Hello Sye

Got an email from Sye Williams. It’s the usual email blast with a message like “check out my new work” and I’ve had him bookmarked as someone I’d like to work with for a while so I click and check out his work again.



Solid stuff, really good photographer but heyyyy what’s this video here.


Gotta say watching that video made me want to hire him even more.

(click images for links)


Just got a fashion shoot in. There was a sheet of paper for each setup with a dozen cut contacts 0f 6×4.5, 6×7 in B&W and color plus… 35mm. God, I hadn’t realized how long it’s been since I’d gotten 35mm contacts and how much I love seeing them. It’s as if that’s a cutting edge format now… I mean who the hell shoots 35mm neg? It’s so tiny.

Three cameras for every setup… that’s cool.

PS- One photo on each page had two stars and another had one and the rest had none.

PPS- Only one photo had two stars and a sun drawn around it.

New Book

Holy crap, does everyone suddenly have a new book to show? I’m flooded with calls for book showings and drop offs not to mention people visiting from all over the country.

Must be that slow time of year when everyone gets itchy to drum up work.

Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year where I’ve completely blown my budget and I’m working on the smallest issue with the least amount of assignments (January).

It’s hard to get motivated to meet with all the photographers looking for work when I currently have none to give.

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.


MaryAnne Golon Interview

John McDermott just sent me a link (here) to his interview with the very talented DOP at Time, MaryAnne Golon. Very informative. Thanks John.

Here’s a couple great quotes:

What makes a good picture editor?

That’s a difficult question. I suppose, being a jack-of-all-trades, but above all knowing what is a good picture and what is a bad picture and why. You’d be surprised at how few photo editors working in the business today can actually make that distinction.
You need to be incredibly organised and you have to be able to juggle many different things at once. You have to be a friend, a psychiatrist, a fix-it person and a sales person. You have to know sales because you have to sell to everyone all the time. You have to sell editors on stories and pictures, and you have to sell photographers and agencies on assignments. When I’m told that editorial people have no idea about sales I just laugh out loud because selling ideas and garnering support is about 80% of what I do. Jim Nachtwey always refers to us as his champion and without a champion or a guardian angel you’re in big trouble in this business.


So a lot of that editing process has shifted to the photographer?

Yes. And I think a lot of photographers are very pleased about that because before they didn’t have any reasonable level of control over their work. They’d just send in the unprocessed film and then it would be, “Oh my God, why do they always pick the wrong picture?”. How many times have we heard that! But it’s also created a much bigger workload for the photographers and I think it’s almost been crushing for them. With the new technology they’re not only photographers but they’ve had to become editors and technology specialists too. What I think they should be focusing on is what they’ve always focused on – taking great pictures.

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?

Is There More?

Three words that make me cringe.

It goes like this: photographer delivers an edit of the shoot, PE delivers that edit (takes out the extra sent along, ya know, just in case) to the Creative Director, layout is presented to the Editor at which point you may hear those three words.

Yes, there’s more… there are hundreds of images taken, I’ve simply given you the best but if you’d prefer we can change our policy of only running great photography and instead run the photos that go with a particular point in the story or photos that go with the preconceived idea you had in your head about who this person is… fine.

Photographers, don’t kid yourselves, there is a best photo from every setup (there may be multiple setups but not multiple bests). A layout has to be designed around the best photos from a shoot and then a headline written to go with the lead photo… the variations don’t matter.

This is an ideal world but I live in the real world, so sometimes I get to hear those cringe worthy words. It’s my job to fight back.

There’s good discussion on the “not a photographer” post about how many images to deliver from a shoot. Finding the best photos takes time and experience and if you don’t have a couple days or weeks to look over the shoot, edit down and live with it or if you haven’t been shooting for eons it’s difficult to do. I work with enough photographers who do it to know it can be done.

After the assignment they deliver final prints with no contact sheets or they cut their contacts apart, tape them to paper and indicate the best photo or they leave the contacts intact but x-out the bad shots and write on top of the good shots or they deliver a disk with a tight edit in a firsts folder and variations in the seconds folder.

Whichever way, find the best photo and broadcast that you want it published.

My favorite editorial photographer of all time sends me 1 print at the end of a shoot. Is there more? No, there’s only one photo.

Who is this Dan Winters Fellow?

Can you spot a Dan Winters photograph a mile away? Yes, on a dead sprint past a newsstand out of the corner of my eye.

Is there more Dan than subject in those photographs? I don’t care.

When the editor professes a love for Dan Winters photography it only means he loves a photograph he once saw. Not, that he will love the photographs he’s about to get.

Could a Photo Directors job get any easier then giving Dan an assignment? Right up to the point where you’re told to give him art direction.

(Clarification: Dan is a Genius. I just think it’s stupid to art direct him and I’m not implying he doesn’t collaborate. He does.) 





Not A (Failed) Photographer

My joke about all photo editors being failed photographers resonated with a few people and the funny thing is, I get asked by 90% of the photographers I meet if I’m a photographer and I used to tell the truth, that no I don’t take many pictures, but this inevitably leads to a somewhat awkward moment where the photographer wonders how in the hell I got a job as a photography director.

I’ve always known I have a talent for working with creative people and a great eye for photography but it’s astonishing to people that I have no clue how to operate a camera.

I don’t really care how they work.

Goggle Image is the Bane of my Existence

What a crappy feature Google Image has turned out to be for photo editors.

I get endless emails every day from editors and writers with useless google image links to shit photography or uncredited photography or even worse… amateur photography where I have no idea if it was taken with a Mark III or Hello Kitty camera from JC Penney and YES it makes a difference what camera it was shot with when printing on a 4 color press because really I have no way of knowing how it will turn out until production sends us a proof and usually by then it’s getting too late because the layout and story has been designed and written to go with the photo that a dumb ass algorithm found.

It used to be that editors, writers and art directors had no idea where to get photos from, so the images that I found offensive or that didn’t fit my aesthetic never surfaced but now that google image dredges the bottom of the ocean of horrible website photography my life is spent telling people why certain photos suck and others are awesome.

So, do me a favor google algorithm writers and talented photographers. Figure out a way that only the good photography surfaces so that when I type Richard Branson into image search I don’t get a photo of him running out of the surf holding his nutz.

A Great Way To Share Photos

Just got this video slide show announcement from Judy Casey about her website relaunch and have to say it’s a great idea because it’s easy to pass along and post.

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 cliché 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

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 bother  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?

Anonymous Agent

Well it appears Andrew Hetherington got the drop on me but I was planning to post on the anonymous photography agent, “A Visual Society” who has very fine taste for fashion photography.

Soon, all the entities of the photography business will be represented anonymously and we can begin to take over the world……… ah, ah, ahhhhh.