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.

The Value of Being Paid in Advance

Two years ago I basically stopped shooting editorial assignment photography. One reason I discontinued this kind of work was the way I was compensated. I was always paid after the job was done and the images were delivered. Many times, payment was late by several months; in some cases, I never received it at all.

Share Your Calendar with Your Clients to Get More Bookings

I recently got a BlackBerry Curve after some friends convinced me it would help me in my business. They were right; it’s made a huge difference — particularly in conjunction with Google Calendar. Here’s how I’ve used these tools to communicate better with clients — and to win more bookings.

Maybe Rights-Managed Photography Just Needs a Better Name

What we call things makes a big difference in the world of public relations. In fact, you might be surprised how often it seems to make all the difference in how the public views an issue, industry or product.

Eye on Image-Making: Business Aspects, Part 3

Tax season is upon us, a perfect time to talk about profit. For those of us sole proprietors filing a Schedule C, “Profit or Loss From Business,” the magic number is found on line 31, “Net profit or (loss).” So what, exactly, does this number represent?

Photojournalists Have a Life Wish: Tips for Surviving Dangerous Assignments

Hurricane Rita was still blowing when I left the office. The streets were flooded. Those streets were located somewhere under the piles of trees, downed power lines, broken glass, misplaced roofs and twisted steel objects. I had recently returned from covering Hurricane Katrina, so I was trained and mentally prepared for what I might find. I had a first aid kit, food, water, gas, spare tires, an inflatable raft, emergency illuminators and a truck full of other possible needs.

Are You as Good with People as You Are with a Camera?

Magazine editors, art directors, wedding couples and even portrait subjects place a priority on people skills. It’s probably the most overlooked and yet most important quality that any photographer brings to the job. It’s the one that’s most likely to get you hired again — and again and again.

11 Reasons for Buyers to Choose Rights-Managed Photography Over Royalty-Free

At first glance, it might appear that royalty-free stock photography would offer the better value for the money, so why would any photo buyer choose rights-managed stock instead? There are actually a lot of good reasons to choose rights-managed photography — many of them too often overlooked by buyers.

On Mice, Eagles and PhDs

I sat watching the gecko on the wall for 7 minutes and 11 seconds. How did I know this? Well, because the clock I had set for one hour next to the computer said I had 52 minutes and 49 seconds left. I was following the advice I had seen in the article “How to Write a Thesis in One Hour a Day.”

Canned Outrage Diminishes Photojournalism’s Credibility

The market of ideas has always had its malcontents and misfits. The rage sector of the economy, as I like to think of it. And nobody in the world today knows how to trade in rage credits like Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who has invited more than his fair share of flowers, praise, controversy, and death threats — except, for the most part, without the flowers and praise.

Photography Budget? What Photography Budget?

Rare is the day that I don’t need a photograph of some sort in either my day job as the creative director of a news-related Web site or in my freelance graphic design work, most of which is for authors and small business owners. Unfortunately, my budget generally precludes a custom photo shoot, or even a high-end stock photography site.

What Stock Photography Sites Are Top-of-Mind with Marketers Today?

The Marketing Executive Networking Group (MENG) is a networking organization of more than 1,700 senior-level marketing pros who have reached at least the VP level. Most have worked for Fortune 500 companies and graduated from top business schools. In other words, if you’re a commercial stock photographer, MENG members are great clients to have.

Remembering Larry Burrows

In the early 1970s, I found myself quietly sitting in our local library sifting through back issues of Life magazine. I was looking for some way to make sense of the tumult of those times — Kent State, Vietnam and the civil rights movement. In the graininess of those Life pictures, I found myself drawn to images that could bring reason to a world that seemed out of control and chaotic.

Building a Client Profile Is the Key to Finding the Work You Want

Photographers often forget that everyone needs pictures. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s often overlooked in the rush to make photographs. Photojournalists, fine artists, weddings, paparazzi — every kind of photographer caters to someone who needs photographs. Photographers may insist that they make photographs for themselves, but in the professional world it’s really the other way around.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Career Pathways

A student came to see me recently and asked an intriguing question: what is the best way to prepare for a career in photography? This student is in my Introduction to Visual Communications course at the University of South Carolina, but she has never taken a photography course. Her current interest is in photojournalism.

How I Escaped My Newspaper Job to Start My Own Business — and How You Can, Too

I have made one of the hardest decisions of my life; I’m leaving the newspaper business — this Thursday, to be exact, when I will work my last day at the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. This is the first time a career decision has kept me up at night, because I am still passionate about photojournalism and love being a newspaper photographer. But the recent changes in the industry, and years of job instability, pushed me to explore other options.

If Nothing Else, LeBron James Dustup Proves That Photographs Still Matter

I never figured Annie Leibovitz as a covert operative of the KKK, but apparently I’m just naive. Here’s what some commentators and bloggers are saying about Leibovitz’s magazine cover shot of LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen — the first Vogue cover featuring an African-American man:

New Gallery to Showcase Black Star Photojournalism

Toronto has been abuzz over a new photography gallery planned by Ryerson University to showcase the 300,000-item Black Star Collection. The Toronto Star says the venue, scheduled to be completed in early 2010, “will instantly become Canada’s most important” photo gallery, and “one of the most significant in the world.”

Case Study: Juggling Photography and Video at a News Event

As the transition from film to digital photography continues, there is general agreement that the new medium offers distinct advantages in productivity and creativity over prior wet processes and routines. For many photographers, however, the shift to digital has also included the addition of shooting video for the Web. While some embrace the challenges of shooting video along with still images at events, others express frustration over what they perceive as an additional burden.

Blogs Are the Future of Marketing for Photographers

In my area I’ve seen at least three professional wedding photographers (my competition) shut their doors since December. They were all competent photographers. They serviced their clients to their best of their abilities. And at one time they commanded a good share of the wedding business here. But they’ve closed their businesses, at least temporarily, for lack of bookings.

For Stock Photography Buyers, Reality Is In

In 1987, I can remember talking with a California stock photo agency director who waved his hand toward his office files with the exclamation, “Editorial photos? We have plenty of those!” The pictures he referred to were clean-cut models in a simulated work situation smiling at a computer screen, or an immaculate housewife pleasantly choring away with her modern vacuum cleaner. The viewing public in those days, it was assumed, preferred fairy-tale “editorial” pictures. Today, that is changing.

Ashley Dupre and the Muddled Mess of Fair Use

The issue of fair use of copyrighted photographs has surfaced in the Eliot Spitzer scandal, with Ashley Dupre’s lawyer blasting media outlets for publishing pics pulled from the call girl’s MySpace page. High-profile attorney Don Buchwald said he would take steps “to protect Ms. Dupre from any unwarranted exploitation of her name, picture, voice or likeness for purposes of profit.”

Yes You Can: Eight Ways to Make the Case for Change with Photography Buyers

If you follow presidential election coverage, you know the upcoming contest has been characterized as a “change” election; the presumption is that people are seeking a change from the status quo. Candidates like Barack Obama, with his “Yes We Can” slogan, are making the case for change.

Eye on Image-Making: Business Aspects, Part 2

In my previous Eye on Image-Making column, I passed along some advice from travel photographer Cliff Hollenbeck: your job, as an image-maker, is to get your images and yourself in front of the people who use the kinds of images you love to make. In this column, I’ll discuss the next step in the long march toward creative success — what to do when you have found people willing to pay you for your creativity. Much of this advice comes from the extraordinary portrait and wedding photographer Joshua Ets-Hokin. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ets-Hokin, who is based in San Francisco, when I was a staff writer for Photo District News.