Unconventional Rules for Success

- - Working

Most conventional ideas about success go wrong because they focus on outcomes and results instead of on the processes of living. Outcomes come around from time to time, but life itself — the process of living, acting, thinking, and being — happens all the time.

No outcome is going to make a lousy, miserable process feel worthwhile — especially chasing money, power, or status. If they come to you, that’s fine. But if you hate what you do, no amount of power or money is going to make up for that.

Read the rest at Slow Leadership (here).

I’m off the rest of the week. See you Monday.

A Thought on the Future of Photography

- - The Future

Photographers need more fans.

Photographers spend waaay too much time and money trying to develop a very small and elite group of fans at the top. What needs to change is instead of thinking about having a couple of fans with deep pockets you need to start adding a large number with shallow pockets. These fans are actually just the same consumers you would potentially reach through traditional media except now they can find you without the help of magazines and newspapers. As these people abandon traditional media they’re looking for places to spend the time and money they used to spend at the top. Why not be there waiting?

If you somehow find marketing and selling yourself to average citizens somehow revolting, not to worry, there will always be a group of 500 successful elite photographers who dominate the top of this industry with a handful of deep pocketed fans (top Photo Directors, Art Buyers and Creatives) and if that’s your goal you can continue the long slow climb to the top, but for many people it’s just not possible to make that climb anymore or maybe the mystique of it all has suddenly evaporated.

If that’s the case you need to prepare to go get your fans back.

Christopher Anderson, Editor of Wired gives the following relevant example in his article, Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business (here)

Traditionalists wring their hands about the “vaporization of value” and “demonetization” of entire industries. The success of craigslist’s free listings, for instance, has hurt the newspaper classified ad business. But that lost newspaper revenue is certainly not ending up in the craigslist coffers. In 2006, the site earned an estimated $40 million from the few things it charges for. That’s about 12 percent of the $326 million by which classified ad revenue declined that year.

But free is not quite as simple — or as stupid — as it sounds. Just because products are free doesn’t mean that someone, somewhere, isn’t making huge gobs of money. Google is the prime example of this. The monetary benefits of craigslist are enormous as well, but they’re distributed among its tens of thousands of users rather than funneled straight to Craig Newmark Inc.

He’s talking about consumers having more time and money to spend elsewhere because services that used to be complicated and costly became efficient. And, I’m saying consumers will spend some of that extra time and money with their favorite photographers if you give them the opportunity.

It’s not so crazy to think that consumers who used to pay for the New York Times and now read it online for *free* will take some of that saved money and even time and spend it on books by their favorite NYT writers and photographers.

It’s not much of a stretch to think that photo essays and stories that magazines used to commission and then distribute to consumers sandwiched between $140,000 worth of ads will be commissioned by advertisers and distributed through new media channels to reach even more consumers.

Are you making yourself available to these people? I assume all of you have websites loaded with pictures and some of you have blogs where your fans can talk to you so that’s a good start. The other avenues for reaching consumers are prints, books, lectures, clinics, original stock, personal commissions and more local clients. National Geographic seems to have a pretty good handle on the idea that their photographers have fans or maybe the demand was there and they just responded to it by offering many of these products. Either way that’s a good example of how it works.

There’s one last difficult piece to this puzzle. You’ve got to make your photos available online for free. Anything that can be distributed digitally must now be distributed for free to remain competitive. Not for commercial use and not without attribution but fans should be able to distribute your photography for free and view it big on your website without watermarks and other barriers. It’s not like you don’t already do this it’s just that there’s a lot of hand wringing going on about the ability of consumers to scrape your photos off your website. It’s not necessary because they’re the fans you want to sell prints, books, lectures, clinics and personal commissions to. You should encourage them to look at and help you distribute your photography so you can bring in more fans. Don’t forget that some of those people will be Art Buyers and Photo Directors.

Several music industry artists are leading the way with this idea and Nine Inch Nails latest release proves that it works. They released 9 songs from a 36-track album for free, the rest of the tracks cost $5. A double CD version will be available in April along with a $79 deluxe edition and then in May a $300 autographed version. So far they’ve made 1.6 million and the most expensive offering is sold out with a limited run of 2,500 copies.

The audience is now in charge. Turn them into fans.

Kevin Kelly wrote a post about this phenomenon entitled: You only need 1000 true fans (here) which basically says if you’ve got 1000 people willing to give you $100 for some type of original performance then minus the expenses you’ve got a solid way to make a living.

I’m not even taking into account the difficulty advertisers are going to have reaching consumers in the future and how reliant they will become on these professional networks with fans to market their products to. All the camera, software and printing companies will pay to use these fan networks for marketing new products.

There’s about $1.3 trillion in our $13 trillion U.S. economy chasing demand [for content]… From John Sviokla at Harvard Business (here).

Will you be ready to capture some of it?

Fire All The Photographers

- - Working

Usually when a magazine hires a new Photography Director the first thing that happens is all the photographers are fired. There’s no actual firing because the photographers are all freelancers so there’s usually a transition where the previous Photo Editors shoots are cycled through the system and then new shoots are commissioned with entirely different photographers.

It’s not unusual for a few trusted photographers that align with the Photo Editor’s aesthetic to travel from job to job with them. Also, the Creative Director and Editor will have some favorites and depending on the dynamic at the publication those will find their way into the mix. Nothing really unusual here just the life cycle of the photo industry where everyone thinks they have the photographic solutions to whatever maybe ailing a publication at that particular moment in time (newsstand is down, advertising is down, we need a more upscale audience, we need more upscale advertisers, readers don’t send us letters).

A very different more difficult scenario occurs when a magazine gets a new Creative Director or Editor or both and you have to fire all the photographers you’ve established good working relationships with including all your goto’s. The Editor and/or Creative Director will have had to deliver a critique of the magazine to whomever is doing the hiring and I’ll guarantee that somewhere in that critique will be a discussion of the photography and how it can be changed to fix whatever ails the magazine. My advice to Photo Editors in this situation is to fire everyone and start over. You can bring in some of your favorites but only after you fire them first to show your willingness to recast the photographic DNA of your publication.

Of course, these scenarios present excellent opportunities for photographers with a good sense of timing to get themselves inserted into the regular rotation.

Magazines Behaving Badly

- - Working

Awhile back I worked at a magazine that paid people really, really late. It wasn’t always that way but after the dot com crash cash flow became a problem (along with the bigger problem of advertising declines) and the genius CFO decided that rather than take out the usual line of credit to cover the times when the printing bill and payroll drained the account to the point where there was nothing left to pay contributors he decided to wait until late paying advertising accounts finally delivered a check. This of course saves the company whatever percentage of interest the line of credit would have charged for a cash withdraw and turned contributors into an interest free bank.

The reason this all happened in the first place is because advertising clients decided to stop paying their bills on time. Now that advertisers were in charge, they could set the terms of the deal and magazines had to just let it slide rather than penalize them like they had done in the past. So, really it’s the advertisers who are screwing everyone in this deal not just magazines screwing contributors.

So, every couple of months Getty and Corbis would turn off our account which we’d usually discover as we were trying to put the issue to bed causing much pandemonium in the production department and begging by photo editors to which they’d say “nope, you can’t have any images until we receive a check” and we’d have to FedEx a check to their accounting department. And, sometimes photographers would hold final prints hostage because we hadn’t paid them for the last job we did together, so we’d have to FedEx a check out before we could get the prints. I ended up spending more time then I should have listing to photographers yell and scream about payment and carrying our expenses on credit card and I tried to not take it personally.

One day I got a call from Mary Ellen Mark who’d recently shot a feature story for us. I was so proud that I’d landed her to shoot for the magazine and was so intimidated when I had spoken with her about the assignment and then when she’d called me from location to discuss the images she was getting and in general giving me an update on what was happening. Well, M.E.M. was not calling to tell me what a fabulous Photo Editor I was. No, she was calling to rip me a new one from head to toe because it had been over 90 days since she’d turned in a bill and had yet to receive payment and Christmas had passed and all those expenses we’d owed her would have come in handy. So, I sat there on the other end of the phone for a good 15 minutes possibly half an hour as Mary Ellen Mark shredded me into tiny little pieces and then stomped up and down on the pile of pieces and then loaded them into a cannon with a couple pounds of gunpowder and shot them out so they fell from the sky like confetti.

Some things are just out of your control but if you’re a part of a system that behaves badly you’ve got to take your lumps and go back to work and try to make it better. Just because you can get away with behaving badly doesn’t mean you should. Karma can be a bitch. Ask the record industry execs.

Pay to Play

- - Getting Noticed

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

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

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

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

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


Update from inside a small cutting edge fashion magazine:

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

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

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

Interview with a *Big Shot* Art Buyer

I like to think the discussions we have here about photography and the advice that’s dispensed is fairly universal but I know many of you are thinking “this doesn’t really apply in the advertising market and that’s where I really need to be, because this editorial shit is for the birds.”

Since I’ve never worked on the advertising side of this industry I called up a friend and offered her anonymity if she would speak honestly with me about that side of the business. You’ll have to trust me that this is a good source and I’ll go so far as to say, if you can imagine the biggest advertising agency in the country and the biggest “named” photographers then that’s where she’s worked and who she’s worked with.

[Side note on anonymity: Most corporate employees have to sign an employee handbook when they get hired that forbids giving away company secrets and in general publishing anything that has to do with the company online. They can use any evidence they find that you've done something like this to void contracts and avoid paying severance if you're ever fired.]

I’m always telling photographers not to worry about the design of the promo, portfolio and website and just make it about the photographs because in the end it’s never going to have an effect on you getting hired to shoot a job. I think many of them take it with a grain of salt because they believe that this kind of stuff really helps landing the advertising jobs. Since I’ve never worked in advertising I have no idea if it does or doesn’t but now you can tell us.

Their photos are what’s most important, and then the “presentation” of their photographs. I can expand here, like I like to see one photo per page if it’s their “print” book (i.e, real prints). Otherwise, seeing an editorial spread is acceptable as long as they like the design. If they don’t, then they should just put a print in the book. Their website MUST be designed well, and this is very important for several reasons. One being, it represents their taste level, two, I want to see large images…not a lot of anything else, and three, the site has to be built well to move quickly around it… all very important. It’s how we source and present photographers to creatives (art directors, stylists, clients, etc.) It’s just like anything else these days, how often do you find yourself on line for anything? So, in my opinion, very important.

I think you’re saying with regards to websites, functionality is most important and design should be of a certain taste level.

Yes, that’s what I’m saying…functionality, designed tastefully, Mainly all about the photos.

With printed portfolios do you care if the case is unique or is the plain black fine? I have to ask because photographers always seem to want the physical portfolio to be unique. I don’t know why.

Love Black books…sometimes it’s appropriate to be different, rustic leather Brown if the photographer is let’s say someone like a Kurt Markus, or if it’s a quirky book, maybe white gloss bound leather, you know? But nothing more than that…it’s annoying when the cases are an ugly color. If it’s a good book and I want to work with the photographer, I’ll know where the book is….

How often do you use magazines to source talent? Does the “old saw” about photographers using cheap-ass editorial to promote themselves and land high paying advertising jobs to make a living fall flat these days?

It’s imperative for photographers to always shoot editorially. This is self promotion, because it’s more spontaneous and they can create images without all of the layers in the ad world. There’s less collaboration and more creativeness from the photographer. It’s a fine line…if a photographer only shoots advertising, then they become too commercial…if they continually shoot editorial and ad jobs, it’s a perfect balance. Magazines are where everyone (in editorial and advertising) sources photography. It’s the imagery that’s most current and creative.

Do you prefer working with photographers who have an agent? There must be more benefits to going with an agency in advertising then editorial where I think it matters less.

I probably prefer working with an agent because the agent is not as close to the image making process so it can be less offensive discussing fees with an agent then with the photographer. As far as the difference between editorial and advertising, there should be none, except we all know that ad jobs pay more, so the agents will get involved more, because there’s money to be made.

What’s the promo volume like at the agency? It must be twice that of editorial. 100’s a week?

100 a week? 100 a day!

100 a day! what do you do with all of them?

Throw them out. If I like the work, and the link is on the promo, I’ll bookmark the site…but I don’t keep anything.

What about email promos? Does the spam from the list services bother you?

Yes, and no. There’s less paper promos, more e-mails. I think they should never send on a Monday, maybe mid week, mid day.

Is it helpful if photographers target you based on campaigns you’ve done recently?

Sure, but we never really know what the concept is next…maybe they should target by brand, like technology vs. beauty vs. cars, etc.

I think photographers get disappointed with the idea that you need to see something close to what you’re trying to shoot in their book before giving them a big assignment but I find it difficult to redirect people away from their established style and I disagree with the idea that a good photographers can shoot anything. What are your thoughts?

A good photographer has their own style and can’t shoot anything. Nor should they want to…because they’re so good at whatever it is that they’ve focused on, that they’re not shooting everything. Take any great legendary photographer, they didn’t shoot everything, they had a particular style, focus, interest, and then made it their own. When you look at these photos, that’s how you know it’s theirs and not anyone else. Photographers reading this should ask themselves “are they passionate about what they’re shooting and do they recognize the difference of their own work compared to someone else?”

Do you think the printed portfolio will ever go away?

I hope not, it’s like a hard cover book. They can’t go away. Prints are beautiful, computer screens are not (They look good…), But there’s still something fine art-ish, museum quality about a print, or print book.

Do you use sourcebooks?

Source books are really helpful to brainstorm….if you can’t remember “that” photographer’s name that you saw or you just feel like you haven’t nailed calling in the right book….they’re really helpful, because it’s like a reminder of who’s out there. I use the source books not only for the actual photography, but just to scan agents names and who they represent. Then I know I’ve called in everyone appropriate for the job, not leaving anyone out.

What do you think about contests like PDN, American Photography, SPD, CA? Are they helpful for finding photographers?

I think these are great and I think they’re getting better. American Photography and CA are my favorites. They can help source….they’re just great as a reminder.

How influential is the client in selecting the photographer for a campaign?

We narrow down and suggest (usually three). At the end of the day, we want them to decide because they’re paying and take responsibility of their choices.

How important is photo-compositing in advertising photography and do you hire photographers who shoot everything “in camera” to work on campaigns that will need load of retouching? Why is there so much retouching going on?

You should ask a photographer this question….they are the ones that are becoming less of a photographer, and more of a computer tech person. I don’t think it’s because the client has asked for this… regarding retouching…it’s obvious….cleaner, prettier, more perfect…sells.

Can you cite any recent advertising photography that you think is brilliant? What are the recent trends in advertising photography?

Brilliant, no. There’s not a lot of brilliant going on unfortunately. Our clients are so involved that the images have become so watered down that there’s no clear direction. We are not allowing for the artist to create our vision. Regarding trends, it’s pretty flat right now. Not a lot of risk taking, may have to do with our current economy. Just a lot of mediocre images.

My readers have been critical of editorial photography directors for hiring from a narrow band of photographers and styles of photography and suggest that if we would somehow remove our blinders we would see all this great work that we’re not utilizing. Is there any merit to a similar argument in advertising photography?

Yes, but honestly, if you’re really hiring the right photographer for the job, that’s what’s so exciting, it’s just right. It doesn’t matter if they are a living legend or a new young gun… they’re just right creatively. Ideally, that’s how I present to the people I need to present to. Otherwise, I will ask what the criteria is from the beginning. Whether budgets, name, style…all things can be considered.

Any ideas on how licensing photos for the web is going to play out? Is it really going to make up for the lost revenue from licensing for print?

Lost revenue? I sense some bitterness. Yes, the internet has changed media buys. It’s become it’s own media, which will allow for similar fees.

Contact Info for Every Media Company in the World

- - Getting Hired

Can be found at MediaPhoneBook.com (here)… someday… maybe. For now it’s got contacts for a handful of magazines, but since it’s a wiki anybody can add and make changes so eventually it really could contain all the contact info, book drop information, submission guidelines and anything else that might be useful to photographers for every media company in the world.

With this project I have that feeling I use to get when I made an assignment that could either be brilliant or get me fired (love that feeling) and so I want to quickly dispel any thoughts that this could somehow be a bad thing.

First, everyone’s contact info is already available from listing services for a price so I don’t think you have to worry about getting more spam. People already pay good money to do that.

Second, I think photographers might be worried that by giving away contact info for a client some other photographer will come in and steal a job from them. See the first point.

Lastly, as a Photography Director I would thrilled by the idea that I could tell everyone at once when to drop books, who else to contact in my department for specific things and in general lay down the law on how I want to be reached for work. Wouldn’t you?

Doesn’t that sound like a better way to do business?

I think so and I hope people will use it in the spirit that it’s given, let’s see what happens.

Jennifer Rocholl- PDN 30

- - Photographers

I emailed Jennifer Rocholl after a few readers raised questions about the similarity between an image of hers and an entire body of work by Jan Von Holleben (here). I actually saw the photo in question in her portfolio several months ago and didn’t give it a second thought because honestly it’s not unusual to see similar work and ideas in photographers portfolios. A former first assistant’s work is actually expected to be very close to their bosses. Not a problem in my mind and even more so when it’s the only image like it in the portfolio.

It really only becomes a problem when you win an award or some kind of recognition and that image is published to represent you as a photographer. That’s exactly what happened with Jennifer and from what she tells me PDN was unaware of Jan’s work as well, when they made the selection.

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Tell me about the picture in question.

I shot that picture last May as a portrait of 2 clothing designers called Brown Sound, for Flaunt Magazine. It was a collaborative idea between the 3 of us, and developed that afternoon as we were coming up with ideas.

I was unaware of Jan’s work until last week when he emailed me and I saw his “dreams of flying” series on his site.

So, Jan emailed you after seeing it, what was his reaction?

He asked why I chose that particular image to represent my photography. Actually, PDN selected it out of my portfolio submission. I said I was sorry if he felt I copied his work, but that was not the case as I had not been familiar with him as a photographer or his series. And actually, if I was at all influenced by any images, they would be this fashion story Zach Scott did in 2002 for Los Angeles Magazine:

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and this shot of charles and ray eames:

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If you develop an idea that’s similar to another photographer’s do you think you should abandon it once you discover the similarities?

If I stopped what I was doing every time I thought I was emulating a form of someone else’s work, I wouldn’t get anything done. Would any photographer, at this point in photo history? Can you imagine if after Avedon, no one ever dared to shoot a subject in front of a white background? Or after Halsman shot his collection of celebrities jumping in the air, jumping was off limits to any other photographer? What if Tom Waits stopped doing his thing when people told him he sounded too much like Captain Beefheart? When I take a picture of the forced perspective illusion of someone standing in the palm of another person’s hand, does this now mean that I’ve monopolized this trick and I’m known as the “forced perspective photographer that shoots people holding tiny people”?

Ultimately, I think there’s a thousand more variables that make up a photographer’s consistent body of work and gets him/her jobs, besides an optical illusion gimmick. I think Jan’s a genius at what he does, the collection of these images is really beautiful and creative, but I don’t think my work and his compete aesthetically or stylistically. He and I have discussed our positions to each other and are both fine with it.

Off topic here but did anyone call and give you a job after seeing the PDN 30? I think that’s the reaction photographers would expect after being featured like that.

No jobs yet.

Ass in Seat Mentality

- - Working

I find the corporate workaholic mentality of, the longer you spend at your desk the better the product will become, utterly ridiculous and literally, ass-in-seat. The best ideas I ever came up with occurred on a morning run in the park in Connecticut not sitting in my office on 6th avenue or any office anywhere for that matter.

Jason Calacanis CEO of Mahalo started a raging debate over in the tech world with a line in a post about how to save money running a startup (here) that said “fire people who are not workaholics…” since revised to “don’t love their work.” He proceeded to get a good shredding from tech bloggers and my favorite response came frrom Signal vs. Noise (here) entitled “Fire the people who are workaholics!”

If your start-up can only succeed by being a sweatshop, your idea is simply not good enough. Go back to the drawing board and come up with something better that can be implemented by whole people, not cogs.

The business world is changing and it’s becoming harder and harder to find talented cogs. Corporations need a business plan that attracts whole people if they want to be around in 10 years. Well, that is unless you’re making cogs… cogs are still good for that.

Seamus Murphy

- - Photographers

One of my all time favorite photographers has no agent, no website, doesn’t send out promo mailers, no logo, isn’t in any of the sourcebooks, not listed in the free workbook phonebook, has never called to see if I’ve got anything for him and if I hadn’t scoured the web and made a few phone calls years ago I would have no clue how to contact him (you have to email me if you want his info).

Sometimes I get tired of talking about marketing and business because the reality is I really just like looking at pictures and I get a real buzz out of sending photographers off to take pictures and wish I didn’t have to deal with any of the other shit and I know photographers just want to take pictures so I thought I’d take this opportunity to say that if you want to be like Seamus Murphy and work hard to develop your craft then go do it.

A reader points out: …”Yours is probably the most helpful blog I have ever come across, however your insights make the whole industry sound so strategic. Your blog makes it sound as if us photographers all have to be walking on egg shells so as not to step on any toes. Hey! We’re the ones producing the actual pictures!”

Yeah, I hear ya buddy. There’s something I really enjoy about photographers who could give a flying rats ass about marketing themselves to me.

If you want to just go out take great pictures, I will find YOU. That’s my job. That’s why photo editors exist. If it were easy the editor could do it.

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Your Website on the iPhone

- - Websites

Apple announced yesterday that the iphone will not support flash (here).

A reader asked me awhile back about optimizing websites for the iPhone which I immediately dismissed as ridiculous and then, what do you know, I was out of the office later that day and tried to access a photographers contact info by going to their website on my palm phone because I didn’t have it in my database and couldn’t do it because of the flash so I thought ok, maybe there’s something to this.

In the larger scheme of things nobody will ever receive or lose a job based on the ability of their portfolio to render on a palm phone or iphone but more and more I find myself using google as a phone book instead of carefully entering photographers contact info into my database like I used to do.

It looks like a company called MoFuse (here), (TechCrunch report here) has a free and paid solution to the problem I’m just not sure how well it works with image galleries.

The PDN 30

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

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

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

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Turning Down Jobs

- - Getting Hired

Turning down jobs is one of the smartest things you can do for your photography career.

A reader writes:

“For me it’s been really instrumental in the last couple of years to take shoots that I really think I can knock out of the park, and shoots that feel like I am a good match for to get something great. Also, I make it a point to never go backwards or stay stagnant at a magazine for too long. If I do a small front-of-the-book portrait as a first job or two, and do a great job and they call for more, I usually try not to take it. I try to let them know that I would be good for their bigger shoots, and it’s worked out well that way, working my way up to covers in some cases.

In other cases, I was definitely stuck in a quarter pager mode, and was looking for the bigger front of the book portraits. Turned down the little jobs and never got offered the bigger. Which is a risk I was willing to take to try to get the better stuff. I figure sometimes it’s good to leave a magazine and come back to them with a stronger body of work later.”

He’s not talking about turning down bad money or contracts either just jobs that don’t jive with your career goals.

When you’ve established a relationship with someone shooting small front of book or crappy subjects that no one else wants it’s impossible to graduate them to the big features, fashion or the cover. Try convincing an editor that the photographer who shoots 1/4 pages in the front of the book should shoot this months cover. It ain’t happening.

Also, when I see someone’s work in another magazine that I don’t like, it can take them down a notch on my list. They may have done the job as a favor but I never know the details or difficulties behind the shoot.

So, what’s the best way to turn down jobs? Don’t be the photographer who says “I only shoot fashion or covers” because that’s not going to get you a call back to shoot fashion or covers. The usual method is to be busy during the shoot days and that’s why good agents will never tell you their photographer’s schedule before they hear the job details.

As a Photo Editor it’s important to have a couple photographers who will “shoot anything, anywhere and anytime” because you can always rely on them to get the job done but for most people this is not the way to advance your career.

I’ve had almost all my favorite photographers turn me down cold at one time or another and even though it stings for a couple days in the end I respect them more for not compromising their vision. Some shoots are just never worth taking no matter how much you need the job because if the the results are bad we may not be working together anymore anyways.

Annie Leibovitz and the Queen

Here’s a fascinating video of Annie Leibovitz photographing the Queen from a BBC series entitled Monarchy: The Royal Family At Work (here). What I find interesting in photo shoot videos is not the 11 assistants or the lighting setup but watching the photographer interact with the subject. When assigning portraits of celebrities or famous people one of the biggest considerations besides “can they make a stunning portrait in 10 minutes” is “can they get the subject to do something interesting.”

I see pictures of some famous people and they always look the same and the pictures are always boring but the reality is that some subjects are really difficult to work with and unwilling to accommodate the photographer. They treat photoshoots like torture. The subjects can also be terribly guarded and afraid that we’re trying to take something unflattering or out of character and so they only allow certain emotions, clothing, backgrounds and props in the photograph.

The decision is usually between 3 basic types of celebrity photographers. “Named” photographers are great because the subjects and publicists will respect the name and body of work and grant more leeway with the subject because of their reputation within Hollywood. The disadvantage is that it’s hard to take the famous photographer out of the picture and so the subject sort of shares the frame with the photographer. Studio/Publicist friendly photographers have good working relationships with the decision makers and this can make the planning and logistics easy because they’re all on the same page from the start. Working with one of these photographers can guarantee several hours of time with the subject which means lots of setups. The downside is that these photographers need to maintain their relationship with the publicists and they won’t do anything that might piss them off. Tenacious photographers get ideas in their head they won’t let go of and are willing to push the subject to achieve the picture they want. The only problem can be that your 10 min. shoot could turn into a 1 min. shoot if everyone gets upset.

Annie really shows her tenacity in this video when she immediately tries to get the Queen to remove her crown after deciding it doesn’t look good in the first shot and not giving up on an original request request to shoot the Queen on horseback inside the state apartments. She brings it up at the end of the shoot as the picture she’d really like to take, laying the groundwork for next time.

The #1 Source for Stock

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Photographer websites.

If I want to find the best stock in the world I just go to my favorite photographer websites and look at their portfolio and there it is, the top 40-60 photos they’ve ever taken, edited and ready to be published again.

Fill In The Blank Stock

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Every once and awhile a designer would come up to me with a layout filled with holes. What goes in those holes, you might ask? Stock pictures of course. My job (and those who worked with me) was to take the layout and find photos that fit in the holes. If there’s a vertical hole next to a headline that says “Volleyball in Kosovo” I need to find a vertical photo of Volleyball in Kosovo. What happens if I find a horizontal photo of Volleyball in Kosovo? Can it be cropped? No, then that’s a problem because turning a vertical hole into a horizontal hole will obviously change the flow of text and suddenly your horizontal hole has the headline “Field Hockey in Gabon,” (this being a package on obscure sports in strange places and all) and now you need to find a horizontal of Field Hockey in Gabon but then what happens if you find a vertical of field hockey in Gabon, can’t you simply flop the stories. No, dumbass they’re ranked. Duh. They have to appear in the order we have them in–until the writer uncovers new information that changes the ranking and throws the whole thing out of whack. And, so it goes, filling in the holes until the final urgent email, “we still need a square photo of Elephant Polo in Sri Lanka and the package ships tonight.”

This is not a rant against Designers who hand Photo Editors layouts filled with holes. I know all to well the source of this phenomenon. The package was assigned at the last minute and the layout deadline is fast approaching and all the text is in so we need to start a layout while the slack-ass Photo Editor finds all the photos and the Editor really likes the configuration we used last year and the production department really needs adjacencies for advertising and don’t forget about the quarter page consecutive ads that Honda bought that need to appear on pages 4,5,6 and 10 of the package (clever bastards hope they paid a premium). Also, we want to add cool icons to aid in navigation because everyone’s using cool icons these days and don’t forget about the 12 sidebars plus a running ticker and what about the maps, do you expect the readers to know where Gabon, Kosovo and Sri Lanka are on their own, we need maps. So, you see designers, I know where the layout with the holes comes from and it’s not about winning SPD Gold just trying to survive the shit storm.

So, I close the door to my office, crank Rage Against the Machine, glare at any intruders, grab my handy stock list (here) and find the horizontals and verticals of all the obscure sports in all the obscure places. Sometimes I even surprise myself and find a really cool photo or agency or photographer that I didn’t know about, sometimes I just weather the storm.

Searching For Photos That Don’t Exist

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Working as a Photo Editor at a National Magazine the monthly low point usually occurs when the editor reviews the layout illustrated with the shittiest photos I have ever seen that were the direct result of hours upon hours of stock searches for a subject that’s thinly covered and being told that, rather then kill the story or run an illustration, I need to look a little further and find something good this time.

“Did it it ever occur to you that the subject you have chosen for extensive coverage in the magazine might possibly be shit and that’s why the photos are shit? No, I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I haven’t uncovered the one decent photographer who happened to take a picture that makes this subject look good. Maybe I’ll try Flickr or Google.”

And, so I would hunker down in my office with my Stock Photo List (here) and try endless combinations of keywords and search obscure stock sites and try single word searches on Corbis and Getty that would turn up 10,000 images to sift through or sometimes I’d troll the crap stock sites praying for a diamond among the turds and I’d do this until I felt like I’d looked under every rock or completely run out of time.

Having spent many years working at magazines of a similar genre from time to time subjects we’ve covered before would crop up in meetings and that’s where I could finally say with authority, “I’ve searched for pictures on that subject before and nothing good exists so we should kill the story now or assign an illustration.” This is usually when the Editor or Creative Director decides to do a quick Google image search and finds the perfect photo.

Stock Photo Agencies

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Here’s my stock photography list. If I’m missing anything good let me know.

General
Corbis
Getty
Alamy
Jupiter Images
Aurora Photos
Masterfile

Boutique
Magnum
Art and Commerce
Lens Modern
Aperture
Gallery Stock
Panos Pictures
Glass House Images
F-Stop Images
Redux Pictures
Stock That Doesn’t Suck
Independent Photography Network
Monsoon Images
Arcangel Images
Trunk Images
IC Worldwide
Bransch

Syndicated Celebrity Images
Corbis Portraiture
Trunk Images
CPi Syndication
Contour Photos
Icon International
Exclusive by Getty Images
Lickerish
Art and Commerce
Vistalux
Lime Foto
Celebrity Pictures
August Image
JBG Photo
Headpress
Management + Artists Syndication

News
NewsCom
AP Images
The New York Times Photos
NYDailyNewsPixs
The Canadian Press
TimePix
Reuters
The New York Times Agency
Redux Pictures
Gamma Presse
Black Star
KRT Direct
UK News Photos
Polaris Images
World Picture News
Kyodo News
Landov
Invisu
Tass Photo (russia/eastern europe)
Laif
SIPA
Zuma Press
Atlas Press Photo
Retna
Rex

News- Features
Magnum Photos
VII Agency
Agence VU
Oculi
Oeil Public
Contact Press
Noor Images
Grazia Neri
Contrasto

Sports
Sports Illustrated
Sports Chrome
Icon Sports Media
ESPN Event Media
Red Bull Photofiles
Gilles Martin-Raget
Extreme Sports Photo
Empics
Cal Sports Media
International Sports

Outdoor
AGPix
Aurora Outdoor Collection
Surfing Stock
A-Frame Photo

Sailing
PPL Photo Agency
Blue Green Pictures
Kos Sailing pictures
Yacht Photo

Movie Archive
Everett Collection, Inc.
Kobal
Neal Peters Collection
Photofest NYC
Defd.de
Photo12
BFI Stills
RGA Pix
Picture Desk
Album Online
Movie Store
All Star
Eyevine

Travel
Robert Harding
Lonely Planet
Hedgehog House
UK Travel Library
Africa Imagery
Macduff Everton Stock
Tropical Pix
South Africa Images
Odyssey Productions
UK Beach

Region Specific- US
Photo Resource Hawaii
Alaska Stock
Accent Alaska
Yankee Image
Idaho Stock Images
National Park Photographs
Pacific Northwest
Salmon River
Pacific Stock Photography
ViewFinders Northwest
Yellowstone Digital Slide File
Picturesque Stock Photo

Other Countries
Euro Stock
4 Corners (Italy)
Axiom Photo
Europe Stock Images
Anzenberger Webgate
Italy Images
Switzerland Photos
China Stock
Arcapress Photo Agency
Maritius Images
Swedish Stock
All Canada Photos
New Zealand
Brazil
Asia
Foto Libra
Imagine China

Wildlife/Nature/Scenic
Peter Arnold
Minden Pictures
Animals Animals
Images of Nature
National Geographic Images
Terra Brasil Imagens
Nature Picture Library
Joel Sartore Stock
Norbert Wu
Steve Bloom
Art Wolfe
EarthWater
Seapics
Muench Photography
Terra Galleria
NHPA
Dembinsky
DRK Photo
Oxford Scientific
World Foto

Photographer Specific Archives
Erickson Productions
Strobo Photo
Jef Maion
LinkImage

Music
Music Pictures
Lebrecht
RedFerns

Art
Bridgeman
Art Resource

Museums and Collections
Smithsonian Photos
National Archives
Library of Congress Prints
UCR California Museum of Photography
George Eastman House
Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection
National Archives
National Museum of Photography
Art Museum Image Consortium
Whitney Museum of American Art
Woodfin Camp
The Granger Collection
Royal Geographical Society
NASA Photos
Culver Pictures
Photos Grannis

Satellite/Aerial
GlobeXplorer
Orb Image
TerraServer
Aerial Photography
Aerial Stock
Land Slides

More General
YouWorkForThem
Imagestate
Veer
AGE Foto Stock
SuperStock
Acclaim Images
Images.com
The Image Works
Photo Researchers (science)
Millennium (London)
FotoTeca (travel)
Plain Picture
Tidal Stock
First Light
Big Shot Stock

Beauty/Fitness
Folio ID

Photographers Groups
PBase
Flickr
Photo.net
LightStalkers
Nature Photographers
Sports Shooter

Crap
Citizen Image
Fotolia
Shutterstock
Webshots
stockphoto.com
istockphoto