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November 18th, 2013

PDN Video: Bil Zelman on How to Shoot Ads That Look Real (Not Staged)

Photographer Bil Zelman specializes in shooting lifestyle advertising for top brands such as Coke, Apple and Budweiser that looks real, not staged. Getting natural, emotionally genuine performances out of talent is one of the biggest challenges for advertising photographers, but Zelman has spent his career honing his skill. In this video, he describes how he saved one shoot that was spiraling out of control, and he shares some tips and tricks he uses to coax the performances he’s looking for.

Photographer Bil Zelman: How to Get Genuine Emotion from Non-Professional Talent from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

 

Zelman uses non-professional talent almost exclusively. He explains, “They don’t know what’s expected of them. Usually they show up a little bit nervous and it’s easier for me to relax them, rather than pro talent that shows up feeling like they’re going to act it out. I hate acting. that’s the bottom line.

“You know, people are laughing in [advertising] scenes all over the place, and so good talent will simply guffaw the entire time, and it looks so fake. So I would much rather have somebody uncomfortable in front of the camera, and then do something stupid to make them laugh, than hire somebody’s who’s basically a somewhat attractive professional laugher.

“Whatever city we’re flying to, I’ll fly my casting director (Heather Smith) there ahead of time and she’ll go to bars, and Craigslist, and hit all the social media and we’ll just find people. if I need bikers she goes to motorcycle gangs and if I need twenty five-year-old college kids she goes to the colleges, not to talent agencies.

“I try to go to casting calls whenever possible. Depending on the mood of our desired performance I might yell at [the people answering the casting call] or throw something at them. I’ll see if they can cry, [and see] what their eyes do when they genuinely laugh verses faking it with just their mouth. Perhaps I’ll ask them to dance with no music going. It all depends on the job but I’m looking hard to flush out any overacting, self-consciousness or catolog-like contrapposto or gestures and such.

“I’m often looking for big, extroverted personalities as well- A person who you can throw into a group of strangers and get them all roiled up regardless of the fact that it might be 6 am.”

Related:
PPE 2013: Tips for Shooting Ads That Viewers Believe And Clients Like
A Hands-Off Approach to Real People Shoots

November 6th, 2013

PDNVideo: Olivia Bee Talks About Instagram, iPhones, Expectations, and Envy

PDN Video: Olivia Bee on Instagram, iPhones, Expectations, and Envy from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

PDN’s 30 photographer Olivia Bee started her professional career at the age of 15, after a Converse design director saw her Flickr feed and hired her to shoot a campaign in the same style as her personal work. Bee is self-taught and highly driven. Now 19, she has shot editorial and advertising work for clients including The New York Times, Vice, Hermes, Fiat USA, and Levis. She recently sat down with PDN to talk about a variety of topics, ranging from her skepticism about Instagram and what she’s learned by shooting with an iPhone, to how she manages expectations (her own and everyone else’s) and the reaction she gets from other photographers because of her success at such an early age.

Related:
PDN’s 30: Olivia Bee

October 28th, 2013

PPE 2013: Tips for Shooting Ads That Viewers Believe and Clients Like

Facing an increasingly media-savvy audience who tend to “ignore advertising completely or don’t believe it,” said PDN senior editor Conor Risch, advertising clients are clamoring for campaigns that look believable and “authentic.” At the PhotoPlus Expo panel “How to Make Advertising that Doesn’t Look Like Advertising,” photographers Olivia Bee, Christa Renee and Bil Zelman shared a wealth of tips on everything from casting real people to managing client expectations to their techniques for post-production in order to create ads that look natural and spontaneous.  They also explained why, when photographing real people, they are not so much directing the talent as they are misdirecting them.

“I like to keep the talent in the dark,” said Zelman, who doesn’t explain to his models what he needs to photograph. “If they don’t know what I’m looking for, they can’t fake it for me.”  Renee said, “I’m telling them stupid things and they’re so confused, it’s after that that I shoot.” She often tells talent she needs them to run around: “People are better to shoot when they’re tired,” she said. Renee said she never lets the talent see the shots on the monitor, and will block it off with foamcore panels if needed.

Zelman showed an image from a Bud Light campaign in which he photographed several people clowning in the snow. It was a particularly awkward shoot, he said: None of the talent who were supposed to act like friends knew each other, and a snow machine had to be brought in to fake the snow. At one point, he had his assistant pelt the talent with potatoes. They turned to the camera and laughed in surprise. Zelman explained, “I have many things to get reaction, and one is I bring potatoes.” Bee added, “Shitty, loud music is good to get people moving and laughing.”

Bee, whose personal work photographing her teenage friends landed her jobs from Converse, Fiat USA and other ad clients, says her goal is to recreate a similarly friendly and relaxed atmosphere on set even when she’s working with professional models. “If you can recreate that atmosphere and be a fly on the wall, I think you’ll get the same pictures. They won’t be as special but it’ll be close.” She and the other photographers try to bond with the talent before the shoot.

The photographers said that  the subjects feel more at ease without the clients hovering. Zelman said, “Not every client is comfortable handing you a big bag of money and then leaving the room.” He recommends giving the client a detailed treatment that explains why a closed set will produce better photos. Renee said she offers to set clients up in a separate room with iPads so they can preview the shots from a distance.

All the photographers said that when it comes to finding energetic, charismatic talent, video casting works better than looking through head shots.  Said Bee, “I ask them questions like: ‘What’s your favorite thing to do?’ And, ‘Have you ever been in love?’ to see the sparkle in their eye.” Zelman noted, “It’s important to have a couple of extroverts, because I know that if I give them a little caffeine they’ll lift the energy of the group.” When a shoot calls for a couple  or a family, the photographers strive to hire people who are married or related in real life. Zelman said that on a shoot for Microsoft,  he hired a band to play during a party scene, then photographed the fans who showed up. (“I had some hero talent sprinkled throughout,” he explained.)

While Bee prefers to shoot in natural light, Zelman said, “I like the paparazzi flash. I’ll take a real, touching moment in crappy lighting over a fake moment with blank faces in beautiful light.” Renee said she’s often shooting libraries of images that call for both interiors and exteriors, so she relies on lighting to give the images a consistent look—and, at times, compensate for bad weather on location.  She’ll light a large area in which the talent can move. Her budgets don’t often allow her to use continuous lights, so instead, “I use a lot of broad sources,” she says. When photographing kids, popping strobes can be distracting. “You just have to get them to the point where they’re focused on your little dance, not on the lights.”

The photographers keep retouching to a minimum. Zelman often adds grain during post, to compensate for the crisp perfection of modern digital cameras, but tries to follow a five-minute rule: “If I have to work on it for more than five minutes, I picked the wrong picture.”

And how did these photographers land so many advertising assignments? By constantly shooting personal work and then sharing it. “I try to shoot as much as possible when I’m not working,” says Renee. “I think you have to be constantly shooting and put your work on the internet across all social platforms,” said Bee. “Promote the shit out of yourself. No one else is going to do it for you. “

September 10th, 2013

Tired of Getting Passed Over for Ad Shoots That Go to NY and LA? You’re Not Alone

A perennial complaint of photographers working in small and medium-sized markets is that big ad clients in their local markets ignore them in favor of photographers in New York and Los Angeles. Photographers from around the country reminded us of the indignity when we were interviewing them for “5 Great Markets to Live and Work In,” a series of articles now running on PDNOnline.

“We get passed over for talent on the east and west coasts,” said photographer David Turner of Minneapolis, one of the five cities we feature. (Minneapolis has 68 ad agencies, plus another 75 graphic design firms and in-house agencies).

Jacob Pritchard told us the big disadvantage of being a photographer in Denver is “be[ing] overlooked for the bigger budget ad campaigns…in favor of NYC and LA-based photographers.”

Therese Gietler, partner and producer at the Andy Batt Studio in Portland, Oregon, says the studio has never been asked to bid for a job at Wieden + Kennedy (a national agency based in Portland) even though she knows creative directors there. But Gietler is philosophical about it.

“It’s easy to be bitter about it, but [clients]  have a lot on the line, with giant budgets. They’re going to choose the person who they can trust to deliver. It’s a sad fact they make presumptions that the local guy can’t deliver.”

In other words, it’s nothing personal, and it’s a prejudice that is unlikely to disappear. But Gietler and others listed numerous advantages of their markets to compensate for the inattention of those national clients. Details can be found in our stories about those markets, which are now posted online.

Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Portland, Oregon
Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Charlotte, North Carolina
Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Denver & Boulder, Colorado
Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Atlanta & Athens, Georgia
Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Minneapolis & St. Paul

August 7th, 2013

Photog Who Shot Image for Nike’s “Bo Knows” Ad Campaign Unleashes Lawsuits on Infringers

Richard Noble's 1987 portrait of baseball and football star Bo Jackson. ©Richard Noble

Richard Noble’s 1987 portrait of baseball and football star Bo Jackson. ©Richard Noble

Photographer Richard Noble has reached a tentative settlement with Nike over a copyright infringement claim, filed a second infringement claim against various t-shirt vendors, and is preparing to file new claims against other infringers in the coming weeks, according to his attorney, Edward Greenberg.

All of the claims allege unauthorized use of an iconic image of athlete Bo Jackson, which Noble shot in 1987. The photograph became the poster image for a legendary ad campaign called “Bo Knows” that helped turn Nike into the leading athletic footwear brand.

“Mr. Noble has not licensed this image to anybody for any purpose in some 20 years,” says Greenberg.

Noble sued Nike in June, and was seeking unspecified damages for multiple unauthorized uses of the Bo Jackson image. Nike’s alleged infringement dated back to 2007.

Greenberg declined to discuss the terms of the settlement agreement with Nike, which is still pending, or explain why Noble waited until June 2013 to sue Nike for infringements that took place as long as six years ago. But court papers suggest Noble wasn’t aware of them until more recent infringements led him to suspect past infringement, and search for them.

According to the claim he filed against Nike, Noble was contacted by ESPN and Nike last fall for permission to use the image of Bo Jackson for various projects. ESPN wanted to use it in a documentary film about Bo Jackson, while Nike wanted it for unspecified marketing campaigns, and the company told Noble it wanted to buy “all rights” to the image.

Noble declined both requests, and asked Nike for more details about how they wanted to use the image, so he could propose a fee for a limited license. Nike told Noble in late 2012 they were eager to start using the image, but Noble told the company in mid January 2013 to “hold off” pending a license agreement to be determined, according to the lawsuit. He also told Nike explicitly that he would not agree to a “buy out” of the image.

Then, on January 23, 2013, Noble discovered that Nike had already started using the image. According to Noble’s lawsuit, the company admitted it had distributed the photo on Facebook and Twitter, and had provided it to ESPN for use in the network’s promotion of the documentary film about Bo Jackson.

The lawsuit said that Noble then discovered that a number of other companies had used the image in promotions of Nike products. Those other companies include Steiner Sport Memorabilia, Major League Baseball, Sneaker Bar Detroit and Nice Kicks. Noble alleged in his lawsuit that Nike provided the image to those companies, and authorized them to use it without Noble’s permission.

In addition, Noble discovered that Nike had used the image in various ads and promotions for its products in 2007, 2009 and 2012 without his permission.

Noble says in his claim that he has asked Nike for a full accounting of its past uses of the image, and uses by other companies that were facilitated by Nike (i.e., for which Nike provided the picture and told those third parties it was OK for them to use the image).

He has also told Bo Jackson himself to stop using the photo as an autograph handout because he has not authorized Jackson to do that, according to the lawsuit.

Noble is planning to file copyright infringement claims against other companies besides Nike who have used his Bo Jackson image without permission, Greenberg told PDN.

So far, only one other claim has been filed. That claim, against Blank Shirts Inc and a number of other t-shirt sellers. According to the claim, Noble discovered in June that the companies were using the Bo Jackson image on t-shirts for sale through various Web sites. Noble is seeking unspecified damages from the defendants in that case.

Greenberg says he will file a third lawsuit next week against other companies who have used Noble’s image of Bo Jackson without permission. Other lawsuits could follow that, he said.

February 27th, 2013

Quincy Jones Settles Copyright Claim with Photographer

©Michael D. Jones/Mike Jones Photography

©Michael D. Jones/Mike Jones Photography

Music producer Quincy Jones and photographer Michael Donald Jones (aka Mike Jones Photography) have settled their dispute over the photographer’s claim of copyright infringement. Terms of the settlement were not announced.

Mike Jones filed suit last year in a federal court in Los Angeles, alleging that Quincy Jones  provided a portrait without permission for use in ads, packaging and other materials to promote a line of audio headphones. The headphone manufacturer, and a book publisher that also used the photo, were named as co-defendants in the case.

Mike Jones claimed that an associate of Quincy Jones’s offered him $5,000 in 2010 for what amounted to a rights transfer of the disputed portrait. The photographer asked for $10,000, then got a counter offer of $6,500, which he allegedly refused.

The images began appearing without Mike Jones’s permission in ads and other promotions for the headphones, which were endorsed by Quincy Jones. Mike Jones filed a claim for infringement early last year against Quincy Jones, headphone manufacturer AKG Harman, and Hal Leonard, the music book publisher.

AKG Harman denied the photographer’s claims, saying that the disputed photograph was shot on a work-for-hire basis.

Mike Jones alleged in his lawsuit that the disputed portrait originated when he photographed Quincy Jones in 1995 in Hollywood at Qwest Records. Mike Jones then provided Quincy Jones with 8×10 prints of some of the photographs. At that time, he refused to sign away his rights to those session photographs, despite Qwest Records’ efforts to “strong-arm” him into transferring the rights, Mike Jones alleged in his claim.

Neither Mike Jones nor the attorneys for either side responded to requests for comment about the settlement.

Related:
Quincy Jones Co-Defendant Denies Copyright Infringement Charge
Photog Sues Quincy Jones for Infringement, Says He Was “Strong-Armed”

February 25th, 2013

DKNY Atones for Unauthorized Usage by Donating $25K to Photog’s Community YMCA

brandon-stanton-DKNY

Brandon Stanton’s images were used without permission in a window display at a DKNY store in Bangkok.

 

When DKNY used several photographs by Brooklyn, New York-based street photographer Brandon Stanton in a display window without permission, Stanton took to social media to get the word out and ask the clothing company to donate to a local YMCA in his community, the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. The multinational clothing company responded by giving the YMCA a $25,000 donation in Stanton’s name.

“I didn’t want to take on a powerful company in any sort of litigation,” Stanton told PDN via email. “I don’t have time for that right now. I also didn’t want to try to personally enrich myself by drawing attention to the matter. So I decided on the YMCA.”

He added, “I’ve seen firsthand how much they help the community.”

DKNY had originally approached Stanton months ago and had offered him $15,000 for use of 300 images for store windows. When Stanton asked for more money, the clothing brand balked, and the deal fell apart, the photographer claims.

Then Stanton discovered his images were being used anyway in a DKNY store in Bangkok. He took to Facebook to share his story and demand that the company make a charitable donation rather than

compensate him. Stanton wrote: “I don’t want any money. But please SHARE this post if you think that DKNY should donate $100,000 on my behalf to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. That donation would sure help a lot of deserving kids go to summer camp. I’ll let you guys know if it happens.” The post spread, earning more that 60,000 Facebook shares and likes, and several thousand comments.

This afternoon DKNY responded with a statement on their social media sites, saying their Bangkok store “inadvertently… used an internal mock up containing some of Mr. Stanton’s images that was intended to merely show the direction of the spring visual program.”

“DKNY has always supported the arts and we deeply regret this mistake,” the statement said. “Accordingly, we are making a charitable donation of $25,000 to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn in Mr. Stanton’s name.”

After DKNY agreed to make the donation, Stanton published their response on Facebook and thanked everyone who supported him. “$25k will help a lot of kids at the YMCA,” he wrote. “I know a lot of you would like to have seen the full $100k, but we are going to take them at their word that it was a mistake.”

DKNY may have another problem, though. Stanton doesn’t have model releases for his images, he told PDN. “Part of DKNY’s original pitch to me was that I would obtain model releases from 300 of my subjects. Seeing as though no agreement was reached, that was never done.”

Whether that could come back to bit the DKNY and its parent company, LVMH, Inc., remains to be seen.

Amy Wolff contributed reporting to this article.

November 27th, 2012

Texas Photo Roundup (Sponsored Blog Post)

The Texas Photo Roundup is an event and fundraiser geared toward emerging and professional commercial and editorial photographers that will be held February 7 through 9, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Produced by the Austin Center for Photography (ACP) and ASMP’s Austin/San Antonio Chapter, this year’s event features three days of programming with an incredible lineup of photography industry experts. Sign up by December 1, and you’ll receive 10 percent off registration fees at www.texasphotoroundup.com.

Some programming highlights:

  • A BBQ road trip to Lockhart, Texas, with photographer Wyatt McSpadden.
  • Workshop with photographer Chris Buck covering career building, the strategies and pitfalls of executing fascinating portraits with celebrities and regular folks alike, managing time crunches, shy subjects and one’s own fears.
  • Negotiating 2.0 Panel Discussion: Sponsored by PhotoShelter, this panel explores the negotiating challenges facing commercial photographers today, featuring Jess Dudley of Wonderful Machine, Kaia Hemming of JWT, advertising photographer Adam Voorhes and more.
  • Two days of portfolio reviews with industry experts from Pentagram, Dwell, TracyLocke, JWT, Wonderful Machine, Razorfish, Smithsonian, Fortune, GSD&M and many others.
  • Lecture, slide show and book signing with legendary Austin-based photographer Dan Winters.
  • Photographers Monte Isom and Andrew Hetherington’s Covers to Billboards Talk: From their beginnings to where they are now, Isom and Hetherington discuss their journeys in the editorial and advertising world.
  • Slideluck Potshow Closing Party

Visit www.texasphotoroundup.com for more information.

 

October 23rd, 2012

APA and EP Join Forces

Today two professional photography trade organizations‚ American Photographic Artists (APA) and Editorial Photographers (EP)‚ announced that they will merge to create one organization with a membership of approximately 3200 photographers.

The move will see the creation of the first national chapter of APA, which will be known as the APA Editorial Photographers chapter.

EP president Brian Smith told PDN the move would revitalize that organization while also giving APA a presence in smaller cities in the United States and internationally. (EP is an internet-based organization without a chapter structure, and has members throughout the country and the world, Smith notes.)

“It was a case of trying to revitalize everything and offer something more,” Smith said of the decision to merge. “EP was founded as an opportunity to get together and actively seek better editorial contracts. It was formed in a day when the magazines were making money by the bushellful. Times have changed in the editorial market and really the board felt the best thing we could do would be to come up with additional resources for our members.” (more…)

September 28th, 2012

On Sustainable Business Models, and Comparing Apples to Oranges

The American Society of Media Photographers’ program, “Sustainable Business Models: Issues & Trends Facing Visual Artists,” held September 27 in New York City, can be viewed online via ASMP’s video library. Speakers and panelists provided useful context and insights into the current marketplace for photography, as well as thoughts on how professional freelancers might adapt their marketing and licensing in today’s economy. A warning, however: Along with provocative insights, the afternoon panel also included the predictable, banal observation that photojournalists have no role to play now that “everyone has a cellphone,” and statistics on how many images are uploaded to Facebook or Instagram each day or each hour or each minute. If you’re like me, you find these comments irritating. Because the first comment is untrue, and the second is irrelevant to any discussion of the professional photography business.

Yes, news editors trolled Instagram to get images of the aftermath of the Empire State Building shooting, but those image sales had no impact on the market for photos by professional news photographers: If amateur cellphone users hadn’t been on the scene, we simply wouldn’t have had any images of the carnage. Yes, a zillion snapshots of cats, babies and plates of food are shared on social media every day. What bearing does that have on what a professional photographer offers to clients or their audience? (more…)