Search Results for "suzanne sease"

The State of the Industry: Mike Hughes, The Martin Agency

The State of the Industry, is a new column where Suzanne Sease speaks with advertising industry professionals and influencers to discuss what’s happening and where we’re headed.

I had the honor of having Mike Hughes as my supervisor while I was at The Martin Agency. The Martin Agency was voted the US Agency of the Year in 2010 and is known for their work for Wal-mart, Geico, Discover Card, Hanes, Moen and Miscrosoft. Mike was inducted in to The One Club Creative Hall of Fame in 2010, a prestigious group that includes David Ogilvy, Jay Chiat, Tom McElligott, Hal Riney, Dan Wieden, David Bernbach to name a few of the greats. It was such a pleasure to work with such a creative mind and you can see that in his answers.

Suzanne: I have asked the question before “Is print dead” and I know most of us will always love the tangible print, if so what is realistically the future of the still image? According to a 2011 Advertising forecast from Mediabrands, part of Interpublic Group: Over the next five years, magazine advertising will decline in each of the world’s 10 largest markets for magazines, with the exception of Brazil and Russia.
Mike: Magazines and newspapers will continue to morph in the years ahead. If personal printers take off, there might even be a resurgence of print edition customized for the reader. Two years ago, I might have said that the decline in print editions will be very steep; now I’m not so sure.

What are your thoughts on Ambient media and do you see this taking off in the States as it has in other countries?
The lines between types of media (OOH, print, broadcast, digital, earned, paid, audio, video, old, new, etc.) have been erased. Moving images can appear in books. Stills can be riveting on digital. Sights, sounds, signals and even smells can emanate from outdoor. Hopefully, the borderlines between countries will also become less thick. Certainly media
opportunities developed in one part of the world will soon emigrate to every other part.

When I go to www.adsoftheworld.com most of the print mediums that are featured are from outside the United States? Are we being too safe?
I suspect that we’re not caring enough.

Are clients pulling us back?
No. (A great agency never blames its clients.) I’m betting we’re not inspiring our clients enough with the print work we’re doing.

Do you think our buying society is educated and the “you tube” and reality shows mentality verses the appreciation of quality creative advertising?
If there’s anything the world learned from Steve Jobs, it’s this: society loves quality when it’s relevant and helpful and cool.

What are your thoughts on trying to make a product become a viral sensation? Do you think this is the future or will it phase out?
The language has changed over the years, but the goal of advertising has always been to help good products “go viral.” That won’t change. (Obviously, “going viral” isn’t limited to online connectivity.)

Should photographers and illustrators learn the motion medium?
Most should.

What advice would you give someone who only does print (still) work?
It’s more important than ever that whatever you do, you have to have an advantage over your competitors. The best way to do that, of course, is to be BETTER than your competitors.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.

The State of the Industry: Marni Beardsley, W+K

The State of the Industry, is a new column where Suzanne Sease speaks with advertising industry professionals and influencers to discuss what’s happening and where we’re headed.

The State of the Industry with Marni Beardsley of W+K

Marni Beardsley is a highly respected art producers who has spearheaded the art production department of Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, OR for decades. Marni and I were both art buyers in the 90’s when we got to push the envelope for campaigns like Wrangler, Vanity Fair (late 90’s work), Seiko Watches and Saab and Nike. We bonded while working with Jayanta Jenkins an amazing creative person, now at TBWA Chiat Day.  Marni is a very busy Art Producer and was extremely kind to answer these “state of the industry” questions.

What other mediums do you see print images being used in advertising?

Digital, digital, digital and digital. Say that 5 times really fast. photography isn’t something that should be strictly synonymous with print. We look to partner with photographers/artists to create the best ‘still assets,’ regardless of the medium it will be featured in. Print, in-store, pop, and the various out-of-home mediums also remain effective ways to share the message. Most photo productions continue to be executed to cover a combination all mediums, with digital often at the top. And there’s a growing amount of photo shoots we produce with digital solely in mind as the only and final intended use. The enormous volume of still assets often needed for each digital photo shoot can make your head spin. Digital shoots require a photographer who is equally quick and nimble as he or she is talented… they are going to be working their ass off. After the digital shoot has wrapped, we do our best to comfort the photographer by offering to read them a bedtime story or feeding them stiff drinks… whatever they may need for a quick and speedy recovery.

What are your thoughts on Ambient media and do you see this taking off in the States as it has in other countries?

With a greater demand for point of sale communications and the ability to provide precise audience targeting, ambient media is another smart way to connect with your consumer. Is it considered sexy? If you think snooki is sexy, then sure, the same can be said for ambient media (snooki finds the strangest ways to brand herself and constantly keep herself in the media). I’ve never seen one episode of the jersey shore, yet somehow I’ve become aware of her every move. She’s obviously bat-shit crazy, but you can’t argue that she’s also pretty damn savvy.

Ambient media also provides versatility, and while often bizarre, it can provide effective ways to push brand messages. For example, when you’re waiting in the security line at the airport, schlepping your shoes, computer and crap into the bins, I’d argue it’s smart business when there’s a message at the bottom of these bins we’re forced to deal with. I only wish the ads I’ve seen were better executed, interesting or clever.

Who knows, maybe someday i’ll see some twisted yet artfully executed photograph of snooki staring up at me and it’ll make me less annoyed with having to take my stinky shoes off in the first place.

When I go to www.adsoftheworld.com most of the print mediums that are featured are from outside the United States? Are we being too safe? Are clients pulling us back?

Aahhh, to be able to create work outside of the U.S. Many of my esteemed colleagues across the W+kK network have this opportunity and I’m often jealous. Ads are reflective of cultural identities and last I checked, France’s culture is pretty hip, so is their advertising. It’s well known the U.S. has the most restrictions, other markets can say and do far more than we can. This seems to extend into the client arena in many respects, U.S. based clients are naturally more conservative which again is a reflection of our culture. However, that shouldn’t deter us from collaborating with our clients in trying to achieve the best work that stands out above the rest. And when most companies out there are playing it safe, it’s refreshing to work with clients willing to take more risks — if done well, it will generally result in iconic work people will remember and talk about. We shouldn’t approach it as what we can’t do, it’s a matter of what can we do.

Are clients requiring more and more rights and optional images from still photo shoots?

Hell yes. The expectation is to have use for all outtakes from a shoot, the era of confining the number of images per day or basing fees per image is long over and there is definitely a push for extending usage. Clients want flexibility in all the mediums, increasing the time period or in some cases, asking for in perpetuity along with your first born. But, if you put yourself in our client’s shoes, they need efficiencies and flexibilities more than ever in an effort to manage their P + L, particularly in these last few years. The challenge is to manage clients expectations — and the request for multiple years or an unlimited time period naturally equates to an increase in fees. It’s always a fine balance in trying to make sure you’re being mindful of the client’s budget while making sure the artist is receiving fair compensation. The goal is to always make sure both parties walk away feeling happy. With tighter budgets across the board, it’s definitely become more challenging over time, that’s for damn sure. Having open and honest conversations to address certain realities is the best way to get through it together.

How many of your current clients require the estimates to process through cost consultants? Do you see more clients using them or are they realizing they don’t know what they are talking about?

Most of our clients require working in tandem with an independent cost consultant and/or internal creative buyer but we are fortunate to be working alongside many respected cost consultants who have prior art production experience. The shared goal is to provide a realistic, fair, well thought out, cost efficient estimate that allows for the best photography to be executed.

Do you think our buying society is educated and the “you tube” and reality shows mentality verses the appreciation of quality creative advertising?

Quality creative + quality art will always stand out above the rest. It starts with a great idea coupled with the best execution. Sorry snooki.

What are your thoughts on trying to make a product become a viral sensation? Do you think this is the future or will it phase out?

In the end it is all still a popularity contest. Everyone wants their brand to be a viral sensation and they want other people to talk about their brand without having to pay other people to talk about their brand. A true viral campaign gains social momentum based on its inherent social value (If I think it’s pretty funny, I’ll send it to my friend).

I feel that brands are walking a bit of a fine line as they try to make viral sensations. We can’t lose sight of the original goal: If it’s good, then it’s good. The ability with which people can share content and distribute across the world instantaneously makes it easier for good work to reach more people. If it’s whack, it dies faster. So, virals with relevant, interesting content will distribute faster and have a longer shelf life.

When you maintain the relentless goal of doing great work, the rest follows. Our connections with each other is becoming quite valuable to brands and products. Who the hell knows how long the quest for the viral gold will last, but it’s very clear that products and brands will continue to try to produce things with more social currency. Pictures, videos, content, and ideas that will be less about what the product says, but more about what you or I will hopefully say about the product.

What percentage of print work is your company doing today compared to 5 years ago? Or even a year ago?

It seems to vary. It’s increased for some of our clients, decreased for others and for some stayed about the same. Strictly case by case depending on the brand and the varying approaches they want to share their message. It’s interesting to see the growth of some magazines soar this past year. Fashion publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, W and Marie Clare. Entertainment and music pubs such as People, TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone. Teen mags such as Seventeen and Teen Vogue. Dude publications such as GQ, Esquire and Men’s Health. And lifestyle and travel publications such as The New Yorker, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler and Vanity Fair are all faring pretty damn well. Their revenue and ad spending have all increased just this past quarter even.

The power of print is still very much a viable media. In a time full of chaos, i feel we should take this opportunity to hail those who are doing it correctly in the print space.

Should photographers and illustrators learn the motion medium?

There are so many growing opportunities in motion. This industry is a constantly changing organism. And with so many advances in technology, the need for more motion and stills in digital, there’s no doubt it’s smart for artists to embrace movement. On top of the expanding commercial and editorial opportunities out there, it’s another creative outlet and experimentation for extending their look and style found in their photography or art. It’s exciting to watch, particularly when you see their motion and immediately recognize it as an amplification of their stills. And should it inspire illustrators and photographers to explore motion, even better. Nothing like curiosity mixed with a little fear to light a fire up your ass and really get your creative juices flowing.

What advice would you give someone who only does print (still) work?

I also strongly feel photographers and illustrators should stay true to their work. and create their art in the best medium(s) that truly speak to them. In other words, simply pursuing motion solely because they feel they have to, will naturally reflect in the work they create. Not to mention have an effect on their creative spirit and psyche. Bottom line, each artist/photographer should trust their own intuition. It’s what it’s here for. Intuition helps harness creative energy in producing art that means something to them and then good work comes of it. Then people like myself will come a knockin’.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.

Your Guide To Working With Consultants

- - Consultants

I get a lot of questions about the photography business and for any answers that are more involved I refer people to my list of photography consultants. I’ve always been curious what the process of working with a consultant is like so I asked Suzanne Sease to tell us about it. She interviewed a handful of her colleagues to get a broad perspective on the practice. I can assure you, after a few times consulting with photographers myself, that these people are really good at what they do.

Working with a consultant 101

You have done what you think is right for your business. You edited your images for your website, portfolio and promotional materials but still nothing is happening. To get another valued opinion, you have made a big decision to work with a creative consultant to help take your career to the next level or jumpstart it. There are a lot of consultants out there so it is hard to decide who is best for you. This article is to help you make the best decision for your business.

I reached out to several veterans whom I respect because of their experience before they chose to be consultants. I asked them the best way to maximize working with a consultant. The resulting checklist is designed to help you make the best decision for you if you want to work with a creative consultant. For this article, I interviewed Amanda Sosa Stone, Jennifer Kilberg, Leslie Burns, Katherine Hennessy, Mary Virginia Swanson and included my own thoughts from my experiences as a consultant since 1999.

Getting Started:

It is best to e-mail several consultants to check their availability and a time to talk about your work. Please understand that we get a lot of e-mails each day so it may take a day or two to get back to you. Be focused about what you are looking for and what you would like to achieve. Make sure you clearly articulate your needs and expectations regarding your hope of working with a consultant. Most consultants will review your website before they talk with you. Leslie says she looks at a potential client’s website before returning a call or e-mail to gain more information about their level of creativity or sign of it. Katherine and I do that as well. We look at your website as we want to see how you are presenting yourself on your website. If your website is not organized with a clear vision, it makes a buyer confused. Jennifer, Amanda, and I all agree that you need to ask what it is that you are currently doing that is not working and where you want to go. Mary Virginia Swanson has created a page on her website on “how we work together”, and requires potential clients to fill out a “client fact sheet”. Amanda has the philosophy that she wants her clients to hire her because she is the perfect match for them. Katherine feels like you need to be able to have open dialogue and set reasonable expectations regarding where you are and the expected outcome. Mary Virginia adds “Not every photographer is open to constructive criticism when it comes to their work and their business model(s) currently in practice. I encourage those investing in consultations to anticipate a tough review and the suggestion of investigation into new markets.”

The Editing Process:

Before a consultant can begin the process, the photographer needs to take the time to edit the images that they want to represent them. Jennifer asks for 250-500 images per market. She says having clients send her everything and anything does not benefit her client and is a waste of her time. I couldn’t agree more. Amanda and I both prefer about 1,000 images in one folder and not separated into categories. I have received thousands of images before and after selecting great images, the photographer says “ I have never liked that image”. You must not be emotionally attached to images and you need to remember that a photographer carries baggage about imagery – you need to look at working with the consultant as an independent force that will help you cull the best, not getting bogged down by your perspective and past perceptions. As Amanda says “ You should go into the consult completely open (in your head and in your calendar- meaning you have time to do the work you want to do).” Most consultants like to work with digital images that are sent to them and are editing in Aperture, Lightroom and other software. Amanda, Jennifer, Katherine and I like to create contact sheets of the images in the order they should appear in the website galleries. A portfolio is also created for the client to use on an iPad as well as a printed portfolio. Leslie likes to work on the backend of someone’s website or with jpegs. But for the printed portfolio she requires prints to play with. Since Mary Virginia works primarily with artists on their personal projects, many of her clients send physical prints so she can gain a sense of their craft, project edits and publication layouts utilizing on-line editing tools.

Discussing the Editing:

Each of the consultants in this article spend the time discussing the edits that have been tailored to their client. The edits are created to your vision and the markets it should target. Amanda and I both agree that the discussion needs to honest and about the photographer’s strengths. Weaknesses can be indentified, discussed and pushed aside for the strengths to shine. Each of the consultants discusses where you want to grow and their edits are a reflection of that. As Leslie says, “ Be open, be willing to listen and learn, and have some faith in her/himself in the process.” Mary Virginia helps her clients gain awareness of today’s diverse marketplace and where their work/skills are most likely to fit and teach them the necessary research skills aimed at targeting those most likely to respond to their work. Katherine, Amanda and I like to use our previous skills as an art buyer to look at your images as to what they sell- either a product or an emotion. In advertising and graphic design, your images have to stop the viewer to look at what is being advertised. In editorial, your image has to entice the viewer to read the article or want to buy the products featured, cook a meal or decorate a room. I look at the production value to your images. If your images look like you stumbled upon something, you got lucky. If your images look like you created a scenario and knew how to shoot within it, I know you have talent.

Marketing:

You have done all your work with your edits, you have uploaded the images on to your site, designed your portfolio from the edit, and have a selection of images for your marketing. At this point, we look at your marketing plan and discuss how it is best to approach your target. For Mary Virginia she enjoys seeing her long-term clients achieve their goals of exhibitions, gallery representation, publications and/or creative commissions in the style of their personal work. For the commercial side of consulting, you need to decide how you are willing to spend your marketing dollars. But you HAVE to market. Each of these consultants will work with you on your target market. The best way is to purchase the rights to use a database. Agency Access has merged the research from Adbase to create an excellent researched database of companies, contacts and brands. Each consultant knows how to create lists for you on your account and will select images for your e-promo materials and direct mail. Katherine adds “Direct Mail cannot be discounted in this technological world. It is an avenue that should still be pursued.” I like my clients to create personalized e-mails complimenting the work a buyer has done showing they have done their research on a case by case basis. It is encouraged that you go on the road and show your portfolio. I have clients send out personalized notecards telling potential buyers that you would like to meet with them and then giving them a call to set up a meeting. One of my clients said it perfectly “ I came to realize when I did all my marketing virtually, that client didn’t want to hire a virtual photographer.” But if folks are unable to meet, create a virtual portfolio that is an extension of your website. A PDF portfolio is usually too large to send to buyers (2MB can crash a buyers computer even at large companies). A good virtual portfolio company is www.issuu.com.

The Lessons Learned:

Each of the consultants agree with what Amanda wrote so perfectly:

My wish for all my clients is that once we show them the path – they learn to trust themselves and listen to their gut instincts.

The lessons I have learned from clients who hired another consultant and then hired me to fix what the first consultant didn’t do the first time (which I know happens to the best of us):

  • Sometimes it wasn’t the consultant who didn’t do the work, sometimes the client didn’t communicate they weren’t happy and felt bad and didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the consultant.
  • As a consultant you have to edit without an ego – you can’t please everyone and if you can’t, you better hope they speak up so you can fix the problem.
  • It’s a two way street – you have to be respectful of each other’s time and feelings, but still be honest about the process, the work and the state of one’s business.
  • Spending a lot of money doesn’t mean you are getting the best, it just means someone charges more than another (same with designers).
  • Listen to the work. Sometimes, the consultant is given a verbal direction by the photographer, but the works demands another direction, which might be out of the artist’s comfort zone (i.e. you want to shoot fashion, but your best work is portraits). In the end, the artist may not be ready to take their work to the next level or that direction, in which case the artists needs to clearly communicate this to the consultant. If they do not, they will have wasted their money by not communicating their needs.

Mary Virginia says “Not every photographer is open to constructive criticism when it comes to their work and their business model(s) currently in practice. I encourage those investing in consultations to anticipate a tough review and the suggestion of investigation into new markets.”

Jennifer says “When hiring a consultant you need to make sure you are a strong communicator and have expressed your expectations up front. A good consultant will help you figure out your goals and help you prioritize where your focus should be. We can help build a strong foundation to get you out the door, but you still need to do the work.”

Katherine would add “You need to come with focused goals, but also be realistic with your expectations, acknowledging the industry and the economic situation. There is work out there, but our relationship and business partnership will not be the crystal ball answer. It’s simply one step in the process.”

And Leslie sums it up “ I draw the map, they have to drive the route.”

Most of the consultants are available ala carte or for packages. Check out their websites for more information. Mary Virginia doesn’t offer packages and bills for time spent on working with her clients.

The contributors to this article are:

Amanda Sosa Stone- www.sosastone.com, She has over 12 years experience as a former art buyer for FCB/Draft, rep/producer for over 27 photographers and photo editor. Amanda was the photo editor for Elyse Weisberg’s book. Co-author with Suzanne Sease on The Photographers Survivor’s Guide. Currently, Amanda is the in-house consultant for Agency Access.

Jennifer Kilberg- www.fluidvisioninc.com. She has over 15 years experience as a former photo editor for SciFi Channel, NYC Kodak, American PHOTO, professor at Parsons (NYC), current professor at Creative Circus and The Portfolio Center (GA), and producer for clients like American Airlines.

Leslie Burns, Esq.- www.burnsautoparts.com and burnstheattorney.com. She has worked for clients and commercial photographers since the 1990s, including being a photographers’ rep and adjunct prof at CCAD: A consultant for over 10 years, she is the author of 2 books and a frequent speaker. She recently passed the California Bar and can help with copyright and legal issues, too.

Mary Virginia Swanson- www.mvswanson.com is established in the fine art and quality fine art stock world. She maintains a popular blog “Marketing Photos” that showcases upcoming opportunities for photographers. Swanson contributes to many industry publications, lectures frequently, participates at portfolio review events such as FotoFest and Review Santa Fe, and earlier this year coauthored Publish Your Photography Book with Darius Himes (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011). Her next publication “Finding Your Audience: An Introduction to Marketing Your Photographs” is due early 2012. Swanson is based in Tucson and NYC.

Katherine Hennessy- www.kate-company.com Katherine has over 20 years experience in the business. She managed the art buying department at Arnold Worldwide- Boston, prior to that, was a buyer in NYC with McCann Erickson and Scali, McCabe, Sloves. Currently, in addition to consultations, Katherine is a photographers’ agent with her business, Kate & Company.

And me, Suzanne Sease- www.suzannesease.com I have over 25 years experience. I established the art buying department at The Martin Agency and when I left I had the opportunity to work at Kaplan Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and many small agencies. I co-authored the book with Amanda Sosa Stone “The Photographer’s Survival Guide: How to Build and Grow a Succesful Business.” I am a contributor to blogs here on APE as well as Agency Access’s The Lab.

Ask Anything – How Do You Estimate Video With Stills

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:

I had the Art Buyer from a major Worldwide Agency ask me about how we estimate video when it is a still photographer shooting the video. Is it a director’s fee or do we tag a usage fee? According to the agency, when they hire a Director for a broadcast commercial; he/she will get paid a director’s fee and the client will own the commercial outright. Now that photographer’s are shooting video, they want to be paid a usage fee for the video. This is creating confusion between agency and photographer’s contracts. Is online a different usage than broadcast? Is anyone else having this issue?

ANSWERS:

ART BUYER:
First, it’s important to recognize that there are great distinctions between the world of motion and the world of still imagery. It is important for still shooters to know all of the ins and outs of motion before venturing into that world, much less declaring competency.

Videos shot for broadcast vs. videos shot for non-broadcast purposes require adherence to different rules and regulations. Either way, hire the appropriate motion producer to help you navigate through this complexity.

Shooting for broadcast is often a regulated and regimented process when adhering to guidelines created by the AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) and there is an added layer of complexity in union vs. non-union shooting. Use of union talent or union crew adds an exponential degree of complexity to the situation, so again, contract a producer or production company that is well versed.

Like photography fees, director rates can fluctuate. However, since still photography isn’t unionized or standardized, day rates and subsequent production costs and usage fees are all over the board. This, of course, is both a blessing and a curse. In motion, it is standard practice for the person who contracts the work to own all rights to the video or film footage without additional charge.

Directors make their money on day rates and their production companies make their money via a mark-up. This rate is negotiable, but it often starts at 20% of the overall production, not just the fee. Before you think to yourself what a lovely situation that is, better ask a few production companies how it’s going for them during the economic downturn. Many will tell you that the mark-up percentage has been shrinking to virtually nothing.

Note that just because a video is online does not mean it is not regulated. There are new regulations that been put into place by SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) that require payment to online talent to match broadcast rates.

There are many more complexities that I haven’t gone into detail about, but suffice it to say that it’s important to do your homework before venturing into motion. And hire the right producer/production company.

Okay, let’s say that you’re ready to enter into that world. Let’s also presume you are shooting non-union video for an online video shown on the client’s primary website. Talent payments are not factored in.

Here are the possibilities:
Stills with motion as an add-on.
Motion with stills as an add-on.
Just motion.

IN MY EXPERIENCE (this is not to say that others don’t do things differently, but at my agency we often integrate productions and always default to the standards and regulations that we have pledged to uphold) we have paid separate fees for the stills and motion portions of a shoot.

In the case of shooting stills first, it is typical to be paid a separate fee to capture video. There would not be an additional fee for usage of the video, but you may be asked to bundle fees for efficiency. Basically, a package rate. We have paid capture and usage fees on the stills portion as normal, although I must say that usage rates have gone down due to tighter budgets.

If a director is contracted to shoot motion first, we’ve paid additionally for stills capture and usage commensurate with normal photography rates. Again, often the price is bundled as a package rate.

Still photographers shooting just motion would typically follow the same price structure as video or broadcast directors, although with many photographers trying to enter that market, they are often offering reduced rates to build their reels with work that gives them credibility and production experience. Will this drive down prices for the future? I really can’t say for certain but all I know is that rates have declined across the board anyway – including what the agency can charge clients. On the plus side, photographers tend to be adept at shooting with fewer crew while maintaining high production value, which helps the bottom line and may provide more opportunities for photographers-turned-director.

AGENT:
Our normal approach is that our still photographer will shoot the stills and simultaneously direct the video.  Therefore, we charge our normal print/still creative fees PLUS a director’s fee which is anywhere from $5,000 – $15,000/day.  The art buyer from the question is correct – broadcast directors charge a day rate and that gives the agency/client complete usage for any reason and for any time. It is the same for video.  And yes, more and more clients are demanding/asking for still shooters who can direct — and of course they will want to see samples of previous work.

PHOTOGRAPHER THAT SHOOTS MOTION:
We separate the still image licenses fee and the director/DP fee. The still images are based on usage, and the motion is owned outright by the client. It’s, at best an awkward arrangement, but to our knowledge, this hybrid process does not currently have another viable approach. I think the bigger discussion could include what’s the value to an agency art buyer in the still shooter/DP/Director. Certainly not a animal that fits all needs, but there is demand, so what’s it worth when it works?

To Summarize:
Here is great advice from a buyer, agent and photographer and you should use this information to help gauge how you would do your estimates when charging in this new area for still photographers. The buyers and your peers are paving the way for you.

Call To Action:
This area is an ever-changing area as we see the still arena branching in to many different directions from pure motion to stop action motion.  It is an area that we need to continue to educate ourselves with and keep our ears to the ground. Be open to ask questions of your peers. Ask for help. If a client asks you if you do motion, how will you respond? Are you ready? Think about this now and prepare.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (hereand here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Photographer Rep Fees, Relationships and Responsibilities

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity

QUESTION:

I am wondering if we might hear from some reps, consultants and photographers about what they think the rough breakdown is for rep commissions and what a photographer should be expecting in return for these fees. I currently pay 25% of my fees on jobs my agent negotiates. My rep is not participating in social media AT ALL and is often unavailable to do quotes leaving me to either do them myself or revise them myself if I want the deal closed. I am not entirely sure how many meetings they go on every month, but would love opinions on what I could reasonable expect here. I am also not sure there is much beyond e-promos being done on my agent’s part, I do a LOT of my own promotion and do not rely on my agent for much in that department. Since I am very active in promotion myself we are often bidding with clients I have been pursuing through my own efforts for years before I started working with my agent. Perhaps this is just one of the many struggles of the photog/rep relationship but I am wondering at what point I ask about a percentage reduction if I can’t get certain things from my agent, and what might some others in the industry feel those standards are?

Amanda and Suzanne:
Having a rep requires open communication. Does a rep relationship change over time, of course it does. But you have to both have an understanding of what each of you will do. Many of our clients assume that marketing can cease once a rep comes into play. In our opinion, a rep’s goal #1 is to be there to negotiate, projects and land the job. A rep’s 2nd goal is to help you keep up your exposure, but it’s a role that is not one sided, both parties need to commit to a plan that works for everyone.

ANSWERS:

AGENT 1:
While every agent/artist relationship is different, the one thing that is constant is that you are partners working toward a mutually beneficial goal. You are a team and there are times each one needs to help the other. It is reasonable to expect your agent to go on appointments and be available for estimates. There is no set number of meetings every month and getting appointments is much harder than it used to be (many creative shops are limiting portfolio reviews to once or twice a year).

As for social media & other forms of promotion, it sounds like you both need to have a conversation and discuss/define each others expectations and who’s handling what. If after that, there is no clear cut definition, then a percentage reduction is probably not the answer. It might be time to sever the relationship.

AGENT 2:
As I am sure you know, every rep/photographer relationship is different. It is important to discuss expectations at the onset of the partnership. These questions should have been answered prior to the agreement. That being said, I think it is critical that the agent be involved in the estimating and negotiating process. If your agent is good, this is where they earn their commission. I find it strange that the agent in question is not involved during those critical times. As an agent, I love this part of the job and know that I create a lot of value for my artists in this area. Rather than a percentage reduction, I would suggest a serious discussion regarding responsibilities and expectations. Even if the agent in question agreed to a percentage reduction, I would imagine that their level of commitment and actual work for you as an artist would subsequently be “reduced.” If a discussion doesn’t work or is not desirable, it may be time to look for a new rep. Good luck!

AGENT 3:
Regarding our respective obligations, we first and foremost view our relationship with all of our talent as a collaborative one and feel that to be successful, we must have great communication, mutual trust, a shared vision and a firm belief in the value of both parties’ contributions towards realizing that vision. We are fortunate to have had longer lasting relationships with our talent than normal in this business and are quite proud of that fact. While there have been and will be challenges, we’ve worked through them due to our shared interests, respect and trust.

We strive for excellent communication and complete transparency with regards to what we are doing on our talent’s behalf. To that end, we provide quarterly call report summaries to each party detailing all of the calls that we received pertinent to them, the source of the calls (if that can be ascertained) and the results. In addition, we also provide follow up summaries after all of our portfolio shows, specifying where we went and who saw the work. We also encourage anyone in the group who is free and interested, to join us for the shows (locally or out-of-town).

Our financial arrangement is consistent with all of our photographers, as we feel that a common agreement is most fair. Our commission is 25% of all negotiated fees (travel/prep/shoot/post) and any retouching fees not being expensed to either an outside or studio staff person. We are the exclusive representatives for all of our photographers in North America, and worldwide for those who don’t have international representation. We would assume the same would apply to you, specific to your print/still photography business. We are also interested in bringing you motion projects, and given your relationship with outside production companies, need to work out the specifics on how that might work to the satisfaction of all.

Our photographers cover 100% of any individual marketing efforts they do or have us do on their behalf, plus the cost of creating and updating their portfolios/sites and any general mailing/shipping specific to them.

Historically, out of pocket expenses for each talent have been in the $8k -11K range per year, but have been reduced significantly lately as everyone is more concerned about expenses. Whatever the budget ends up being, payments are spread out over time, so there aren’t any major surprises. Of course, I get everyone’s approval prior to making any group marketing commitment, and they all have input along the way.

We see the AGENCY’s primary responsibilities are as follows:

– To build awareness for our photographers’ work through consistent and well-coordinated direct sales, promotion and PR efforts.
– To identify and pursue market opportunities for individual photographers as feasible.
– To develop production budgets with input from photographers and producers and negotiate those budgets with the clients to which they apply.
– To review all contracts/purchase orders and handle all billing and administration duties related to our photographers’ productions.
– To provide timely feedback/input from our sales activities, in-coming calls and pertinent results.
– To provide input on portfolio imagery.
– To aid in the development and execution of any individual marketing efforts done in addition to the group campaigns we coordinate.

Our photographers’ primary responsibilities are:

– To maintain updated, professional portfolio materials (individual and group books).
– To provide a minimum number of portfolios needed to meet market demands.
– To provide timely updates to their individual web sites, and rep website.
– To provide the necessary files and and proofs for any promotional efforts we coordinate, in a timely manner.
– Oh yeah! – to handle the communication and creative challenges of high level advertising productions with great aplomb!

In addition to all of the above, the only other item we need to discuss is whether or not we will be involved with any of your existing/current clients or “house accounts”, and either way, detailing who they are and how we intend to work with them. Normally, I would a define a “current client or house account” as someone with whom you’ve worked with within the past six months, or on a regular basis over a longer period of time, but am open to your interpretation.

AGENT 4:
Obviously every relationship is different but it is important to communicate with each other regularly. Both photographers and agents wear so many more hats these days and must keep up with the new frontier, which includes social media. Both need to get on this bandwagon, but need to coordinate their efforts. Coordination with emails blasts, social sites, portfolio shows and estimating projects is so very important.

Both photographers and agents need to speak up if either feels something is missing. It sounds like this artist is pissed but may not be expressing his concerns to his rep. This is the first think you need to do. NOW! Frankly I can’t understand the quote thing. That’s what we live for. Maybe it’s time for a new relationship? A fee reduction, no matter who’s offering it, is always insulting.

PHOTOGRAPHER WITH AGENT:
I’m sure others will say, a rep relationship is like any other partnership, including marriage, and is based on trust and mutual respect. Without these things there isn’t much you can count on. I am working with my second rep, the first was not successful in my eyes based upon their lack of participation in promoting their own brand (and therefore my brand) outside of email blasts. They did not seem to have a plan for marketing and advertising but instead saw the possibility of success based upon adding more talent to their roster, cheating their current core talent of resources already in shortage.

With the second rep, it is the polar opposite. There is a strong communication, dollars invested in making our target audience aware of our talents, and respect for ideas expressed.
I have also seen the rep relationship up close when working as an assistant. What I have come to expect is that the talent and the rep should all be contributing to the marketing efforts, and it costs money for everyone. As far as I know 25% is still the norm though I have seen 30%. A photographer cannot expect a rep to handle all of these costs or efforts, and neither can a rep expect the photographer to do it alone (otherwise why would you need a rep?). Once you have a rep, you still have to be as diligent as ever in keeping contacts alive and well.

PHOTOGRAPHER 2:
The contract that my ex agent had drawn up spelled out everything I had to pay for, but didn’t specify what they would do. We went on to have a successful run for quite awhile, but it was never spelled out specifically what they would do other than generalities like “best efforts” or “best judgment”…. that was a mistake. Seems like that could be the source of your problem in that it’s not mutually clear what their responsibilities are. I think what you’re describing is reaching the point where it’s time to move on. If your confidence in them is questioned, it’s tough to rebuild that through revising compensation. Once you start taking money away through less of a commission, you’re removing incentive. What makes you think they will be equally or more motivated by working for less money?

PHOTOGRAPHER 3:

What I would expect from a rep is the same thing I expect in a relationship with a significant other. Honesty, Integrity, an ally, loyalty, protection. When I was with my old agent I felt I was easily sold out. More like someone to fill in a hole. It was more about him and the photo editor/art buyer then me and the work. I once had to call a client to tell them sorry the job had been under bid by my agent and could not be done for that fee. Then I had to rewrite the estimate. A huge chunk of change taken out, but I was not able to buy into their health insurance plan. I had to pay for photo insurance and all expenses up front, yet any type of mark up was frowned upon. I had to find my own support staff, i.e. assistants, stylists and do all of the billing which they retyped up. Managed rights were caved in on faster then a mine in Chile. In the end reps know 98 % of us are disposable and they get what they can out of us. I found more empathy/ support comes from art directors and other creatives.

I am capable of buying AD/ AB picture editors, lunch or a nice gift at the end of the year myself.

PHOTOGRAPHER 4:
Let me start by saying that I am leaving my current Agency this week because I have realized that we are not a proper fit. I too am frustrated by an even more unfair split and even more lack of communication and involvement on my agency’s part with my marketing and promotion.

Currently my “Agency” is taking 35% from clients that they introduce me to and 20% for jobs I bring to them to negotiate. Then the billing is going through them if they negotiate which is also another issue. This split is not to my liking but at the time I joined the roster I did not feel I had too much to negotiate with as the economy was horrible and I felt the need for representation to expand from my editorial work into the commercial advertising market. I did not have to bring in any of my existing clients or current billing to them, which was a plus and has proven to my benefit over the past year. The arrangement was to grow, together, into new markets, both for myself and the agency. They did not have anyone that was doing the type of work I was doing or going after so I had no internal competition for assignments. (This might have been my first warning sign that we might not be a good fit.)

In the two years that we have been working together, the first testing the waters and the second as a full time member of their roster, I have only seen a few emails that were promoting my work. The meetings that they have arranged and taken me to (less then 10) have only resulted in two or three small editorial job and two decent commercial jobs with an art director that I had known prior to signing with them. They only accounted for a disappointing 5% of all of my billings last year. I have found that they were only making phone calls on my behalf when I would call to complain and ask them directly to set up a meeting or follow up with an email that I had already sent to a photo editor or art buyer.

I had a meeting during the summer with them to address my disagreement with the split and was quickly dismissed by being told that everyone has the same split and that is that. I again had a meeting with them before the holidays to address the split and other billing issues. I have yet to see them address any of the issues. I have also mentioned many times in face to face meetings and phone calls a desire to form a clear joint marketing strategy that we can all work on together. There was a clear lack in desire to help me promote myself, and not the agency as a whole. Currently none of these issues have been resolved and don’t see them being addressed anytime soon.

I do not think that these problems are mine alone but I do not think that they are the norm. One of my mentors has a very up and down relationship his current agent that he has been with for many years. I have heard them fight over many different issues including splits and portfolios but in the end his agent has stepped up and fought for higher fees (and got them), stood behind him on expenses and picked up the phone for him. I believe his current split is between 20-25%. He has told me that there is no way he would have been able to handle negotiating some of the jobs he has be awarded in recent years without his agent there to close the deal. He, like me and most of us are not the best negotiators. We have agents not just to make us look more respectable and established but to do the dirty work of standing firm and being the fighter. They are our “bad cop” before the shoot and we are the good cop on set.

Personally I find it completely unacceptable for an agent to be unavailable to negotiate on a photographer’s behalf. This is their most important task as an agent, they are they to fight for our fees (so they can get paid) and to back us up on our expenses. They are there to close the deal even if they are not the ones to start the deal in the first place. We cannot depend on our agencies or reps to be picking up the phone every day just for us. They have to work with many photographers on a roster to stay in business themselves. We have to be able to pick up the phone, write an email, send out a promo and speak for ourselves. In my current search for a new agent I am looking for someone that understands me, my work, and will be a partner in marketing. Ideally I would like a split of less or equal to 20% on all new clients and a 10-15% split on all current clients. I would not be too upset with 25% but more is totally unacceptable to me. I think as a general rule it has to be a symbiotic relationship between photographer and agent, it should take both parties efforts to make things happen. If it is a one sided relationship you need to step back and evaluate the situation and see if you really benefit from it or are you even being hurt by it.

To Summarize:
Is one party guiltier than the other? No. The cliché saying “it takes 2 to tango” is really true. A rep is only as good as their communication, estimate deliveries, client support and marketing exposure delivered. The photographer is only as good their communication, the work they produce and their marketing efforts. When a photographer says my rep is taking 30% and they do nothing. Stop there and ask yourself what are they doing for that 30%. Who likes to talk money? 20, 25, 30% is an agreement to have representation that is there to truly represent you (it doesn’t mean a full-time assistant). On the other side, when a rep says a photographer isn’t doing their fair share, we hope they stop as well and look at what the photographer has time to do, what budget is realistic to their marketing plan. Sometimes just stopping and talking it out OVER THE PHONE or IN PERSON can really cover a lot of ground and educate everyone involved and open the eyes to both parties and then a common ground can be met.

Call To Action:
Put yourself in the shoes of that agent and see what their life is like and what it’s like to juggle the multiple positions and talents. I hope agents will do the same thing. Put yourself in the shoes of that one artist and see what their focus is and what truly worries and bothers them. Having had the role as a rep, it’s hard to juggle everything. Having had the role to consultant with both rep and photographers, both sides have it hard. It’s a tough industry and if everyone can see both sides of the coin – it can be a happier union. Basic call to action: Know what you want, express it, offer support where you can, and then put your goals into action, without depending on the other to get it done for you.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – State Of The Photography Industry 2011

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity

QUESTION:

Can you write an article about the true reality of the photo industry across the board in LA, NYC, Dallas, and Chicago, or wherever?  It seems most ad agencies don’t view books in person, only online. Art Buyers are looking for work, photography jobs are being over run by secretaries, moms, dads, facebook friends, interns, and college kids out of school who just decide one day to pick up a camera. Software, cameras, HD video, Canon, Nikon, and Pentax have made it so easy for consumers to just take up the profession and to steal that minimum day rate away from a professional.

I grew up with my dad being a professional commercial photographer from the 60’s and grad from Art Center College of Design on 3rd st, which I also graduated from in 2002 in Pasadena. Back then, it was a true profession, going to the lab, pushing and pulling chrome, sweating overnight to make sure it turns out, and hand delivering it to the client and then going to eat lunch and to meet more creatives. Everything is so computerized with FTP, Facebook, Twitter, and web galleries. There is nothing personal these days. I’ve talked with a handful of reps, photographers, and art buyers, and they are all scrambling to find the next gig. What is the true reality with our photo industry?  Is it dying and being taken over by overnight photographers? I remember the days (2008) when I would shoot for Coca-Cola with a large production, multiple talent, digital techs, producers, assistants, all working as a team and feeling great about an end product.

Would be great if you could interview some photographers, art buyers,reps, producers…..To just get an inside feel of the true interpretation of the future of 2011.  Just a thought…. I love reading your articles.  I know your audience would like to know a true grit forecast for the year.

ANSWERS:

PRINT PRODUCER:
Overall I’m seeing a need for images that look more organic and effortless -shot well, but less produced. I constantly find myself in the microsite/flickr battle and do my best to romance clients with the idea of taking the things from those avenues that are great but applying them to custom photography that looks good (for them and their specific project) and is shot well, while also taking all the things that my clients will want addressed into consideration. I’ll caveat this by saying that I think there is some wonderful work on flickr, if you’ve got time to sift through it.  I also think that in this day and age of immediate media gratification, clients see images here and think yes, that could work. Let’s just use that. Showing the client that they can have that wonderfully, effortless looking photo shot specifically for them, is where I’ve been coming in lately.

Clearly everyone is looking to save money where they can, which can sometimes mean shooting more per day. For me this can be done, depending on the shot list, but also means mostly likely a more mobile and smaller crew. Being realistic in these situations, of what can be done with the allowed time and budget is key. I think things can be accomplished under most budgets, but managing expectations properly makes this work.

I’m not really sure what all this really means for the photography industry as a whole. I know that photography as content will always be needed, regardless of the the constantly changing medium to which it is applied. I’m doing my best as an art buyer to make sure that my creatives (and clients) get an amazing end product with photography that was shot with their project in mind. But each project has it’s own bends and folds and I think being flexible while not giving away work for free, and being upfront and honest about what is realistic is the best way to help everyone in today’s market.

AGENT:
I am just starting my twenty-fifth year as an agent. Twenty five years in business for myself. A wonderful journey with a few bumps along the way. A few recent tempestuous years with end of the world talk and how only Bruce Willis can save us from calamity is finally coming to an end. I’m actually feeling more optimistic right now. Yes there have been major changes and the axis of the planet has tilted in a different direction, but new possibilities are also opening up to those who have the courage and stamina to continue.

Everyone has already written countless articles about how assignments have been chipped away. The recession, stock imagery, reductions in magazine advertising, digital photography where every person has a camera in their pants and sees themselves and the great hype hope. And of course there is the reduction of licensing images for a limited time and the expansion of image libraries for use in perpetuity. Some assignments have looked like those all-you-can-eat Vegas buffets for $2.99.  And then there are the shooters who just give it all away in exchange for the fame to see their name in print or images published. We can freeze up, get pissed about all this or we can jump in and look towards the wonderful new possibilities.

Socializing is back big time. The obvious is connecting through networks like Facebook and writing personal blogs to be out there. Our markets and potential connections have actually expanded, but it is still necessary to keep those personal connections intact. Pressing the flesh. No matter how upset or discouraged you may get about the present and future of our industry, it is so important to be respected and trusted. This is how I have always tried to run my business. Treat everyone with honesty and respect and they will come back again and again. Take interest! Be personal!

I am so proud of the artists I represent and I know that it is difficult for them when assignments don’t come through, but we will continue to persevere and move forward. They will continue to shoot work for themselves and I will do my best to showcase their talent and keep my personal connections alive. I will continue to get them their auditions whenever possible.

I think Arthur Miller said it wonderfully through his character Willie Loman in Death of A Salesman, “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates a personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.”

DESIGNER:
The photography business has significantly changed in the last two years.

And I don’t think it is because anyone can get their hand on a camera. I think it is that industry is in a young flux, one that looks to technology for fast information. I see it every day, those with huge twitter followings have a great career. They understand how to brand and market themselves in the social networking sphere. But, I think the biggest change has yet to happen, motion. It’s imminent, ads will not be still shots but a mini commercials. As paper is used less and we all walk around with smart phones, iPads and the such, still will be an art.

However, no matter how much people complain, I have a lot of busy clients, they are just really good photographers. Yes, hustling a little more due to the economy, but still working and doing great work.

PHOTOGRAPHER 1:
Only being full time in the business since 2007, I only know the current market. I feel like I have gone about things a little differently. I have found that rather than working through an agency, I have been working directly with a client and bypassing the particular agency. Sometimes this happened after I started working through an agency then the client started hiring me directly. The result has been some wonderful long term working relationships.

The most recent large project still in the making, came through a creative consulting company that introduced me to the client and now the client is presenting me to their marketing team. This may be a little backwards but I feel a lot more confident in this approach than relying on an agency to keep me in the good graces of a client.

PHOTOGRAPHER 2:
The industry has obviously changed and evolved drastically over the past couple of years–otherwise there wouldn’t be some much press on diminished budgets, over saturated markets, etc.. I’ve personally chosen to embrace these changes and focus on what is rather than what once was. To be honest I only see opportunity. The reality is that there is work and art buyers/creatives are gladly meeting with photographers–I’m living proof. Over the past 6 months I have traveled all over the US sharing my new portfolio with over 25 agencies/companies. The key to getting appointments is simple–do your homework and be consistent in your marketing. Don’t expect someone to give you a meeting because you want one and if they turn you down don’t take it personally. Be relevant and give creatives an opportunity to preview your work first. For my meetings I first researched who was doing the type of work I’m interested in and then based portfolio reviews in regions in the US that had many of these relevant clients.  That increased my odds of filling my schedule making each trip more worthwhile. Personally these meetings have been a huge success. My business has grown tremendously over the past year and 2011 is off to a great start. I think the future looks extremely bright for those willing to embrace change. And for what it is worth the world is only as impersonal as you allow it to be.

PHOTOGRAPHER 3:

I agree the industry is in for a major change, all for the better. 2009 and 2010 were the 2 biggest years of my 30 year career. Despite the economy, if you are able to provide your clients with consistently good images, have good production skills, and keep your work relevant you will be successful. The economy is definitely getting a lot stronger, and many of my clients have already started telling me they expect to shoot a lot more this year.

Yes, the basic bread and butter jobs are being done in house, but expansion of technology is providing more venues for imagery, and creating a bigger demand. Besides the economic expansion new technology, specifically motion, will increase demand in the near future. It is critical that we, as creatives, continue to expand our vision and reinvent ourselves on a regular basis to remain relevant. Doing so will provide both personal and professional rewards.

To Summarize:

“new possibilities are also opening up to those who have the courage and stamina to continue”

“ …focus on what is rather than what once was”

Call To Action:
Decide how you want to be moving forward in 2011. Our vote would be to move towards optimism – it’s the most becoming look on you (and looks great with your camera too). And on top of that – get out there, get away from behind the computer and shoot and socialize!

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Should I Hire A Photo Editor?

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:

I am a Photographer trying to branch out to a new market, Travel and Leisure. Do you think its important to have a photo editor edit my website and portfolios. I have been getting the comment of I like your work I wish it had a tighter edit and little more focused. I have been mixing high end commercial jobs with some of my photo journalism travel work. Any advice on this would be appreciated.

ANSWERS:

PHOTO EDITOR:
My first choice is to hire a photography consultant. This person has been an expert in the industry for both Advertising and Editorial. They specialize in tightening up both your portfolio, website and marketing plan. I am not so sure that a Photo Editor at a magazine would have time to sit and edit a photographers website and portfolio. Unless you are really good friends with them!

If your budget is tight then a DIY approach is possible. Visually research the current issues of the magazine you want to shoot for and their back issues by a year. Make sure to check out who is working there on the masthead, and check the back issues masthead to see if the cast of characters working there is the same! The style of the people hiring photographers is well represented.  Study the magazine visually. What type of photo should lead a travel story. Is it a landscape shots that are common then throw in a bunch of those. If there are portraits of people in the travel environments, put those together, and if there are signage and local flavor shots of restaurants, tourist places, shopping and details shots put them in there as well.

PHOTO EDITOR:
I don’t think commercial and editorial photography mix very well. Most magazines have well over half the pages filled with commercial photography in the form of advertising and so I feel like it’s our job to not only make sure there’s clear separation between the two but also give the readers some variety and pacing in what they’re looking at.

Additionally, I look at advertising books and think: this person needs tons of cash, lots of retouching and plenty of direction to make something happen and all of this is in short supply on the editorial side.

With regard to focus, while I believe it’s possible that photographers can shoot many different genres well, I’ve found this to be then exception. They shoot something very well and everything else is mostly mediocre. Placing them together in the same book or website only emphasizes this fact.

Finally on editing, when looking at portfolios you can easily tell within a couple images if this is someone you want to work with. After that it’s all about finding reasons why you don’t want to work with them. Editing out the crap is essential because everyone takes bad pictures. Not letting anyone see them is your job and mine.

To Summarize:
Focus is the main theme here.  Get your style tight, show consistent work that speaks the language of your client (the magazines you hope to work with) and tell the story of the place you are capturing (the landscape, the people, the food, the local activities and those vignette moments).

Call To Action:
If you need to develop your work, and travel is your focus, start taking local trips to document where you live.  Read magazines to get ideas and creative directions.  Once your budget allows, take a vacation and shoot like you were on assignment, make people want to come to that location.  Keep shooting and your body of work will grow and strengthen.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Making It Outside Of NYC And LA

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:

It’s been talked about before, but the whole “what does it take to make it’ outside of NYC and LA”… especially starting out. It amazes me that photo editors are still flying photographers from NYC to (in my example) Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, the NW in general. For medium-sized shoots, not a large shoot where one NYC photographer’s specific style is paramount to the success of the assignment. So, the question is: how does a photographer living in a place like the NW (where I’m actually enjoying life) stay on top of the radar for someone like a NYC-centric photo editor? I go to NYC 2-3 times a year and just try to annihilate the place with meetings (32 on my last visit) and the response is really great, though I often am told at the end that there’s not much assignment in that neck of the woods. But is there anything else I can do to stay on a PE’s or AB’s radar, besides meetings and promos, when I’m nearly 4,000 miles away?

ANSWERS:

PHOTO EDITOR:
We definitely look to hire photographers in regional areas for portraits & action. I suggest that the photographers have to stay in touch with the PE’s & Associate PE’s and Assistant PE’s within the magazine. They are often the eyes for the Photo Editors and Photo Directors. Also, by sending PE’s an email with promo image, and their location to remind them in the subject line. I like the idea that when they have to approach me via email that they keep it simple & light. “Hey, just shot this take a look thought this might be useful the magazine.” Share with the PE that you can work with their Editorial budget. (music to my ears). We have to know that you can shoot what we are looking editorially and with the same style that the NYC photographer that we are currently hiring can do! And oh yeah, read our magazine, and say hey, I saw this story in the current issue of our magazine, and that you love the portraits and think I can help provide the type of photography you are looking for. I always like this saying in the corporate world “dress for the job you want!” I believe the same is for true for photographers who are looking to break in to the editorial market.

PHOTO EDITOR:
This is a tough question, but working for a regional magazine with a smaller art budget and only state based Editorial for the most part, I choose photographers who are mostly in state, and occasionally able to assign a shoot elsewhere or have a photographer shoot an assignment while they are in the area. There are a handful of major regional/city magazines who are using some of the best in local talent. It is a good way to get some great projects under your belt and still also to get your work under ASME, SPD and CRMA award judges if you are lucky (CRMA -City and Regional Magazine Association, ASME -American Society if Magazine Editors and SPD – Society of Publication Designers – referring to whoever judges the awards). We produce award-winning work and I am certain there are others like my pub out there! I think the key is to stay busy locally and try to link up to a national collective, for example, Luceo Images, which is a collective of photographers based around the country that promote each other’s work. I have been very impressed by their model and think it is innovative and constructive. It looks like a new trend in promotion.

To Summarize:
Are these 3 letters “NYC” just plain sexy to say? OF COURSE IT IS. Is it the final deciding factor? NO. You have to be a GOOD and hopefully GREAT photographer and the images have to speak for themselves. Does NYC have an energy and vibe attached to it? OF COURSE. It’s a special energy that is hard to come by, living there says for some “YOU MADE IT”. In reality, you have to make “it” – meaning GOOD IMAGES – to really arrive. Location comes second.

Call To Action:
PICK UP THE PHONE TODAY and MAKE AN EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION and if you are LOCAL to this publication – GET A MEETING to show your work.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Employee Wages

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTIONS:

I would love to see a post on employee wages. I am looking to hire studio manager and a full time first or possibly a hi-bred and am curious what people get paid for this sort of work. It would need to be broken down by experience I guess – New Grads, 3 yrs working experience, 5 yrs plus or something.

ANSWERS:

PHOTOGRAPHER 1:
I don’t have a studio manager now but I think that when I did I paid something like $130 a day.

As much as anything I think it has to do with where you’re hiring. A qualified person in New York is far more expensive than most places in the rest of the country. The high cost of living is part of it, but it’s also that people don’t move to New York to be studio managers or first assistants, so if you hope to keep them around for long you have to pay them well.

PHOTOGRAPHER 2:
We have only had part timers that work hourly. Most with little or no experience that we train- attitude is the best, not as much experience. We also give perks of using our equipment, us showing stuff in exchange…etc.

PHOTOGRAPHER 3:
Advice on hiring someone that would be beneficial to your company… it is a marriage.. use ones intuition when hiring. Look at experience, desire and sense of humor… then give direction and let the person make decisions, make mistakes, be accountable for all successes and failures and work together from a positive platform of teaching and learning each others strengths and weaknesses… trust, observe and encourage… that’s it.

PHOTOGRAPHER 4:
I personally would not hire someone full time until I could pay them at least $16 an hour or $30,000 a year.

PHOTOGRAPHER 5:

I think it really depends on where you live. We’ve only ever hired recent graduates so I don’t have any data on salaries for people with substantial experience.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve hired 7 people for full-time staff positions. Each time, we set the salary at a point that was pretty similar to an entry level admin assistant position (in our area right now, that would be $28-30,000 plus full benefits (health insurance, disability insurance, vacation, sick leave, etc.). We have not seen a big discrepancy between salary expectations for studio manager/in-house marketing work and full-time assistants, at least not among recent grads in this area.

Over time, we usually increase salaries by 5-7% per year and our employees have been content with that for several years. Employees that have stayed with us for more than a few years are also offered profit sharing.

One other thing that may be worth mentioning, especially since it sounds like your original query is from someone who may not have much experience with employees, is that the atmosphere of the workplace makes a huge difference. I stress, to feel good about their lives, people either have to make a lot of money or get a lot of personal satisfaction from the work they’re doing. So, if you’re not going to pay people at the top of the earning spectrum, you need to make sure you’re creating an environment where they’re able to get enough personal satisfaction out of the work they’re doing to feel good about working for you. Otherwise, you’re either going to have incredibly high turnover rates or a hostile and destructive work environment.

PHOTOGRAPHER 6:
The question asked about a “studio manager” not a “full time assistant.” These are two different positions.

Unless you are shooting more days than not, keeping assistants on staff does not make practical or financial sense. I have not employed full time assistants for over 15 years, however I have two great assistants that work with me on a first option basis.

I have not employed a studio manager for over two years. My last two studio mangers had over 5 years experience each and were paid $60K annually plus health plan, pension benefits and bonuses. (Keep in mind that the actual cost of an employee is approximately 30% higher than their payroll compensation.)

The studio manager’s responsibilities included day-to-day office organization, billing, some client and vendor communications and production coordination. One on the studio managers had great PR experience, which provided considerable added value to her employment. Having someone in the office with good phone and client skills was important when people actually used the telephone, but 95% of all communication is now via email.

I have found that with agents on each coast and a great freelance producer, that a full time studio manager is no longer needed. My staff on a non-shooting day is just me and my retoucher. This means I need to pour my own coffee, straighten up a bit, pick up the phone, and do some office work, but that’s not a big deal given the gross savings from the overhead is nearly $100K annually.

This is the perspective of a busy advertising photographer that keeps a small studio, and typically rents production stages for most shoots. A photographer maintaining a larger and busy commercial space would likely need a full-time studio manager.

PHOTOGRAPHER 7:
I don’t keep a full time person in house, but when I bring someone in for a non shoot day– I pay $200 a day or $15-25 per hour (depending).

We get asked this question in regards to billing clients for employees – so we reached out to an Art Producer to see how she feels about photographers charging for assistants (who are really PAID STAFF) on estimates/invoices:

ART PRODUCER:
I actually want to see these items outlined in estimates. I know ultimately I’m going to be charged for them anyway, rolled into the photographer’s fee or not. However, when they’re outlined I feel like I have more information and I’m able to see/get a feel for how many people will be on set without me having to ask/challenge the photographer on this. It helps me make sure that everything that I know my client is expecting will be covered. Also, when challenging budgets are presented, outlining as many aspects as possible really helps me see where I can cut, if needed.

To Summarize:
Finding the right person to run your studio or work along side you – has a lot to do with their personality. Some of the best assistants and managers have been TRAINED in the studio and were hired because of their personality. Find someone who compliments not only your work habits, but also your personality and the personality of your STUDIO. They have to be able to work well with others and play the role of second in command (but still know how to take charge).

Call To Action:
If you are unsure if you can manage someone in your studio – take on an intern to test the waters (many interns will do it for free just for the experience). Put money aside as if you are paying them (for 3-6 months) and see if you can really swing it. If you can – then you have 3-6 months of salary already put aside.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Pay-To-Play?

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:

The other day I received my second invitation to participate in AtEdge. I’m really flattered, but the price tag of almost $8K is a bit steep for me. The photography industry is very competitive and it’s about getting your images out there and seen. What are the best options for promoting your work and getting it seen? Resource guides, Workbook, Blackbook. Premium websites such as Photoserve, Dripbook. Direct mail, email blast (I’ve spoken to AD’s and they say they receive 50-100 emails a day and have stopped looking at them). Entering contests…  All these services have pro’s and con’s, but they all cost. Seems if you want to take your photography career up to the next level, you have to pay to play. How do you get the most bang for the buck? Where do creatives look for photographers?

ANSWERS:

ART PRODUCER 1:

It’s not an event, it’s a process.

Marketing yourself as a photographer is no different than any other advertiser promoting their product. There are many “channels” for doing this, including conventional media like print, to newer media like email blasts and social media. As you mention, the idea is to get your work seen. Because there are as many different ways that people prefer to look at work as there are ways to show it, it’s necessary to do a little of everything. Just like advertisers do.

How to get the biggest bang for your buck? Do your homework!!

Taking a shotgun approach of blasting out promos to anyone and everyone can be quite expensive. With a little sweat equity, you can reduce the cost while putting out a more effective marketing campaign. So, presuming that your portfolio/website are ready to be seen in public, here’s a simplistic overview:

STEP ONE
Determine WHO you want to work with/market to and what kind of work you want to do. Annual reports? Event photography? The agency for L’Oreal hair color? Use resources such as Workbook and Agency Compile (much of it for free!) to research accounts you’d like to work on and who does the work. Create a written contact list or use a list service to pull one for you.

STEP TWO
Develop a marketing plan which includes promoting in a variety of media in a way that is relevant to your target market. For example, if you want to work in healthcare, don’t include images of cars in your promotions. Don’t edit your list, just chart out all the possibilities and throw in a timetable. The editing will come as you determine how much time and how many resources you have available to you. Include promotions that are reminders (postcards, emails) and also longer term promotions such as “keeper” pieces that are more substantial, like printed books or “stuff.” Contests are actually the cheapest way to get maximum exposure. If you had to pay for your own promotions with the same reach as an award show, it would be in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

STEP THREE
Determine a budget. Based on your short list, determine how much you have to spend. $50? Then you may have only enough to send out a few special promos to a few key people. $500? then you can afford either repeat promotions or a more special promotion to a few more people, plus a couple of contests.

STEP FOUR
Stick with it! It will take about 2 years to make an impact. You may luck out and get work sooner, but it’s hard to leave a lasting impression in less time than that. If you let up during that time and cease marketing, the clock starts over. If you’re getting zero response in the first 6 months, you may want to consider investing in a reputable consultant to evaluate your marketing tools (portfolio/website/promotions) to give you an honest opinion.

ART PRODUCER 2:

It’s quite a commitment, you have to do your research and find out what people prefer and which markets are the best fit. You have to look into the accounts at each agency, so you’re sure to know who’s doing what. Work with someone to edit your work in your book and website. Presentation is key.

In addition to promos, do agency visits/showings. As much as it sucks to feel like you have to provide food at the showings to get people to show, it works. And, don’t forget to provide leave behinds, that way they’ll have something to remember you by.

Finally, do award shows/contests. Creatives still use them as a reference and it’s hell of a lot cheaper than paying $8000 to get lost in the shuffle.

To Summarize:
Many clients swear by their AtEdge ads work for them and other’s swear by Photoserve and even their ASMP findaphotographer.org list – while other’s focus solely on their email and direct mail marketing. We believe that you have to do your research first and see what options you have. Figure out your target market, your budget and do an equation that works for you (we prefer you at least start with 3 approaches – so that not all your eggs are in one basket). It doesn’t happen overnight, so find a plan you can build and grow over a couple of years – but it should be consistent and strong.

Call To Action:
Target market? Budget? Calculate!

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Questions from Parsons Students

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTIONS:
Teen Vogue Director of Photography, Jennifer Pastore and Aoife Wasser, freelance creative director are teaching a senior seminar class at Parsons in the BFA Photography program. The class deals primarily with the business side of the photography industry and the students wanted to ask “Ask Anything” questions (Note: we would love to have comments from the readers as well). Here they are:

Is it necessary to assist to become a photographer in the fashion industry?

If you want to learn from the best in the business and experience how a professional photo shoot should be, it is best to assist. There are a few photographers who are successful without assisting (Suzanne adds: I can only think of a handful and I have been in this business since 1985).

What creates longevity in a successful career?

Honesty and keeping creative. A great personality with talent will keep you working for years!

What do creative/photography directors and gallerists look for when hiring someone for a project – editorial/advertising/exhibition. What questions should you ask when someone is buying your work or contracting you for a job.

Two different worlds- gallery- you have to try and meet with the curators and get a show. They are looking for work that people will want to add to their collections, work for walls. Agencies- images that are in line with the assignment they need to shoot to sell a clients product. Editorial- images that can tell a story and sell magazines.

What is the best kind of portfolio to show your work, printed book or Ipad?

These days it is three ways: virtual (page-flip.com); printed on beautiful paper- Blurb style is not the way to go. iPad is awesome for those meetings where space is limited and a place to show new work. Plus with the iPad you will always have your portfolio with you as you never know when the opportunity comes up to show your work- on the subway, airplane, restaurants……

How do you initiate contact with publications, agents, and galleries to send them your work?

The very best way would be to call the person, state that you are going to send them a link to your portfolio (hence why the virtual portfolio is awesome) DO NOT ask them to write anything down say that you are going to send them an email (make sure you have their e-mail address prior- Agency Access is a great place to get all this info- worth the yearly subscription fee).

How and when do I get photographer agency representation?

You have to research them to make sure you are a good fit and just like above send a personalized e-mail with your work.

What steps do you recommend to someone who is interested in starting a gallery/non-profit art space?

I recommend trying to get grants and maybe research corporations that are a part of an ethical group. The Ethical Corporation in Londan is the best place to start. They have a LinkedIn group: The Responsible Business Group

What are some sources in applying for grants?

You can hire grant writers- Mary Virginia Swanson is the best person to consult for fine art photography

Is blogging and online representation an important part of branding yourself?

Branding is the total brand of your identity (Like a logo, a look that is consistent through out all that you do). Adding blogs and social aspects could be considered as media placement, which is part of your marketing spectrum and your brand (your name, visuals must be consistent on these mediums), blogging in wordpress is a solution to get better google placement. Most blogs are read by other photographers- buyers are just so busy (but Art Directors will read when they have time). Then there are on-line source books like Photoserve, LeBook, Workbook, ASMP find a photographer… get placed in as many areas as you can for free.

Stock photography – is this a good source of income and how does one go about selling their images?

It used to be but with the inception of Flickr and royalty free it has been a harder industry to make the living that folks were used to 10 years ago with 6 figure income- now you have to diversify and market in multiple areas. Ellen Boughn (stock consultant) has a 30 minute consult as a great way to understand all the options.

Is it essential to have extra skills like, video training etc…, to keep up with new media demands?

It is becoming more and more important as clients are asking photographers for still and motion to cut costs.

To Summarize:
Dear Students, you are our industry’s future. Please put your heart into your career and shoot what feeds your soul.

Call To Action:
Get an internship, get your site looking professional, network and be a good person and business person!

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – No Luck Applying Standard Rates To My Local Business

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:
I’ve been following your blog closely for some time now, and I’ve found it very helpful in seeing what others charge for advertising shoots, but I have had virtually no luck in applying the same sort of rates (scaled down) to my business. One of the requests I get most often from business owners and lawyers is for headshots, full-length portraits, environmental portraits, retouching either on-location or in-studio.

I’m finding that almost everyone who contacts me is confused by the idea that they must pay to actually use the images and that they don’t own them, so it’s this constant uphill battle to educate potential clients. I’d love to get a sense from you whether I’m going about this the right way, if I’m charging too much or too little, if I should be rolling the usage fees for specific number of images into the Photographer’s Fee instead of giving Usage it its own line-item… I need help here.

I’m in [redacted], TX and my work tends to be directly for the clients and not for ad agencies who understand how things work. For your reference, I’ve attached an estimate I sent out just today. When I was talking on the phone with the client, as soon as I mentioned that a ‘full buyout’ of the selected images would be more expensive than specific usage, I was told ‘Oh, well we may not be able to use you then’ – I sent the estimate and the response was simply ‘No thanks.’

Job Description
Fee for [redacted] to produce portraits of two lawyers on-location at a law firm in [redacted] in one half-day shoot and for the
following licensing to be conveyed to Clients: Unlimited Time Usage, Unlimited use of up to 2 photos, across all communication
vehicles/mediums/media, forever.

Fees
1 Photographers Fee @ 750.00 ea. (Half-Day): 750.00
2 Usage Fees @ 900.00 ea. (Unlimited Usage – Full Buyout): 1,800.00
2 Retouching Hours @ 125.00 ea. (Editing and Clipping Mask for Final Image): 250.00
Fees total: 2,800.00

Crew
1 First Assistant @ 100.00 ea. (Half-Day): 100.00
Crew total: 100.00

Sub Total: 2,900.00
TX TAX (8.125%) 8.125%: 235.63
Total (USD): 3,135.63

Amanda and Suzanne:
Advertising and Local Consumer (even professional type imagery) speak 2 different languages. It’s not that they do not understand the terms, but the different client types need usage terms to be addressed differently (less of a blow to put it mildly).

ANSWERS:

MARKETING DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL LAW FIRM:
The price really varies depending on the market, but an average would be about $125 – $150 per headshot. The rights that we negotiate are: unlimited rights for electronic use, but prints and reprints must be ordered from photographer.

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER 1:
You are certainly not alone. I know of many photographers who have gone through this same “song and dance” with clients (me included). Recently I have found that many non-advertising/editorial clients (lawyers, business owners, etc…) are beginning to understand, or accept, the way photographers price their work. This might be due to the way we are organizing our estimates or explaining our pricing structure during the initial conversation.

The numbers in your estimate are certainly within the norm, but as you stated the client balked at the usage fees. As you probably know, photographers are now combining the usage and creative fee into one line item – which I think is a good idea. This doesn’t always alleviate the problem, but it’s a start. In the initial phone conversation I ask many questions – what type of portraits, studio or on location, etc… I also bring up the subject of usage by asking how long they would like to use the images and for what purpose. Their response usually is “forever and don’t I own them?.” Here is where I educate them on how photographers price their work. I explain that “my pricing for portraits is structured by how many people need to be photographed, how the images will be used and not based on how long it takes (1/2 day or full day). If they continue to be confused, I calmly explain to them that photographers price their work very similarly to how cell phone companies structure their phone usage – you can own the phone, but you have to pay to use it. You are charged based on how many minutes per month you want and how many texts you send, and even more if you want to use it internationally. Since most have cell phone, I always hear “oh, okay I get it.” If they then say it is too expensive, then I ask what their budget is and try to work within that. It’s all about creating a win-win situation. I will usually send two or three estimate with different usage rights and pricing – one year usage, three year usage and unlimited, with the option to re-license the images. This way they can see the breakdown. Most go with the three year estimate.

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER 2:
In my experience, when you are dealing with a small client like this one, it is best to combine the usage fee and the photographer’s fee into one, especially when dealing with a “buyout” situation. Most clients like this (and it is sad to say) do not want to understand or learn about usage. They just want to know if you can get in, do the job, deliver the images quickly and on time and on budget. Why complicate it by adding an additional usage fee? They are not an agency, they don’t pretend to be an agency, it’s not like there’s going to be a relicensing fee here ,because of the full buyout and to be perfectly honest, why should there be? What is the resale value on these images? They are not going to be put into stock, correct? Most likely they will be out of date in 2-3 years and the law firm will call again when they hire more lawyers or when the shots need to be updated. So, why risk alienating them by making your estimates more complicated than they need to be?

Secondly, why did the photographer not handle these questions and explain the fee structure before the estimate was sent and address the client’s concerns? As part of the sales process (and let’s face it, unless you have an agent, photographers are sales people) all of this should have been covered in the initial conversation and follow up conversations. An estimate should be a confirmation of the what was discussed and verbally agreed upon as to prevent a situation like the one that happened. Collaboration and mutual respect.

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER 3:
Unless a client has commissioned media on a regular basis, it doesn’t make sense to do an itemized bid like this. A high powered law office is still on the consumer side of things, and they won’t be used to terminology or typical photo bidding practices. This isn’t good sales practice to itemize like this, because it draws undue attention to usage, mysterious line items such as assistants etc. Treat this sort of client like a wedding/portrait client: give one fee for the job. Explain separately what the usage rights are, but don’t break them out as line items. A headshot client is going to assume, much like any other consumer-level client, that they own the images (makes sense to them, they paid for them!). Better to state the usage without hitting them over the head with it, so the client doesn’t freak out.

And that’s a lot for a couple of headshots!

To Summarize:
Often it’s all in the wording, but it’s also what a specific market is used to paying. Often quantity can make a small fee multiply quickly. Ask the right questions and decide how to best approach this type of client. An estimate is a visual/verbal communication – make it as simple and clean to read as possible. Some need it very simple – while other’s need every detail spelled out – but it should all be kept to the point and clean.

Call To Action:
Use this scenario and create a plan for future estimates. Have your estimate template together/ready, along with your questions, so when that that job comes in you are prepared.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Simple Image Rights Explanation

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:
I’m coming across a pretty common problem (and finding a lot of my peers are as well) with the subjects I photograph not understanding basic image copyright laws. In the last three months I’ve had my copyright infringed multiple times. Or, a previous subject has asked for high resolution files assuming they have the right to use the images for marketing or advertising purposes when those rights were not a part of our initial agreement.

In many cases, because I’m still in the fledgling stages of my career, a lot of my clients, or subjects, are not well versed in how image licensing works. Therefore, I don’t believe that they are purposefully trying to steal the images or use them inappropriately, I just think they don’t know the rules. So, what I think would be really helpful is a simple, non biased, explanation of how copyright for photography works. One that explains photographer’s ownership of their images, and more specifically why we own our images. Most of the literature I’ve tried to find on the subject is either A. too complicated with dense legal terminology which bores me, and most likely will not be thoroughly understood by clients. Or, B. documents that photographers have written up that are condescending, accusatory and confrontational. I find these to be just as bad, and alienate clients.

So basically I’m wondering if there is such a thing out there, or maybe with your vast readership, something can be made that fairly,
clearly and nicely says, “This is how photo images rights works, this is the reason, and when in doubt please contact the photographer prior to using these images.”

Amanda and Suzanne:
In regards to Image Rights it’s an area we have all dealt with or will deal with in our careers in this industry. We can’t expect our customers to always have knowledge about our careers. So we as professionals must first educate ourselves on the topic, second find a way we feel comfortable expressing the limitations of the artwork and lastly making sure it’s in writing and agreed upon by both parties. It doesn’t always mean the problem is solved or problems will not arise, but you have to do your best in the beginning to set boundaries with your clients.

ANSWERS:

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER 1:
I have a foot both in the consumer portrait world and the fashion/commercial world. While the commercial clients who commission a lot of photography usually have a decent understanding of copyright, this is not always the case. And consumers generally have very little understanding. But to be fair, a lot of photographers don’t have a clear understanding of copyright either!

So here’s copyright law in a nutshell: whenever a photographer takes a photograph, he/she usually owns that image, and can decide what to do with it. It doesn’t matter if someone hired the photographer to take the image…the client pays for the service, not the copyright. Generally the client and photographer have agreed on how the client may use that image. But the client is only ‘borrowing’ the image, and doesn’t own it. Even if the image is actually of the client! The person who creates the image owns it, unless he/she gives up that ownership.

Portrait/wedding clients will often assume that, because they hired the photographer, and the pictures are of them, that they must own the images and can do what they want with them. Not so. They have paid for the services of the photographer, and whatever rights the photographer specifically gives them as part of the transaction.

The one exception to this automatic copyright is if the photographer has agreed contractually to give up copyright, or has created the images under a ‘work for hire’ of employment situation. That is a relatively rare occurrence though.

CELEBRITY PHOTOGRAPHER 2:
Yes, it’s simple, anyone requesting the file should be educated. If a photographer gives over a high res-file, and does not mention licensing, they are remiss.

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER 3:
Simple answer is NO.

Part A:

I need to state I don’t believe we have any real copyright protection (points 1 through 5).

1. 1st of all you have to file with the fancy office in DC in order to technically own the copyright to your own images (That process took 18 months to complete in my case.) If you don’t file, you don’t own your images.

2. And when you do have an infringement (assuming you caught it somehow), you can only go after infringers who have clearly made $ off your images (you have to be able to quantify that loss amount).

3. If you do decide go after an infringer, plan on mortgaging your house and risking it all, as it will cost a minimum of $30k to litigate and you are not guaranteed to win anything. If you loose…well… you pay their attorneys fees as well as your own.

4. By the way, did I mention that if you don’t get the registration done in 90 days of the initial publication of the image, you can only go for “actual damages”? Basically the $ you should have been paid in the 1st place. If you file within those 90 days, you can go for $150k more….but don’t get too excited… look at item 5.

5. Winning infringement case is a whole different ball of wax all together. In my case, I had a great graphic evidence, a provenance of the mis-use, all emails involved between all perties, and a confession from the ex-wife of the infringer stating what happened. I won on the 1st round and lost in the appeals process… Did I mention this is a 4+ year process? I just gave up in the end…. So, if you can’t reasonable enforce it and collect $$, you don’t have copyright protection. Case closed. That’s my $.02 worth on copyright law.

Part B:

A lot of “green” photographers have been giving away their files. We all know that, right?… And other “seasoned” photographers have seemed to have forgotten what image ownership means, because of rough economic times. I have, on a daily basis, commercial clients asking (more like demanding) for unlimited, unrestricted usage rights to their files for FREE. Constantly, I find that I loose jobs to other photogs who do just give away the full rights to the images. I don’t understand why there is no clear answer to reproduction rights and usage fees, but there isn’t.. It’s been my biggest battle in the 10 years I have been a pro-photog.

On a side note; In addition to the still photogs who give away their image usage rights, we now have video guys with our same DSLR’s being asked to generate “stills” during a shoot. They are used to working on a “work for hire” basis, trade union, day-rate basis and they have always given away all rights to their work. They are just cogs in a machine. “You want me to push the button and give you the raw files…sure, I’ll do that!”

I personally have rules for my image’s usage fees, I try to explain them to my clients ahead of time… But do they care? Do they listen? Do they understand? Again, simple answer is NO. There is no standard for shooting fees. There is no standard for usage fees. There is no standard anything. The only thing that seems standard now is that our clients know that if we don’t just give up our rights, they’ll find another photog who will.

I think the question should actually be: “Given that residual income from usage fees for a photographers images is not standard, automatic, nor enforceable, will it be around in 5 years?” Having said that, will we even be in business in 5 years as photographers if we can’t charge for the use of our work?

Part C:

Here is one example of I’m dealing with. I do a fund raising program during the month of October. My clients are families who hire me for portraits, holiday cards, albums, etc… The sitting fee is $50 for a 30 minute sitting, and it is actually 100% a donation to an educational program (that has signed up and promoted my services). It’s a win, win, win situation (the school gets $50 per sitting they book, the family gets a discount from my normal fees and I get new clients ordering prints, etc). This year I have had a huge amount of people ask: “Do I get a disk with the sitting fee?” How many do you think have found someone else who will just give away their work? Plenty I’m sure…

Do I give away my images? No.
Do I charge for my images (prints and digital files)? Yes.
Is explaining usage a pain? Yes, huge..
Would I be in business without the income generated by the usage and/or prints? NO. NO. NO.

To Summarize:
The last statement is right, it is your business and it’s how photographers survive. Now, it doesn’t mean you have to formulate your business around any one direction; you have to educate your client on the limitations of the imagery set out by YOU. It’s never a comfortable topic to discuss money, let alone limitations set out on content you are delivering. But you have to decide what is important to you, what are your boundaries/limitations (legally and professionally) and how will you explain them. You can be professional, nice and creative – and still be a smart businessperson.

Call To Action:
Use this scenario and create a plan for future estimates. Have your estimate template together/ready, along with your questions, so when that that job comes in you are prepared.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Tips For Finding An Agent

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:

I love reading your posts and have found your list of reps a wonderful resource! After researching many of the reps who specialize a bit more in studio and live music photography, I have found a few I would love to contact with my work. Can you give some advice for writing interesting and attention-grabbing query letters? Maybe even some “do’s and don’ts”? I express myself best visually and sometimes find it very difficult getting my point of view across in written form, this maybe a common sentiment for visual artists… any points in the right direction would be most appreciated!

Also, the main rep in which I’m interested lists no submission information on their website, can you also give any hints as to the best way to contact them. I have seen where some agencies ask for an e-mail with 5 images attached, while others may want a mailed submission with a burned disc of images. Is there a general rule of thumb for contacting agencies with no guidelines listed?

Amanda and Suzanne:
Agents are a sought after. They can make your business boom, but you have to be ready for what they can do for you and also be ready for what they need from you. Photographers often think “once I have an agent I can relax.” This is false. You still have to give 110% outside of your agent’s efforts.

ANSWERS:

PHOTOGRAPHER’s AGENT:
For Email submissions:
-Be brief in your introduction- a couple short paragraphs should suffice
-Always attach a hot link to your website
-Send images in the body of the email so that they are visible without requiring any attachments to be opened. If you want to send an additional attachment with a short pdf of your portfolio or of a specific body of work you are proud of that is fine, but don’t only send an attachment that needs to be opened. As a rep agency we receive many emails from photographers and it’s important to get a quick visual of the photographer’s work to see if the quality of work is high and if the subject matter is applicable to what our agency represents.

-Let your personality come through in your introduction and tell us why you feel your work would be a good fit for our agency within the group as a whole, this is very important. If you are truly interested in us tell us why, otherwise your email may come off as bland, generic and not tailored to our specific company.

-After sending out an email follow up with a quick phone call. Be brief. Remind me that you recently sent me an email with your work/your website etc. and give me a little bit of information about yourself that you think is important then leave it at that. In case your work is not to my liking I don’t want to have a 10 minute conversation with you.

-If we are interested in you and we tell you this: be persistent and stay in touch with us. If you feel strongly that you are right for our agency and have good reasons as to why you are a perfect fit you may just convince us of this-even if we aren’t looking to add anyone to our roster.

For Mail Submissions:
-One of my favorite mail submissions was a small beautiful book/portfolio piece that was specifically made to act as an introduction to potential future reps. The book had a short intro about the photographer’s background and included a statement that surmised how he felt that the choice of a new rep was a very important decision, one that warranted a nice printed sample. The book was printed on high quality fine art paper and contained an overview of what the photographer specialized in-basically a short 10-15 page portfolio. The binding was simple, thread I think, something that the photographer could have done himself. I felt as though I had received a special book that had only likely been sent to a few select reps.

-Please do not repeatedly send printed materials if you don’t receive a response from me. I once had a photographer send me an 8 x 10 print every month or so for at least 6-8 months, and unfortunately the work was not to my liking at all. While I appreciated the photographer’s persistence, I felt that he was wasting his energy since we were not interested in him.

-Only unusual printed promotional materials stand out. I normally toss standard postcard style printed promos. I do however consider holding onto them if the image is really spectacular or if the paper is high quality.

-I probably would not look at a disc of images if one was sent to me in the mail, so I wouldn’t go through the trouble of doing this. If we are very interested in a specific photographer we may ask them to send their printed portfolio, but most of the time a photographer’s website provides enough information about their work and whether or not we’d be interested in representing them.

PHOTOGRAPHER’s AGENT:
Do:
Introduce yourself as an artist looking for representation & include no more than 5 lo-res samples & a link to additional work, your site, blog, etc. Good work will speak for itself. If the agent is not looking to add an artist at the moment, ask if you can add he/she to your mailing list to keep them up-to-date on your work.

Don’t:
Write lengthy emails or call to see if we’ve been to the site yet. If an agent loves the work & wants to learn more they’ll call you to schedule a time to speak further. Don’t get discouraged, keep producing fantastic work & keep trying. The right fit will happen when it’s meant to.

PHOTOGRAPHER’s AGENT:
What we look for is professionalism and glimpse of the artist’s personality in the correspondence we receive.

Of course, the imagery is the first and foremost thing we are looking at but an agent needs to know that the photographer can communicate in writing as well.

My bullet point suggestions are:
1. spelling and grammar must be correct
2. keep the inquiry short and to the point
3. let us know why you are interested in our group, what you need most from an agent at this point in your and perhaps how you see your work fitting in with the existing roster of talent
4. share a bit about your photography background and experience
5. if you’ve worked with any well known art directors or clients be sure to mention them

We like to have a pdf attached with around 5 pieces that represent the work the artist is most excited about creating.
We also like them to include a link to their website so we can get a good overview of their photography and the artist’s current branding.

PHOTOGRAPHER’s AGENT:
We do not currently have a submission policy. And due to the high volume of submissions, I personally deflect unsolicited emails that come directly to me to our photo editor to review. Occasionally a printed piece that arrives in the mail catches my eye, but my best advice is to network and actually get referred to our agency. For example, speak with a favorite client and ask them for a contact at the agency. The best rep agencies will know most clients. I am not suggesting your client contact us on your behalf, but I am more likely to read a letter that starts with “so-and-so art buyer from McCann suggested I contact you about representation.” We greatly value the opinions of our clients.

To Summarize:
All different points of entry to finding an agent. Keep trying and find the right solution that best represents you. You will find the perfect match if it’s meant to be. Of course, some times you have to try on a few to find that match.

Call To Action:
If you are looking at getting an agent – write a list of clients you love and respect (and vice versa) and ask them for recommendations. Make a list of agents you would like to approach as well (use the workbook.com) and seek people who have a talent pool you respect (not just name, but style).

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Dropping Your Agent

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:
What’s the standard protocol for dropping a rep? I feel like I’m about to tell my spouse that I’m filing for divorce. I’m almost terrified to do it in person, and I’m not shy. I have been getting an increasingly unpleasant vibe from my agent and I’m just not comfortable with the way he represents me. I want the face of my “brand” to photo editors and art buyers to be someone I am proud of, not someone I’m embarrassed about. I am mostly paranoid that this agent will talk shit on me to his network for dropping him. I know I’m supposedly “their boss” but I also don’t want to burn any bridges either. I’d love to hear from other people on how they went about the rep switch, and about having to pay commissions to the old rep for a certain number of months (is this normal?) after they parted ways. Hearing it from the agents’ perspective would be great too…

Amanda and Suzanne:
We have consulted with photographers and reps around the world and helped them with this very dilemma. Many photographers are looking for agents, here is some insight in the world of having an agent.

ANSWERS:

PHOTOGRAPHER’s AGENT:
I do not think the photographer is a reps “boss.” They should be working together as a team. I do not think you should get rid of a rep or a rep should not get rid of a photographer without first trying to address and work out the problem.

PHOTOGRAPHER’s AGENT:
In my opinion, the more honest and straightforward you are in any relationship, the better. I’ve always maintained that if a relationship is not working for one of the parties, then the relationship is not working! I would question the statement of this photographer, “I’m supposedly their boss.” In 22 years, I’ve never had a relationship where the photographers considered themselves my “boss.” We are partners, and the most successful photographer / rep relationships are the ones in which there is collaboration and mutual respect.

PHOTOGRAPHER’s AGENT:
Ahhhh…the old “to have” or “have not” an exit strategy established before ending a rep/photog relationship.

Sounds like there isn’t one in place here (that has been discussed or possibly in writing). Point that should be
noted for “next time.”

In my experience with three agencies the standard protocol has varied, but typically the artist/rep first has a
“come to Jesus” conversation to discuss “unpleasant vibe” or like topics that either will clear the air with
some ways for improvement i.e see how it goes over the next few months etc. or it’s decided that the relationship
has run it’s course.

If it’s the latter, then an exit strategy should be discussed, put in writing & signed by each of the respective parties.
This can/should vary depending on how contentious or cordial the potential split is.

This allows for clear communication with neither party getting a strong (bullying) upper hand. It’s business.

Points to be included in the exit agreement could include:

o what date the relationship will formally end.
o when & how portfolios/promo-materials etc. are retrieved by the agent & returned to the artist.
o how long the artist will remain on the website.
o outstanding monies owed i.e. artist to rep for expenses are discussed for payment.
o outstanding jobs or existing negotiations are discussed, completed & billed.
o period that after the relationship formally ends that the agent can collect commission on jobs.
(Typically this is included in all boiler plate contracts) but I have seen it range from 3 months – 1 year.
o List (or not) of clients that these monies can be collected from – including reuse scenarios (which is key).

A separate piece of the exiting strategy should involve a written & signed cease & desist about speaking
professionally i.e. not badly about either party (with ramifications) – again, depending upon the tone of the split.
With the growing use & trends of social media, this should also include emails, FB, LinkedIn, twitter, tumblr etc.

While there is always some fall out, I still believe that cream rises to the top but it pays to keep quiet and professional.
Very common practice in corporate America.

Another thought:
Writing an email (artist/rep) that gets circulated by the rep to the artist group, key clients, trade sources etc. briefly explaining
that x&y will no longer be working together. Wish each other well etc. It’s a good PR/political measure that again keeps both parties
accountable & professional.

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER:
Dropping an agent should be done respectfully and honestly. The photographer owes the agent time to develop a relationship with potential clients and the body of work. If the agent cannot sell the vision of the photographer it may be a mismatch worth exploring new agents who do have a shared vision of how to market and how to sell that vision. A review of progress or lack of should be discussed and openly analyzed. If it is beneficial to split, I think this should be done gracefully and respectfully. There is no reason to berate or condemn a person when ending the relationship; simply on a personal level it is not helpful or necessary. I would review the contract, agree on terms for termination and gracefully move on. If you can say it don’t write it.

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER:
I got some advice from a lawyer friend at the time I started working with my ex agent, “It’s easier to get into a business relationship than it is to get out of one.” Certainly true in my case….

From the description, I have to say though it appears some of the anxiety this person is facing is self-inflicted.

Mistake 1: Working with someone who you’re embarrassed about and feel you can’t trust.

Mistake 2: Working with someone on an extended basis without a contract and / or clear compensation and severance terms.

Mistake 3: Thinking you’re “the boss” of your agent. I think most good reps would view it as they work with you, not for you…. more of a partner in your business than an employee…

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER:
There is no standard protocol. It’s a very difficult situation and yes it’s like a break up.
From my experience, be honest, say it’s time for you to move on, and keep repeating that it’s nothing personal. It’s business. Keep in mind that any rep who talks shit about any photographer will reflect more on the rep than you. Those days are over when you can get away with stuff like that. As far as commissions are concerned, it depends on how well or badly the break up goes. If he takes it like a professional then work something out. If he acts like a child, then break it off cleanly and move on.

Remember, it’s your career and an agent represents you. You are in charge not them.

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER:
Ending a relationship with a rep is a lot like breaking up. First let’s deal with the money. It is always advised that you get in writing how the commissions will be handled in the event of a split when you first sign your agreement to work together. Splits do happen and getting it in writing makes the split cleaner.

I once had a rep who used to burst into the studio at the last minute grabbing misc samples and tearsheets on the way to an appointment she had set up for another of her photographers, saying she thought it was a good opportunity to show my work. She also tended to wear very loud color clothing and too much perfume. This was really not my style, as I am very organized, prepare my work beautifully, and tend to be understated.

This person, did not “represent” me or my work well, and I ended it after a short time of working together.

In your case, if everything has been handled professionally from the beginning, and you have legitimate reasons for moving on, and have had decent communication along the way, I don’t think an agent would talk bad about anyone who has split with them. It’s also a bad reflection on them to do so, unless everyone knows you’ve been a jerk.

I wouldn’t worry about it, just move on and set things up better next time.

ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER:
Its happened to me a few times.
Best way to go about is to not get personal- it is like a divorce, but there is no need for either type of breakup to ever get ugly.
Just say you think you have different goals and it’s not working out. Don’t point fingers, or dig up anything from the past (or worse, drag other people into it) just that you think it’s time to make a change.
As far as compensation, if you don’t have a contract commission on any account you’ve worked with while with the rep seems fair. In my case I had an account that shot once a year, and the next shoot fell well outside our parting but I felt the rep was owed that, in the spirit of the agreement, and paid the commission.
Remember that it’s a small community and word gets around, so chose yours carefully and take the high road whenever possible.
If they “talk shit” that is often taking as coming from someone that is bitter, and will only make them look bad. Don’t worry about it.
It is possible the rep will take on someone that does the same thing you do, so don’t sit back and think those clients will have any loyalty. It’s a good time to send out a promo or make some calls and let people know you are rep-less, this will combat anything the old rep might say about you being out of business, and you might pick up some clients that like your work but hated your rep.
I’m still friends with all of my old reps (and ex wives and girlfriends too) and while the relationship will change they call still be a valuable part of your business. Take the high road, do the right thing, and part as friends.

To Summarize:
Having a rep is like being married. It’s a relationship based on trust and respect, but you both have to be attracted to one another (to the same work we mean). Since one of us was a former rep – we know what’s it’s like to have those break ups. Have a GOOD contract in hand and discuss those WHAT IF’s before getting into your relationship with one another (and make sure everything discussed is in writing). Like a marriage or any relationship – they all end eventually – some on good terms (like retirement) and some not so good (death, divorce, infidelity – and yes there is many times infidelity happens in rep/photographer relationships – again “Project Infidelity” we mean). Our favorite line from this is: “If you can say it don’t write it.” If you can openly communicate – you should have a good relationship.

Call To Action:
If you are looking at getting an agent – write a list of qualities you are looking for in an agent. Then when you find that agent, discuss your needs and wants from them – listen to theirs. Then review contract and make sure those items are itemized and documented. Have both of your exit plans clearly stated. GOOD LUCK!

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – Printed Portfolio vs. iPad Portfolio

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:

I am a photo assistant and studio manager that is taking steps to go out on my own, getting everything in place before the storm. Or at least what I hope will be the storm of work coming my way. Trying to stay positive here. Getting started is hard hitting, financially, so every decision I make I’m putting a lot of thought into, what tripod to invest in, cases, website, etc. There are so many options out there. Now I’ve reached portfolios. I just redid portfolios for a photographer I work for. This photographer dropped thousands on beautiful new portfolios and prints. They are really lovely. Whenever I contact others about this photographer’s work, or am contacted about it, never do they want to see the printed version. They simply say, send me a link to the website, or send a digital portfolio focusing on this. This really makes me wonder if I should be spending the time and money to print my work. I’ve heard of other photographers sending around an ipad with their work instead of a printed book. While I find it rather silly, as many computer screens are larger than the ipad, in which case I think you will get a better experience with the images, it does make some sense as well. At least you can control the color and quickly revise the images as necessary. I’ve heard what photographers think about this, but I’m wondering what art buyers, photo editors, and you think of this.

Amanda and Suzanne:
A portfolio is your visual voice that allows you to tell the story/journey of who you are creatively. We hope that portfolios will continue to transform, but we believe will continue to exist in some form. The website and the portfolio still stand as 2 separate entities and each tells your story differently.

ANSWERS:

ART PRODUCER:

I think if you’re going to be a photographer… be a photographer… save your money and have your book printed on nice paper. But, it really all depends on who’s asking and what they are asking for. Maybe the job is shooting something that will only go online. Look, I know that showing your books digitally is easier, but believe me there are still a lot of traditional clients, AD’s & AB’s who like to see a portfolio. Most still do. Let’s put this way, have ever gone to see an apartment that you saw online and when you arrived you can’t believe it’s the same apartment. Photoshop is beautiful thing. Not to say you can’t photoshop images and print them in your printed portfolio. You can. I just think touching and feeling it gives clients, AD’s & AB’s a lot more to talk about.

BTW: I just finished A job that sent books all over the place. Not just the photographer, but hair, make-up & wardrobe stylist as well. It pays to be prepared. Keep in mind that if you only have one book, be creative and tell clients all your books are out… they’ll want you more.

ART PRODUCER:
If I were a new photographer, I’d invest in 1) a killer website, 2) an iPad portfolio and 3) and FTP service.

Don’t get me wrong; as a Print person, I love a beautifully crafted physical portfolio. But the reality is, the iPad is already revolutionizing portfolio showing. It does everything I would want a portfolio to do: it’s easy to use; the images look great; I can pass it around; I can view multiple portfolios at will; shipping is cheap!

As a photographer, you can customize it to each client and it’s cheaper than printing out multiple physical portfolios.

I have to admit, I’ve requested fewer and fewer physical portfolios of any kind over the past year. Photographers have become more techno-savvy and can provide me links or PDFs to what I need to see.

That’s where the FTP service comes in. Rather than sending large files via email, send links to your work via an FTP site. There are several out there, some entirely free.

ART PRODUCER:
I can’t remember the last time that I called in/used an actual printed book. I first evaluate work by what I see online. If I need more, I’ll ask, but usually I’ll want to see more work digitally. Books are expensive; take time to get to me, etc. I also like showing only relevant shots to our clients. While very beautiful, I can’t do that with an already put together book. I’m a big fan of treatments (previous post on treatments). They go along way with clients and with my creative team. These are catered to a particular client/project and show insightful ideas that relate directly to my client/project. I’ve been using these in replacement of a book.

To Summarize: Have something PREPARED and READY waiting to go out. 3 different buyers and they both say to be prepared – please listen to your potential clients.

Call To Action: print your book, or buy the iPad you have been dying to buy, and/or get your digital/virtual portfolio together. If budget allows we vote for all 3. If budget is tight and $500 is more realistic, then the iPad. If budget is $0 – virtual all the way.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.” Amanda and Suzanne review your comments for 2 days, and then they are off researching next week’s question.

Ask Anything – Summertime = Marketingtime?

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:

Most photographers think that summertime is a time not to do any marketing but if memory serves us correctly it is one the busiest times because of concepting for Spring lines with Fall Shooting as well as Back to School and year-end car sales. What are your thoughts about how photographers should be marketing while creative folks are so busy in the concept phase??

Amanda and Suzanne:
Well, most American’s do not take holiday for weeks on end (like we should) – so we are always working through the summer time. Market, Market, Market…

ANSWERS:

ART PRODUCER:
ANYTIME should be the time to promote ones’ self. The traditional “seasons” of retail have dissolved somewhat because of CGI and because retailers often have to work so far in advance. Advertising has become far less predictable with the current economic crunch as well.

Marketing should be a consistent, pre-determined activity. It should not be a one-time event and it should not be in one medium only. Think about what advertisers do: market to multiple “channels” (media) and target their marketing efforts so less money is wasted on people less inclined to buy.

What could be more of a concern is the compression happening at agencies. With the myriad of layoffs, there are fewer educated buyers out there. Entry points into each agency or company may have changed.

CREATIVE DIRECTOR:
I think there is no bad time to advertise. You may hit the AD with an image that inspires how he/she approaches the design solution. I know this has happened to me … And when it comes time to execute the design … Why not hire the photographer who’s work inspired the design (providing the body of the photographers work holds up).

One other thought on advertising … That game has drastically changed in the last 3-5 years. Personally, I dislike emails (If I smell marketing … delete) … Not a fan of postcards (99% hit the trash within 10 seconds of it being in my hand). If you haven’t read the book “Crush It” … Please do. It’s one of the best books I’ve read regarding social media, building a fan base and turning into a profitable business.

ART PRODUCER:
This is two fold. Yes, Fall, Holiday and Spring campaigns are being concepted/developed, however vacation time is usually also kicked into hyper-drive. I’d still get out there and show and talk about work. Just be realistic about the creative turnout when showing work. If you were just meeting with an Art Buyer only, this wouldn’t apply. Though just keep in mind, someone is working on the upcoming work/campaigns. If it fits with a particular concept/idea it’s a good thing regardless who sees it. I’ve also seen shown work, inspire a particular project, and in that case it’s pretty much a done deal on who’s shooting it. This then becomes a true project of collaboration. Nothing is more relevant than when it applies to the now.

Tip: Also an afternoon meeting with some cookies/snacks goes a long way. It helps me initially wrangle the attention of creatives. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or particularly pretty. This time slot may not work for everyone. I just know my creatives and how they work best. See if you can pry some of this info out of whomever you’re meeting, if more than just the art buyer is expected.

To Summarize: We ask and ask and it’s always the same answer, ALWAYS keep marketing regardless of time. If someone is away, their mail will be waiting for them. Take time, produce something special and invest in consistency and for the long term.

Call To Action: Where are you spending your marketing dollars? Map out your plan and start marketing today! Look at your options: Social Media, Mass Direct Mail, e-promotions, In Person Marketing (events, meetings, etc…), Specialized Marketing (targeted and high end), etc… Lastly look at the time you have available and see what options works best for you. We recommend picking 2-3 options and then adding to it as time and finances allow.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

Ask Anything – DO’s And DON’Ts On A Shoot

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:

Once on a shoot with creative directors and producers what are some do’s & don’ts as a follow up question to your previous post about the meeting? Be yourself I get, but what about protocol while shooting or even after the shoot?

Amanda and Suzanne: What you do on set is crucial to your success and crucial for a client to consider hiring you again. Many people often read Dos and Don’ts and often say “well that’s obvious” but when you are under pressure or nervous, you too can slip up. We hope these guided tips from our well-respected industry creatives will sink in and help on your next shoot!

ANSWERS:

ART PRODUCER:

The following are other tips beyond what I hope most of the readers will understand to be standard protocol (stay on budget, keep to deadlines, no whining, etc.) I could probably go on and on, but here are a few tips that have tripped up many photographers…

Do:

Describe the ground rules

No later than the pre-pro, clearly outline any ground rules that will be important to enforce in order to achieve a successful shoot. For example, if it’s a closed set for a lingerie shoot, let everyone know who is allowed on set and when. That does NOT mean banishing the client to a closet so they stay out of the way. It may, however, require a description of how any talking on the set tends to distract you from interacting with your crew and the talent, thereby compromising the shot. Reiterate these rules on the day of the shoot prior to clicking a shutter.

Engage with the client

This means both the agency and the client. Let them know you are interested in hearing their input, even if further discussion is needed. Most of the big questions should be answered at the pre-pro, so hopefully there won’t be many curve balls on the day of the shoot – but it does happen more often than I wish it would!

Provide sustenance

It’s difficult to think clearly when hungry. Provide a variety of healthy snacks and beverages. Find out if the client has special food needs, such as food allergies, being a vegetarian, etc. It’s very embarrassing if everyone is eating – except for the vegan, who is only sipping fruit juice because nothing else was edible to them. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just tasty. (If your client is a junk food junkie, then accommodate appropriately.)

Deliver what you promised

This sounds so simple, but I can’t tell you the number of times the photographer didn’t deliver, despite continuous reminders and reassurance that they would. If you agreed to provide all images on a removable hard drive before they left for the day, then be prepared to do so by hiring the necessary digitechs. That means you should promise only what is possible to deliver: “Before you leave for the day, I’ll provide you with low res jpgs for the first 3 shots; low res jpgs for the other 3 shots will be sent to you by Fed Ex for delivery on Friday morning. Once you make selects, I will send you hi res files by FTP.”

Treat your crew well, but professionally

A dysfunctional relationship with your crew is obvious to everyone; even if you think you hide it well. I’ll bet nearly every photo assistant or client has a nightmare story about a jerk photographer, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, one who is too friendly with his crew and won’t ask them to perform basic tasks because they’re friends.

Make the clients feel like the shoot mattered to you

Mundane or exciting, clients want to know you care about the shoot. “Thanks for a great shoot. I sure enjoyed (working with you/the project/getting to know you).” Obviously, keep it truthful, so if you can’t say something nice, just let them know how you’ll wrap things up. “Thanks so much for the project. I’ll be sure to get those files to you on Thursday.”

Make certain you know the “safe zones”

The art buyer that you’re friendly with over the phone may or may not be the person to open up to about the Art Director From Hell. The buyer’s first loyalty will be to the company and you may be the one thrown under the bus if things don’t go well. When in doubt, keep conversation job-related and not editorial.

Get an FTP service

Sending large files via email is not only cumbersome, but it’s possible that they may never make their destination. Share location files, casting shots or production files over 1 mb this way.

Don’t:

Give too much information

They don’t need to know the details of how you’re going to accomplish something, they just need to know you’re going to take care of it. Thinking out loud can make the client wonder if you’ve got a good handle on things. The client also doesn’t need to know that you’re on your third marriage because your other wives were gold-diggers.

Presume you are a close friend of the client

Avoid friending them on Facebook as soon as the shoot is over. They may be kind, but not interested in a more personal relationship. Take your time in nurturing the relationship or you may be identified as creepy rather than friendly. Personally, I use LinkedIn for professional relationships, and it’s not until I know someone on a more personal level that I accept FB invitations from them.

Ask for the next job

I cringe as I write this, but it has happened. Instead of asking, “Are there any other projects in the works that I can bid on?”, say “I sure enjoyed working with you and I hope we can work together again soon.”

ART DIRECTOR:

You have to deliver great photos and that’s a given. Beyond that:

Do:

– Listen to creative concerns and be open to questions.

– Ask questions to figure out what is behind what you consider a “bad” or “stupid” request from AD or from their client. By understanding where the concern comes from, you might be able to troubleshoot a solution that you all can be happy with.

– Always deliver what you are asked for first and then if you have enough time add in any extra shots you are inspired to do

– Make sure AD, client and anyone agency staff feel taken care of – basic courtesies. Beyond doing great work, you can develop client loyalty through genuine little human touches.

PHOTOGRAPHER #1:

I’m not aware of any specific shoot protocol. Here are a couple of things I try to do, though, just ’cause it seems like the right thing to do:

1. Always provide a comfy place for the client to sit and be busy with their work, since more likely than not they will working on other projects while the shoot day details are worked out. This seating area is close enough that they can glance up and see the progress, but not be ‘in the way’ of the behind the scenes work. Internet access a must. Food, bev, all that…

2. If the agency client is in attendance, I make sure to show ‘in progress files’ to the art director only first. If they want to share the in progress stuff, the AD can share with the AE who will in turn show the client.

PHOTOGRAPHER #2:

Do not answer calls, emails or talk about any other project other than what you are working on. I like to make my client think they are the only client on my mind. If they ask about your other clients or what else you’ve been shooting, feel free to answer just don’t ramble.

CONSULTANTS (wonder who they might be):

Do:

Use please and thank you to your crew and models (you are being watched by everyone and your every move is analyzed)

Don’t:

Never yell at your crew (in front of your client or behind the scenes)

To Summarize: On a shoot there is always pressure, but that doesn’t mean you have to break under the pressure. If you are educated on this subject and handle yourself and the project calmly, you will be able to make a positive impression.

Call To Action: Make a list of things you have done well in the past and mistakes you might have had. Learn from both. Repeat the great moments and avoid those mistakes. GOOD LUCK!

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”