Monday, November 26, 2007

Even When Nikon Gets It Right, They Figure Out a Way to Get it Wrong

Boy, just when I was looking to get excited again about Nikon and the impending arrival of my D3, this crosses my plate - Steve Vaccariello: On Spec, with silly little gems like:

"The business has changed for Steve Vaccariello. Fashion, commercial and lifestyle assignments still come in, but he's not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. These days he creates and produces the jobs, then sends then out to see if they'll sell."
Ah ha, now Nikon's promoting guys who will underwrite an entire shoot's expenses? With a mentality like this, how's he going to afford to be able to upgrade from his D2x to a D3?
"...Everyone works with Steve on the shoots for the sake of the final images and their portfolios... Steve picks up the expenses, but no fees are paid, no money exchanged. If a story is picked up for editorial use, Steve will typically divide up the payment."
Oh, wow, really? Divide up the payment from an editorial use? Who's counting the ones? Who's wearing the belt-strapped change machine to divvy up the take?
(More BRILLIANT thoughts, after the Jump)
"... if a magazine picks it up and runs it—well, that's the best, of course, because they're saying, 'You put together a great shoot.'"
No, if a magazine really wants it, what's the best is that they commission the work, not realize they were over budget with other shoots where fees and expenses were commensurate with the work, and fill in the gaps with your spec work to keep within budget.
"...; the first one that wants it, gets it. "The magazines publish the names of the photographer, the stylists, the models, and they give credit for clothing, so everyone gets the publicity benefit," Steve says.
Have you tried to take that credit line and pay your rent? With the few dollars left from the "editorial use...divided up", your chump change and a photo credit won't buy you the subway tokens you'll need to get around. As for the "publicity benefit", Harlan Ellison's retort is worth re-watching when the 'benefit of publicity' is proffered by the person who called him (A Must Watch - Do You See Yourself?)
"And if the layouts don't get picked up? "I still have amazing shots for my portfolio and new killer content for my website.
So, you're doing the layouts too? Good way to upset the designers! Are you inline for next season's "The Shot?"
"...And it sure beats sitting around waiting for the phone to ring."
No, what beats sitting around waiting for the phone to ring is spending time lining up new clients with marketing materials and direct client outreach. Offering them spec work so undervalues what photographers bring to the table that it's laughable.

It's crazy too, as Nikon goes back to its' stable of regulars - they profiled Steve as a "Legend Behind the Lens" back in February of 2005. Legend? Come on! Putting his name alongside actual accomplished photographers like Peter B. Kaplan and Ami Vitale is like putting a prosumer's art against work in the Louvre!

Here, Dexigner puts forth that "He has photographed some of the most recognizable images in national advertising campaigns for Sprint PCS, Ritz Carlton Hotels, Sure deodorant, Finlandia vodka, MasterCard, Nikon, and many others." Well, what happened? It goes on to say he is "one of the most sought- after and recognized commercial photographers in the world." Really? And then just how does he have the free time to shoot this spec work?

Nikon writes (about itself) "NikonNet's 'Legends Behind the Lens' series aims to educate users and, in turn, breathe excitement into photography."

What the....? Educate them about what? How "great" spec work is? How exciting it is to work on a fashion shoot and *maybe* get paid?

This article is the "cover story" for NikonPro "magazine", where the tag line is "an in-depth feature that covers all the angles". Well, you've got the "how low can you go" angle covered. I guess we can expect a piece on iStock next?

Come on, Nikon, give us a break!

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

11 comments:

Kalmár Nagy András said...

And of course, they won't have money for those shiny new cameras :)

This is just dumb. And it is just a sad sad message from Nikon PR.

I really think Nikon would be a much better camera company if they had Canon's PR dept (Or got rid of their own).

Anonymous said...

Foolish PR move by Nikons PR Department.

John, are you going to give yourself a heart attack with all these rants?

Andy said...

This kind of thing is certainly affecting the industry as a whole, but as an emerging photographer trying to do the "right" thing while starting out, this kind of BS is directly affecting my business!

Two situations have happened to me in the last week which makes this sting even more:
1) A potential client is requesting perpetual rights in their internally prepared "contract" and I come to find out that well-respected long-time pro photogs have signed it! So now I'm the new guy making waves because I'm trying to do things "right."
2) I got contacted by a national magazine requesting to use some of my images in an online gallery. They specifically said they couldn't pay but that the exposure would be great. They're right about the exposure - a lot of people would see the pics...but since they're contacting me, don't I have pretty good exposure already! I haven't confirmed this but they're are a number of pro photogs with galleries on that website, so I'm wondering if they gave for free...or maybe the mag is just trying to take advantage of me because I'm new.

Rant...maybe but my experiences are showing that people expect something (pictures, rights, etc.) for nothing...because they've gotten them for nothing and not just from amateurs or newbs!

Done...thanks.

Anonymous said...

The first line on Nikon's Pro site says it all...."The business has changed for Steve Vaccariello"

Yes it has; the business has changed for all of us not just Steve and Nikon. When you have photographers willing to subsidize photo shoots for magazines, this is an extreme example of how the industry has changed; and in my opinion for the worse.

Unfortunately this business model is what some photographers are doing to try to insure that they can continue to “keep working” and for others to prove that they can work. In this case; you have a photographer who is willing to put together at his expense a photo session totally out of pocket only to have to sell it to a publication at another time. I’m trying to figure out how he has the time to manage that and stay in business at the same time.

What if the publications won’t pay what it cost you to produce this shoot? What if the publications offer you less than what it cost you to produce the shoot? We all know that the budgets of most publications have gone down, and the day rates and creative fees have remained unchanged for years. To a person with 15 successful years experience in this business; this business model that is slowly becoming the norm looks to me like a recipe for disaster. Equipment prices are going up, expenses are going up, computers, software, and cameras become obsolete at a faster rate, I’m lost trying to figure how you can make a profit paying up front for a shoot, and then selling this to a publication that may pay your price only for you to wait 60 to 90 days to pay you. This just doesn’t add up…………

Please tell me how you make a profit with this business system; I’m all ears.

Anonymous said...

His website has a cheap feeling to it, I wonder if the site designer did it on spec.

When clicking on his profile; he has in very dramatic fashion splashed his testament to the profession........"Photography isn't what I do, it's what I am." I'm sure that no truer words have ever been uttered by Steve in his chapel of photography.

Just by reading that quote and the rest of his profile I get the feeling that some of the wordsmiths from News Of The World who came up with the Elvis and alien abduction headlines were called in (on spec I'm sure) to help generate the stellar profile that he has posted on his website.

Dude; do us all a favor, keep doing what you are doing, you will put yourself out of business.

jasphoto said...

If Nikon like this business model so much maybe they'll give me a couple D3's on spec - When (opps IF) I get paid on my gigs I'll cut them a check. Otherwise they get great PR - "Another Happy Photographer using their gear"

LESider said...

Why is everyone whining!
He wants to shoot fashion and nobody expects to make money from editorial in fashion. You do editorial as a self promo to get work shooting fashion advertising or catalog and the way he is doing it is actually better than being hired to shoot middle of the road editorial. He has complete control over the shoot, itt is basically shooting personal work that winds up published that he will then send out to get paying jobs. In this way of doing it you are more apt to get paying jobs in the style you shoot than having to show editorial that was controlled by some creative director or photo/fashion editor.
Editorial and fashion are not a career maker, get over it.

steve noreyko said...

LESider makes a valid point...

The editorial fashion world is unlike other parts of our business. As I understand it, NYC photographers shoot fashion editorial for no-fee or for expenses all the time. The thinking is that it will generate other work and new portfolio material. Misguided perhaps, but that's what some of that industry expects.

I had a (local-market) magazine editor pitch the "spec-fashion" idea to me a month ago - saying he would really like to see someone come to him with complete stories that are ready to publish. They are a tiny magazine and don't have budget to produce shoots. He suggested that there's MANY of these small magazines out there. So, self-produce the shoot and sell it to as many of these small magazines as possible.

So- the question - is this a "market opportunity" that one can exploit? Or is it just chasing after trying to make "volume sales" to make profit after self-producing a shoot?

Example - Chase Jarvis puts together a well produced portfolio shoot (the Ninja shoot for example). He's paying all the production and making images he wants to make. So - lets say he sells that material to a magazine or two (or four or ten) and makes back some or all of the cost and some profit. How is this any different than what Mr. Vaccariello is doing?

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