Friday, July 6, 2007

Spec Comparative to Salary

The question was posed to me about the “terrible salaries that a significant percentage of staffers at newspapers make”, and why, while collectively, we argue how horrible shooting on spec is, rarely does anyone object to the pay scales of staffers.

Fair question.

First, to spec, by way of example – for many years, I was hired by Rolling Stone and it’s sister publication Us Weekly to cover concerts and celebrities on Capitol Hill and at the White House. The assignment fee wasn’t great - $250, but they also, as is to be expected, covered expenses, including mileage, film and processing, parking, shipping, an assistant, and so forth. All in, an assignment could grow to cost upwards of $600, as a guarantee against usage, of course. In the end, the images often ran in the “Random Notes” section, a small 1/4 page or 1/8 page image, neither of which incurred a one-time use fee of greater than $250, save for a few times when I, for whatever, reason, got big play. Then, along came a “photographer”, who also had a design business where he did some of the graphics for concerts in town. Since the promoters gave him an all access pass, he wandered around taking pictures during the shows. He would then frequently shop them around, because he wanted to see his photos in Rolling Stone. After a year or so, when one of the annual festivals came around and I called about my regular assignment, the editor said “I am not assigning it this year, we’re getting spec work from {so and so} and we won’t be needing you.” Poof – away goes $250, plus my ability to generate revenue off those images. Had I said “oh, I’ll do it for spec, just get me a credential”, I would be not only subsidizing a media conglomerate with between $250-$600 in expenses, where they would only ending up paying the $150-$175 for the use of the one image, meaning that, in a best case scenario, I would loose $600 minus the $150 for the “privilege” of shooting the assignment, IF they used mine. He continued to work this way, and among his poor decisions, was one to drive over a hundred miles each way to a concert near Richmond, Virginia.

I recently was involved in a presidential debate – as the official photographer. More than one news magazine called the organizers, and they just wanted to know who was covering, so they could check their sites for stock, rather than assign their own photographers. These X agencies were paying a flat rate for their work, as WMFH, to those that were shooting, meaning that these news magazines that used to commit one to three photographers to a presidential debate were now just going to source their material from the agencies. These agencies, who used to require a fee for “a first look”, or would handle exclusive access to their images are now shooting on spec, and not taking assignments like they used to, nor do those magazines, who used to have several staffers in town, have any staffers at all. Further, Corbis just announced they are scuttling their assignment division. Is it any wonder? Anything worth covering, clients expect, will be covered, with costs incurred by the agencies, and only if they choose a photo, will they have to pay.

Compare this to staff – the organizations covering the debate, and whom work elsewhere every day, not only pay a salary – a guaranteed income stream to the photographer regardless of if they’re sick, get no play/pickup, or otherwise miss the shot. Further, equipment is provided, and repaired by the employer. Further, computers, a workspace, mileage (or a vehicle), shoot expenses, and so forth are covered. Starting photographers at small weekly papers earn low $20’s, PLUS all these things. This is revenue they can count on, and grow their talent on. They can evolve up to a $30k job, to 40’s, 60’s, and so forth. They also get, yes, healthcare, vacation, and many offer retirement plans/savings of some sort.

Spec has been one of the root causes of the drastic reduction in assignments being given for the day-to-day coverage in cities around the country. In fact, it’s happening in war zones and end-zones as well. Have credential, will travel.

I won’t leave my house unless I have a signed contract, stipulating fees, rights, expenses, and so forth. My calendar is very full, and I enjoy a wide variety of assignments. As I write this, I am at 33,000 feet on my way to the All-Star game in San Francisco. I know of a dozen photographers who would give their eye-teeth to cover that game on spec, “just for the experience”, and this mentality is what has driven down the assignment rates for the wires, and agencies, and forced those wanting to do them to be WMFH. I decline about a dozen assignments each month because they are low low paying, or demand WMFH. Keeping those days free means I am available for the better paying assignments when they come in, and those respect my rights as a creative. Over time, you get fewer and fewer calls for low-pay-rights-grabs, and those that respect your work continue to call, reversing the spiral downwards, and making a living off paying assignments, a viable solution.

The problem is, the mentality of people is “spec with the hope of income tomorrow” or “$250 WMFH is better than no revenue”, but this is a day-laborer mentality. Instead, take that time to cultivate prospective new clients. What does this mean? Find clients you want to work for, call them, send links to your website or a few images via e-mail to them showing recent work, and make the best of that free time. Doing the above is a short-term gain for a long term loss, however, doing the latter is a short-term loss for long term gain and stability in your business.

A salary, on the other hand, is a gurantee of payment for talent and services rendered, and you need not concern yourself with all the details of running your own business. Just like with the buy 2 get 1 free approach, when someone “buys in bulk”, they get a discount. In this case, a paper that pays, say $25,000 to a photographer in salary, for 250 days of work, or $100, a day, gross, before taxes. This is palatable, for a recent graduate, when they’re not responsible for gear, insurance, and so forth. Further, they’re guaranteed the work! If, say, they were being hired piecemeal, the paper should expect to pay upwards of $400 a day, where it’s a “we’ll call you when we need you” approach.

When someone guarantees this consistency, and is paying for that as well as ALL your expenses, it’s called a staff job. When someone offers no gurantees, requires you to cover all expenses, and is going to be considering your work alongside the other three people shooting under the same terms for other organizations, with a 25% chance you’ll earn anything (i.e. if yours is chosen over the other 3), that’s called spec, and that blows.

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.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Thursday, July 5, 2007

You vs. Your Google Rep

The Washington Post reports in Calling In Pros to Refine Your Google Image about how people are experiencing a negative backlash on their Google presence. A search on Google for idiot, places first in it's listings, George Bush, thanks to spam tagging/linking.

The value of your existence on the search engines cannot be underestimated, but making sure that there are no negative listings is also of critical importance. Be careful what you say on blogs, or what people say about you.

Can't be found on the search engines? In a few weeks, I'll have photographer-centric solutions to your troubles. It'll cost you, but it'll pay for itself ten-fold in additional assignments.

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.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Louie vs. Apple

Aaarrggghhh. For years, I've watched respected photographer Louis Psihoyos produce amazing images, one of which he took a great deal of time to produce, including 500 computer monitors, as seen here, and Maestro Jobs displayed a near identical image in the background behind a graphic of the new Apple TV during his presentation, as seen to the right. AppleInsider reports

According to the complaint, both Apple and the photographer had been negotiating a license for the image in advance of the Apple TV ad campaign. Apple backed out of any such deal, but promptly began using the imagery anyway, Psihoyos' attorney Richard Kaudy wrote. In doing so, he added, Apple knowingly tossed aside the "rights and feelings" of the plaintiff and deprived him of potential profits.
I can honestly say I am deeply disappointed. I would make the educated guess that Apple didn't want to pay what Louis was asking (which was probably high, and fair too) because they probably wanted to use the image as their signature image to promote the Apple TV. Further, I would make a guess that they were asking for an all-rights package, but were vague as to the extent of the use. Yes, yes, these are guesses, but educated ones, based upon demands and insistences of clients I have encountered who wanted my images for a small figure, knowing they were going to use it for extremely broad purposes, but not wanting me to consider that in the final licensing fee.

When you encounter clients who have unreasonable expectations about what an image of yours is worth, make sure you not only stand your ground, but moreover, make damn sure your images are registered (especially the one being negotiated!) so that when this happens to you, you have all your options available to you, because you registered your copyright.
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.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Speedlinks for 7/3/07

Today's Speedlinks.

  • Stan Rowan reports on a recent Supreme Court ruling that could recind restrictions that preclude photographers from formally setting minimum pricing on our goods and services...

  • Meanwhile, I've been called out as doing "the stupidest thing a commercial photographer could ever do" and by doing so "actually hurt the industry more then anything else." And while it may not work for this hollaback guy (to paraphrase Gwen Stefani) it sure works for a lot of others, and that level hyperbole is maybe a bit over the top?

  • Over at YouTube a search for "retouch" yields interesting videos on retouching capabilities. The "lose weight" and "Extreme (Photoshop) Makeover are ones worth checking out.

  • Lisa Surati updated her Camera and Equipment Insurance - piece a few months ago, and if you don't have photo equipment insurance, this sure will be a valuable resource in helping you figure out what you need (and hopefully you'll also realize THAT you need it!)
Now go! Check 'em out, and come back soon!
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.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Monday, July 2, 2007

iPhone Customization

There's a marketing message in here, but, read on, it's closer to the end.....

Those that know me well know that I am a bleeding edge photographer. Any tool that I can utilize to steamline the work I do, I am all for. This past weekend was not dlfferent. After being #78 in line at an AT&T store, and learning after 30 people had made their purchases, they no longer had the 8GB model, I and my trusty friend moved on to store #2. Sold out. Heading to our local Apple Store, we were greeted much better, and made our purchase within 10 minutes. I had no problems getting installed and activated, and my only complaint so far is the weak ringtones selection and the low volume of the phone at it's maximum. Oh well, it's still letting me toss my clunky Treo and has seamless integration into my calendars, address book, and so on. Now, on to the customization.

The screen is 320 wide by 480, at 160 dpi. In any event, if I mis-read that 160dpi thing, it works just fine. I opened my photoshop, and located their standard background (below), and cropped it a bit, and compressed it too, to arrive at this baseline graphic (based upon the Classic Aqua Graphite:

(feel free to take that graphic above as a beginning point for your own phone.) Then, when you wake the phone up, shaded overlays on the top and bottom appear, meaning that if you used portions of the top or the bottom of the graphic area, it'd always be covered. So, I tweaked around and below is where I put my logo and phone number so that it doesn't get obscured by the semi-opaque overlays - below are a few, here's Black & White:

Here's Blue:

And for St. Patrick's Day, here's green:

You see, once you have the grey, you can just go into "Image>Adjust>Variations" and make it whatever color you want.

To add this background to the phone, simply import it into iPhoto, then create a seperate album (I've titled mine iPhone Backgrounds) and copy the images you've created into that album. Next in the "Info" tab in iTunes 7.3, select that album as one that you want to be sync'd, then hit "apply", and then "sync." Next, on your phone, choose the "Settings" icon, and the "Wallpaper" icon, and choose the album that now appears on your phone, and choose the one that suits you.

Why do this? Because, I expect that many of my friends, colleagues, and clients will be asking to try it (which is fine by me), and I want those that are clients to see my businesses' branding on the phone. While it's not a big deal, it's just one more little thing that demonstrates to clients our attention to detail, and reinforces their positive impression of the business.

One other thing - I've also customized my signature. Rather than it saying "Sent using my iPhone", which is the default, mine says:

Sent via wireless handheld
John Harrington
John Harrington Photography
2500 32nd Street, SE
Washington, DC 20020-1404
National: 800-544-4577
Local: 202-544-4578
Fax: 202-544-4579
Why "wireless handheld"? Because if I made a typo, or otherwise was overly brief, or further, wanted the client to know that I was "out in the field" while responding, it would give them that generic insight, rather than the many brand-name signature lines out there. I just want them to know that it's being done with a handheld.
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.

[More: Full Post and Comments]
Newer Posts Older Posts