Consultation Questions

Photography Consultation Demo, Part 5 of 6.
See the other parts here: (1), (2), (3) and (4).

Leslie’s Website
Clay’s Website

Here are the questions Leslie asked Clay to answer before the consultation:

What do you see as your target market(s)?

Commercial and Editorial. Unfortunately PSA’s because there is no money. In Canada the market is fairly conservative and safe, it’s been a difficult fit. My reps are finding it very difficult to convince AD’s that throw a Honda car in the background and you got a great advertisement using my style/look. You really have to spell it out for them.
As for Editorial, I’ve found it difficult to break into, again being in Canada, there is not a ton of options, and those that do exist are fairly conservative.
I have been trying to make contacts at US mags, but I constantly hear that budgets are becoming smaller and it’s really hard to justify flying me out to shoot something when there is already someone there.

Which 3 images are your favorites, and why?

clay1.jpg clay2.jpg

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At first I went into explaining each of them, but soon found out there is similarities to all of them; story telling. Each image tells a story, and the viewer is compelled to either try and figure it out, or make up their own (I hope). I’m really drawn to photographers like Roger Ballen, Gregory Crewdson, Taryn Simon, and Nadav Kander. I’m also drawn to the disconnect of the subject matter, however this style is what’s killing me (besides PSA’s). It’s a tough sell. I think that’s why I also really respect the listed photographers, they’ve all been able to express their voice and have been really successful without having to compromise their vision.

How do you self-define your work? (for example “I shoot people in their environments, using mostly natural light and do not use digital manipulation”)

Most of my work is people in environments, with artificial light, sometimes a mix of natural and artificial. I rarely use digital manipulation, however I’ve been experimenting with it more and more to try and keep up with the market.

Describe, in detail, your dream project.

Pretty much any Nadav Kander job. It’s funny, my dream job (the only reason it wasn’t is because it was a freebie) happened a few years ago for the Alberta Ballet. I was given carte blanche, and everything was in sync and just came together. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of hard work but what I had imagined had organically come together. The same year Nadav did a similar campaign for the London Ballet, and at the IPA show my images took first place and his was second. I was floored, it was the biggest compliment.

What else are you doing for your marketing? (Mailers, emails, etc.?)

I’m terrible for marketing. I came from a small market and a lot of the people in the industry are my friends, so it was easy. Since I’ve moved to Toronto I’ve been doing mostly email promos, which I think, the same as mailers, are only successful if they are seen. I’m not a big fan of traditional marketing – but I’m told it works (especially by my reps). The main objective is to get people to your site or call in you book. That image has to be pretty amazing to get a PE or AD to take a minute out of their busy schedule, let alone take a look at your work. Also the industry is changing with Youtube, Facebook, etc. and there is a number of ways to get your name out there. Enter a contest that gets you a free photo consultation – that seems to be pretty good exposure.

How do you select your targets?

Mostly award shows and PE’s and AD’s at magazines. I try and find people that I respect and hope that we’ll have a similar aesthetic and either call them or email them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Because I don’t have an American or European rep, I feel that I’m pretty limited to the fairly conservative Canadian market. My biggest fear is that I find the older I get and the more responsibilities I have, the more safe my work is getting. To be honest, I feel like I’m starting to get somewhat confused because I’m starting to feel that I’m going to have to change my look in order to get work or continue to struggle. So my approach, is changing to conform with my industry.

Why did you choose to be a photographer?

To be honest, I wanted to be a sculptor or a furniture designer but thought photography would be an easier way to make a living. A close family member has been very successful in photography, so I thought it would be an easy transition for me. In the city I was living in it was fairly easy. I worked my butt off and struggled to find my own voice but photography just came naturally. Now it’s all I do, all I think about and it’s my life. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Photography Consultant- Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua

Photography Consultation Demo, Part 4 of 6.
See the other parts here: (1), (2) and (3).

I wanted to ask Leslie (Her website here) a few questions in advance of the consultation demo because, to be honest, I know nothing about her profession. This whole project came about on a whim. I was quizzing Leslie to see how she goes about consulting with photographers because I get asked to do it once and awhile and I thought, why not let the readers in on this conversation and luckily she agreed.

Why did you decide to become a photography consultant?

Cause Wal*Mart said my teeth were too good. <giggle>

Seriously, when I was repping I got lots of questions and as the
forums came into being, I got even more. I realized just how many
photographers were in need of good info and help, so I started
consulting. It quickly became clear that I had to make a choice
between repping and consulting, because there was the potential for
conflict-of-interest as I get intimate knowledge about my clients’
businesses which I could use against them if one of my photographers
was up for a project against them. I chose consulting because I could
help more people. It was a cut in pay, at first, but the satisfaction
of helping so many others made up for it.

Are there any myths about the profession you would like to expel?

The consultant profession? Well, I’d have to say the biggest one is
that any of us can fix your (any particular photographer’s) business.
We can’t do a damn thing beyond offering our best advice–it’s up to
the photographer to act on the information s/he gets. If the
photographer doesn’t work the plan I make for him (her), if s/he sits
on it and never makes the changes needed, nothing will happen.

What can photographers expect to get out of a consultation?

Continuing on the previous answer…whatever he or she is willing to
put into it. For me, each client is different and each project is
different so the expectations and deliverables vary greatly. I think
that generally speaking, a photographer should get a better idea of
her/his goals, where s/he is in relation to them, and concrete steps
to help get them closer to those goals.

What kinds of changes have you seen in your profession as a result of the digital revolution?

To answer that would take a book! :-)

Short answer is that when I started in the creative industries,
clients hardly had email and websites were things a few geeks had.
The portfolio was the most important marketing tool for a
photographer and it cost so much to make because of the prints, with
postcard mailers (and other print mailers) de rigeur and sourcebook
ads pretty much necessary. Now the site is the most important tool,
portfolios are much less expensive and printed on (good) Epson
printers, print promos have changed with email ones becoming as
ubiquitous, and print sourcebooks aren’t used much at all anymore
(though their web “versions” are).

All this, combined with the technology enabling pretty much anyone
the ability to make a decent image, means that low-end photography is
now off-shored like any commodity and the projects remaining are now
going to the right photographer, rather than just some “good enough”
guy with the technical know-how to use a good camera.

The good side of this is that talented, creative photographers can
live anywhere and get projects with clients across the globe; that
is, they don’t have to be a “just” a local guy with limited success
or move to NYC for any chance at significant success.

Please note that I said “talented, creative photographers.” That’s
important.

Copyright Overhaul

- - copyright

Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing fame has a story in the Guardian (here) yesterday about distinguishing between cultural and commercial uses of copyrighted material. He makes a good case for creating an exception in the law for low end cultural use of copyrighted material, stuff that goes on everyday that’s tolerated by everyone because there’s really no benefit to going after violators. Of course, this would never be a problem if we didn’t have the internet to distribute all this material to millions of people.

Through most of copyright’s history, we had two de facto systems: industrial regulation (governing what big companies did with each others’ stuff) and folk-copyright (the rules of thumb that most of us understood to be true).

[...] We need to stop shoe-horning cultural use into the little carve-outs in copyright, such as fair dealing and fair use. Instead we need to establish a new copyright regime that reflects the age-old normative consensus about what’s fair and what isn’t at the small-scale, hand-to-hand end of copying, display, performance and adaptation.

This makes sense to me for a couple very important reasons. Your average citizen doesn’t understand or care about copyright and when an overhaul comes in the form of either a vote or some type of legislation we’re going to have a hard time convincing people that they shouldn’t do what they’ve always done. Also, giving up low end fan violations will prevent the erosion of fair use and keep other less desirable uses from getting in that door.

A commenter on Boing Boing (here) pointed me to this excellent article published in the February, 2007 issue of Harpers (here) by Jonathan Lethem.

It’s worth noting, then, that early in the history of photography a series of judicial decisions could well have changed the course of that art: courts were asked whether the photographer, amateur or professional, required permission before he could capture and print an image. Was the photographer stealing from the person or building whose photograph he shot, pirating something of private and certifiable value? Those early decisions went in favor of the pirates. Just as Walt Disney could take inspiration from Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr., the Brothers Grimm, or the existence of real mice, the photographer should be free to capture an image without compensating the source. The world that meets our eye through the lens of a camera was judged to be, with minor exceptions, a sort of public commons, where a cat may look at a king.

[...] A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defense. In this regard, few of us question the contemporary construction of copyright. It is taken as a law, both in the sense of a universally recognizable moral absolute, like the law against murder, and as naturally inherent in our world, like the law of gravity. In fact, it is neither. Rather, copyright is an ongoing social negotiation, tenuously forged, endlessly revised, and imperfect in its every incarnation.

The bottom line here is that it’s not going to be long before we see either legislation or a court ruling and photographers need to do whatever they can to achieve the best possible outcome.

Photographer Website Design

- - Getting Hired

So, the other day I cranked through 145 websites in about 3 hours for the consultation demo and then I had a conversation with a magazine art director friend about how we look at photographers websites in obviously different ways (design vs. photo) and I realized something: Design and layout has a powerful effect on me. Right off the bat, before I even look at the first picture, the design is working on my brain.

So, here’s the nut, I’ve looked at tens-of-thousands of websites and it’s very apparent that certain photographers (of a similar feather) hang together. If you’ve got a Travel & Leisure design happening like so many of the photographers that T&L assigns then I’m already putting you into that category. Take it one step further, if I’m the Photography Director at T&L I’m used to seeing photography surrounded by a specific type of design so if the photographs you present me already look like they belong in my magazine… voila, one hurdle down 99 to go.

My proof:

Frederic Lagrange

Morgan and Owens

Hugh Stewart

Bobby Fisher

Amanda Pratt

David Nicolas

Martin Morrell

John Huba

Andrea Fazzari

Either that or the Arizona sun has completely baked my brain. Either way it’s all good.

All Music To Be Free

- - The Future

Update: This Qtrax announcement appears to be a hoax (here).

… are photos next? TechCrunch is reporting on a new free and legal P2P downloading service (here) with 25 million songs (itunes has 6 million). It’s called Qtrax and they’ve signed all 4 of the major music labels to somehow allow free music sharing in exchange for advertising (They missed their intended launch time of midnight last night so there may be problems with the labels).

A quick read through the comments and it looks like there will be ads playing before or after the music… not unlike how radio works. Will the same eventually happen to photography where photos download with ads loaded around them just like in newspapers and magazines?

I know Mochila, Jamd (Getty), Britepic, PicApp, and others are experimenting with this idea but I’m almost certain it benefits the advertisers, distributors and not the content creators so that will certainly limit the quality of material available.

I’ve got no problem looking at ads or paying a fee to receive content but I refuse to believe that the future of content distribution will be the same as it is now with middlemen controlling everything and consumers paying them for access. Why wouldn’t the more efficient model where content creators reach the consumers directly become the eventual solution?

Consultation Winner- Clay Stang

Thanks to all the voters and no thanks to my lousy server for timing out many times during the crush. It certainly was informative and entertaining for me to watch the lobbying; a few of the participants harnessed the power of social networking, a few posted notices on their blogs and a few sent out emails soliciting votes.

I’m excited for the consultation because I think Clay’s work is strong but I’m confident that Leslie can make it more appealing to buyers and I think we will all gain valuable insight into the process and glean a few tips off the improvements.

I’m open to ideas about what to do with the other participants and I liked Robert’s suggestion in the comments that collectively we could give some pretty good advice. I wouldn’t mind making that a weekly feature and open it up to more readers, only with more of a random selection process instead.

Next week I’ll post the consultation.

Vote For The Photographer Consultation

Poll Closed, Thanks for voting.

I spent 3 hours ripping through and narrowing down the websites submitted for the photo consultation demo (read about it here) but instead of just picking a winner I decided to put it to a vote. As unscientific and ugly as a photographer popularity contest probably sounds to everyone it’s no better than me just choosing one from the 16 finalists (plus, I’m on a mission to test every blog add-on feature I can find).

This is a very strong group of photographers which in my mind will make the consultation even better for everyone. The advice given will be at a fairly high level so everyone from beginning to emerging photographers can get a little something out of it.
In an ideal world people would vote for photographers that have as much in common with their own style as possible so they can learn more, but this is the internet so let the popularity contest begin:

David Degner- Reportage, Photojournalism

Clay Stang- Commercial, Staged

Brady Fontenot- Environmental Portraits, Hip

Nick Onken- Lifestyle

Jose Mandojana- Environmental Portraits, Athletes

Robert Wright- Environmental Portraits, Modern Urban

Jeff Singer- Environmental and Studio Portraits

Noah Kalina- Hip and Cool, Surreal

Melissa Catanese- Modern Landscape, Fine Art

Kathy Quirk-Syvertsen- Lifestyle, Kids

Andrew Pinkham- Conceptual, Illustration

Jennifer Loeber- Environmental Portraits, Americana, Fine Art

Dustin Fenstermacher- Quirk, Modern Americana

Lisa Wyatt- Environmental Portrait, Lifestyle, Kids

William Brinson- Food, Travel, Still-Life

Whit Richardson- Adventure, Action

Poll Closed

[poll=2]

Picture Jobs Network

- - Working

Any freelance photo editors or people looking to find freelancers here’s your resource. I’ve used them many times and you’d be astonished at the high level of talent they have on their mailing list. Over 400 freelancers.

Note: This service is for Photo Editors to find Freelance Photo Editors and researchers. Sorry if there’s any confusion Photographers.

Picture Jobs Network

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Michael Lewis- On The List

- - Photographers

Michael Lewis has been on my list of photographers for a long time (He must be on everyone’s list because I see his credit all over the place). Click on the list to see proof.

He’s hard working, low maintenance, subjects enjoy him and he has a distinct style I can rely on. I posed 5 question I thought you might like to hear the answer to:

1. I really enjoy the email promos you send out from recent photoshoots that show you in the scene you’ve just shot sometimes standing next to celebrities. How did you get started with that and what has the response been?

It started as a way of collecting an ‘autograph’ from the celebrity shoots I did. Instead of a signature, or a picture of me simply standing next to who I was photographing; I decided it would be fun if I incorporated myself into the shot which I had composed. Soon, I wanted a souvenir from all the places I found myself, and all the people I was meeting in my shoots; so every shoot became fair game.

The reaction has been terrific! People seem to dig it. It has provided me a way to give my friends (both in, and out of the business) a chuckle, while keeping everyone up-to-date on my photo-excursions.

2. I’m sure it wasn’t a “eureka” moment but can you describe the chain of events lead to you becoming a top editorial photographer?

Dad bought a Nikon camera while in Vietnam (while my mom was pregnant with me) >
I was always into ‘arts and crafts’ >
Started college >
Parents sat me down; asked me some big ‘life’ questions >
Transferred to art school :>
Dad gave me that old nikon >
Found photography came very naturally to me >
Assisted in Philadelphia >
Grad school (MFA) >
Was selected to be in a book ’25 and Under’ >
Doors opened >
I kept my foot lodged so that those doors didn’t close >
Always treated every shoot as if it was the most important photograph I was ever to take.

3. In my mind you have a very unique style of photography so, your name is on the top of my list of environmental portraitists who can make pictures with a lot of depth and a bit of humor in them. How did you arrive at this style?

Coming from a fine art background; my interests were in what a picture suggests and the tone that they convey. I studied photography as a means of personal expression; and less as a way of documenting. With an interest in narrative film and mise-en-scene,I didn’t see photography from the journalistic philosophy. Instead, I felt it was tool to construct and suggest reality; rather than a commitment to capture it. When I began being commissioned to photograph people whom I had never met; I always handled my subjects as equals. I photograph celebrities, ‘real’ people, and myself all with the same eye.

4. Are there any career choices you that you either regret or turned out to be the best decision you ever made?

I still wonder if leaving LA (where i got started commercially) and moving to New York City helped, or hindered, my career.

5. If you were an insect what kind would you be and why?

A king bee.

it’s good to be king.

Here’s a Recent Promo.

me-and-craig-ferguson001.jpg

These are from his Website.

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Nadav Kander- Genius

- - Photographers

I have always been in awe of Nadav Kander. Repped by Bill Stockland at Stockland-Martel, Kander was always a name that crept-up when you wanted to take a subject everyone was familiar with and make an unexpected picture: “If I see another picture of Tom Cruise with tousled hair, white shirt and a megawatt grin I will stab my eyes out with a pica pole, effing hell, someone call Kandar”—if you actually got Nadav past the publicist of an A-List celebrity I would give you gold in the Photo Editor Olympics.

It all started for me with the book entitled, Beauty’s Nothing (read about it here) where his photographic style was so distinct and arresting I figured I had to try and land him for an assignment. After the book he continued to surprise me with his creative directional use of gels (normally I can’t stand gels) and dark, moody, unsettled portraiture and landscapes for which he is now known.

After many attempts to try and land him I finally did to shoot an athlete portfolio in London that combined lots of creativity and plenty of room to run the results in the magazine. When the assignments unexpectedly turned into a cover and time with the subject plus space in the magazine suddenly shrunk I knew I had lost my opportunity and needed to change to a more conventional photographer. The last thing I wanted was a shoot with Nadav loaded with art direction intended to strip away his distinct style (“can you make it bright and tack sharp focus?”) and no pages to run any photos.

So, I walked away.

I don’t want to hire a great photographer and then hack the shit out of their work in the magazine… at least not on the first encounter.

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Copyright Debate

- - copyright

Oh boy, a debate over copyright and fair use in the NY Times bits blog (here) between Rick Cotton, the general counsel at NBC and Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School.

RC: Fair use in the digital age is the same as fair use in the non-digital age. The fact that digital tools make it easier to use other people’s work doesn’t affect the analysis of whether that use is fair. Generally speaking, if you are making fun of, criticizing or commenting on a work (and not just reproducing or copying it), courts have found that you can use the work only to the degree necessary to make your point about that work.

[...] fair use is not a “right,” a misconception and misstatement frequently made these days. Rather it is an exception to the copyright owners’ exclusive rights to determine how their expression is used in new works.

TW: …it is time to recognize a simpler principle for fair use: work that adds to the value of the original, as opposed to substituting for the original, is fair use.

[...] We must never forget that copyright is about authorship; and secondary authors, while never as famous as the original authors, deserve some respect.

Here’s what I think, all these people, who wish for copyright reform, so they can practice their “art” will be begging for forgiveness when all the corporations get tired of trying to protect the works they paid to create and instead decide to step into the online world and stomp the living shit out of everyone by employing thousands of salaried creative people to repurpose every uncopyrighted piece of material into some entirely forgettable eyeball splitting video.

It’s beyond my comprehension why people wouldn’t want original material they created protected under copyright law. Maybe readers can show me a reuse of someone’s work that adds value to this planet?

Photography Consultant Demo

So, I’m curious how photography consultation works. I’m always giving my opinion and advice to photographers and I’d like to hear how a professional consultant handles similar situations. I’ll bet some of you would like to hear that too.

I asked Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua who runs a business called “Burns Auto Part” which is actually photo consultation not car repair (whatever, is there a difference?) to join me in a live consultation with a photographer. It’s not actually going to be “live” because that would be like watching one of those photo shoot videos… only while covered in fire ants. I’m going to reprint an edited version of the IM chat we have with the photographer selected to receive the free consultation. This will take place on the 30th.

If you’re interested leave your website in the comments. If there’s a huge group of people I’ll pick a few candidates and we can all vote to see who gets it and then I can see if other consultants will work with me on the runners-up at a later date.

Comments closed. Thanks to all those who volunteered.

Getting Your Foot in the Door

- - Getting Hired

A reader asks if it’s better to approach the Associate or Deputy Photo Editors for a book showing or for sending promos because the Director is usually too busy.

I’d say targeting the photo editors under the Director is an excellent plan of action.

I’ve always encouraged all the photo editors in the department to look at as many books as possible to develop their eye for photography so they can experience the process of discovering new talent and then hiring them for a shoot.

In many cases it was easier for me to drop in on a portfolio showing; to look at the book, grab a promo, shake the hand and get out. That’s how I saw a lot of books and photographers I normally wouldn’t have time for with all the stupid meetings I went to everyday.

Eventually, I would get lobbied by the other photo editors to hire photographers they discovered and liked and we always ended up pulling the trigger on a few to see how their discoveries worked out.

And, don’t forget the Creative Director in your promo mailings. Many times they came into my office with the promo of a photographer they were interested in—just don’t leave me out of the loop. I always like to already know who they’re talking about when they bring those in so I look like I know what the hell I’m doing “ah, yes Irving Penn and I go waaay back, I’ll IM him.”

Nick Cobbing

- - Photographers

This photo story called “Surface Tension” (see it here) by Nick Cobbing submitted on Photo Rank (here) is the kind of thing that absolutely sings off the monitor. It doesn’t hurt that Nick has the perfect interface on his website for viewing a photo story (intuitive, simple and the controls disappear off the screen or hide in the corners). I can look at photos like this all day on my computer. Way to go Nick.

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