To Break the Rules, You Must First Know the Rules

Finding Forrester is one of my favorite films. In the movie, William Forrester, played by Sean Connery, is a reclusive Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who never gave the world a second novel. Forrester befriends a 16-year-old inner-city basketball player named Jamal. Jamal, an aspiring writer, visits Forrester’s apartment to seek the author’s wisdom. In one scene, Forrester and Jamal have a lively discussion about rules of writing, such as “You shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘and’.” They talk about how breaking the rules can create a wonderful impact. If overdone, however, it also can have a devastating impact.

For Photojournalists, Creative Freedom Is Its Own Reward

As a career, photojournalism is a noble adventure. Not only do you often enjoy travel and get paid for it, but you are permitted a passport into the lives of others — in your own community, and if you’re lucky, around the world. But it’s not the easiest professional path; there are roadblocks, as well as tempting detours.

Inside the Surge — with Stills and Video

Photographer Sean Smith of the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper has turned in a powerful series of reports, “Inside the Surge,” that illustrate the disillusionment of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Smith’s videos also demonstrate how the profession of photojournalism is evolving. Unfortunately, Smith’s reports, which combine video interviews with still images, have also caught the attention of Osama bin Laden, who misrepresents their contents in his most recent propaganda video.

How to Take a Good Group Photo in 15 Minutes or Less

The key to group photos is planning — and how big you plan to use the photo can make a big difference in your planning. We don’t hang wristwatches on the wall, because their faces are so small you cannot tell time with them. In most family rooms, you could have a three-inch face clock and tell the time. In a classroom, you might need a 10-inch face. The clock face size is a good rule of thumb for determining whether someone will be recognized in a wall print at a normal viewing distance.

Survey Shows Photojournalists Struggle with Traumatic Stress

A survey of 800 photojournalists by graduate student and veteran photojournalist Eric Reed indicates that news photographers often struggle with work-related traumatic stress — and that this problem is not adequately addressed by news organizations. Reed’s results also indicate that high stress levels are not confined to photographers in Iraq and other conflict zones.

Return to Hong Qiao: The Harvest Is Next Week

For my “Village” project, I wanted to go back to Hong Qiao, a village in Wuhan, central China, for the rice harvesting — but it didn’t happen. Instead, I ended up at a Taoist funeral.

Don’t Discard Old Photos; They Could Be Your Retirement Fund

Even at a time when digital storage is cheap and plentiful, many photographers don’t think beyond the immediate compensation they receive from a magazine, book publisher or assignment client. To save storage space — or remove mental “clutter” — many photographers continue to discard “outdated” images. In doing so, they could be tossing out an annuity fund for their retirement.

Sometimes a Detail Tells the Whole Story

We have all seen photographs with too much “stuff” in them. Because the photographer makes no attempt to select one subject, the image fails to communicate. It’s the visual equivalent of a run-on sentence.

Young Photographers Must Find New Paths to Success

I used to be a full-time photojournalist and professional photographer, and I worked hard in the pursuit of success. Now, I work with the same intensity and at the end of the day, I ask myself, “How many good photographs have I made? How many assignments completed today? How much have I done for Dennis Brack Inc?” The answer is none — nothing.

10 Tips for Photographers Shooting in Alaska

The Alaskan summer, all four months of it, has passed by once again in a flurry of magnificence. It’s the end of August, my favorite time to photograph here. The days have shortened enough to make it reasonable to shoot the sweet light of the mornings and evenings. It’s 9:30 p.m. as I type — and the sun has only now fallen beneath the tops of the glaciers and mountains outside my office window.

Getty Slashes Prices for Web Use

Getty Images has announced a new Web-use price of $49 for a 500k 72DPI file of any of its images, regardless of brand or pricing model. This fee entitles the purchaser rights to use any selected RM image on any commercial or editorial Web site, e-mail, mobile devices or multimedia project for one year. RR buyers get the same rights for up to 10 years and rights to use an RF image in perpetuity. This is a major reduction from Getty’s RM prices in January 2007.

In Search Results, Your Greatest Enemy Is Often Yourself

In my last couple of posts, I’ve been talking about photographers’ online reputations. In the first post, I mentioned the need for photographers to keep an eye on what their names turn up in Google searches. And in the second post, I pointed out a few things that photographers can do if their links on the first couple pages of search results lead to places that they’d rather potential clients didn’t go.

The Time to Market Your Photos Is Now

In my conversations with people just starting out in stock photography, I’ve seen over the years that most entry-level photographers make the same mistake in their marketing strategy. They take bundles and bundles of photos. After some time, when they think they are ready to tackle the stock photo industry, they attempt to find markets for their pictures. This is exactly the wrong way to go about it.

How to Create a Superior Image Online (and We’re Not Talking About Photos)

In my last post, I pointed out that before clients place an assignment, they often gather information about photographers with a search on Google. For most photographers, that shouldn’t turn up anything worse than their Web site, a reference on someone’s blog and a bunch of attributions. (Hopefully, there will be plenty of those.)

How to Be a Good Sports Photographer

From the Super Bowl to T-ball at the local park, people are watching, playing and photographing sports more than ever before — and publications are devoting more space to sports photography as well. So what’s the secret to doing it right? Professional sports photographers are trained to look for the peak action or reaction. When this is combined with a storytelling moment, the photo becomes the cover of the magazine.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Overcoming Shyness in Photographing People

Classes at the University of South Carolina, where I am an instructor, began on Aug. 23. As usual, I made time during the first class session to find out about my students, their interests and goals, and particularly the ways they think about photographs and photography. This semester, I am teaching two courses: J337, Photovisual Communications; and J537, Advanced Photovisual Communications. In J337, most of the students are beginning photographers with point-and-shoot digital cameras. In J537, all the students have had photography and videography experience (including J337) and many are getting ready to graduate soon.

What Do Clients Discover When They Google Photographers?

Today’s photographers put a huge amount of effort into creating and displaying their portfolios. Whereas once the sole challenge was to build a collection of outstanding images, today there’s the added need to showcase these images on beautifully designed Web sites, often with slideshows and accompanied by descriptive text.

The Soul of Henning Christoph

Today the Black Star Photoblog features its first contributions from Henning Christoph. Fittingly, they are set in Africa, a continent that has fascinated Christoph for nearly four decades.

How to Make the Most of a Mentor

“I have three treasures which I hold and keep. The first is mercy, for from mercy comes courage. The second is frugality, from which comes generosity to others. The third is humility, for from it comes leadership.” — Master Po

Tip for Microstockers: Don’t Quit Your Day Jobs

I have great respect for my colleague Jim Pickerell. So much so that about a decade ago, I hired him as an expert witness. Yet, I’m going to have to disagree with his example of microstock success, Erik Reis: Microstock Success Story, published here on Black Star Rising.

Erik Reis: Microstock Success Story

Traditional stock photographers argue that it’s impossible to make money selling at microstock prices. But microstock photographer Erik Reis is happy with his results.

Reis is a telecommunications technician who discovered microstock in 2005 and submitted a few files. Early results were encouraging enough that in 2006, he began to aggressively produce to give this “new line of business a chance.”

Corbis Aims to Make Life Easier for Ad Agencies

Corbis CEO Gary Shenk [pictured] has pledged to make the company profitable by focusing on stock and rights services — which is why Corbis is positioning itself as a partner that can take the logistics-related pressure off advertising creatives who use rare or celebrity footage. Corbis has announced the completion of several rights-clearance projects for BBDO New York, Publicis and DDB Canada. The three ad agencies have produced TV commercials for General Electric, Bounty and BC Hydro using Corbis footage and personality-clearance services.

The Right Kind of Timing

“The instant can be the end product of long experience as well as that of immediate surprise.”

— Henri Cartier-Bresson

There are two ways to approach a photograph where elements need to line up in time for the photo to come together. One waits for a figure — any figure — to walk into an open space to fill a “composition;” then, the photographer trips the shutter and walks away.

Stepping from Behind the Lens to Lend a Hand

In my trips to East Africa in recent years — from 2000, when I documented the lives of AIDS orphans, to 2006, when I photographed former child soldiers living in refugee camps — I became convinced that educating Africa’s future leaders was the most valuable thing the West could do to promote democracy and prevent future civil strife and terrorism. For this reason, I created the Stephen Shames Foundation.

Advice to Event Planners: Turn Up the Lights!

If you had to guess what percentage your words, tone of voice, and body language contribute to how a person understands your message, what would you say?

Most people believe that words are the most important aspect of communication. However, research indicates that your words impact only seven percent of how your message is understood. Your tonality contributes 37 percent — and your body language 55 percent. Unfortunately, many event planners don’t take this into account when planning a meeting — or the photography for a meeting.