Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Speedlinks & Commentary - 5/13/09

It's been some time since we've done Speedlinks, so I thought I'd compile several that I thought note-worthy, and I'll add in a bit of commentary to each, so, enjoy today's speedlinks.

  • Awkward Family Photos - This site is not only good for a barrel full of laughs, it is also a variation on the website Photoshop Disasters, because it shows so many photos that are just plain bad. Take for example, this one - Mothers Day, and this one - Too Close for Comfort - which makes me think the photographer had a backdrop that was too small, and he kept telling the subjects to move closer together, then there's this one, and here are "The Cling-Ons", the over-use of white in Whiteout (I mean, doesn't that photographer understand that this is over-the-top, and borderline Stepford?), and as someone who is 6'7", this - Big Love - is just composed poorly, an over-use of a primary color in Into the Blue, and lastly, - Family Tree - that photographer just isn't right in the head. So, take a spin, laugh a little (ok, a lot!), but most importantly, learn a few lessons - the first one I'll suggest: 1) It takes actual talent to be a photographer, not any "Joe" can do it!
  • Starting Over - As an Entrpreneur - Here is one more story that tells people that when they lose their job, being a freelance photographer is the solution. A few tips for the intrepid photographer who lost her PR agency job and decided to freelance - 1) Don't pose with an outdated film camera, and if you are going to, make it a Hasselblad and not a Mamiya 645 (yes, Mamiya fans, bring it on), 2) "faux borders" on images is so 2001, and 3) get a separate wedding site. Mixing commercial marketing and wedding work is not good for getting commercial work. You take a good picture Tarah, but your marketing plan needs some polishing - what did you learn at Mortar?

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  • The Gravediggers of Photojournalism - Jahreszeiten publishing is using Stalinist tactics to try to force photographers to surrender a broad swath of photographers rights for next to no additional revenue while the "publisher Thomas Ganske professes to be a protector or champion of intellectual property rights. For instance, he was a prominent signatory of the so-called Heidelberg Appeal, according to which: “Authors and publishers reject all attempts and practices to undermine the fundamental intellectual property rights to literature, art and science, the fundamental right to freedom of research and teaching as well as freedom of the press and publication.” Hmmm, this sure sounds a lot like Conde Nast's attempts to secure, and I quote "All rights throughout the universe...". Where were all these photographers when ASMP and others were fighting the assinine Conde Nast(y) contracts? (Conde Nast Contact: Introduction, 5/26/08). There are over 3,000 signatures, which the publisher will laugh at unless they get an EP-like group to actually refuse to work under those conditions. That is, until the iStockphoto hobbyists, looking to get validated by being in these magazines, see Jahreszeiten as their own Mount Everest. Paging Seth Resnick and Paula Lerner....

  • PDNPulse - Mrs. California Blames Photographer - I agree with Mrs. California - the photographer has released what really looks like outtakes that caught her either inbetween shots or otherwise affected by the wind. Further, since when do tasteful images of the human form raise legitimate objections? take a look back at the historical statues of nude women or famous paintings by all caliber of artists from the middle ages, where the nude female form was celebrated. Lastly, I am damn tired of people being chastised for their own personal opinions - especially when they are expressedly solicited. Her keeping her title is just, and just like I dislike celebrities using the Oscars for the espousing of anti-whatever sentiments when they should just be thanking people for their award, so too do I dislike it when someone hijacks an event for their own personal agenda. It doesn't help that he has no qualms about infringing on copyrights with reckless abandon (alledgedly), as detailed here.

  • Alamy Mis-Steps - It seems that a bunch of Alamy contributors are (rightfully) upset about the agency mis-licensing RM photos at lowball rates to "preferred customers", with one person reporting a sale of $10 for an image that priced out at $600.00 using Alamy's own calculator. Seems something's afoot over at Alamy, and it might just be some smelly socks.
So, with all of the above feel free to fill the comments with all manner of opinion, just keep it civil, or you'll get deleted, and remember, my opinion or commentary doesn't have to match yours, but you should respect mine even if you don't agree with it, since you did choose to come here and read it of your own volition.

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.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Answering the Phone 'After Hours'

It's 9pm on a Monday. My Office Manager and Post Production Manager, and intern have all been long gone. At 7pm, my phone rang. It seems a major public relations firm, which had originally thought they could just snap some photos of attendees at a Senate hearing with their office digital camera. Then, they scrambled for a last minute photographer. They got a photographer I knew was less than experienced on the assignment (I asked whom they got, and they told me), and the person on the other end of the phone was that PR firms' client, and she was very upset. I talked to her for about 20 minutes, and the assignment wasn't just the coverage of the hearing, it was also several portraits of people coming in from out of town for use in marketing and advertising, and while this photographer was less than experienced covering the hearing, he would have been out of his element completely in producing a quantity portraits that were advertising quality in several settings.

What to do?

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I opted first not to bad mouth the other photographer, bad karma. She tried to corner me into reassuring her she would get what she needed. I started outlining the logistics of the project, interspersing several general ideas about how I would have done it, and then I closed with - "with all those portraits, and the hearing, it will be a challenge for sure." I didn't want to lie, but I did want her to know it was not going to be smooth sailing. She felt as if she had no choice and was locked into the other photographer, and she asked how much I would have charged and I gave her a figure that was over twice what that photographer had quoted her. (I asked, and she told me.) She assured me that next time she would call me directly, and not farm out the photography request to her PR firm. The beauty of this is that not only would she have paid double what the other photographer quoted, but it is now reinforced in her eyes that I am a premium brand photographer (and thus, am billing at a premium rate.) I closed the conversation saying that I would be up fairly late this evening, and if she decided she really wanted me to take on the assignment, I would do what I could to make that happen, even on short notice.

Even though I would have like the assignment for tomorrow, it wasn't meant to be. Yet, at 7 o'clock at night, I was able to have a conversation with this prospective client, as if it was 2pm in the afternoon.

Returning to the 9 o'clock hour, my phone rings again. Before my caller ID delivers to me the name of the party calling, I say to myself "oh, nice, she's calling back. Guess I'm doing that project after all...", and then, up comes a very regular clients' number, and I say to myself "hmm, that's odd." (this all happened in about 2 rings). Answering the phone, it is another client, "Hi John, what are you doing answering the phone at this hour?" I respond "I am working on some paperwork and so on, but I am happy to be talking to you. What's up?" The client says "well, I am at an event the continues on tomorrow, and it was just mentioned that they want a photographer for a luncheon, are you available?" I respond "sure thing, I am happy to take care of that for you tomorrow, consider it done." He says, "it's really going to be about 10 minutes of work, but I know you have a minimum, so just bill me for that." I say "Yes, we do have a minimum that would apply, and I'll get that paperwork off to you in the morning, but we're all set for you, have a great evening." Now, this client can turn to his superiors on site there and say "I've just secured a photographer for you for tomorrow." They will look at him and be impressed and possibly even pay him a compliment or two about his ability to get things done so quickly, and he will garner cache akin to the hotel concierge who secures two orchestra tickets to the sold out performance at the city opera at the last minute. Thus, he looks good, I look good in his eyes because I was available and able to confirm for him, and, oh yeah, I have a paying assignment tomorrow.

As photographers, it is important to realize that we don't have hours, really. When you can answer the phone at 1am, with a cheery face, and acknowledge that you can be on hand at a 7:30am breakfast, because either A) they forgot to book a photographer, B) their photographer that was traveling with the group missed their flight/lost their luggage with the gear in it, or C) their photographer got sick and they just got the voicemail, you not only earned that assignment and the revenue that goes with it, but also a client who will stick with you in the future, or who is reaffirmed that you are their go-to person for their photography needs.

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.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Photo and Negative Scanning: The ScanCafe Solution

Converting your analog images to digital is a time-consuming process. From first-hand experience, I can tell you how much time and energy it takes. Over the past decade, I have migrated all of my best images from analog to digital, and that process has been completed. It was completed at a huge economic cost in terms of real dollars spent paying in-house people to do it, as well as the economic cost of not having them scanned earlier.

I can't imagine how I would have felt if my images had been damaged in a flood or fire, and not scanned. Several psychology resources we looked at in thinking about the importance of analog conversions for the non-pro photographer, turned up top-of-mind items to take when being evacuated from an unsafe area, items like wedding or family photo albums. On news broadcasts where families are combing through their destroyed homes, time and time again, we see them finding a family photo, or photo album, and being so grateful that it survived.

For the family happy-snapper, and the seasoned professional, the film archives need conversion, and ScanCafe is at the forefront of providing the best service in preserving your memories, or your pro archives.

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I remember a business like Nancy Scans, about a decade ago, would charge $40+ for scans, and that was a deal. I compared the costs of staffing an in-house position against outsourcing it just a few years ago, and for medium format, outsourcing was the best solution, and in-house, I thought, was the best for 35mm, but I can report that that determination is questionable now that I look back at the end costs.

One of the things that the out-source service I was using, JaincoTech, was doing, was keywording and caption transfer from slide mount to metadata. ScanCafe does not do that, at least not on their website of pro scanning options. But here's the huge difference - I was paying $5 (and up) per scan there, and ScanCafe is doing scans at $0.24, which includes color correction, scratch/dust removal, and even minor damage to the image. Money Magazine said they were the “Best quality and cheapest…The best scanning service.” (article here). Don't have a negative? At $0.27 per print, they'll scan those too. How did I learn about this, and become more comfortable with them? My friend and colleague David Hume Kennerly is on their advisory board, and turned me on to them.

So, imagine you're a wedding photographer right now with 20 rolls of 35mm film from a wedding and you want them scanned for your archives or website. Assuming an average of 35 images per roll, for $168 you can have all of them scanned. Now, here's a great option for revenue generation. Why not contact ALL your past brides, and offer to deliver to them all the images you shot on CD from the film you never turned over, for, say, $300? Not only will you turn a tidy profit, but that gives you the entree to offer family portrait or children's/pets portraits to them during your conversation. Since the bride has likely ordered every print she'd ever hang around the house or give as a gift, there's little extra revenue from that film now.

Whether it's photo scanning, slide scanning, or negative scanning, ScanCafe looks to be a great solution. Further, for those extremely challenging black & white scanning issues, they can handle that too. I will be meeting with their CEO, Sam Allen, this week to ask him more about his service, so if you have questions, or they don't have a service you want, e-mail me or post in the comments below what you'd like to know, and I will put those questions to him.

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.

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