Category "Working"

Health Care For Photographers

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I got a question from a reader about health care:

I’m shopping around for health care and it would be real interesting and helpful to see what people say and recommend in the comments section.

If you have any tips leave them in the comments. I’m sure many readers will find this helpful.

One Photographers Journey From Amateur To Professional

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Just finished reading a fantastic series of posts (6) by QT Luong about his journey from amateur to professional photographer. What makes the series so fascinating is his honesty and his analytical way of looking at how photographers make a living. If you have the time today it’s worth checking out the whole series even if a personal stock photography business is not your cup of tea. I’ve pulled out a few interesting nuggets from each post for you:

Sure, in the late 90s, my mountaineering images had appeared in various specialized magazines, but the thrill back then was more in climbing the routes and getting published than anything else. For instance, when Climbing Magazine published on a double spread my picture of the summit ridge of Mt McKinley (incidentally taken with a P&S Camera, the Yashica T4), it was the memento of being there and creating that image in difficult conditions which brought the most satisfaction. To submit images, you had to label meticulously slides (by writing or printing on the mount), stuff them into slide pages, and send them around, hoping that they wouldn’t get lost or damaged in the process. When your images would come back, weeks, or most often months later, you’d have to refile them carefully in your folders. It’s not something that you wanted to do by yourself on any large scale.

1.) http://terragalleria.com/blog/2011/04/07/ten-years-ago-terragalleria-com/

I began to progressively increase the time I’d spend to develop my photography business, reducing my work hours proportionally to the progress of that business. I first took leave without pay, then officially changed my work status to part-time, with the limitation that I needed to put 50% of the time to keep benefits. My approach was to operate at a constant income level – which actually requires an increase in income, once benefits are factored in: if during a given year I’d make with photography the equivalent of, let say, a month of work, then the next year I’d work one month less. Within five years, my income from photography had exceeded my (hypothetical) full-time income in research. I stayed at SRI one more year, to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. At that point, I didn’t have enough time to work even 50% at SRI, take care of the photography business, and take care of my family, so it was actually with a sense of relief that I resigned from SRI and became a full-time photographer.

Photography has become such a difficult business that I recommend such a path to anybody whose work is flexible enough. I was certainly fortunate that this was possible for me. In fact it was one of the reason I stayed in academia. In hindsight, I must say that this prudent approach probably limited what I was able to achieve, for in the recent years, the photography business has become considerably more difficult. If I had jumped in 100% ten years ago, I would have been able to take advantage of a window of opportunity which has since then disappeared. I could have also used a couple of years on the road before our children were born. However, this is merely hindsight. I wouldn’t have been able to predict that my novel approach to the photography business ( I will elaborate in future posts) would work that well, like I was unable to predict that a start-up company whose name is now synonymous with internet search would do so well. When they approached me in the early 2000s, I turned down their interview offer, as I was already too focused on a future in photography. Maybe I have not arrived to a better place, but so far the journey has been interesting…

2.) http://terragalleria.com/blog/2011/05/20/from-amateur-to-full-time-photographer/

It is often said that a photographer with great work but no promotional plan will make less money than a photographer with average work and great promotion. So if you are trying to make a living in photography, promotion should be a priority.

Be aware of what others have done, study and understand what has worked and what didn’t for them, but don’t automatically try to copy their efforts. Your photography is what it is because you are unique. So should be your promotional efforts.

3.) http://terragalleria.com/blog/2011/06/23/ten-proven-ways-to-promote-your-photography/

Creating beautiful and meaningful photographs is hard enough, but making a living of them is even harder. For most who manage to do it, there is not a single source of income, but rather a wide variety of income streams that hopefully accumulate to form a large river.

4.) http://terragalleria.com/blog/2011/07/22/top-ten-ways-to-make-money-in-photography/

my photography income is almost entirely based on the sales of prints and licenses of images created on self-assignment, through this website. The mode of operation of the business was therefore the following: I visited on my own locations of personal interest to me, created photographs there, published them on terragalleria.com, and waited for visitors to find them.

The internet has transformed how we access and consume information. Potentially anyone with a computer and a connection from around the world can see your images around the clock, opening up for the first time a line of direct communication between artists and art buyers. People do not visit your website because you handed them a business card, but because they somehow found it on the internet. Yet, this seemingly random mechanism can sometimes provide a number of viewers comparable with traditional media, at an extremely low cost. This makes the internet the first affordable medium for pull marketing.

To give some numbers, in the year 2009, terragalleria.com received 5.7 M visits. This was measured using the great Google Analytics, which offers (since 2008) the most accurate site statistics because it automatically disregards numerous visits by the search engine crawlers, unlike for example Webalizer. That year, we sold 267 prints and 148 licenses, which actually generated more revenue than prints. So it took 21,000 visits to sell a print and 38,000 visits to sell a license. True, if we had priced our licenses and prints at a lower point (prints currently start at $350 for the smallest sizes), we would have sold more, but that would have meant more work. We were pleased enough with the balance of revenue and work at our price point, which catered to high-end buyers, but this choice has to be different for each photographer.

5.) http://terragalleria.com/blog/2011/11/02/my-internet-based-photography-business/

Artwork is not a commodity, therefore priced accordingly, and seldom bought as an impulse purchase. On the other hand, search engine users are fickle. In my case, the majority of them stay less than a minute on the site. The majority do not visit any other page than the one they landed on, returning immediately to the search engine page (this is called a “bounce”).

as a photographer, your ultimate goal should be to create superlative photographs, lots of them, that are good enough to make people want to link to you. So it comes down again to great work: the best you can do to improve your SEO is to go out and photograph.

6.) http://terragalleria.com/blog/2011/12/20/seo-thoughts-from-a-top-ranked-photographer/

P Is For Professional

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Here’s a couple funny videos to get your week started off right.

First up is MWAC (Mom With A Camera):

Watch more episodes on her YouTube Channel (here). Visit her Facebook page (here).

Next up is Judge Joe Brown, who from his line of questioning to this wedding photographer, sounds like he thinks he knows a thing or two about photography (go-kit in a pelican case?):

How fast is your lens? What f-stop did you use? Go get ‘em Joe.

Jason Lee Parry Defends Himself Against $28,000,000 Lawsuit

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You may remember photographer Jason Lee Parry from the $28,000,000 lawsuit brought against him in August by parents of a young model he photographed (APE story here). The parents flipped out when a sexually suggestive image that Parry took of their 16 year old daughter on a motorcycle (she was 15 at the time) appeared on clothing in Urban Outfitters. In an email to us Jason claims the lawsuit is nothing but a publicity stunt because: the models father was on set for the majority of the shoot, the parents and Ford modeling agency approved of the images after the shoot, and the model posted the images to her blog after the shoot. Finally, he says the images appeared on the shirts in Urban Outfitters without his permission. Heidi Volpe asked him a few questions about what happened:

Heidi: How did you find out you were getting sued?
Jason: I received a phone call from a reporter of the New York Post named Bruce Golding on August 15th 2011. He broke the news and emailed me the documentation of the lawsuit before I received it from anyone else or knew I was even being sued.

What is most upsetting about the lawsuit?
The images have been out in the public for 18 Months, it’s the second image that comes up when you google her name. It has been on my website and I’ve never been asked to take them down, it has been on Ford models website and was never asked to be taken down as well as on the Model’s Facebook page, blog and thousands of other fashion blogs. The second it comes out on an Urban Outfitters t-shirt, the Model’s parents try to sue for $28 million. It is obviously 100% about money. Why didn’t the parents contact the magazine and ask them to not publish the images?

How long after you did the shoot, did the lawsuit come up?
18 Months.

Were the parents on set during the photo shoot?
The model’s father was present for a majority of the shoot. He was shown photos while on set and sanctioned them long before they were published.

Was the treatment approved and discussed?
The treatment was discussed and approved with Meg Day of Ford Models, the teen Model’s booker at the time as well as the teen Model’s father the day of the shoot. Both approved, and the second the editorial was published, I personally dropped off the magazine with her booker at Ford Models. Everyone was very happy with the story. Ford at that point even hired me to test shoot their new faces, which I did.

Did they have any comments during the shoot?
Her dad just spoke about how he used to ride motorcycles.

Did the model have a problem with them prior to the t-shirt coming out?
After the photos were released the model proudly posted the images in question to her Facebook, blog and the Ford models website. She also posted behind the scenes photos of the shoot on her blog. Also, before the lawsuit, the Model’s brother and two of his friends had posted a photo of themselves on her Facebook page all wearing the t-shirt in question. The Model had commented under the photo that her friends all need to get one of the t-shirts.

Friends Wearing The T-Shirt

 

Behind The Scenes Photos On The Models Blog

What prompted them to sue?
When the parents of the teen model figured that they could try to make money off of this as well as create buzz for their daughter. It’s 100% about money.

How did Urban Outfitters get the images?
Blood is the New Black manufactured the t-shirts and sold them to Urban Outfitters for further sales and wider distribution.

Why didn’t you get a model release?
Hailey is under-age so she can’t sign a model release, instead her Booker at Ford models is in charge of the model release. The model agencies don’t allow the model to directly sign with the photographer. I do have the release for the publication in my files and the booker has one as well.

Is there a resolution in sight?
I was officially served on October 5th 2011. I believe that the truth will prevail and the lies will be revealed.

What has this done to your career?
This has definitely been a learning experience and has been beneficial for me in terms of my name as a photographer being recognized. But this is obviously not the way I want others to learn of my name. This lawsuit has caused much stress on my family and myself,. It was just a ploy to scare Urban Outfitters out of money.  Since this lawsuit came out I haven’t skipped a beat, and have only gained clients. I just hope this burden is resolved soon, so my career will continue on the path that it was on.

The Daily Edit – Friday
11.25.11

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(click images to make bigger)

W

Creative Director: Alex Gonzalez
Design Directors: Joseph Logan
Photography Director:
Caroline Wolff
Photo Editor: Jacqueline Bates

Photographer: Max Vadukul

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted.

Worst Ever

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What do Richard Avedon Alfred Eisenstaed, George Silk and Ansel Adams have in common? They all shot cringe worthy covers for Life Magazine. Never underestimate the ability of great photographers to produce some real stinkers. The key is not letting anyone see them…

See more here: Life’s 20 Worst Covers

O.T.M.F.C.

- - Assistants, Working

Photo by Travis Shinn

OTMFC is a collective of great photographers and assistants that come to your job with a truck load of experience and equipment to get it done right. I caught up with David Hudgins, one of the founders, to see what this is all about.

Heidi: Have to ask, how did you come up with the logo?
David:  The logo was drawn up on a bar napkin.

When you don’t want to drop the f bomb, what’s the replacement?
Over The Moon For Christ is one of our favorites, but we always prefer to drop the F Bomb!

How did this business idea come about?
We got tired of showing up to a shoot and realizing that we forgot to order that one little piece of equipment that we could not do without. We decided to build a truck and have it come standard with all of those little pieces. All you had to do was book the truck and you would have everything you needed to do a photo shoot. It made our life and everyone else’s life easier. When you focus on creating a product that works great for your client, the successful business follows.

You have 3 kitted out trucks right now, do you have plans to expand your fleet?
We are always looking at ways to improve what we are doing. When we decide to take action will depend on the needs of our clients.

How did you decide what each of the 3 trucks would be kitted with?
Through years of experience working on set and placing orders, we knew what equipment we would need for different size shoots and budgets. We tailored equipment packages around these parameters.

Can you do a la carte and or is it a flat fee?
We provide both! We have trucks that come as a package at a set price. We also have trucks and cargo vans that are a la carte and can be built out to accommodate any size shoot. You can also have equipment delivered and picked up from your set.

Have you ever been on a job where the photographer has SO MUCH to choose from they go into option paralysis or they keep changing their set up?
Once we had a whole truck load of equipment, 50,000 watts of light, motion picture lights, etc. The assistants spent hours lighting the set to perfection then the photographer turned in the opposite direction and shot talent with an on camera flash. They never even used the set! That has happened to us so many times we have lost count.

One of the biggest problems photographers seem to have is editing. Whether it is narrowing down the images from your shoot, deciding what couture gown talent will wear, or deciding which lighting setup you will use, a photographer always likes to have options so they can pick the best solution.

Does it ever happen where someone orders the biggest set up you have and then shoots available light? Would you call that your dream client?
Again, that happens all the time. We had a shoot last week where we hauled the contents of a whole truck, including generators onto the roof of a building. The assistants setup all of the lights, and the photographer used a flex fill for the first 2 shots and a flashlight for the last 2. They are not necessarily dream clients, because you still have to setup and breakdown the equipment. The dream client would be the one that gets a truck of gear then tells you to leave it all IN THE TRUCK and then lights available light.

We have a joke about “available light,” because when a photographer says they are going to shoot available light, you think it will be an easy day…then they end up setting up every light you have available and it becomes a long brutal day.

What’s the advantage of hiring you over let’s say renting individual items, cost I assume and variety? Why else?
Passion and experience.

How much new equipment do you invest in on a yearly basis?
This depends on what equipment comes out. Some years have more new toys that others.

How do handle the lighting demands of a still and video shoot on a job where they require both and need to be shot at the same time? Are you noticing a trend towards continuous lighting?
There is a lot of convergence between continuous and strobe lighting. The challenge is finding, understanding, and providing the tools to give the photographer their look with both options.

Your site has an extensive roster of available crew, how do you get on the list? Who vets them?
The people that are on our list, are people we have known and worked with. There are a lot of great assistants in LA that we have not had the pleasure of working with. We try to add people after they have worked with several other assistants on our list and have been recommended by them and our clients.

Are any of your guys aspiring photographers or are you all committed to running this business?
There are a handful of us that are dedicated to running the company. The rest are great assistants and great photographers.

Shooting Advertising With A Conscience

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This guest post was written by Christopher LaMarca author of Forest Defenders: The Confrontational American Landscape

Within the world of professional photography, ones ability to work on personal projects must be balanced with the jobs that bring in the capital required to do so. In finding this balance, occasionally we are asked to compromise our personal principals for the paycheck which sustains us in this highly competitive field. With the current state of the world, perhaps its high time to take a difficult but necessary look at our industries relationship with perpetuating an extraction based economy responsible for the widespread environmental and social degradation we see all around us today.

A couple of months ago I was approached by the advertising agency representing Chevron to place a bid for shooting a campaign aimed at increasing the effectiveness of their global corporate recruitment. Before submitting an offer, I was faced with an ethical and intensely personal moral dilemma that stemmed from the possibility of using my craft to advance a corporate agenda I do not support. Most recently Chevron has admitted during the long-running trial in both US and Ecuadorian courts that it created a system of oil extraction that led to the deliberate discharge of billions of gallons of chemical-laden “water of formation” into the Amazonian River basin of Ecuador, affecting thousands of people with cancer and other illness. These facts represented a counter weight to the realization that the type of financial benefit this job opportunity offered was enough to finish and fully fund a documentary film that I have been working on for the past two years. This film represents the most intimate and visceral body of work in my professional career.

Having worked on energy issues for the past five years I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited into the homes of countless families and company employees who’s lives have been affected by the extraction of natural gas, coal, and oil. Ironically, it was the natural dignity and heroism I captured in the images of these individuals that the client hoped I would bring to their campaign of workforce recruitment. How could I justify my professional contribution of working with a company that has proven countless times over that the desire for increased profits is far more important than the human and environmental disasters they leave in their wake. Through this process I had an opportunity to re-examine the direction of my own ethical compass. I’d like to say there was never any question about my decision, but in this case, that was not true. I have no doubt that I made the right choice for me, which clearly isn’t the right choice for everybody.

I believe the questions posed while I was flirting with Chevron’s money are questions that often get lost in our industry. Can we justify the prostitution of the work we love to corporate interests so that we may continue to chase down our individual dreams of self expression? Do the ends justify the means? When we convince ourselves that that they do, what gets lost or destroyed along the way? Whether we’re using our craft to create corporate “cool”, or ‘greenwashing’ the public with an eco-friendly image that hides the true nature of that which is being peddled, we are covering up the truth which hides right in front of our eyes. And in doing so we act in direct opposition to the truth of our own work we desire to share with the rest of the world.

The Amazing Yellow-Bordered Magazine — John Stanmeyer

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John Stanmeyer begins a multi-part blog series on what it’s like to shoot for National Geographic:

Photography on very convoluted stories often flows like this: 70 percent research/logistics, 20 percent serendipity…and 10 percent photography.

It’s one thing to pen up a story proposal based upon research collected from news stories, books, feelings and direct observation. A proposal next evolves into a “Oh shit, now I have to make this happen!”

Some stories visually speak for themselves — war/conflict, social revolutions, famine and other event driven stories are primarily (though not all) about recording the occurrence transpiring before us. Long term photography projects are meditative, layered and protracted.

They can also be riddled in logistics, especially when it’s a story being told from many locations, like the food crisis would become.

Read the whole post here.

Note: He’s got other interesting posts up on shooting a book with a holga and music. Check it out: http://stanmeyer.com/blog/

Payment When Pulling Stills From A Work For Hire Video Shoot?

- - The Future, Working

A reader asks:

I’ve had a strange situation crop up. I went to your blog to find guidance but the closest I could find was this article on the breakdown of fees for shooting video vs. stills:

http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2011/06/09/ask-anything-how-do-you-estimate-video-with-stills/

In this particular case, I’ve been hired by an ad agency to shoot stills for an annual review, and video for a mini-doc – shot concurrently. So far I followed the structure from the article above – having consulted a few different producers and agents (all of whom are doing their best guesswork since this stills-and-video space is so new). Video was work for hire, and the stills I shot required fees for their use in the review and elsewhere. But here’s the new snag: the client wants to take the annual review in a different direction and fill a portion of the review with stills we’ve pulled straight from the 5D video footage.

The question now is, am I able to charge usage on those frame grabs as well? My thought is yes; If you’re hired to shoot stills and video and decide to shoot it all on the epic and pull your stills from the footage, then those stills require their own usage fees. Though the client is suggesting differently.

It seems with better and better technology and the ability to shoot entire photo jobs with 90fps video bursts, usage would have to defined by their use and not by their method of capture.

I reached out to Vincent Laforet to see what he thought. Here’s his response:

Unless he specified it FIRST in his contract that no stills could be grabbed from video without further compensation, and a detail of how that would be dealt with – the client can grab as many frames from the video as they desire, because that video is WORK FOR HIRE.

Happened to me once and it will never happen again. That’s going to be in all of my contracts from now on.

ImageBrief – Crowdsourcing Image Requests

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ImageBrief is a company that aims to become the marketplace where Image buyers and professional photographers can connect. The buyers post a brief with their requirements and the photographers respond with images that match. Seems simple what could possibly go wrong? Plenty of course. This kind of thing has existed before. Back when I photo edited for Outside Magazine there was a fax service that would send requests out to thousands of photographers. You can imagine what happened when I gave it a try. A crush of submissions with many so far off the mark you wondered if they just had a package ready to send out no matter what the request was just to get something under your nose. You end up with this volume problem where there are so many misses it’s not worth it to wade through and see if there’s a hit.

It’s inevitable that crowd-sourcing would be coming to image requests. Advertising has version’s where people create commercial videos: poptent.net, tongal.com and zooppa.com. Graphic design has Crowdspring.com where a writer for slate.com was pleasantly surprised by the results (here) after he offered $200 to design his newsletter logo. The experts he polled were not impressed but generally concluded that he got what he paid for.

It’s not clear of image brief wants photographers to shoot on demand or simply offer up existing images that meet their needs. I’m sure they’d be fine with either. If done properly this could be a great way for image buyers to connect with high quality stock that’s not currently in circulation. The key is restricting the membership so you’re guaranteed great results and attracting clients with high paying requests. I would have loved to make requests directly to photographers studios with specific needs and a price I’d be willing to pay. The problem is companies working online generally go for the masses, wanting to make money in volume over quality. I asked the co-founder of the company Simon Moss how he plans to address this. Here’s his response:

Rob, Thanks for giving me the opportunity to let you know how we plan to tackle this, because we believe it is the most fundamental part of what will make this platform a success. To be clear though – our goal is about quality and not quantity, which is why we have only approved about 30% of the photographers who have registered interest with us so far.

At the moment we are watching extremely carefully as new briefs are posted, and how different photographers respond over time. We notice that the first couple of days the accuracy is not quite as good as entries that arrive on day 2/3 and beyond. We are still in embryonic phase so this may change as we approve more photographers to contribute.

We will soon test some mechanisms to ensure a continual improvement of accuracy and also quality of responses so that the buyers who do have good money to spend will flock to the platform, in the confidence they will get a great outcome.

Some of these include (but not limited to):

- Providing the buyer the ability to rate both images and photographers based on quality/accuracy
- Our team ranking images based on accuracy and ‘fit’
- Introducing the option for moderation (ie; the customer can choose to have us moderate before images are displayed publicly)
- Introducing a reputation ranking system for photographers and having this impact the way responses are presented
- Creating an increase in commission for photographers who consistently submit high quality, accurate responses (at the moment it is 70% to the photographer – we could potentially have premium photographers on a higher rate).

From the initial feedback (we are already engaged with a number of advertising agencies and editorial photo editors) we are getting a great response – we just need to keep tweaking and listening carefully to both sides of the market so that we continue to create significant value on both sides.

I hope that all makes sense!

It will be interesting to see what happens. I see potential for this to satisfy both parties but these things tend to never play out how you expect. Hopefully Simon will steer it in the right direction.

Contributor Photos Of Writers

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Question from a reader:

Is there an “industry standard” for compensating photographers when their photographs of contributor writers (journalists) are printed in a magazine?

Background:

The writer is a friend, whom I cheerfully and with pleasure photographed a few years ago, seeking to provide him with publicity photographs, etc. At the time, I worked pro bono for him–my choice–with the understanding that, as far as he knew, I should be compensated each time my photograph gets used in a publication. Sure enough, a few months later, I received an e-mail out of the blue from a large and very well regarded publishing house with a request for payment delivery details, etc. for a single use in a monthly magazine. Very nice.

Soon after, though, a different large publishing house sent a request for the writer’s photo. I submitted the file digitally, and then when I had heard nothing more (received no compensation) a few weeks later, I sent a polite inquiry, which was rebuffed with the explanation that the magazine understood I had submitted the photograph as a courtesy. A subsequent, more forceful request was similarly denied, and I let the matter drop.

I was e-mailed yesterday by another magazine in that same (latter) publishing house, this time with a form attached for me to return “at [my] convenience, within a week”. The form granted the publisher my permission to use my photograph of one of their contributors (my writer-friend) without cost to the publisher. I have not responded.

Apart from the detail that the writer is a friend with whom I’m keen to maintain good relations, and whom I happy to promote in any way I can, I’m sure the general situation is fairly common, although I have searched in vain for anything online that addresses general standards with an industry-wide viewpoint. I guess that magazines have independent policies on whether and how much they compensate photographers in all situations, but I would also guess that any self-respecting publisher should at least put a coin in the tip jar.

 

It’s actually quite simple. Some publications will pay for contributor photos some will not. Why the difference? Some publications place zero value on that image. You will see them publishing crappy snapshots of a writer taken on a fishing trip where everyone else had to be cut out of the image. I would argue that every image in the magazine deserves careful consideration if you are serious about the photography and design of your magazine but, convincing them that professionally created contributor images, a laVanity Fair, add value, can be impossible.

So, how do you deal with giving your buddy publicity images? All but the very densest individuals will understand that when the writer says “contact this photographer for an image,” they will be paying for the use. When they contact you be proactive about the price and ask what their rate is for contributor photos. Be prepared to counter with your minimum, because there’s a good chance it will be below that. Finally, set it up with your buddy what he can use the image for and when he should send them calling for the high res. Lastly, understand that some people will place no value on this image, walk away from it, they’ll be calling him for fishing trip photos no matter what the price.

UK Interns Who Are Not Being Trained Can Collect Payment

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This decision over in the UK where an unpaid intern collected back payment because she was working instead of being trained should serve as a wakeup call for those who use interns for free labor.

“This judgment says that if someone is taken on as intern, and is doing a proper job rather than just being trained, then they will be regarded as a worker for the purposes of the national minimum wage.”

“And even if that is an oral agreement, as it was in Keri’s case, the evidence was sufficient enough for her to be judged as a worker,” says Mincoff. In other words, even if there is an agreement to volunteer for free, if an intern is doing real work, they still have to be paid.

Read the story here.

Don’t Always Trust Customer Surveys

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I post a lot of quotes from interviews with your customers (PE’s, AB’s, AD’s) here and I wanted to point out something that’s rarely mentioned. Listen to what people say, but trust your gut and your numbers and always experiment to find things that work for you. Everyone (except experts in the survey field) asks questions that lead the interviewee to the answer they wanted in the first place and people generally give answers that are idealized. They say photographers should do X, Y and Z, but then ignore those directives when in an actual hiring situation. Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about:

You’re with Walmart. It’s 2009, and you want to do something new, something transformative, to out-innovate rival Target. You have a sense that Target is cleaner, better designed, less cluttered. Walmart aisles are crammed, packed, an infinite jumble of product.

So you’re thinking of launching an uncluttering project. Strategic. Huge. Millions of dollars. But before you make any changes, you want to float the idea by customers.

So you conduct a survey, asking customers: would you like Walmart aisles to be less cluttered? And they say, “Yes, now that you ask, yes, that would be nice.” And you check the box by “customer input” and report back, hey everyone, good news, yes, customers like the idea.

Walmart spends hundreds of millions of dollars uncluttering their stores, removing 15% of inventory, shortening shelves, clearing aisles. Yes, it’s expensive and time-consuming, but this is what customers said they wanted, so you barrel through it.

You’ll never guess what happens now. (Actually, you’ve probably already guessed, but it sounded better to say you’ll never guess.)

Sales went down. Way down. I mean waaaaaay down. I’m talking, from the beginning of that project until today, Walmart has lost over a billion dollars in sales. (Yes, billion with a “b”.) It’s actually closer to two billion dollars of sales they missed out on, and maybe more.

Needless to say, the executives in charge of the project have been fired, and Walmart is spending yet more money to return to its original, time-tested strategy of offering a huge (albeit cluttered) inventory at low prices.

Read it here.

What people say isn’t always the same as what they do.

Covering conflict is perilous for anyone, but photographers are more exposed

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This has been a grievous season for the tight-knit tribe of combat photographers. For The Times, the sorrow began last October, when a land mine exploded under Joao Silva while he was shooting pictures of an American patrol near Kandahar, Afghanistan, destroying both of his legs and shredding his intestinal tract. This spring, three other photographers working for The Times — Jehad Nga, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario — were among the numerous journalists who disappeared into the custody of Libyan state thugs, where they were beaten and terrorized before we could negotiate their release. The darkness deepened by several hues last month when two admired lensmen — Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros — were killed while embedded with Libya’s hapless rebel militia.

Read the rest of this Bill Keller piece in the NYTimes Magazine and more of the interview on the Lens Blog.

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