Pairing a photographer with a famous writer can be difficult, but in the end, an extremely rewarding experience. The “famous writers” are usually handled with kid gloves by the editors–“Sebastian’s not interested in going to Iraq for us but he pitched me something even better, about his grandmothers toenail clipping collection, she ferments it into whiskey,” “Ohhhhh, can he write it for this issue?” “I think thats our cover story,” “Goddam he’s good, this could win us an ASME.”–so, you have to be very careful negotiating this potential minefield. A report from the field or even after the assignment is over about the shit-head photographer you sent along will cause you much distress and it’s virtually impossible to defend against. What are you going to say, “Sebastian’s an asshole” because that gets you nowhere or even worse a reaction like “yeah but he’s very valuable to us so we can’t afford to have your photographer screw-up our relationship with him.”
This is where getting to know photographers on a personal level, comes in handy. Knowing a few photographers who are talented and easy going is exactly what you need in a situation like this. Whoa, hold on buddy… I know everyone aims to please so nobody is going to cop to being a difficult photographer but the problem, when it comes to writers is, in many cases, they’re working against you. They always interview the subject for longer than they should, leaving little time for the portraits, or they head off on some effing “wild goose chase” sucking up valuable photography time looking for additional material that may or may not materialize. It’s not as easy as you may think to be a nice guy and demand equal time with the subject or, egads more time than the writer.
Some of the more famous writers will have certain photographers they only work with and when you’re famous you pretty much get to dictate the terms of the assignment so why not demand who the photographer will be. Side-note: Many times the not-so-famous writers email over a list of photographers that is passed along from the editor with some sort of preamble about how they know this isn’t any of their business but here’s a list of photographers I like… just in case you we’re named Director of Photography by mistake.
In the end, when you make a great pairing and the photography that comes back from the assignment is amazing and then eventually you see the two of them shooting assignments for other magazines, for a moment, it feels like something you did lasts more than a month and that, is an incredibly rewarding feeling.
Great reference guide over on Exposure Compensation for photographers to understand their rights when taking pictures (here).
I have a feeling I will end 2008 with the same headline on 52 posts. Well, I don’t give a crap. We can stand around and whine as all the little bitches who have nothing worth copyrighting tell everyone who’s listening that the law is outdated and oppressive or we can go out and defend it.
First off, I like where Dan Heller is headed in his post Gaming the Creative Commons for Profit. Dan’s attitude in general, with copyright violation is, you can pay the licensing fee or you can steal it and I’ll collect a fee in court and I don’t really care either way. Badass. He furthers this idea in his Creative Commons post by broadcasting the fact that if you register your images with the copyright office, load them into flickr with a CC license, wait for people to pick them off and suddenly revoke the license you can collect a windfall of easily enforcible copyright violations.
It’s sort of a reverse psychology for all the numb nutz out there. Publicly declare how much money you can make off people misusing the CC license and you will eventually scare everyone away from even trying. He’s got a huge audience so I don’t doubt this idea has legs.
Next, is a story Cameron Davidson pointed me to in the Washington Post yesterday entitled “Hey Isn’t That…” where Monica Hesse investigates corporations stealing photography off the web . The irony of the whole deal is how these companies vigorously defend and display their copyright but then occasionally steal from unsuspecting photographers online and when caught blaming the whole mess on an intern or photo assistant (yeah, tell me about those goddam photo assistants buddy; ).
Good ole L.L. defends the amateur?:
Says Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford legal scholar who created Creative Commons, when asked about the issue of corporations borrowing photos: “There’s really no excuse for [these companies] except that they think it’s not important to protect the rights of the amateur.”
Whoa, looks like double L wanted the CC to still protect authors rights. Don’t think you can have it both ways buddy.
This might take awhile to shake out but for now I think it’s important for people who have something worth copyrighting to voice their opinion wherever they can.
Easiest one first.
Whenever I have a shoot in Hawaii that requires production work I only have one phone call to make, Hugh at FX Productions 1.808.485.2268 or info(at)fx-group(dot)com.
I can’t say enough good things about Hugh. He has a great team of people working for him (all his producers rock) they’re very professional yet laid back and know the islands well. I call them for everything; talent, grooming, catering, locations, permits… they do it all without a hitch.
A couple more links from my files:
Profoto and Grip
TalentHawaii Sports Models Kathy Muller
Feel Free to add to this.
What’s the purpose of the promo card? Send me a cool photo, convey contact info, show-off your style, reinforce your brand, display your expensive logo, tell a story, show-off your new printer, tell me how clever you are, show the latest campaign you shot, show me how many styles you can shoot…
Action. Nothing else.
The purpose of a promo card is to get me to do something. Look at your website, call your phone, tack you up to the wall, go show it to someone and above all else not just huck it in the garbage can (wrong kind of action).
Think about it like this:
If your goal is to be hung on the wall the image should be something I’d be proud to display in front of all my colleagues.
If you goal is a website visit it should be something intriguing, that makes me want to see what the hell you’re all about.
If you goal is for me to show it to someone else it should be impressive, outrageous or hilarious.
If you goal is a phone call then you need a bit of perfect timing so that the card lands on my desk when I’m looking for someone like you.
One day I stopped hucking promos in the garbage (jeeze… of course, after bookmarking the one’s I liked) and started hucking them in the corner of my office.
Then stacked them up.
I got a call from a friend (Corey Rich) who asked if I would come up to the Auroa Photographers meeting in Maine and give a presentation. Why not? I dug into the pile and picked out a bunch that caught my eye and shot a picture of each one on my desk, in it’s native habitat as it were. I gave a simple presentation showing the different styles of promos and the ones I recently saw and liked. Here’ they are:
Note: If you’re uncomfortable with me showing your promo (or keeping it on Flickr) email me and I will remove it immediately and not try to eventually make 3.4 million off it like Richard Prince.
UPDATE: Some people were having problems with the flash slide show so I loaded a different one. Only problem is it doesn’t play the slides in the correct order. To see the correct order with comments hit the flickr link.
I have a request from a photo editor for a list of wildlife photographers I like. Here’s my list. Contributors feel free to add to it and I’ll update.
UPDATED: September 25, 2009 (got some more names from a nature photo editor)
Michael “Nick” Nichols
Thomas D. Mangelsen
Tui De Roy
Tom & Pat Leeson
Daniel J. Cox
Wendy Shattil/Bob Rozinski
Gary Bell (marine)
David Hall (marine)
Brandon Cole (marine)
Cesar Aristeiguieta Photography
Inspired in part by a post I made on the escalating cost of digital processing PDN has a survey (here) that should give us all a clearer picture on what people are charging and what magazines are paying. Take a few minutes to fill it out.
A new Channel 4 series, Picture This, takes six wannabe snappers and sets them assignments over the course of three weeks, eliminating the unsuccessful contestants until just two remain to battle it out for the prize. Martin Parr, the acclaimed photographer best known for his colourful pictures of British seaside life, is one of the three judges on the show.The documentary photographer became involved with Picture This because he believes that photography is not given the prominence it deserves in the UK, whereas in other European countries and in the United States it is celebrated as an important art form. -The Independent Story
Neil Leifer still acts like he has something to prove. Some of it’s the plight of the news or sports photographer, even if you’re the best. Leifer recalls how even Sports Illustrated sometimes sent him out with a snot-nosed reporter who’d introduce him by saying “This is my photographer.” -LA Times Story
Artists are drawn to de Wilde in part because the tedium that’s typical of photo shoots is transformed into a facet of the creative act when she’s at the helm. De Wilde insists on long conversations, in person, with young artists prior to taking their picture. She’ll hunt for ideas but also memorize the way a person’s eyes move and the way they smile at a joke, so that when she’s standing behind the camera she’ll be able to recognize what’s real, no matter how surreal the setting or high the concept. -Boston Globe Story
Best photography related headline of 2007: Britney Spears and Photographer Suspected of Making Quick F-Stop At Beverly Hills Hotel. -Defamer Story
Seth Godin the online guru of marketing has a post that’s perfect for our industry:
Turns out that for the last
seventeentwenty-seven years, every single movie that managed to win the Oscar for best picture was also nominated for best editing.
Great products, amazing services and stories worth talking about get edited along the way. Most of the time, the editing makes them pallid, mediocre and boring. Sometimes, a great editor will push the remarkable stuff. That’s his job.
The easy thing for an editor to do is make things safe. You avoid trouble that way. Alas, it also means you avoid success.
Who’s doing your editing?
Photo editors, word editors, photographers listen up, avoid making safe choices all the time. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve done something I thought would get me in trouble or even fired-*cough* I don’t do this anymore future employers-and just closed my eyes and let it happen because I knew if it worked it would be spectacular. Of course, it’s never that simple when you’ve got CEO’s, CFO’s and nervous editors to answer to but adopting a bit of an eff-it stance is always good for creating something memorable.
In the end, even though editorial photography is a collaborative process, you’ve got to live (and build your career) with what’s in your book. If you don’t like it, fire your editor.
Why do photographers have such bad photographs of themselves? I mean, it seems like, as a photographer at some point in your career you should have a great picture taken by your assistant or another photographer you know and respect but I’m here to tell you, universally, photographers don’t have good contributor photos. I’m not immune from this phenomena either as I struggled to find photos of myself without a hat and sunglasses when my time came to appear on the contributor page so I’m offering this criticism more as a public service announcement.
“Photographers get decent portraits taken of yourselves.” I’ve had to remove dozens of photographers from the contributor page of the magazine over the years because the photos sucked. The two biggest violations are obscured face and a camera unnaturally placed in the frame somewhere.
I suggest that you have two options ready. Something from the field of you working and more of a formal portrait shot so the magazine has options. Also, some of you who are attempting to stop the aging process by submitting the same image from 20 years ago should update your picture.
Details magazine gave up several years ago and they now unnaturally crop and convert to B&W all their contributor images. Vanity Fair on the other hand treats all their contributors like mini profiles in the magazine and assigns appropriate photography (and styling) to each.
Do yourself a favor and make it easy for magazines to put you on the contributor page. You may think people land there all the time because of their status in the industry and that’s part of it but they also land there because they have a great contributor photo.
The end of the year is when corporate people start to think about bonuses and so far I’ve been lucky to work at companies that give them out. The problem has always been that the formula to determine who gets them and how much they get is a closely guarded secret. I have uncovered evidence that it’s loosely based on this top-secret formula: The bare minimum we can get away with where employees only grumble and don’t actually quit. I think back when media companies were setting new highs the bonuses were probably pretty good but now that the new highs are old lows it’s perfunctory at best.
This also reminds me that many photo directors and editors get a bonus for hitting the budget at the end of the year that can be $5,000 or more which is pretty significant for your bank account but when you’re dealing with multi million dollar photography budgets it’s a total joke. I can spend 5k in half a second so I don’t know why the CFO thinks that paltry bribe will get me to try and make photographers eat expenses on shoots or use stock instead of shooting something original, so I can meet some number they pulled out of their ass. I even argued once I should still get my bonus, even though I completely blew the budget, because it could have been worse. Hah.
I decided to take it upon myself to address the raging debate about copyright on the internet. I created an alternate internet for people who want to give their content away without attribution or payment.
I’m calling it the shitternet. Just direct your browser to shit://www.yourblog.com and start grabbing stories and photos and video to make a page everyone will want to visit. This is going to be so AWESOME. It will be a place where people can mash-up and repurpose everything thats posted and consumers can go and look at the same photographs and stories and videos over and over and over again only reposted on millions of blogs. And, everyone can link everyone else until the internet resembles a giant donut. Sweet. It’s for people who use the internet as a side job. It’s no good for people who want to make a living off original content creation because everything is free.
There was another round of debate on the tech blogs just before the holidays about photographers copyright and the idea of fair use on the internet. I won’t bore you with links because it’s old news now but I wanted to point out that a few people commented with links to Larry Lessig’s speach at TED (here) where he talks about mashing-up copyrighted content to make cool new content and they all seemed to miss the point he makes at the end that the content originators should decide how their stuff is used.
I think it’s cool that people want to create material and give it away because that’s exactly the value of the material they’re creating. The creative commons license which Larry is a big supporter of was created so people can broadly release copyright restrictions on material they would never profit from. I’ve always had a problem paying for horrible photography and now I know I can get it for free.
High quality photography is still very expensive.
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
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.
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.