How I Created My First Coffee-Table Book

For the past three years, I have photographed the Battle of Gettysburg reenactment held annually by the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee. This year was the Civil War battle’s 145th anniversary, and participation in the event was significantly larger than in past years. Every five years the anniversary committee produces “the big one” — and they did not disappoint, with more than 15,000 reenactors and ticket-holders in attendance over the Fourth of July weekend.

Print Media Layoffs Are an Acceptance of Defeat — Not a Strategy for the Future

There has been a lot of talk over the past several months about the shift from print to online methods of news delivery. Reductions in advertising revenue have resulted in reporters, photojournalists, and other newspaper staff being laid off, while management looks at ways of generating sufficient revenue from a Web presence to keep their business going.

Up Your Price with Limited-Edition Photography

At Black Star, we like to feel that we’re helping photographers realize their ambitions. We provide them with the sort of interesting, challenging and rewarding assignments that any photographer would be happy to fulfill, whether that’s creating portraits of some of the world’s leading executives, joining a shoot for an ad company’s billboard campaign or telling a story in images for one of our media clients.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Teacher Goes Back to School, Part 2

Wow! Who knew there was so much to learn about teaching video? My wife and I just returned from a week at the Maine Media Workshops, where we attended a course called “Film and Video Teachers.” As the name suggests, this course is aimed at professional teachers –those who currently teach video and filmmaking, and those who may do so in the future.

How to Create Depth in Landscape Photography

One of the toughest visual concepts to communicate in a landscape photograph is depth: the sensation that you’re looking at distance when, in fact, all you’re really looking at is a flat sheet of paper.

Getty, Flickr and the Land of Really, Really Bad Ideas

Just when you thought that Getty Images was in its last throes of existence, before its massive content library gets broken up by the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman and sold off for pieces, Getty comes in and lowers the bar that much further. The only upside to the impending Getty breakup will be the mass exodus of the creative content producers (especially the prolific ones) who decide that PhotoShelter or Digital Railroad are the only two platforms where they can get their images sold.

Tips for Creating a Winning Portfolio

As part of my work for Black Star, I review a lot of photographers’ portfolios. Usually, I treat it as a perk of the job. I’m getting paid to look at beautiful pictures created by some of the world’s most talented photographers. What could be bad about that?

Taking an Interest in People Is a Reward in Itself

According to Mark Twain, “America and England are two great nations separated by a common language.” He was right. For many Americans arriving in the U.K., it’s a shock to discover that American English can be vastly different from English English. When we think we fit right in and don’t stand out from the natives, it’s easy to make some embarrassing mistakes. (Don’t ask for an order “to go” at a British restaurant; it’s a “take-away.”)

What Are Your Creative No-Fly Zones?

Adman Ernie Schenck coined the phrase “creative no-fly zones” to describe places where copywriters and other creatives shouldn’t go in their work. The no-fly zone encompasses ideas that are not only tacky, but likely to offend the public. One example Schenck cited was an Ohio car dealer whose ads promised customers “a jihad of savings!”

How Professional Photographers Can Generate New Business with Flickr

At Black Star, we don’t work directly with Flickr — but it’s hard not to notice the photo-sharing service’s influence. With nearly five million contributors and more than 150 million images, Flickr has become the elephant in the room for any photographer who would choose to ignore it. Flickr’s photo streams and groups are prime destinations for those seeking to upload their images and improve their skills.

When Will Newspapers Hit Bottom?

I remember when I had my first layoff scare five years ago. It was the most stressful, nerve-wracking thing I’d ever experienced. I had not been at the newspaper for a year at that point, and to see so many veteran reporters and editors let go was intimidating. I spent the next few months watching my back, even though I knew that since I was at the bottom of the food chain (and pay scale), my job was probably safe.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Teacher Goes Back to School

What happens when the teacher goes back to school? Where I teach, in the School of Journalism at the University of South Carolina, we’re bullish on video. Under the fearless leadership of Professor Van Kornegay, our sequence head, we strive to incorporate video instruction into most of our visual-communication courses. For example, in Introduction to Visual Communications, we have our students work in groups of four to produce short videos on the various topics covered in the course. We then start each class session by showing the video that relates to the topic of the day. Through this exercise, the students get their hands on a video camera — some for the first time — and also learn basic editing and audio skills using iMovie.

Who Owns My Photos — My Publication or Me?

Black Star Rising received the following question from a reader, Darren Gibbins of Fargo, N.D. –

Can you tell me what legal rights I have to publish images I’ve made throughout my photojournalistic career on my website? Some have suggested that the images belong to the various newspapers I’ve worked for. I’ve also been told websites are considered editorial content and I am free to use my images on a site to promote my photography with or without a newspaper’s consent. Please help.

Followup: Where I Was Coming from When I Wrote the Same-Sex Weddings Post

Living in a community as conservative as mine can be difficult. People tend to judge you. Sometimes, in fact, I get phone calls — the anonymous kind. They call to tell me how much trouble I’m in, what I’ve done wrong and whom I’ve upset.

Minneapolis Paper’s Video Push: Innovation or Desperation?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, a fine newspaper with a rich history, is getting gussied up for the era of video. Editor Nancy Barnes describes the transformation — complete with hair and makeup tips for the paper’s ink-stained wretches — in Sunday’s edition.

Here’s Why to Add Your Name and Copyright Notice When Posting Photos Online

Copyright infringement is much too common these days. To reap the big statutory rewards (of at least $750 and up to $150,000 for willful infringements, plus costs and attorneys’ fees) from prosecuting infringements, you must have registered your photograph with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to the infringement or within three months of publishing it (making it available to the public).

Online Tools to Stay Competitive in the Digital Age

I saw an interesting snippet in the news last month that total ad revenue across print media had actually declined; it was reported as a “first.” Whether a first or not, it’s significant. It explains why newspapers are working so frantically to expand their Web sites — and why they are asking photographers to expand their skill sets. The good news is that the Internet gives news gatherers some exciting new options for presenting stories with multimedia and video.

If You Don’t Know Your Cost of Doing Business, Chances Are It’s More Than You Think

You never really know your cost of doing business until you start doing business. No matter how thorough you are in your advance planning, it’s likely that expenses you never imagined will impact your bottom line.

The Case Against Photo Illustrations

On Monday, we laid out a case for embracing the photo illustration as a legitimate product of photojournalism — rather than the profession’s redheaded stepchild. Perhaps, as Michael Coyne articulated, “once we are open and honest about which images are manipulated, and the term ‘photo illustration’ is common practice … there will be less incentive for the photojournalist to be deceptive.” Furthermore, perhaps there are cases where “the photographer feels [it] is necessary to show the viewers the totality of a situation.”

Why Is “Photo Illustration” a Dirty Word in Journalism?

Most photojournalists are not crazy about “photo illustrations” — the only category of newsroom artwork that permits substantial photo manipulation. In fact, many news photographers flat out hate them.

Is There Hidden Treasure in Your Digital Outtakes?

In the days when I shot only slide film, the number of photos I shot was limited by how much film I was willing to carry and how much money I was able to spend on film and processing. Even if a client was picking up the tab, there was still the issue of how much film I felt like carrying; 10 rolls a day for a 10-day trip meant 100 rolls of film. That’s a chore — especially when you’re going through airports and having to have the film inspected by hand. Today, though, you can fit thousands of photos on a stack of memory cards small enough to carry in your jeans pocket. This creates a lot of opportunity — if you take advantage of it.

Don’t Be a Copyright Hypocrite

There are two types of creatives in this world: those who have had their works infringed, and those who will. But just because “the kids” think it’s OK to steal your music, video or photography, that doesn’t make it so. And the worst thing you can do as a photographer is to be a hypocrite and infringe on the works on other creatives (because everybody else is doing it) while whining about your own situation.

Will Photographing Same-Sex Ceremonies Hurt or Help Your Wedding Photography Business?

For a wedding photographer, the dividing line between what’s right and what’s wrong for your business and your life doesn’t get any trickier than this: same-sex weddings.

On Monday, California became the second state in the nation to allow same-sex marriages; a number of other states allow civil unions for homosexual couples. Same-sex marriages are expected to add $700 million to the wedding business in California and provide a major boost to the economy statewide, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Embedded with the Enemy

The idea that the press exists to cover all aspects of a war isn’t new. Reporters have a history of putting their lives on the line to cover the events on the ground as they happen. And as long as we’ve had photojournalists, we’ve had daring individuals who go out of their way to get the shot less taken. But there can be a fine line between aggressively documenting events as they happen — and actively supporting one side in a conflict.

Backing Up for a Disaster

The severe weather warning sirens in my town have been going off more and more lately due to tornadoes. But this isn’t what prompted me to write about the importance of backing up your computer.

One of the students I taught in Hawaii packed her computer and backup drive in the same bag. This, of course, is the bag the airline lost when she flew home. She lost everything she had worked on at school.