Friday, October 12, 2007

The Week In Review, October 8 - 12, 2007

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Your NYC Soirée Source, Right Here

Incase you're going to be in NYC for PhotoPlusExpo next week, you might want to make the rounds of two of the evening parties - Thursday is PhotoShelter's, Friday is DigitalRailroad's. Since after each day's activities, your head just wants to explode with new information, ideas, and equipment you "just have to have", winding down is the best way to do it each night.

RSVP sooner rather than later!

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PhotoShelter party - PhotoShelter A Go Go 2 - Drink, Dance, Network and get your groove on with our go-go dancers at the hottest party of the Expo. Open bar all night long. Bring your promo cards. Hang them on the clothesline. Live your life the way you always wanted to.

October 18, 2007, 7 to 11 p.m.
Lotus Space
122 W 26th St. (between 6th and 7th Ave)
reserve your spot at:

Digital Railroad cordially invites you to our party, co-hosted with APA National, on Friday, October 19! Come socialize and network with your fellow photographic community members.

Friday, October 19, 2007
8 p.m.-1 a.m.
Sandbox Studio
250 Hudson St., 11th Floor
New York City

RSVP required:

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We Travel A LOT

We travel a lot, and carry a lot of equipment. Each case, before we go, is labeled with white gaffers tape with it's dimensions, and weight. This saves us a lot of time when, at check in, the gate agent assumes the equipment case is outside their maximum dimensions (it's not, it's designed to not be), or over 100 lbs (we never do do that either, kinda misses the point). Frequently, with excess baggage charges, it's been less expensive to bring along a second assistant and paid their airfare and get their baggage allowance to fill.

When we are packing, we weight each bag with our scale, ensuring that each are either 98 or 99 lbs. I have been known to put a superclamp or Hensel battery in my carryon bag (since they're not weighed) to hit the 98 lb max, to avoid hitting their 100 lb max, with that wiggle room for their scale being off.

We've set up freight accounts with several airlines, and that can be useful. However, what do you do when you're returning?

Other than remember the exact way everything was packed, I found this neat little inexpensive gadget - the Digital Scale, that's only $25, is compact, and weights in at just 8 oz. Check it out!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Collaborate or Suffer The Consequences

The mystery photo editor over a the A Photo Editor blog writes (Who is this Dan Winters Fellow?) about the challenges of superiors/colleagues being enamoured with Dan Winters work, "...he loves a photograph he once saw. Not, that he will love the photographs he’s about to get....Could a Photo Directors job get any easier then giving Dan an assignment? Right up to the point where you’re told to give him art direction."

Ah. This message is clear - just because you are a phenominal photographer, with a great style, doesn't mean clients will want to work with you. And, if you make it worse, you make it so that you can't take direction. This is a recipe for a lot of one-off clients, with little repeat business.

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We are in the business of making pictures. Pictures people want, pictures people need. And those they want and need are the ones that actually fit into a story, or a mocked-up layout for an ad. If you want to try something edgy, fill the request, and then shoot your "something different", and offer it up. In this way, the client has what they need, and if they like your second image, they might go to bat for it. Placing a client in a position where they have to take what you've given them, and only that, places them in an uncomfortable position, against deadline, or additional costs for a re-shoot. Apply, instead, the "one for thee, one for me".

We are also in the business of taking direction. Sometimes it's vague, sometimes (overly) specific. To presume that you wouldn't deign to take direction, or, worse yet, you consider direction something to work opposite of, ensures that you will get a reputation for being difficult to work with, or for people to only work with you when their superiors press for it.

I can't know how Dan Winters works. He may well be a fine and responsive photographer. The mystery photo editor may just be miffed at Dan for other reasons, who knows. But, the overarching point is, you have to be easy to work with, and deliver what the client wants.

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Bright-Eyed & Bushy-Tailed

This past weekend, I was at the White House News Photographer's day-long multimedia program, and near the end of the day, on the panel discussion, several photographers were asking about getting the "important" stories told. Now, these were the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, young, eager, altruistic photographers. They believe that all they have to do is propose an amazing story, and if they do it right - if they talk to the right person, why, anyone would be a fool not to hearald the news from the tree-tops. The panel summarily crushed those thoughts.

The message essentially was, news is business. If your story doesn't sell more papers, more ads, more eyeballs on web pages, it's not going to get accepted by these outlets. Period. The "news is business" mentality isn't new, it's just more obvious these days. There are, essentially, three things you can do to get these vital stories out.

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1) Save and underwrite the story yourself. The reason that the major outlets won't take you/your idea on, is because they have to commit resources (i.e. money/staff/time) to the project, and they're not willing to take that risk. Since you believe in it so strongly, save up, and then take time to go cover the story. One example is Washington DC photojournalist Jamie Rose, who did just that, with her piece "Abandoned: Kenyatta's Orphans". Rose spent two months away from the political grindstone to make this, and other stories. She continues to spread the word on this important subject herself - one example is her presentation at the Travel and Adventure Workshops in Maine, in the beginning of December. You can learn more about that presentation here. But, that's not the only time she's made a presentation about that material. Jamie worked with The Calvert Foundation on the piece as well. Here's a quote from their webpage:
At Calvert Foundation, it is critical that we illustrate the impact our investors’ dollars have in the US and around the world. The best way to do this is through photographs and stories. We have the benefit of working with highly talented partners and photographers that help us bring to life the great work we support in underserved communities.
Following that, a bio of Rose is listed below those sentiments.

2) Produce the content and publish yourself. No longer are the main news outlets the gatekeepers, precluding you from telling your story. The web has democratized, and dare I say, deputized us all to tell the story. The viral nature of blogs and YouTube make it possible for people to get the news, unfiltered, or, better yet, filtered by issue/subject matter. It then becomes your responsibility to go out to other blogs, other discussion forums and listserv's to drive eyeballs and minds to read/watch your piece.

3) Use your more commericial work to underwrite your "stories that must be told" work. If you are generating $4k a month with a mix of corporate/editorial work, change that mix to increase your revenue to $6k a month by taking more corporate work, and then every 3 months taking two weeks and spending that extra $6k (3 months x +$2k) on your project. Or, change the ratio to be $1k extra a month, and then take one month off a year to go somewhere and use the $11k you saved to tell your story. This is a follow-on to the idea #1 above, but is a more agressive approach, and further, will allow you to travel to far more distant locations. #1 above might allow you to tell a story within a few hundred miles of your home (and believe me, there are many a story to be told that close to home), but this approach will allow you to travel several thousand miles from home.

I further submit that the news outlets have an obligation to the community. That, say they apply the ad-driven/eyeball-counting methodology to 8 out of ten stories that are driven by what the marketplace wants, with a revenue cushion that covers the costs of the remaining 2 out of 10 that are driven by a "what the public should see" approach, where the outlets are motivated by doing good rather than making profits. This model is evident for Bank of America in their loans division. I've done work before for them, and they have a seperate division, the Community Development Corporation, where they make loans and work to develop communities in areas that their more strict, profit-centric loaning division would not touch.

In the end, IF you want the story told bad enough, it will get told, come hell or high water. At what sacrifice? That's your call. You are, in this enlightened age, empowered with the tools and potential audience to make a difference. The only question is, how far will you go?

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Magically Ridiculous!

Well, there appears to be some uproar over the latest issue of PDN that arrived in my mailbox today. Apparently, the US Postal Service has delivered others before mine finally arrived.

The fury stems from an ad with the tagline "Join the fight against overprices images!", which is purportedly akin to Modern Postcard's promotional campaign, which included the tagline "Skip the expensive photo shoot...", and which I wrote about back in August (Skip the expensive photo shoot..." - What the #%^@ !").

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I just don't see the comparison to Modern Postcard as an apples to apples comparison. When I see PDN write articles talking about how great RF/Microstock is, and how everyone should jump on the bandwagon and sell out, well, then I'll be upset with PDN.

Let's see, someone comes to PDN, who wants to spend $7,000 (it's $3k if it's considered the Exposures area) for a 2-color ad, according to PDN's ad rates, found here. Where then, do you get your placement? Heck, buried in the back of the magazine, among the classified ads, where few people turn to. The only reason I make it to the back of the magazine is to check the last page! The ad was on page 169 of a 176-page issue.

Who did the math on this investment? $7k needs to generate 14,000 image sales in order to break even, where Fotolia earns about $0.50 per image. Further, the people - by and large - that read PDN would never submit images to Fotolia, and the well-informed photo-buyers that do read PDN certainly are well-informed enough that they're not likely to ever buy from Fotolia.

So, this is what you get when you mix a semi-struggling model, a guy that sold photofinishing solutions, a guy that was a domain-name buyer (squatter?) in the 90's, (who are billed as the photo-knowledgable ones) along with a few other hold-overs from Web 1.0. Aside from that alphabet soup that is Aiste Miseviciute,Thibaud Elziere,Oleg Tscheltzoff,Patrick Chassany,& Chad A Bridwell, you get the silliness that is, Fotolia.

Back in 2005, StockphotoTalk did an interview with the CEO, The President of the company did an interview about a year ago for one of his other startups where he's the CEO (hey, how many companies can you be CEO and President of at the same time?!?), inbetween model bookings, the "US Public Relations and Marketing Manager" is trying to remain busy at Colors Model Management with her online comp card here and at another agency, here, Their Vice President of Corporate Strategy (and also a co-founder) lists over on LinkedIn that he's CURRENTLY also the co-founder of, Founder & CEO of, co-founder and CEO of, and Director of the venture capital organization Reachtown Ventures. I'd say he is a good candidate for ADD concerns, however, who in their right mind would give a dime to someone who is con-currently a Founder/CEO/Director of so many organizations? How much strategizing can you be doing for Fotolia when you're leading so many other companies?

According to their pricing structure, you get paid in 'credits", not actual accrued dollars. Why credits? Lawfully, it's easier to take "credits" away from you after 365 days (as they say they will), if you don't use them, instead of actual currency. Further, you have to give up sale(s)/credits if you want to get paid out under 50 credits, to paypal.

Their PR firm lists them as a "case study", where they tout getting Fotolia placed at #1 for the term "photographer commission", yet, a review of Google's own marketing research about searches actually performed, there would be ZERO clicks per day for this search term. Now that's a successful case study! Further, they write " Images that do not meet Fotolia's standards of professional quality are not rejected, but offered to be posted in the websites Free Section," nice. Free photos from the rejects pile. (More about the free section here.)

The complaintants suggest PDN should be writing articles about how bad Fotolia and its ilk are for photographers/photography (they have), and how we all should cancel our subscriptions. That's just silly. I can't recall a time - ever - where subscription cancellations changed the course of a publication. Further, there are laws in place that prevent PDN from rejecting ads like this one. It's one thing to reject an ad for nudity, or racisim, or the promotion of unlawful activities. However, Fotolia's lawyers would have a field day with VNU's legal department if they had rejected this ad. So, what to do? Bury it!

Fotolia is doing all it can to.... wait, did I just say that? What with all their founders and management focused on numerous other endeavors, who's actually minding the shop? Is Fotolia just a server farm with a bunch of hard drive space and a few applications serving up images and collecting money? With supposedly upwards of 7,000 images a day coming in, who are they paying to "review" the images for acceptability? Let me rephrase...

Fotolia is running their servers, collecting images, in hopes of reaching some critical mass so that Getty, or someone else, will buy them up. Doubtful, folks. Getty has their beheamoth that is istockphoto, and they're not likely to take up Fotolia. Nor is anyone else. Their coffers are now $7k lighter, meaning their servers will hum along that much shorter a timespan when they run out of money. The only way Getty/Corbis/Jupiter/et al will snatch them up, will be in a bankruptcy/fire-sale. May that come sooner rather than later. If the "bomb" icon they use is any indication, we can only hope it comes along sooner rather than later.

In the past, PhotoPlus has had schmucks like OnRequest and DigitalVision with booth space. Does that mean we boycott that too? I think not. I have been every year for over a decade, closing on 15 years I think, and each year, I take away enough that it was well worth my while to be there. Fotolia can spend all they want on ads - it's not going to change the quality of the work they peddle, or the interest they gin up, or lack thereof.

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Presenting to the ASMP Virginia Chapter in Richmond Tommorrow

So, tommorrow 10/9 I'm off to Richmond, speaking to the ASMP Central Virginia Chapter.

From the ASMP program description:

Simply put, the business of photography is just plain time-consuming and often times daunting. Not only do photographers need to make great photographs, but they need to stay in business, too. John’s program will be packed with information on how do you operate a successful freelance photography business (even if you’re a staffer)? How do you determine your rates, handle supposedly “no-change” contracts, late-paying clients, and debates over rate increases. How can you negotiate better? How do the needs of editorial and commercial clients diverge and intersect? During this presentation, John will address these topics and more as you learn to handle your business better and more efficiently. We will discuss considerations when developing rates and resources, designing a business model that accounts for everything from taxes to business expenses, plus several techniques for negotiating with clients.
Yep, that about covers it. So, come on by,

Date: October 9, 2007
Time: 5:30 PM
Location: Images Unlimited 3613 Mayland Ct. Richmond Virginia 804-747-7411

Visit here for more information.
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