A long time ago, a lot longer than I'd care to admit, I had a mentor in the photography world. I learned so much through assisting this photographer. He taught me so much more than I had learned in college. He taught me the things you can't learn in a class; dealing with nervous brides, overzealous art directors, in addition to lighting on the fly.
One thing he said to me stuck with me to this day. We were getting ready to go shoot a small wedding, and he was nervous. Now, this photographer was a millionaire photographer, who had shot all over the world, for all types of clients. You name it...he shot it.
I found myself confused, as I asked him, "You're nervous? I just watched you come to contract with another client on a wedding, where you charged him $20,000...this wedding isn't even a tenth of that! How are you nervous???" He took a deep breath, closed his eyes momentarily, as if to get some of the nerves out of him, smiled, looked at me, and said "Ramon. Photography has given me my whole life. You're right...I probably have no reason at all to be nervous, but, you know what? You know how I know I still care about my work? I know I still care about my work, because I get just as nervous for a $1,500 job as I do for a $20,000 job, over 20 years later. The day I stop getting nervous is the day I retire."
To this day, that man is still shooting.
Lesson well learned. See when I was working with him, I was in my EARLY 20's. I was bold, and had yet to conquer the world. So many years later, I know that my work still means a great deal to me...I get those same exact butterflies, those same exact nerves, regardless of whether its a $1,500 shoot or a $25,000 shoot. I find myself taking those same breaths, meditating, getting my mind right, almost as much as I get my equipment ready.
Let's have a discussion...do you have those same nerves? How do you prepare, mentally, prior to a job? Is it different for smaller jobs than it is for larger jobs?
Early last month, Time Magazine decided to put out new agreements for their freelance photographers. It was pretty disgraceful. You can read it Here.
For starters, any time the agreement starts out with a letter, and in the first line of the letter, it reads "Since the 1920's and 30's," you already know which direction this is going to go. Secondly, it is in familiar fashion, an 8 page contract, outlining all of the ins and outs. The length of the contract, however, is not nearly as important as the content.
Photographers who sign this contract can expect to lose all abilities to earn any type of licensing revenue. Where us photographers can expect to earn residual income on some of our best images, this contract takes that ability from us, and that's why this is so important.
Not only will signing this contract take all of your potential for future licensing revenue, this rights grab may also stretch across their entire brand, to include:
Travel and Leisure
Sports Illustrated Kids
People En Espanol
And much, much, more. In fact, you can read the entire list here.
Over 90 different publications.
The sad part is that this isn't the first time this has happened in recent years. This contract is a very dangerous shot towards not only photographers but other artist. It is becoming more and more difficult for upcoming photographers to find work that pays proper rights and pay, and this may very well the biggest infringement upon those rights. It is up to us as artist not only to protect our current and future earnings, but also to make sure that rights grabs such as this don't completely destroy the future of our industry. We must stand together and unite in order to overcome such dangerous obstacles like this. The future of our industry is in the balance.
I'm from Chicago, so, of course, needless to say, I'm a diehard Chicago sports fan. I remember celebrating the Bulls six championships, the Cubs many postseason defeats, the Blackhawks recent dominance, and so on.
One thing I remember vividly about those legendary Bulls teams of the 90's was the tension between the team and the front office. For those of you that aren't familiar, the front office felt as if they didn't get enough credit for building the amazing brand that was Chicago Bulls basketball, and felt a bit of envy towards Jordan, Pippen, Jackson, Rodman, and the rest. They felt eager to get rid of the whole team, and show to the world that they could do it again...with a whole new cast of players.
While I won't get into my personal feelings about Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Kraus(the heads at the front office) I remember it being said one day on television that the "Jerrys" weren't basketball men...they were businessmen. That stuck out to me. At first, it was an insult...basketball is their sport, right? But why were they successful? They understood the components over what it takes to create a serious winner. Ultimately, egos took over, and ruined the greatest team to ever play(don't you DARE argue with me on this one!)
In that same fashion, however, to be a successful photographer, you have to be a bit more businessperson than ever before. You have to understand your numbers. You have to understand business structure, contracts, client acquisition, client retention, etc.
Stay with me here. If you want to be a successful photographer...you cannot be an artist. First.
Sure...you have to be super creative, and continue to push the envelope as much as possible, but it is no longer enough to just be creative and have a nice portfolio. Let me ask you this. Ever spent the afternoon scouting other photographer's websites in your market, and thought to yourself..."why the hell is this photographer more successful, when their work is lackluster?"
This is your lightbulb moment.
It is important for us photographers to be expert businesspeople. When working among the business community, it is important to show first how you are a successful, serious business person.
Here's a couple of tips to improving your business accumen:
1. Network, Network, Network - People hire who they know. Get out there and meet people.
2. Know your numbers! - Your clients know their numbers. You should know yours.
3. Education - Take a business class. Not a "business for artist" type class. An actual business class...it will help.
4. Find a mentor - having someone who's brain you can pick about business issues is invaluable!
Yes, it is important to have artistic skill to be a photographer. We photographers are kind of a hybrid between artist and businessmen...we have to be skilled at both.
Let's be honest…the best way to make money as a photographer is to put together a good, solid business plan, maybe even take a business course or two, have a skillfully targeted list of clients, and go out there, and network network network. Sure, make sure you have a nice website. Sure, make sure you blog, and your social media is good to go, but, ultimately, people hire who they know, right? Get out there and meet people!
But let's also be honest. Which one of us professional photographers hasn’t had a time where they did everything right, and still couldn’t get that next shoot booked? For all those slumps, its time to get creative and think out of the box. The following is a list of 10 ways you can branch out during a slowdown in your main business.
***Some of these may apply to you. All of them may apply to you. None of them may apply to you. Don’t devalue your brand by doing something you shouldn’t.***
1. 50% off normal fees. I know we’ve all got a slow season. Consider putting up a half off special on your normal sitting fee for a limited time, to get yourself earning again.
2. Portrait days. I do this all the time. Push it on social media…advertise a 30, 60, or 90 minute session, at a discounted rate, at a location of your choosing, at a date of your choosing. Do this one weekend, and if you get 4-6 portrait or family sittings, that’s a pretty good way to get out of your slump!
3. Local events. Take a look at the calendar on your local newspaper. What events are going on? This may be a decent time to take a look at that, shoot the event, and drum up some publicity for yourself, attached to the coattails of the event.
4. Promo prints. You’ve shot a bunch of weddings. You’ve shot some great commercial products/events/conventions. You wake up today, however, with nothing planned. Instead of fading into despair, go print one of those nice prints, put it in a nice frame, and get it over to the event coordinator. Make sure your business card is in there somewhere. By giving the event coordinator a breathtaking print to hang on their wall of an event they organized they will be more likely to recommend you to future clients of theirs.
5. Stock/licensing. Sure, the Stock Photography industry is nothing like it used to be. Micro-stock agencies decimated the industry prior to going away, and the market is very saturated right now. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a submission prepared to a stock or a licensing agency, and start earning some royalties every now and then.
6. All that empty wall space in your town. Got a favorite local pub? In good with the bar owner? Ask if it would be okay for you to hang a nice framed print up on their wall, free of charge to them, with the only stipulation being you be allowed to hang a price tag and contact info next to it.
7. Then shoot for them! The local pub give you the okay to hang some work on the wall? Great! Now ask if you can shoot the bar for them, to give them some original artwork for their social media, etc.
8. Legal/insurance Photography. Good for insurance purposes, bread and butter type work.
9. Car dealerships. They all need photographs of the cars they sell. Granted, you won’t win any awards with this type of work, but, slow times, remember?
10. Charity. Always a good bet, shooting, or providing a piece of artwork for auction at your local charity can help drum up good publicity, and, put you in front of mostly affluent folks who go to charity events and buy artwork at auctions.
I was listening to an interview on a talk radio show recently when this happened, and I turned to my wife, who is also a photographer, and asked ourselves..."How many times has that happened?" Let me lay out the scenario for you.
The hosts were interviewing a local newscaster, as they usually do. This was, however, a special occasion, as the newscaster had written a children's book. One of our newscasters had written a book, and it had gotten national attention. This wasn't the first person from our local media to go this route, but it was the most recent. We listened intently as she went over her process of writing, editing, the publishing world, etc. One thing, however, rubbed us the wrong way. One of the host asked about who did the illustrations.
Let me take a moment, at this point, to remind everyone that we live in Orlando...not the largest arts community on Earth, but definitely not the smallest. There are plenty of hardworking, creative, dedicated artist. Orlando is actually going through a little bit of a renaissance as of recent years; this is no longer JUST the land of the mouse. Back to the story:
She came to answer that she didn't want to spend any money on the artwork. She didn't have much money left in her budget, and didn't see an artist as necessary, so she just went to the local art school, and had the jobs office there find a hungry college student. She paid the college student very little, in return for letting the kid use the artwork in their portfolio.
Look. I get it. College kids need opportunity, right? Its gigs like this that can help build portfolios, garner much needed experience, and help build successful careers within our arts community. The problem I have is that this was a major project. This book went worldwide, and here was this author openly demeaning the meaning of the artwork in her own book by saying it wasn't worth spending money on. Worse yet, the hosts of the show just let it slide completely, as if they didn't care. This, my friends, is the state of the arts in our society today.
This reminds me of when I was a young, hungry, college kid. I would get the same calls from my school's employment office. I remember one time, vividly, when I went to bid on one of these projects. The client was a medium size business, selling what would turn out to be a mildly successful regional product. I spent hours making sure the proposal was on point. I rehearsed. I priced the project. Then I priced it again. The moment came, and I made one of my very first bids. I was cool, calm, collected. I was engaging with the client, we chatted, went back and forth. They absolutely loved me. What they didn't love was my price. It was a fair price indeed, but I priced it as a professional would. They had just spoken with some other college kid that offered to shoot over 40 different studio sets, for $125. I never took another job from that office.
That's the problem with the state of the arts today in our society. For profit schools are churning out more and more kids every single semester(or trimester), taking all of their money, and undermining their industries. Professionals, such as this newscaster, who could have stood up and spoken out against this, are openly undervaluing our industry. In the world of photography, the product manufacturers now control the direction of the industry. The major players now need to produce thousands of products, so they hire celebrities to make commercials, in order to sell more and more. Now, everyone can pick up a $300 camera, and all of a sudden they feel empowered to go put up a facebook page. The value of the actual art you produce is less than the value of the products you own.
If we, as an arts community, are to stop this kind of undervaluing once and for all, we must start taking a stand, together, and stand against things like this. We all see the arts being diminished in our schools today, and we cannot count on our local and national politicians to change it. Change MUST come from within.
By now, we've all seen it. I won't get into my personal beliefs on what's happening in Missouri...that's for a different blog!
If you've been away, let me break it down. Some huge controversy broke out at the University of Missouri, racism is involved, students started protesting, hunger strikes broke out, nobody really paid much attention...until, of course, the football team decided to go on strike if results weren't achieved. That's as quick of a breakdown as you'll ever see on this issue.
The more concerning part for us photographers is the video above. This lady, asking for muscle, physically restraining a photojournalist from covering part of this event, is my concern, and here's why:
1. The photojournalist, is a student photojournalist, Tim Tai(http://timtaiphoto.com/), hired by ESPN to cover the ordeal. Good on him! Any photojournalist would be proud to put ESPN on their list of clients, and, by judging his work, he is quite the photographer. The school should have been more than happy to rally around him and support his accomplishments, instead of what they did.
2. The lady. This lady is a professor. Let me repeat that. This lady, is not just a lady...she's a professor. Not only is she a professor, she's a professor in the communications department. Let me repeat that...she's a professor in the COMMUNICATIONS department. If anyone is supposed to know better, and behave in a more suitable manner, it's not even a should...it is a MUST. She cannot in good conscience behave in this manner and continue to carry out her professorial duties. She incited a crowd of students to get physical and force Tai out of their area. Can you just imagine if someone had a weapon? How much worse could this have been?
3. The law, or rather, the complete ignorance of it. The campus is public property. Anybody has the right to stand there, as long as they're not posing an immediate threat to anyone else. For all intents and purposes, its as if you were to go outside and stand on a public sidewalk. The protesters, seemingly almost all college students, who should know this, seem to not care. Bolstered by a professor and other staff/faculty members, the crowd grows even more bold. That's one part; the second part is Tai's right. As a photojournalist, hired by a news agency, he has every right to stand, and walk wherever he chose to cover this event. Again, the crowd, in complete ignorance of the law, blurt out outlandish comments, threaten him with police intervention, seemingly showing no concern that Tai is in complete compliance of the law, again, backed up by a professor that provokes these types of actions.
***Mind you, this is at The University of Missouri, home of America's largest and oldest journalism school.***
The professor, Melissa Click, apparently has already resigned her appointment, but I don't think that is enough. I think the University of Missouri needs to put a special assembly together, and turn this around, create a moment of healing and proper education, to make sure this never happens again.
More importantly, we, as photographers and artist must stand by Tai's side, and demand further actions be taken to make sure our rights as photojournalist, artist, and press personnel are protected. We cannot, as a community, allow this kind of erosion of our rights to continue.
Recently, HTC got into a little bit of heat over one of its images of a new phone. See the image above.
See something interesting? Yeah...its gold. Look closer. Yeah...UEFA Champions League. Closer. Is that???
Yes. It is.
They released an image of their new phone, shot by an Iphone. Look at the reflection.
As a professional photographer, this bothers me on so many levels. First, any photographer worth their weight in camera gear would not have a reflection like that in such a shiny object, because as professional photographers, we take great care in our craft to make sure reflections aren't distracting. It happens more often than not. Ever seen those NBA finals photographs of the players posing for photographs with the trophy? Joe Blow is in the background, unshaven, drinking his mocha, and it is visible in the reflections.
More importantly, the larger issue is that some AD or Marketing exec actually convinced someone at HTC that it would be a good idea to just take a snap pic of their brand new phone, and release it, instead of hiring a photographer that would make sure this wouldn't happen. As a photographer this hits home with me more than it probably does for most, but here's why it should matter to you:
Arts have been under assault in our education system for years now. Whether it be Photography, music, drama, or the like. Despite the fact that study after study has shown that students engaged in some sort of art education are more successful, and have a more well rounded education, scores of students are forced to go with defunded art education in their schools.
If we, as artist, or by larger part, we, as a society, are to make the case to our politicians and legislators that the arts are important on more than just a paycheck level, we have to not only lobby them for continued or increased funding, we also have to strike at these companies who consider it acceptable to devalue our work as artist by not hiring professionals in favor of snapshots from a cell phone.
It is much more than our jobs we are fighting for. It is the valuation of the arts in our society. It is the proper education of our children. We should not allow companies like HTC to take that away from us. We've got too much riding on this.
****Information for this blog post was gathered from this article: Oops! HTC mishap
I love North Carolina...especially the WNC region. And I will be there soon :)
I have an upcoming travel schedule this summer, taking me all over the Southeast US, and up to Chicago. If you're interested in booking some time, call or email me, and lets chat! Until then, enjoy just a few shots of WNC!!!
All images are protected by copyright Ramon Morales Photography. For booking, info, and reservations, firstname.lastname@example.org or 407.517.8693
There it is. We all have seen it countless times. We all know it. We all love it. There is a chance...miniscule...yet still a chance, that we may never see it again.
Photographer Jacobus Rentmeester recently filed suit against Nike, citing copyright infringement. He claims Nike stole the image from him, based off of this image that he shot for Life Magazine:
I say it goes nowhere...here's why:
First off, Rentmeester shot the image in 1984, thirty years ago. He entered into an agreement with Nike to allow the logo to be used, where Nike agreed to pay him a certain amount of money over two years. For practical reasons one must ask the question...why now? Why thirty years later? While he does retain copyright, he entered into a contract to allow the company to continue usage of the logo, so what gives?
Secondly, when it comes to the issue of copyright infringement, this will turn into a very difficult case for him to prove. For example, years ago there was a copyright case concerning a photographer and artist. The original, the photograph, was a well known photograph of a scene in Louisiana. The second, the Judge ruled, was the same scene, with a few very minute differences. The painting(second one) had puddles on the ground, and used leaves to frame the image in a slightly different way. The photographer, who filed suit, lost, because of the fact that the judge ruled that while the images were similar, those few very distinct differences were enough to not constitute a copyright infringement.
I'm pretty sure Nike will end up giving him some "go away" money, however, we, as photographers, must do all we can to protect ourselves. In my opinion, which, of course, is only my humble opinion, the burden of responsibility, which in this case, was on the photographer, was not handled in an appropriate manner. He should consider himself fortunate if Nike settles out of court.
Just a small selection of a few images from a recent shoot. Again...just as you tell your clients...when it matters, hire a professional to sell your house. Cell phone pics do NOT sell homes! Hire a professional to help you with your photography needs!!!
For booking, pricing, and reservations, reach out immediately at 407.517.8693.