Posts by: A Photo Editor

Name Your Price

So, have you heard (here’s my source) about Radiohead selling downloads of their new album on their website where you pay whatever you think it’s worth.

Do you think they’re undercutting fellow artists by not maintaining pricing? I mean just because they’re famous and make all their money off touring and t-shirts doesn’t mean they can just sell a whole freaking album for a dollar.

They also have a box set for sale with 2 CD’s and 2 Vinyl Records (Vinyl?) that goes for $80.

There are parallels to be drawn in the photography industry, I just can’t think of any at the moment.

$10,000 for a stock photo

… in a magazine. I’ll admit it since it’s not my current employer (although they would not be happy to hear of my near criminal spending in the past) and what the hell, it was the perfect photo and I can’t help it if David La Chapelle took it and once everyone agreed they wanted it I don’t have a leg to stand on to negotiate and guess what… DLC doesn’t negotiate.

Also, make sure you don’t credit him. You’ll have to pay 3 times that if you credit him.

$1 Haters

Art buyers hate $1 stock too. Clearing rights is messy not to mention the embarrassing possibility that another ad with the same image will simultaneously appear.

The Death of $1 Stock

Die, die, die you lousy repositories of crappy photography.

http://www.istockphoto.com

http://us.fotolia.com

http://www.shutterstock.com

Make room for FREE stock photos.

100 Legal Sources for Free stock photos.

For sure, it’s a bad time to be a professional photographer who makes lousy cliché imagery. It’s even worse, if your entire business model revolves around using very expensive equipment to make crappy photos. The writing is on the wall.

It used to be that I had to pay Corbis or Getty a bunch of money to license bad photographs. Now, most of these photos are fairly priced at $1 but it seems that’s not good enough for the market and the new price is freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

How did we end up here?

Now that everyone has computers, digital cameras and access to the web the cost of creating horrible photography is nearly zero.

What’s the value of these websites to professional photographers?

Use these sites to find out where the bar is set to make a living as a professional photographer. If you can’t produce photography that’s better than what’s available on these sites it’s going to be very hard for you to make a go of it.

I’m not talking about a better picture of a kitten or rainbow or metaphor for business I’m talking about an original approach to these subjects because to be honest the public doesn’t care if one kitten photo is marginally better than the other. They only care about the price and the price, is now free.

I’ve bought $1 stock before but the only reason I did it is I couldn’t find a similar photo at the other stock sources and I was told we absolutely had to have a photo to illustrate this very important part of the story.

If a better photo exists, I’ll buy it.

Check is in the mail

- - Photography Business

A reader asks about the best way to deal with a magazine who’s 60 days late paying the invoice.

I think a couple calls to the photo editor to see what’s up is a good idea just in case they’ve been slow getting it to accounting or possibly it’s held up for some kind of error or clarification but then the best course of action is to find out who’s in accounts payable and start hammering them with phone calls.

I always appreciate it when the photographer asks who they should bother  about payment because, to be honest, I’m in the same boat as you. I’d like nothing better than for everyone to be paid immediately so attacking me about slow payment is unproductive.

You all know you’re being used as an interest free bank. Don’t you?

Spencer Heyfron has flown the Coop

- - Photographers

It appears that Jake’s long time assistant Spencer has flown the coop and is crushing it for Esquire among others. Maybe he’s picking up Jake’s overbooking but the work is strong so I wouldn’t doubt he’s landing it himself.

Either way I’ve never forgotten his name because of the difficulty the airlines have with it when booking travel for he and Jake.

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Jake Chessum On Fire

- - Photographers

One of my all time favorites, Jake has always been a very busy photographer, but it appears he’s exploded and his calendar is impenetrable. Jake is repped by Molly Logan and now consistently has at least 1-2 months of solid bookings.

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Becoming a Photo Editor

- - Working

A friends daughter dropped by the office for a little career advice a little while back. She recently graduated from college with a degree in the arts and is interested in becoming a photo editor.

(Okay, first off I find it fascinating that someone would choose photo editing as a career path. Aren’t we all failed photographers? Ha, ha, industry joke.)

She landed an internship at a magazine’s photography department which is the obvious first step and it sounds like a good job because they’re understaffed so she will have many duties not usually given to interns… unlike the boring shit I make our interns do: sending out tears, returning art and calling PR flacks for photos (editors idea).

Anyway, my whole point here is that I came up with a few tips for any aspiring photography editors out there:

1. Develop your eye for photography. Unless you were born with the golden eye you need to edit tons of photos because wading through all the crappy images to find the gems is what develops your eye for what makes a good image. It’s also helpful to track images from your edit to the final printed product so you can see which images make the final cut… unless, your editor and/or art director suck and then all the great images never make it on the page but that’s another story.

2.Keep a list of editorial photographers. You need to begin learning the names of all the great editorial photographers and try and keep track of the various shoots they’ve done over the years. This means visiting the newsstand and writing down the names of photographers who’s work you like. If the only photographers name you know is Annie Leibovitz, who by the way is under contract with Conde Nast, you’re up shit creek because you will never land her to shoot a 1/4 in the front of the book. I’ve tried. It ain’t pretty. The list of top editorial photographers is not long and you should know who many of them are.

3. Work on your institutional knowledge of photography. Being able to recall the photographers who shot Demi Moore in the last 5 years is valuable, not only if you need to find pickup images that aren’t in circulation but also to help inform how you will photograph her for the story you’re working on. Also, as an aside, editorial story meetings generally devolve at some point into a pissing match where people try to outdo each other with their knowledge of who wrote or shot this and who’s cool and what has appeared where… etc., etc. Rapid fire name dropping is a great skill to have (just don’t be that annoying guy who does it all the time).

4. Develop relationships with photographers. In the end, you will be hired to work at a magazine based on your relationships with great photographers. Not everyone can work at a glamorous magazine with massive budgets and movie stars to take pictures of and so you will need to develop relationships with photographers, especially when they are young and hungry, so that later on you can rely on them when you’re in a bind.

There’s more but by this time I think she was completely bored out of her mind. Oh well maybe she’ll try and become a photographer first.

Retouching

- - Photography Business

I’ve just been informed by a very reliable source that, for high end fashion and beauty the client will book a retoucher before the photographer… (jaw hitting floor) are you kidding me?

Furthermore, they went on to say that if you actually printed an unmolested image in one of these magazines everyone would go screaming out of the room. This retouching business has gotten to the point where normal beautiful women look hideous next to these frankenbarbies.

Now, I work with a lot of photographers who retouch and frankly I’m starting to get concerned with the rising cost of shooting high end digital. With a digi tech on set and all the rentals plus the retouching with match print the digital can take up half the shoot budget.

That would be fine if the result was actually better than film. Perfect but not better.

Event Photography

- - Photoshoot

Whenever there’s an event I need to cover there’s usually a conversation where I’m told “so-and-so” photographer will already be there or that we can pick up photos from the wires and I know the scene below looks ridiculous with all these photographers shooting the same thing but I have to tell you I always get better photos when I send my own photographer.

Maybe I just think they’re better because I had a hand in the process.

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I totally dig Burnett.

On Set With Terry R.

- - On Set, Photographers

An associate tells me what it’s like to shoot with the provocative Mr. Richardson.

Art Direction for Terry was a question of what he wanted to do…and we pretty much let him go.

I was really nervous to meet him, you know he’s too cool for school and I felt a bit like “the man”, but he’s a total sweet-heart while at the same time guarded. He’s a celeb unto himself!

He talked about the Lohan shoot and I asked how he had gotten her to crawl across the mirror, an obvious reference to cocaine. He smiled and said it was all about throwing so many things at the subject that they didn’t have time to say no. Which I think is his genius, no matter who he’s shooting he can convince them to be a little wilder and that’s why I love him.

Nice. Thanks for the insight.

Terry Richardson

- - Photographers

I dig Terry’s work. He makes compelling pictures without the aide of expensive cameras, film and retouching (not always of course) through a strong point of view and a connection to his subject.

Booked

- - Getting Hired

I’ve never really liked it when I call an agent and the photographer is booked so then they push someone else on me at the agency who’s available on those dates.

It’s like, what the hell? You think it’s as easy as just calling a photographer, any photographer, and giving them an assignment? This is what I’ve been training for. I made all these lists and visited websites and spent days thinking about it and you’re gonna throw a name out there like it’s no big deal. Jesus, I’ve picked the perfect photographer for this assignment and no one can possibly fathom what I’m trying to achieve here.

Well, as it turns out, lately I’ve been hiring a few photographers this way and of course as you’d expect the results are the same. Amazing photos by people who are not yet as popular as some of the famous names in the business repped by the same agents.

I guess this is an advantage to being at an agency with a well known photographer. As long as know-it-all photo editors will listen to your agent.

Alessandra Petlin is hot

- - Photographers

I hear Alessandra Petlin is working on several big editorial projects. Repped by Rob Magnotta at Edge she’s been on my list for awhile now but it appears she’s blowing up. Go ahead and publicly shame me if she’s been hot since PDN 30′d her because I’m not exactly working on cutting edge shit here… if you can tell by my photographer posts so far. And, yes I realize she’s shot for the NY Times magazine since like, forever.

Oddly, it was a writer who made a strong recommendation and that convinced me I had to find something worthy ASAP.

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Getting them past the editor

- - Working

It’s tough getting new photographers past the editor on big shoots. There’s several techniques:

1. Gang up. Get the Creative Director to back you in the meeting. “Oh yeah he’s great, I worked with him at my previous magazine and he always delivered.”

2. Shiny Objects. Toss out important people or magazines they’ve shot for. “He shot a feature in Vanity Fair recently.”

3. Padded Portfolio. Print the portfolio shots that back your case. “See, she really gets what we’re trying to achieve here.”

4. Play Dumb. Assign and feign telling them about it recently. “Oh, I thought we discussed that she was shooting this earlier.”

(I should note here that we don’t always run photographers by the editor it just happens from time to time)

Chris Buck

- - Photographers

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One of the great contemporary editorial photographers.

When the shoot arrives and you open the box it’s always something you never would have thought of.

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