Lifetouch: Little Photoshop of Horrors

Minnesota-based Lifetouch, which employs thousands of photographers to produce student portraits and high school annuals nationwide, had a lot of explaining to do this week after it sent a very strange shipment of yearbooks to one Dallas-area high school.

Why It May Be Time for Me to Quit the NPPA

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) will vote at the end of May on seven amendments to its bylaws, including whether to change its name to The Society of Visual Journalists, Inc. (SVJ). The reason for the proposed change is to acknowledge how the industry and NPPA membership have evolved over the past 50 years. The current name “no longer adequately represents the Association or its membership.”

Are You a Joiner?

Too many people join associations as if they are buying tickets to a sporting event. They want to sit in their comfortable seats and watch others perform. When considering joining an organization, one of the first questions most people ask is, “What do I get for my membership?” That’s a valid question, and most organizations list the benefits their members will receive.

Eye on Image-Making: Portfolios

I recently spent a couple of hours reviewing senior portfolios, the capstone projects of graduating seniors in the Visual Communications sequence at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. The experience made me want to revisit the whole notion of the portfolio — What is the purpose of a portfolio? What should it contain? How do you create a terrific portfolio that will advance your career? My goal is to put forward some ideas and then hear back from readers of this column.

Living to Tell the Story: More Safety Advice for Photojournalists

A round of ammunition goes where it’s sent. It may drop some. It may blow slightly left or right, but it won’t stop until it hits something. If we outthink the person who sends the round, we might live to tell the story.

Mastering the Art of Observation

To understand anything in life, we must do our homework and engage the things we feel, think and act upon. Human beings are dependent on our senses for the impressions we hold of the world around us. We rely on sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste for our survival.

Are All Your Eggs in One Basket?

Putting all your eggs in one basket, as we know, is to risk losing everything at one time. For me, this maxim applies to two aspects of my business.

First, if you have a niche market, it is good to develop a second niche, and even a third one. Kodak saw the writing on the wall years ago and diversified beyond making film products only. If they hadn’t, they would no longer be around.

What’s Next for Photojournalism?

There should be little doubt now that the changing media landscape has deeply affected traditional news photography. Increasingly, photographers at many newspapers are being let go or given reduced work hours. For those lucky enough to have a job, the workload has become more demanding. The bottom line is a focus on productivity, with a slight nod toward creativity as long as it doesn’t interfere with getting the work out.

In a Sea of Photojournalists, How Do You Get Noticed?

Corporate work is what allows me to keep on doing the documentary projects I want to do. While at Magnum, Sebastiao Salgado followed a similar process; shoot highly paid annual reports for a few months and then go off to photograph “workers” in remote parts of the world. If it’s good enough for him…

14 Blogging Tips for Your Photography Business

As I’ve written here previously, blogging can be one of the most effective marketing tools at your disposal today. For those of you just starting out, here are a few words of wisdom gleaned from my two years of blogging consistently about my photography business.

Stock Photographers Keep Playing the Hits

Jim Maxwell once wrote an essay on how to write a country song guaranteed to hit the Top 40: Include a done-me-wrong lady, a horse, a thief, a train, a jailhouse, a shotgun. Mix with emotion: jealousy, love, regrets. Add some action: a bank robbery, wreck at a railroad yard, a hard-driving rodeo. Deliver with a twang, weave in a refrain that can be repeated with five notes on the piano –and you can’t lose.

A Nude Photo Scandal from the Other Side of the Lens

Sexy photo scandals are all the rage on the Internet these days. Just ask Vanessa Hudgens. Or Miley Cyrus. Or … Amnon Bar-Tur?

Granted, Bar-Tur may not have the same name recognition as Disney’s reigning teen princesses. But that’s because he’s in hot water for his work behind the camera.

What Part of “No” Don’t You Understand? Explaining Copyright Law to Publishers

For freelance photographers used to licensing their photos, it’s always a shock to come across an editorial stock photography buyer who thinks that payment for a photo covers both present and future use. Unless a work-for-hire agreement is arranged in writing between the photo buyer and the photographer, payment for the use of a photo is for one-time rights only.

Because Dead Photojournalists Don’t Make Deadline: Tips on Cover and Concealment

I’ve covered both hostage standoffs and warrant roundups with other shooters (mostly TV). I’ve also been consistently shocked by how little they knew about staying alive.

Recently, I covered a county-wide warrant roundup. We didn’t know what any of the offenders had done. Considering how heavily armed the deputies were, I guessed it wasn’t helping little old ladies jaywalk across the street.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Taking Stock

Classes have ended here at the University of South Carolina, and it is a good time to take stock of the semester — to see what worked and what needs to be adjusted for the fall.

By far the most successful assignment, in both Photovisual Communications and Advanced Photovisual Communications, was the audio slideshow. In Photovisual Communications, which is for students with little or no formal photographic training, I start each semester with assignments designed to get students familiar with the features their cameras, mostly point-and-shoots. We also learn basic Photoshop skills. Then, it’s on to environmental portraits, a three-picture photo essay, and, finally, the audio slideshow. In Advanced Photovisual Communications, the students have access to digital SLR cameras, tripods, and auxiliary flashes. Most of these students know their way around a camera and are ready to tackle more complex assignments.

12 Ideas to Reduce Stress and Have More Fun on the Job

It’s hard to have fun at work during stressful times. Your stress builds after each media report about the recession. You start hearing whispers from your clients of a merger, layoff or the all encompassing “restructuring.” Your agency does not listen. Your clients don’t listen. The guy that sells sandwiches in the lobby does not listen. Maybe it is just easier to be cranky.

The Digital Influence

Everything’s digital, right? Well, now it is. I say that because I was talking to a design intern who’s taking classes at a local college for graphic design. He said they’re making him take a class on mechanicals. Not sure if I was more shocked that anyone still knew what they were, or that somewhere there was a school still teaching it.

Are Composite Images the Future of Stock Photography?

Quick: who is the most famous author in the English language? You probably answered “Shakespeare” — and most people would agree with you. However, it’s well known that Shakespeare (whose own identity remains something of a mystery) “borrowed” most of his plots from lesser known writers. Shakespeare’s genius was to reshape contemporary or historical events, legends, and stories and rephrase them in rich imagery.

To Survive, Photojournalists Must Not Only Inform — But Also Entertain

Change is a good thing. I hear that a lot, mostly from people trying to convince themselves that change is a good thing. Change is tough and seems to get harder the older I get. But as a freelance photojournalist, responsible for my own income, change is something I must embrace in order to remain competitive and keep the bills paid. In fact, we must all ask ourselves how to stay relevant at a time when amateur photographers are flooding the Web with images.

Barter Your Way to Marketing Success

One of the fundamental truths in the photography business is that everyone (and I do mean everyone) needs pictures. They might need pictures to advertise their business, or they might need pictures to remember an important life event, or they might need pictures simply to appreciate their beauty. Whatever the reason, there is always a need.

Seven Tips for Making Photographs in the Jungle

The jungle can be a mysterious and frightening place. It is a place where strange animals roam without inhibition, where the humidity can be nearly unbearable, and where Mother Nature reigns supreme. It is a domain where humans often feel we have no control.

Cutting Corners Cuts at the Heart of What Motivates Photojournalists

There is a heaviness in the air in newsrooms today. You can feel it pressing down on you as soon as you arrive at your desk. It is as if everyone is in a constant state of grief, and I think it is because we are grieving. We are grieving for our colleagues who have left the business, by force or choice. We are grieving for the way things were just a few short years ago, when we could cover a story despite the expense of mileage or a plane ticket. But most of all, we are grieving because we are losing our profession as we know it.

The Supreme Medium of Truth?

With the advance of digital photography, a disquieting and incessant murmur has rumbled into the public discourse — one that challenges photography’s claim as the “supreme medium of truth.” How people have come to believe that a photograph could ever reveal anything other than partial actuality is hard to imagine. Nevertheless, since its inception, the insistent assertion that “seeing is believing” has been hard to dismiss.

Direct Mail Ideas That Just Might Not End Up in the Trash

Photographers sometimes ask me if it’s a good investment to send a CD of their work to a mailing list of photo editors. The answer is “no” — it’s almost never worth the money.

The reason? Photo buyers are known to stand over a wastebasket when they answer their mail. Unsolicited CDs almost always are dropped into the trash. Photo buyers don’t look at the CDs of photographers they don’t know.

Rethinking Relationships

How relationships change in a digital age becomes an important question when so much of our understanding of truth is predicated on the trust we have in the relationships among storyteller, story, and viewer. The notion of “relationship” seems to help explain some of the underlying precepts in photography — immediacy, intensity and intimacy.