Monday, March 24, 2008

When A Shoot Goes Bad

All to often, I hear stories about shoots gone bad. Not bad as in, the photos were horrible, but bad as in "the model tripped", or the lightstand crashed into that antique table..." bad. These are the kinds of incidents that turn the shoot from profitable to you into an expensive debacle that you'd just as soon have stayed in bed for instead of shooting it.

Enter photographers working for the upstart Desi Life magazine, launched under a year ago by the Toronto Star in Canada, serving the niche South-Asian community in the area.

Many photographers who find themselves working for startups are conned into accepting "startup" pay scales. These are photographers who, in many cases, don't have their act together when it comes to having their bases covered when things like insurance and so forth. I don't know the photographer who shot the cover in question, he may well have his insurance in line, but many many others don't.

Insurance? Who needs insurance?

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You do, when you're on set and the lion that is your prop attacks (even playfully) the human subject for your cover! To see the video (via of the attack, click here. It seems that four broken ribs occured during the lion's throw-down if it's prey.

I previously wrote about liability insurance as it pertains to sports photographers (10/23/07, Speculative Photography - Risks and Liabilities for Leagues, Venues, and Teams) where I outlined the risks of taking to the field without the proper insurance. In fact, there is a huge risk to the players and the league when individuals without the proper insurance coverage are allowed to be near multi-million dollar players where they could injure them and then not be accountable.

So too, when you're working on an assignment in a museum near priceless paintings, or with a celebrity where a wayward light stand could strike them, you have to have insurance. You need only read this report (and see the accompanying photo!) about former supermodel Lauren Hutton's shiner which happened recently on a photo shoot to get the idea!

If you don't know what a COI is, call your insurance provider and ask about them. If you don't have insurance for your business, what are you doing in business? You could lose your house, your savings, and everything you've ever worked for if something goes awry!

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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:

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  • 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.

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© Infringements - Don't be a Hypocrite

I'm really getting tired of this. Colleagues, both highly respected and prosumer alike, who have no regard for copyrights. I recently watched an amazing presentation of work by a noted photographer, who's work was enhanced by the aural addition of music by Enya. I know just how next to impossible it is to get permission for uses like this, as I have tried, so I am almost certain that she was infringing on Enya's copyright. I also continue to watch as a other photographers continue to promote videos/presentations where music I know to be popular, but which are on YouTube with music that it is almost certain to be infringing uses. I wish they would just take a pause and realize what they are doing.

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The hypocrisy continues. Friends who "share" a Photoshop or PhotoMechanic serial #, yet complain when their own work is stolen.

Interestingly enough, were I to provide a photograph that was not my own to an organization for their presentation, or to a website/blog to grow traffic/hits, the infringing party would be the organization or website/blog. It is the "publication" of the material, by the "publisher" that is the infringement, in large part. For a public performance, it would be the corporation or organization that provided the forum/programming that would likely be held accountable.

Several years ago, I was working a product launch for a pharmaceutical company for the sales reps who visit doctors offices to give them samples, and promote the product. The music that started the event was the Red Hot Chili Pepper's song "Give It Away Now", perfectly appropriate in terms of theme, inappropriate in terms of the infringement of the band's intellectual property by a company with IP of it's own in the form of the medicine they sell.

I am not a lawyer, but here's a good rule:
Unless you're commenting on the music itself, as in "listen to the multiple downbeats", or "the refrain here is repetitive...", making a claim that your use is "fair use" is likely not to hold water. When you use music to accompany your images, you need to get permission, or don't use it. Period.

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