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?

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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..". 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?

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Facebook Ads With Your Photos - Steps to Stop

If you'd rather not have Facebook's advertisers using photographs of YOU in their ads - TO YOUR FRIENDS, you'll want to rush over and change your privacy settings on Facebook ASAP!

Facebook buries several pages into their privacy settings the ability to turn off permission you grant to Facebook to allow their advertisers to take any photos you have uploaded. Here is the text from the settings page:

Facebook occasionally pairs advertisements with relevant social actions from a user's friends to create Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads make advertisements more interesting and more tailored to you and your friends. These respect all privacy rules. You may opt out of appearing in your friends' Facebook Ads below.

It is unpleasant to note that you are automatically OPTED-IN to this permission, and you must take action to opt-out.

Below is a step-by-step illustration so you can stop commercial interests from using you and/or your photographs in their advertisements:

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Now that you've done this, send this URL to your friends. Your automatic opt-in granting by facebook of the use of your photographs in ads could create liability if other people in those photos have not granted permission!

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ron Edmonds - Retiring but "Not Dead Yet"

Longtime friend and colleague Ron Edmunds, of the Associated Press, has decided to retire after a remarkable 28 years. His cold weather cap from the 1997 inauguration of President Clinton, clearly indicates though, that he is "Not Dead Yet." I can attest to this fact - I spoke with Ron just a week or so ago during a White House event, and he was indicating he retirement was coming soon. I said to him "the most fear is no doubt coming from the bass", my referencing his second greatest talent and favored past-time - bass fishing, to which he just laughed.

Ron Edmonds, January 20, 1997 covering President Clinton's second inauguration.(to see the full frame of the center stand where Ron was shooting from, click the photo to see it full size)

Edmonds leaves a legacy that will, for a very very long time, be unparalleled. More importantly though, his friendship for all his colleagues - and those with whom he honorably competed for the best picture (and often won) will remain as a benchmark which other photojournalists will strive to achieve. For almost two decades, I have had the privilege of shooting alongside Ron, and he was always a good guy. Yet, if someone threw an elbow his way, Ron was not one to acquiesce - he would just shoot a circle around you as you were trying to rearrange yourself - I witnessed this more than once.

I wish Ron the best as he heads off into the next chapter of his life. For a glimpse at just some of Ron's iconic images, check out Ron's web page.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Usher v. Corbis

I am getting really sick and tired of know-nothings opining about the Usher v. Corbis case, and the railroading he got by his agent. (By the way, PDN did a nice job reporting on it here, as did Haggart here.) Corbis, and every other stock photography agency at the time valued every analog image at $1,500 per image, because it was a one of a kind image that, once lost, cannot be recovered. Yes yes, the image that was shot a moment before and a moment after might have been similar, and, in some cases, were close to identical. However, it is precisely because SOME images are similar, and some images are significantly different and thus, over the life of the image, have a value much higher than $1,500, Corbis required its' clients to agree that $1,500 was a fair AND MUTUALLY AGREED UPON valuation to apply overall. Thus, since some that are similar might be worth less, and others that are not would be worth a whole lot more, valuing the work at $1,500 each was a fair figure.

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Further, Chris is in the NEWS business, and Chris was traveling with a Presidential candidate, where you are trying to work as the motorcade screams along at 50 miles-per-hour and you can't look up because you are trying to work with your gear, and when you board a plane you have to hand-off your valuable film to a courier to get it to the publication (or your agent) on deadline. In many cases, your AGENT is entrusted with processing the film, captioning it, and being the steward of your best interests.

It has been a foregone conclusion that Sotomayor would be confirmed, so there's little reason to squawk and pitch a fit thinking that it will impact her nomination. When you have 60 votes in the Senate that you own, it's fast-track time for whatever you want. The business of news photography does not allow for the careful cataloging of each and every image before delivering it to your agent, or your client because seconds and minutes of delay count. After or before the fact, it was Corbis' responsibility to have done that. For people who have suggested that he had poor paperwork and somehow thus deserved what he got, think again. Corbis' own $1,500 valuation they caused their clients to accept when analog images were delivered to them should have been the basis for the award, not $7. That's ridiculous. EVEN if you figured that every roll of 36 images that Chris produced had 30% in waste (blank, out of focus, missed moment, etc) Chris still got railroaded.

If anything, it was Corbis' responsibility to organize, track, and number all the images he had coming in during his time there. Their failure to do so showed their disregard for the photographers they were supposedly representing. It appears from everything I have read and heard, that Corbis was utterly derelict in their responsibility to Usher, and to other photographers as well. The final nail in the coffin was when Corbis' lawyers equated Chris' images to, yes, wait for it..... "nails", and suggested that his work is just a commodity.

I can't imagine a more solid argument for why any photographer represented by any major stock photography agency wouldn't pull every single image of theirs and use a service like PhotoShelter (as Art Wolfe/et al did) and manage their own affairs. Certainly nowadays it is so easy to do with digital, and then Corbis/et al could begin trying to sell all those empty filing cabinets. This doesn't make anything better or easier for Usher, but moving forward, know that, A) if you want something done right, do it yourself, and B) look with a cautionary eye at people who say they are your agent, because from photographers to actors, sports figures to musicians, those that wear the badge "agent" are more often than not not living up to that obligation.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Distinguishing Yourself

While I spent the formative years as a photographer switching seamlessly between my Hasselblad and my 35mm film cameras, frankly, my preference for shooting, for example, weddings, was 35mm. I was of the opinion that I could be more free and able to catch that fleeting moment with a 35mm autofocus camera, than my manual focus Hasselblad. Yet, somehow, when I sat down with a prospective bride and groom, they asked about my camera. "Will you be shooting with a medium format camera?" was the question. The reality is that I could have said yes, and turned up with my 35mm and they would not have known the difference. Yet, somehow (whether a magazine article, or another photographer) they had been told that photographers using a medium format camera were somehow distinguished as more of a professional, and the quality of the work would be better.

When I talk to a prospective client for an ad shoot, there are ways to distinguish yourself too.

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"we'll of course have a certificate of insurance for this shoot incase there is an issue, and I want to encourage you as you're talking to other photographers to be sure they have that too." A full 50% of any collection of photographers I am competing against for work will not only not know what that is (a COI) when the client asks, but won't have the ability to get one either.

About the only time having a diploma from a college from the standpoint of getting a job is when you are trying to get a full-time job at an organization with an HR department. In 20 years as a photographer, I have never had any client ask if I have a degree, let alone a degree in photography.

One of the great things that the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) does is they have a certification program. Their Certified Photographer program gives you a variety of designators that follow your name. So, just as there is "PhD", or "Esq" as a designator after your name, so too is there "CPP", which stands for "Certified Professional Photographer". PPA encourages you to distinguish yourself thusly - "It’s like quality assurance because certification is a credential consumers and businesses understand. More importantly, it provides you with a tool for telling the world—and all those potential clients—why they should call you rather than the competitor down the street." PPA has other designators as well, "M Photog. Cr" which is "Master Photographer Craftsman", and others. The key here, is to actually market your credentials.

If you are in the enviable position where you know the client is only calling you, then saying something like "and be sure when comparing us to others..." you give them idea that maybe they should. I often ask "are you just talking to me, or are there others you're considering?" Often, I get "I was referred to you by several of my colleagues, and I haven't called anyone else." If, however, I get "we are talking to several other photographers", then I know it is time to set forth my credentials. Sometimes, when the location is a hotel venue, you can define yourself easily by saying "oh, we've worked in that ballroom several times, and are very familiar with that space. The location is tricky be sure you're talking to other photographers who have worked there before." Or, it could be "...that hotel requires all vendors have a COI, and we've provided ours to them previously...". Or, it could be that you distinguish yourself by saying "as you're talking to other photographers, be sure they are certified as a professional photographer. We are, and it's a characteristic that ensures you'll get a level of quality over taking your chances with another photographer who is not certified."

Besides the PPA certifications, utilize your memberships in professional organizations. "We are members of the American Society of Media Photographers..." or "We are members of the National Press Photographers Association", and then there's "We are members of the Advertising Photographers of America". Each of these distinguishes you as a professional, to one degree or another, and demonstrates your commitment to being a full time professional photographer.

Maybe though, you have none of these memberships or credentials? "I was a staff photographer at {insert publication name here} for X years...." is a distinguishing characteristic. Or, "my website demonstrates that I specialize in {insert type here} photography, and I would love to bring that specialization to this assignment."

The key is to know your prospective client type, and convey to them reassurances that you are indeed capable, skilled, and reliable for the photo shoot you are being considered for.

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