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June 17th, 2015

A Photo Editor for Medium Makes the Case for Self-Publishing Platforms

Self-publishing opportunities abound, as we report in a feature story that’s now available at PDNonline.com, called “Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?” We interviewed photographers about how they’ve benefitted (or not) from using a variety of platforms, including Exposure.com, Maptia, VSCO Journal, and Medium.

In an effort to promote their work, photographers are filling those sites with what amounts to free content–much of it high-quality content. So the question is, are photographers benefiting from the exposure provided by those platforms, as much as the platform owners are benefitting from the free content they’re vacuuming up?

As the story was going to press, we got a thoughtful response to the question from Keith Axline, the former editor of Wired magazine’s Raw File blog, and now editor of Vantage. An offshoot of Medium, Vantage is new online magazine established to highlight the best photo projects that photographers post on Medium.

Axline’s response came too late to be included in our story. But here’s the question as we posed it, and his response:

PDN: What’s in it for photographers? With a few exceptions, those I’m talking to are reporting that their stories pretty much get buried on these self-publishing platforms, and they don’t really attract clients and assignments. Which suggests they’re of marginal self-promotional value so far. So my question is, how would you try to convince skeptical photographers that these aren’t just more sites vacuuming up free content (photo stories) shot by hungry professionals, for the benefit of the site owners looking to generate ad revenue for themselves?

Keith Axline: It’s a really tough question. Some projects that Vantage profiles, I really love, but they don’t get much traction with readers. It was the same when I was at Raw File at Wired. But others find their audience on Medium when they wouldn’t have found it anywhere else. There’s no one-size-fits-all for every photo project or photographer. Any of these sites, including Medium, is just a tool for photographers and it’s up to them to make the most out of it.

I totally understand the perspective that photo blogs are exploiting photographers by running their stuff without payment. That’s one way to look at it. I see that. Though I disagree with it. At Vantage we only want to make that ask of photographers who are excited to be featured by us and for whom the attention is an asset that outweighs the granted one-time use. It’s not for everyone. Our posts are promotional in nature because we’re excited to talk about photographers’ work. So in that sense whatever the perceived cost of the granted use can be viewed as a marketing expense. We also encourage photographers to contribute to us directly so that there’s no middleman between them and potential fans. They get to see all the traffic to their story, where it came from, and reply directly to comments that readers make.

I also think that it’s not clear to photographers, or most people for that matter, how to turn traffic and viewers into a plus for their business. Hopefully in the future Vantage and Medium can get closer to facilitating that, and I’m happy to have a “best practices” discussion with contributors (I’ve been meaning to even write a few posts about it).

I think anyone who runs a photo publication is passionate about photography to some degree and they’re probably not exactly raking it in from ad revenue. Participating doesn’t make sense for everyone, but there is a large swath of people who would love to be featured. I’ve never heard of anyone regretting being profiled by us, but maybe they’re just being nice.

Related:
Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?

May 1st, 2015

Why TIME Chose an Amateur Photographer’s Image for Its Cover

The May 11, 2015 cover of TIME Magazine, with an image by aspiring photographer Devin Allen.

The May 11, 2015 cover of TIME Magazine, featuring an image by aspiring photographer Devin Allen.

Yesterday TIME Magazine released the cover of the May 11 issue bearing an image of the Baltimore protests made by a 26-year-old amateur photographer named Devin Allen, who first picked up a camera in 2013. It is just the third time the magazine has used amateur images on the cover. It’s generated a lot of publicity for TIME, which issued a press release about Allen’s photo the day the issue came out. “[Allen’s image] was just beautifully composed and it was compelling, and it caught my eye immediately and summed up the story in a really interesting way,” says TIME deputy director of photography Paul Moakley.

Since Monday, Allen, who has a job working with autistic children and is an aspiring photographer, has covered the protests of the death of Freddie Gray, who died after his spinal cord was nearly severed while he was in police custody. (The state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby, announced this morning that she has filed homicide, manslaughter and misconduct charges against Baltimore police officers). The cover text ties Allen’s black-and-white image of a protester running from a line of riot police to scenes one might have seen during the Baltimore riots in 1968, implying little has changed for black communities.

Allen brought an insider’s perspective to his coverage of the protests of Gray’s death. He is from West Baltimore, where protestors have clashed with police and riots have erupted into looting and arson. His images went viral on Monday when he published them on Instagram. They were shared by actor Michael K. Williams and singer Rihanna, and caught the attention of editors at several news organizations, including TIME. (more…)

January 22nd, 2015

Study: Taking “Artistic Photographs” Makes You Attractive to the Opposite Sex

There are as many motivations to pursue a life in photography as there are photographers, but a study lead by Scott Kaufman of the University of Pennsylvania may nudge a few more into the ranks.

The study, titled “Who Finds Bill Gates Sexy? Creative Mate Preferences as a Function of Cognitive Ability, Personality, and Creative Achievement” sought to “clarify the role of creativity in mate selection among an ethnically diverse sample of 815 undergraduates.”

The authors found that the ability to take “artistic photographs” was a highly prized creative attribute among both sexes, ranking seventh in the list. Not too shabby.

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(Do note that while, ahem,  “writing magazine articles” wasn’t deemed nearly as attractive as some other creative pursuits, it wasn’t rock-bottom of the list — we just clipped the list here for space purposes. The full list, giving magazine writers their proper context, is here.)

According to Kaufman, et al.,  creativity that falls into the “ornamental/aesthetic” form proved more attractive than creativity that falls into the “applied/technical” arena (activities like coding, for example).

The above is via Tiffany Mueller who makes a persuasive case that photography really belongs at number four on the list.

January 20th, 2015

Behind Cosmo UK’s Honor Killings Protest “Cover” Photograph

cosmopolitan-uk-honor-killings-cover

This mock-up of a Cosmopolitan UK cover features an image from a series of photographs created by artist Erin Mulvehill.

Last week a mock Cosmopolitan UK cover that sought to protest honor killings drew attention and praise online. Honor killing is a horrific practice in which family members kill one of their own, often a daughter, who is perceived to have brought shame on a family.

The Cosmo UK mock cover depicts what appears to be a woman suffocating. In images of the cover circulated by the magazine and Leo Burnett Change, the agency that designed the cover, the issue is sealed in plastic bags, completing the impression that the woman on the cover is being asphyxiated. The cover was inspired by the 2004 murder of 17-year-old British Pakistani teen Shafilea Ahmed; Ahmed’s parents suffocated her in front of her siblings for perceived offenses that included refusing an arranged marriage. Ahmed’s parents were later convicted of murder.

After several outlets reported that the design would appear on the February issue, Cosmopolitan UK clarified that the cover was just a mock-up, created as part of a campaign the magazine is working on with UK women’s rights organization Karma Nirvana. (The actual February cover featured Khloe Kardashian.)

The provenance of the photograph depicting the suffocating woman is also interesting. The black-and-white photograph used in the mock-up is part of “Underwater,” a fine-art series created by Brooklyn-based photographer Erin Mulvehill in 2009. The images in Mulvehill’s series depict women who appear to be floating underwater, many with their hands pressing out towards the viewer. (more…)

December 23rd, 2014

PDNPulse: Top Stories of 2014

As another fascinating year in the world of professional photography comes to a close, we look back on the stories that drew the most interest from PDNPulse readers this year.

From manipulated news photos, to photographers arrested for doing their jobs, to collaborative efforts between photographers and an interview with one of photography’s most influential star makers, these stories capture some of the highs and lows of the photography business today.

1: George Steinmetz Wonders: Was It Worth Getting Arrested for National Geographic Cover Story Photos

2: 2014 Winter Olympics Op-Ed: Everything You’ve Read About Problems for Photographers in Sochi is True

3: PDN Video: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists

4: Photographers Share Intimate Images of Loved Ones for Curated Photo Website

5: AP Severs Ties With Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image
5a: Photographer Fired by AP Says Decision Was Fair, But Process Wasn’t

6: How Much Do Editorial Clients Pay? “Wiki” Gives Names and Fees

7: If that Kim Kardashian Photo Looks Familiar…

8: Calumet Photographic to Liquidate, Closes U.S. Stores

9: Photographer Creates Free iPhone App for His Signature Style

10: Wal-mart Sues Photographer’s Widow Claiming Copyright for Decades of Portraits of Walton Family

11: Suffolk County Pays $200K to Settle News Photographer’s Unlawful Arrest Claim

12: How Should Clients React to Sexual Coercion Allegations Against Terry Richardson?

13: AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus Killed in Afghanistan

14: Cowboy Lifestyle Photographer David Stoecklein Dies, 65

15: Photojournalist Camille Lapage, 26, “Murdered” in Central African Republic

December 18th, 2014

Time Inc. UK Issues Rights-Grabbing Contract

Time Inc.’s UK division has riled editorial photographers by issuing a new contract requiring freelancers to hand over “all rights” to any assignment images for about 60 specialty publications. The contract takes effect January 1, 2015, but there may be wiggle room for negotiation, at least for some photographers who take the initiative to push back.

“It’s an outrageous rights grab,” says photographer David Hoffman, spokesperson for Editorial Photographers UK (EPUK). “It’s just bullying.”

The contract applies to a wide array of Time Inc UK titles, including fashion, lifestyle, entertainment, and shelter magazines, as well as  niche magazines for marine, wine, gardening, fishing, sport, and technology enthusiasts. The contract does not apply to assignments for TIME, the weekly news magazine.

“The new agreements better reflect our needs as a multi-platform business,” Time Inc. UK’s director of corporate communications Karen Myers told PDN via e-mail. “Contributors need to bear in mind that commercial realities dictate that we will be using the content that we purchase in many different ways to reflect the changing media landscape, both now and in the future.”

Myers acknowledges that some photographers “will not want to assign and/or waive their rights and there is no obligation for them to do so – if they do not wish to do so, they may object and negotiate different terms with us in the usual way.”

Hoffman explains, “If an editor really wants your particular work, or is sympathetic to you, they may be able to do individual deals.”

But photographers who aren’t able to negotiate to keep their copyrights will be deprived of the right to re-license assignment images,  which could ultimately hurt Time Inc., Hoffman says. “The best photographers won’t work for them under those terms,” and those photographers who do accept the terms won’t have much incentive to do their best work, he explains.

December 9th, 2014

Obituary: LIFE Photographer Ralph Morse, 97

Photographer Ralph Morse, who covered war, sports, science, celebrities, theater, and other assignments during his long career as a staff photographer for LIFE and TIME magazines, died December 7 at his home in Florida. He was 97.

Morse’s death was reported yesterday by TIME magazine, which said on its website that “no photographer in the history of LIFE magazine had a more varied, thrilling and productive career.” Morse became LIFE’s youngest World War II correspondent when he joined the magazine in 1941 at the age of 24.

He covered the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, and later on, the liberation of Paris in 1944 and the surrender of Germany at Reims in 1945. After the war, Morse covered a wide range of assignments for LIFE, beginning with Broadway and the London theater, and eventually sports, science and technology, and other subjects.

Besides the major events of World War II, Morse was witness to other historic moments of the 20th century. TIME describes his iconic shot of Jackie Robinson “one of the greatest baseball photographs ever made.” Morse also photographed Babe Ruth’s farewell at Yankee Stadium, Einstein’s funeral, the Ali-Liston fight, and other events.

According to TIME, Morse was the first civilian to fly on a Strategic Air Command B-47 Stratojet, a nuclear bomber developed during the Cold War. He was also the first to shoot color photographs of the caves of Lascaux. He also covered NASA’s Mercury space flight program.

He remained a staff photographer for LIFE magazine until it folded in 1972, then joined TIME magazine. He retired in 1988, and told John Leongard, author of LIFE Photographers: What They Saw, that he sold all his cameras and and stopped taking photographs to avoid “everybody and his brother” asking him to photograph their weddings.

November 13th, 2014

If that Kim Kardashian Photo Looks Familiar…

© Jean Paul Goude

© Jean Paul Goude

© Jean-Paul Goude

© Jean-Paul Goude

One of the photos of Kim Kardashian that’s been circulating around (and around) social media since Paper Magazine released its latest issue inspired a sense of déjà vu in people familiar with the work of the photographer who took the image, Jean-Paul Goude. The outlandish shot is a re-hash of a concept and pose Goude used in a 1976 image of model Carolina Beaumont. Perhaps he thought: I liked that photo of a woman balancing a champagne glass on her jutting buttocks looked good once, why not try it again? There are differences in the photos: While the latest overhyped Kardashian spectacle makes us cringe, the original Goude copied makes us squirm.

The Styleite website has insightfully unpacked what makes his use of the Beaumont image grotesque.

In Goude’s original, the subject, who is black, is nude. In his latest version, the subject, who is white, is dressed in evening gown and jewels. In the first, the black woman is “pleased to serve” while the white woman, Styleite notes, is not.  The photo of Beaumont was published in Goude’s 1983 autobiography which he titled Jungle Fever.  The image was controversial at the time, and it hasn’t gotten any more palatable when viewed from a few decades’ distance. The website The Grio delves into more of the history of Goude’s photographs of black women and his fetishization of their body parts in an article called “Kim Kardashian Doesn’t Realize She’s the Butt of an Old Racial Joke.

We wonder: Was Paper so eager for publicity they were willing to court not only Kardashian, but also racial controversy?

November 7th, 2014

Reimagine the Client Gift: Custom Self-promo Magazines

Sponsored by Blurb

While small self-promo pieces for clients are a popular option for photographers during the holiday season, a multi-page printed promo can have much more impact.

Fashion photographer Benjamin Kaufmann recently created his first print run of a custom self-promotional magazine that mimics the high-end glossy magazines that he regularly shoots for.

For design and production of the issue, Kaufmann turned to self-publishing platform Blurb. He found that the site’s design capabilities, high-quality paper options, and flexibility in production was the perfect vehicle to create a magazine tailored for his clients. And with on-demand printing, he could quickly follow up with new clients to solidify the relationship.

“The more one communicates on a personal level with clients and the more effort one puts into self-marketing, the greater the feedback will be,” Kaufmann says.

For the full article on PDNonline, click here.

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Photos © Benjamin Kaufmann

July 29th, 2014

How Much Do Editorial Clients Pay? “Wiki” Gives Names and Fees

Editorial clients are reluctant to publicize information about rates for photo assignments. But photographers need to know who pays what, in order to figure out which clients are worth shooting for, and to help them negotiate assignment fees.

A Tumblr site called Who Pays Photographers? helps bridge the information gap with a wiki-inspired spreadsheet listing fees paid by numerous publications, both online and in print. The site also provides information about whether the client pays expenses, how long they take to pay, and what photographers like and dislike about the client. All the information is uploaded anonymously by photographers who have shot assignments for the clients.

But users, beware. The spreadsheet, which lists clients more or less in alphabetical order, is disorganized, and a challenge to scroll through (and it can’t be downloaded). The client list is long but not exhaustive, updates are infrequent, and some of the reports are several years old. Moreover, the information provided is unverified.

Still, Who Pays Photographers? can be a useful starting point. Photographer Anastasia Pottinger says she came across it when she was trying to figure out what to charge photo blogs to publish her portraits of centenarians, after the project went viral.

“[The site] gave me a better idea of what to expect.  I had read a few blog posts out there where people were getting $150 per image and maybe that’s true when it’s just one image, but I was not sure what to charge for a whole set of images,” she says. For online publication rights to ten of her images, she says she negotiated a $375 fee from Huffington Post, after Huffington Post asked (as it usually does) to publish the images for free.

The anonymous owner of Who Pays Photographers? said in an email that he (or she?) is a working editorial photographer, with limited time to maintain, improve or promote the site. (The Who Pays Photographers? Twitter feed and archive were last updated in February.) “I welcome input and any help in running” the site, the owner says.  See our earlier Q&A with the owner for more information.