Category "Working"

Oyster Hotel Reviews – Hotel Photo Fakeout

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I like this new hotel review site, Oyster Hotel Reviews, because they understand how powerful the editorial voice can be when making a buying decision and they understand a photograph will convey the most information in the shortest amount of time. They’ve hired a bunch of writer photographers to go check out hotel properties and show you what they really look like.

My favorite feature is the photo fakeout on their blog (here). Where they shoot their own version of the hotels pool, workout room and hotel room to show you the careful cropping and outright photoshopping the hotels have done to fool you.

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Peter Yang and Rolling Stone Win Magazine Cover of the Year

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I’ve sat through too many meetings where badges, sashes, boxes, hairlines and an entire dump truck full of coverlines were added to perfectly good cover images or instead a meeting where perfectly good cover images were thrown out in favor of images that held coverlines better, to not point out the irony of a winner with no coverlines. Sure, Obama was a shoo-in as a winning cover subject but go check out the other category winners (here). Keep in mind that this is an organization of editors (ASME) who decided to let the public pick their favorite cover out of a group of nominees. Of course this proves nothing about selling on newsstands other than the public has better taste than most editors, many magazine owners and every single newsstand director in existence.

A Cautionary Behind-The-Scenes Video Tale

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This cautionary BTSV story was submitted by a reader:

On a recent national advertising shoot we used our back-up camera, my new 5D MKII, to shoot some behind-the-scenes footage of me at work. We edited it down into a 3-minute video that we posted on my Facebook Group page. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it did the job of showing me directing models and assistants. About 4 weeks after posting it, the ad agency I worked with called outraged, demanding all the fees and expenses back from the shoot, and then threatened to sue me.

At first we weren’t sure what we did wrong–we put it up well after the campaign had come out and after the agency gave us the go ahead to use shoot images for self-promotion. We had retained copyright and owned all the images. We didn’t show any video of the agency or client discussing strategy or anything like that. Although I did not announce that we were shooting video footage, the assistant who was shooting walked around in full view of everyone on the set, with a camera quite close to most people on the set. He shot quite a lot and it is evident that the AB and AD at least knew we were shooting stills.

The agency claimed that we violated the Confidentiality Clause of the Purchase Order because the entire shoot was secret, that they did not know I was shooting video and that I had no right to shoot video. We disagree with all of this, but we took the video down. Even after we took it down, they kept demanding the money back, and we spent weeks going back and forth with lawyers. Eventually they just dropped it, presumably because they knew they had no case. We think what happened was that the client found it on YouTube since we had included their name in the title, and was upset at the agency failing to control their brand. The agency was trying to make amends, and wanted to use us a sacrifice.

We were at first concerned when they argued that we didn’t “have the right” to shoot video. In other words, was it our shoot and set or theirs? In our view, a client does not own a set unless the agreement is work-for-hire. In this case, we were the production company, we hired everyone else, we rented the location, we carried the insurance (i.e. it was our production). No one could tell us what we could and could not shoot on our set.

We also amended the P.O. to give us copyright to “All images created as part of the shoot” and the right to use them for self-promotion.Tip: Always ensure in writing that you retain rights to all “Images” with an “s” or better yet, put “All images, whether moving or still.”

We left their Confidentiality Clause intact, but as it was written, it did not make the shoot itself confidential – just trade secrets and the like. The shoot itself was our work product, not theirs, and its mere existence wasn’t a secret. Tip: Just because the agency says you violated the contract, doesn’t mean you did.

However, in the future I do think it is a great idea to talk to the A.B. about behind-the-scenes video and whether it is OK with them if you shoot it and if you can use it for self promotion on your website. You may have the right to shoot it and post it, but if a jittery client doesn’t like what they see, you may lose a client and any relationship you had with the agency.

How Do You Decide What To Charge?

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Taking a cue from the Creative Review Blog I wanted to ask my readers as well: How do you decide what to charge?

Here’s an excellent Cost of Doing Business Calculator (here), where you input your desired salary, then add up all the business expenses that can’t be billed back to the client and it gives you a day rate based on how many days you expect to bill for the year. In cases where the fee is fixed and below your day rate–editorial comes to mind– you would simply make sure you could subtract something from the promotion or testing category to make it all balance out (or your salary if it has some perceived future benefit).

Back when I used to work for photographers and negotiate the shoot fees the goal was to make the client cringe and not hang up. It would have been much better to do a budget and make sure we were making what we needed to. There seems to be a sudden spate of high end photographers headed for bankruptcy (here), don’t be one of them.

“Speaking as someone who enthusiastically sold out, every time I’ve done something just for the money, no matter how much they paid, it was never enough.” — Pentagram’s Michael Bierut

Matt Mendelsohn – The Lessons of Lindsay

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In 2007 Matt Mendelsohn heard from a friend about a recently graduated fashion student who had all 4 limbs amputated. At the time she was near death but soon turned the corner and a year later was teaching fashion at her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University. Matt, a longtime journalist, decided he needed to go document her story on his own, he knew the story needed to be told but didn’t want to waste time lining up an assignment. He ended up photographing and writing a compelling 10,000 word piece about Lindsay that was recently published… on sportsshooter.com (here). He shopped it around to several publishers but they all turned him down. At one big national newspaper the publisher said “advertisers wanted happier stories, not ‘depressing’ ones.”

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Of course none of this is news to photographers who now regularly see important stories get trounced by the celebrity/fad of the week. In my own brief magazine career I would often get important stories handed to me with an edict to make the images “happy” so the advertisers don’t get upset. I have a little “lesson” of my own for publishers that I’d like to impart. No matter how much ass kissing you do, your advertisers are still leaving. In fact they may be leaving more quickly now because your readers no longer consider you a “must read” after you’ve taken the edge off everything (due to all that ass kissing, natch).

After the EIC of Self magazine defends their body image distorting cover retouching policy by saying “Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best.” The proper response is for a competing magazine to run Matt Mendelshon’s “the Lessons of Lindsay” and tell Danziger to go stuff it. Why won’t anyone do that anymore?

Sports Shooter Q & A: with Matt Mendelsohn.

Ten Things I Have Learned – Milton Glaser

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1. You can only work for people that you like.
2. If you have a choice never have a job.
3. Some people are toxic avoid them.
4. Professionalism is not enough or the good is the enemy of the great.
5. Less is not necessarily more.
6. Style is not to be trusted.

“… the point is that anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the zeitgeist. What is it that people now expect that they formerly didn’t want? And how to respond to that desire in a way that doesn’t change your sense of integrity and purpose.”

7. How you live changes your brain.
8. Doubt is better than certainty.
9. On Aging.
10. Tell the truth.

All ten with explanations can be found (here). I found it (here).

Sir, We’re Not The Taco Stand

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“Sir, we’re not the taco stand” I clearly remember an argument with my editor once where he stood there for half an hour trying to tell me that the shoot budget needed to come down and I tried to explain that no, if he wanted to pay less then we needed to change the shoot not just tell someone to make it less. Explaining it in “real life” terms, that we’re ordering the tenderloin and if you want to pay less just order a hamburger seemed to help.

On a similar note there a new documentary out about writer Harlan Ellison called Dreams with Sharp Teeth. Remember this line from the writers strike:

“I should do a freebie for Warner Brothers? What is Warner Brothers – out with an eye patch and a tin cup on the street? Fuck no! . . . I sell my soul, but at the highest rates. I don’t piss without being paid.”

“The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer.”

NYC Police Operations Order Regarding Photography

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1. Members of the service are reminded that photography and the videotaping of public places, buildings and structures are common activities within New York City. Given the City’s prominence as a tourist destination, practically all such photography will have no connection to terrorism or unlawful conduct. [...]

2. Members of the service may not demand to view photographs taken by a person absent consent or exigent circumstances. [...]

Full Order is (here). via, Gallery Hopper.

Sports Illustrated’s Slide Show Book

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Sports Illustrated has a new book out on May 5th called Slide Show that examines the actual physical slides from the images that made it into the magazine. They pulled their most famous and iconic shots from their archive of more than 750,000 original slides and photographed the mount with all the writing, marks and then the x-acto cut where the image was removed for scanning. Beyond the obvious rehashing of the SI photo archive for cash I felt a twinge of nostalgia for the transparency on the light table. Don’t get me wrong I couldn’t wait for the day when I wouldn’t have to handle slides anymore (which if you think about it has barely arrived, because I remember lots of slides kicking around the office 3 or 4 years ago), but I remember searching through piles and piles of slide sheets for cover shots or openers and it was just so awesome when you hit the jackpot. Also, it’s amazing to see them turning all these horizontals into vertical covers. They must have had some kick ass film scanners at SI because I remember it being so difficult to get a decent cover that way. I think any hardcore sports photographer or photo editor will find this book interesting.

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SLIDE SHOW, which retails for $29.95 U.S./$32.95 Canada (Hardcover), will be available online at bookstores nationwide beginning May 5, 2009 (Amazon link).

Why Would You Quit Working With A Freelancer

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Jonathan a 3rd year photojournalism student at Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication has a Business Practices class taught by Professor, Marcy Nighswander (that’s what I’m told in an email anyways). For their first assignment she asked them to contact photo editors and ask them “to identify why they quit using a freelancer’s services or product.” Basically, Mrs. Nighswander, wants us to ask industry professionals if they stopped using a freelance photographer’s work for some reason such as, and not limited too, a poor professional relationship or lack of commitment.

Jonathan,

I think the vast majority of photography that goes on in the world is simply a business transaction. You sell a product, your customers need it, and they will go elsewhere to get it if you don’t conduct yourself in a professional manner. Customer service, good communication skills, contract writing and all manner of business acumen is required in addition to the ability to take pictures.

Beyond that and I think the higher up you you go in the photography food chain the main reason to stop working with a photographer is if the shoot fails or if you or someone in the chain of command above you decides they don’t like that style of photography.

One of the important jobs photo editors and art buyers do besides finding photographers and working out the details of the shoot is determining beforehand if the photographer you want to work with can execute and deliver the shoot in a professional manner. You call them up on the phone, check out their portfolio and marketing material, look at the client list and generally try to get a feel for it beforehand.

Doug Menuez writes on his blog today (here) about the cold hard truth of shooting for the top news magazines in the 80’s:
At a conference in the 80’s I once heard a young photogapher ask Roxanne Edwards at Business Week what would happen if, you know, somehow the film just did not turn out? Response: “Then you would never work for us again.” Sharp, honest, true answer. But seriously, doh! The other editors on the panel from Time, Newsweek, US News all shook their heads solemnly in agreement. The pressure to get world-class images on deadline against tremendous competition was unrelenting, yet it was also what fueled us.

Talented Photographers Are 99% A Pain In The Ass To Work With

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From the wish I’d said it category:

“It is no surprise that talented photographers are 99% pain in the ass to work with. They have strong opinions, are stubborn, reckless, and most of the time have an extremely bad character. But that is simply because they are constantly challenged by a reality that annoys them. Like being assaulted by mosquitoes, all the time. They don’t have an attitude problem, it’s the world that lacks one.” — From that goddam Bohemian.

My favorite was always when the editor would come stomping into my office all up in arms because the photographer had made all kinds of unreasonable demands on the writer and/or the subject. And, at first I was concerned but then I’d investigate and maybe the subject wasn’t told there would be a photo shoot (a magazine is pictures, words and design you want to write a book go somewhere else) or possibly the writer expected a photographer to follow in their shadows (we need time with the subject to make great pictures) and more likely it’s because creative people are difficult and demanding and it’s not like your writer isn’t a neurotic basket case on deadline, the photo shoot is our deadline. Get over it.

Stephen Shore Video

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What I guess goes through my mind when I’m taking a picture is I’m thinking wordlessly about how all these elements relate to each other and I’m thinking again wordlessly about finding a balance that I look for a point that seems central to the picture and when I find that point that tells me where to stand and where exactly to aim the camera.
— Stephen Shore

A work can hold a lot of different things at once. explore the medium, explore perception and explore other psychological levels. I think all these levels operate through work at the same time so I don’t feel like I need to limit what I’m doing, that I can hold all these things.
— Stephen Shore

Omnicom Group’s Bad Terms For Photographers And Producers

So, it appears that Omnicom Group doesn’t want to be responsible for paying vendors if the client hasn’t paid them. It certainly seems to be the trend these days where citizens are held responsible for corporations that can’t pay their bills but an advertising agency eliminating their traditional role as financier for advertising campaigns maybe signals an impending overhaul of the way business is conducted. It seems like some kind of insurance may be required to pull off a big budget shoot in the future.

Here’s the media alert ASMP sent out:

Omnicom Passes the Buck

It has been brought to the attention of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) that the Omnicom Group, the world’s largest advertising agency holding company, has changed its terms and conditions in an effort to limit their agency liability and in so doing transfer that liability to independent photographers and producers. Basically, by disclosing their agency status and for whom they are acting, the advertising agency is only liable to the extent that their client has specifically paid them for any amounts payable to you. Additionally, ASMP has been informed that reps are being told that there will no longer be any advances on assignments.

These new policies are most probably the result of the market and governmental pressures experienced by major corporate clients such as GM who in their effort to avoid bankruptcy are now prioritizing their financial obligations and will make payment according to those priorities. In other words, some suppliers will be waiting significantly longer to be paid depending upon the client’s priorities. That being the case, agencies do not want to be left on the hook for reimbursement of monies expended on behalf of their clients, especially where the fear of bankruptcy exists.

These terms and conditions are simply not in the best interests of photographers, producers or clients. This action, clearly taken in anticipation of increasingly difficult financial conditions is a unilateral effort to shift the burden onto those who are least prepared to bear it. Should an independent photographer of moderate means be the banker for a Fortune 100 company? By eliminating their customary role as intermediate financier, agencies are removing value from the value-added chain, and that will ultimately lead to an overall dampening effect on commerce.

Meanwhile, there is no incentive for the agencies to make photographer friendly changes to their terms and conditions as long as photographers are willing to accept the current terms. Notice of these changes should be included in your blogs and discussed on related lists and social networking sites. The issue needs to become viral and requires significant support from key photographers in order to gain traction and effect change. If it is business as usual for the agencies, then nothing will be accomplished.

ASMP would recommend that photographers include in their paperwork a statement making it clear that there will be no grant of copyright license until all related assignment invoices are paid in full. Images should be registered with the Copyright Office immediately upon completion of the shoot and prior to first publication and/or possible infringement so that in the event that legal action – a last resort – is needed, recovery of statutory damages and court costs will be possible.

In addition, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) recommends the following:

“If an agency’s internal policy insists upon these payment terms (sequential liability), the production company should:

a) Make sure the advertiser (“client”) also signs this agreement. If it is a rider, the terms of payment and the full contract price should be added to the rider.

b) Be provided with the advertiser billing and contact information.

c) Copy the advertiser on all invoices.

d) Notify the advertiser of payment due as soon as terms of the contract (payment dates) are not met by the agency.”

As a possible course of action, since the agencies are shifting liability to their corporate clients, perhaps photographers should consider approaching the clients directly for advances and or other payments prior to the beginning of the assignment.

Ultimately, this is a case of the supplier beware!

Eugene Mopsik

Executive Director, ASMP

mopsik@asmp.org