Category "Getting Noticed"

Pay to Play

- - Getting Noticed

A reader asked me about those cutting edge fashion magazines that require photographers to cover their own expenses and if I really think the magazine is too poor to pay for it themselves. I’m going to need a little help from my readers who’ve worked at one of these magazines (on the inside) to get the straight dope, but I’d say like many things in this industry, it’s the way it’s always been done so people just keep doing it that way. These magazines serve as sourcebooks for the fashion industry so I can see why the competition is so cutthroat and why photographers would shoot something for a loss, the potential upside of landing a major fashion advertising campaign can make you loco. It’s not unlike taking out an ad or spending money on marketing, so as long as it’s an effective way to reach potential clients then it’s worth it.

I also wanted to address the question of photography contests which, I’ll just say right now to make it perfectly clear, all photo editors and art buyers use contests to find photographers and in many ways they’re better then the paid advertising in sourcebooks because you can’t just buy an ad to get in, you have to be selected, so that means the junk is usually weeded out. Plus, I always made the magazine pay for the books so it’s no skin off my back to have one hanging around to flip through once and awhile.

What really pisses people off is they’re not fair. Well, they’re not supposed to be fair. They’re supposed to reflect the taste of whomever is on the judging panel and the point of view of the publication that created it. Also, I think the entry fees bother people (PDN 30 doesn’t have an entry fee FYI) because sometimes it seems like a dummy tax where first time entrants with no hope of getting selected make these things profitable or maybe photographers who don’t fit with the judges aesthetic submit every year but never get selected. You simply can’t do this without an entry fee otherwise everyone and their uncle would submit and it also keeps the dart throwing to a minimum forcing photographers to make a decision and choose their best work and not make the judges do the edit for them.

I use American Photography (here) and SPD (here) to get inspired and see who’s hot and when we’re stuck we usually thumb through them to discover a new approach or a new way of thinking about the assignment we have to make “hey, we don’t have to send Chris Buck to Kansas for several weeks to dig up all the characters in this story, instead let’s get this guy here in American Photography to build a miniature set and make all these funny scenes the writer describes.”

Lastly, I use PDN to find people I’ve never heard of, because well, they always seem to publish people I’ve never heard of. Sure, I think they’re biased in some areas but it’s a magazine and like any good magazine it’s a reflection of the people working there not a reflection of what they think other people will think about them. They also have real pressures from Publishers, Circulation Directors and CFO’s to keep everything running smoothly. I think you will find that publishing 30 new photographers every year that appeal to both mainstream buyers and all your photographer readers is more difficult than it sounds.


Update from inside a small cutting edge fashion magazine:

“While we do generally try to offer some money to our photographers to cover expenses, we have an incredibly minuscule operating budget; I’ve turned in issues where our total photography budget turns out to be less than the usual photo budget per page of larger magazines. This is, in fact, a matter of necessity; we just don’t have that much money to work with so there’s not much room to accommodate huge production costs. Usually our photographers do end up shooting at some cost to themselves, even though we cover film, assistants, food, and the rest as best as we can.

I’d say that the reasons for doing so are two-fold: First, as you said, it’s like taking an ad out for yourself. We’ve taken a chance on young photographers who have then gone on to win top awards for us. They’ve ended up shooting at much larger magazines and for huge advertising
clients. But that doesn’t explain the fact the we continue to draw on those same photographers who are making it and don’t “need” us anymore.

There’s a second aspect, at least to our magazine, that usually accounts for the willingness of photographers to shoot for free. What I generally offer to photographers that I trust is an opportunity to work out somewhat off the wall, non-traditional ideas that might not fit into a more mainstream editorial project. We can serve as a playground for great concepts, adventurous fashion and still-life, and cutting-edge photography. While the downside is that some of the chances I’ve taken end up tanking, the potential rewards–non-monetary as they might be–are pretty great. In other words: no gray background fashion stories.”

The PDN 30

PDN just announced their annual 30 photographers list (here) which always proves to be a valuable resource for photo editors looking for new talent or to validate someone they’re interested in working with. Unlike the other juried competitions this one is unique because PDN seems to make a real effort to introduce (drive) new talent into the system. I’ve personally used it to cherry pick photographers when the list comes out or to go back over several years worth when seeking some inspiration after getting bored with my own list.

It’s interesting to note in the editors letter that all the selections were made online this year which makes me wonder if printed portfolios are finally starting to fall out of favor.

They have a free event in conjunction with the publication of the list March 10th from 6:30-9 at Parsons with a panel discussion featuring 4 of the 30 photographers, Amy Lundeen, Photo Editor at Budget Travel and Fiona McDonagh, Photo Director at Entertainment Weekly (details here).

pdn30.jpg

Photographer Promo Cards

- - Getting Noticed

What’s the purpose of the promo card? Send me a cool photo, convey contact info, show-off your style, reinforce your brand, display your expensive logo, tell a story, show-off your new printer, tell me how clever you are, show the latest campaign you shot, show me how many styles you can shoot…

Action. Nothing else.

The purpose of a promo card is to get me to do something. Look at your website, call your phone, tack you up to the wall, go show it to someone and above all else not just huck it in the garbage can (wrong kind of action).

Think about it like this:

If your goal is to be hung on the wall the image should be something I’d be proud to display in front of all my colleagues.

If you goal is a website visit it should be something intriguing, that makes me want to see what the hell you’re all about.

If you goal is for me to show it to someone else it should be impressive, outrageous or hilarious.

If you goal is a phone call then you need a bit of perfect timing so that the card lands on my desk when I’m looking for someone like you.

One day I stopped hucking promos in the garbage (jeeze… of course, after bookmarking the one’s I liked) and started hucking them in the corner of my office.

Corner of my office

Then stacked them up.

Stacked in the corner

I got a call from a friend (Corey Rich) who asked if I would come up to the Auroa Photographers meeting in Maine and give a presentation. Why not? I dug into the pile and picked out a bunch that caught my eye and shot a picture of each one on my desk, in it’s native habitat as it were. I gave a simple presentation showing the different styles of promos and the ones I recently saw and liked. Here’ they are:

Note: If you’re uncomfortable with me showing your promo (or keeping it on Flickr) email me and I will remove it immediately and not try to eventually make 3.4 million off it like Richard Prince.


Link to the photos on Flickr.

UPDATE: Some people were having problems with the flash slide show so I loaded a different one. Only problem is it doesn’t play the slides in the correct order. To see the correct order with comments hit the flickr link.

More on Photo Rank *on the sidebar*

- - Getting Noticed

If you’ve ever submitted a photo and spent $45 or more on a photography contest and never heard back from them and thought to yourself “what the hell is wrong with those people” and “just who are these cranks they hired to judge it anyway?” Well, now you can submit a photo, your portfolio or a body of work to be voted on for free and see exactly, who all the cranks are and maybe you’ll get a comment or two back and maybe photo buyers will stop by and cherry pick photographers the same way I do when I visit contest sites.

Feel free to do whatever you want there, ask a question, submit something for constructive criticism, point out something in the news, whatever works lets just keep it in the realm of professional photography. If you put something up you’re not happy about just send me an email with remove in the subject line and I’ll delete it. I’m also going to delete any content that’s not related to photography along with the spam. Let’s see if this leads anywhere.

More on Style

- - Getting Noticed

When I think about a writer with individual style, Hunter S. Thompson comes to mind. That’s why I was floored when I read this:

He didn’t finish high school, but he taught himself to write. He retyped books by writers he admired – Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner – all the heavyweights. He said he wanted to get inside the rhythm of their language and find his own style. (source)

Easy.

Copy the greats and then just add, “…two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.” Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Getting in

- - Getting Noticed

You may have figured out that the editorial photography world is a bit incestuous– especially if you’re trying to break in– and there’s a pretty good reason for it called, “let someone else try out the new guy.” I’m always more than happy to poach a photographer from another leading (not rival) publication because they’ve obviously given this person an assignment and they delivered the goods.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the joys in photo editing is developing new talent, but sometimes it’s nice to just grab someone developed by another magazine.

It’s also good corroboration when a new photographer’s work catches your eye and you’ve decided to give them a shot (when the right opportunity presents itself) and they get hired by another photo editor you respect.