Posts by: A Photo Editor

Corporate Greed

- - Photography Business

Robert Wright delivered part 3 (here) on the “business” of editorial photography and we both agree that corporate greed is the source of the problems we face in photography and generally in business today. It always seems like I randomly run into information that further clarifies what we’re discussing and this time is no exception:

From New York Magazine, American Roulette: In our winner-take-all casino economy, the middle class is getting royally screwed. A call to arms for populism, before it’s too late (here). Via the writers strike blog (here).

We’ve had a bracing, invigorating run of pedal-to-the-metal hypercapitalism, but now it’s time to ease up and share the wealth some. We can afford to make life a little more fair and a lot less scary for most people.

And then.

From a book review by Roger Lownstein in Portfolio Magazine (here).

Supercapitalism
By Robert B. Reich
Knopf, 272 pages, $25

[...]As Reich admits, this unfettered capitalism is very good at what it tries to do: mainly, earn profits for shareholders and offer a wide array of affordable products to consumers. It is lousy at everything else, which, according to Reich, includes providing health care and ample pensions for employees or a living wage for those on the bottom or protecting small retailers and the environment.

[...]Free markets have been great for the kingpins of private equity—not so for the working stiff.

[...]Reich spends a lot of time contrasting the present era with what he calls the Not Quite Golden Age of the 1950s and ’60s, when unions and government promoted stability for workers and communities at the cost of a far less innovative economy. It’s startling to be reminded of just how controlled the U.S. economy used to be.

[...] Anyway, technology ended it. Ma Bell lost its monopoly to new long-distance-transmission technology, and truckers to Federal Express. Down came the regulatory walls, companies were forced to compete, and Wall Street demanded profits and profits alone. Communities be damned.

[...]Corporations cannot be expected to divide their loyalties between social interests and capitalist ones because they have no means of weighing one against the other. Only a democratic institution can decide whether, in order to preserve community values, it is worth throwing a little sand into the gears of capitalism—say, by keeping a big-box retailer out of downtown. But those institutions, namely Congress and state legislatures, are failing.

Don’t let the greedheads win.

Link Juice

- - Blogs

Sending a little link juice out to…

I haven’t read it yet but I’m told by a very good source that A Visual Society has an excellent photographer interview up (here).

What’s the Jackanory has a new book (here).

Photo Rank is repaired again (here). Two people told me the registration wasn’t working and I discovered another 30 or so that tried and gave up when I looked at the database. Should be working now and that’s a good example of how 1 customer complaint is equal to about 15 people.

Copyright And Photography On The Internet

- - Photography Business

So, it appears this story where photographer Lane Hartwell asked YouTube to remove a video, created by The Richter Scales, under a DMCA take down order is not going to get resolved quietly. I think they could have paid her a fee and removed the image and gotten on with their lives, but we shall find out in the coming days when she posts her side of the story.

Uber blogger Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch decided to make it front page news (here) with the same laughable fair use defense those Richter Scales tried but if you read through the lines it seems to be more of a case that a video everyone liked and Michael was featured in is not longer available and he’s pissed-off about it.

Michael ends his post with this Web 2.0 fairy tale:

Societal ideals around what constitutes ownership over art are changing. People who try to protect and silo off their work are simply being ignored. Those that embrace the community, and give back to it not only allowing but asking for their work to be mashed up, re-used and otherwise embraced are being rewarded with attention. At the core is a basic implicit understanding – if you want to be part of the community, you have to give back to it, too.

Dude, are you drunk? Content is king. People who steal work to mash it up and don’t attribute or pay their sources are dicks.

A cursory reading of the comments shows the usual dreck like “it’s the internet, get over it” or “your photos suck why would you care” or even better “it’s an awesome marketing opportunity that you should have taken advantage of.”

Here are a few of the better comments:

Amie Gillingham

December 16th, 2007 at 5:37 am

We shouldn’t be clamoring for such an erosion of ownership rights just because we all loved the end result. Permission is everything!

and

Paulo

December 16th, 2007 at 7:34 am

Er Mike, aren’t you supposed to be a lawyer? Grab a clue, man.

Those who can, create. Those who can’t, steal.

and

DT

December 16th, 2007 at 5:45 pm

The whole “you shouldn’t post your work on the Internet if you don’t want it stolen” argument seems like a path to a pretty depressing society. If you don’t want your wallet stolen, don’t carry it with you. If you don’t want your car broken-into, don’t park it on the street. If you don’t want your house burglarized then don’t have windows…

[...]Here, we all gain when artists put their work on the Internet. We can view their work from thousands of miles away and gain an appreciation for it. She can sell prints, I can send her feedback, etc. Everybody ends up happier.

The general public’s misunderstanding of copyright is not what’s disturbing here, it’s that influential bloggers like Michael and Robert Scoble (here), who should be leading by example, seem to think we should throw it out the window in favor of some type of web 2.0 community empowerment. I just don’t see the upside for anyone when the original creator of a work cannot be found.

Update: Lane Hartwell statement (here). Here’s a highlight:

The band did not remove the image from the video when I brought it to their attention and instead they told me they had the right to use it. They could have easily apologized, removed the video from YouTube and re-edited without my image and reposted.

Photography is my livelihood. It’s how I pay my bills. I’m not treating the band any differently than any other group that uses my work without my permission.

Are Photographers Unhappy?

- - Working

Just in time for the holidays a Time Magazine story (here) submitted on Photo Rank (here) ranks jobs according to happiness and photography comes out on the bottom between bartender and welder with 20.8 % saying they’re “very happy.”

Are you effing kidding me?

Not only does this study claim photographers are not happy it also reveals that most of the other unhappy occupations are all unskilled laborers. I find this very hard to believe and my only explaination is that the survey was somehow flawed and included people who don’t make a living as a photographer. I certainly can believe that you’re unhappy if you don’t make a living doing your job.

My only other thought on this is that photographers lie about their occupation. A waitress trying to become an actor would probably claim to be a waitress if a surveyor asked but a bartender trying to become a photographer would probably claim to be a photographer. Maybe that’s why they’re so close to each other.

Frank W. Ockenfels 3

- - Photographers

Frank Ockenfels does everything well.

When I think about high level photographers who can shoot anything and are flexible and can problem solve on the fly, Frank (Frankie three sticks) comes to mind every time. He’s one of those guys who you can hire to shoot B&W, Color, Alternative Process and can shoot on location or in a studio and works with celebrities, athletes, musicians, kids, psychos… whatever. He’s the nicest guy in the world and seems to know his way around a camera pretty well, so I guess you would call him a generalist. But, here’s the thing, I always remember Frank for his collage technique and even though I’ve never called him to shoot that technique he somehow avoids letting it define him but it’s what makes him memorable to me.

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Photo Rank Back Up

- - Websites

A hacker used a loop hole to dump users and spam in to the system of every website running pligg open source software that I used to create photo rank. I put spam blocking software on the comments and now you have to respond to an email to register. It’s crazy how easy it is for robot spammers to quickly wreck everything. I suppose if I actually had an IT guy this wouldn’t be a big deal. Live and learn.

Director Logjam

- - Working

I had a fashion shoot implode the other day after we finished casting and scouting locations, so we quickly scrambled to put another one together and I had 3 days to get a photographer on board. To shoot fashion at our rag a photographer has to be approved by myself, the Fashion Director and the Creative Director. If one of us doesn’t agree they’re rejected. This, as you might imagine, can be difficult especially when you have 3 days so the process usually amounts to me pitching photographers I know will be available and the CD pitching photographers that are most likely booked till Easter and the FD spiking a few here and there for various reasons. When we finally settle on a couple we all agree on I quickly call the agent to check availability and depending on who the agency is you either get a quick answer or you get “I’ll see what can be moved around” and no answer for like a day.

While, I like all the photography that’s come out of this process when you’re in the middle of the logjam it SUCKS.

Switching Categories

- - Photography Style

Portrait, Fashion, Fine Art, Photojournalist, Still Life, Lifestyle and Car Photographer. There’s more but this is just to illustrate something that happened recently. A photographer who’s top 3 for me in one of these categories tells me he also shoots in another category which I don’t have a problem with, I just don’t think he realizes that in the other category he’s number 54 on my list.

Oh. My. God. – Jan Von Hollenben

- - Photographers

My favorite thing about photography is that I’m always discovering new stuff and my taste is just never fully developed. I can imagine that being a photography critic is quite a drag because you’ve seen everything before and there are very few surprises for you in photography. I found Jan Von Hollenben over on Photo Rank and every time I show someone these photos I get the same reaction… Oh. My. God. Photography is just awesome like that sometimes.

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Writers Strike Continues

- - Photography News

Story in Variety yesterday, “WGA talks leaves bitterness.”

Here’s what I found interesting:

AMPTP insiders said they’re convinced WGA West exec director David Young is trying to make the WGA battles a part of a larger, more global struggle against corporate “greed.”

[...]“For them, this is not a writers strike. It’s about changing society,” one exec said. “We are so frustrated. We’re dealing with people who don’t care about this community. They care about making social change in America.”

Making A Living As A Photographer

- - Photography Business

Robert Wright delivers a couple smart posts on the business of photography and that oh so important part, many photographers overlook, making sure you treat it like a business. He’s got some strategies for dealing with the current state of affairs which amounts to a stagnant day rate and thinly padded expenses.

US vs. THEM… or flogging a dead horse

US vs. THEM part DEUX!

I agree with much of what he says even though I’m a part of “THEM.”

He talks about working within the system but using whatever advantages you can to create positive cash flow. I’d say the biggest point to come out of it is that idea of renting equipment. There’s hardly a photographer that I hire anymore that doesn’t charge me to rent equipment. Hell, I just paid a $7,000 rental bill but what am I going to do about it, nobody owns equipment anymore and if they do they rent it to me. It’s only fair.

He also brings up the editorial photographers group (EP) which failed to turn editorial photography into a viable business but I will add likely mitigated the level of damage that was about to happen. I personally learned a ton from what I read on the website back then and many photographers that I dealt with changed their business practices for the better. I even cribbed off the contracts when writing and trying to understand a few of my own.

The big downside for me was that anyone with a camera was suddenly using the EP attitude to badger me into paying higher rates and signing their contract terms and the reality was they didn’t have the skills as a photographer to make those demands.

The barrier to entry in the editorial market has always been that you can’t make a living at the bottom of the market and now the middle of the market is completely flooded with photographers making it impossible to specialize in editorial photography. This can’t be good and I really don’t have a solution at the moment but at least Robert has a strategy for dealing with it.

Photographer Tags

- - Photography Style

Unless you are a “named” photographer we use tags to describe how you shoot. Pick the tags below that best describe your photography to see how I refer to you.

  • color
  • black & white
  • film
  • digital
  • available light
  • lit
  • heavily lit
  • over lit
  • large format
  • medium format
  • 35mm
  • holga/junk
  • shoots men
  • shoots women
  • shoots children
  • studio
  • location
  • portrait
  • photojournalist
  • fashion
  • beauty
  • still life
  • fine art
  • advertising
  • outdoor
  • automotive
  • food
  • interior
  • sports
  • conceptual
  • travel and leisure-e
  • urban
  • gritty
  • nike
  • high production value
  • low production value
  • slick
  • raw
  • grainy
  • saturated
  • captured moment
  • americana
  • weird
  • stark
  • quirky
  • props
  • lyrical
  • painterly
  • high contrast
  • naked
  • cool
  • off moment
  • awkward
  • muted color
  • crunchy (super sharp)
  • great casting
  • tight
  • landscape
  • action
  • sets
  • real people
  • models
  • trashy
  • heroin
  • vintage
  • webberie
  • annieish
  • assisted for annie
  • lachapelleish
  • egglestonish
  • dan winters on peyote
  • meisel’s brother from another mother

I think there’s something insightful here like having a 2-4 word description is bad because there are so many people that have the same 2-4 words and over 12 is probably bad because then it gets hard to remember all the words.

You can tell me all the tags I forgot and I’ll add them in.

Jeff Riedel

- - Photographers

Jeff Riedel is intense.

Shooting with a 4×5 on location with lights and multiple set-ups per day can be pressure enough but he has this way of shooting that requires adjusting the lights (up, up more, ok like twice that, even more, now see my hand, faced over here like my hand) and the camera position (ok move everything back I was too close) and the subject (move over 1 step left, your other left, now 1 step back) and louping the focus under the black cloth (ok hold it like that for one second) then shooting endless polaroids (polaroid, polaroid, polaroid, how many polaroids do we have left) while trouble shooting the lighting (more power, it’s at max power, it’s at max power?) until everything is perfect and then *BAM* slamming sheet after sheet into the holders until you see the right expression (close your mouth, chin up) and adjusting the body position slightly (can you put your hand on your hip, let the other one hang loose, move your leg back an inch) and making sure the goddam pocket wizards don’t fail like they sometimes do in the middle of the shot (did that fire?, no it didn’t, are you sure?, yes positive, what channel is it on?, is it turned on?, do you have a sync cord?) and then after endless calls to the assistant (film, film, film, ok polaroid) and then you wait for the polaroids to cook, no one can move, and then he compares the two polaroids to make sure nothing changed in between the first and last and then the shot is over.

Perfect.

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I worked with Jeff on location once and he was doing another job the next day that I wanted to help him out with for fun, so the next day we went tromping through the woods with talent and crew doing various setups going through the usual intense shooting procedure for each location. At the end of the day over dinner Jeff has the polaroids which, because of his rigorous method of shooting, represent the final shot for each setup and he was brooding over them. The light here or the color there or the body position in this one was not where he wanted it to be and to be honest, I couldn’t see it. Not because it wasn’t there but because I don’t have the ability to see the degrees of imperfection in two nearly similar images. Jeff wasn’t satisfied so he rescheduled his commitments and went out in the woods the next day and shot the whole thing over again. Intense. Goddam Right.

From the Emailbag

- - FAQ's

A reader asks, “why don’t photo editors don’t return phone calls and emails?”

The good news is that we listen to and read each one so it’s not like you’re not getting through to us. The reason we don’t get back to you and say no thanks or hey what did you want to tell me, besides the problem of not having enough time, it’s because I’m not a robot (I can dance like one tho) and once we start a conversation I feel obligated to return all future phone calls and emails and it can get very time consuming and draining. So, if it’s not something I’m interested in I don’t call back. Plenty of publicists don’t return mine. I don’t take it personally.

A reader asks, “how do I get a job as a photo assistant?”

Well, you can head over to www.photoassistant.net or you can contact photographers you want to learn from and see if they need an assistant.

A reader asks, “do you know where there is a list of photo editor with email addresses to contact them?”

Workbook has a phone book with names and they also have mailing lists you can buy. There are other services but workbook is one of the few that calls me to see if I exist.

A reader asks, “what do you think of Redux as an agency?”

If I’m looking for a photographer that doesn’t live in NYC then it’s my first stop. When looking for photojournalists it’s in the top 5. When looking for photographers in general it’s on the list.

A reader asks, “do e-promos work anymore?”

Yes, but the volume is increasing exponentially. It’s all about the subject line now. Weird to think about it that way but I’m seeing some great subject lines that make me want to click.