One of the many problems for photographers is how those who couldn’t care less about the business of photography do damage to the business of photography. Often, these are people who have other jobs that pay the bills, and they look to photo credit to give them pleasure, acclaim, and notoriety, getting their satisfaction at the expense — literally — of those who earn a living making pictures. Many times, these are “moms with cameras”, or MWCs. What I’d like to highlight today is something different. It’s a MWC who is endeavoring to do things right.
Who are you?
Not as a human being, but as a photographer, designer, or image distributor. Who are you as a businessperson? What exactly do you do? What do you bring to the table that someone might buy? What are you not so good at? What would you rather not do?
I’ve been thinking recently about the business aspects of image-making. Perhaps this is because some of my students have taken, or are about to take, the plunge into “the real world.” Or, perhaps it is because I find discussions about the profession of image-making inherently interesting. In any event, Black Star has asked me to branch out and write about more than just my classroom experiences as a teacher of visual communications. So, “Notes from the VisCom Classroom” will be posted at the beginning of the month, and this new column, “Eye on Image-Making,” will be posted at the middle of the month.
The World Press Photo competition has a history of selecting images for its “Best of” prize that defy the “wow” factor so common among contests. This year’s winning photo by Tim Hetherington is no exception.
How do you catch the eye of an agency art director with an attention span of 3.5 seconds and no time to look at your work?
Like many small creative agencies, my company sees, hears from, and works with photographers every day. Only a handful, however, have captured and maintained our attention to the point where we collaborate regularly. Why? More than anything, talent drives business. But over the years, we’ve noticed a few promotional and relationship-building tactics that are consistently effective for photographers trying to stand out from the crowd.
All aspects of creative expression go through phases as styles and public preferences change. As the ability to gain new information accelerates with the Internet, we’re seeing these preferences change more rapidly, whether it’s in women’s fashions, men’s hairstyles, or stock photography. Following the fads may sometimes seem like a professional necessity — but if you’re not careful, it can also drain your passion.
Everyone has heard Marshall Field’s famous admonition: “Give the lady what she wants.” Making sure your customers get what they want is, of course, a respected practice. But another Chicagoan had even better advice. Samuel “Roxy” Rothapfel strongly suggested that Field didn’t go far enough.
Now that contest season is upon us, we are digging through the year’s work for the gems we hope have a chance of placing somewhere. I’ve noticed that many recent photojournalism contest winners feature such heavy burning around the edges that I’m reminded of photographs taken 30 or 40 years ago. Photographers defend the retouching by saying it “creates a mood” or “helps your eyes focus on the subject” or “gets rid of distracting elements.” But is the practice ethical?
Walter Benjamin once suggested that there is no single, absolute, or correct interpretation of a picture, since every viewer brings something unique to the process. At the same time, photojournalistic conventions often constrain how a viewer responds emotionally and intellectually to pictures.
Let’s get over the perception that newspapers are dying. They aren’t.
They’re changing and they will continue to change and evolve. The Internet allows everyone to be a journalist. It’s sort of like how the digital camera allows everyone to be a photographer.
As I survive my sixth layoff in five years, I question the future of photojournalism and am worried about the path we are headed down. Almost every newspaper in the county has laid off, bought out or done away with positions in the last few years. Everyone is trying to cut back on expenses, trim the fat, and keep profit margins up as the economy starts to take a dive. “This is necessary, these are hard times, it has to be done,” we’re told. Newspapers cannot afford to have investigative reporters, or fat staffs, or experienced journalists with higher salaries.
These days, it’s difficult to make photos without first having to ask permission from someone. Security is tighter at both public and private venues, and it’s likely you’ll encounter officials in many forms: gate attendants, receptionists, police officers, bureaucrats, teachers, secretaries, security guards. You’ll even encounter “unofficial officials”: janitors, ticket takers, bystanders, relatives of officials, and the like. My word of advice for these barriers — I mean, good people? Handle with care.
I taught my first photography course in 1988. Many things have changed since then, but some have remained the same. Over the years, students seem steadily drawn to two genres of photography — fashion and photojournalism. It is easy to understand why: these are two of the seemingly most glamorous careers in professional photography. And these genres are also among the most visible and recognizable. Nearly every photography student, at some time or other, has probably glanced through Vogue, Elle, National Geographic, or Time. And I am willing to bet that many of those students have dreamt of being in some remote, exotic location, working with talented models, or documenting culturally interesting or newsworthy events.
Get to the decision-maker. This is basic advice frequently heard from expert sales people. And good advice it is.
Few business situations are more frustrating than selling a “gatekeeper” only to learn this contact person has been overruled by someone with more power.
As the photography industry touts the latest professional software tools, namely Adobe Lightroom, behind the scenes the industry is experiencing a shift away from these standalone software applications in favor of a Web 2.0 implementation.
In the world of 1,001 photographers, you need to have a message.
Photographer Alec Soth explains it this way:
I have a theory that everyone will say one sentence about an artist. “He’s the guy that photographs Weimaraners.” “She was one of Crewdson’s students at Yale.” “She took disturbing pictures of her children.”
It’s been said that everyone and their uncle are putting their images on Flickr. That’s now become literally true. Uncle Sam has just uploaded some of his photographs on the photo-sharing Web site.
The Library of Congress has uploaded more than 3,000 photos from two of its most popular collections: The George Grantham Bain Collection and American Memory: Color Photographs from the Great Depression.
Even before the Internet, I appreciated the slideshow. I created presentations with multiple projectors and audio, and I was always impressed with what the combined media could communicate. Even compared to video — where you move right through a moment so quickly you can miss the subtlety of it — the slideshow has its unique charms.
The world of photojournalism, since the grand old days of Life magazine, has changed dramatically. Beginning in the late 1980s, photographers have steadily moved out of the darkroom and into the brave new world of digital media. For visual communicators, the digital technologies have intensified processes, especially given the immediacy of the digital camera.
Beate Chelette will relax and spend some quality time with her “intelligent, beautiful, opinionated” 15-year-old daughter Gina now that she has the opportunity to relax a bit. But don’t expect the energetic stock photography industry veteran to sit still for too long.
The University of Southern Mississippi came up with an interesting idea for its latest recruitment campaign; it gave video cameras to a cross-section of students and asked them to document their lives at the school. The result, USM’s Student Powered Videos (SPV) program, has been a hit — drawing media buzz and traffic to the college’s Web site.
While you probably spend most of your time as a photographer thinking about making images, occasionally an editor or commercial client may request your help in finding images — such as historical photos — to illustrate a project. Fortunately, some of the most amazing images ever captured are freely available; they’re in the public domain.
It’s no surprise that there seems to be a mad rush to become a professional photographer today. The technology is priced right. The cameras are smarter than most people care to admit. Education is available online for free. And the economy has been trending toward self-employed small business owners for the past 20 years.
For my first post for Black Star, I thought I would lead off with the subject that drew attention to me in the first place: video at newspapers.
Agencies need photographers just as photographers need agencies. So if you’re a photographer looking to work with an ad agency or design firm, it helps to understand how agencies look for you.