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Photography from the Client Perspective

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From the mouth of an art director: where I source photos and why, how to be an invaluable, long-term vendor, and things you should never, never do. Originally presented as a guest lecture at the …

From the mouth of an art director: where I source photos and why, how to be an invaluable, long-term vendor, and things you should never, never do. Originally presented as a guest lecture at the Illinois Institute of Art for DPH312, The Business of Photography.

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  • A little about me Where photos come from, and why I’d choose one source over another in a given situation Getting in the door - How I’ve come to use (and keep) various assignment photographers What sorts of value-added benefits will set you apart from the crowd and make you the go-to vendor
  • My career has been spent working in marketing and communications. I’ve worked in the corporate world (though not for long), I ran a boutique marketing agency with two partners… the past 10+ years, I’ve been in the govt/nonprofit world, primarily at the Lake County Forest Preserve District and now the Vernon Area Public Library District in Lincolnshire. In terms of my experience working with photography… I’ve done it all, soup to nuts. Back in the day, and when I was working in corporate, we had very fragmented task responsibilities. For each project there was a copywriter. There was a designer. There was a head art director overseeing it all. There was a marketing person double checking everything. There was a procurement office that purchased the stock photography. It was very fragmented. That has not been my experience in the past 15 years. Now, I think it’s more typical that a single person wears most of those hats. At least in the nonprofit/gov’t world. “Integrated Communications” … so you’ll have one person making the editorial decisions about the content of the photos AND ALSO sourcing them AND ALSO laying them out in the document and working with the print shop. So when I work with photography, I’m juggling that whole range of considerations … and I’ll talk in a bit about what that means for the decision making process.
  • Examples of photo use in work that I managed… magazine covers…
  • Magazine spreads … see how photography-intensive this publication was. We’ll talk about digital asset management later in the presentation….
  • Editorial … more like photojournalism approach… but because I am also writing the copy, I can edit copy to match the photos I have, or vice versa. It’s a juggling act.
  • Online photo needs – website – where the images are carrying the bulk of the brand message. Need to be consistently high quality on the website.
  • Online – can be serious, big-time content… this web page helped raise $185 million. “Just a web page” doesn’t mean anything goes.
  • And then we have social media. MUCH more informal. Quality not required. Needs to be compelling content. There are even reasons NOT to use incredibly high quality photos here… (crowdsourcing is more likely to be shared - everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame) (too high of quality creates a “carefully PR managed” perception, reduces how genuine you feel)
  • Twitter… brand-managed page … like your “twitter letterhead” … high quality background image…
  • Twitter … tweet content… again, can be incredibly informal, but needs to be compelling content.
  • Sourcing Photography - Free Google Images … [click]… (“stealing”) Legit free sources: Creative Commons, Wikimedia, other public domain Provided by publicist, publisher, manufacturer (most of my images now… book covers, author headshots, movie posters, things like that) Crowdsourcing (User generated content. Submitted to a Flickr pool with rights explicitly stated, or contest … this is going to work with varying degrees of success depending on what your subject matter is and ) Staff Existing photo collection
  • Paid Stock Rights-managed Royalty free Assignment
  • Free – Creative Commons Familiar with creative commons? Assume you are. Let’s look at the pros and cons of cc licensed images
  • Pros Free Easy to find some content – CC has a pretty good search engine. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to describe with keywords, great. Unsure what it is called, difficult to describe, has other meanings… good luck. Can’t say “like this image but I need copyspace at the top left” or anything like that. Wikimedia Commons Government websites have public domain photography. Forest Service, national parks. Assignment at the library I just did, I grabbed stuff from the White House’s daily photostream.
  • Pros Free Easy to find some content – CC has a pretty good search engine. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to describe with keywords, great. Unsure what it is called, difficult to describe, has other meanings… good luck. Can’t say “like this image but I need copyspace at the top left” or anything like that.
  • I’m going to skip over crowdsourcing for a minute and talk about images the organization takes themselves, and images the organization already owns
  • I’m going to skip over crowdsourcing for a minute and talk about images the organization takes themselves, and images the organization already owns Staff photos. For every good one, you have to dig through ten million like this.
  • Or this.
  • Or this.
  • By and large, most non-photographers do not know how to take a photo. Anything past point and shoot might as well be rocket science, and even point and shoot… no concept of framing, what’s in the background. Terrible. And no one has any time to clean them up. They always just dump the files into directories on the shared drive called “Photos for sorting” or “Pix from camera” that looks like this [click]
  • And they’re never named usefully or consistently. And metadata? Forget it. Staff photos are largely useless. And even agencies that purchase enormous amounts of assignment photography … maybe ESPECIALLY agencies with a lot of photography… usability is a major issue. It’s been my experience that once the agency gets a tste of the power of beautiful, professional photography, staff photos are in much lesser demand for general use. Still for social media, though.
  • Crowdsourcing. Not your professor’s favorite topic. But you can wring your hands all you want, this Is a reality in today’s marketplace. Flickr is the big kahuna in this game. What an organization or a business does is set up a “Group Pool” where anyone can contribute photos to the pool. I did not invent this idea. I merely followed step with what I saw other progressive nonprofit and public agencies starting to do. A lot of public media has a pool (Chicago Public Radio) Chicagoist had one. I know The Reader did when we started the forest preserves one. The person who sets up the pool gets to set the rules. For our group pool, we said… hey. Contribute here… and you might see your photo on our homepage. Or in our magazine! We’ll give you a photographer credit and a big thank you. You get to show off your 15 minutes of fame to your friends and family. And people do. People are by and large happy to do this. [click] You can see here that the LCFPD pool, which is about 2.5 years old, has almost 5000 items in it. And they’re not bad. [click]
  • [chip is last pic] I think there are a few qualities that are required for this to work for a company. They have to have a rabid fan base. And they have to be something that people want to take pictures of. I now work at a library. We do not see people walking through the library taking photos (creepy!). So.. A group pool.. Not something that’s going to work for us. People are in the FP taking pictures all the time anyway. This simply gives them an outlet to share that work with other fans and staff. And it helped meet our need for a constant influx of photography for our website slideshow, mostly. Occasionally something would make its way into print. Asset management … again.. Takes time to tag, find, sort, weed
  • [chip is last pic] I think there are a few qualities that are required for this to work for a company. They have to have a rabid fan base. And they have to be something that people want to take pictures of. I now work at a library. We do not see people walking through the library taking photos (creepy!). So.. A group pool.. Not something that’s going to work for us. People are in the FP taking pictures all the time anyway. This simply gives them an outlet to share that work with other fans and staff. And it helped meet our need for a constant influx of photography for our website slideshow, mostly. Occasionally something would make its way into print. Asset management … again.. Takes time to tag, find, sort, weed
  • [chip is last pic] I think there are a few qualities that are required for this to work for a company. They have to have a rabid fan base. And they have to be something that people want to take pictures of. I now work at a library. We do not see people walking through the library taking photos (creepy!). So.. A group pool.. Not something that’s going to work for us. People are in the FP taking pictures all the time anyway. This simply gives them an outlet to share that work with other fans and staff. And it helped meet our need for a constant influx of photography for our website slideshow, mostly. Occasionally something would make its way into print. Asset management … again.. Takes time to tag, find, sort, weed
  • [chip is last pic] I think there are a few qualities that are required for this to work for a company. They have to have a rabid fan base. And they have to be something that people want to take pictures of. I now work at a library. We do not see people walking through the library taking photos (creepy!). So.. A group pool.. Not something that’s going to work for us. People are in the FP taking pictures all the time anyway. This simply gives them an outlet to share that work with other fans and staff. And it helped meet our need for a constant influx of photography for our website slideshow, mostly. Occasionally something would make its way into print. Asset management … again.. Takes time to tag, find, sort, weed
  • [chip is last pic] I think there are a few qualities that are required for this to work for a company. They have to have a rabid fan base. And they have to be something that people want to take pictures of. I now work at a library. We do not see people walking through the library taking photos (creepy!). So.. A group pool.. Not something that’s going to work for us. People are in the FP taking pictures all the time anyway. This simply gives them an outlet to share that work with other fans and staff. And it helped meet our need for a constant influx of photography for our website slideshow, mostly. Occasionally something would make its way into print. Asset management … again.. Takes time to tag, find, sort, weed
  • Timely … the newest picture in the pool are usually the most current. Great source of “what’s new right now” images. CONS.. Now, this got a little trickier last year when Getty stepped in and offered easy licensing on Flickr. So now we’re back to checking the Creative Commons license on every shot, or negotiating with the photographer one shot at a time. Which we do.
  • PAID content Microstock. iStockPhoto. Back when I first started, we did order up films from Getty at $300 a pop. I have no idea whether people do that any more. Microstock has pretty much taken over the market from what I can see.
  • Not very expensive $6-$12? Robust search engines… search by more than subject matter… copyspace, predominant color CONS Minor: If you have a purchase per image arrangement, mockups can be a pain with watermarks, downloading an insufficient size Digital asset management can be a challenge, end up buying things multiple times if you don’t keep good track of them
  • Licensing restrictions … copyright line requirements … can be a challenge to manage. Working with 6, 8, 10 different photographers over the course of a year, easy to forget who wants what, which photos can be used where, which require additional fees for use in certain conditions. So this segues into … how do I decide where I’m going to get photos in an given situation? Here’s the basic decision making matrix….
  • Time. Quality. Money. Pick two. Max of two. Generally speaking. You can have things good, and fast, but it’s going to cost you $$$ You can have things cheap, and quick, but they’re going to suck Fast, great, and free is not a reasonable combination.
  • So back to assignment photographers…. Your “Pros” are much better than any other source. High quality. I’m going to get content that is really “me” and not generic… you’re going to shoot what I tell you I need. But the stakes are higher with this choice, too, because you’re much more expensive than any other source. So am I as a client going to constantly be seeking out new assignment photographers? Absolutely not. I do not have time to constantly test the waters, familiarize a new vendor with what we need… and with my budget on the line, I’m going to aim for the known result. So… new assignment photographers. How do you get your foot in the door in the first place? We’ll talk about that in a minute. Do we need a break? Any questions so far? -------------- So we’re going to talk about how you get in the door, and how you raise my comfort level with hiring you once we’ve been introduced. First -- How are we going to get introduced though? I didn’t prepare slides for this. My personal experience is that word of mouth is a big deal. At the places I’ve worked, I’d say wom accounted for most, if not all, new vendor acquisition. Nonprofit people talk to each other. Government people talk to each other. -Public Relations Council of Lake County… CIOs at govt agencies, libraries, schools, visitors bureau. - library marketers across the state have coordinating groups, listservs Bed & Breakfast owners have a network Chambers of Commerce, Visitors Bureaus. So here’s the thing… parlay each job into others. Pick an industry and follow it as long as it’ll carry you.
  • Unknown results – photo shoots take my time.. If there’s any chance I’m going to need to do it again at a later date – more than likely wrecking my production schedule – I’m not going to hire you. It’s just not worth it. [click] Maybe you took great photos, but maybe you’re sending them to me as 64MB files split across 45 CD ROMs without contact sheets. I don’t know what you’re going to give me. Again -- this could be a monumental waste of my time. [click] And my budget. And I have a smaller budget than last year, just like everyone else. [click] You think I’m going to call you in to shoot headshots of my board of directors if I’ve never used you before? No. I am not. What if every picture you take makes them look fat and anemic? They’re not going to blame you. They’re going to just hold a grudge against me.
  • Applies to my industry… if you are a food stylist, I don’t want to hire you to shoot pictures of prairie. If you’re all about macro flowers, I don’t want you taking headshots or covering my live event. The more crazy specific this is, the higher likelihood of me choosing you. (“He’s the library photographer”… specialized knowledge you have of my subject matter or my industry helps. Mention it.) - Available online. I do not want to meet with you. I’m sure you’re lovely. I am busy and I get a million unsolicited sales calls a day. I hate them all. I want to get a minimal but compelling pitch from you, and then I want to find everything else I need on your website. Your compelling pitch should include at least one reference that I recognize and admire. Selected gorgeous shots. I don’t want to see everything, ever. I want to see about 40-60 images that help me imagine what sort of work you would do for us. To this end, you might want to [click] Sort into categories - I also want to see who you’ve worked with. Client list (with contact info would be stellar… more names that I recognize would be stellar)
  • Don’t sell yourself short unless you’re positioning yourself as the inexpensive alternative. I’m expecting to pay somewhere around the ASMP day rate. If you’re too inexpensive, I’m going to assume you are too new, or not very good. That said, you might want to give me a break on the first shoot. Just make sure you say that, so I can recognize your business savvy and so that I don’t file you under “bargain photographer” and tell all my friends how cheap you are. Or… start with stock. Sell me a shot. …. It’s far less risky for me to buy a shot or three at $150 each than it is to haul you in for a $1500 assignment. $50 sm interior $100 more featured interior $150 for cover from flickr pool $275-300 for professional single image for cover Or… add value. Your effective price is lower if I have to spend less time dealing with the images once they are received. Tag them. Give me the everyday usable smaller JPEGs, too. Pull out the best shots and copy them into a “highlights” folder. If you know I’m looking for a specific shot for a specific application, give me that one first before processing all your files. Make me look good… if you’re meeting other staff in my office, be professional. Be neatly dressed. Be likeable but not overly chummy. Set your subjects at ease and make them look good. Take good pictures.
  • (style = mist, sunrise light)
  • (style = mist, sunrise light) Reducing your day rate for your first shoot means it is easier for me to take a chance with you. Just be clear that it’s not your regular rate, or expect not to get paid much more than that ever.
  • Knew the preserves, so required little handholding Put subjects at ease, so we could throw Chip at any live event and know he’d be ok. Not Creepy McCreeperson guy with a camera.
  • Knew the preserves, so required little handholding Put subjects at ease, so we could throw Chip at any live event and know he’d be ok. Not Creepy McCreeperson guy with a camera.
  • The “ante” – without this, you’re not even in the game. - Professional. Quality. Priced for your market. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think this is as price sensitive as many other things. It’s not my personal pocketbook. I just need to not be called to my director’s office to explain a charge that’s far different than what is expected. I’m of the impression corporate accounts care even less, but I can’t speak directly to that in the past 15 years. Good # of images – if I can do the math in my head and it comes out to $100 a shot, you’re not going to hear from me again. I don’t want 10 pictures. I don’t want to have the “and what did we get for that?” conversation with my board. A day of shoot… Maybe 250 images? A DVD every 4 hours. Something like that.
  • How do photographers become a valued vendor as opposed to a one-shot job? What is going to make me call you back? What’s a “perfect” job? Easier Understand that much of the time I am dealing with you, I am on deadline. Unusual for me to know months ahead what I am going to need. Ex: Snapshot Day at library … help me meet a deadline by delivering quick and easily. - Be proactive. If I don’t have specific ideas about the setting or tone of what I want, offer choices. Make suggestions. …give me photos that are already tagged so that I can search their metadata. Make the metadata useful. Do understand what I might be searching for and tag accordingly. At LCFPD – species names for major subjects (not “tree”), season, location… Do this well and you will blow your client away. If you have four pages of usage restrictions and a credit line that is a paragraph long…. Let me put it this way… royalty free stock photos don’t give me grief. Don’t make it too easy for me to choose them over you. Specialized knowledge… Carol and species names… again, anything you can do to make it so I don’t have to hand hold or clean up on the back end, the more likely you’re going to hear from me again.
  • Formats that aren’t easily found elsewhere (panos)
  • Oh look, the logo is right in the shot. This Is clearly not a stock image.
  • Distinctive bridge – recognizable vistas. Make the generic, specific.
  • Ways to get on my blacklist. Don’t give me crap metadata. It’s a bigger pain to remove it than to not have it there in the first place.
  • Deliver every single shot you took. While I don’t want 12 images from your day of shooting, I also do not want 1200. If there is no practical difference between A and B, just give me A. That said, do give me layout choices. Copyspace at top. Copyspace at bottom. Copyspace at left. Close crop. Wide angle. These are legitimate differences. Also keep in mind – we all know Photoshop. I’d rather have MORE content in the frame and crop down to what I need than have the top of their head missing or some other issue that keeps me from using the photo the way I want to.
  • Don’t be this guy. This is just obnoxious. Make your credit line “requirement” your name.
  • Name-drop anyone up my chain of command to get in the door. You know them? Go talk to them. Anyone who works in an agency with elected officials gets this sort of thing all the time, and we do. Not. Like. It. You can tell me that you frequent my establishment, live in my district, do business locally. But say something that implies you’re demanding special favor because you’re my boss’s neighbor or my congressman’s cousin and I am not hiring you. Except for the most awful assignments that I don’t want to give to my favorite photographers.

Transcript

  • 1. The Client Perspective Photography from the other side of the lens
  • 2. Outline
    • About me
    • Sourcing photography – where & why
    • Getting in the door
    • Making yourself invaluable
    • Things to never, never do
  • 3. About Me – Catherine Savage
    • 15+ years in marketing and communications
    • Primarily nonprofit/government
    • Lake County Forest Preserve District
      • PRINT: Magazine editor
      • ONLINE: Web, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr
    • Vernon Area Public Library District
  • 4.  
  • 5.  
  • 6.  
  • 7.  
  • 8.  
  • 9.  
  • 10.  
  • 11.  
  • 12.  
  • 13.  
  • 14.  
  • 15.  
  • 16.  
  • 17.  
  • 18. Sourcing Photography
    • Free
      • Google Images (“stealing”)
      • Legit free sources: Creative Commons, Wikimedia, other public domain
      • Provided by publicist, publisher, manufacturer
      • Crowdsourcing
      • Staff snapshots / existing photo collection
  • 19. Sourcing Photography
    • Paid
      • Stock
        • Rights-managed
        • Royalty free
      • Assignment
  • 20. Sourcing Photography
    • Free –Creative Commons, other public domain or publicly licensed
  • 21. Sourcing Photography
    • Free –Creative Commons, other public domain or publicly licensed
    PROS CONS
    • FREE
    • Relatively easy to find
    -Varying quality -Not exclusive -Attribution can be a pain
  • 22. Sourcing Photography
    • Free –Provided by publicist, publisher
  • 23. Sourcing Photography
    • Free –Provided by publicist, publisher
    PROS CONS
    • FREE
    • Images upon request
    -Of varying quality -Product shots can be very generic
  • 24. Sourcing Photography
    • Free – Staff, existing photo collection
  • 25.  
  • 26.  
  • 27.  
  • 28.  
  • 29.  
  • 30. Sourcing Photography
    • Free – Staff photos, existing photo collection
    PROS CONS
    • FREE
    • Already have it
    • No photo credit needed
    -Of varying quality -Where the heck is it?
  • 31. Sourcing Photography
    • Free – Crowdsourcing
  • 32.  
  • 33.  
  • 34.  
  • 35.  
  • 36.  
  • 37. Sourcing Photography
    • Free – Crowdsourcing
    PROS CONS
    • FREE
    • Timely
    • Comes with its own audience
    -Of varying quality, resolution -Difficult to find specific images -Licensing issues are getting messy
  • 38. Sourcing Photography
    • Paid – Stock
  • 39. Sourcing Photography
    • Paid – Stock
    PROS CONS
    • Inexpensive
    • Timely
    • Robust search engines
    • Quality, resolution
    -Mocking up layouts -Somewhat generic content -Asset management
  • 40. Sourcing Photography
    • Paid – Assignment
    PROS CONS
    • Quality
    • Custom
    • On demand
    -Expensive -Not same-day -Shooting conditions vary -Asset management -Licensing restrictions
  • 41. Time $ Quality
  • 42.  
  • 43. Getting in the door
    • Risks of hiring a new photographer
      • Unknown results
      • Unknown deliverable
      • Expensive
      • Fear of looking bad
  • 44. Getting in the door
    • Counteracting “ Unknown results ”
      • Current portfolio that applies to my industry
      • Available online
      • Sorted into categories
      • Client list, reference contact info
      • “Partner” or apprentice with known entity
  • 45. Getting in the door
    • Counteracting “ Unknown deliverable ”
      • Make it plain
        • Main files on DVDs, online transfer, flash drive, portable hard drive (contact sheets included if discs)
        • File size? (big TIFF and smaller JPEG, pls thx)
        • Will you keep archival files / do image retrieval?
        • Will the files include metadata?
        • Will you do Photoshop work to the files before delivering?
  • 46. Getting in the door
    • Counteracting “ Expensive ”
      • Lower the stakes (price) for the first shoot
      • Start with stock
      • Value-add
    • Counteracting “ Fear of looking bad ”
      • Make me look good
  • 47. Carol Freeman
  • 48. Carol Freeman
      • Art director for Chicago Wilderness magazine
      • Very specific niche (IL wildlife photographer)
      • Specialized knowledge (species ID)
      • Stock collection online for searching
      • Well known among colleagues
  • 49. Justin Wambold
  • 50. Justin Wambold
      • Had gallery show at our facility
      • Distinctive style
      • Available on short notice
      • Was comparatively inexpensive
  • 51. Chip Williams
  • 52. Chip Williams
      • Cold call
      • Gorgeous portfolio in beautiful format
      • Had worked with Chicago Wilderness
      • Supplied own models
      • Great feedback from subjects, colleagues
  • 53.  
  • 54. Getting in the door
    • “Ante”
      • Professional
      • Quality photos
      • Priced for your market
      • Digital delivery
      • Good # of images
  • 55. Points of Differentiation
    • Make my job easier
      • Help me meet deadlines
      • Help me avoid DAM awfulness
      • Make it easy for me to work with you
    • Specialized knowledge
    • Take photos that can’t be mistaken for stock
  • 56.  
  • 57.  
  • 58.  
  • 59. Never, never
  • 60. Never, never
  • 61. Never, never
    • © John Doe Photography Ltd.,Inc./John-Doe-Photos.com, a John Doe Company
  • 62. Never, never
  • 63.