Field Report:

The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography

Social Media Article on Black Star Rising

My latest article for Black Star Rising might be of interest to you since I have previously written about social media in several posts on this blog. This article addresses the questions that people might have regarding the purpose of social media.

Here’s the article:

Is Social Media a Waste of Time for Photographers?


January 26, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Web | , | 1 Comment

Social Networking Etiquette 101

It is no surprise that anytime an opportunity presents itself, there will be marketers flocking to it. The problem with marketers is that they often jump into a new medium without fully understanding the motivations of those using the medium. I am writing this because I have been noticing more and more lately that people are creating Twitter accounts with no intention of interacting with people at all. These people just care about pushing their products or services onto people. Well guess what, those old-school push marketing tactics only serve to drive people away from you.

It is in really bad taste to DM someone with a sales pitch as your first line of correspondence after they have added you. It’s even worse if you DM someone your spammy message and haven’t reciprocated the add so they can’t even respond back to you. If you have built your profile effectively then there is no need to do this because we would already know what you’re about. When someone adds you on Twitter, the chances are that they have seen your line of work already and don’t need to be talked at in order think positively about you. Just like when you see someone in person that you want to talk to, you should be personable. Say hi and ask them how they are doing, or compliment them on something. Be sincere. You wouldn’t just walk up to someone and shove your business card in their face saying “I’m the shit. Now check out my website, goodbye.” It is also perfectly fine to not say anything and see if they want to say something first. Play your cards right and they’ll want to get to know you. Play them wrong and they’ll be indifferent to you.

Most marketers who aren’t experienced at social networking treat these activities as if they were the same as their mass media outlets. There is a huge difference. In mass media, it is generally expected that you are not talking to any specific person as it is an impersonal form of communication. In social networking sites however, it is all about direct communication with individuals. People join these sites to communicate with each other not buy stuff. It is about relationships and dialogue. You have to work at it in order to get to the relationship stage. Maybe then at that point, they might want to buy something or maybe not, but at least you’ll have acquired a brand champion.

Perhaps this blog post should be re-titled as, “Relationships 101”.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, rants, Web | , , , | 9 Comments

Black Star Rising

My first blog post for the Black Star photo agency’s business blog, Black Star Rising, is now up. It is based off of my previous blog post on blogging best practices. I will be contributing articles to their site periodically so if you like my blog you might want to bookmark Black Star Rising as well.

Here is the article: Seven Strategies to Ensure Your Blog is Worth the Effort


October 27, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Business, Web, Weekly Links | , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging Best Practices for Photographers

Blogging is one of the most powerful tools that a photographer has available due to the intimate nature of the medium. Those same benefits can also be drawbacks without proper etiquette. It is surprising to see how off-putting some photographers are when it comes to representing themselves on their own blogs. A blog at best is a method of establishing more personal communications with your audience. There are a lot of ways to attract an audience, which I will get to later, but attracting eyes is easy. Retaining an audience is another matter. Just like in advertising, you only have a few fleeting moments to grab someone’s attention and keep it. So what are some things you can do to build loyal relationships via a blog?

1. Write for your readers. People don’t want to be talked at or down to. Be personal. (There’s a fine line though. For example, don’t discuss your three abortions from 15 years ago unless that is an underlying theme of your blog.) There’s a photographer I’ve seen that writes half of his blog posts in the 3rd person. That sounds really bad. I don’t know whether that photographer drinks too much of his own Kool-Aid or not but I think he would be better suited not even having a blog than writing that way.

2. Post photos. That sounds really obvious but surprisingly, there are a lot of photography-oriented blogs out there that are overly-chatty don’t feature too much photography. It is really easy to get side-tracked from the main concept of the blog but I would try to minimize that. Create another blog if you need another venue to talk about photography-related topics not focused around your own work; like this blog for example.

3. Post consistently. This doesn’t necessarily mean everyday but be predictable enough so your audience can have a general expectation of when you might have posted something new. It is really hard to maintain much less grow an audience without consistent posting.

4. Keep the shameless self-promotion to a minimum. It is okay to do some but too much comes across as bragging. There are more appropriate venue for promoting. People are on your site because they generally want to like you. Reward the reader with quality content then you’ve got word of mouth marketing.

5. Enable blog comments and respond to commenters. People are taking time out of their day to offer you something so it is polite to acknowledge them. The advantage to having a blog over the rest of a static website is that it allows for two-way communication. Take advantage of that!

6. Widgets. Install relevant widgets and badges on your blog where appropriate such as Twitter badges, Yelp if you are a travel photographer, etc… These are things that should be adding extra value to the experience for your audience.

7. Make your RSS feeds and subscriptions easy to add. Not everyone uses feeds to read blogs but it makes it much more convenient for those who do. Most importantly, it is a timely way to distribute your blog without any effort.

How to attract an audience

1. Write content that interests your audience and is conducive to discussions. My article on Top Ten Most Influential Nature Photographers of All-Time is an example of this. Once I wrote the blog post, I started a discussion thread on the Nature Photographers Network forum. Then it led to other photographers starting discussions on several other nature photography forums and wound up being discussed on Outdoor Photographer magazine’s blog in addition to a number of other photo blogs. All I essentially did was start a discussion.

2. Social media integration. Having a presence on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, niche forums, etc… is a perfect vehicle for seeding links back to your blog. Be sure to participate more than just shameless self-promoting though. Communicate with people. It is called social networking for a reason. TV commercials are past their moment in the sun because they don’t engage people. Facebook and Twitter are as hot as they are because you can “talk” with people who you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. It adds a human element to the work.

3. Participate on other photographer’s and industry blogs. This is a really rewarding thing to do. As a photographer, you may only care about selling your own work but there is a lot of value in building relationships with your colleagues. Many times, they end up becoming regular participants in your blog or on the social networks with you as well. And yes, there is a bit of marketing psychology to this but that doesn’t mean participating with a “salesman-like” mentality. Be yourself!

4. Write articles for magazines both print and online. Be sure to include a URL back to your site if possible. The readers that are interested in you will find your blog through your site.

5. Public speaking engagements. Photographers like Chase Jarvis, David Hobby and David Alan Harvey for example have tons of people participating on their blogs because they have big offline visibility in addition to an online presence. Another thing they have in common is that they care about engaging with their audience.

6. Write good blog titles, categorize blog posts, and tagging. This is both good for search engine visibility and for overall site usability.

7. Be an innovative photographer and do any of the above effectively.

There are a lot of photographers out there doing an excellent job of blogging. Those are the people you should follow. Don’t copy them necessarily but figure out what they are doing and see how that fits in what your plan.

October 18, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Business | , , | 9 Comments

Professional Photography in the 21 Century is Like Mixed Martial Arts

For thousands of years, masters of a single martial arts discipline would have an almost mythical status. Karate, Kung Fu, Muay Thai, etc… If you could master your art then it was assumed that you could win any fight with relative ease. It wasn’t until the early 90’s at UFC 1 that a skinny Brazilian in a white bathrobe (gi), Royce Gracie, stepped into the ring and submitted his opponent, a pro boxer, with moves that most people had never seen before that a new era was born. After defeating two more far larger opponents that night in similar fashion, Gracie went on to win several more UFC tournaments but people started to realize that they needed to add jiu-jitsu and other skills to their existing arsenal just to compete. Experience, toughness and size were rendered irrelevant by Gracie because they had been caught off-guard. Unprepared for change.

I see much of the same things going on in the professional photography industry nowadays. Photography has always been seen as a print medium since it was invented but now the Internet has matured, many experienced photographers are struggling to adapt to the technological changes. Photojournalism is the area that has experienced the greatest amount of change due to all of the cutbacks and financial struggles of mainstream newspapers. Even in good times, the pay was shit, but now there is just not enough work doing traditional news for the amount of people qualified to do it. Many of the ones that are still working now have either adopted new business models such as the Strobist or those who have become multi-media journalists simultaneously recording still photos, video and sound gathering. Those who are still working and haven’t tried to learn anything new are treading on thin ice.

As if becoming a great photographer wasn’t difficult enough, now people are saying that we have to be photographers, videographers, writers, social media experts and recording artists at the same time?!? Crazy! I think that is a bit alarmist but there is truth to that as well. To fight in the Octagon, professional photographers have to at least have a working knowledge of the various disciplines in case they might need to apply it sometime. Not knowing is going to severely limit the upside for income opportunities.

Honestly I believe that once this all plays out there will be a place for everyone if they play their cards right. Just like there still are karate instructors, there are still going to be successful photographers that never record any sounds or video but there are also going to be those who don’t specialize in any specific discipline and create their own style by mixing a little bit of everything together. But I guarantee that all of the successful ones will be the ones who keep tabs on what else is out there even if they never pursue those avenues.

Recently, a Karate expert, Lyoto Machida became the light heavyweight champion of the UFC so now Karate is the rage again. But he didn’t get to the top by solely training in Karate. He also has a black belt in BJJ and is trained in sumo wrestling. He uses that other stuff to prevent others from dictating the fight, so he can stay upright the whole fight kicking people however he feels like. It is the same concept for photographers. Don’t let the changing market conditions take you out of the game. Adapt to it, dictate where you will play and kick the competition’s ass.

By the way, I recently posted a multi-media project on my site. Check it out: Nature Photography Multi-Media Video.

July 5, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Business, Web | , , | 2 Comments

Ignorance is Ignorance.

I read about this story through Gary Crabbe’s blog originally,

Basically the New York Times goofed by not having an editor check the article for ethical and legal concerns before publishing what essentially is a blog post demonstrating copyright ignorance. Here is a quote from the article, “And if you’re wondering about copyright issues (after all, these aren’t my photos), the photos are being used by me for my own, private, noncommercial use. I’m not selling these things and not charging admission to my apartment, so I think I’m in the clear.”

It is one thing to view an image on Flickr or even copy it to your desktop. But when you gloat about framing them and putting them on the wall then yes that is commercial use because believe it or not there are photographers out there that sell prints of their work that usually get displayed in frames on people’s walls. The entire concept for the article is irresponsible “journalism” at best but if the New York Times felt a need to publish this sort of rubbish then they should have at least made a designation that there are specific licenses on Flickr that state what you can and can’t do with images. Certain Creative Commons licenses (CC) for example allow people to freely distribute their work sometimes with or without giving credit to the artist. If that is what the photographers chooses to do with their images then that is their deal, but for the rest of the images that having an all rights served designation then that needs to be respected as well. Who knows why someone with an all rights reserved license would offer a full resolution image on their stream but regardless that doesn’t change the license terms.

If newspapers want to compete in today’s media landscape then they need to stick with what got them their reputation. Relevant, accurate journalism. Once newspapers start getting into reporting opinion rather than facts then they start becoming just like your average blog on the internet like the one you are currently reading. Sometimes facts are reported but you have to take it with a grain of salt because maybe it’s not entirely accurate. Sadly in this case I’m putting more faith in my own opinion than what I just read in the NYT.

Also of further interest look at the comments section of the article and the freelancer’s follow up post which didn’t exactly retract her original statements.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | Photo Industry News, rants, Web, Weekly Links | , | 5 Comments


Nature photographer, Younes Bounhar recently interviewed me about the topic of social media. You can check out the interview on his blog –

Twitter for Photographers: An Interview with Richard Wong.

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Interviews, Web | , , | Leave a comment

ASMP White Paper: Photography Rates

I was looking through some professional photography industry websites and came across this white paper that ASMP made available for syndication. I don’t know when it was written but here it is:

An ASMP white paper by Richard Weisgrau

Publishers control the day rate that they pay to photographers. In 25 years they have failed to increase the day rate to a level that would allow photographers to maintain the standard of living of 1973. In spite of this failure, many publishers seek more and more rights from photographers for the same low and continuously eroding fees. The situation is out of control. Photographers feel that they cannot control the day rate. They perceive that they have little individual clout in a negotiation with a major magazine. They cannot collectively bargain, since they are independent contractors and not entitled to the collective bargaining power of a union. The simple fact is that the publisher has all the advantages, EXCEPT FOR ONE. If the situation does not improve, good and reliable photographers will eventually be forced to refuse editorial assignments, since these will not support the photographers’ costs and commitments to their businesses.

While the picture may appear bleak, there is one advantage that the photographer has over the publisher. Photographers provide the content that the publishers need. Although individual photographers cannot bargain collectively, if enough individual photographers refuse to work for inadequate pay, publishers will have no choice but to react to the forces of the free market system and increase their payments for photography. ASMP cannot force a photographer or a publisher to do anything. It cannot organize a boycott or a strike. It cannot set a wage, fee, term or condition for photographers. But, ASMP can express its opinion and give its advice. This paper provides that opinion and advice.

In 1973, the per capita income in New York State, where many photographers reside and work, was $5,969. In 1997, the per capita income in New York was $30,299 or five times greater than that of 1973.

In 1973, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour. In 1998, the minimum wage was $5.15 per hour or 3.2 times higher than the rate of 1973.

In 1973, the average day rate for editorial photography assignments with one-time rights was $200. In 1998, the average day rate for the same editorial assignment is $450 or 2.2 times higher than the rate for 1973. The editorial day rate has fallen behind even the rate of increase in the minimum wage.

These statistics show that the compensation paid to editorial photographers is forcing their living standard down faster than that of the general population. They also show that untrained workers have experienced a greater rate of wage increase than highly trained and skilled photographers. How can publishers get away with this? The answer is simple. Publishers use their economic clout to dictate fees to photographers who, like most of us, need to work. The “take it or leave it” position of most publishers leaves most photographers in a position where they have to choose between inadequate compensation and none at all. Necessity dictates the choice.

The table below shows that editorial fees have simply deteriorated over the years to the point where the very existence of editorial photography on a professional level is now threatened. The day is quickly approaching when competent and properly equipped photographers will not be able to provide publishers with those images which inform readers, bring events into their consciousness and help them get a better picture of our world. The chart applies changes in the consumer price index to the 1973 day rate. The adjusted day rate shows what the day rate should have been in 1998, if it had been adjusted for inflation.

Editorial Day Rate Analysis

Base year: 1973, 1986, 1990
Average day rate: $200 $350 $400
C.P.I. factor (to 1998) 3.671.521.25
1998 Adjusted
day rate$734$532$500

The above chart clearly demonstrates that, not only is the day rate woefully behind its 1973 base, it even has failed to keep pace with the inflation of just the last ten years, when they are taken as a base rate. A recent survey of ASMP members shows that the current average day rate for one-time editorial rights (print media only) is $450. Interestingly, this average is higher than the rates paid by many major magazines, like Time and Business Week, which pay base day rates of only $400. The average is pulled up because some specialty magazines pay higher rates to the best photographers, and ASMP members are more often in this group.

ASMP anticipates and acknowledges the argument that many publications went through very traumatic times in the early to mid-seventies. Television took its toll on advertising revenues and readership. Famous magazines closed their doors forever. A few were later resurrected with a new look and approach. In spite of this decline, however, the fact is that there are more magazines and print publications than ever before. Certainly, the economics of magazines have changed, so ASMP will concede that it might (but only might) be unrealistic to conclude that magazines can afford to pay at least the same level of fees that they paid in the early 1970s. However, it is also not unreasonable to point out that the publishers’ and editors’ and other staff salaries have been more than adequately adjusted to meet the economic realities of today. This is not true in the case of photographers.

Certainly, by 1986 magazines had economically reestablished themselves and found their way to profitability. But, even if we concede that the day rate of 1986 ($350) was fair compensation in light of economic conditions, we see that publishers have not seen fit to raise the day rate to a level that paces it with inflation. Indeed, the past seven years have seen the economy grow to record levels, and magazines profits have grown with it, but the day rate paid to photographers has once again fallen behind the decade’s rate of inflation. It does not take an economist to see the trend. While photography is every bit as important to publications as it ever was, the reward for it continues to decrease.

There is another factor that is easy to lose sight of when considering the unfairness of the rate of compensation paid to photographers. For each day that a photographer is paid for, he or she spends additional time performing tasks related to the work done on the paid day. ASMP’s survey shows that, for every day of photography, the average editorial photographer spends a total of 10.2 additional hours on assignment preparation, post production work, administrative duties and travel time. The result is that it takes 18.2 hours to earn a single day’s rate. At $450 per day, the photographer is actually earning $24.72 per hour. Keep in mind that most photographers must maintain in excess of $50,000 in equipment in order to do their work, have to have business insurance, must pay their own medical insurance premiums, etc. Photographers have the same costs of doing business that any small service business has. Many of them are also paying off college loans for the education that is a necessary prerequisite to be a successful photographer today. There are few businesses in the USA that can support their owners and meet their overhead on $25 per hour in revenues.

Considering the above facts and recognizing that this situation is unlikely to change without some dynamic force being applied, ASMP offers its opinion that publishers should raise their editorial day rate to a MINIMUM of $550 in 1999, with subsequent raises to $600 in 2000 and $650 in 2001. These rates would include one time use in print media and would not include electronic rights, foreign language rights, or English language rights outside of North America, or any reprint rights. ASMP also believes that photographers have good reason to adopt these recommendations of ASMP in their individual negotiations with publishers, and that, while free to ignore ASMP’s opinion and recommendation, doing so would only further threaten their economic futures.

The eroding economic position of editorial photographers must be stopped and reversed. It seems clear that publishers have no intention of changing it as of this writing. So photographers must either change it or face further degradation of their earning power ever year. How can you, as an editorial photographer, motivate this change? ASMP suggests the following. Copy this paper as many times as you wish. Give copies of it to every editor you work with, every time you work with them. Send ASMP the names and addresses of every publisher, managing editor, photography editor, etc. in the magazines you work for, and we will send them this paper for you. Tell the publishers that you agree with ASMP’s opinion and recommendations. Be conscious of what is happening to you and how poorly the trend bodes for you. Change your fate by insisting on fair compensation. Do not give away your future.

Note: Permission to copy and distribute this white paper was granted by the author and ASMP.

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Social Media Monitoring for Photographers

With the growing popularity of online social networking / chatter / media whatever you want to call it, information has never been more readily available for photographers. If you want to know what any particular demographic is looking for or talking about then there are software applications out there that help you do this research. For a marketer this is information that companies paid millions in research for in the past. For you and I, the small business owner, it costs nothing.

Take Twitter for example, which is characterized by it’s fast-paced speed of updates. Mainstream news outlets like broadcast news, newspapers and the radio aren’t even the first to break stories these days. Often times the story has spread virally via Twitter before any mainstream media outlets catch wind of it. Now imagine being able to listen in on any subject of discussion on the Internet like Superman. You don’t need a stock agency wants list anymore. Those will be outdated by the time they are published. The information is already out there for the taking. Experienced photographers should be able to gather a lot of useful information from adopting these new methods if they embrace the technology. Be creative. Think creatively.

There are applications out there such as TweetDeck that allow you to not only interact with your friends on Twitter, but you can customize searches around specific terms and see what people on Twitter are talking about in real-time. Keep one column active for the search term “stock photography” and it is fairly obvious that many people (especially photographers) out there are woefully uninformed about the photo licensing industry. Even more telling is the amount of people who expect to find great photography for little to no money. If you can stomach this type of dialogue for long enough you will also find gems in there such as a photo buyer who tweets about having difficulties while looking for a specific image. Maybe you are that person who can help them out. Be sure to know what you are talking about though. Know the value of your work to the end user. If you have the right image at the right time then the buyer should be willing to pay what’s necessary for it. A twist on the old saying, you get paid only what you ask for.

TweetDeck Social Monitoring Example

TweetDeck Social Monitoring Example

Market research is just one of the many other uses for social media monitoring which includes PR activities such as reputation management but that is a huge topic all on its own.

Updated 5/11/09: As requested, here are some other apps you might want to try for social media monitoring –


April 30, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, stock photography, Technology, Web | , , , , | 6 Comments

ASPP Event: Copyright / Copywrong in Image Licensing

I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic lecture this past Saturday that was hosted by the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP) and Picture Archive Council of America (PACA). The featured speaker was Nancy Wolff who is an attorney that specializes in intellectual property law. There were quite a number of people packed into the venue which was a photography studio in Culver City. The audience appeared to consist of photographers, stock photo agents (including one of mine), publishers and filmmakers. I was told that that is what the difference between the ASPP versus the other photography trade organizations because it caters to everyone involved with in the photography industry not just photographers. I tried my best to take notes for those of you who might not have had the opportunity to attend. Keep in mind that I’m no legal expert but here goes:

– The event was sponsored by the Copyright Clearance Center and they wanted to promote their new image licensing platform called Ozmo. (I personally know nothing about this product or the organization so I have no opinions on this at the moment.)

– Nancy started off by listing several popular myths regarding photo copyright laws including, “If I remove my image after being served a notice, I don’t owe any money.”

Copyright Basics

– Copyright laws were founded to give incentive to creators to continue advancing the arts and sciences in the U.S. The incentive is exclusive rights to the work for the length of the author’s life + 70 years. For corporations it is the lesser of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation. I believe this time period designation was established in 1978.

– Anything created 1923 is now part of the public domain.

– Works not protected by copyright law include anything created by the U.S. government. (I got the impression that this is not as black and white as it sounds.)

– Copyright laws were revised again in 1989 stating that copyright notices were no longer required to be displayed in order to claim ownership. This is purely voluntary but recommended. A proper copyright symbol goes like this – ©year, name.

– Freelancers by default own the copyright to their work. However if you are an employee (work-for-hire) then the employer owns the copyright.

Fair Use

– Allows for limited duplication of material for educational uses including criticism, news, teaching and research. A good example would be photocopied class handouts, short excerpts and quotes.

– Fair Use is not about merely choosing an image to illustrate a news story just because it might look appropriate alongside the words. The image must actually be the news story. (I’m trying to paraphrase this part.)

– Must be transformative. Not merely repackaging the work. Does it harm the creator in any way?

– Parody can be fair use such as the famous Annie Leibowitz picture / Vanity Fair cover of a pregnant Demi Moore being mimicked for the Naked Gun 33 1/2 movie poster.

Nancy proceeded to show more side-by-side comparisons of situations that claimed Fair Use.

– Social commentary can be Fair Use.

– Merely changing the medium is still an infringement because it is derivative works.

Most in the crowd seemed to believe that Shepard Fairey, creator of the Obama Hope poster, infringed on the AP’s photo by creating the poster without asking for permission. Nancy mentioned something interesting that when Fairey sued the AP, the AP countered by hiring the attorneys that had just defeated the Stanford University Fair Use Project in a recent case.

Copyright Infringement

– Who is responsible if there is an infringement? The publisher, includes both companies and employees.

– One must show that the infringer had access to the original works. (I think this means that if the “infringer” has never seen the original work in question then it might not be an infringement and just merely coincidental similarities.)

– There is no hard and fast rule to determine “substantial similarities” as this is determined in court on a case-by-case basis. The judge will often compare two images then use that to decide if the case will go to a jury or not.

Nancy then showed an example of a photographer that sued an ad agency. The ad agency had contacted the photographer to use an image but apparently didn’t like the price so they went out and photographed their own similar version. The giveaway was the featured model in both had the same jacket on in both images carrying a briefcase. The photographer was rumored to be very happy with the settlement.

She then had a section about Scenes a Faire, which means that certain scenes or ideas can only be seen in a limited number of ways hence not being eligible for copyright infringement. An example would be photographing a well-known landmark in a public place such as the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The more staged the original work however, the more likely it is to be considered an infringement.

– Why register your photos with the U.S. Copyright Office? You can’t get attorney’s fees waived if not registered. (This is one of many reasons to do so.) This can be done so now by electronic filing. Send thumbnails in large quantities marked as unpublished works. If the photo has already been published before filing, then mark as published works. Once an image is registered you never need to re-register it again.

– Avoid sending your registration via USPS because since 9/11 stuff just gets backlogged and lost due to anthrax scares. Send it via FedEx if you must.

– Internet Service Providers have a safe haven. When serving a take-down notice, you have to send to the ISP’s registered agent and give them proper time to address the situation? (Wasn’t quite clear in my notes.) You also have to identify the work in question, the location of where the infringement can be found, include either a physical signature or electronic signature on the document.

1st Amendment

– The 1st Amendment offers much more protection for editorial uses including art, news, and exhibits. Commercial uses have much more limited 1st Amendment protection.

– A proper model release should contain the name of the model, date of birth and have a witness’ signature. This applies to the U.S. mainly because every country has their own laws. In some countries the model can decide at any time to invalidate your model release.

– Pets are considered property and require a release if they are well-known and has been exploited commercially in the past. (I think this is primarily to avoid brand confusion in the marketplace.)

– Buildings photographed from public areas do not require permission to publish commercially. Several property owners have tried to sue for trademark infringement such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland suing a photographer for selling a poster of the city skyline. The museum lost because there was no obvious trademark apparent in the photo. Same goes for photos of the Empire State Building. There is no trademark confusion apparent.

At the end of the presentation, Nancy recommended visiting two sites: and

Next they had a door drawing for three of her autographed books. I won the 3rd. 🙂 For the record, I was planning to buy the book if I didn’t win it.

Question & Answer Session

– If a photo agency or an individual photographer wants to promote their own work are they allowed to use non-model-released photos in the promotional materials?

Nancy said there was not a lot of established legal precedent for this sort of situation. She thinks that if you have multiple images together in the promotional material then there is no confusion as to whether the model endorses your business. If you have a single photo depicted then it can more likely be questioned.

– Copyright doesn’t protect styles of photography. If you popularized photographing subjects on white seamless for example, then another photographer does the same idea then you can’t claim copyright infringement just because they used a similar style.

The PowerPoint presentation is available for download at the PACA website if you are a member.

Overall I would highly recommend attending a session like this if you are a professional artist or deal with intellectual property of any sorts. I learned new things and got some clarity on previously fuzzy concepts. You might think oh, law, boring academic stuff but this really was an interesting presentation and even entertaining at some points.

April 5, 2009 Posted by | Photo Business, Photo Industry News, stock photography | , , , | 2 Comments

Weekly Photography Links – 3/31/09

“Copyright/Copywrong in Image Licensing” – If you are in Southern California this Saturday morning and license your work or otherwise make money from photography then this lecture by the ASPP is recommended. The event is going to cover current copyright law essentials such as the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, Fair Use, infringments and have to have them removed them from the Internet. Space is limited so sign up now.

Zoriah’s Budget Cutbacks – Independent war photojournalist, Zoriah is struggling like many due to the current economic climate and needs our help to keep him going. Have a look at his blog to see if you can help him out.

Tom O. Scott Photography – Tom Scott’s sandscape photos caught my eye the other day as I was browsing the Ordover Gallery in Solana Beach. His work really blew me away. It has been a long time since I have seen something original in nature photography so his photos were really refreshing to discover.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Weekly Links | | 2 Comments

Friends Pay Friends for Photography Services

Charging friends and loved ones for your photography services is probably the hardest thing to do as a photographer in my opinion. There has been a lot written about this topic but I think this advice from the Anderson Independent Mail in South Carolina is short and sweet:

Photographer Ill at Ease Charging Friends for Service.

February 3, 2009 Posted by | Photo Business, Weekly Links | , , | 9 Comments

Location Scouting – Google Earth

Google Earth Image of Morro Bay

Google Earth Image of Morro Bay

Prior to the internet, photographers were most likely to have discovered photo locations by consulting with topographical maps, scouting by foot, looking at photo books, postcard racks, taking guided tours or word of mouth. Those methods are still valid today but there are many more tools at our disposal now due to the internet. Google Earth is one of the more interesting tools.

Google Earth combines the geographical contours of topo maps with real life satellite imagery and pictures from photographers that have embedded GPS coordinates into their meta data. It is really amazing to be able to “scout” photo locations from the comfort of your living room or even while parked on a sidewalk if you can find a Wi-Fi connection. Anytime you pre-visualize a scene that you aren’t quite sure if or where to make it happen, you can type in the location in Google Earth and search around the landscape to see if it is possible. This can save you a lot of time and even help find locations you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

One of the most useful features for photographers is that you can set what time of day you want to see the landscape and the program will render the light to show you what you can expect to see at sunrise for example. You can also check the atmosphere option and it will take into account how the atmospheric conditions affect the lighting.

Google Earth Picture of Morro Rock at Sunrise

Google Earth Picture of Morro Rock at Sunrise

I played around with the program several years back but didn’t find much use for it because the renderings weren’t detailed enough. I took another look recently however and the satellite imagery appears to be much more comprehensive and detailed now in many locations. Google Earth is a tool that I intend to use more frequently when preparing for photo shoots. In fact, I found out about this scenic vantage point to photograph Morro Rock through Google Earth and intend to go there on my next visit.

January 23, 2009 Posted by | shooting pictures, Technology, Web | , , | 2 Comments

Photo Captions

Previously I wrote about stock photo keywording and software so I thought I’d offer some thoughts on picture captioning. What got me to thinking about this topic was that I’ll do stock photo searches from time to time for both professional reasons and location research but often times the image will not have adequate information in the caption. This can be a major problem for both the photo researchers and the photographer whether they know it or not.

Referring to an image as “Goliath’s Wrath” might sound cute for print buyers but it really offers nothing of benefit to the stock photography market. The same goes for images that have a basic description but too vague to be of use. Images captioned like, “Rocks, Colorado Plateau, Utah”, while giving a basic idea for the region really aren’t descriptive enough for textbook publishers. Plus it doesn’t help the photographer get his images noticed because there are a gazillion images out there with those same words as well. But if it says “Gneiss Marble Techtonic Plate Remnants from The Pleistocene Age, Kodachrome Basin, Utah” or something of that nature then it is much more specific and likely to be found by the appropriate sources for several reasons.

1. Not a lot of people have gone that far to identify the subject.

2. The photo researcher might need an image that fits these exact requirements, nothing more and nothing less.

Also something to consider is that if you give accurate and detailed captions along with your images, it makes you the photographer seem much more knowledgeable about your subject matter and more useful when it comes to consulting. If you were to put two equally as impressive photography portfolios side by side along with the captions. One with poor captioning versus one with good captions, then who do you think looks more knowledgeable? One would appear to be a photographer who happens to shoot trees while the other would appear to be a tree expert. There is a big difference in perception there.

Brea Canyon Firestorm Along 57 Freeway, Diamond Bar, Southern California

Brea Canyon Firestorm Along 57 Freeway, Diamond Bar, Southern California

I’ll use some of my own images as an example. For this image of the Brea Canyon Fire, it has an accurate caption. I could have gone further to say what date it was and the end result. This is information that would appeal to newspapers and other journalism outlets but good enough in my opinion for people to find the image through stock agency sites or search engines.

Grant Lake Dry Lake Bed Colorful Patterns

Grant Lake Dry Lake Bed Colorful Patterns

This image from the Eastern Sierras however is not captioned very well. In fact, I’m actually pretty surprised at how little information I included. To be honest, I don’t know really know what the colored stuff is but I should have at least included the region and state, which were June Lakes Loop / Eastern Sierra and California respectively. This is an image that I am going to have to go back and add a better caption when I get a chance. As it is now, this image is not likely to be licensed unless I can get a more insightful caption.

Some photographers, nature photographers in particular tend to be protective over the location of their images so they are very vague with their caption. That is fine if you don’t care about licensing your images but for the purposes of this blog we’re going to assume those people only really care about print sales or are just hobbyists. For the rest of us, this is a foolish practice from a business perspective.

There are going to be times where it is just not cost-effective or too difficult to bother spending a lot of time researching the correct captions and back story to images but it is a good business practice to try at least. Often times, the most important part of an image is not the image itself but of knowing the subject and being able to convey that. Check out this link to my picture of the Original Stations of the Cross Painting from Mission San Gabriel Arcangel. A magazine request came in for this subject once and I made the sale. While the editor did comment that the images I submitted were the best they had seen, I wouldn’t have been able to produce a quality product had I not known how historically significant the subject matter was.

A lot of California Missions have similar looking paintings in their chapels but the difference with this one is this is an original canvas painting, not a replica unlike the others. That is why I photographed it and haven’t bothered photographing the paintings at other missions. We are visual artists obviously but it really does pay off to understand what it is we are shooting. Photographers like to say that it is only about the light. Well not really. Yes we need light to have an image, but light itself isn’t a picture. Subject matter is what truly counts. Subject matter only counts however when we are able to convey that; through photo captions in our case.

Conversely, I made a semi-mistake once on a submission due to somewhat misleading captioning. It wasn’t deliberate but I submitted an image then later went back to research a more comprehensive caption at the request of the editor only to find out that the actual subject might not have held the same meaning as what was initially thought. I made a note of that. The image didn’t sell in this instance, though it later sold a few times through a stock agency. I don’t know for sure that this is why the image didn’t get used but I did learn from this experience.

In another instance when I first started out, I lost out on a potential book cover because the author asked me if I had images of oak trees from a certain area. I told her I didn’t. Well it turns out that I did have the right images! I hadn’t spent enough time captioning my images so I wasn’t aware of what I had. It wasn’t until two years later on a photo shoot in the same place that I finally realized my mistake. Ouch!

The moral of the story is take time to write good captions for your photos. Everyone loses when we don’t.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | stock photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Weekly Photography Links 12/22/08

When it Gets Slow – Photo Business News & Forum. A very honest and insightful post on sticking to your rates even during tough times rather than selling yourself short.

E-Promos – Burns Auto Parts Manuals. Leslie Burns – Dell’Acqua, a creative consultant, writes some really great marketing “manuals” that she makes available via PDF. I like this one in particular because I get so many emails from photographers and providers that it is ridiculous. The main issue I have with them is not the content of the emails but that they were mis-targeted. I shouldn’t receive most of these in the first place.

Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge – Outdoor Photographer magazine interview.

Greener Photography – Learn how to make your photography business endeavors more eco-friendly.

December 22, 2008 Posted by | Weekly Links | | Leave a comment