Stock Photography’s Hidden Costs — and How to Avoid Them

In recent years, an increasing number of corporate photography buyers have been left embarrassed — or worse — after using images from microstock sites like or photo-sharing sites like Flickr. In some cases, major companies, including direct competitors, have used identical photos in their respective marketing materials. In other cases, corporations have been sued for using photos pulled from the Web without obtaining a model release or meeting other legal requirements.

The Tyranny of the Thumbnail

“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

— Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard

While we see a proliferation of photography in our everyday lives, we also see it diminishing in size. Before the advent of the Web browser, our primary interaction with professional photography was in print magazines, billboards, catalogs, brochures and point-of-purchase displays. Professionals would use a loupe to visualize slides in order to see the details. Some, like Life magazine, would use projectors against a big screen to select the images they would publish.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Is It Better to Teach Full Time or Part Time?

If you want to expand your photography career to include teaching at a community college, four-year college, or university, you may need to decide whether to teach full time or part time. Because I have done both, I thought it might be useful to share some of my experiences. First, however, a few general observations about the profession of teaching.

Why Using Cousin Vinny as Your Model Can Cost You

One of the things professed geeks like me know is that we’re not model material.  As such, we’re usually careful not to judge others based on their physical appearance — to avoid the “pot calling the kettle black” comeback.  So when I came upon two geek blogs that bashed the appearance of a model wearing a product, I knew the issue wasn’t with the geeks doing the blogging.  It was with the photography.

How I Changed My Web Site to Grow My Photography Business

In 2007, I had been managing a successful wedding photography business for three years. My new clients came primarily from referrals from past clients. I had a Web site — but while it gave my business a professional identity, it wasn’t doing much to generate leads. I wanted to turn my Web site into a business driver. But where to start?

Collaboration Enables You to Grow by Letting Go

Seeking out opportunities for collaboration with others has a number of benefits. Not only does it broaden your network, it can also challenge you and help you grow as a photographer. Webster’s Dictionary has a few definitions for collaboration. The one I’d like to use for purposes of this post is “to work jointly with others or together, especially in an intellectual endeavor.”

Add a Touch of Romance with Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur Filter

Most of the time I try to make my photos as sharp as possible, and I go to considerable pains to be sure they are sharp. Occasionally, though, I like to soften an image in Photoshop just to give it a gentler, more romantic look.  

On the Occasion of My 20,000th Flickr Upload

The photo below marks my 20,000th upload to Flickr. My first photo uploaded to Flickr was on January 2, 2005. Over the past four years, sharing photos online has redefined how I view my own work. I have found inspiration from other photographers daily, and I’ve met some truly, truly amazing artists, photographers and people participating in this new world of social photography along the way.

You’re Worth What You Think You Are

The most recent issue of Picture Magazine includes a column by consultant Selina Maitreya on the subject of affirmations. The piece quotes Deepak Chopra: “It is not ‘you are what you eat’, rather it is ‘you are what you think’.” Maitreya goes on to encourage photographers to use affirmations as a way of marketing themselves.

Once You License Your Work with Creative Commons, the Cat’s Out of the Bag

Here’s an interesting question from a photography user:

I recently added a Flickr photo by a professional photographer to my blog. It had a Creative Commons Attribution License, so I linked back to the photographer’s page. A few days later, I got an email from the photographer saying the photo was copyrighted and that I couldn’t use it without his permission. I checked back and, sure enough, the Creative Commons license had been replaced by All Rights Reserved! I removed the photo rather than have an issue with the photographer — but what are my rights in this situation?

Simplify Your Pricing to Build Your Photography Business

Most wedding photographers are guilty of producing complex price lists that are hard to understand. Pricing that is indecipherable to the first-time photography buyer is a stumbling block to making a sale. Your goal should be to make your price list as easy to read and digest as the menu at a fast-food restaurant.

Photographers on Twitter, Part 2: My Favorite Tweets

Since my last post on Twitter photographers, I have blessedly extended my network on Twitter. Most of my new followers/friends on Twitter are photographers, and every day there are more surfacing.

Silhouette Photography Made Simple

I’m always preaching that the fastest way to better photos is to keep things simple. Filling the frame with a single, obvious subject, getting as close as you can and using plain backgrounds are all good paths to simplicity. Another really fun way to make things simple — especially with opaque (non-transparent) subjects that have easily recognizable shapes — is to silhouette them against a bright background.

Eye on Image-Making: A Dream Revealed

If you happen to be in Washington, D.C., between now and March 9, don’t miss the opportunity to see the photography exhibition “Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968,” on display at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center. Organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and co-sponsored by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, this exhibition represents a milestone in museum exhibitions of Civil Rights photography.

Can Photographers Succeed Without Gatekeepers?

Can photography exist outside its current boundaries? Is it possible for photographers to create and sustain a market that they create and manage directly?

Let’s step back a bit. Editorial photography has always been accessed through gatekeepers, otherwise known as magazines. It has evolved to other forms of publication, but the model is the same, whether it is a Web site or a magazine. Audiences have always been served photography through photo editors who determined which images were seen. A little bit like radio stations and DJs for music and musicians.

Telling Stories with a Telephoto Lens

“What I need is a telephoto lens.”

We’ve all said this. It doesn’t take long to discover we sometimes can’t get close enough to our subjects with a “normal” lens. If you have kids in sports or the performing arts, the rules keep our subjects too far away to make interesting photos without a long lens. Professional photographers reach for their telephoto lenses for the same reason — to fill the frame with the subject.

Four Strategies for Recession-Proofing Your Photography Business

If you’re worried about your bookings and are seeking ways to recession-proof your business during these tough economic times, I’d suggest you start by removing one thing from the equation: your pictures. 

Photographers, Car Thieves and Copyright

John Harrington came upon an obvious case of copyright infringement by the Gizmodo blog last week. The gadget site, owned by Gawker Media, had created a photo illustration that incorporated one of photographer Jill Greenberg’s famous crying baby images without her permission. But more interesting than the infringement — which, frankly, is the rule rather than the exception on blogs today — were the reactions John received in comments.

Who Should Sign the Model Release?

A photographer recently sent me following question:

I took photos of people who were minors at the time of the shoot.  They are now adults. I want to use the photos for stock. Who do I now ask to sign the model release — the parents or the models?

The Wow Factor: 10 Tips for Dynamic Image Design

One of the things that separates a superior photograph from a snapshot is the effort that the photographer puts into designing the image. How many times have you looked at a great photograph of a very ordinary subject and marveled at the inventiveness that the photographer used in composing the image?

If Your Pictures Aren’t Good Enough, You’re Not Close Enough

Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Capa wasn’t advocating the use of longer lenses; he was telling us to physically get closer — to become more involved and intimate with our subjects. In fact, a wide-angle lens is often a better choice than a telephoto lens when you want to “zoom in” on your subject.

Telling a Story in a Single Frame

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.

Do You Know Your Customers’ Unspoken Needs?

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.

No Safe Havens for the Photo Industry in 2009

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.

Five Ways to Move Your Business Forward in 2009

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.