Thursday, February 19, 2009

Detroit Michigan
Business of Photography Presentation

If you'd like to learn more about negotiating, pricing, and how to be better in business, tonight (Thursday) is your night! I board a plane to Detroit, and am speaking at the FOTO/LIFE Studios in beautiful Hamtramck, Michigan, outside of Detroit.

The FREE program, detailed here as:

John will discuss how he handles the business-side of photography, from pricing to negotiations, client relationships to logistical challenges. How can you better negotiate? How do the needs of editorial and commercial clients diverge and intersect? How might you handle a the negotiations and contract for a magazine assignment or corporate clients? During this presentation we'll touch on these topics and more, as you learn how to handle your business better and more efficiently. In addition, John will share with you actual negotiations with clients, from the back-and-forth over prices, to the final agreement and resulting images.
This program is brought to you courtesy of the good folks of ASMP Michigan, and all are welcome!

Come hang out and socialize starting at 6pm, and the program starts at 7pm.

Details & Directions.

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Safety In Numbers

How does the reversal of Facebooks' Terms of Service (Zuckerberg's blog -
Update on Terms) apply to you (even if you're not using it), and what does it portend? All to often, I hear from colleagues when a new contract is unceremoniously foisted upon them bemoaning the fact that they have to sign, or they'll lose the client.


If a client doesn't come to you and say "hey, we need to renegotiate our contract with you, as we need to use your photos in more ways..." which should be followed by you responding "hey, that's great, so let me think about what the additional compensation should be...", and instead just dumps it on you and says "that's our new contract, which you need to sign by the first of the month, or we can't hire you anymore", then you need to be in a position to walk away.

(Continued after the Jump)

When you rely on just one client, (more information: Diversify For Safety's Sake, 2/3/09), you're screwed if that client forces a new contract on you. If you have more than one client, you are in a better position to negotiate.

The issue is- if it is just you balking at the contract - unless you have an exclusive set of skills or a totally unique creative approach, you will have little room to negotiate. We wrote previously about some of the flexibility between the Conde Nast contracts they first present you, and the "oh, we're sorry, we sent you the wrong one..." version (Conde Nast/CondeNet Contract: Introduction, 5/26/09). Yet, the second contract isn't much better.

So, how can you affect change? The formation of the group Editorial Photographers (history here) is an example of what can begin when a group of photographers say "enough!" and take a stand. Back in April 2004 (New York Times Contract Tells Another Sad Tale) the New York Times forced upon it's freelancers a new contract. While early efforts seemed to suggest that there would be a critical mass that would object, and cause the NYT to revisit their new non-negotiable contract, the threat of no work from the venerable NYT made too many cave-in and take it.

Enter Facebook. Within days of their new Terms of Service, which we were critical of here - Oh, We're So Sorry - Mea Culpa - We didn't mean that! - Facebook has reverted to their old TOS. Consumerist reports on this here - Facebook Reverts Back To Old Terms Of Service, and blogger Amanda French has done a side by side comparison of several other social networking sites - Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter - and concluded that Facebook was essentially trying to throw its' weight around.

So, why the reversal?

Safety in numbers. Enough people complained, or canceled their accounts, that Facebook had to....wait for it.....say 'mea culpa'!

While contracts with wire services and many magazines are already pretty bad, and seemingly can't get worse, they will try. When that happens, make sure you are diversified, and make sure you take a stand - and stick to it - so that whatever media organization is trying to cram a new contract taking more of your rights or money away, has to reverse itself, or, in the end you walk away from and keep your dignity.

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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Viral Marketing - What Can It Do For You?

I am contemplating getting my own Epson 7900. I haven't settled on that one yet, but I hear great things about it. The question is - what do I do with it? Print my own photos as art, perhaps? But can I do more? And, what can you do with it?

Enter Cameron Davidson. Cameron (a friend), who has taken not only his printer, but, the PhotoShelter Viral Marketing tool, to a whole new level. When the internet was invented by DARPA, the purpose for it was for communications between universities and the military. Sometimes, what you plan for the use of the product is just the beginning. So too, with the PhotoShelter tool. Cameron is using the tool to make the world a better place, selling aerial prints via his blog - Aerial Prints for Community Coalition for Haiti - to make a difference in the world. Below are over 150 of his images he's selling, and not making a penny from:

Cameron's blog notes - "The money will be used in two ways: to purchase seeds for farmers who lost their crops last fall when Haiti was walloped by three hurricanes in a row and for a feeding program for a small orphanage in the Central Highlands."

Hats off to Cameron for the difference he's making with this project!

What other things could you do to make a difference?

(Continued after the Jump)

Back when the viral marketing tool was in it's infancy - in November of last year - Vincent Laforet (also a friend) decided to make a difference with a scholarship, and noted on his blog here - "all of the profits from these print sales for the next 30 days to a student internship/scholarship…Yep - all of the income (minus the cost of printing, labor, and shipping) will be put towards a student internship/scholarship that I set up. "

Here is Vincent's gallery:

Vincent's effort was so successful, that he posted - Internship Update - it’s on! - a month later, so one can only hope that Cameron's efforts will be as successful - if not more so - than Vincent's!

Hats off to both Cameron and Vincent for using their talents to make a difference in the world, and in the photo community. I think I've found my justification for getting a sweet printer to follow their lead, now if I could only get a few printers to try out.... :-)

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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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oh, We're So Sorry - Mea Culpa - We didn't mean that!

So, it's about 2am, and I am procrastinating falling asleep when I should be getting my beauty rest for day three of a huge annual report shoot that starts at 8am, but I have been tossing and turning about this all day, so now I am at my desk with another rant.

I am sick and tired of all these organizations that put out these terms that swipe broad (and unreasonable) swaths of photographers rights. I know that PDN didn't like it when Rob Haggart wrote The Biggest Scam in Photography - and called out PDN in the first sentence. Last year, about this time, we wrote - No Confidence Vote for the PDN/NGS Contest, (1/28/08), and then followed it up with a July posting - PDN/Billboard Photo Contest - Fair Terms, when they did have better terms.

Consider the following restrictions:

(Continued after the Jump)
1 - Send us your best concert photo you've taken in the last year. We have three categories:
A: Big Rock Star || B: Rising Star || C: Unsigned Artists
you will get the most amazing photographs of rock stars big and small. You can write an editorial article about how great the photographer did, and do an editorial story about how that picture was made. No releases necessary.
2 - Send us your best concert photo you've taken in the last year. And, as with the case last summer, here was a part of the rule:
If the photograph contains any material or elements that are not owned by the entrant and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the photograph, the entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the photograph in the manner set forth in these Official Rules without additional compensation.
Good luck trying to get a model release from some multi-platinum-selling artist! You will limit the entries to those which can be commercially exploited (reminder: exploit is not a bad word, it means "use to the maximum extent allowed). If the images were not being used in a commercial way, but rather, editorially, as noted in #1 above, then a release would likely not be necessary.

It is important to note that Daryl Lang, who wrote the response to Haggart, acknowledges that Haggart defends entry fees and so on, and Lang also rightly says "Contests help keep our lights on." While PDN's contests (here) like their 2009 music contest, which closed on Sunday, have good terms now like the requirement that you acknowledge "the right of PDN and Billboard to use the entry for publication in PDN and Billboard magazines, on, and in exhibitions and promotions related to the contest up to 18 months following the contest", and there are now no model release requirements, Xerox's (NYSE: XRX) MyShot08 contest, which we wrote about last year - Xerox - "MyShot" Takes Aim At Unsuspecting Students, was horrible, and, had to be re-written.

Like Xerox, and others, I am getting tired of the long list of organizations who hide behind the lawyers when the bad terms are called to light. Whether it's Xerox, PDN, Billboard, Microsoft, or NGS, people damn-well better be looking at the terms they paid their lawyers to craft. Don't people realize we are now all actually reading these things? I can't wait to see some photo contest entry term that says "entrant (herein after referred to as "Rumpelstiltskin") agrees to convey, for no additional monies, their firstborn child". To an aspiring photographer, often their early best work feels like their first born.

The latest is Facebook. Many of you sent me the suggestion of writing a post about their horrific terms where they got to keep, in perpetuity, all the rights they wanted to your photos, text, videos, and so on, even if you left their service. Heck, I went and looked, and was even taken, but not for what I thought it might be. Then, of course, The Consumerist wrote - Facebook's New Terms Of Service: "We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever." , and, well, interestingly enough, for all the "share the photos, share the music, everything should be free" youth of America, that didn't sit too well. The term in question was:
You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.
Now, of course, they're out with their Mea Culpa. Consumerist wrote another piece about this - Facebook Clarifies Terms Of Service: "We Do Not Own Your Stuff Forever", and of course, Mr. Facebook himself, Mark Zuckerberg, had to blog about this, and say - "On Facebook, People Own and Control Their Information", when he writes:
When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people they've asked us to share it with. Without this license, we couldn't help people share that information.
Ok, right. He then suggests, as the defense of the "forever" concept:
One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever. When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created—one in the person's sent messages box and the other in their friend's inbox.
If that were really the case, then I would have to sign the same type of agreement with my internet service provider, or my website hosting company. This is backpeddling at it's finest. Once again, blame the lawyers when you should have thought this through more in the first place.

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Enter the Whiners

Over at one of my daily reads -, I was doing some reading there, and was reminded of the fact that the opinions of a student in school somewhere just isn't deserving the same amount of weight and respect as a veteran photo editor, or Pulitzer Prize winner. Unfortunately, students still wet behind the ears, who would never dream of walking up to a veteran in person and tell them think the veteran is out of line, think nothing of doing it online.

To that end, I wrote a post there, that I will re-write here as a standalone piece.

If your status is Student or Intern, you need to be more circumspect in who you suggest has written a critique you don't like and refer to it as "uncalled for". Sorry to be so blunt, but this isn't the Special Olympics, and not everyone gets a trophy and a pat on the back for their performance.

(Continued after the Jump)

Every photographer here wants to get "called up" to "the show", and play in the big leagues. They want to compete against the staff photographer who's won a Pulitzer. They want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the repeat POY winners, and call them "my colleagues".

A pervasive mentality has swept the high schools about 10 years ago, and it's crept into colleges and now many of those beginning their professional careers, of deserving of success. No one gets an "F", and if you feel that 2+2=5, well, then, that's ok if you feel that way.

You have to earn your way to the top - there are no short cuts, and the path has become more treacherous as staff positions become more and more scarce. Freelancing is even harder.

If you are a student - ask good questions, and then pay attention to the answer. If you respect someone enough to ask them the question, you should have done your due diligence in determining if the person you are asking knows what they're talking about. Don't ask a staffer what it's like to be freelance, or how to charge for a freelance gig. Almost all of them treat freelance work like gravy, while the rest of us see that work as meat and potatoes, and know what the market will bear, where to a staffer, it's walking around money.

If you've ever sat in the back of a room where judging was taking place, and had the privilege of watching and listening to the judges at work, you learned a lot. If your work was there, and you heard three people say "out", well, that's one thing. If two people said "out", and the third started arguing for it, then the other two will start trashing it, rightly or wrongly, with a politically-correct attitude or not, and you'll learn a lot about how the viewers/readers will perceive your photos when they're published.

Sitting around listening to your friends pay you compliments is worth very little, except that it's a nice stroke of your ego. When I have solicited the opinion of my friends on my work, I have said to them "don't say nice things, tell me what's wrong with it..." and when they would say they couldn't find anything wrong with a particular image, I knew I had a winner.

What a judge of your work or a portolio reviewer says something you regard as overly harsh, or out of line, with their years of experience it's likely that what was said, - many people - likely thought. You don't have to like what they said - heck, you don't even have to agree with it. Whether I like it, or agree with their comments, is irrelevant. And if what a judge or portfolio reviewer said was offensive to some, get over it. FAST.

If you've ever been sitting around waiting for a rain delay at a NASCAR track, in a ballpark, or waiting for a delayed press conference anywhere, you've heard photographers talk about other photographers work, and not in pleasant terms. The criticisms are straight, honest, and blunt, and they are often profanity laden. The same goes for photo editors. I know many a photo editor, and they know a good photo from a bad one, and they can see the perspective. This makes them good photo editors - they can send someone they know is a compassionate, quiet person, to a funeral, and they can send the aggressive guy who listens to Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson to the event where they might be most comfortable. They can send the guy who can recite accurate sports stats while drunk to the ballgame, and so on, and so forth.

So, if you want to pour a double-espresso, or work the photo booth at Wal-Mart or the olde-tyme photo shop at a resort town, then feel free to whine when your feelings get hurt. If you want to step up your game, and earn a shot at "the show", then you'll not take your critiques personally, and instead, you'll respect the opinions of those who have been around and know a thing or two about good photos, and maybe, just maybe, you'll learn something.

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, February 15, 2009

Copyright Infringements - Then and Now

Between Shepard Fairey, the Associated Press, TMZ and TechCrunch, the copyright lawyers must be busy indeed.

TMZ isn't infringing, but they are reporting on an infringement of the iconic 1978 poster of Farrah Fawcett from the 1970's (at right), by Bruce McBoom. The story goes that a small poster company called Pro Arts, Inc wanted Fawcett to pose in a bikini, and she instead insisted on the red one-piece, but it was apparently a chilly day that day, which is one of the things that made this poster stand out and become one of the best-selling posters of all time.

So, what's the problem? According to TMZ "Fawcett is suing Bio-Graphics inc., Pie International Inc. and author T.N. Trikilis, claiming that Trikilis "has falsely asserted to third parties that [Fawcett] does not own any rights in the photographs." , and that allegation has the potential to diminish Fawcett's ability to continue to license the image in the future, should people become confused about who to write the reprint/relicense/reuse checks to, so, she's suing for $100,000 or more. Maybe Bio-Graphics someone came into possession of the assets of Pro-Arts when they filed for bankruptcy at the end of 1981, or maybe not. But they're saying they have exclusivity, she's saying they don't. Maybe the author of the book about Pro Arts, T.N. Trikilis is just trying to promote his book?

Further, the well-respected website TechCrunch is allegedgly infringing on a Flickr photo, according to Will Seberger over on his blog here - Is TechCrunch Listening? (2/10/09), and Seberger's been in contact with the photographer in question, who has indicated she gave no permission for the photo's use.

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