The Hyena Men of Nigeria:”

‘Some people have said to me that Pieter’s subject is so dramatic that it would be hard to take a bad picture,’ says Biondi, ‘but, you know, a photographer chooses his subjects, and that, too, is an important part of having a great eye. Photographers go where their instinct leads them and then try and work out their fascination for the subject through the photographs they take. That’s what Pieter’s doing but in a kind of extreme way.’ She pauses for a moment. ‘He has a vision and he pursues it relentlessly. He has what it takes.’

Read it (here), Via, Subjectify.

One of the more underrated skills of great photographers.

Panel on Stock Photography

- - Events

I moderated a panel on stock photography last Sunday and met some very talented young photo editors and learned a few things too. We had Leslie dela Vega the Photo Editor at TIME Magazine, Whitney Lawson, Photo Editor at Travel+Leisure, Michael Wichita, Photo Editor from AARP Bulletin and Ryan Schick the Photo Editor at Conde Nast Portfolio.com.

Here’s what I discovered:

Travel + Leisure, loves film. All their regular contributors shoot film so if you’d like to shoot stories for T+L you’d better go buy a film camera (or fake it somehow). Whitney was careful to point out several times that the deep rich blacks achieved in film are very important to the pictures they run. Additionally what separates a good travel photo from a brochure photo is the amount of information that’s in the frame. A brochure photo will take great pains to show the view and the bed in a hotel room, the flower on the nightstand and all the little details that are all perfect plus it’s lit like the land of a thousand suns, so you can’t tell what time of day it is. That’s four different pictures in a travel story.

Tha AARP Bulletin is different then the magazine, they’re more focussed on the issues and not as lifestyle or a slick as the magazine. Michael said that he never gets enough stories pitched from photographers and they pay good money, so that should be incentive for photographers to send him a pitch or two. He also said finding pictures of seniors with different ethnicities is nearly impossible.

Portfolio.com seems to be headed in the right direction. They have a photo editor, they’re buying stock and assigning stories. Ryan told us about how a photographer who’s work he enjoyed pitched a story on high end bone fishing and was given a 5 day assignment. Also, he showed a few of the recent stock purchases they had made and all felt fresh compared to your usual business metaphors.

Time magazine is an industry icon and heavy user of stock in the front a back of book sections of the magazine. It was interesting to hear Leslie talk about how photos get approved at the magazine. She will meet with her section designer and go over the line-up to see what stories they want to find photography for then she’ll go get a handful of images for each one from which the designer will mock up 4-5 approaches. They then take that to discuss and pick the final selection with the Editor. Also, I asked her about stories that were difficult to find stock for that they always encounter. Major issues facing youths like drugs, pregnancy and drinking we’re always hard to find pictures of because all the underage people depicted and the releases they would need from parents. In fact she recently used craigslist.org to find kids with party photos for an underage drinking story and found the perfect frame where someone was passed out face down and surrounded by beer bottles.

Everyone said they had purchased photos from Flickr or amateur photographers from time to time but they kept their standard usage rates because it was not an issue of finding something cheap just finding an image the stock sites didn’t have. Most are using micro stock for those tiny throwaway shots (worst design trend ever) in the front of the book except Whitney who had no idea what micro stock was. Also, everyone seemed very excited about Photoshelter’s stock offering and I know the feeling because if you’ve searched the big stock houses enough you become very familiar with the limitations of their collections so a new player who’s actively adding imagery and photographers to the system is a very welcome addition.

The Dangers of Oversold Stories

- - Working

Assigning photography to oversold stories is a very painful lesson to learn in this industry. All stories are sold to some extent, because no one is sitting around in a pitch meeting carefully outlining all the reasons why something might not work but some bear the onerous distinction of an idea that only looks good on paper. The subjects who are sold as good looking, young, healthy and fit are actually quite flabby and boring. The conceit the whole thing hangs on was more theory than fact. The Shangri-La like location is criss-crossed with power lines and it rains every single day.

Early in my career, I’d blissfully go about making assignments to match stories without even a peep in the editorial meeting, assuming all the while that the editors fully grasped the difficulties that might be encountered and that they had an inkling what the person, place or thing they just assigned looked like.

Wrong.

I quickly discovered after a series of meetings where crappy pictures were delivered to match the crappy story and I was left holding the bag, that it was my job to investigate the realities of what was being pitched. I unfortunately turned a few photographers I liked into persona non grata as I bumbled along handing out steaming piles of shit, expecting gleaming diamonds in return. A few figured it out or lucked out but many like me got run over by the fertilizer truck and had to take a lump or two to realize what was going on.

I quickly developed a method in meetings of questioning the kind of pictures we might get in return if we made that assignment and challenged the editors to confront this reality: great stories aren’t just words, they need great pictures to go along with them otherwise they’re just plain crap.

The Prix Pictet Award

- - Blog News

The short list for the new $100,000 (!) Prix Pictet Award has been announced (here).

The Prix Pictet is a major new global prize in photography that focuses on perhaps the greatest single issue of the twenty-first century: sustainability.

Editorial Boot Camp

- - Events

I’m giving a talk at the Photoshelter event this Sunday (Shoot The Day) that I’m calling Editorial Boot Camp (press release here). I ‘m calling it that because I’m gonna teach photographers how to kick down the photo editors door, put the CFO in a sleeper hold and throw concussion grenades into the editors office… metaphorically, of course.

If you’re attending I’ll see you there. If not I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

Intern for Chris Buck

- - Blog News

If you want to see how someone perfectly balances the editorial and commercial worlds of photography and you’re majoring in a photo program in the final or next to final year then send Chris a resume and cover letter (chris(at)chrisbuck.com) because this is an incredible opportunity for aspiring photographers and photo editors to get their feet wet in this business.

The rest of the details are in the comments.

UPDATE: Position Filled

There’s No Shortage of Great Photography

- - Getting Hired

There’s so much great photography out there and sure, if the budget and pages are unlimited and you only answer to god then you can go about your merry way picking from the vast variety of photographers but, under a given set of circumstances where you want a specific genre and someone versed in a particular subject matter and then you throw in any number of limitations with budget, pages, location, time frame and then add to the mix the tastes of your editor, creative director, publisher, owner and the reader… well, the group to choose from can become very small. Sometimes there’s only one who fits the bill.

For many photographers it’s about finding that group of photo editors and art buyers who love your work and enjoy working with you and know you’re a perfect match for the assignments they have to make.

Outdoor Sports Photographers

- - Working

UPDATED, Outdoor Sports Photographers List.

Some of these guys have moved on and most can shoot more sports than I’ve listed but all will blow your mind with crazy action or travel photos.

Jackson Hole, WY
Wade McKoy– Skiing
Andrew McGarry– Climbing
Chris Figenshau– Skiing
Greg Von Doersten– Climbing, Skiing
Greg Epstein– Skiing
Jimmy Chin– Climbing
Gabe Rogel– Climbing, Skiing
Jeff Diener– Outdoors
David Stubbs– Outdoors
Jonathan Selkowitz– Outdoors

Cody, WY
Bobby Model– Climbing

Northern, CA
Amy Kumler– Surfing, Travel
Dan Patitucci– Climbing
Bill Stevenson– Skiing
Corey Rich– Climbing
Desre Pickers– Kayak
Christian Pondella– Skiing, Climbing
Jeff Pflueger– Kayak
Chris Burkard– Kayak
Jerry Dodrill– Climbing

San Francisco, CA
Martin Sundberg– Windsurfing
John Dickey– Climbing
Val Atkinson– Fly Fishing
Rod McLean– Outdoors

Southern, CA
Steve Casimiro– Skiing, Adventure
Kevin Zacher– Snowboarding
Embry Rucker– Snowboarding
Danny Zapalac– Snowboarding
Art Brewer– Surfing
Jim Russi– Surfing
Tom Servais– Surfing
Robert Brown– Surfing
David Troyer– Surfing
J. Grant Brittain– Skateboard
Scott Soens– Surfing
Jack English– Surfing
C&J Turner Forte– Travel
Tom Carey– Surfing
Chris Straley– Surfing
Mike O’Meally– Skateboard
Scott Pommier– Skateboard
Jon Humphries– Skateboard
Atiba Jefferson– Skateboard

Continue Reading

How To Buy A Photo On Flickr

- - Stock

Finding one is fairly easy, well, it’s not bad if you can’t find what you need on the traditional stock sites and you’ve run out or ideas where to look or, and this happens too, you’re sick of seeing the same handful of images for a package you run every single year and want something different this time, then suddenly when you type in your keywords there’s thousands of hits and of course most of them are garbage but usually not too far in there’s something workable.

So, you grab it and put it in your folder and it eventually ends up on the server and possibly in a layout and then on the wall where the editor approves it then it’s taken down the hall where the big chief says he loves that image and then back on your desk where suddenly you’re staring at it thinking where the hell did I get this image.

So you go on the server and look at the file name which is usually something innocuous like myfavioritephoto.jpg and then look at the meta data and there’s usually none and this is where your nightmare can begin because once you actually locate the image on flickr again the person who shot it may not even have an email (I only made that mistake once) and if they do it’s possible they loaded the image 4 years ago and never put another one up (a bad sign) but if the email is there you fire one off stressing the urgency and I usually include the siize of the publication and the price as extra motivation because we’re usually on deadline once the big chief has approved something.

The story ends one of 4 ways. 1. You never hear back. 2. You hear back but the file they send you isn’t big enough or doesn’t look good on the proof. 3. The fact checkers discover that it’s not the correct location. 4. They get back to you with the right size file and the caption is correct and everything is cool.

I’ve had all 4 happen so I know the odds are about equal and this is why Flickr will forever remain a last resort for photo editors.

What’s Up With Alec Soth

- - Blogs

Alec Soth wrote a seminal photography blog (here) then one day up and quit. And, I’m not talking “hey, I’m getting tired of this shit I think I’ll pull back a bit,” I’m talking Bermuda-triangle-sudden-radio-silence quit. I always figured the man’s got his reasons and we’ll leave it at that. But, after you’ve been on the sharp end of a blog for awhile the reasons present themselves and I started to develop theories about it. I decided to ask him “what’s up.”

Ok, so why did you quit blogging?

Well, first let me say why I started blogging in the first place. A couple years ago I had an itch to talk about creative issues. My son had just been born and I figured I wouldn’t be getting out much. More importantly, my career as a photographer was going really well but so much of my time was focused on the business side of things. While I was grateful to be making a living, I was becoming increasingly frustrated that all I talked about was prices, editions and so on. I took up the blog as a break from the business side of art. And it turned out to be a fantastic venue for that stuff. You know that feeling you have as a student where you are so hungry for knowledge and inspiration – that was the way I felt with the blog. It was great. Soon there was a sizable audience. This was flattering and cool, but it changed things. Rather than being my creative journal, the blog started feeling like a magazine. It started becoming another business. Every day I was getting dozens of emails from people showing me their work. I just couldn’t keep up. It also started affecting my real life relationships. One time I traveled to New York and was too busy to see a show by a friend of mine. The fact that I didn’t see her show and write about it on my blog, well, she hasn’t spoken to me since. It was ridiculous. As much as I loved the venue, I didn’t need the grief.

Your blog is still cited as one of the best on photography and you’ve not made a post in almost a year. Do you think any photographers will come around and usurp your title?

Of course. I’m sure it has already happened. The truth is that once I quit blogging, I also quit reading blogs. I needed to get out of the loop.

Most photographers have trouble with self promotion and so a blog probably looks like water torture. How did you deal with it?

I’m not a fan of using blogs for self-promotion. I’m as guilty as the next dork for having used my blog to talk about my new show, new book, whatever. But those were the weakest posts. You can smell self-promotion from a mile away. The good stuff would always come from genuine curiosity. If artists take up blogging just to promote their careers, their blogs won’t be worth much more than spam.

What are you up to these days?

I have two personal projects in the works. One will be ready this fall, the other in the fall of 2009. In 2010, the Walker Art Center is organizing a major traveling show & catalog. And I’m still doing plenty of editorial. I just finished a four part series for the Telegraph Magazine.

Any chance you’ll take up the blog again?

I have fantasies. I recently bought Larry Towell’s new book and was so thrilled with it. I really wish that I could go to town on it like I once did on my blog with a Tod Papageoge book. But if I go back, it will likely be on a different site. David Alan Harvey and I have been toying with the idea of functioning like columnists on the Magnum blog. Maybe I could manage being a columnist – but I’m pretty burned out on being the publisher.

Getty announces deal with Flickr

Interesting development in the stock industry, Getty Images and Flickr are working together to establish the first commercial licensing opportunity for photo-enthusiasts in the Flickr community:

Images can be tremendously powerful. Images, empowered appropriately, can challenge, convince, delight and inspire. At Flickr, we think one of our most important missions is to enabe images to be all that they can be. And as such, we are incredibly proud and excited to launch a new partnership with Getty Images, the unrivaled leader in digital media licensing, to offer a new Flickr branded collection on www.gettyimages.com.

The creative and editorial teams at Getty Images have a deep understanding of what makes images truly extraordinary as well as what their clients (on a global scale) are seeking. Marrying this expertise to the talent and breadth of the photography on Flickr is truly an incredible opportunity, for our members, for Getty Images clients, and for those who love imagery in all of its forms.

So how does it all work?

Getty Images has the best editors globally taking the pulse of the market. In the next several months, they will be exploring Flickr’s collection of public photos and inviting some of these photographers to be part of the Flickr collection on Getty Images.

Both companies are committed to providing our users with more choices. Flickr members have an unprecedented opportunity to establish even more value for their creativity and work directly with a global leader to license their images commercially. Getty Images customers will have access to even more diverse, regionally relevant imagery.

So make sure to check out the Flickr collection on www.gettyimages.com in the coming months to see what the editors at Getty Images have selected.

-Kakul Srivastav, General Manager, Flickr

From the Getty Blog (here).

I’ll be interested to see how many gems they find in the 2 billion images stored there.

Running The Best Photo

- - Working

Well, of course, everything is cool when the photographer and magazine are aligned because there are two goals with selecting a picture for a story. The first is running an image that serves the story. Something that is surprising, insightful and arresting, an attention grabber that will get the consumer to read the headline, then deck, lead and finally the entire story. The second goal is an image that serves the photographer well. Something they’d want their photo credit next to, that they can use as a tear sheet, that will land them more jobs.

Balancing these two goals is an important part of photo editing because when you throw everyone else in the mix… the editor wants an image to match his clever headline, the writer wants an image to match that crazy moment they’ve anchored the whole piece on, the EIC wants something that looks different from all the other lead images running this month, the Publisher wants to make sure it’s not something the advertisers can complain about in a pitch meeting, the designer wants something that works with the layout they’ve been designing with dummy photos waiting for the real ones to come in… things can get a little crazy.

When the goals of the magazine cause you to select an unflattering image or use images in a less than ideal manner then you’ve got a problem on your hands.

I have had my head completely chewed off by agents, a few photographers and one gallery when I’ve let the magazine’s goals stomp on the photographers. There’s usually an unspoken rule when working with a certain group of photographers “we do this for the clips.” Because, “the money is laughable, the subject has no resale value, the embargo’s are long and the contracts are ridiculous. Get us a good clip or it’s not worth the time.”

Building the trust of talented photographers is the only way to get amazing pictures on your desk in the first place.

Barnes and Noble Selling Digital Magazines

- - Blog News

Barnes and Noble has subscriptions to 500 titles listed (here) in partnership with the Zineo reader, which somewhat crappily reproduces the magazine reading experience on your screen. Well, at least they’re digital. The more interesting thing is the single copies for sale (here) kinda like a virtual newsstand sans creepy dude thumbing through all the skin mags in the corner.
Finally some progress.

Want To Become A Photo Critic?

- - Blog News

“When a photographer records an image, there is a message he or she wishes to convey. Since the photographer cannot verbally express that message to the viewer, it is the photo critic’s job to ascertain whether or not the photographer succeeded at visually expressing that message to the viewer.”
Maybe the photo criticism school is right for you (here). Only $299.

Via, That’s A Negative.