Popular Newspaper Columnist Quits Citing Slow Transition To The Web

- - The Future

Jay Mariotti, star sports columnist and 17 year veteran of the Chicago Sun-Times abruptly quits after signing a new 3 year contract.

Mariotti told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker that he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.

“It’s been a tremendous experience, but I’m going to be honest with you, the profession is dying,” Mariotti said, “I don’t think either paper [Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune] is going to survive.

“To showcase your work … you need a stellar Web site and if a newspaper doesn’t have that, you can’t be stuck in the 20th century with your old newspaper.”

Read more (here). Thanks Loren.

Here’s What I Think Of Your Pictures

- - Photography Style

I was looking at a photographers pictures recently trying to figure out what kind of advice I should give and having a difficult time of it, because I felt like they had perfectly decent pictures and they were a perfectly decent photographer, but I felt nothing for the images.

I recently re-watched the Johnny Cash movie, Walk The Line and even though it’s such a cliché for artists, it still sent tingles up my spine when the scene occurs where Johnny goes in to make his first record and runs into what must have been the most prescient record producer in the world, who delivers the mother of all lines to Johnny. Here’s how it  goes in the movie:

Hold on. Hold on. I hate to interrupt… but do you guys got something else?

I ‘m sorry.

I can’t market gospel.No more.

So that’s it?

I don’t record material that doesn’t sell, Mr. Cash… and gospel like that doesn’t sell.

Was it the gospel or the way I sing it?

Both.

Well, what’s wrong with the way I sing it?

I don’t believe you.

You saying I don’t believe in God?

J.R., come on, let’s go.

No. I want to understand. I mean, we come down here, we play for a minute… and he tells me I don’t believe in God.

You know exactly what I’m telling you. We’ve already heard that song a hundred times… just like that, just like how you sang it.

Well, you didn’t let us bring it home.

Bring… bring it home? All right, let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying… and you had time to sing one song, huh, one song… people would remember before you’re dirt… one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth… one song that would sum you up…

you telling me that’s the song you’d sing?

That same Jimmie Davis tune we hear on the radio all day? About your peace within and how it’s real and how you’re gonna shout it?
Or would you sing something different? Something real, something you felt?
Because I’m telling you right now… that’s the kind of song people want to hear.
That’s the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain’t got nothing to do with believing in God, Mr. Cash.

It has to do with believing in yourself.

I hear the train a coming, it’s rolling around the bend and I ain’t seen the sunshine since, I don’t know when…

—-

That’s how I feel about photography right now. I want to see something real. I want to see something I haven’t seen a hundred times before. I want to look at pictures that make me feel something.

Casting, Styling and Props

- - On Set

Those three little gems are usually left out of editorial shoots to save money and time but I can tell from the few instances I’ve had all three on set, the change in the resulting pictures is profound.

Of course, great photographers are good at doing all of that (obsessing over the details in pre pro and on set) while taking pictures too but having those people in the process can make the images stonger… and keep the photographers sane.

In fact, if you’re not already paying close attention to those 3 facets of picture making you can improve your photography dramatically by doing so now.

DJ Stout at design collective Pentagram and of Texas Monthly fame tackles the venerable brand of L.L. Bean and uses casting, styling and props to effect a major face lift.

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Read how he did it (here).

Joerg Investigates Self Published Books

- - Book Publishing

Joerg Colberg has an good post on his experience and comments from readers on their experience with, on demand printing of photography books (here).

“…the images inside the book look like crap. They look like something printed on an extremely cheap printer…”

“What I do want to point out is that while printing books on demand might sound like a great idea, it is ultimately up to the photographer to perform quality control. And getting books printed on demand might in fact lower the threshold of the quality of photography books to a noticeable extent…”

“…I find it slightly surprising that while many photographers – especially those who grew up before the so-called digital revolution – know the names of expert analog printers, there does not appear to be a corresponding pool of expert digital printers.”

If anyone knows of any high quality on demand photography book publishers it would be good to hear about it (or email Joerg so he can add to his post). The very first books I started seeing with portfolios came from .mac and I remember the photographer telling me she tried them all and .mac was the only one where the color was consistent. Not sure what happened to them but now I only hear about blurb, although I’ve only actually seen a couple and they seemed fine but then again, I’m used to magazine printing; )

SEO Is Not Just For Wedding Photographers Anymore

- - Websites

I know that for a wedding photographer or a local portrait photographer, SEO (Search engine optimization) may be one of the most important things for their business after the images. What could be more simple for a potential client than typing city and state plus the word photographer in google? I’d never given it much thought for editorial and commercial photographers because there are better ways to find those people and the results google used to spit out were never that great. Well, I think times are changing and when I see Dan Winters buying keywords (here) I know they’ve changed quite a bit (several years ago he didn’t even have a website).

I think about SEO a great deal now, because I build websites for a living, but the thing that struck me the other day was how many times in the past I’ve typed into google the name of an advertising campaign or a story in a magazine that I saw somewhere but forgot who shot it and never, ever, found what I was looking for. This will and probably has already changed as a new generation of photographers blog about their shoots and those of us blogging about the industry in general report who shot what for whom. There are other reasons photographers want good search results of course but the amount of times I’ve tried and failed to find someone this way seems like a good reason for everyone to think about it.

Anyway, now I’m business partners with Erik Dungan, someone who’s spent many years helping wedding photographers improve their search results and building websites that are SEO friendly, so I thought I’d ask him some questions about it.

Can you tell me the biggest SEO myths and how they came about?

The biggest myths tend to be outdated information from the web 1.0 (or earlier) days. For some reason, this bad information keeps circulating into the hands of new photographers every year–like a bad email forward.

The biggest myth is definitely that meta tags provide any meaningful impact on your search engine rankings. People learned long ago that it was easy to game the system with meta keywords. Search engines haven’t given the keywords any significant weight for a few years now. The meta description affects how your result is displayed–but it too has little (or no) weight on your position.

Second (especially for photographers) is that Flash-based websites can’t be optimized well. If you embed your Flash correctly, provide alternate content, and use links appropriately, Flash sites can be optimized just fine. I’ve done it for several sites. Adobe’s recent announcement could make things even better–but even now, getting a Flash photography site on page 1 is possible.

I’ll throw in another myth regarding searching behavior. For some reason, photographers often worry about how their site ranks when searching for their name. Trust me, if a potential client knows of you by name, they won’t have a problem finding your website. Worry about your market and areas of expertise. Optimize for those searches, provide appropriate content, and the long tail of search terms will fall into place.

I’ve always thought of SEO as stuff you do to the code of your site, programmer stuff. Are there really things photographers can do on their own without mucking about in the code?

Definitely. One of the biggest is blogging. Good blogs naturally use layouts, page elements, links, and URLs that search engines love. Setup a blog and make sure you have links between it and your site’s home page. Then, blog at least once a week about the jobs and projects you’re working on. Search engines love content, so make sure you’re blogging about photography. People love tutorials and behind-the-scenes stuff. Regularly blogging about photography builds appropriate content and improves the chances of getting quality inbound links. Who cares if no humans read your blog. The search engine benefits alone are worth it.

Also, many websites include a CMS of some sort, allowing you to adjust elements of the site without getting your hands in the code. For example, your browser title is an important ranking factor and many control panels let you adjust that.

On the other hand, I always encourage photographers to be brave and get into the HTML code for simple things. It’s not for everyone, but c’mon–if you can calculate exposure values in your head, I hope you can edit a TITLE tag without doing any major damage.

And what about in the code. What should photographers make sure their website designers have done?

Related to my above point, the more you can control aspects of your site (via a CMS or control panel), the better. That goes for SEO changes or simply keeping your site fresh with new images. The days of having a developer build a site from scratch and having to call/email him for every minuscule update are over.

If you’re building a Flash site, there are some additional questions to ask. You want to make sure your Flash is embedded properly–using OBJECT/EMBED tags is not ideal for SEO. You want to make sure your Flash content is embedded with JavaScript and that it’s mirrored as HTML content in one way or another. If this paragraph doesn’t make sense to your web designer, it’s time to find a new one :)

I’ve heard a few pitches from SEO companies where they’re basically saying they can game google or that they work closely with google. Is this a scam?

I’m hesitant to call anyone a “scam” without hearing the pitch, but I’m leery of most SEO pitches–especially if they’re cold-calling you. Be skeptical of any monthly subscription offer. Any of the following pitches should also throw up red flags:
“we will guarantee you #1 ranking or Y amount of traffic” (no one can make guarantees like that)
“we have a partnership with Google/Yahoo! and we can put you at position X” (I’ve heard this one myself … organic searches don’t work this way and its easy enough to do your own ad campaigns)
“we will submit your site to all the major search engines for $x per month” (since that’s not necessary anymore, it’s not something I’d want to pay for … especially monthly)

There are more, but in the end … real SEO pros don’t seek you out–you seek them out.

Ok, give me you best tips for getting higher and better search results.

Ok, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll toss out 10 tips that will help photographers here rank higher. I wont go into too much detail, but I’ll keep an eye on the comments and try answer any questions people may have. You can also find more info just by searching around.

Establish a baseline

1. Make sure you have web stats installed on your site and your blog (Google Analytics or Mint)
2. Install the Rank Checker plugin for firefox. Plug in any keywords or phrases that are important to you and see where you rank now. Check it every 1-3 weeks and add new phrases as you see them in your stats.

Blogging

3. Set up a blog (WordPress if you want it on your own site; SquareSpace, TypePad, or WordPress.com if you want a hosted version) and start blogging once a week.
4. Make sure your blog links to your site’s home page and vice versa.
5. Collaborate with 3 industry peers. Link to their site and/or blog (on your blog’s sidebar) and ask them to do the same. NOTE: I don’t advocate huge, convoluted link-trading schemes. I’m talking about peers that you actually know and work with.
6. Submit your blog to Google Blog Search and Technorati. You only have to do this once and some blog systems will do it automatically.

Site updates

7. Edit your browser title, making sure that it contains at least 2 keywords/phrases that are important to you. This is easily the biggest “bang for your buck” update that you can make.
8. Update your About/Bio page. Don’t just write about how you fell in love with photography after your dad gave you his old Rollei. Write about what you do, where you do it, your specialties, and past clients.

Local search

9. Submit your business to Google’s Local. It takes a few weeks to get in there, but it’s worth it.

Inbound links

10. This tip is a bit general (and related to #5), but inbound links (links to your site from other sites) are crucial for SEO. Contact peers, mentors, agencies, editors, clients, or local publications that you have worked with and have a good reputation. The goal is to get a link to your site. It could be from a “recommended photographers” page, a blog post, or just a simple credit/byline. When it comes to local publications, be creative–offer to write a how-to article or take some headshots.

Another DOP Blog, David Griffin at National Geographic

I was checking out the TED video of David Griffin, Director of Photography at National Geographic (here), that I discovered on Shoot The Blog and wanted to send him an email but instead discovered a few blog postings that I think you might be interested in reading (here).

The last one from May tackles Film vs. Digital (here) and ends with this wonderful quote:

“At National Geographic we do not require photographers to shoot one way or another—we support both approaches. Ultimately, we care more about what is being photographed, and less about how.”

Maybe, we will start seeing more blogging from working DOP’s in the future, National Geographic is certainly ahead of the curve when it comes to websites.

Media Needs A Makeover

- - The Future

The pace of doom and gloom stories for printed media continues unabated but I’ve noticed more and more that are offering brilliant insight into the problem and even a few solutions.

A story in Business Week about a thriving newspaper industry in Germany (here) surmises that the problems with US newspapers is not the internet it’s the content:

“I suspect the real reason German papers still thrive is their embrace of competition. Unlike so many U.S. papers, Bild was never part of a quasi-monopoly that allowed complacency. It’s telling that Bild doesn’t deliver —it depends on newsstand sales. ‘Bild has to prove itself at the kiosk every day,’ says Deputy Editor-in-Chief Michael Paustian.

That pressure helped Bild maintain its focus on original content. It uses almost no wire copy and brags that every story is an exclusive. Even during the crisis years, Bild kept its 800-strong editorial staff intact. What advice does Diekmann have for American newspapers? ‘It’s too late.’ ”

Along a similar note Dr. Samir Husni (AKA Mr. Magazine) scolds all the top magazine titles for causing the failing newsstand themselves by selling subscriptions at cut rate prices. The practice, to offer dirt cheap subs as a way to control circulation and meet rate base not only undermines newsstand sales but in my mind it destroys the content by bringing in consumers who are barely interested in reading the magazine in the first place and forcing the editorial staff to cater to a more general audience of readers. Dr. Husini’s unlikely cure for the newsstand woes:

“Stop chasing the numbers of customers and concentrate on customers who count. The first step in doing such is stop the rate base gimmick. You can’t anymore chase a rate base number and try to meet that number. Today’s customers are different and reaching those who count is much more important than counting them.”

Mygazines continues to make headlines for allowing consumers to freely scan and distribute their favorite magazines in a clear violation of US copyright laws but it doesn’t look like they will go away anytime soon because they’re owned by the same company that runs Pirate Bay (CNet story here). They’ve been on Hollywood’s most wanted list for several years now and appear to be indestructible.

There are many, many reasons why this will never become the napster of the publishing industry; it takes a lot of effort to scan an entire magazine and converting magazine pages into jpgs hardly seems like a brilliant solution to portability online, to name a few, but it’s certainly caused quite a few people to sit up and take notice and spark discussion. I agree with this motley fool story entitled “It’s the end of publishing as we know it” (here) when they say:

“Magazines like Cosmo, Wired, and Playboy always looked like prime online properties, dishing out their advice, entertainment, and other well-written and popular articles through this huge series of tubes. But here we are, well into the digital age, and most of them simply haven’t made the transition yet.

If Mygazines teaches Time anything, it would be how to present the print magazine in a tasty online form, easy to navigate and easy to use. Copy that model and then improve on it, inject a bit of revenue-generating advertising, and see if your readers prefer the official version with corporate backing or some fly-by-night rip-off where everything is free but nothing is guaranteed. Now let’s see which publisher might be the first to get a clue so we can invest in it.”

Of course publishing companies are like lumbering giants and as risk adverse as you get (a few serve as retirement accounts for their owners), but it would only take one textbook case of a magazine doing it right online and proving that the revenue and audience exists to turn the entire industry around.

I don’t think printed magazines will ever go away completely and why should they, people still like to read them and they’re awfully convenient for the airport, bus, train or limo rides, but the audience is limited and will continue to shrink so publishers need to follow the young audience and the casual, used to buy it for 1 article readers where they’ve gone, online.

Also, if you’re simply going to reprint the entire contents of the magazine online with all the advertising intact it should be free. Simple math will tell you that the newsstand and subscriptions prices don’t even cover the printing and distribution cost for a single issue, so if I’m saving you that expense the least you can do is not charge me for it online. If you’re going to transform the content online and run epic photo essays, allow reader interaction and leverage the technology available then the possibilities for audience and revenue are endless. If you treat the internet like a piece of paper you may find equilibrium between audience size, expense to produce and profit but the the multi-million dollar profit glory days are now coming to an end.

Overall, the theme here seems to be content, quality content. Can it really be that simple? I think so.

UPDATE: Pirate Bay refutes ownership of Mygazines (here). Thanks Sean.

PDN Online Redesign and A New Feature

- - Getting Noticed

PDN Online has a new look and a new feature called PDN Compass (here) where you can mark on a map where you live and what you shoot then presumably Photo Eds and Art Buyers and other potential clients will search by location and specialty and easily find you. Sort of like PhotoServe.com which is something I’ve always used to search for photographers in a particular location but this one is free. Hey, getting with the new economy are we PDN, except I still see those shiny gold locks on all the big articles, so maybe not so much.

Anyway, I haven’t totally checked it out, but it will need critical mass to be worthwhile for buyers. I wonder if that’s still possible in 2008, where leveraging the community to do all the work (free labor, free service) is becoming a dated concept. We shall see.

A Light At The End Of The Tunnel

- - The Future

Two recent developments have me excited about the future for photographers:

1. Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak is in Georgia for The Wall Street Journal and they’ve got a nice online slideshow to go with it (here) but then they take it a step further and have a BIG picture page with a comment area (here). Spread the word. It can only get better.

2. Andrew Hetherington sells out of a series of 220 prints in 9 minutes. All because he’s a brilliant photographer and…he has an audience (read about it here).

It can only get better as more an more newspapers and eventually magazines adopt the big picture strategy and need professionals to go out and deliver powerful content. And, photographers with an audience can count on publishers seeking them out to tap into that audience and their additional channel of distribution.

Also, check out the 10 Misconceptions about photography. I’m feeling pretty good about what lies ahead.

The Next Generation Of Photo Editors

- - The Future

I think the way clients and photographers communicate and reach each other and the job of Photo Editor will profoundly change in the next decade. There’s exciting technology to take advantage of and the potential of the internet has barely been tapped by publishers. I wanted to start talking with .com and junior Photo Editors to look at the way they’re using technology and get a feel for what the future might bring.

I met Ryan Schick at the Photoshelter panel in NY a few weeks back and found him to be very well spoken and thoughtful about the industry. Ryan works for Condé Nast’s Portfolio.com as the News Photo Editor where he sources all the daily news pictures and develops larger photo essay projects. He’s young and a .com Photo Editor so I thought he might have a different take on how he finds photographers and how the future might play out.

You seem like a fairly technologically savvy Photo Editor. Is that a generational thing or have you made an effort to incorporate emerging technology into your workflow?

I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a generational thing. I’ve worked with editors who are significantly older that are interested in technology as a device to develop more efficient ways to receive the imagery they need from the photographers in a timely matter. New means of image transportation and tools that enable more efficient communication have always interested me. Email has always been a central tool in my life. Heck, my first email address was 73514,1650@compuserve.com. This was back in 1992 before AOL, Prodigy, and others introduced alphanumeric email addresses.

I’m curious about how you communicate with photographers and your thoughts on how it might evolve.

Instant messenger is a remarkable tool, if properly used. Given it’s intimacy and the opportunity for it to be invasive to the recipient, it requires a certain amount of sensitivity on the users part There are multiple photographers I talk with on a daily basis via IM. Example; I communicate on a daily basis with photographers who are currently working on projects. It’s remarkable to witness a project develop, in real-time, with a photographer who is half-way around the world. Observations and suggestions are easily communicated; picture ordering, toning, and other variables can be done on the fly.

Apple’s iChat video capability is a tool that I still have yet to take to completely. I’m not sure how this will progress in the future, but for the time being I find instant messaging to be an sufficient replacement for email and phone conversations.

What about the ways photographers market themselves to Photo Editors. Books, mailers, email campaigns. Certainly there’s room for change there. The books are so expensive to make and ship certainly we eventually don’t need those anymore do we?

I still believe that photographers might not necessarily need the big-tent image distribution agencies to be successful in today’s market. I’m more impressed by the photographer who has taken the long-term investment strategy of developing personal relationships with his or her editors. There are magnificent tools out there that photographers can utilize to represent themselves and ultimately distribute their material.

I’ve always admired the photographer who updates his or her online portfolio on a regular basis. In a way, I think the digital reformation has made many of the dead-tree portfolio books we’ve grown accustomed to obsolete. I know it’s a tough market for most photographers out there and portfolios are not inexpensive to produce. I’d rather see photographers develop an online portfolio that demonstrates their personal eye toward presentation and detail and put their money back into a personal project that will help them along with an underdeveloped skill-set.

Email distribution and mailers are also objects I’ve taken greater attention towards in recent months. There are several photographers out there, including a young Philadelphia-based photographer named Steve Boyle, who take enormous strides to constantly bring editors attention to their every-growing body of work. Steve’s persistence in developing a visual style of his own is equaled only by his determination to constantly develop open channels to editors. I’m not certain whether or not this is an off-shoot of his efforts in self-promotion, but he seems remarkably well informed in visual trends and even runs several of his tests by me on a regular basis.

This however is not something that he and I fell into overnight. I cite this because I think many photographers take the ‘battering ram’ approach toward self-representation. I cite an example of a photographer who was referred to me by a former colleague and for whom I have an enormous amount of respect for. What started as a recommendation and an appointment to view his body of work turned into a multiple-times-per-day phalanx of phone calls and emails. By the time the actual appointment to meet came around I had frankly grown exasperated by his persistence and for better or worse was uninterested in the actual meeting.

What about a photographers website, do you ever do more than just go and look at the pictures?

I don’t just use a photographers website to look at the work they want to present (ie. putting their best face forward); there is another facet of their site that I’ve grown remarkably fond of. Being a user of Safari, I have a quick-tab on my address bar that currently loads the following personal blogs:

aphotoaday.org
Kirk Mastin
Michael Rubenstein
Jensen Walker
Robert Caplin
Justin Fowler
Mike Terry
Matthew Williams
Tara Todras-Whitehill
Mark Rebilas
Dustin Snipes
Thomas Boyd
Chris Detrick
Rachel Hulin’s ‘Shoot The Blog’
& Redux’s RSS Feed

At current count, I check these blogs and 21 others on a daily basis. Not all of these blogs are updated regularly but several of them, including Matthew Williams’, are well developed because they give you a better idea into the scene the photographer was given and how he executed his coverage. I like being able to see a larger take whenever possible. I think a personal blog can be a remarkably effective tool for a photographer to communicate to an attentive audience. I’m certain I’m not the only editor to regularly check photographers’ blogs, but I think as photographers continue to recognize this as an effective tool of free self-promotion, its popularity will continue to grow.

Certainly in the not too distant future all publications will have .com Photo Editors or the PE will spend much of their time working on the .com side of the photography. With a healthy budget and unlimited pages to publish work how can this not be a great thing for photographers? Why do I keep seeing tiny little photographs on publishers websites?

At Portfolio.com, one of the things we quickly realized was that we could publish additional material that would not have otherwise made the magazine, not due to quality issues but from the finite amount of pages in the magazine delegated to individual features.

Case in point: Photographer Michael Christopher Brown developed a magnificent photo essay for our July 2008 edition on the efforts of Chinese authorities to divert precious water resources from farms and villages in the surrounding provinces to fill the expansive fountains that line the Olympic promenade in Beijing. Portfolio editor Sarah Weissman had an initial edit of 30 images from the more than 250 image submitted by Michael. Through their mutual cooperation, Michael and Sarah consolidated his take into 5 images that were eventually published in our print edition. Recognizing the opportunity to develop a more robust online presentation we added an additional 7 images to our slideshow to expand the depth of the visual coverage associated with the online article. (See it here)

This can be a lesson to editors who are currently wary of their own dot-com’s ability to recognize the expansive opportunity they have to present the work that they and the photographers have labored so hard let see the light of day. Given the limited amount of financial resources (read: free) required to publish a slideshow online I would only envision further publications using their dot-com’s in such a fashion for more robust photographic essays online. Many of them already have.

As for the tiny pictures on our site, I wish there was a more effective way to maximize the exposure of multiple stories with large imagery, but from a basic design aesthetic I find that to be quite difficult on a news site.

However, I do salivate over the photographic presentation of Garden & Gun magazine online. Beautiful!

Plagiarism in 2008

- - copyright

Jody Rosen, a writer at Slate Magazine, was alerted by a reader to a story in a small Texas alternative weekly called the Bulletin where “10 and a half paragraphs copied nearly verbatim from ‘A Pirate Looks at 60,'” were plagiarized from an essay he wrote on Jimmy Buffett.

So, Jody writes a story for slate (here) about the plagiarism and uncovers a writer and possibly publisher who nab stories online and re-appropriate them for their tiny (20,000) unsuspecting audience.

After the story comes out the publisher is inundated with emails and the stories about the plagiarism spread around the blogosphere (here, here, here and here).

The Bulletin ceases publication and the writer issues a statement (here).

Does anyone think they can get away with this shit anymore? Do you really think you can steal someone’s words (pictures and designs too) and not get caught in 2008?

Can Editorial Photographers Make A Living Anymore?

I’ve often wondered? I certainly know plenty of photographers who do make a living in editorial photography and have always assumed there’s a large cliff between them and those who want to make it their profession but I have no clue what kind of money is being made and how many people are making it.

PDN is going help solve that problem with a survey (to find out what editorial photographers earn, how they’re surviving, and what kind of rates they’re getting) editorial photographers can take (here).

The survey comes at an difficult time for editorial photographers because by all indications we’re headed for a pretty bad winter of dropping circ and advertiser belt tightening (here and here) that can only result in fewer assignments and money available for photography. Hopefully we’re not far from the bottom and the industry can rebound like it did after 2000. With more and more photography headed online where the distribution and printing is virtually free it seems like publishers could still manage to pay for original photography so their publication doesn’t start to resemble google.

I think we’ve reached a critical juncture for the editorial photography industry and it’s time to take stock of where we are so we can make changes that will ensure the long term health going forward. The industry used to just take care of itself but I’m not so sure that will be the case in the future.

Heineken Discovers Flickr Isn’t Full Of Free Photography

- - copyright

The incident below can serve as an important warning to corporations that mistakenly think Flickr photographers won’t jump your shit if you infringe upon their copyright. Also, they should keep in mind, the cc license is virtually worthless in protecting you, if you mistakenly believe those photos can be used for free, because it can be revoked at any time (Dan Heller explains here).

One of the photographers who’s work was stolen, Richard Sharman, sent me the following:

A website run by brewing giant Heineken was leeching hundreds, if not thousands of copyright photos through the flickr API and posting them to promote the Oxegen music festival in Ireland.

The website at, www.heinekenmusic.ie was pulled after Heineken Music Ireland started receiving demands for payment from photographers for the unauthorized commercial use of copyright material.

There is active discussion about this at several flickr groups including (here) that was set up specifically to discuss the matter. There are a number of screenshots there of the website and the use of copyright images.

There was a comment on their blog which appears to come from within the company about the problem with the heinekenmusic.ie website:

Normally our player should’ve only display photos with commercial CC license, he’re gone something terribly wrong and we’ve currently disabled the flickr photos module on the player. We’re currently looking into the thread on Flickr and see what we can do for the photographers …
I’m sorry if we’ve offended photographers …

Finally, it appears that Heineken is sending settlement emails to the photographers who contacted them with the following offer: “Accordingly, we would be willing to pay in full and final settlement an amount of €15 per image allegedly used” which might get a few to go away but no those who make a living shooting pictures.

You have been warned.

Chris McPherson stopped by to show his portfolio

- - Portfolio

Someone mentioned to me the other day that Chris McPherson was red hot at the moment, so I thought I’d do what I normally would have done when working at a magazine and called Deborah Schwartz to get his book in for a look. Only this time I shot all the pages and posted them here so you could have a look too.

Editorial book:

See a full frame slideshow (here).

I have to say that is one, well put together book. Excellent pacing, juxtapositions and the whole thing hangs together nicely reenforcing his style and vision.

Advertising tear book:

See a full frame slideshow (here).

A Cluetrain Manifesto For Newspapers

- - The Future

A blog post  written by William Lobdell, an 18 year veteran of the Los Angeles Times entitled “42 Things I Know” should serve as a clue train manifesto for newspaper (cluetrain is here and here).

As a former media insider I know the feeling of “this shit is broke and you clowns have no clue how to fix it” that he’s expressing in his post. I’ll highlight a few of the points I strongly agree with here:

3. … the business model for newspapers is broken.

5. … it can’t be fixed.

7. Technology has run laps around the print media — giving readers instant news, open-source journalism, no barriers to become publishers, and an infinite news hole.

8. The idea that your daily news is collected, written, edited, paginated, printed on dead trees, put in a series of trucks and cars and delivered on your driveway — at least 12 hours stale — is anachronistic in 2008.

11. Newspapers were unbelievably slow in embracing the Internet, even though younger reporters have been pleading with their bosses for years to embrace the Web.

15. Business side of the paper was worse in recognizing the Internet’s potential and its threat to the newspaper business. I once suggested that, since Craig’s List had arrived on the scene, The Times should match that business model and give away most of its classified ads (since we were already losing it already) in exchange for Internet readership and premium ad prices for corporate advertisers (such as employers). The business people laughed.

17. You can’t just transfer a news gathering operation from print to the web. Revenue on the web is fractured (like cable TV) and a news web operation can support far fewer journalists and layers of editors. It requires a different mindset.

24 … We operated as though we had a monopoly on truth and great journalism for far too long. We didn’t listen to our critics and sometimes our readers. That cost us.

33. If I were publisher, I’d have a clear mission statement for The Times’ editorial department (if you ask 100 journalists at The Times about their mission, you’d likely get 100 different answers).

35. I’d get realistic estimation on the size of The Times’ future work force and then make one large cut to get it there (good sources say another 150-200 layoffs are on the horizon). An internet operation can’t support a huge newsgathering operation, and morale would improve if everyone knew no more major layoffs loomed. People can deal with reality; it’s just this surrealistic no-man’s-land that make it impossible to move forward and has good people bailing out.

36. I’d take the very talented journalists I had and develop a SERIES of websites that provided the best information for that beat/subject matter. The Web is all about niches. The Times, for instance, could have the premiere sites for every professional and college sports team in Southern California. It could be THE place to turn to for news on City Hall, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Los Angeles Police Department. Not to mention Southern California environmental issues, LAX and the coast.

42. And this is ultimately why I left The Times. Though the paper has been in business for 125 years, it had become riskier to stay than to go.

Visit the entire list (here).

The people who can take media into the future are sitting right there, on staff at all the major publishing organizations, but they’re slowly leaving, so somebody needs to get off their ass and empower them to help make changes. I asked for a blog at the last two publications where I worked and finally had to just start one on my own.

Oh, and don’t miss Simon Dumenco shredding the LA Times Magazine to pieces in Advertising Age (here).

Simon Barnett, DOP at Newsweek Prepares for the Olympics

Courtesy Daimen Donck/NEWSWEEKWith the Olympics just around the corner I thought I’d check in with Simon Barnett of Newsweek, because he’s hired his very own dream team of photographers (Laforet, Miralle and Powell) to provide coverage of the event.

The Olympics start next week. Are you ready? Can you explain a little bit about how someone prepares to cover an event of this magnitude?

I think we’re ready!…. There’s a tremendous amount of pre-planning involved in this, I’d say more than any other event, period. The fact that so many events are happening at different locations, often at the same times, makes the correct scheduling a pivotal part of how well we’ll do. We’ve been working on it for about a month and are just about done. We’ve gone over and over the schedule trying to predict the big stories while not forgetting the interesting smaller events, and also factoring in that the photographers are, occasionally, entitled to a little sleep.

How did you come up with the dream team of Laforet, Miralle and Powell?

All are ex-Allsport staffers (now gone, an early Getty acquisition), as I was I too. I was Allsport USA’s managing editor in the 90’s and worked closely with Mike Powell, so we go way back. Vince and Donald joined Allsport after I left to be a part of the team that started ESPN the Magazine. Even though I don’t get to do that much sports nowadays with Newsweek, I’ve always kept an interested eye on the sports photography scene, and I know that I have assigned the three best, most original sports photographers available.

Allsport really was an amazing place for photography—at it’s peak it was to sport what Magnum is to photojournalism. There was an incredible hunger at the agency, and often a quite intimidating rivalry amongst the shooters. I remember clearly the harsh ribbing that some of the youngsters would get if they couldn’t follow focus 6 frames of an athlete running at them on a 600mm. They’d all be challenging themselves to shoot difficult pictures, on massive tele-photos, using 50 ASA Velvia in the shade, skillfully timing the peak action at the only possible moment when it froze sufficiently to yield a sharp image at a 1/60th of a second. That era produced the likes of Simon Bruty and Bob Martin, both now at SI, and guys like David Cannon and Clive Brunskill who are still with Getty today. Allsport photographers were always shooting portfolio-type images, trying first to make art, and, in a classic sports sense, driven to beat the hell out of the competition.

For this Olympics, I thought I’d to try and approach it that way again, this time for Newsweek. I have given Mike, Vincent and Donald a dream brief at the biggest event in the world—go make great photographs first, worry less about recording every medal.

With the media revolution that’s underfoot and the ability consumers and professionals have to publish text, photography and video, instantly to a world wide audience, this will certainly be the most published sporting event ever. I know the media is granted special access but you’re still sitting there shooting from same perspective as hundreds of other photographers with the exact same global reach. How do you produce original work in an environment like this?

The Olympics are tough to make look different, and they’ve never been tougher to cover than they are today. Hundred’s of photographers are penned in the same place, all on the same lens, all using the same camera (which begins with C). If you go back pre-autofocus, pre-digital, the best photographers had an easier time of distancing themselves from the pack. But now, with these amazing cameras, much of the technical skill we used to prize in professionals, such as exposure on chrome in changing light, the ability to manually focus, and critical lens choice, has been automated. I’ve told my guys to go author these Games the way they see it, and with that I am hopeful they might be freed to see something unique.

How will you resist the call to publish the images everyone else is publishing and instead present an original point of view?

I should clarify that the plan I lay out here is one that assumes that the Olympics passes as a purely sporting event, and one that does not escalate into an unforeseeable news story, such as was the case in Munich 72, or with a Tanya Harding Olympics. If a big news story overtakes the sports story, we’ll adapt to deliver that. That’s something that I can say we’re pretty used to doing. Statistically speaking, the chances of one of my three photographers being in a better position, and having a better photograph of a news event than the wire services is fairly unlikely. And if that happens, I will surely be looking for the best news picture, wherever it comes from. The Olympics has a habit of producing these bigger-than-sports stories about half of the time, so we are bracing for that eventuality.

So, now that shooting sporting events is no longer technically difficult, is it the job of Photo Editors to ensure the health of the industry, by bringing the next generation of Laforet’s, Miralle’s and Powell’s into the fold?

It is a duty of the photo editing community to mine for the next generation. As I say, technically publishable pictures can now be taken by almost anyone with a 200 dollar point and shoot, so hunting for the people who have a point of view, and can express their unique vision in photographs is more important than ever. It’s now less about how to technically get the image recorded and so much more about the mind behind it.

Tell me a little bit about working on an event of this magnitude from a DoP’s point of view. Lot’s of meetings, last minute adjustments of coverage and a ton of frames to edit?

For us, this is the first time that our focus is overwhelmingly to our web presence, so with that we’ve come up with a new approach to editing. Each of the three photographers will manage their own photo blog, editing and uploading their best images –along with, I hope, some very personal anecdotes about what it’s like to be there experiencing it. I hope this creates a form of photo “Survivor” between them, where they are in a kind of creative competition. Then, I’ll go in to their blogs each day and edit what I deem to be the ‘best of’ which will be up on a showcased Newsweek.com gallery around noon each day. It’s kind of photographic natural selection.

Are you doing anything unique with all the photography you’ve commissioned? Where should people go to see the coverage?

Newsweek.com and our photo blog Visions of China. And we welcome feedback…

ORPHAN WORKS – IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED

- - copyright

THIS IS URGENT – YOUR IMMEDIATE ACTION IS NEEDED

UPDATE (here).

The Senate is “hotlining” the Orphan Works Bill at this very minute, which means it could pass within the hour.

PLEASE CALL BOTH OF YOUR SENATORS IMMEDIATELY and ask them to either vote NO or put a hold on the Bill.

S. 2913: Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008

Whether you’ve called before, or have never called, this is is the moment, the second where it counts. This cannot wait, you need to call NOW.

This could be your last chance to make a stand for the protection of copyright.

Here is a link providing contact information for Senators/Representatives:

http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

Thank you,

Constance Evans
APA National Executive Director

Julia Graham
APA|NY Regional Director

A Photo Folio- New Website Design Company For Photographers

- - Websites

I’m happy to announce the launch of my new website design company for photographers:

APhotoFolio.com

It was 6 months ago, when I had assumed that not working in New York meant not working in the photography industry, that I decided to pursue internet related projects, so that I could stay engaged. A Photo Folio joins the blog as the income producing part of what will eventually be many different products and services for photographers and photo editors, some free some not and I promise, not all beginning with an “A.”

I feel blessed and lucky to have met two talented, hard working guys who build websites on the wedding photography side of the business. Erik Dungan and Mike Caston started BigFolio.com in 2004 and have grown it into one of the top destinations for wedding photographers seeking web portfolios. From me, they have endured endless stream-of-consciousness emails, philosophy statements, wouldn’t-it-be-nice missives and all manner of inside magazines jargon and handled it all with aplomb.

We built two designs, a kick ass control panel (so you can go change everything around) and a home site to house and sell it all. The price is fair, the designs are contemporary, clean and built with a clients eye (just show me the pictures and no music please). They display photography beautifully and are easy to navigate. Additionally, I’ve added consulting on the portfolio edit and logo design (with a typography expert) as an important component to building effective websites. If these designs don’t appeal to you now every few months we build a new one, so you can let me know if there’s something you’re really looking for.

Ok, that’s the only sales pitch you’re going to get out of me. I hope some of you who are in the market for a portfolio will consider ours.