Notes from the VisCom Classroom: The Career Pyramid

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 — But Don’t Forget the Gatekeeper

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.

Fully Hosted Solutions Are In Our Future

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.

Your Sentence Is Your Message

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.”

How the Library of Congress Screwed Up By Putting Its Photos on Flickr

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.

The Beauty of the Slideshow — Now Available to Everyone

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.

Multimedia Photojournalism: Why Is It Taking So Long to Catch On?

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: Life After Corbis

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.

Even Student Photojournalists Fear “Amateurs” These Days

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.

Public-Domain Photographs Can Be a Source of Revenue

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 the Age of Opportunity — and All Photographers Are Invited

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.

Video at Newspapers Is About Profits, Not Storytelling

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.

Hey, Know Any Good Photographers? How to Get on an Agency’s Radar Screen

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.

Photographers Can Bring a Fresh Eye to Video

At my design and branding agency, we produce a fair amount of video, and we have always worked with DPs from the film world or shooters with years of video experience.

Now, for the first time, we’ve begun to look to still photographers to handle some of our videography needs. It’s not that traditional film and video shooters have done anything wrong; we’re just intrigued by the idea that photographers may bring something new to the table.

Macro Photography: The Magic of Nuance

I remember the moment clearly. I had just finished playing Haydn’s Concerto In E-Flat Major For Trumpet for the first time without any mistakes.

“Now you are ready to start working on it,” my music teacher said.

Best of 2007: A Look Back at the Year in Stock Photography

When we at Stock Asylum looked back at the highlights of 2007, we found a couple surprises. For one thing, we were not able to award the honor of “best image collection” to a single distributor. We had to split the category between Getty and Corbis. Yes, Corbis is catching up.

When Do You Need a Model Release?

The recent case of Virgin Mobile using a Flickr photo in an ad campaign without the model’s permission has once again raised the issue of model releases. When are they necessary, and when are they not required?

Six Steps to Banish Dust from Your Digital Images

Dust has been a source of frustration for digital SLR users from the beginning. Those little specks are like blood clots in the digital workflow — slowing you down or even ruining your best work. Sure, you can remove imperfections in Photoshop, but when those specks get on your sensor, every single photo will need to be fixed until the problem is addressed.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: A Tale of Two Students

This is a tale of two photography students. One sold some pictures to a client and was bummed out. Another failed to land an assignment but ended up feeling good about the experience. Why?

I’m of two minds when it comes to photography students taking on professional assignments. On the one hand, it is great experience and may represent the beginning of a long and prosperous career. On the other hand, most photography students have neither the technical skills nor the business savvy to compete in today’s visual-communications marketplace.

Why Photographers Hate Creative Commons

Last week, Creative Commons turned five years old — five years of phenomenal growth, thanks in no small part to advocates like the photo-sharing site Flickr.

10 Holiday Gifts for the Photographer in Your Life

There’s something for photographers at all skill levels this holiday season — and for all budgets. Here are a few of our favorite gift ideas, from relatively inexpensive to wildly extravagant.


Photography Students Are Being Taught — But What Are They Really Learning Today?

I recently was asked to teach a module at a well-known college here in the UK which hands out degrees in photography.

I say “well-known” as its students seem to get a large number of prizes for shots of discontented-looking people draped in studiously languid poses in scruffy locations ranging from hair salons to bedrooms to public toilets.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: End of Semester

Fall classes at the University of South Carolina end on Dec. 7, so I want to take this opportunity to discuss what worked well (and what worked less well) in my two visual communication courses — J337, Photovisual Communications, and J537, Advanced Photovisual Communications.

Protecting Your Images: The Myth of Creative Commons

One of the biggest problems photographers face online is keeping track of all the uses of their images. The recent case of an ad agency using a Flickr image for its client Virgin Mobile highlights this all too well.

The Integrated Photographer

When the camera merged with the computer to give us digital photography, the skills to be a successful photographer changed dramatically. Prior to digital photography, the professional photographer only had to know how to use a camera.