More On Email Promos

- - Promos

Unsolicited guest post from:
Deborah Dragon, Deputy Photo Editor at Rolling Stone.

The other day I received a “follow up” phone call from a photographer thanking me for checking out their site and mentioning that they were really interested in working with the magazine and since I was “interested” in their work, could we set up a meeting. I thought “did I click on something” or sometimes I see work that I like and send an email saying so and to let me know when they update their site again. This was not the case, so I googled their name, went on their site and couldn’t understand what happened, because this persons work was completely inappropriate for the magazine.

So, what ever happened to people sending or emailing appropriate mailers to magazines? I would think with the capability of tracking emails and clicks on sites, there would be the possibility of organizing these things better. I get about 150 emails a day from photographers and reps, yes, 150 emails JUST FROM PHOTOG’S and REPS, 50% of them are lifestyle and food. My goal is to visit EACH ONE…HMMM I can’t imagine why photo editors aren’t seeing peoples work. Maybe if the photographers all got together and agreed to STOP loading PE’s email boxes with giant attachments and/or links to images that are not suitable for the publication I could actually achieve my goal. Save your valuable time and figure out what magazines you really want to shoot for, then start shooting.

And, most importantly if you ask me, if I see your work, I like it, and I like it for the magazine… believe me, you will know it and I will contact you. You don’t need to follow up with my clicking on your website.

Finding the Right Photographer

- - Getting Hired

There are only 4 things to consider when looking to hire a photographer.

1. Genre
2. Style
3. Location
4. Price

Ok, there’s actually a fifth that’s like a recommendation or an impression we have of you and informs us what it will be like to work with you but I’m leaving that out of this discussion.

When making an assignment several of these variables may be locked down. If the budget is low then the weight of the decision goes to price and certainly location because that can be a big factor in the cost of a shoot. The genre can be wide or narrow depending on how much you want to leave open to chance and interpretation. Color, shoots men or conversely photo journalist specializing in domestic abuse, portraitist who works with older women. And, you either assign stories that match Genre’s or do the opposite to create something interesting (assigning fashion stories to photojournalists and sending fashion photographers to war zones… ok that last one’s probably not a great idea). The style further breaks down the genre into subgroups of similar looking photographs and derivatives and maybe even a few that don’t really fit anywhere.

For most photographers the Genre and Location are locked down and the price is a function of how busy/new you are. That leaves style as the most important factor in how we find and hire you.

Are you leading, following, pioneering or just pain unsure where you stand?

Photographer Scam

- - Scam

I’ve heard from a couple people (most recently Andy Anderson) that there’s a scam going around where someone will email a photographer with a 10 day shoot overseas and then ask them to pay half of a work permit to guarantee they will show up for the job. It’s more involved then that with phone calls to a real person supposedly looking to hire a photographer but the idea is to get you to pay the fee. Drop a comment if you’ve had a similar request.

Update: Another version of the scam from the comments.

Another variation is an offer of a shoot in your local area, where they will send a deposit or offer the full fee, where you would keep half the fee if the shoot is canceled. The shoot would then be canceled and they would ask that the half be returned. The original check was bogus and will bounce in about 45 days, but because of a kink in the banking system it appears to have gone through during that time. If you send the refund, you will be out that amount when the check clearing system finally runs its course and debits the bogus check amount.

Another one:

I haven’t experienced this one, but a few months ago I was nearly scammed on a fine-art print order… a good sized print order came in through my website – a week later I received a cashiers check for almost double the amount of my invoice. The “client” wrote to explain that they were moving and her husband mistakenly included the shippers’ fee in my check… could I please wire the difference to the shipper so they could get started. I was totally suspicious but when the check cleared I was more convinced that it was an honest error. Just to make sure I checked with my bank and indeed, while they made the funds available, it can take up to 2 weeks for a check to clear. Sure enough, 10 days later all the money was deducted from my account. Luckily, all I lost was some time.

Free WordPress Blog Install for PE’s, AB’s, AD’s, DOP’s, CD’s and Agents

- - Blogs

If you’re a Photo Editor, Art Buyer, Art Director, Director of Photography, Creative Director or Agent I will help you install wordpress for free. The only cost will be around $9/year to register your domain name and the $8/month hosting fee. You can even do it anonymously if you like.

Here’s what you need to do to make it happen. Register a website name. I use namesecure.com but if it needs to be anonymous you’ll have to use godaddy.com which is a little tricky because they keep trying to sell you shit as you buy the name. For both registrants just skip all the extras they try and sell you and change the registration term to 1 year (or longer if you don’t want to renew every year) but on the godaddy registration choose the deluxe registration which includes the privacy so nobody can see who registered the name.

Next you have to find a host for your wordpress blog. I use bluehost.com but I hear mediatemple.net ($20/month) is pretty nice. I had a big problem with my host when I had people vote for a photographer to receive the free consultation because they put a load limiter on everyone’s account and mine maxed out and kept shutting down. Curiously the next day the CEO of bluehost.com announced they were increasing the amount of traffic a website can receive, so we’ll have to see if they fixed the problem when I do something that will drive heavy traffic like that.

Once you get a host I’ll tell you how to point your domain there and then I will need to access your account to upload the wordpress blog. Make sure you use a password that you can change once I’ve done all I need to set it up. Hopefully I can get a bunch of new industry blogs started this way.

Email me to get started: rob(at)aphotoeditor.com

Spring Cleaning at APhotoEditor.com

- - Blogs

I thought I’d air this place out a bit and offer a little transparency in an attempt to move the conversations we have here on to the next chapter. I’m sensing a vibe of suspicion among a couple readers and commenter’s and I’ll offer a little transparency in an attempt to clear the air and make things right. I’ve tried to avoid writing about what I do for a living, what my plans are and in general not turn this into a place where I solicit work but I think that can sometimes make people suspicious of my motivations for doing all this work in the first place. I’ll be very clear, I wouldn’t do this if I thought it wouldn’t lead somewhere. I don’t think anyone knows where blogs and free services offered on the web lead. We’re figuring that out as we go.

The most common question I get is people asking if I’m a trust-funder or millionaire. No, unfortunately I’m not. I have to work for every dime like most of you. I have occasional photo editing, casting and consulting jobs to pay the bills and I’m living unbelievably cheap in Tucson, AZ with a family member. This will change when I move to Durango, CO around May 25th.

Next, most people probably want to know what I plan to do with this blog and all these readers. It’s changed several times since I began because honestly I didn’t set out to create a mainstream photography blog so for pretty much the whole time I’ve done this the answer has been “I don’t know or care.” When I started blogging I only wanted to teach myself how to blog, then it became a fun way to rant about work, then it grew to became very large and time consuming so I started to think I might need to get some advertising on the pages and try to make a living off all the time I spend writing and moderating the comments. I just couldn’t see myself hawking any type of photography equipment here so I gave up on that. It didn’t seem like a very good match for this site.

So, I finally decided very recently that the best way for me to make a living is to offer other products or premium services for a fee. It’s an idea that many web companies employ, you offer a few things for free to drive traffic and to create your own advertising platform and then you sell a product that a small percentage of the visitors are interested in. I’m not ready to discuss what those products are but I can say the blog will remain open and free and I’ll continue to do things like the free promos, media phonebook and photo rank as a way to support the community I’ve created and keep people coming back. As much as possible I’d like the blog to continue to be a place where conversations happen. A few readers have noted that the comments are more informative than the posts and I love that there’s so many people willing to share their experiences and ideas. I’d like that to continue as long as possible but I can’t pay rent with comments or notoriety so I’m developing products that hopefully will.

I’ll note here that I’m very aware that my thoughts on the industry and ideas on how people should behave will slowly lose relevance the longer it’s been since I’ve worked at a magazine. I’m cool with that. I hope other Photo Directors will take up blogging (email me and I’ll set you up for free and give you advice on how not to get caught) to provide that in-the-moment perspective and I’ll continue to interview people and give my opinion on the news and make posts that I feel are relevant. People who no longer find any of this interesting are free to leave. I’m not trying to create a monopoly here or write sensationalist material to drive up traffic. The blog has to evolve into something written by a former photography director. A few readers have commented on how they liked me so much better when I was anonymous and working at a magazine. I’m not going back so let’s hope someone else comes forward.

There’s been recent discussion about my previous anonymity and I’ll explain why I started my blog anonymously. First off, I always told people who I was when they asked. I wanted it to be an open secret. I was only keeping it from my employer because I had a contract that prevented them from firing me without a payout and this could have easily been voided if my blog was discovered. My family and I had moved all the way from Santa Fe to New York and that was my safety net. I’m actually uncomfortable talking about it now because I’m still bound by a non-compete and other contract terms until May 16th.

I offer anonymity to my commenter’s in the hopes that people will leave interesting tidbits they wouldn’t otherwise for fear of something getting back to their employer or client. It works most of the time but in a few cases it’s used for personal attacks. I try and prevent that from happening by patrolling the comments and will block people I think are real disruptor’s and remove comments that are intended to be evil. That being said I’ve decided anonymous commenter’s can remain anonymous forever. I’ll never track you down and if I inadvertently discover who you are I will never tell anyone. The same goes with emails people send me. All are confidential unless you personally tell me I can reprint something. I hope that helps. I recently tried to track someone down (technically I can’t track an IP address only guess who it might be based on city and state) because I wanted to ask why they were leaving nasty comments and I wanted it to stop. I’m not going to do that anymore. If it becomes really aggravating or disruptive I’ll just delete the comment or block the commenter. Additionally, if you impersonate someone who posts here I’ll just delete the comment or let everyone know it’s not the same person.

This leads to the final topic for spring cleaning, my thin skin. I’m going to do a better job of allowing criticism and dissent to my opinions without immediately firing a comment back. As I said before I’d like the posts and comments to be a conversation and other points of view are encouraged. I don’t want to get in the way of that happening.

Photographers Leading The Way

- - The Future

I’ve been thinking that National Geographic photographers are uniquely poised to discover all the ways photography can reach consumers next. They already have one of the largest built-in audiences and that yellow border is instantly recognizable by the masses as a source for great photography. Plus, Geographic has always been good about moving the photography and photographers they work with into as many mediums as possible (books, calendars, note cards, videos, lectures, workshops) so consumers are ready to receive whatever they’re offering next. The biggest asset these talented people have going for them is the individual picture stories in their archive can have 100’s of great images no one has ever seen.

Stephen Alvarez is turning his massive 15 year collection of images into a picture-a-day along with a short story blog. He’s got other plans as well so this is just the beginning of attracting a huge following, one picture at a time. Check it out here: PictureStoryBlog.com

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And then on Stephen’s site I discovered that David Alen Harvey is planning a New York to California road trip as a personal project to make a “portrait” of America and he’s invited everyone to help him make it happen. As in, help pay for lunch, gas and finding interesting people to photograph. Genius. You can hang out with David, watch/help him make pictures, learn a thing or two and buy him a turkey sandwich. Then, when it’s all over the people he’s met along the way and all their friends will be standing in line at Amazon to buy the book. Hell, I’d sell the magazine story to the highest bidder, it comes with a built in audience and a blog that gets 100 comments on a slow day.

Here’s what David has to say on his blog (here):
“here is the deal….offer me lunch and i give you a portfolio review!!….travel along with us and fill up my car with gas (getting expensive) and you might just get an almost free workshop, or find a great family for me to photograph and get a signed print (see how entrepreneural i have become???)….seriously, all of your ideas are welcomed..”

Look out crabby old media barons, photographers are leading the way.

Free Promo Getting Better

- - Promos

I made a few more changes to the promo to get it working better before I send it out. I decided to change the name to:

FolioBrowser.com

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After seeing ILikeThesePhotos in print several times I was starting to think it sounded a little juvenile, not very professional and too one sided. Folio Browser is a little stiff but I can see it becoming a useful tool for Art Buyers and Photo Editors and I’d prefer it sounded professional (it’s kinda like when your daughter name’s the dog princess and the stupid thing gets lost and you have to drive around the neighborhood yelling princess at the top of your lungs).

The biggest change is that the links to photographers websites are direct. They don’t go to Flickr first. In fact you don’t even have to know Flickr is involved in any way. It just serves up the images for the thumbnail page. The other big change is that the title can now support a name and location for the photographer. I’ve heard from a few people that this would be a really useful addition. If anyone wants to help me out with the locations for all the photographers just visit the flickr page and leave a comment on each one (here). I may not have the time to get them all changed on my own.

I already have several requests to make region specific versions of this project (Canada, West Coast, Los Angeles, Mexico, Mid West) with different groups of editors selecting the final group. I think that’s a great next logical step and I’m excited to see if this could become a regular resource for people. Only time will tell.

The only major problem with the new version now is that it’s slower than the previous. See what you think for yourself:

ILikeThesePhotos

FolioBrowser

Great Blog Posts to Check Out

- - Blogs

Jacko has a new post (here), Heather Morton’s blog keeps getting stronger (here), Joerg is still going strong and always good to read (here), Robert Wright is still doing insightful posts (here), AVS has added some new material (here) (finally!), I’m really enjoying The Year In Pictures (here) and then Rachel Hulin is finding her voice (here) and I’m enjoying that as well.

Single Most Annoying Web 2.0 Feature For Photographers

- - Promos

Tracking my movements on your email promos and website.

I think my enthusiasm for email promos and links to work on photographers websites was completely cut in half the day someone emailed me and said “I see you’ve been checking out my book” I actually looked for a portfolio in my office because I didn’t recognize the photographers name, “I just wanted to see if I can show you some more work or shoot an assignment for you.”

Then I realized they had tracked me from an email promo I clicked on and suddenly I felt duped. Are all the photographers secretly tracking my movements to see when I click on a link or how much time I spend on their website. Man, that sucks.

The truth is I spend way less time on someone’s website that I really like and way too much time on websites I find horribly bad.

I’m sure it’s pretty satisfying to see how many clicks you get and how much time is spent on the website and what kinds of things get people to visit and what kinds of things get people to stay but letting me know you’re watching is downright creepy and makes me think twice before clicking and visiting.

Showing Your Book

- - Getting Hired

Bar none, showing your book is the fastest way to get a job in this business. If I meet you and like your work, then shake your hand and look you in the eye, it’s a virtual lock you’ll get an assignment. I was such a pushover in this regard that sometimes photographers wouldn’t even make it out of the building before getting a call on the cell phone with a job.

Usually what happens is I’ve got a shoot rolling around in my brain that I can’t quite land and I meet you and even tho you’re not perfectly what I was looking for in this particular story, your work is strong and you’re a nice person so I suddenly really want to hook you up with a job because well, I’m human. And, usually I can trot you over to the Creative Directors office and they’ll have the same reaction as I do “Zoiks Shaggy, let’s get this person a job.”

Getting in the door with your book is not easy (sometimes impossible) and if it was, everyone would be standing in line outside the Photography Directors office holding one of those butcher counter numbers waiting to get their assignment, so you get in which ever way you can. Keep trying, “Hey, I’m in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by if you have time” or “I’m at the newsstand, saw the latest issue and wanted to drop by and show you my work” or get a meeting with a Jr. Photo Editor or an Art Director or the Fashion Director or the magazine down the hall. Whatever it takes.

If your work is strong and you’re not a complete jackass, show your book in person, it’s the best way to land a job.

Buying Photos from Strangers

- - Working

When I started working as a photo editor I quickly learned a few lessons up front about buying photographs from amateurs: always ask how they planned to ship the images (we weren’t supposed to give out our UPS account to the non professionals) and determine beforehand what format the photographs might be in when they arrived.

I of course learned these lessons the hard way the first time I was handed the task of locating those awesome photographs the subject of a story always seems to claim his friend/mom/uncle/some dude took that will solve all the usual woes associated with trying to run stories about places no professional photographer has bothered to visit. A couple days would go by and I would call back to find the whereabouts of the images only to discover they’d been dropped in the mail with a stamp (duh, that’s how normal people send shit… not FedEx first overnight) and then a week later when the package finally arrives I discover the cruddy 3×5 prints (or worse disk film) and have to start the whole process over again only this time on a serious deadline.

The value in these otherwise unremarkable photographs was not the elusive subject captured by the writer’s uncle poorly depicted on 1-hour prints but rather the difficulty in obtaining the images and ergo exclusivity our publication would enjoy printing them (surely nobody else would go through all this trouble). In fact that exclusive look at things was so important, magazines with real budgets like People would fly a photo editor to the errant uncles house to gather the 1-hour photos themselves.

This has all changed of course, with the advent of digital cameras and the internet these once obscure, hard to obtain amateur photographs are everywhere and their value has evaporated overnight.

News organizations are picking up on this “citizen journalist” phenomenon as if we haven’t always used citizen journalists to fill in the holes and so I find it strange that they think they’ve discovered the holy grail of cost cutting in photography, because everyone seems to be missing one enormous piece to this puzzle. The value of these images to consumers is also zero.

It’s like walking into the furniture store and finding a junk-ass chair made out of two by fours and ten penny nails. “You’re trying to sell me a chair I could have built… drunk?”

Taking it one step further according to Thoughts of a Bohemian a website called Daylife (here) will scan the text on your web page and deliver relevant news images from a tightly edited pool of wire photography. He goes on to say “As newspapers and magazine are suffering more layouts as ad spending is weakening, most of the photo related professional are turning to the internet. However, because of its built in automation, it just seems that some of the jobs will not be recycle but ultimately replaced by machines. We will still need great pictures, thus talented photographers. Not so sure about needing photo editors.”

I totally agree that using wire photos or even citizen journalist images to “decorate” your story should be accomplished by machines because you’re not really adding anything of value to the overall package.

To all those content re-packagers who think any of this sounds like a good idea: good luck finding readers. Maybe machines will read that crap.

Superfast Free Promo Thumbnail Viewing

- - Photographers

Check out the new and improved thumbnail view for the free promo at ILikeThesePhotos.com. This will give buyers a great opportunity to view 297 photographers in 10 seconds flat. Don’t think you’ll find that anywhere on the web. Special wOOt to my new business partner Erik Dungan for coding that up. It took him all of 10 minutes to do it so look for cool stuff coming down the pike in the near future. I’ll be taking this show on the road (email) in the next day or so.

Check Out These 297 Talented Photographers

- - Photographers

Click here to see a full screen version: ILikeThesePhotos

UPDATE: Follow this link to see the entire group as medium thumbnails APE Flickr

Click on the photograph to see the name and website of the photographer. Adjust the speed of the slideshow (I like 1.2 seconds) or use the manual controls at the top.

Attention art buyers and photo editors
, this is a free promo that’s meant to supplement all the other ways you find photographers to hire. I created it see if there might be an easier more efficient way to quickly look at 200-300 photographers. Compared to the weekly promo pile this works pretty good. Plus, if you’re like me, you remember a picture and not necessarily who took it so you can come back to this slideshow and find the name and website of the photographer whenever you like. This project only works if you find work you like and hire the photographer. I can create more of these but it’s a complete waste of time if it doesn’t connect buyers with photographers. That’s the only reason I did this. If you have suggestions on how to make the next one more useful for you please let me know.

Photographers, I want to thank everyone who participated, it was a privilege to look at all your work. If you disagree with the selection I’ve made not to worry, we’re going to do this again with different editors in a couple months. The flickr group was such a pain in the ass because it didn’t behave anything like the personal area but now that everything is hosted on my account it seems to work fine. Let me know if you need me to do something with your photo. I ended up editing it down to 1 photo per photographer to make the viewing faster.

Anyone who has a blog and feels like spreading the word you can use this embed code or link to the full page version at http://www.ilikethesephotos.com You can change the size of the embeded version by changing the width and height (keep it square).

Magazines- User Experience vs. More Users

- - Magazines

Magazines will deploy an entire bag of tricks to attract readers who normally wouldn’t be interested in buying their product. Getting people to subscribe usually involves pretty harmless marketing stuff like gift offers (SI’s football phone is the most famous and successful example), direct mail (send in your toaster warranty and suddenly Martha Stewart is sending you subscription offers), those annoying blow in cards (3 is the magic number and yes they always work) and the ridiculously low subscription price (if you see 12 issues for $10 they’re trying to pad the rate base).

Readers can be bought with football phones but they can’t be forced to buy your magazine at the checkout… or can they. The newsstand is actually where the real nefarious stuff happens. That’s because newsstand is the only metric anyone has to judge a magazine’s popularity (advertising sales isn’t a good indicator because you have no idea how much they discount the ad and how many are house ads).

I was reading a post by Craig Stolz (Web 2.Oh…really)–recently in Time Magazine’s top 25 blogs (here)–about newspaper websites using SEO trickery (worthless links to common words) to make their stories rank higher on google at the cost of degrading the user experience (here). Reminds me of the similar magazine practice where the cover will have fake numbers (chosen for how they look on the cover) to trick people into thinking there’s 234 tips or 55 great trips inside and then big cover lines will sell you on stories that turn out to be 1/3 page or worse–a sentence within a story. And then there’s all those lifeless packages (conceived to give you a number on the cover or a coverline), topical yet vapid front of book pieces and shiny products with hollow write-ups, all served up at the cost of user experience in hopes of attracting more newsstand buyers.

Of course the worst example of this bait and switch technique is the cover image. A subject chosen for their ability to hit it big on the newsstand accompanied by a perfunctory story on the inside. This has nothing to do with your mission as a magazine.

That’s why I love Esquire for owning up to it on the cover this month with a picture of Jessica Simpson and the coverline “We shot this image to catch your eye so you will pick up this issue and immerse yourself in the most gripping story you will read this year.” Bravo.

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Kratochvil Interview Over at Photoshelter

- - Photographers

Photoshelter blogger Rachel Hulin has a nice interview (here) with one of my all time favorite photographers, Antonin Kratochvil (he also sent me work from the road for the slide show which you can all see once I repair the problem). I love working with Antonin because although he appears to be tough as a bag full of hammers, in reality, he’s a very down to earth man who endearingly refers to everyone as “bitches.” Oh, and his pictures ROCK. His contact sheets are something to behold because there’s hardly any frames leading up to “the shot.” Talk about a tough edit, try editing 50 of his contact sheets down to 5 pictures in a magazine. Impossible.

Slideshow needs to be fixed

- - Photographers

If you made the final cut and sent me your photos on flickr you now need to email them to me here: promo(at)aphotoeditor.com

If you already emailed them to me to begin with you don’t need to do it again.

The slideshow is not working the way it should and I need to upload them into a set on my account. It has to work right before it goes out to art buyers and photo editors.

Here’s the pool of images that made the cut: http://www.flickr.com/groups/aphotoeditor/pool/

You have to be logged in to flickr to see all 550 images and that’s the problem at the moment.

GQ- April, 2008 Issue

- - Magazines


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I really like this quote from the Alex Pappademas story. Works for photographers too.

“Y’know, I grew up in a different generation. I grew up after World War II, and boys did different things in those days. You went camping. You went hunting. You boxed. And the image of a writer, to someone starting off in those days was not some schmuck who went to graduate school. It was Jack London, Nelson Algren, Ernest Hemingway. Especially coming from Chicago–a writer was a knock-around guy. Someone who got a job as a reporter or drove a cab. I think the reason there are a lot of novels about How Mean My Mother Was to Me and all that shit is because the writers may have learned something called ‘technique,’ but they’ve neglected to have a life. What the fuck are they gonna write about?”

–David Mamet

There’s also and excellent profile of Terry Richardson written by Andrew Corsello that furthers my theory of how a photographers DNA imprint in pictures cannot be replicated or taught. Calling it talent is not very accurate because it’s the sum of everything you know and have experienced and it leaves a mark on the photographs. I’ve always liked Terry’s work and I’m somewhat floored by the story of his hellish/crazy upbringing and how that fed his photographic style and subject selection. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to walk and inch in his shoes if that’s what it takes to become a much sought-after photographer with an original point of view.

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