Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is The Amateur Really A Threat to the Pro?

Consider the photographer who has an unlimited amount of time to accomplish an image. Or, the student, who has a week or two to complete an assignment on, say, lighting a bowl of fruit. Or, the hobbyist photographer, who stumbles upon a great image. Are these photographers a threat to the photographer who works on assignment?

(Continued after the Jump)

I submit that they are not, in almost all cases. Judy Hermann, over at the ASMP Strictly Business blog wrote a few days ago - A Walk in Your Client's Shoes - and noted, in part, "If it was your job on the line, what would you need to see, what would you need to hear, what would you need to know to feel safe hiring a particular photographer?"

A track record of success is one of the key elements that a prospective client is looking for. Sometimes, a client is looking for multiple jobs for the same client in a portfolio over a period of time - say, a campaign. This suggests continuity and consistency that they can depend upon. Sometimes, a client will see your coverage of a significant event, and determine that if you were hired (i.e. depended upon) to cover *that* event for someone, surely you could cover X event that your prospective client needs you for. And sometimes, not seeing just sample work on a website, but clips and covers is a demonstration that you can deliver on time and with a high degree of certainty.

When you are a student, you might shoot the assignment three or four times, realizing you missed a critical issue each time, and then, finally got it right. The hobbyist photographer can take thousands of images of the sunset, their kids, and so on and, based upon the laws of statistics, eventually get an amazing shot. Sometimes, they simultaneously stumble into *how* to make that image, and thus repeat it. Usually, however, they don't. Einstein once famously said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

No one has to say "he's a professional accountant", or, "she's a professional doctor." Merriam-Webster sets forth the use of the word "professional" - "participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs {a professional golfer}", thus, "professional photographer" needs the modifier "professional" in front of it. As does "professional surfer", "professional volleyball player," and, yes "professional bass fisherman."

Journalist Samuel Friedman wrote, in the CBS News piece - Outside Voices: Samuel Freedman On The Difference Between The Amateur And The Pro:
To treat an amateur as equally credible as a professional, to congratulate the wannabe with the title “journalist,” is only to further erode the line between raw material and finished product. For those people who believe that editorial gate-keeping is a form of censorship, if not mind control, then I suppose the absence of any mediating intelligence is considered a good thing.
Rob Haggart, over at A Photo Editor, defined professional by quoting a Mario Batali, in writing that the difference between an "amazing amateur chef and a professional chef is the ability to make that perfect meal 100 times in a row." Thus, the counter to Einstein's insanity definition, is the definition of "professional" that I will put forth here. The definition of professional is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting similar results."

How many times a month can a magazines' photo editor commission an assignment and get nothing usable back before their job is on the line? Once? Twice? If twice every other month a shoot was unusable, their judgement would be called into question and in short order they would lose their job. How about the advertising job, where the photographer can't deliver while the ad agency rep and their client are both on set, and the shoot fizzles because of the photographers' inability to deliver?

The challenge for the photo editor, art buyer, and so on, is to separate the wheat from the chaff, the professional who can deliver, from the amateur who has a nice portfolio, but can't be counted on with a high degree of certainty to produce. The problem arises, when the prospective client is not comparing apples to apples, but the professional and the amateur, as if they are interchangeable. It's one thing when the art buyer is looking at a stock image - it either is good enough, or it's not. It either meets their needs, or it doesn't.

However, when it comes to assigning work, commissioning it, or otherwise asking for images of non-repeating, or not-re-shootable work, getting a professional who can deliver, means the amateur will lose out. When the amateur doesn't lose out, a risk greater than gambling in Las Vegas is undertaken, and the commissioning party is betting their job. Over time, those who fail to discern the differences between the amateur and the professional, become the chaff to their "wheaty" brethren who survive in their field.

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.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Do Solemnly Swear: Photographs of the 2009 Inauguration

Wednesday, April 29th, is a pretty cool day. It's the day that the Smithsonian opens their exhibit - I Do Solemnly Swear: Photographs of the 2009 Inauguration - featuring the photography produced for the official inaugural book. The Smithsonian touts the exhibit thusly:

This exhibition features approximately 50 framed color and black-and-white photographs printed by Kodak, highlighting the week-long events surrounding the historic Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama. Included in the exhibition are photographs by both professional and amateur photographers who recorded events surrounding the peaceful American transfer of power. The photographs on view include selections from the National Museum of American History's new acquisition of 2009 inaugural photographs by leading photojournalists, including David Hume Kennerly, Bob McNeely and Karen Ballard.

The full list of photographers who participated in the book is:

(Continued after the Jump)

David Hume Kennerly - Producer and Photographer
Bob McNeely - Producer and PhotographerMatthew Naythons - Producer and Photographer
Thomas K. Walker - Creative Director and PhotographerKaren Ballard - PhotographerAndre Chung - Photographer
Daniel Cima - PhotographerAnne Day - PhotographerHector Emanuel - Photographer

John Francis Ficara - Photographer
Gil Garcetti - PhotographerJohn Harrington - Photographer
Sam Kittner - PhotographerPete Marovich - PhotographerGreg Mathieson - Photographer
Paul Morse - PhotographerDaniel Rosenbaum - Photographer
Mark Sennet - Photographer
Pete Souza - PhotographerBruce Talamon - PhotographerClarence Williams - Photographer

The exhibit opens today, Wednesday, and runs through July 12th, 2009. One name you might note up there is yours truly, and it was an honor to be a part of the team.

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.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lotsa Little Things Are Actually Really Big Deals

While we have been swamped to the far ends of our bandwidth here at Photo Business News, lots has been happening. Just because we've not been commenting daily, does not mean we haven't been paying attention.

The magazine world is turning upside down. Video is becoming stills, and ad revenues are slashing frequencies of publication. While it's cool to see Esquire innovating like that, we predicted the Red Camera would do just this just over a year ago - One more nail in the coffin (3/18/07), with sports being in the cross-hairs. Now that a COVER was done, doing inside pieces are now demonstrably a piece of cake, and events (yes, that means sports, for sure) that are regularly covered by TV will find red cameras being used to allow for you to be able to choose the best moment in time.

The world of Search Engine Optimization has, for photographers, exploded. Previously, SEO was limited to people who just knew how to optimize websites. liveBooks has made white-hat SEO a cornerstone of their website offering, and they are, by far and away, the best of the photographer-centric website providers to do SEO. Blake Discher has been traveling the country for ASMP for some time, doing his presentation - Is Your Web Site Making You Money?, and recently, PhotoShelter threw the doors wide open, with a Free SEO Toolkit, took on website designers when it comes to SEO, in their piece - Is Your Web Designer Full of Crap?, taked about the importance of page titles, and even went into the importance of URL legibility, in Make Your URL's Like Your Photos: Beautiful. If people actually read what they were writing, and actually acted upon the information, they would be kicking ass and taking names on website positioning on Google. Now, Seth Resnick, who is probably just as insane when it comes to web optimization and SEO as I am, has jumped (back) into the game, with a program at the end of next month through his seminar on search engine optimization in Miami. Seth has been doing SEO as long as I have, and he knows his stuff. The key to learning from him is to figure out a way to shift his speeding-Ferrari mind down to like first gear with the clutch not fully engaged so that you can understand what he's talking about. If you go, bring a tape recorder, because you'll learn about 10% while listening to him live, and 10% more the next time you listen, and so on. Seth comprehends SEO like few other people I know.

Meanwhile, the good folks (and an advertiser here at PBN) have just released FotoQuote Pro version 6, that include 86 New Pricing Categories, including 35 Video Stock Footage Categories, and over 30 Dedicated Web Usages as well. If you know these folks, they're the real deal and they know what they're talking about when it comes to pricing, and the coach feature for each usage is really really insightful.

(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.

[More: Full Post and Comments]
Newer Posts Older Posts