If there’s one thing a photograph can do well, it’s to tell a story in a single picture. Think of all the great images in history: Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square on VJ day, Edie Adams’ horrific image of a man being assassinated in the streets of Saigon–these are images that have burned themselves into our collective consciousness and recorded important moments in history in a single frame.
Photographers making the transition from newspaper staff positions to full-time freelance work face a number of challenges. Perhaps the biggest of these is learning what sells — and who it sells to. As a freelancer, you must get to know many different prospective customers, and what motivates each of them.
The world economy, as we can all see, is not doing well. Between massive layoffs and the beginning of a deflationary trend in the United States, all signs point toward catastrophic changes ahead. What does it mean for the photo industry? Let’s take a look and make some predictions.
We’ve all heard the doom and gloom about how bad the economy will be this year — but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful 2009. The bottom line is, you have to keep moving forward to survive and grow, no matter the economic climate or other factors outside your control. Here are five ways to keep your business moving ahead in the new year.
Photographers are often classified by what they shoot: you might be a wedding photographer, or a sports photographer — or perhaps you just take snapshots of your family. But there are other ways to categorize photographers as well.
At the start of each semester, I ask my photography students at the University of South Carolina to submit a short written statement describing their goals for the course. For their final project at the end of the semester, I ask my students to write down the most important photography concept they learned during our time together—and then illustrate that concept with a series of photographs.
Passion: an intense desire or enthusiasm for something. Synonyms: enthusiasm, eagerness, love, zeal, spiritedness, fascination, obsession, fixation, addiction, preoccupation.
When it comes to photography, I have all those things. But I’ve found that pursuing passion is not that easy. You’d think there would be nothing easier in life than doing what you have enthusiasm for, right? After all, photography is what I love! But I’ve come upon two difficult questions I’ve had to answer to truly follow my passion.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) defines a cliché as “a trite phrase or expression” or “a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation.” Although the definition is geared toward writing, it can just as easily be applied to image-making. Two recent events prompted me to think about visual clichés. First, I spent several hours searching through a stock agency database of photographs on the Web. Second, I helped judge a newspaper-photography contest.
Having lived most of my life in New England, I can tell you that the old weather cliché “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes, it’s bound to change” is a lot more true than most photographers would like. It often seems that the moment I hop out of the car to set up the tripod and photograph a sunny scene, I start to feel raindrops on my back.
Here’s a question I get from time to time:
I need some contracts to use in my photography business. May I copy the language of agreements I find on the Internet or from friends?
Under Section 102 of the Copyright Act, copyright protection “subsists . . in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression . . . [including] literary works . . . .” Therefore, writings generally are protected by copyright law, just as are photographs.
I thought I would be a photojournalist forever — traveling the country, maybe the world, documenting little and big moments for all to see. And everything was going according to plan, until the layoffs at my newspaper and others went into high gear a few years ago. I began to wonder if the future I had hoped for was still possible.
Every day we’re surrounded by people at work: men putting a new roof on the house next door, people selling produce at the farmers’ market–even just the crossing guard who gets your kids across Main Street safely. But how often do you stop and capture these bits of daily life with your camera?
In our changing world of photography, the myths and misconceptions abound. Here are 10 that come to mind:
1. Photojournalism is being killed by celebrity photographers. In fact, photographers who cover the celebrity scene, whether red carpet or street photographer, have the same ratio of good to bad photographers as in news. It takes some of the same skills to cover news and celebrity. Regardless, Time or Newsweek have not increased their celebrity photography coverage. They just have just lessened their news coverage.
Too many individuals allow themselves to become isolated in their jobs. Outside of their work, they are unknown. In today’s volatile economic times, this can be a costly mistake, with staff positions being cut and freelance photography clients trimming budgets or, even worse, going out of business.
As a photographer, you face unique challenges in optimizing your Web site for search engines. Fundamentally, you want your site to showcase your work; unfortunately, a picture is not worth a thousand words to Google.
What is Twitter? You may have heard of it from many different sources like the social media geeks in your life. Perhaps it was through corporate news like the recent Twittering Moms against Motrin incident or how the online shoe retailer Zappos uses this micro-blogging platform to transparently communicate with its customers.
A recent discussion thread in an online group for professional photographers raised the question of working for free. A photographer asked if others were receiving calls from assignment editors seeking free photography of people, events or both. While I don’t think it’s a good idea to take on such assignments, I’m not opposed to providing free photography in some cases. In fact, I’m all for it.
I had the tables turned on me a few weeks ago. Instead of being behind the camera asking the questions, I found myself on a TV set, commenting on photographs and the art of photography. OK, this was for a local cable channel, not the CNN Situation Room. But it seemed prime-time to me.
Every couple seeking a wedding photographer asks themselves this question: “How can we trust this person to create what we want for the price we want to pay for it?” A couple can’t see the final product in advance, so they must build trust based on a variety of qualifiers — word of mouth, referrals from other service providers, your Web site, phone and e-mail correspondence, and so forth.
There’s no denying the newspaper industry is in trouble. More than 13,700 newsroom employees have already lost jobs during 2008.
Instead of opining about how miserable any photojournalist’s chances of survival are, let’s address some business fundamentals for the foolhardy. In all circumstances, it’s wise for staffers or college students to think ahead and have business basics under control prior to separation or graduation. Waiting for the inevitable only creates crisis.
Young photographers ask for my help with a wide range of questions — from choosing the best equipment to buy, to deciding whether to study for a degree or spend three months shooting in Africa. But from full-time freelance photographers, I almost always get the same question: How can I find more editorial work?
Every year, I rant to my students about “photo illustration” as a label. Here’s the short version:
Readers have no clear idea what that means, it is unevenly applied, and using “photo illustration” may make journalists feel they’ve done the ethical thing, but it doesn’t tell readers much.
The manipulation and staging of news photographs has not always been a question of ethics. In the early days of photojournalism, it was often a question of technological limitations. Photojournalism as we know it today –- candid, “life as it is” photography –- was difficult if not impossible to achieve before the emergence of innovations like the flash bulb, electronic flash and Leica camera in the 1920s and 30s.
It is not really the photo industry that is in danger of extinction, but rather a weird and strange animal that appeared about 50 to 60 years ago out of pure greed.
Let me explain: When photography became a job, the first photographers were troopers who would get up in the morning with the firm intention to get an assignment, or two, before the end of the day. They would look for both stories and clients and when they fit together, they would be rewarded with money.
Lately I’ve been really getting into FriendFeed. Part of the reason that I like the site so much is that it provides a far superior experience to graze Flickr than Flickr itself. Don’t get me wrong, FriendFeed does not replace Flickr; rather, it enhances Flickr and provides functionality that Flickr itself does not. With that in mind, I put together a list of “The Top 10 Reasons Why FriendFeed is a Better Place to Browse Flickr Photos Than Flickr Itself.”