Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Call for Support & Prayers

As PDN reported "Conflict photojournalist Alexandra Boulat suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and was in a medically induced coma Friday, according to her agency..." (continue reading). Boulat is a VII photographer, and visiting their site will tell you more about her if you're not already familiar with her. Lightstalkers, here, is listing updates about her status.

A call has gone out for support to help defray medical costs, and we must step up to the plate. I have done so, and strongly encourage you, dear reader, to do the same. Log into your PayPal account, and enter, and send what you can - and then some.

Also, please keep Alexandra in your prayers. While I don't know her personally, I know her work, and she's a remarkably gifted photographer, whom we must, at her hour of need, support - so, stand up and be counted on this one folks.

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Speedlinks 06/23/07

Today's Speedlinks.

  • A Monkey's business... - Reuters photographers have a great blog, and here's an excerpt from the most recent entry -
    "I have never really quite understood those whose thought processes creak to the conclusion ‘I have a camera therefore I am a professional photographer.’...Nowadays it’s, “ have you got a camera and a laptop?”. And there you have it. Invest a couple of grand in some sophisticated equipment and you too can see your pictures in lights and call yourself a professional. I always wanted to be an RAF test pilot, so maybe if I bought myself a jump suit and a pair of raybans I could become a top gun? Being a musician, if I bought the right drum kit surely Paul Simon might let me take Steve Gadd’s drum stool for the forthcoming Royal Albert Hall gig? Somehow I think not……and so what is it that gives those with no experience or qualifications the right to assume the mantle of professional photographer?

  • business meeting.. - David Alan Harvey's thoughts on his upcoming Magnum business meeting, an excerpt:
    "at some point all of us do have to face the undeniable fact that we are in business....we have to sell our pictures....just like a farmer has to grow tomatoes and then get them to market.....growing the reddest, biggest tomato is not the only have to get them to market...because none of us are "businessmen"....most of us cringe at the thought and i, for one, certainly chose photography as a profession and a life to avoid the very business meeting i am about to attend...."

  • Cameron Davidson - Aerial Photographer - Aerial photographic genius (and my good friend) Cameron Davidson was interviewed about his work as an aerial photographer, and was excerpted into this 5-minute piece. If you know Cameron, you'll see that he's got no grey hair in the interview, and if you don't, you'll be able to tell that it's a bit of an older piece if you check out the age of the computers that he's using in it. However, it was only recently put online, the insights are timeless, and it's well worth the watch.
Now go! Check 'em out, and come back soon!
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Friday, June 22, 2007

Pricing On One's Website?

I've been involved in a dialog over at PDN regarding whether or not putting one's prices on one's website is good/helpful, or if it's bad. Since I wrote a fairly extensive treatise over there, I'll encourage you to check out the dialog, and participate there, or, just post a comment or two here! Here's the link - Posting Prices on Website.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lost Opportunity Costs

One refrain I often hear is "how do you find the time to {insert activity here}...?" I have a few suggestions for your consideration.

Consider a few examples:

I consider driving to be a necessary nuisance. Sadly, I cannot find a better way to go from point A to point B when I can't fly or take the train. What I do not do, is enjoy going for a sight-seeing drive, what families in the olden days called "going for a Sunday drive." That was probably when cars were just a novelty for the well-heeled. I prefer the train to driving, as I can do something - anything - while I am on the train, whether relaxing, working on my laptop, or reading a book. The train almost always beats out the car, unless I have a ton of gear, or a schedule that doesn't work for the train.

I do not take take the scenic route, I use my GPS to find the fastest way between my departure point and my destination. If I can save 10 minutes on a trip, I will, as that is 10 minutes that I can be doing something else with. If I want to enjoy the scenery, I will stop to take it in, not glance at it going 55 down the road through a bug-splattered windshield.

These nominal times, 5 minutes saved here, 10 minutes there, accumulate to upwards of an hour or two a day, 10 to 14 hours a week. What would you do if you had an extra day every week available to you? I suppose, a whole lot.

A book I read back in college remains on my must read list over there on the right What They Don't Teach You in Harvard Business School, where the author talks about time saving. He writes, in page 211:

I pretty well know how long it takes me to do or slow restaurants...the fastest elevators in certain short, I try to be very precise about everything that by it's nature is imprecise. My mind is a catalog of "quick cuts" which allow me to reduce the time-wasting vagueness of certain activities, or avoid them altogether.
You do this when travelling when you say "don't fly through Chicago in the winter, you'll be delayed", but do you apply this same mentality to the smaller time savers in life? McCormack goes on to suggest:
As a general rule for getting things done the quickest, do the things that everyone else has to do at the times everyone else isn't doing them. I leave so early in the morning that getting to work is never a problem. But I've heard others complain about rush hour traffic, then admit that if they'd left 20 minutes earlier it could have been avoided... Ninety percent of wasting time and standing in line can be eliminated with a little preplanning and some common sense.
Of equal value is how, by investing in the fastest computer processor, you can save on post-production time, or, as a stop-gap solution, set up and run a batch action of all your CPU-intensive processes just before you go to sleep or leave your office.

The fine folks who work with and for me in my office - my Office Manager and Post Production Manager were out on a big shoot with me, along with another assistant. That third assistant forgot one of my camera batteries back in the office, and the logistics of the day required the OM and PPM to go back to the office together to get it, causing them to each loose an hour of their productivity because they were running around being non-productive, fixing an oversight, when they could have been resuming their duties. As a result, their duties were delayed by an hour-plus, and, since I pay these folks on an hourly basis, I lost a good chunk of change in lost productivity, because someone wasn't paying attention. This frustrated me to no end.

By continuing to review your efficiencies means you can improve your own productivity. If you think this is overkill, feel free to go back to your oven and give up the microwave, cancel your TiVo, don't buy 133x cards since your 45x cards will do just fine, oh, and don't waste your money on high-speed internet - dialup is all you really need!
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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

nOnRequest - This is Not Your Father's "Agency"

The dialog and criticism of OnRequest Images continues, and I have yet to find a suitable reason why they should continue to exist. There are so so many reasons against their long term viability, and it is the dot-com-piece-of-the-pie mentality that has caused the unknowning venture capitalists to continue to invest in this business model.

ASMP, who spends a great deal of time looking out for photographer's best interests did an analysis of OnRequest, and other articles in PDN having to do with The Art Director's Club, Daryl Lang also did a nice job in PDN back in early May with this article titled Revolutions That Never Happened,Once in a while, a smashing new idea forever transforms photography. These ideas didn't. Here are six would-be breakthroughs that missed a turn on their way to setting the photo industry on fire, noted that one of the "breakthroughs" was OnRequest, saying:

Sometimes bad ideas take care of themselves. OnRequest Images never backed down from custom stock, but the idea was hard to explain and held little appeal to art buyers. OnRequest adjusted its heading and began to focus on a more lucrative business, creating branded stock libraries for big companies. Another custom stock service,'s BuyRequest, also failed to capture much interest and was quietly discontinued last year.
Yet, as early as last year, some silly group of VC's had dumped $8 million into this idea, as StockPhotoTalk reports, along with many others about the folly. Photographers they approach, or whom hear about them, continue to inquire about what their deal is, so here are a few items for your consideration:
What isn’t typical of the industry is how quickly you get paid. When you work with OnRequest Images, a check will be in the mail to you no later than forty-five days after completion of a shoot.
FORTY-FIVE DAYS? Doesn't your credit card company require you pay them in 30? Your phone bill?

Feel free to read the articles in their Media Room where you'll see that it's all about cost cutting...on who's back? Oh, that's right, yours - the creative that is supposed to deliver. Some other silly VC's back in April of this year continue to pump their lifebood into this dead horse, according to American Venture Magazine, "the world's leading provider of OnBrand custom imagery" is what the red lipstick they are smearing on this sow. That's like saying "John Harrington is the world's leading provider of SixSevenDCPress custom imagery, where I've trademarked the phrase SixSevenDCPress, because I happen to be 6'7", live in DC, and am a member of the press corps! (I have not trademarked that, by the way!). That's pure folly to say your the world's leading provider of a trademarked name, when you own the trademark, and thus, no one else can actually be a provider of that, else risk violating their trademark!

One of their earlier suckers is quoted in the article as saying
"We continue to be a strong supporter of OnRequest Images' groundbreaking business model,” said Debra Somberg, managing partner at Maveron, an early investor in OnRequest Images.
Debra -- say something that isn't so self serving. As an early investor, you are fiduciarily compelled to say whatever you (legally) can to ensure a 10x return on your early investment. Hint - Getty got BuyRequest, a comparable version during the aquisition if iStockPhoto, so they're probably not going to buy your bacon maker. That investment is getting a little long in the tooth now, isn't it?

Do yourself a favor, and stay away from contributing to this bad business model. I am aware of few who care about photographers interests who would or have said anything nice about them, most (if not all) have, instead, advised you to steer clear!
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Monday, June 18, 2007

Food...Glorious Food?

I love food. I also enjoy the Food Network's programs, especially Unwrapped, which is high up on my Tivo Season Pass Manager, so it rarely gets preempted, except for, say, 24, The Closer, 60 Minutes, and a few others. What boggles my mind, is a post that keen-eyed PBN reader Paul McEvoy spotted over at the bottom-feeders resource that is Craigs List. Since the post may get flagged for removal or otherwise removed, I shall post it here for this commentary on it, but, while it remains online, you can read it here. It reads:

Food Network looking for Production Photographer 6/25

Food Network is filming a show about PIE in Rockland Maine on Monday June 25th and I am looking for a photographer to document our production. The pictures will not be used in broadcast but they will become property of the Food Network archives. You will not need to edit the photographs at the end of the shoot as I will make the final selection of 46 that will go to the network. I am looking for someone with their own camera who is friendly and non-intrusive. Photographer's assistants are welcome to apply as this would look great in your resume. Please reply with a short paragraph about yourself and experience and enclose your resume in the body of your email.

The rate is a non-negotiable $150 and you must submit all the jpegs via CD to me within a week.

Thanks for your interest.
Only serious applicants please.

Wow, the photos become their property, and won't be used in the broadcast. But, they'll be used in marketing/promotional/advertising materials that will. While it'll supposedly "look great in (sic) your resume." The fact is, you won't have the right to use the photos on your website or promote yourself with the images, since they will no longer be your property, and thus, you will have no rights to do so.

Fact #10 - Just because you took a photograph under a work made for hire agreement or you transfered copyright of your work to your client, and you use it on your website anyway, and they don't stop you or sue you, doesn't make what you're doing any less illegal, it just means that the owner of the work you produced has chosen - at their discretion - to not pursue your infringement of their copyrighted materials. It's still illegal and an infringement. Make absolutely sure that the owner grants back to you the right to use your work for self promotion in your contract.

Scale for a unit photographer is roughly $750 a day, and the average number of images produced on a union production is 500-700 images day. While I recognize that Food Network isn't a union shop, paying someone - anyone - $150 for a day's work as a professional photographer where quality results are expected is just an insult.
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Collection of Inconvenient Facts

Ignoring facts cannot change them. Far too many photographers, and aspiring photographers, simply ignore the facts before them, believing that the laws of physics and economics just don't apply to them.

I see these photographers arrive on the scene, and then depart in short order. Many not only leave DC, they leave the profession altogether. The sad fact too, is they also leave the state of the profession they tried to succeed in just a little worse off as a result of poor business practices.

Here are a few facts for your consideration:

Fact #1: If every time you produce images, the copyright to them is not yours, you will not earn money - any money - from them in the future. You're a day laborer, like a ditch digger with some creativity.

Fact #2: According to the IRS, if you are 1) required to comply with the employer's instructions; 2) the services are to be performed in a particular method or manner; 3) the success or continuation of a business depends on the performance of certain services; 4) the worker personally perform the services; 5) the worker have a continuing relationship with the employer; 6) the worker has to follow a work sequence set by the employer; 7) Can the worker work for more than one employer at a time? If you're a freelancer, and these sound familiar to you, then, perhaps you're entitled to be an employee of the employer, including benefits, and their paying the standard part of your taxes that an employer pays.

Fact #3: Taking standard manufacturers' statistics for the lifespan of equipment (camera and computer), coupled with the amortization tables for deductability, will give you how much you can reasonably expect to pay over each year. Combine this with other expenses (data lines, software, rent, and so forth) and this is what it costs each year to make pictures. When divided by 52, if you don't earn that much each week, you will most decidedly not be making pictures professionally very long unless your sustaining income comes from other sources.

Fact #4: If your time is not your own, and thus you are doing something at the behest of a client (travel, post production, planning, etc), and you are not charging your client for those efforts, you are short-changing yourself and taking a loss on that time.

Fact #5: If you charge for your time at an hourly rate, the better you get at completing an assignment, the less you are being paid for your talents. While an hourly rate may work when you are covering a luncheon, or all day conference, it doesn't work on most other assignments. Banish "day rate" from your vocabulary before it costs you.

Fact #6: Just because a client says they won't pay for something, doesn't mean you must accept, and work under, those terms. You have the power to say "no".

Fact #7: When you are working for just one or two clients, the loss of their work would have catastrophic effects on your revenue steam. You are overly beholden to them, and whatever whim they exert. Diversify your client base for long term stability.

Fact #8: If a client signs your contract, and then demands, after the fact, that you sign theirs to be paid, you do not have to do agree to sign, or actually sign their contract. Simply point out that you already have a contractual relationship for the assignment. They must pay, pursuant to your contract, or be in breach of contract (or copyright, depending upon the language in your contract.)

Fact #9: Operating your business without insurance is akin to gambling, every day, with the likelihood of being able to continue to do the job you love the most. A stolen camera bag, or an accident on assignment could easily put you out of business.

The truth of these facts may be inconvenient, but that doesn't make them any less real.

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