Saturday, November 29, 2008

Doing What You Love

Leslie Burns Dell'Acqua at Burns Auto Parts Blog had a post yesterday about a piece that well known photographer, Doug Menuez, has written. I think it's definitely worth the read and reinforces the idea of: do what you love and love what you do.
And as Leslie points out on her post: "It is scary, you might fail. But if you don’t try, you WILL fail."

Check out Doug's article here at

You can also view his work at his personal site or his rep's at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creative Opinion

The past few "Creative Opinion" queries have been a bit on the serious side and a reflection of recent trends.

This month I'd like to keep it a little lighthearted and a little more personal:

What is the best part of your job? (whether you're a photographer, illustrator, stylist, art buyer, etc.)

I'll give my answer with the responses in a few weeks.

You can email me here or post a comment.

Updating Materials

How often are you updating your site and marketing materials? If you're not thinking about updating your website and its imagery, it should be something on your to-do list. Most times it's your website that art buyers and photo editors peruse through to get a sense of your work and your clients before your book is ever called in or a conversation is had about a project. If it's not consistently updated, there may be a a possibility these people will pass over you.

It's so worth taking the time to add new projects/images that you've been working on and replace some of the older images... or keep the older ones if you love them but make sure the flow works well.

Does the layout of the site feel dated? If so, update that too.

These are the bells and whistles that attract people to hire you for jobs. While you might not be a designer by trade, photographers/illustrators are creative people and as a buyer I would this creativity transcends through your imagery and to your marketing material. It doesn't have to be changed every three months but update imagery when you can, definitely at least once a year. And when you have a new project or when you update this imagery send out some promos/newsletters to drive traffic to your site.

I just received a simple e-promo newsletter layout from Sharpe + Associates that included one new image from a recent project for each of their photographers. No lengthy explanation just brand new imagery to click on that sent me to the site and the blog for more news.

Updating your website and its imagery is a smart way to keep people interested and consistently drive traffic to your work.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Almost everyone knows an advance is essential to the production of a job. Sometimes there there is a client or a higher up (insert CFO here) who doesn't quite understand the necessity behind this. If it's a client that doesn't understand the importance of an advance it's a bit easier, because then the agency can front the advance check for the project.

I'm assuming that most understand what an advance is but for definition sake here you go: pay someone a monetary amount before a final date/billing invoice. The advance is normally 50-75% of the production expenses. This is essential to the photographer or producer working on the project in order for them to pay for anything immediate needed and even pay the crew on the day of. This way it's not all out of pocket for the photographer/producer.

When an advance is not paid prior to the start of the job most people have clauses written in their estimates that detail a markup will be charged or a percentage of costs per dollar amount will be charged. If you don't have this written in, you probably should. And if you're the person purchasing/negotiating for the project, keep an eye out for these clauses and make your client aware so there are no snags after you get the go ahead.

Advances are an unwritten and understood rule that we assume everyone knows about and most certainly should understand as part of the production process. However there are the few people that don't agree and if all the explaining in the world doesn't change their mind, you should make sure you're protected in some manner.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Unconventional Marketing

Had to share this email I received from Art + Commerce. Now granted this is Steven Meisel we're talking about and the puzzle is a little pricey but the idea is fantastic.:

Now available: Steven Meisel Limited-Edition Jigsaw Puzzle

1000-piece jigsaw puzzle
Edition of 1000
Signed and numbered by Steven Meisel

Legendary fashion photographer Steven Meisel has been reluctant to publish his work in conventional print editions or books. This special object will be a first: a signed, limited-edition jigsaw puzzle of an image from the amazing 'Patterns' story Meisel photographed for Italian Vogue. The 1000-piece puzzles are packaged in a custom box and are signed and numbered by Steven Meisel. They have been produced in an edition of 1000 and are $750 each.

Puzzles are also available at Colette in Paris, at Barneys New York, and at 10 Corso Como in Milan.

Creative Opinion - Responses

Back in the beginning of October I asked for opinions about whether people were noticing an influx of stock and were photographer and rep sites being used as an alternative to stock houses [here].

A couple of art buyers responded with the following:

I find that very few reps actually have stock on their sites and if they do-they are not very searchable.
Art and Commerce is the best one I think however they almost all use top models so you have to find out all the details and gain those rights.
I wish more agencies did sell stock.

We frequently search photographers sites for stock. it takes more time and doesn’t work out always but when it does it’s a higher quality creative that you can deliver to the client. also, if I’m renegotiating talent from one of our shoots the agents feel like they have it on us, and can be unreasonably demanding. in contacting these talent I’ve found they are much more agreeable to deal and negotiate with. since the image has been released by the client it was originally shot for, maybe it wouldn’t have ever gone anywhere or stimulated any more income so, it’s good news for them.

From photographers/peers:
I've been working with an ad agency in Chicago for the past 3 weeks. The rep I've been dealing with would rather deal with the photographers and not the stock agencies.
I prefer not to deal with the stock agencies

Only the mid-level players seem to toggle between stock and assignment. The higher end clients still need proprietary imagery and the low end (catalogs etc) have no choice. Generally speaking, everyone has put the brakes on for a month or so but I am getting calls almost every day lately so 'somebody' is hiring! (budgets are another story though....)

I am an editorial, corporate, advertising shooter in the Chicago market. Assignments are down and my stock agency, Photoshelter, is closing. I am considering moving my stock sales in-house in my website rather than with another stock house. Glad to hear there is some market for this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Continuation of Stock Conversation

I'd like to introduce guest blogger today, Amy DeVoogd. Amy is an illustrator I've worked with in the past, being a fan of her work I've also featured her art on this blog, she's also an avid commenter and brings the much needed illustrator perspective to some of the conversations.

In Amy's words:
I thought this might be an interesting tangent to add to the conversation about stock.

I went to this panel discussion yesterday and panel members included an illustrator, a rep, an art buyer, and an art director.

Most of the audience were graduating students, I'm presuming mostly in Illustration, although I believe there were a few photographers and graphic designers in the mix.

The panel talked about typical things graduating seniors should know, like portfolios, marketing, etc. and then sort of framed the industry from their individual points of view.

At the end during the Q+A session, I asked, "How do you guys feel about stock?" I felt like the seniors should know that it exists as a valid way to make money and get exposure, and I was honestly curious to hear how the panel would respond, especially the rep, since I myself have been told that I can forget about ever being represented because of my involvement with Getty, and I keep waiting for the tide to turn!

The rep said it was the worst thing ever to happen to the industry and that he wouldn't touch an artist who had done stock (okay, no surprise there.) The illustrator said that only the worst-of-the-worst artists do it (okay, so he's rich and famous and his phone rings off the hook for commission work.) But the most surprising response was from the art buyer, who said that in her 25 yrs she has "never, ever" bought stock illustration or photography for a project. Never? I find that hard to believe. And it saddened me, really, because I think it's misleading to these young professionals. I do understand that it's always preferable to commission work, of course, but it's not always practical. And I also understand that when stock came along it was a giant change and it hurt some contingencies like the already-famous and reps. But its definitely part of the landscape now, and there's no going back.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Personal Project - Susana Raab

above images ©Susana Raab

When I first looked at Susana Raab's images I laughed a bit at the quirkiness and subject matter. Her personal project, Consumed | Fast Food in the US, was the one that stood out the most to me. What I really love about this series however is the storytelling effect and not the typical cliche shots of fast food, obesity, and unidentifiable ingredients. It's really a cross-country journey of a photographer observing the effect and influence of fast food in the U.S.

What made you choose this project?
I returned to grad school in 2003 at Ohio University's School of Visual Communications with the intention of focusing on a long term series and redefining my career as a photojournalist. I chose fast food after reading Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation because the idea of illustrating this problem challenged me. It was an ubiquitous problem that affects us all, whether we eat fast food or not, and it's a subject that is located in our backyard. Yet the problem of illustrating it without focusing on pictures of obese people or people eating food and the resulting visual cliches was huge. Despite the difficulties of illustrating it, I was committed to focusing my time and energy on a subject I felt had not been explored exhaustively. In the end this project is about consumption which to me is one of our more interesting modern dilemmas. I also share the same birthday as Big Mac, yes, we debuted on the same day. And my great-grandfather was a distinguished professor of animal husbandry at Penn State University, author of the The Meat We Eat (sadly out of print today). So my concern with food, how we make it and how we eat it, is in the genes.

How many photos were there before you edited it down to the featured images?
This is impossible to say, the project is on-going, dovetailing nicely with another project I'm working on about America at leisure. I've been working on it sporadically for 4 years, I edit straight from the negatives and very selectively, so I have only made prints for about 30 other images you do not see on my website. But I'm getting back film today so that might change by this afternoon!

What was your favorite aspect of this personal project?

There are many aspects about this project that I am grateful for: I have found a voice in this series that very much represents my inner monologue. I've always enjoyed humor, and I believe I've found a way to express something very important, but do it in an unexpected way, so people are more accepting of it, and then the message slyly sneaks in. That's my intention at least. I like to call it the Mary Poppins effect, as a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Like many photographers I love having that passport to trespass, to travel around and familiarize myself with the American milieu, sundry as it is.

These pictures are mostly impossible to plan, as they are all documentary and unstaged (with the exception of a couple of portraits) - so it's really helped hone my awareness and presence while I'm concentrating on making the work. But sharing the work and surprising people is definitely the most fun. I love it when people tell me that first they laugh when they look at my pictures (with, not at - I hope!) and then they think about the pervasive presence of this industry and the deeper message behind these photographs. I'm an English major and one of the lessons I took from that education was that humor and tragedy are intertwined.

Susana is a documentary and editorial photographer based in Washington D.C. Check out this project and Susana's other work at

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

State of Stock II

Apologies for a complete disconnect the past week.

So to follow up on the original State of Stock post, I have licensed stock imagery directly for photographers. I have purchased imagery from photographers directly when it was an image on their site that attracted me or the art director OR when I have always wanted to work with the photographer but never had the perfect situation arise and stock was the way to go.

Stock photography has kind of an ugly connotation to it - some people assume it's a stereotypical cheesy image with people perfectly framed and perfectly smiling directly at the camera, others (like myself) view it as an already existing image (whether photographed specifically for stock, personal, or commercial use) that is available for licensing.

I have also found that photographers are in the running cost-wise with stock houses and most often more affordable (and more willing to negotiate). In fact in the past few weeks I was working on a project with designers scouring all sorts of stock sites while I was searching photographer sites. Rony Shram came up with some amazing shots that fit the bill... in fact they liked them so much that they decided to commission him to do a small shoot for the project. AND since he's mostly a fashion shooter they loved the sexy/sleek look to his images but asked if he could apply them to cityscape... which he did. We got great imagery at close to stock pricing.

My opinion is that if you reach out to people, network, and let them know what you're doing they will most likely respond. Offering additional services and opportunities to clients makes you that much more marketable and someone they are likely to reach out to to help with the creative needs.