Sunday, March 23, 2008

Chicago Magazine Report Retort - Come Again!?!

I recieved a retort from a Chicago area photographer a week or so ago about an APA/Apple Store presentation he'd seen by Brittney Blair, Photo Editor of Chicago Magazine from back on February 11th. APA's website reports the presentation as "...Brittney’s Pro Session discussion focused on the best ways to break into photography, how to catch a photo editors attention, and steps to landing your dream assignment." However, one glaring issue arose. Ms. Blair is reported to have said, either exactly, or very near exactly, "You know that nobody can make a living off of editorial magazine photography."

I'll share what the attending photographer was infuriated about. He noted in his missive to me:

(Continued after the Jump)

  • Is she poisoning everyones expectations to keep their idea of how much they should charge lower?
  • Secondly, don't magazine writers earn a living?
  • Don't magazine editors and PHOTO EDITORS earn livings?
  • Doesn't the publisher of a magazine earn a living?
  • Don't the ad sales team earn livings?
  • Doesn't the printer of a magazine earn a living?
  • In fact they would EXPECT to.
  • Why should editorial photographers have to believe they can't earn a living????
  • Isn't a photo on the cover what sells a magazine to the casual shopper?
  • Are not photos the "stoppers" that capture something like 1.7 seconds of a page flippin' reader's attention and get them to read the article?
The attending photographer goes on to object:
"She later went on to say that she know sometimes that with pre-production and expenses a photographer might only break even or lose money on a shoot but that the exposure in a regional publication is worth it. Would she accept breaking even or losing money on HER job to be worth the exposure?? Maybe for an intern, but not a professional. Are the guest "experts" we as photographer flock to for advice telling the truth or building the walls of a ghetto?"
Well said, well said.

I will note that I was a previous speaker at an APA/Apple Store Presentation in that same store in Chicago just over a year ago, and my message was exactly opposite this one. Further, Friday I completed a profitable editorial assignment, and today, Monday, I am completing both a profitable editorial assignment as well as an even more profitable corporate assignment.

I will say, APA nor Apple vetted these message points - they surely did not vet mine before I presented. I know that APA's thought process is 100% contrary to several of the points reported out above. Further, the good folks at Apple are truly committed to helping photographers succeed, hence not only this APA seminar series, but also, their ASMP seminar series, both of which have been extremely well received.

Even if this photo editor did not say this (and I believe this photographer's reporting that she did), it stands as a common mentality amongst many photo editors who believe we should all be blessed to have our work appear in their publications. Think again - its' our work that will enhance the otherwise blank or text-filled pages you are printing on those presses of yours.

You, dear photo editors, should be fighting to pay us assignment fees that you know will allow us to sustain ourselves. I know many that do, and I work for a substantial subset of that group. I appreciate the photo editors that I work for, and who look out for the creatives that supply art for their pages.

Further, the good folks over at Editorial Photographers, EP President Brian Smith among them, would also take issue with her suggestion of how the world turns for photographers. Or, perhaps, I am sounding a bit like the Bitter Photographer now?

To those of you who are content in your full time, self-sustaining jobs where you know the assignment fees you are paying photographers do not sustain your talent pool, I say, bollocks to you.

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.

15 comments:

Jeff said...

Part of the problem for us aspiring editorial photographers is that we have very little idea about what is a fair price for our work. Professionals seem very tight-lipped about what they charge. They generally respond with something like, "It's worth what you negotiate," but one of the first rules of negotiation is to have information about the fair price -- and it is that information that we lack.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that I would get bent out of shape over Ms. Blair's comments. I googled her and went to her blog. Her Magazine looks like one of every city's named magazines. They look impressive at first glance, but when you look a little deeper they're run by beginners.

Ms. Blair is probably in her early 20s and works in a cubicle. She hasn't had a useful mentor since she left college. She's probably in her first year or two of post college life. Her photographers don't make much on assignments, because her magazine doesn't have the budget to pay them much. We're not talking about Vogue or a national news magazine here. I'm guessing that this is a small (the magazine, not the city) city magazine.

Most cities have at least one and usually several. Most are small, shoestring operations. It's probably filled with ads for dentists and plastic surgeons.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Said.....Part of the problem for us aspiring editorial photographers is that we have very little idea about what is a fair price for our work. Professionals seem very tight-lipped about what they charge. They generally respond with something like,

That is, to put it mildly, b.s.

APA and ASMP have loads of information plus their is EP, Seth's pricing guides, many photo blog sites such as John's and Photo Business Education.

Do a little research before you make a blatant comment like that. It is flat out not true. The information is out there, you just need to ftake a few minutes to find it.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for the flood of wanna-bees and photojournalists to go there and shoot for the photo credit.
It is only a matter of time before those young 20 somethings who are working in the cubicles go off and sell that property for a handsome profit after building the business on the backs of knuckleheaded photographers who are all too willing to take it on the chin for the benefit of others.
I wonder these hapless photographers do when it's time to pay Verizon; "well I can't pay you now, but hey I got a photo credit; that must be worth something."

CLICK

Anonymous said...

Might the market take care of this in the long run? If the market is able to sustain only a certain price for photography, then it seems inevitable that the price will decrease to that level. Conversely, if the price decreases below the point where it is advantageous for photographers to supply photographs, then the price will rebound to that point.

I'm not saying that amateurs or people willing to give away their work merely for photo credit are turning out images as good as the career photogs, but if their work is "good enough," what will compel the publications to pay the career guys top dollar?

It seems that we should be trying to find new sources of revenue or new ways to increase the inherent value of photography rather than moaning about people undervaluing their work. The whole thing smells similar to what the auto workers in Detroit or the programmers in Silicon Valley are going through: the drive towards cheaper outsourced labor.

Not trying to fan the flames, just looking for solutions.

Anonymous said...

NOT FOR SITE.

Hi John. I'm a college student studying business management and marketing. I'm also an aspiring photographer. I have been inspired by your book to use it as the basis of a research paper for both my marketing and management classes.

My primary research method is a survey I've constructed. I'm not a research or statistics expert, and I'm sure it could have been structured better, but I believe it will do the job.

But more than the research papers for school I also want to publish data that will support the guidance in your remarkable book.

I have learned a tremendous amount from your book, but what would be even more helpful is a link from your blog to my survey, with a few words of encouragement for photographers to take 10 or 12 minutes to fill it out.

http://ellips.us

I will be happy to share the results of the research, both raw data and my final report, if you are interested in seeing it. They didn't give us much time for the project, which I think is part of the challenge. It's due this Thursday, so quick response from readers is critical. I'm hoping to impress the instructors with the depth of primary data I've obtained in a short time. But I also want to continue the survey for several weeks. I'm hoping to get over 1,000 responses in that time.

Thank you for any help you can provide!


Jon
admin@ellips.us

Jason Manchester Photography said...

As an aspiring photographer, editorial included, I totally disagree with Jeff's comments. I feel as a "greenhorn" to the industry there is now a wealth of information regarding pricing, ethics, etc, etc... I'm extremely surprised a reader of John's blog would make such a statement. Maybe this is your first time visiting the site, but seriously, take anonymous' advice and do some research. The information is readily available.

Anonymous said...

Brittney Blair ---- featured on PhotoShelter tour Chicago Video
See for yourself what she says about editorial

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid315801875/bclid316039944/bctid1213922353

at the 33:03 minute mark.... finding photographers (postcards) other pubs, e-mails, searching the web for chicago photographers ..."bring them over to brightside of editorial where we don't pay anything, but you get to do fun stuff."

@ 36:25 mark she continues.

Anonymous said...

"APA and ASMP have loads of information plus their is EP, Seth's pricing guides, many photo blog sites such as John's and Photo Business Education."

"I feel as a "greenhorn" to the industry there is now a wealth of information regarding pricing, ethics, etc, etc... I'm extremely surprised a reader of John's blog would make such a statement. Maybe this is your first time visiting the site..."


I can't speak for Jeff, but this is the first time I'm visiting this site... can you be a little more helpful than "do some research"? Where do I start? What's "EP"? Who is Seth?

Anonymous said...

So finding pricing guidelines seems to be like finding the Isla de Muerta; easy, but only if you know where to look.

Derek said...

Thanks to anonymous for posting the link to the Photoshelter Town Hall in Chicago back in July.

John, you point out, "it stands as a common mentality amongst many photo editors who believe we should all be blessed to have our work appear in their publications." I actually spoke with Britney at length after her presentation for Photoshelter and her words were along the lines that she can pay a fair price for photography because she has no budget to do so. Keep in mind she was also presenting along side buyers from Energy BBDO and another agency that escapes me that are paying orders of magnitude more for imagery.

To the other anonymous who decided to dismiss Blair as working for some two-bit operation, Chicago Magazine is in fact owned and operated by the Tribune Company. Say what you want about them, but they are a fairly large news organization.

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