Saturday, July 25, 2009

The REAL 'New Frugality' - Time Style

Times are tough for everybody, especially, apparently, Time Magazine. Used to paying a stock fee of $3,000 for a cover, or $1,500 or so if it's an assignment (last I checked), take a guess how much the cover below cost Time?


Stylists for the coins, glass jar, studio rental, lighting and camera equipment? How much?

(Continued after the Jump)


If you guessed 1% of the standard stock fee, you'd be right - and insane to accept a fee that low. Yet Robert Lam, of Los Angeles, did just that. Robert Lam, who works for a furniture store in Culver City, who, according to his website, is "...always looking for models for TFCD."

For $30 (the sale went through iStockphoto - image here) Lam got screwed out of several thousand dollars in income. In a dialog on ModelMayhem, Robert was asked about the payment, and responded "yes only 30.00 from Istock", followed by some online-atta-boys and then he says "yes. I am happy." When another commenter wrote to him "you got screwed", his response was "ok", followed by what can be characterized by his laughing at his last check from iStockphoto, when he writes "last check.. 31.50..lol". The only one laughing, really, is the Time Magazine Photo Department -- who is laughing all the way to the bank. A continued cast of characters then go on to somehow just accept that the $30 is fair and reasonable, and I expect the rest of the part-time photographer part-time furniture salespeople, accountants, IHOP servers, and so on to come out and defend what he did here, and elsewhere.

Congratulations Robert, you've just become the poster-boy for exactly what is wrong about iStockphoto. A stock rate previously known to be $3,000 for the cover of Time Magazine you just sold for $30 - a 99% discount. After all big "wins", the winner usually gets asked where they'll go to celebrate. I'd ask you where you're going with that dough, but you can't even go to Disneyland, like winners in the past. I know, as I was just in the Disney Store an hour ago buying tickets for the trip I can afford to Disneyland because I don't make the dream of the profession of stock photography into a nightmare as you have done. Try talking to the owner of Natural Tique where you work if his business could survive by offering 99% discounts to his customers.

You write on your Model Mayhem page "NO SECOND CHANCES FOR FLAKES", and then go on to say "Photography is an enormous passion for me", but then you say "I am open for TFCD with female models at this time. email to me if you are interested." So, is that passion a ploy to work with female models for trade? What's with that?

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.

143 comments:

Javier Freytes said...

There are photographers and there are photo enthusiast. After looking at his webpage, obviously he is the second. I think the major problem here is that many clients aren't looking at quality anymore. We have that problem here, many of the account executives at the agencies don't know the difference between a good photo and a bad photo. After all, many of the are trying to take the photos for their clients with their point and shoot or even worse, with their cell phones......
Fortunately, there are many clients that still care for the quality, and are willing to pay what the work is worth.

AdvRdr said...

Had TIME's photo editor telephoned him direct and asked for the photo -- I have no doubts that he would have given to them for free.

Guy McLaren said...

I looked at stock photo sites and decided that I would not prostitute myself, You see I have a theory that If I am going to be a starving artist, it's not going to be because I am working 18 hours a day and undercharging. It's going to be because I am not working.

Anonymous said...

While you make some valid points, your tone and unnecessary personal attacks on Mr. Lam (especially your comments implying he has ugly motivations for what he does) do nothing to aid the credibility of your statements and make this whole thing sound like this's a personal issue rather than a professional one.

The world of full time commercial shooters is a small one, with few opportunities for success. Something like this is a big deal for hobbyists & part timers who often go their whole lives without this sort of exposure. None of them are trying to take your job, nor are they likely to do so.

Calling out screwy business practices is fine, but attacking a little guy who got lucky & saying he's probably a pervert is uncalled for.

Paul T said...

While insightful as to the state of the magazine world now and issues and inequity as to usage in microstock, I think the shots and veiled insults to Mr. Lam are quite petty and mean.

John Harrington said...

Anonymous -

I did not say he's "probably a pervert", I came to some preliminary conclusions based upon a problematic history in the profession of photography. Almost every model on Model Mayhem, where he promotes his model work, feels it necessary to stipulate they don't do nude/etc and have to underscore it by saying "don't even ask just before the shoot...I will bring an escort..." Why is that do you think?

If you are really looking to grow your portfolio, you would be just as eager to photograph men as women. You would have more than just one guy on a website that is otherwise filled with women. You would want the variety of images that demonstrate your abilities.

This isn't personal, it's business. When you slash so severely your fees to the point of ridiculous, and then you contribute to photographers being mis-perceived as looking to interact with attractive girls under the guise of a "I'll give you photos of yourself if you let me take your pictures of you ladies..." mentality further erodes peoples' opinions of professional photographers as, well, professionals.

To date, I have yet to have had my work-product replaced by that of a hobbyist. Further, I have had clients who have left for someone cheaper, only to return because they got inferior quality. However, there is likely a studio photographer in New York City that has one less shot at a Time cover thanks to Mr. Lam, and I care too much about the profession of photography to simply sit back and remain silent.

SLEPhoto said...

(that was my anon post, my ID didn't work for some reason)

You didn't say it, but you certainly implied it, especially with this comment:
but then you say "I am open for TFCD with female models at this time. email to me if you are interested." So, is that passion a ploy to work with female models for trade? What's with that?

Your characterization of Model Mayhem and its models is grossly inaccurate. Models feeling the need to proclaim "no nudes" or demand escorts hardly make up "almost every" one of the members there.

Certainly there're a lot of shooters on MM looking to create "pretty girl" content but that's because they're hobbyists or amateurs or part timers for whom it's not important to build a "well rounded" portfolio since they're never going to submit to agencies or major clients. Plus, in the internet realm, glamour (in the Maxim/FHM/King sense of the term as opposed to the classic Hollywood use) gets far more attention and approbation for shooters.

Additionally Model Mayhem is a site GEARED towards models... non model images aren't permitted. There's little room for a "variety of images that demonstrate your abilities." I shoot nature photos that've won me some awards, but I don't display them on MM.

There're also far fewer male models and less reason to SHOOT them since images of them (in that arena) aren't really marketable and there're a lot fewer male models... and so less chance for possible paid shoots. You, yourself, note that the site is "filled with women," so why wouldn't he gear his profile towards that group?

There're even shooters on MM who DO commercial work that's non-model related who're on MM offering TF* for pretty girls not out of any ulterior motive but because they shoot landscapes or product shots all day & want to shoot something different in their spare time for fun. Along the way maybe they can even help some of those girls (who might not otherwise be able to afford the skills of a quality photographer) get started.

You're trying to apply standards from a real world agency/commercial standpoint to a market & group of people (on both sides of the lens) who operate under a vastly different system. In the course of doing so you display a level of contempt and animus that we often see from professionals of your ilk who operate in the market you do, often in the forums on MM. Personally I fail to see where the anger and disdain come from, and they certainly don't lend to constructive dialog about the differences in how we all operate and how things we do (on either end) can benefit or harm one another.

It's personal because you made it that way. You're obviously personally offended and honestly with your retort to me you sound threatened. Mr. Lam's fees weren't "ridiculous" in terms of what he does, and this isolated incident of a major corporation taking advantage of them is an isolated incident. Were such things to become the norm you can bet business models would shift to reflect it. I'm sure the microstock houses would snap in rules about it to protect their OWN bottom lines.
(comment continued below)

Anonymous said...

"I care too much about the profession of photography to simply sit back and remain silent."

Maybe you should keep your mouth and fingers still because you are just coming across as a whiny bitch!

SLEPhoto said...

(comment continued)

Regarding your comments about TF* eroding the idea of photographers as professionals, barter has a long & good history in human society. The idea that it's perfectly acceptable (at least I'd assume you'd ascribe to this idea) to take a woman's money to photograph her, but if you give her images it's indecent is simply ludicrous. Many TF shooters are seeking some value for themselves over & above "seeing a pretty girl," Honestly for the time & effort & expense put in to it, a visit to the local strip club once a week would be cheaper AND you'd get more interaction with the girls.

There is an active thread on MM discussing your blog (which's how I found it) and some people immediately jumped to the idea that you were either jealous or felt threatened, a notion that others were quick to reject. However your last paragraph with the "to date" starter and other remarks belies this. I will offer the same retort that often comes up in the MM forums when "Is TF killing the industry?" threads get started. If an amateur or part timer or hobbyist doing trade & microstock is seriously a threat to an established agency level professional with superior equipment, facilities, contacts, abilities, and training then the flaw likely doesn't lie in the system but in the shooter who's threatened. That shooter (not you, sir, but your hypothetical studio photographer) isn't getting the cover then he needs to step up his game.

Ultimately I doubt this sort of thing will drastically change the larger commercial market, but I will reiterate that your negative & personal tone towards Mr. Lam (even with the clarifications you offered in your reply about perceived professionalism of photographers) is unnecessary and counterproductive to a healthy discussion about the real issues involved here.

Further, taking shots from "on high" at people operating in a completely different market with a different set of rules & standards than what you deal with and trying to apply those standards & rules to them while simultaneously implying they're unworthy to be part of it id disrespectful and not constructive. It creates yet more "noise" that will cause your point to get lost.

James Glendinning
SilverLight Esoterica Photography

SLEPhoto said...

The rude comment between the 2 sections of my longer reply was not from me. My whole point in responding here was the hope of a constructive dialog, and name calling of that sort certainly doesn't help.

Unfortunately that's the sort of reaction I was saying the tone of your original post was likely to generate and, as I said in the MM thread about this, that sort of public bickering will do FAR more to harm the image of photographers in the public mind than someone offering TF shoots to local girls.

Paul T said...

While your insights into the business nature of photography are well thought out and informative and yes I probably do have less of a chance of getting a Time Magazine cover due to them using istock images (actually they have done this a number of times already), I believe that in this case you did not hold true to your assertion that "This isn't personal, it's business".

I believe you could have discussed the issues - they are very valid and you have a great insight into them - without passive aggressive remarks like "he works for a furniture store in Culver City" and pulled quotes from his profile. That is not business, that is personal.

Pete said...

I would think a Photo BUSINESS Forum would recognize the business potential of Model Mayhem. Believe it or not, John, there are models on MM who are willing to pay professional photographers to help them with their ports. And MM is also an excellent networking tool, whether you're looking for models, hair stylists, muas, or designers.

Point well taken on the Time fees though.

Star Foreman said...

I think the responses you are getting are great examples of how people who do this as a hobby tend to think of these matters.

It has been shown that TIME was in violation of 2 parts of the istock contract,

1. they did not pay the correct usage fees of $125 for the image. They needed an extended license

2. istock requires they credit the member name, which TIME failed to do

Both of these are serious offenses, and they should be examined much more closely then they are.

from the istock website
http://www.istockphoto.com/license_comparison.php

"Editorial purposes: printed magazines, newspapers, editorials, newsletters
Yes, up to 499,999 impressions. You must give credit as follows:"©iStockphoto.com/membername"
Unlimited reproduction/print run license required for 500,000 or more impressions"

They also can not resell the item, like they are doing with their current license.

from the istock website
http://www.istockphoto.com/license_comparison.php

Items for resale, including prints, posters, calendars, mugs, mousepads, t-shirts, games, etc. No

Items for resale — limited run license required. Note: there are quantity restrictions dependent on the type of item

SLEPhoto said...

Be fair, Star. Neither I nor anyone else responding has praised the BUSINESS of this. We simply commented that Mr. Harrington's unnecessary editorializing about Mr. Lam detracted from his VALID points about the business issues.

Anonymous said...

WOW

I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the comments from the "semi-professionals" among us of how mean spirited that you are Mr. Harrington.

You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to protect an unregulated industry like photography and call out the knuckleheads that devalue the product so grossly.

I had to go to those "modeling websites" to see some of this for myself, I've never seen listings for so many "semi-professional" photographers in my life.

"Semi-Professional"?

What's that?

When does someone go from amateur to "semi-professional"?

Is "semi-professional" the farm team for professional photography?

In that case shame on you for making the "semi-professionals", amateurs, and part timers who have the overwhelming desire to in some cases give away valuable images for next to nothing; look like the the business people they truly are.

What's next?

Magazine cover shoots as TFCD with the Creative Directors bringing an escort.

SLEPhoto said...

To the last anon poster, the issue wasn't about calling Mr. Barrington out for being "mean spirited," it was more to the point that by adopting some of the tone he used he was detracting from his valuable message. As I said in my reply to Star, no one was praising TIME, just pointing out that focusing on denigrating Mr. Lam's status took AWAY from the valuable focus on the real issue of the devalued image.

As far as the semi-pro label, back when the "M" in ASMP still stood for "Magazine" (early 90's) their membership info said that less than 10% of their members made their living full time as photographers, as it's a very difficult field in which to make a full time living. My understanding is that the percentage is SMALLER today. So yes, there're a number of people (myself included), often living in smaller markets, who for one reason or another have not been able to make the sort of living Mr. Barrington has worked so hard to earn, so we're part time photographers and part time whatever else we do to make ends meet.

Your post is another fabulous example of the disdainful attitudes pros take of "We're above & better than all you people, now stop devaluing us & making us look bad." That sort of sentiment does nothing to encourage real dialog about the issues we're facing, it causes any valuable points in what you're saying to get lost, and makes the community as a whole look ugly.

Jeff said...

John, While I agree to some degree with what you said, I feel bashing Robert Lam for selling the photo for $30 and the other comments were uncalled for. He didn't sell the image to Time Magazine, iStock allowed Time to buy it dirt cheap.


I feel the real issue here is not Robert Lam who had no say in the sale of the photo. About 30 years ago, my friend and fellow photographer got a cover on an aviation trade magazine. He belonged to a stock agency and the sale was through them, he got paid $125 for that cover shot. The shot was done with a 4x5 view camera so he was not just some amateur with a 35 mm camera who got lucky. Wheter it was a fair price or not is irrelavant, ths stock agency handled the tranaction and that is what he got.


Lets stay focused on the real issue, Time Magazine CHOSE to buy a photo from a stock agancy rather than hire a photographer to shot the cover for them and yes, they got it at a bargain price. Is that Robert Lam's fault because they just happen to choose his image?


Sorry but your bashing Robert is just coming across as sour grapes to me. I have lost several of clients in the past year because I was severely undercut even to the point of photographers willing to shoot for free. Whether their work was better or worse than mine doesn't matter, you can't compete with free. That's business whether I like it or not and Time buuying a cover shot for $30 is business whether you like it or not.


Jeff

adam_william_king said...

You don't make one single point here.
Jist of your article; Time is in a crunch for money so they search out a VERY BASIC photograph to support a subject that is also very basic, Money. You get angry and immediately attack the photographers profession, and than the professionals in other low income jobs. Time Magazine is happy, the photographer is happy, YOU are the only one that is unhappy about this. I think your "grip" on reality, which is photography at this point, is totally distorted. To have attacked time Magazine for their "slithery" way of going about their business in a financial situation would be one thing, actually, the more appropriate thing to do. Instead you attack the guy who is feeling lucky to have his tear sheet. Experience is what gets you more work, the money you make is gone before you blink. You sound like an 8 year old who lost his toy fire truck.

Saradah said...

And once again, I find that after reading both threads on this particular subject and touching on this very interesting blog, that people are still missing the point.

The point is to UNDERSTAND the value of your work and time, and not to undersell ONESELF, and in doing so, undersell an industry.

One photographer who sells his work dirt cheap won't change the face of the earth, but there are a lot of you doing it now. Some of it's terrible, and won't make a nick in anything.

But some of it was taken by people with talent who poured time and effort into making something that was purchased for a fraction of the worth the original thought had.

He feels lucky because he has undervalued himself to the point that a large publication taking his work for pennies seems acceptable for the sake of having people know he shot for their cover, which, mind you, They Gave Him No Credit For.

There are a couple generalizations in this blog, pertaining to MM in particular, but to be honest with you, all of you who pick at him for them are being just as childish as you accuse him of being.

And that, is my two cents.

Jon said...

I read the whole thing. There is no way today that you can get the same thing as before. istockphoto exists because of the incredible number of accidental photos that are actually good. He did not get screwed. He had no market otherwise. What that means is simple. The photos these days are only worth what the market will bear. Obviously it will only bear $30.00 now. Bout all it is worth too. You pick up a Time mag lately..it is very thin and with very few ads. They just do not have the budget they used to have.

I think that he sold the pic for what it was worth. He did not get screwed. If he had kept the photo and not sold it someone else would have a $30.00 pic up there.

I think the price is correct. Just a sign of exactly what we know. There are more cameras out there than ever before and the cameras are all good ones.

I have a couple of sites as well. http://www.artkeep.com
http://www.artkeepblue.com

Do I think the webmodel sites have hurt business. Yes. But only because the so called models these days only want free pics and few to none are real models. But with everyone now being a photographer and wanting experience, the term TFP/TFCD was coined and the amateurs were off and running.

But the fact is....with so many good cameras and now good experienced amateur photographers the price of a good photo is substantially less. At the same time the magazine is also substantially less because all this digital revolution has moved the audience away from the magazine and onto the web. Just the way that it is.

Jon Barry

Jan Klier said...

There are two points that are missed here:

- The stock photo market has changed to where $3,000 fees are less common because of an immense influx of supply that is no longer tied to specific skills or having to make a living. We just need to let that go.

- As for whether it's ok for Time to have a cover image for which they paid $30? Well, it depends on their visual choices. This image, and the circumstances in which it was made and used isn't worth more than $30. That doesn't take away that on other occasions Time will need professional photographic services that are worth $1,500 and they will continue to pay that.

The key distinction is that we're not selling images, we're selling services. And the service will be priced based on market rate of supply and demand. The supply of photographers who can perform an assignment for Time is still much more constrained then the enthusiasts who are filling up iStock sites.

I blogged about this a few days ago - the question of whether we're selling images or services: What do you sell?

RJ Ohrstedt said...

As one who has worked in the lower realms of the photography industry, off and on, for nearly forty years, I find the elitism and contempt toward hobbyists here both frustating and disturbing. Starting from a discussion of a valid business issue, the post (and some comments) display disdain for anyone who likes photography but does not earn a lofty living from it. Did you, Mr. Harrington, leap fully formed from the womb with camera in hand?

Indeed, there are hobbyists and there are professional photographers; there are those who are learning and who, one day, may be your equal. And then there are those who, like me, make money where they can and earn a living doing something else. It has always, and will always be, thus.

The overriding tone of your blog demonstrates disdain for any but the most accomplished and highly paid commercial practitioners of photography. It is, indeed, a shame that you come across as whiny, jealous and petty.

I would have enjoyed a real discussion of the business issue, without the personal affronts to a man that enjoyed his own week of fame.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a bunch Elevator Operators Talking in the break room. I like running the elevator for free!

The picture time used is no different than making a choice on what bread or gasoline I should buy.

Michael said...

I'm just curious. How much did you get paid to write this article? Don't you think real writers would feel the same about what you're doing to the printed word? Aren't you devaluing words just as you claim Mr. Lam (an admitted hobbyist) is doing?

Mr. Lam and many others are not making their livelihood on photography, just as you are not making yours writing. I'm sure Mr. Lam was thrilled to have ANY image published, for any price.

Just as I'm sure you would be thrilled for Time to find one of your articles in demand.

Don't blame Mr. Lam or other hobbyists. Why not blame the major camera manufacturers while you're at it as they are providing the tools for everybody to produce acceptable images for print.

An editorial is one thing. Veiled accusations based on a hobbyists profile on a modeling community website is another. I think your not-so-subtle accusations are more distasteful than Mr. Lam's choice to upload an image to iStockphoto.

Michael Pandolfo

Anonymous said...

This might be my favorite 'hobbyist' comment from the MM site...

"
And who needs photojournalists either?

ok for a war or two or a presidential election, maybe....

but otherwise, why not just get rid of photojournalists and just rely on all the people who have camera phones who take photos of accidents and fires and just rely on those shots for publication?

Everyone sends them in for free. Why pay some guy to take a professional shot of an accident anyways?"

There is a reason I abandoned the sinking photo ship when digital arrived. Although my decision seems to have caused me to miss out on a budding opportunity to take advantage of the American need for fame and half-naked women...jeez where was model mayhem back in the day? Oh yeah it was called an agency and modeling and photography was a profession.

Hugh Alison said...

When people like yourself have the attitude to us small people that you display in your post, why should we care if we hurt your business?

oneword said...

John,

You're off base here in my opinion (tired of being told that yet?)

I make a very nice living as a full time photographer and have a number of stock sales channels including microstock. Admittedly, I was reluctant to participate in MS and I still hold my nose sometimes but, it's clear to me that it's not going away so, I have to find a way to blend it into my business model.

I think the Time cover illustrates perfectly why Micro exits. If you were Time, would you honestly assign a shooter to shoot a mason jar full of coins when you can buy one for $100? Of course not. Secondly, how would you have shot this any better than Mr. Lam to justify $1500?

It's supply and demand John. Digital has opened the doors to more shooters earning money from photography and as a result,the days of making money off simple derivative stock are gone. Get over it. I can tell you I know at least a dozen shooters who make over a $Million a year shooting stock and spend ZERO time on blogs, forums or worrying about microstock. Many of them actually send a large percentage of files to MS and craft well thought out conceptual images exclusively for RM.

Hey, I'd love to license a file of a mason jar full of coins for $1500 but, those days are pretty much gone.

One other thing, I use MM regularly to model stock shoots so, I sort of resent the "creepy guy" implications. Myself and another shooter are doing two days of fly fishing stock next week followed by a day of professional office concepts. All modeled through MM, all models are paid (no tf**) and I can assure you, no nudity of any kind. My last stock shoot was about two months ago in New Mexico, again, cowboy lifestyle and outdoor lifestyle shooting, all through MM. Some of it was sold for microstock, some for RM and some saved for self promo. MM, like everything else in life, is what YOU choose to make it. For me, it's a convenient way to find staff and models for remote stock shoots. Implying that shooters who use it are trolling perverts is WAYYYY over the line. Frankly, it never occurred to me until you brought it up.

Will Seberger said...

The agency itself got hosed too.

They could've taken 40% of $3,000.

If they're going to keep playing this game, they should ramp up the rates for the higher volume sites and publications.

For those prices, TIME could fill their entire magazine for what a cover stock buy would have cost them 5 years ago.

Talk about a missed revenue opportunity.

Gregg said...

Ummm, I wonder who made the best long term business decision...

Robert Lam's cover image on TIME ( circ. 3,400,000 weekly). Last seen in every waiting room in America.
or
John Harrington's cover image on PUBLIC CIO (circ. under 80,000 every other month). Last seen in Vivek Kundra's birdcage.


John, as you claw your way up the food chain, there's always CAT FANCY (circ. 233,500 monthly). They might let you do TFP/CD...

Saradah said...

That was catty and uncalled for.

SLEPhoto said...

@ the Anon poster who said jeez where was model mayhem back in the day? Oh yeah it was called an agency and modeling and photography was a profession.

Yes, and back then there were "camera clubs" (like the people who used to hire Betty Page) that did "pretty girl" shoots for all the hobbyists.

Some of those shooters went on to develop their skills enough to be come pros, some of them were small scale pros like the local wedding shooter, and some of them got lucky & sold an image once in a while.

They didn't "ruin" professional photography any more than MM or microstock will, but they did take a piece out of the market & mean the pros had to work harder.

SLEPhoto said...

@Saradah, re There are a couple generalizations in this blog, pertaining to MM in particular, but to be honest with you, all of you who pick at him for them are being just as childish as you accuse him of being.

Most of us, especially up to the point your comment was made, were hardly being childish. We were merely pointing out that the comments about Mr. Lam and MM were a DISTRACTION from what we acknowledged was a valid business point.

Saradah said...

Had you been reading the same responses here and on MM that I was? They're STILL bashing him.

Saradah said...

While I will agree that the points made in this blog were a bit harsh and not always accurate, attacking him serves as little purpose as the attacks he made on Mr. Lam and MM. We all know generalizations make us look immature more often than not. It's all just a bit much for one man sharing his two cents. He's also not alone in his perspective.

Anonymous said...

After reading this mess and planning my willful departure from the profession; I'm happy to say that I'll be gone none too soon and happily not looking back.

Enjoy your passions and good luck with the paychecks.

Saradah said...

Anonymous, with the attitude you have, none of us will miss you.

Anonymous said...

What are you folks doing online?

With business booming like it is why are you wasting your time posting comments here when you could be doing TFCD or moving up to the Platinum level at those modeling websites?

Saradah said...

Whats sad, is that you know so little, and write so much. How about getting a solid education on modeling websites before you continue whining.

FYI, silly child, I don't work TFCD. I'm an artist, and I am properly compensated for my work.

John Harrington said...

(Part 1)
Let's try to take these one at a time:

>>>Your characterization of Model Mayhem and its models is grossly inaccurate.

I did not characterize MM as anything. I characterized the female models on there as having to stipulate and underscore what they won't do because of "photographers" trolling to try to take advantage of their desire to be a model. MM has made a tidy profit providing the marketplace and does a good job of remaining agnostic.

>>> Plus, in the internet realm, glamour...gets far more attention and approbation for shooters.

In the MSNBC/Washington Post article - Fates of pornography and internet businesses are often intertwined - talked about this because it is "...heart of what has spurred the Internet to such prodigious growth." That doesn't make it right, socially responsible or acceptable, it just makes it a fact.

>>>... non model images aren't permitted.

I was referring to Mr. Lam's own website, NOT his MM site.

>>>You're trying to apply standards...to a market & group of people...who operate under a vastly different system.

I don't go over to MM and critisize what they're doing there. Frankly, the only reason MM is even a part of this discussion is because of the undertones of Mr. Lam's postings and solicitations.

>>>Personally I fail to see where the anger and disdain come from...

I am only angry insofar as the person who lives in an idyllic apartment building is angry at the smoker in bed who, with little consideration for those living around them caused a 5 alarm fire. To continue on this analogy - my building, per se, may not be on fire, but it's across the street in the same complex, and the fire could jump. However, as I watch my neighbors lose their homes and belongings, I am trying to tell the analogous "smoker in bed" to not continue to do potential harm to his fellow neighbors.

>>>this isolated incident of a major corporation taking advantage of them is an isolated incident.

Nope. It's happening more and more.

>>>Many TF shooters are seeking some value...

When the bartering is limited to a gender (or race), it's against the law, and is called discrimination. When all you want to do is barter with women, and you're in a profession with a higher-than-normal degree of attempts to take advantage of them, and then you fit into that profile, it's worth pointing out as something to say "what's with that", Which is what I did.

>>>I would think a Photo BUSINESS Forum would recognize the business potential of Model Mayhem.

I do recognize the business potential for it, and I also recognize the potential for it's abuse. You don't have an experienced agent looking out for you - you hang out your model shingle and get a few good gigs but then you are also exposed to the bad apples and can't discern this until you are on set with them (and hopefully not alone.) I think that MM has done a good service of connecting models with photographers who previously had to advertise in the back pages of newspapers, or call modeling agencies who would give them the runaround.

>>>It has been shown that TIME was in violation of 2 parts of the istock contract...

Wouldn't it be great if, because of the closer look taken by the people in this discourse, iStockphoto were able to collect a more fair and resonable rate for this cover, and in turn, pass it along to Mr. Lam? The end result would be that everyone would realize that the photo was worth much more, and Mr. Lam would realize what his photos really are worth. I suggest someone at iStockphoto contact Time over these material breaches of their contract. (Well researched, Star Foreman!)

(continued)

John Harrington said...

(Part 2)
It was suggested my attitude is "We're above & better than all you people..."

I have NEVER held that I am better than a particular group of people. In point of fact, I know there are many many photographers that are better than me, and unfortunately, some of them are no longer photographers because of their poor business practices.

>>>I was severely undercut even to the point of photographers willing to shoot for free.

Yes, and consider the next phase. You are a fashion show operator, and you regularly get 20 requests to cover the runway, but you only have 10 slots. Photographers will then have to pay to shoot events. It's coming, count on it.

>>>Experience is what gets you more work...

Yes, yet Mr. Lam already has the experience of shooting the jar of money, since it was stock. Further, he can't show someone that magazine and say he took the photo because he didn't get photo credit, according to the commenter above.

>>>I think that he sold the pic for what it was worth. He did not get screwed...I think the price is correct.

If you use the Magazine Publishers of America figures, 12% of a magazines' circulation can be attributed to single copy sales, and it is a known fact that the cover photo (and headlines) is what drives those sales, since subscibers could just get a blank cover since they already subscribe. With an aaverage circulation at Time of 527,111, approximately 63,000 people bought that issue at the news stand. If your photograph were a driving force behind even half of the 63,000 who paid $4.95 for the magazine, how can you suggest that $30 is even close? Heck, Taking $63k x $4.95 = $311k which means that for each magazine, even at the $3k stock sale price, the creator gets less than a cent, despite their contribution.

(continued)

John Harrington said...

(Part 3)
>>> Did you, Mr. Harrington, leap fully formed from the womb with camera in hand?

No, but I did not come into this profession like a bull in a china shop doing damage as I made myself comfortable.

>>>When people like yourself have the attitude to us small people that you display in your post, why should we care if we hurt your business?

As I said, you're not hurting my business, but you are damaging the profession. If you care about the profession of photography just as you have a passion for making pictures, then you should not want to do it harm.

>>>You're off base here in my opinion (tired of being told that yet?)

I knew it was coming. I am glad there is a discourse on this.

>>> I was reluctant to participate in MS and I still hold my nose sometimes but, it's clear to me that it's not going away so, I have to find a way to blend it into my business model.

That's like saying "I do people portraits, but porn is such a profitable business, that I have to find a way to blend it into my business model." If you find porn objectionable, then you shouldn't do it, regardless of how profitable it is. I find microstock objectionable, and won't participate in it for that reason. My mom used to say "if everyone jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you?" (I grew up in the bay area). Same holds true for microstock, just because others are doing it (and getting paid a fraction of what their images are worth) doesn't make it a good idea.

>>> MM, like everything else in life, is what YOU choose to make it. For me, it's a convenient way to find staff and models for remote stock shoots. Implying that shooters who use it are trolling perverts is WAYYYY over the line. Frankly, it never occurred to me until you brought it up.

MM is definitely what you make of it. Convenient, yes. A possible good resource for the professional? Yes. That said, some photographers ARE trolling there for easy prey, which is why models feel the need to say what they won't do in such an up-front manner.

Now, on a more general note -

I am happy to take the slings and arrows on this, because the more people realize the value of their work, the better off they will be. Model Mayhem is a great resource for some, and while I haven't cast anyone from there yet, if I needed a model in a city that didn't have a full time brick-and-mortar casting agency like Central Casting, I would use MM as one of the resources for securing talent.

Saradah said...

And here is the voice of wisdom.

Take it, eat a morsel of it, and stop calling those of us who value ourselves, and our work highly, as elitists.

Jackson Couse said...

TIME paid the right amount for what they got: a boring, overexposed, uninspired cover. Their half-hearted attempt to jazz up a failing photo with a big red REAL is sad.

This cover is a real departure from the quality of photography TIME is respected for.

Saradah said...

Jackson, don't you think its a disturbing and sad little path that a whole lot more people are traveling down?

Anonymous said...

Somewhere there's a writer wishing that all these people blogging would go away. I mean, what's with giving away all your content. It's making it really hard for people that want to sell books, magazines and newspapers.

Saradah said...

Not at all Anonymous. If you write something people want to read, they will buy it.. No bogger will stop that.

Jackson Couse said...

I find it ironic (and yes, Saradah, sad) that nobody seems to mind that the photo/cover artwork are displayed here without one cent being paid to anyone.

Saradah said...

Its a slap in the face. And I'm understanding that those who disagree with that perspective aren't in this for anything other than just the occasional kicks. I've actually looked at a whole lot of the dissenters and looked through their ports..

Quality of their work and opinion seem to be tied in most cases.

You should be paid fairly for your work, based on A. Effort and time, and money entered on your part and
B. what the buyer has in mind for your work.

It's just shady any other way.

Star said...

TIME obviously did not buy the extended license. The extended license the image would be $462 credits. The smallest amount per credit that this could pay out still totals to a $91.20 to the artist, not $31.00.

Do to the amount the artist was paid it looks like they paid around
$150 for the image.

This does not cover the exclusive license with all the bells and whistles. My guess is they bought a multi-seat license and didn't both to upgrade their license after the fact.

Also they CANNOT do the unlimited sales of poster thing that they are doing, even with an extended license.

here is the extended license clauses, and because of the artist's payout it is obvious they DID NOT buy a full extended license.

"Items for Resale - Limited Run

Notwithstanding the restriction contained in section 4(a) of the Standard License Prohibitions prohibiting the use or display of the Content in items for resale, you shall be entitled with respect to this specific Content to produce the following items for resale, license, or other distribution:

1. up to 100,000 postcards, greeting cards or other cards, stationery, stickers, and paper products,
2. up to 10,000 posters, calendars or other similar publications, mugs or mousepads,
3. or up to 2,000 t-shirts, sweatshirts, or other apparel, games, toys, entertainment goods, framed or mounted artwork

in or on which the Content is used or displayed (the "Resale Merchandise"), provided that:

1. the right to produce the Resale Merchandise in no way grants any right to you or any recipient of the Resale Merchandise in any intellectual property or other rights to the Content;
2. you agree to indemnify the iStockphoto Parties from any cost, liability, damages or expense incurred by any of them relating to or in connection with any of the Resale Merchandise;
3. any production of Resale Merchandise in excess of the allowed run size is prohibited and requires the Content to be purchased separately;
4. all other terms and conditions of the Agreement remain in full force and effect, including all Prohibited Uses."

and yes THEY DID NEED TO CREDIT him as the artist

"Reproduction / Print Run Limits

Notwithstanding the restriction contained in section 4(a)(14) of the Standard License Prohibitions limiting you to 500,000 reproductions, you shall be entitled with respect to this Content to an unlimited number of reproductions, and the Agreement is deemed amended in that respect. All other terms and conditions of the Agreement remain in full force and effect, including all Prohibited Uses."

from the standard licensing contract

"may not use the Content for editorial purposes without including the following credit adjacent to the Content: “©iStockphoto.com/Artist’s Member Name]; or
# either individually or in combination with others, reproduce the Content, or an element of the Content, in excess of 500,000 times without obtaining an Extended License, in which event you shall be required to pay an additional royalty fee equal to US $0.01 for each reproduction which is in excess of 500,000 reproductions. This additional royalty does not apply to advertisements in magazines, newspapers or websites or to broadcast by television, web-cast or theatrical production."



if they did not buy the extended license they owe istock at least $28,601 at the cost of .01 per copy over the number contracted for.

That means the artist is owed $5,720 from istock for the usage of his image.

In addition istock has grounds to ask for much more money do to the copyright violation TIME has done.

Anonymous said...

istock doesn't notify the owners of the photos who or what their images are being used for.

If this is the case, how is the owner of stock images supposed to identify when a violation of a license or terms of usage has been violated?

Anyone?

Saradah said...

You know, I am not sure. Hopefully the OP will come back and let us know.

J.J.J. Schmidt said...

Stone to paper. Telegraph to telephone. Film to digital. Paper to Web. Paid to free.

Time rolls on and it will roll over anyone that stands in one place and whines about it. John has drawn his line in the sand... and I hear a steamroller in the distance. Though I believe John to be a fine photographer, his weakness is his ego and inability to accept change in his chosen profession. As he struggles to keep his professional head above water, he is determined to take a few folks with him. Namely, publishers and other photographers that he perceives to be causing his doom.

Brandon D said...

Whether we like John or not, whether we agree with him or not, whether we're sick of his ego or not, whether he's right or wrong, and whether he will get steamrolled or not, John is consistent about standing up for what he believes is best for ALL photographers, not just what's best for himself. I find that admirable. Many of the rest of us just seem to be fending for ourselves, leaving ourselves at the mercy of which way the winds blow.

While most photographers seem to look out for their clients, someone has to lookout for photographers or else our entire profession will get steamrolled. If photography goes from paid to free, then there will certainly be a steamroller out in the distance for each and every one of us. And if the photography industry does get steamrolled (similar to how many other American industries are getting rolled up), very few photographers will be able to say that they ever attempted to do anything to prevent it.

If the end is inevitable, then it's only a matter of whether you'll go out on your feet or whether you'll go out on your knees.

SLEPhoto said...

@ Saradah-

Comments like this:
Whats sad, is that you know so little, and write so much. How about getting a solid education on modeling websites before you continue whining.

FYI, silly child, I don't work TFCD. I'm an artist, and I am properly compensated for my work.

and
And here is the voice of wisdom.

Take it, eat a morsel of it, and stop calling those of us who value ourselves, and our work highly, as elitists.

and
Its a slap in the face. And I'm understanding that those who disagree with that perspective aren't in this for anything other than just the occasional kicks. I've actually looked at a whole lot of the dissenters and looked through their ports..

Quality of their work and opinion seem to be tied in most cases.

are, in fact, the EPITOME of immature and elitist.

Calling people "silly child," suggesting they need an education about things about which you seem to have a poor grasp, making all too typical comments of "your work sucks so your opinion is meaningless," saying people who don't operate the way YOU think they should don't value their work all speak to a bad attitude on your part that goes far beyond a problem with the business tactics involved here.

It also shows off a set of assumptions that in many cases is very wrong.

You make my point about those who screech from on high at the masses of us below about how we should hew to your standards while simultaneously proclaiming we're not fit to meet them.

It can'[t work both ways.

Saradah said...

First of all, before you attempt to quote me, learn a deeper understanding of English. I simply noted a strange and slightly bothering correlation. I also noted that this was not the case in all respects. You don't seem to be able to employ the kind of comprehension power required for that sort of sentence phrasing.

So lets try a simple statement. You were referred to as a child because you are acting like one. Don't presume to address me as if you understood a single thing that I wrote because you clearly did not.

I don't have the time to waste on people who think that I need an education because they fail to grasp my perspective. You had time to stand on the soapbox, so hop off it, and allow someone who isn't whistling your tune to say what their perspective is on the situation without your silly ideas of interaction between posters.

I have no desire to interact with you directly, and after this, I simply won't bother to respond to you.

Saradah said...

In fact, the argument was made ( caught another thought) that it was the "hobbyists against the career photographers". It was cited time and time again and I didn't see you arguing with it there while they lauded your perspective. Everything I wrote was my own opinion.

I don't see a problem with me writing it. I also don't see a problem with me disagreeing with you.

Learn to have discussions with people.

SLEPhoto said...

@ Mr. Harrington-

You badly chopped my reply & took several things out of context, but I'd like to address a few points.

I did not characterize MM as anything. I characterized the female models on there as having to stipulate and underscore what they won't do because of "photographers" trolling to try to take advantage of their desire to be a model. MM has made a tidy profit providing the marketplace and does a good job of remaining agnostic.
False, sir, and you do it there again. You're falsely characterizing the behavior and attitude about the majority of MM models while simultaneously tarring most of the photographers there.

You continue in your next few replies to associate MM with pornography and cast aspersions on Mr. Lam's motives.

I am only angry insofar as the person who lives in an idyllic apartment building is angry at the smoker in bed who, with little consideration for those living around them caused a 5 alarm fire. To continue on this analogy - my building, per se, may not be on fire, but it's across the street in the same complex, and the fire could jump. However, as I watch my neighbors lose their homes and belongings, I am trying to tell the analogous "smoker in bed" to not continue to do potential harm to his fellow neighbors.
What you are doing it telling someone who wouldn't be welcome in your world to stop practicing a craft he's interested in & making any money at it because it's a threat to you. Seems to me attacking him rather than the people who built the substandard building & who failed to install sprinklers or fund a fire department is going after the wrong party.
When the bartering is limited to a gender (or race), it's against the law, and is called discrimination. When all you want to do is barter with women, and you're in a profession with a higher-than-normal degree of attempts to take advantage of them, and then you fit into that profile, it's worth pointing out as something to say "what's with that", Which is what I did.
So not only do you continue to justify your attacks, you ignore the realities of the market.

SLEPhoto said...

(cont.)
I do recognize the business potential for it, and I also recognize the potential for it's abuse. You don't have an experienced agent looking out for you - you hang out your model shingle and get a few good gigs but then you are also exposed to the bad apples and can't discern this until you are on set with them (and hopefully not alone.) I think that MM has done a good service of connecting models with photographers who previously had to advertise in the back pages of newspapers, or call modeling agencies who would give them the runaround.
Speaking of ignoring the realities, much as the shooters wouldn't be welcome at the real world agencies nor would the majority of models there be welcome in either the fashion or commercial realm. The people there are carving out a market niche that hasn't had much of a place before. That, too, appears threatening to some institutions & individuals.
Wouldn't it be great if, because of the closer look taken by the people in this discourse, iStockphoto were able to collect a more fair and resonable rate for this cover, and in turn, pass it along to Mr. Lam? The end result would be that everyone would realize that the photo was worth much more, and Mr. Lam would realize what his photos really are worth. I suggest someone at iStockphoto contact Time over these material breaches of their contract.
Yes, that WOULD be great. But your other wild swings at Mr. Lam and the broader internet photography community can only hurt your case.
As I said, you're not hurting my business, but you are damaging the profession. If you care about the profession of photography just as you have a passion for making pictures, then you should not want to do it harm.
You seem concerned that things continuing to change MIGHT hurt it. Many of us who have a passion for making pictures have trouble caring about the profession because it's VERY difficult to be one of the few who make a living at it, and those who do behave towards us as you & Saradah have... by insulting us & our work, questioning our motives, etc. Why care about something we're clearly not welcome to be a part of?

Plus, much as I noted that many MM models would not be welcome at agencies & therefore might have to pursue their love of modeling with a few odd jobs that they don't make much money on, so many of us who haven't been fortunate enough to make our living as photographers must take advantage of the new market paradigms such as microstock to fund what we love.
MM is definitely what you make of it. Convenient, yes. A possible good resource for the professional? Yes. That said, some photographers ARE trolling there for easy prey, which is why models feel the need to say what they won't do in such an up-front manner.
And again with a mischaracterization based on a small percentage of people... not to mention the conveyance of the false idea that such things don't happen in the "real world" when, in fact, there're more documentable cases og big name & agency people engaging in coercive behaviors with wannabee models than there are of such situations on websites like MM.

SLEPhoto said...

@Saradah, of course you don't have the time. All you have time to do is call me names & engage in personal attacks, as you have no substantive argument to make.

It's ironic that you tell me I should learn to have discussions when you are incapable of simple civility, which's what I was calling for here.

SLEPhoto said...

@ Brandon
John is consistent about standing up for what he believes is best for ALL photographers, not just what's best for himself. I find that admirable.
I might've believed that if not for his continuing attacks on the online photography community.

It seems instead he only cares about the small percentage of photographers whose business interests dovetail with his, and to defend those interests rather than dealing with the issues at hand he wants, instead, to tear down and tar broad swaths of the community.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt when I first posted & encouraged him to post about the BUSINESS but his continued derogatory comments show that's not his motivation.

Sascha Rheker said...

There are many decent people - no matter if pro or amateur (in my experience pros do care less wether soemone is pro or amateur than amateurs do) - with whom you can have a real nice and inspiring chat about photography, but many amateurs that you talk to and who know that you are a professional photographer start to be beating around the bush as if they were trying to steal some holy business secret by some ingenious interrogation technique. Apart from the problem, that such conversations are an unpleasant experience (to be polite, last week some jerk took several attempts to convince me that I must be an idiot because I have tape over the manufacturer name of my cameras but not over the apple on my macbooks screen) the big problem is that they don‘t believe what you say.

So, if you tell someone that he is selling his work far below its value, the last thing he will understand is that you say that his work has a certain value. If you tell someone that one won‘t become a professional photographer if he is making less money with his pictures then he is spending to take them, he will only hear that you obviously fear the quality of his work compared to yours. He will assume that you noticed that that everything you say is some kind of decoy (especially if it is an inconvenient truth) to keep him out of business.


It‘s ridiculous to say that John‘s Blog is doing any harm to professional writers, he is writing this in his own blog and he is not offering his texts for free or almost free to websites or magazines. An amateur who is showing his photos on his website will not affect the income of any pro unless he starts selling his stuff.

And regarding the TFP issue:

Who could deny that most offers for TFP include a heterosexual male photographer and a female model?

If you are male and don‘t believe this: Contact a photographer who is offering this and ask him if he would also be willing to do this with a male model. If you are female: Ask the photographer if you could bring your boyfriend to get pictures of you both.

How many workshops for amateur photographers feature male models or even an equal number of male and female models?

duckrabbit said...

$30? TIME were ripped off, this photo is worth $5 at most.

Anonymous said...

Would you "experts" prefer that John not bring this issue to the photographic public?

SLEPhoto said...

@ Sascha
Regarding your comments about people not believing what you say, my whole point in posting here was that the attitude displayed would KEEP people from listening to or believing the valid business points. Much of the negativity you describe comes from comments like Mr. Hanniger or Saradah have made.

Who could deny that most offers for TFP include a heterosexual male photographer and a female model?
That's because they're the majority of people, generally in smaller markets & neither suited for agencies, that inhabit the internet realm.
If you are male and don‘t believe this: Contact a photographer who is offering this and ask him if he would also be willing to do this with a male model. If you are female: Ask the photographer if you could bring your boyfriend to get pictures of you both.
2 separate issues. Most photographers in the demo you're talking about have no USE for male images. They're not marketable for them.

The BOYFRIEND issue is a whole other can of worms given the fits that causes. Aside from the lack of marketability who wants to spend the time & effort making "pretty couples pictures" likely with someone unsuitable for modeling and deal with the grief involved?

If the model offered pay it'd be a different story.
How many workshops for amateur photographers feature male models or even an equal number of male and female models?
And again it's marketability... far more than the average denizens of the websites those who pay big for workshops are far more likely to be interested in shooting women, unless you're catering to a gay male audience.

BTW, I have helped put on workshops & shootouts here & it's hard to FIND male models who'll actually take part in them.

A huge issue here is that you're all operating with blinders based on a set of assumptions causing you to view people operating outside your standards as "bad" and dismiss them in exactly the same way you say they dismiss you... meaning there's no chance for constructive dialog on either side.

SLEPhoto said...

@ Anon poster:
Would you "experts" prefer that John not bring this issue to the photographic public?

Not at all. He has some very valuable perspective on the business side of it. The issue is that his unecessary negativity towards Mr. Lam and the online photographer community overshadows his good points & causes them to get lost.

Anonymous said...

A nice read and debate. Refreshing. Thank you everyone!Time remaining until next refreshing read. 180:11:32:10.
Lots of pro's missing opportunities in these discussions imho. Know your market!

Rick said...

John, well said, I wish I could introduce you to a couple of guys here in Phoenix.

Sascha Rheker said...

@ SLEPhoto

I think the truth is rather that people believe and hear what they want to believe or hear. The inconvenient and uneasy truth is not really welcome to many out there.

So they make them self believe that even having a photograph published for free without having their name mentioned by someone who never ever has or will pay a photographer is a stepping stone to foster a big career in photography. Every kind of objection is a kind of blasphemy.

Your comments regarding TFP are strange:

Men and Women are the majority of people, no doubt about that!
But male photographers and female models aren't the majority of people.

If someone talks about male models or photographing men all that comes to your mind is "gay"! All pictures showing men are only suitable for "a gay male audience"?

People who shoot children or animals are perverts?

This is absolutely ridiculous but it somehow illustrates what John was trying to point out. Doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

hello from Finland,
wow folks! you sure can discuss almost about everything! (No matter about subject)
But you have missed the main point. Does cover image cost Time 3000 or 30 doesn´t mean anything for them. Saving on images doesn´t save their business.
But quality of their product means everything. I think that in this case only cheated one is Time magazine. Now they have lousy cover.
People do understand images, that´s why main advertisers invest so heavily on image production.
Magazines can only live if they give best quality information. And photography is part of that.
And John, dont´t be so upset. Photography is a (small)business, you are successful businessman.
You have everything to be even more successfull when this recession is over.

Tokyo photojournalist said...

Whoa! Give the guy a break, it's not his fault that Time bought his photo.

The reason Time pays thousands of dollars for covers was that they use talented for photos that take time and money to produce.

Isn't Time making a simple ironic point with a cheap looking, obviously stock, photo of a jam-jar?

If they commission a photographer to go and take a portrait of some world leader for $30 then we will be in trouble!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm ... something is not right here. When microstock contributors say how much they received for a sale they are always referring to their royalty amount, not the total sale price. This would make sense considering he said he got $31.50. When he said "last check" I think he meant "last time I checked" since you can't get a check from istockphoto for less than $100. Plus, there is no credit price of $31.50 on istockphoto. So, the actual price paid for the license is actually more like $157.50 assuming this guy got a 20% royalty. That had to be an extended license, no?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, your post attacking Mr. Lam, TFP, and Model Mayhem is totally off the mark, and very, very petty.

First of all, I took a fashion photography extension course through Art Center College of design (pretty famous school for photography, I’m sure you’ve heard of it) taught by a full time working professional and (semi) famous fashion photographer in his own right and Tfp is the ONLY way for aspiring professional fashion photographers to build a portfolio, and MM was one of the ways this instructor told his students to practice and build their portfolios.

Second, attacking Mr. Lam for getting lucky by submitting an image to iStock, is small minded and mean. If this image (or all of his images) were on Alamy instead of iStock would he make more money? NO, I can say that unequivocally from experience selling stock for over 5 years and from reading probably no less than hundreds of threads on the topic in various stock and photography forums. Additionally, would Mr. Lam been able to get this particular image accepted to Masterfile, or Getty or Corbis. From my own experience trying to get images accepted to these agencies I can say with 100% full confidence, no he would not.

So attack Time Magazine by all means, attack the major stock agencies for sticking their heads in the sand and not seeing the democratization of photography and stock and create their own system for accepting up-in-coming novices early on as opposed to allowing the micros to fill a gaping whole in the industry but don’t attack the little guy who’s just trying to find his way in the world and probably knew nothing or very little of traditional stock before he started submitting images to istock in the first place.

Anonymous said...

What's missing for this conversation is the acceptance that Time DID BUY a cover image from IStock and they will KEEP BUYING from IStock. Just because you don't want the business to evolve and change (for better or worse) doesn't mean its not going to happen.

If you want to stand up for for the fees professionals once got, you need to take this anger directed at Mr. Lam and channel it to the editors you know at Time, right? They are actually the ones buying from this newly created and thriving marketplace known as microstock. Again, just because we wish something not to happen and decry the future, doesn't mean a thing.

No publication or individual owes anyone any excuse for the way they make their living in photography. Maybe by Time purchasing an IStock cover image several times a year they are able to keep more of their staff employed?

Phil Hawkins said...

Well put, John, well put.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to go with "Anonymous July 27, 2009 2:07 PM" on this one.

Your mean-spirited post comes off sounding like this: "The hoi-paloi, those mere groundlings competed and won. They WON. How dare they? I wanted MY friends to win. Why can't those little people just go eat cake?"

What it seems you're so upset about is that you and yours actually HAVE to compete with the little people with their Digital Rebels, D200's and crappy Alien Bees lights.

The world has changed. Business models have changed.

The dinosaurs need to evolve or they'll end up as fuel oil in our engines.

Steve said...

"If you want to stand up for for the fees professionals once got, you need to take this anger directed at Mr. Lam and channel it to the editors you know at Time, right? They are actually the ones buying..."

True, Time is buying but then again it's you who are selling...or giving. Why direct anger at Time or any publication? They're the smart ones the ones exploiting the naivete of the inexperienced or uninformed for their OWN personal gain.

"No publication or individual owes anyone any excuse for the way they make their living in photography."

If this is how you or anyone plans on making their living then you are either deluded are have one of the lowest cost of living rates in the history of man. Yes, I know that some people make supposedly make six figures selling through MS but if that is true, they are very few and very far between.

"Maybe by Time purchasing an IStock cover image several times a year they are able to keep more of their staff employed?"

Don't even know what to say to that. How about, if you choose to keep Time staff employed at your own expense then by all means go right ahead but somehow I doubt they will be as forthright and willing to reciprocate the next time your mortgage payment is due. Send them your next statement though and don't forget to mention that you're helping their bottom line by selling cheap digital images through MS. You never know...

Doug Wade said...

Oh, dear God, get a life. There's no way Time would have paid anybody thousands for that specific photo, whatever the usage. It's just too easy to recreate. They would have just had somebody on staff shoot it themselves. In this case they found a pre-existing shot that they could use and it was cheap enough that it wasn't worth recreating it themselves on the cheap so they did the easy thing and paid for it.

Anonymous said...

I find it truly amazing that so many are willing to waste time on so little.

This profession should be regulated.....end of story.

Since it's not; the watering down of photography as a profession is at a point now where the damage has been done and there's no going back.

It's too late to salvage this sinking ship; too many have already given away so much that clients know it's all about how low they can go, and if you don't go low enough there's someone around the corner that will drop the proverbial pants to just say that they did that job.

It happened to the photojournalists because they weren't good stewards for that part of the business. While they willingly did "side jobs" for 50 cents on the dollar because they weren't able to make ends meet from the meager pay that they took from the newspapers and news publications, they brought the wedding photography business to new lows. Did you ever hear of the "photojournalist style wedding" well where do you think that came from? And of course at half the going price and "by the way we'll throw in the negatives" now that's a can't miss deal.

This business is most certainly changing. And it's changing for all the wrong reasons.

Jan Klier said...

Very revealing debate...

A few things come to mind reading all these comments:

- Regulated industries are usually a sign of failed business models clinging to life jackets through powerful lobbies because of a lack of creativity to adapt to new ideas and realities. Being that photography is a business which has creativity at its core that is troubling.
- If it weren't for creative and entpreneurial spirits of others a long time ago folks would have never invented photography, and none of the folks complaining here would have ever had any of these jobs. Or maybe you would have had to learn how to paint. Oh wait, what did the painters say about all that back then?
- While all these hobbiest may be changing the marketplace, don't forget that they're adding to the bottom line of all the paid pros indirectly. If it weren't for all these cameras and other photo gear being sold to them, none of the manufacturers would have as many R&D dollars to advance the technology and make ever more powerful cameras as affordable as they are today, which reducing your production cost and opening up new opportunities to compete.

And all of this is well researched. If you want to read about it, I recommend the first two books from Clayton Christensen called the 'Innovators Dilemma' and 'Innovators Solution'. It has a very thorough framework of how businesses get disrupted by new entrants that have new ways that are cheaper and good enough for the customer. It also provides a framework what the incumbents should do to stay ahead of the game.

Rich Green said...

A microstock guy wants to come and give us a talk at our local ASMP chapter. Some of the members aren't familiar with penny stock and want to hear him. Not me.

Regele IONESCU said...

OP is missing the most important thing: TIMES has not bought an exclusive image. This image is going to sell maybe one more time or maybe one thousand times for the very same price. An exclusive image would've cost TIMES perhaps more than 3,000 USD. But the very same image might appear simultaneously in thousands of other places. Also, TIMES has become a cheap advertising support both for the cover image and its creator. How much do you have to pay for a full front page advertisement??? Who got screwed??? Who is happily running to the bank????

Anonymous said...

Hey Doug Wade, name me a TIME magazine STAFF photographer.

Rockmann said...

I posted this on MM and thought it worth repeating here.

"This will all end badly for photographers. I see a day where magazine's will have a bidding process for a cover and even images within the magazine. Highest bidder who's photography meets the subject matter, will get the cover. Of course they will probably not get the credit as there will be a third party who is facilitating the transaction.

I'm sure everyone will laugh at this idea, but no one is laughing at the iStock business model and how many millions of images are contributed by "photographers" ?

How much would you pay to have a cover of a major magazine? Almost everyone reading this would probably do it for free at the very least. Think about it.

That's your million $$$ business idea for today."

Sascha Rheker said...

Photography is not a a regulated industrie. But it's a business with a severe problem.

It's silly to speak of a lack of creativity when you have to compete against people who could and do give away their work for free as they earn their living in other jobs. To make the whole thing even more absurd, many of these people who ruin the industrie dream of quitting their job and becoming a photographer.

Imagine you were a taxi driver and you would have to compete against people who like driving around and who offer rides for free or at prices below the costs of gas. And during your lunch break these people park their cars next to yours and tell you that they would love to quit their job and be a full time taxi driver and make the easy money, too. And if you tell them about the problems they are causing, they tell you, that you have to be more creative in a changing world and that you should be thankful because the fact that they bought cars, too, is somehow subsidising your business.

Jan Klier said...

@Sascha:

The guy working at the furniture store may be able to take a picture of a jar full of coins.

But next time there's a story where they need a cover story about Putin, the guy at the furniture store won't be able to produce that and have it on Microstock. This is where Platon will make his money, because he has the ability to do something that sets him apart - because of skill, access, and resources.

Where the creativity aspect comes in is realizing that business as usual is no longer working, and that we all need to find value propositions to offer that distinguish us and provide enough value to the market to make a living off.

So what is that you can do, that the guy at the furniture store cannot do, today, or even in the near future?

Star said...

http://imaginarium-the.blogspot.com/

TIME magazine wrote me back, but i am still unsure on their usage rights

Anonymous said...

this is why microstock should be avoided all together.

great article.

Sascha Rheker said...

@ Jan Klier

It's quite obvious that he is able to take a picture of a jar of coins.

What I can do, that the guy from the furniture store can't do is quite simple:

I can work assigments when he has to sell furniture.

Getting a good photo from time to time is one thing, getting a good photo from a certain event to meet a deadline is not really the same as photographing a jar, where you have unlimited attempts.

Jan Klier said...

@Sasha:

Bingo. And there is lots of demand for that, and people willing to pay good money because their business depends on it. Now we just have to focus on these opportunities, articulate to those clients why we make a difference, and let that guy enjoy his $30 and not worry so much.

Anonymous said...

This is racist!

Anonymous said...

Pretty sleezy of time not to give credit. The mind set is clear. They are willing to buy cheap but they still want to think they are all still cool! Typical scum bags we have been dealing with for the last 8 years it's just moving up the ladder. This business is full of trash.

Anonymous said...

Just cancel your subscription if your not happy.

Anonymous said...

re anonymous July 27, 2009 8:40 PM

You really think their photo illustration department has nobody capable of taking a snapshot?

Anonymous said...

John, you are racist. attack Time and Istock not photographer.

Anonymous said...

SLEPHOTO- just looked you up, awful work, very amateur, not surprised at your defending of MM. You had probably better up your game if you are going to compete with all the free content that is far better than yours, just a friendly tip.

John, I can't blame you for writing this the way you did, it happens in blogging, you hit the send button, no editors look at it. I wished you had wrote it different too, but it is what it is...

Now then, the image Time chose for this cover was crap, maybe it was supposed to be crap to make a statement..? iStock is a serious bummer, but thankfully, a lot of what I shoot for stock is non-exsistant there, but I am not resting easy, sales are down due to the economy but my stuff still sells. I run a hush-hush, not for public view operation, so far so good.

The worst thing out of all of this is the attitude of the small guy, part timer and the new DSLR owner that goes on sites like dpreview and asks: "Is this camera Pro?" and then laughs at how he thinks his photos are better than the pro and says, "Tough, that is the way it is now, who needs a pro anymore?"

There are quite a few of these enthusiasts with piss poor attitudes on MM by the way, just read the thread. So enthusiasts, how is it that you have these attitudes? Is it that before the iStock age there was no way you could make a living in photography? Is it that YOU were the one who was jealous? I remember when I would encounter one of you and you seemed all down, I would offer words of encouragement like become the best photographer you can and then learn business skills. I never put people down or made fun of someone that was not quite getting there yet. I sure as heck did not make fun of someone who was out of work either, terrible.

But, you, the new digital age @sshole enthusiast have the *WORST* attitude about what you have done to the industry out of ANY industry I have ever seen. That is not good for you or me, that is BAD karma.

I have been a photographer since I was age 9, been making a living off of it for nearly 20 years. The worst thing about this paradigm shift is not the loss of work for some photographers or even iStock / Time magazine, but the attitudes some of you have. You ought to be ashamed to even call your self a photographer.

I will continue to make a living in photography as best as I can. I am well connected, do good work and I am a dream to work with, not a prima donna. But I no longer do workshops, teach people how to do the things I do or share very much anymore because it is bad out there with bad attitudes.

Andrew Pinkham said...

John Harrington is a hero of mine. While I don't always agree with what he says, and maybe got too personal about Mr. Lam. His passion for the industry and craft is genuine. I wish could I say the same for Time Magazine in this case.

-Andrew Pinkham

Steve said...

"But, you, the new digital age @sshole enthusiast have the *WORST* attitude about what you have done to the industry out of ANY industry I have ever seen. That is not good for you or me, that is BAD karma."

Completely agree!! You read it in every forum and see it in the comments on blog's such as John's. There's just the crazy sense of entitlement and misplaced arrogance that has seeped into photography. I say "misplaced arrogance" because I do think that a certain amount of arrogance, in the form of self confidence, is needed to be successful in this business. However what seems to be the case with this mass influx of semi-pro shooters is an attitude of "I just spent a few thousand dollars on some camera gear, booked my first wedding shoot, so there is absolutely nothing you can tell me that I don't already know. Piss off!"

From Twitter, to Facebook, to web sites instructing you how to market Y-O-U this is the age of self-absorption and narcissism. We've become a society of instant gratification, self gratification that is.

Go to any popular photo forum and look through the section on image critics. So many people post their image(s) for feedback and then get all bent out of shape if someone, anyone doesn't respond immediately. "Here's my picture. Tell me how awesomely talented I am and tell me right now or I'm going to get mad!" I see it constantly. First of all folks, people work, they have families, they have lives, none of which revolves around you. I know that may send your head spinning but it's true so take a pill and deal.

Whenever any experienced or veteran photographer decides to talk about the negative impact of devaluing your work, there's always an uproar and guaranteed that uproar doesn't come from anyone who's been in the business for more than ten years. Newly minted professional photographers are so quick to jump to their own defense that they're missing the message. The people who know, the ones who've been in this business are trying to help you as well as themselves. They are trying to impart valuable business information, information you never hear because you're just too self absorbed, too enamored with your greatness to listen.

If I hear the phrase "hey man, the photo industry is changing and it's never going to be the same so get used to it old man.." I'm going to scream. Hey knothead! Wake up! The photo industry has been evolving since day one. Despite what your mommmy may have told you the sun doesn't rise and shine at your will. Yes, the technology is evolving and yes, the business is evolving but that really isn't the problem. However, it would seem that those of you who need to see your photo credit in order to validate yourselves continue to use the evolution of the technology as an excuse to be lame.

A great example of a professional photographer who has embraced the technology BUT still gets paid what he is worth is Chase Jarvis. He openly acknowledges that the technology is changing the way we do business. He admits that in order to remain "competitive" you have to let go of what was and evolve your business plan and practices to address what is. However, I've never heard him advocate that the new business model involves pricing below fair market value nor have I ever heard him tell aspiring photographers to throw out their pricing sheets because free is the new paradigm and getting a photo credit is the new goal.

Dan Routh Photography, Inc said...

Steve,

You are completely correct. Our business is evolving, but no matter how it evolves, it is still a business, and businesses are created to produce livelihoods. I have a lot people come to me for advice from time to time. Many are genuinely interested in actually learning about the business of photography, and I am glad to offer my advice and experience. Unfortunately, many more just want to know what that deep secret is that will launch their career today; which camera or lens, or which Photoshop filter will make their photography world class, instantly. I ignore most of them, because they are truly clueless.

Jon Senior said...

@Steve: Actually what Chase said was that since the digital revolution had significantly lowered the bar to entry, the middle-ground had become saturated, and that if you had previously occupied that middle-ground then you were going to have to push yourself into the upper band to get the work. He didn't suggest that photographers lower their prices, or that they work for free, because he was talking to professionals (in the sense of sole source of income) not amateurs.

What is hurting this industry is that it is possible for an amateur to "compete"! You don't get amateur doctors (well, you do, but not legally). You don't get amateur lawyers. For many this is nothing more than a hobby, funded by their IT job (and I include myself in this category).

I won't "sell" photos to those can buy them. I don't work for free. I don't undercut local photographers, or take on weddings. I will do TFP photo shoots because it allows me to improve my skills in this "art" and because I appreciate the results. But the key is that TFP must be fun and a collaborative effort. When it becomes work I expect to be paid.

This is however a personal attitude, and I don't think that it can be forced upon the amateur world. If it were possible to take on paid work "on the side" to cover my outlays then I would do so.

What is being demanded by John Harrington is protection for the photo industry. At which point you have to ask why it needs it, and why it deserves it. Chase's answer was to up his game. Why is it that the vocal majority of photographers believe the answer is to ban the competition?

I feel for you all... I really do. It sucks to have your livelihood pulled out from under you by people who are only in it for a few seconds and who don't need, or care about, the repeat business, but really... what would you actually do? Other than bitch about them "ruining the profession", what steps would you like to see taken, by whom, and to what end. If you make professional photography into an exclusive club, who gets to choose the members?

Heather Last said...

I would like to 2nd the statement in regards to the attitudes of some "photographers" responses on MM, who have this seemily attitude of entitlement and you owe me! It is disgraceful! I heard over and over on MM how,people should get use to it,with completely over inflated egoes that they accuse the pros of having! Here,I say to you,the gates were never closed to you,it was through,hard work,dedication,nuturing relationships,long hours of honing their skills that got them where they are and will keep them ahead of the game,so to all of you who shout with glee that the doors are wide open and we should look out,because you are taking over! I hand you a pin...please deflate!Ignorance sure is blissful! If you were hungry enough,you could be on the same playing field,always could have.

It is my opinion your attitude and lack of respect for this industry and your fellow colleagues is suicidal. If you all are so passionate about this industry as you claim,then you would be about protecting your industry,you would be standing beside your fellow photographers,not helping to destroy the industry for yourself as well as others yet to come.
I,for one,am new to this industry,by most peoples standards,it took me many years learning before I decided to turn pro,and it wasn't because I felt entitled,it is because of a true love for what I do,because I cannot see myself doing anything else. I accept that I may be ahead of some and behind others,I keep all that in check,I acknowledge my weakenesses,I embrace my strengths,I respect my colleagues who helped to pave the way and I have the upmost respect for the ones who are still fighting for it!

Anonymous said...

I started reading this blog after I bought your book, but over a very short time you've become not only less relevant but outright counterproductive.

Your post was mean. Mean, mean, mean. But we already know that you think being mean to others is acceptable, don't we? Remember poor what's-his-name's "critique" that you defended? Mean.

Let's try to follow your logic, eh? *I* would expect $3k for this image. Time, realizing that any idiot with a camera and some seamless could create the same image, paid $30 for it. Sooo...therefore let's bash the image creator?!?!? WTF are you smoking?

Not only do you pull out the arrogant "I'm a pro and you're not" stick to hit him with, you kindly point your goon squad to his website. Further, you mock his employer, no doubt hoping the attention will cause someone to show up and humiliate him in person. Then, to top it all off, you all but call him a sex predator for wanting to shoot female models.

Perhaps you should take a gander at Chase Jarvis, David Hobby, or Scott Kelby who, as I'm sure you know, are making a great living BY BEING NICE TO PEOPLE!

Pull your head out and realize that *your* business model works best *for you*, and maybe, just maybe, there are other ways to get through life.

So sorry that I'm staying anonymous on this one. I generally don't, but I don't want your religious zealots flaming me everywhere.

Best.

Dan Routh Photography, Inc said...

"Pull your head out and realize that *your* business model works best *for you*, and maybe, just maybe, there are other ways to get through life."

Perhaps there are other ways to get through life, but I have never found a business model for photography (or for any other business) that works by selling your services for less that it costs to provide them. Have I mentioned the term "clueless"?

No, I am not part of any "goon squad". Rather, I am a full time, earn everything I earn from photography, care about the profession, want to be able to make a few more years eating, kind of a photographer. I don't know John personally, have never met him, but have realized from reading his blog that he is serious about the business of photography and probably goes out of his way to help out budding new-comers. The real question I have after reading some of these posts is whether or not any new-comers here are smart enough to listen.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Harrington

The Time cover is indeed ironic.

However, here is a greater irony: Your insistence that photographers are entitled to adequate compensation is entirely admirable . . . yet your own commercial blog post on the subject is illustrated with a hotlink from iStock!

It only costs $1 for legitimate use of the image to the illustrate your blog.

With your hotlink, you have even avoided paying for the bandwidth!

Would it not be better to look to your own house before making all manner of accusations and insinuations aimed at questioning the motives and ethics of others?

Don said...

This has become quite an interesting debate all over the internets. Cool, I think that is a good thing.

I love John's enthusiasm and share in his total love for the business and art of making images.

I found it unfortunate that he chose to attack the vendor to the seller instead of the buyer, but that is not where I place the blame. I have a problem with the buyer, not the creator.

I don't participate in MicroStock, because MS makes no sense to me. I know about the "Crowdsourcing", and the "FREE Economy" and I believe there is a lot to think about when discussing those systems. They aren't new, however. Pennysaver figured that out years ago.

I don't have any problems with the photographer, nor do I fault iStock. I believe in entrepreneurs and think that people have rights to make choices. If someone wants to sell their car for $50, I don't care. If someone wants to put out a book for free on the internet, I don't care. Choices.

The problem I have is with the idea that an image is worth a couple of bucks. I don't know any wedding photographers who sell 4x6 prints for less than $12, but MS's routinely get commissions of $.50 to $3. Fine. I don't understand that at all, but the thought of some sort of gubment intervention is completely out of my world of understanding.

Markets have realities. We have seen great market changes in a lot of areas recently. But thinking that everything works on the same plane of relevance doesn't work. Photographers are not mortgages or car manufacturers.

We hear that newspapers should give themselves away, increasing readership and therefor gaining more eyeballs and advertising.

Cool. But the photographers are not the deliverable, they are a component of the deliverable. The newspaper can be given away free, but the truck drivers get paid, the printing company gets paid, the writers and designers get paid as well as the accountants, lawyers and management. The economy of free does not include them, they are the recipients of the success of the economy of free.

Asking the photographers to do it for free makes them kind of unique, ya know.

Photographers provide the content for the completed product, which could be given away free.

Let's look at photographers who become bloggers (heh). They give away a lot too. Sometimes to sell a book, sometimes to get interest in seminars, and sometimes just to increase the buzz that may attract real buyers and assignments.

But the computer people got paid, rent, electricity, bandwidth and even access to the internet... that isn't free. And the bloggers who write for anything other than buzz are publishers first, photographers second. In that endeavor, that is. But as a publisher, they wouldn't go to their friends (online or off) and demand stock for a couple of quarters - so they can publish for free. (They can find CC images on Flickr or get them free at StkXchng or whatever.) There are lots of collaborations and sure, there are people who work together to create buzz for each other. Again, no problem.

When photographers start believing themselves to be the final product, then the paradigm of assignment photography and stock photography and free photography can become totally blurred. I shoot without compensation all the time. I shoot for my portfolio, and I shoot for fun, and I shoot for charities. However, when someone wants me to shoot something for them, the paradigm has to shift to business. I have to make a profit and meet payroll.And I bill for that.

Photographers provide content, usually mixed with other content to create a finished product that makes it a part of something larger. That larger product can be disseminated in many ways, and some of them can be free with that model.

But the photographs, the ones that make the publication worth something, have to be paid for. Just like the printing and the writers and the accountants and the janitor.

Sascha Rheker said...

"Perhaps you should take a gander at Chase Jarvis, David Hobby, or Scott Kelby who, as I'm sure you know, are making a great living BY BEING NICE TO PEOPLE!"

Operating a blog that amateurs like is not really the job description of a professional photographer.

As far is I know Chase Jarvis is making his living (and those of his employees) as a photographer not by being nice to amateurs.

And (as far as I can see on their websites) David Hobby and Scott Kelby make (at least a part of) their living by being payed for teaching and courses, by ads on their websites etc...

By this I don't want to say that they aren't nice people but being nice is not always 100% altruistic. Sometimes it's part of the business model and sometimes it's counterproductive.

Live is not only about being nice to people. Sometimes it's about being honest. And very often honest is much better than nice!

If you take a look at numerous websites where people present their photos and others may comment the pictures (e.g. the Strobist Group at flickr) you will notice that the people are very nice to one another. But there is a certain point where "nice" turns into "dishonest". Even the worst photo of all times will get comments like "Very nice" "Well done!" "Great picture".

The people there seem to be nice to one another; superficially. In fact they are dishonest in order to have their own crap praised in return.




"I found it unfortunate that he chose to attack the vendor to the seller instead of the buyer, but that is not where I place the blame. I have a problem with the buyer, not the creator."


Who's fault is it that they got the picture for some bucks?

The photographer who had chosen to distribute his pictures at those prices using a micro stock agency or the person who bought the picture there?

JeffGreenberg said...

99.9% of pro shooters will never be published on a Time cover.

99% of "$30 photo usage for credit line" offers will not generate meaningful follow-up income for pro shooters.

Paradoxically, a Time cover "$30 photo usage for credit line" will probably not generate meaningful follow-up income for a micro$ shooter, but certainly could for a resourceful pro shooter who would otherwise never be published on a Time cover.

Don said...

"Who's fault is it that they got the picture for some bucks?"

Oh, I see that there is plenty of 'blame' to go around. But the answer I have is that Time is a knowledgeable, well respected magazine art department. The photographer is an amateur who quite possibly is not even aware of the values of stock photography.

A small child can offer a bag of cash she found in her daddy's car to an adult. The responsibility of TAKING that cash is the adult.

I cannot have any animosity toward the photographer. If anything, he may just be someone who believes all the hype and bullshit from companies that take 80% of the take. I have seen Stanford Professors who seem to be as naive, or whatever you want to call it.

But Time? They knew exactly what they were doing.

Anonymous said...

First off, who gives a fuck about what Chase Jarvis, or David Hobby, or Vincent Laforet or Moose Peterson, Scott Kelby or Seth Resnick thinks about anything?

Microstock is a shitty ass way to sell images and it is destroying many markets.

Yeah, John may have gone off on the photographer who created the picture but the problem is photographers selling their work for less than what it is worth.

If the big boys of stock were really smart about long-term success they would shut the micro stock agencies down and concentrate on RF at decent prices and RM that is truly the best imagery available.

But the cat is out of the bag and I doubt anything will change.

But some wanna-be hero to the photo industry is not going to change anything even if they get thousands of wanna-be photographers raving over their self-absorbed videos and postings.

Get real shooters. Microstock is bad fucking news.

Anonymous said...

I had bookmarked John's initial post, not because of its value but because I felt there was a vibrant need for some form of rebutal. I could not do so earlier since, guess what, I was busy shooting and traveling and living the life as a full-time photographer that I have always wanted, but I am glad that some others did very respectfully articulate their views, like SLEPphoto, whose quality of work has no relevance here (another mean attack).

The market is evolving and changing at perhaps a faster pace than ever before, and it's worth debating such changes. It is just disappointing that what should have been John's main point, i.e. that Time is buying stock photography for its cover, has been totally obscured by John's unbelievably disrespectful stance on the "lucky" shooter of that picture. It is frightening to see how many biaised views are being expressed here, not only on the shooter, but on the photo enthousiast community which, for its largest part, is asking no more than to make pictures, and explore their creative part... while also supporting the photo industry in general by buying photo gear, magazines, participating in workshops and so on.

I am really appaled by John's views on sites like MM, and his follow-up comments really did not help. What the hell? And mostly, what's new? Didn't Avedon start by taking pictures of his female friends? This is very irritating.

It is sometimes very useful to have a pitbull dog barking from the garden to alert about potential threats, and I command John for his relentless, albeit agressive, stances in favor of the professional photo industry. That said, I would not invite a pitbull in my house.

Heather said...

I think many valid points have been made,and I think it is time to stop the finger pointing and start debating some solutions.

Anonymous said...

Hey... Hobbyists don't think like us. I bet he would give Times that photo for free if Times called him directly. Just like some girls slept with basketball or soccer players for free. Can those "professional girls" complain?

Long time ago, I knew a guy sending out his shots of a apartment on fire to newspaper. They promised for something in return. I told him I was pretty sure they wouldn't after the photo got published. It ended up like what I predicted. However, he bought a few copies and gave them to his friends and relatives... What can I say? Lecture him about every frame worth money? Just wasting my time, actually.

Jelani Memory said...

this whole thing seems way too big of a deal. ok... so he could have gotten more money. but he's chosen to sell his photos in another way. does that make him stupid because he wasn't a corbis or getty contributer? last time I checked they weren't allowing for just anyone to submit photos. you have to realize that the world of photography is changing and its opened up for folks who never could have published a photo anywhere to be on billboards, newspapers, and even on the rare occasion....the cover of Time. I've been a contributer with istock for a bit now and its where i got my start in photography. I wouldn't have even begun if it weren't for a platform like Istock.

Anonymous said...

To Jelanie Memory and the guy who said he was busy shooting, traveling, living the life as a full time shooter:

You MUST see that the model of business you are defending / endorsing / accepting and engaged in could make you the ones who are out of work in 3-5 years time....right?

Surely you don't think you are immune because you are "Adapting" to the new business model....right? It could easily be you that is out of work. So because of that, maybe it is time you woke up and realized what is at stake in accepting this as the new way to do business.

No one but the very top of the game, famous shooters will survive this if it keeps on going. No business on earth will survive this kind of free-loading, amateur ridden free for all, ever.

I hope you are prepared for that.....

Summer said...

For me, iStock is a training tool. Stock and Commercial work is the final goal. Getty actually recruits from iStock since it is a parent company. I don't see anything wrong with this as there is nothing wrong with an internship in other professions. What are my other options to getting started in the business?

Bec Thomas said...

I seem to be in the minority but I agree with everything you said. Although it looks like Time is up grading... Last winter Time trolled Flickr and was asking to use images for free, plus photo credit of course but we know how that doesn't mean much at the end of the day and it certainly doesn't pay the bills.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how much Time would have paid if this was a Getty RF image as opposed to an iStock RF image?

I quickly scanned through Getty's client agreement and a limitation on the print run did not jump out at me.

Does this mean that Time would have been able to publish a Getty RF image on their cover without any other additional rights?

If so, what would that total fee have been and how much would the photographer have made?

Probably not an amazing amount either, and certainly nowhere close to the numbers thrown around here?

Jan Klier said...

Fear is a very powerful thing. But don't get blinded by it.

Here are two other industries that can provide clues to how this shift in the photo industry could play out.

The availability of 'free' software has been around for more than a decade now in the form of 'open source' software. In fact some of you may be using Firefox instead of Internet Explorer or Safari, which is free software made by people who do not get paid to do so. In fact in these cases not only is the software free, but the source code as well. That is the equivalent of not only giving your images away for free, but with it the lighting diagram, camera settings, Photoshop filter, the contact list of any talent involved, etc.

While there is lots of free software, the biggest impact may be from the Linux operating system. That is the equivalent of Windows or Mac OS available for free, you just have to download it.

Now has that meant that suddenly all software engineers are out of work? Has that meant that Microsoft or Apple can no longer succeed in selling software? Not really. Does it mean only the big guys can play? No, there's an abundance of software startups that are doing quite well. And in fact some of these startups are aided by the fact that some of the tools they use to exist and grow are available for free.

So here is a good example of an industry that used to be highly paid only (IBM 30 years ago), that got disrupted by 'free', adapted, and is quite well off.

The other example is the auto industry. How many of you guys drive a Honda, a Kia, a Toyota instead of a Buick? Probably at least a few.

Well, cheaper cars came on the market that were good enough for the customer. Over time they became better, and in some cases are now preferred over the old brands. Toyota and Honda had the foresight to invest into hybrid technology and those are selling well. Detroit is late to the party, and when Chrysler cancelled many dealership contracts dealers had to sell car 10-15% below invoice to get rid of them before their contracts expired. Billions of $ in bail-out, two bankruptcies and not a healthy patient yet.

That is an example of an industry that is getting disrupted by a new player, but that resists change and lobbying for the status quo to remain.

Why am I describing this: Simple - some amount of 'free' (or cheap) does not mean the death of the industry as we know it. And getting overcome by fear and fighting change is not a proven path to success.

Boston Photographer-MWynne said...

Lengthy debate, has anyone actually looked at the original photo. part of the problem isn't this guy accepting $30 for his image, but the fact that the image he provided can so easily be photoshopped to a working cover.

William Van Hest said...

Plain and simple. Being published on the cover of time as a part time photographer has to be worth more than $2,970.

Just imagine his future advertising!

Anonymous said...

Yes, uncredited covers are a great marketing strategy.

Anonymous said...

I personally think the microstock agencies are doing the photo industry a favor. Imagine all the photographers receiving no checks with minimal sales not reaching the "check" level. People are stupid but after a while the rose fades, the bills keep coming in and the stock companies keep rolling along. They WILL figure it out eventually.

Anonymous said...

The comment that less than 10% of ASMP members make their living from photography is incorrect. A general member (the only voting members of the society) MUST earn the MAJORITY of their income from the publication of their images. ASMP is a wonderful organization for professional photographer, photography students and emerging professionals. I urge the semi-pro to look up their local chapter and perhaps attend a meeting. www.asmp.org

IsaacArt said...

Don't you think Time was trying to make a point about the REAL NEW FRUGALITY by buying an image for only $30?
I think it's perfect.
I would ask Time to pay a fair price, but who can blame them. Everybody is trying to save a buck. And even amateur photographers can take a decent photo for a cheap magazine cover.
Can we educate all amateur photographers to charge more? I used to think so, but now I doubt it. Still, I believe there's room at the top, is there?

Andy Frazer said...

John,

You wrote, "If you are really looking to grow your portfolio, you would be just as eager to photograph men as women. You would have more than just one guy on a website that is otherwise filled with women. You would want the variety of images that demonstrate your abilities."

I have to take issue with this comment (and your logic). I am really looking to grow my portfolio, but I have no interest in shooting men (nor babies, nor pets, nor cattle). Since I'm not working full-time, I might want to focus my energy to produce the most cohesive body of work possible. If you think that I, or any other photographers who have photographed women models TFP have ulterior motives, you may be mistaken. Sure, there are some creeps advertising on MM and OMP. But to generalize everyone like that is disrespectful and inaccurate.

Regards,

Andy Frazer
http://gorillasites.blogspot.com

apa_member said...

Besides ASMP, there is also APA .

Advertising Photographers of America is very business oriented with chapters nationally. Smaller than ASMP but very focused on what is truly important.

APANATONAL.com

Black Shadow Photography said...

Not one person here or in a number of other places this subject is being discussed have been able to provide me with a convincing argument that microstock is good for photography or the business of photography.

The impact of MS has lowered pricing for many areas of photography.

RE the Time cover - the guy didn't even get a credit for the photo - istockphoto did and so did the illustrator who put "The New Frugality" label on the jar of coins. I dare say the illustrator was paid a lot more than the photographer...

I also raised this subject on my blog - the post can be seen at http://www.blackshadow.com.au/2009/07/how-microstock-is-ruining-the-business-of-photography/ if anyone is interested.

Cheers, Richard

Sascha Rheker said...

@ Summer

You may see this as an internship if you like to. But think about this:

If interns are only used as a cheap workforce (selling their work below the cost of production), easy to be replaced by the next generation of people wanting to become interns in order to become photographers, then please explain to me why anyone should hire anybody instead of just using the interns?

An internship is meant to be something where you are taught something, not where you have to do the work and try to learn the buisness en route.

An internship is a cruel joke if there is no chance to get an job afterwards and if you are hopping from internship to intership used as a cheap alternative to real staff!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the Internet to go away.

Downfader said...

As a UK photographer who is struggling to make an income (infact I make nothing from photography despite my efforts with Alamy - I have to hole down another job to make ends meet)

..I find this story sad and unsettling. We have had an influx of people buying DSLRs and thinking they'll get rich off the back of 5 images, people like the BBC and other news agencies trying to get images for free and grab rights, and we have had picture editors strive to pay less and less for an image over the years..

What I think needs to happen is for the industry to set standards and fixed prices in much the same way as there are minimum fees for models and studios or hiring gear. Only then will this nonsense end.

Jan Klier said...

@Downfader:

Who is setting the minimum fees for models, studios, and gear? The market, a union, or a govt agency?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of the Time cover today, and a similar one on US News and World Reports (or a similar magazine) of a wad of currency tied up in a bow on a white background. The week that came out there were also several other magazines on the stand that week with similar money images. THEY ALL LOOKED THE SAME! So while they are saving a fortune by not paying photographers what they are worth, their readers and advertisers can't help but notice the move to cheap and think less of hte magazine. This will cost them in the end.

Another note, I have noticed repeatedly on the blogs that when someone points out the the microstock guys are screwing themselves, they line up, attack the messenger and defend their right to get screwed. Some even boast about how good it feels to be pulling the rug out from the big boys.

This is sad indeed. Obviously they will never go far if their goal is to pull others down into the mud with them instead of raising their own standards....but it would also be nice if htey would stop trying to pull everyone else into the mud with them.
Mark Stout
http://markstoutphotography.com

JohnW said...

Something that seems to be overlooked in the ongoing argument regarding microstock is the effect of the current economy on publisher's budgets. I know because this has happened to me.

For the last couple of years I have been a "contract" photographer and writer for a monthly newspaper covering general and business aviation. Because of the loss of advertising revenue, the paper has now gone to bi-monthly publication at the first of the year and just recently drastically cut the amount they are willing to pay contractors.

I'm sure large magazines like Time are feeling the pinch of the economy and are looking to reduce expenses in every way possible. If this means buying images through microstock for $30 instead of $3500, then they're going to do it. What's the alternative? Bankruptcy and failure...

Mark Stout said...

This cover photo will remain a controversy for some time I am sure. Perhaps it is one of the best things that could happen as it illustrates the need for change in the industry and for photographers to take a little time to educate themselves on the value of their work. It is amazing the number of blog posts it has inspired speaking out against the injustices, including my own entitled The Time Magazine Cover "Ripoff" http://photobusinessforum.blogspot.com/2009/07/real-new-frugality-time-style.html

I hope it will inspire a few more people to wake up1

Summer said...

@Sascha Rheker

“explain to me why anyone should hire anybody instead of just using the interns?”

Skill level. An intern obviously isn’t as skilled as someone working the profession. I have come a long way since contributing to iStock but I’m not as good as I should be to be paid well for it. I also don’t have the business skills and pretty much suck at marketing myself. Maybe one day.

“An internship is meant to be something where you are taught something”

I have learned more from iStock than I ever did in college or from all the impractical books I’ve read. When an image is submitted to iStock but rejected it is sent back with an explanation, a very blunt critique. I find it pretty hard to get this kind of mentorship anywhere else. It is also useful to see what styles and concepts of images sell well. I have learned to create sellable images instead of just pretty images. There are also forums mixed with photographer and designers that I have gathered priceless information from. This IS a learning environment with little perks. Yes, many internships are paid, but not much.

“An internship is a cruel joke if there is no chance to get a job afterwards and if you are hopping from internship to internship used as a cheap alternative to real staff!”

That would be a cruel joke but who says you won’t get a job afterwards? Why would this not be a legitimate way to start out?

Anonymous said...

John, Saradah, et al...

This is not meant as sarcasm or any kind of retort in the least. I respect your positions and your work very much. I just wanted to share my insignificant point of view:

Do any of you own a stock photo agency and if so, would you be willing to take a chance on representing me? Below is my resume (needs polishing):

I'm basically an amateur in photography, no real formal training, no desire to go full-time professional, but I sure have learned a lot on my own and have gotten fairly good at it. I'm a member of several microstock agencies. My portfolio is a whopping 350 pictures, most of which are 6mp or less, the rest around 4mp, taken with consumer-grade lenses that cost $45 or so on ebay. I don't have the time to produce more than 12 to 15 new pictures a month. Most of those are very simply done pictures of cute people who are not professional models at all, most shot on a plain white background, using basic props many of which I use in daily life (my own pots and pans, stovetop, plates, clothes, canning jars) or buy for very low prices at clearance tables, garage sales, or dollar stores----I don't shop at Walmart much these days because their prices are starting to go too high for this buyer. I think I have a fair amount of talent, just not enough money to afford much more than a 6mp camera---I do have a family to feed, among many other bills, and don't want to go into debt. I have very little experience shooting assignments, just friends' or neighbors' portraits and an occasional low-budget wedding for not a lot of money, because, well...I'm not a "professional." I joined microstock a while ago, just for fun. And, what do you know, but they've actually started making me some money. At my current agencies, I only make about $800/month total, but I don't really put all that much time into submitting to them each week either. That little income keeps creeping up a little each month, but not all that fast, maybe because I don't submit as much as those others who are making $50,000 and more there (wish I had the time....). And yeah, sometimes I have to bite the bullet hard, like when I saw one of my photos on a billboard and realized I only got 28 dollars for it. But I guess it comes with the territory, or business model. I am just glad they accepted my meager first attempts at stock photography and thought enough of my work to include it in their library. And I've actually learned a lot more about the craft of photography through them. They actually have pretty high acceptance standards, yet those standards have absolutely nothing to do with whom you're connected to or what experience you have or how big your portfolio is or how much you submit per month or what camera you use. (By the way, would you be willing to accept 2mpx photos like the biggest one of them still does?) Yeah, I don't make much money there, but in my station in life it sure helps with the bills. However, my desire is to make more in the future without a large expenditure in equipment, advertising, websites, insurance, etc. Okay, okay, with basically NO extra expenditure more than what I'm expending now.

So, do I get the job? And if not through you, where do you think I would have a chance??

Chris Lipscombe said...

As others have already mentioned, the very first thing I noticed when you were complaining about Time paying for an iStockPhoto for their cover is that you linked to the photos without paying. You loose all credibility with me for that alone.

The photographer chose to sell his photo through iStock, and Time Magazine can buy their photos anywhere or anyway they please.

The photograph of the money jar is just as good as any "professional" photograph I have seen. So go get over yourself.

If you want to sell your photos for $3000 each, then go for it and the best of luck to you. If you want to sell your photos for $30 each, then do it.

I have some photos up on iStockPhoto, none of which are nearly as nice as the Money Jar. I would be honored if Time Magazine had chosen one of my iStockPhotos.

Make no mistakes about it, in your rant, you did call the photographer a pervert ... that is totally uncalled for.

You should be ashamed of yourself for so many reasons.

John Harrington said...

Chris (and others) -

Stanford University (here) has a solid answer to the question of fair use, which I assert the display of the cover of Time falls under:

"In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and "transformative" purpose such as to comment upon, criticize or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner."

You are welcome to hold the belief that I lose all credibility when I showed the cover (or linked to it which is even sillier), however, you are entitled to your opinion no matter how wrong it may be.

When you write "Make no mistakes about it, in your rant, you did call the photographer a pervert", you are, in point-of-fact mistaken. Please cite, in quotation marks where I used that word and ascribed it to the photographer. Raising a concern that I am not alone in having, and asking for an answer by querying "what's up with that" is also, in point-of-fact NOT calling anyone anything, it's asking a question.

-- John

Alistair C said...

Dear John

You chose to write a piece not about whether a transaction was legal - but rather if it was fair. That would be something of a moral, not a legal judgement.

Since you have pointed a lofty finger at others who have done wrong in your own eyes, one assumes that you would hold yourself to a higher conduct.

In short, your moral argument against Time using images from iStock falls rather flat when you illustrate your piece with an apparently unpaid and hotlinked image. You may be legally entitled to do it – but it’s hardly “best practice”.

Did you ask iStock's permission to use their bandwidth before taking it? Or do you somehow feel morally entitled to help yourself to a bandwidth resource which is paid for by the very company you accuse of being so cheap?

There is something truly pathetic about a farmer badmouthing his neighbour for selling apples too cheap, while simultaneously munching on one of their "granny smiths" and watering his flowers with a hosepipe snaking back to their tap.

Where I'm from, we'd call that farmer a hypocrite.

John Harrington said...

Alistair -

Showing the Time cover, and directing people to iStockphoto is both fair and legal. Further, providing a DIRECT link to a product or service, AND doing a screen grab is also fair and legal when commentary or criticism is about what is shown, generally speaking.

Had I shown the photo on my site, where everytime the site loaded, it used iStockphoto's bandwidth, that might be less than coo (and using their bandwidth), but I am NOT using their bandwidth. I am providing a link, and the individual who clicks is is the one who is actually using the bandwidth.

As I noted above, you are entitled to your opinion, no matter how wrong it may be.

-- John

Tyler said...

@ John Harrington. Are you breaking any copyright laws by publishing Time Magazine content (cover) on your commercial blog (I'm calling it commercial because you are displaying advertisements)? What about breaking Blogger's terms of service? Just curious.

John Harrington said...

Tyler -

Please see above.

- John

Clayton Hollowell said...

Wow, the things you find wandering the intertubes at 2:30AM...

A buggy whip maker railing at the stars, but wait, no, instead of shouting to the heavens or even condemning the Henry Fords and Friedrich Diesels of the play he launches an innuendo laden invective at some hapless auto worker.

The depths, the depths.

Mr. Lam didn't undervalue his work, as an amateur the going rate for his work is pretty much zero, he got $30 that he otherwise would never have seen. Without micro stock he would have no way to market his wares, short of taking a lot more of his valuable time to do so. The only person who got screwed in the deal is you and your profession, not Mr. Lam. Why are you taking it out on him by smearing his morals and honor?

And while you didn't actually slander him by calling him a pervo, using innuendo to do the same thing doesn't make it moral, or any less of an ad hominem assault, just legal.

You would do a better job defending your profession and way of life if you didn't resort to elitism and damning random amateur photographers who happen to wander into your field of view from on high.

Robert said...

Wow! I have read most of the way down through these comments, as I was thinking about trying to join iStock, and have come to some conclusions of my own. 1. Trashing Model Mayhem (and it does seems to be a popular place for folks who might not otherwise get the chance to catch on with a more traditional model agency) to me is a non- starter; it's pretty much an open- air market and you'll always find and have to be on guard from the con- artists, scammers and perverts. It doesn't mean that everyone who shows up there is one the way Mr. Harrington portrays it.
2. If Mr. Lam's photo had been on the cover of a small struggling local or regional magazine, he would have made just as much money, been just as happy to see his photo on a cover somewhere and WITHOUT all the controversy gotten ripped off as badly. Why? Because iStock fell down on the job as his agent and didn't enforce the terms of the license. Now, maybe iStock wanted Time to keep them in mind as a source of photos by not charging the correct values for Mr. Lam's photography, but in the medium-to-long run having Time think of iStock as a cheap date for stock pics is not going to help iStock's survival nor that of the clients that they represent and have a duty to.
3. Mr. Harrington, see part 2 above. Lam's a hobbist, just like me. There are too many of us out here, with access to decent equipment and the talent to make an occasional great shot that someone might want to buy, for you to stop us all. If you want to make sure that you can charge what you need to as a pro to survive, then you need to get on his agent, iStock, for not making sure that he got fair value for his photo. That's the kind of thing that will devalue everyone's efforts to make some change in the long run. Personal attacks on people you don't know and have never met should be left in the realm of politics.
4. Mr. Lam, you might want to think about finding a new place to sell your stock photos from, as it seems to me that iStock isn't really interested in representing your photos very well.

I'm not a professional photographer, nor do I want to be, but in the course of pursuing a very rewarding hobby, I have made some images that I think might have a place in the commercial world. I feel that I have the right to attempt a determination of their commercial value irregardless of my perceived status in the realm of photography, and that others in my same situation have that same right with regard to their own work. The professionals out there can either help us and themselves by raising the standard of expectations through education, or be swamped in a tide of petty recriminations and lack of adaptability.

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