Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Time for New Beginnings

Yes yes, I know, everyone has New Year's resolutions. I'm not suggesting you do that, but you will anyway, and you'll likely not follow through on that weight loss plan, get rich scheme, or other bright idea that, at 11:45pm this evening, will seem like such a good idea three shots in, but will be just a blur of an idea the morning after.

Instead, consider that, from a tax and bookkeeping standpoint, beginning to use accounting software like Quickbooks (at right, the TOP link is the PC version - 2008, and at BOTTOM is the Mac version, currently 2007, make sure you pick the right one!), MYOB, or invoicing/estimating software on January 1, 2008 is, in fact, the easiest and cleanest way to get your financial house in order.

It's not that you shouldn't have done it months ago, in fact, the day you started your business (or before) you should have, but it's high time you do so if you have been procrastinating.
(Continued after the Jump)
It's as simple as buying the software today, Monday, and it'll likely arrive by Friday. Over the weekend, you can learn a bit about it, and when your bank statement for December arrives a few days later, use as the closing balance for your December statement (which probably actually closed between the 31st and the 7th) your opening balance in the software.

As checks from jobs from December come in, just re-create your invoice in the software as they were however you did it previously, using the categories that apply, like "photographers assignment fees" become "professional services", and so forth.

After several months, the notion of going back to reconstitute several months' worth of transactions is daunting, so you have a wonderful window of opportunity to get your act straight in a real and meaningful way for the coming year. In addition, six months from now, you'll be able to, with a few clicks of a mouse generate reports that make you look like the real business that you are, and show you how your income is trending, and where your profit centers are. Sound foreign? If so, what are you waiting for, get on it!

Happy New Years!

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Write This Down and Post It Up Somewhere

Write this down, and post it near your phone, or print it as a label and put it on your cell phone where you can see it before you answer any incoming call:


When your taking a call, you absolutely must not think as if the call you are taking is the only one for tomorrow. this week, or even this month. You must believe truly that it's just one incoming request, or you will beat yourself down on price, rights demands, and, self-valuation.
(Continued after the Jump)

True power comes from the presence of alternatives.

If you have no alternatives, then you will be at a distinct disadvantage when being called for any assignment. To paraphrase a past president - the trouble with our creative colleagues is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so.

I hear so many people talk about things like "...if I mail a copy to myself, I am protected if someone steals my work...", or "...if I don't register my work, after 90 days it falls into the public domain...", or "...the photo editor tells me that I am the first person they've talked to who has a problem with work-for-hire...", and the list goes on and on.

There are so many falsehoods out there about the business of photography. That's why I wrote a book, proofed by some of the best in the industry, and endorsed by the heads of major trade organizations, titled "Best Business Practices for Photographers". I'm glad it's doing so well, not for any reason other than the messages and practices in it are getting into the hands of photographers, many for the first time.

I was watching a 60 Minutes interview with Joel Osteen and he was talking about why he doesn't appeal to his TV audience for money, saying "...we didn't want anything to distract people from watching, to turn off the message, cause we know how people are skeptical of TV ministers - "hey, there's a guy that just wants my money" - I didn't want any of that....", and what he said was a similar mindset I had, and which was why my belief was that the best thing to do was to donate the advance for the book to the ASMP, APA, and NPPA. Because I didn't want, at any time that I encouraged people to buy the book either here on the blog, or in my presentations to think "oh, he's just trying to sell books..." and be skeptical of the content of the book because that thought process is distracting from the important point about the message I was, and am, trying to deliver. Yes, if you click through on the right to buy a book, Amazon gives me a dollar or so, but it doesn't cost you any more, and thus, that dollar comes from Amazon, who is indirectly supporting this blog's mission.

Because the falsehood continue, so too, this blog. We turn one year old next week, and I have countless ideas for the future, and, we've reached nearly a million page-views in that time, and over 148,000 "absolute unique visitors" as well. I honestly had no idea that that would be the case. We will be launching a third blog then, which I think you'll be excited about, because it's interactive in much more of a manner than this one.

Unlike Osteen, who does concede (fairly so) about the fact that he does accept money from attendees and those that send money, saying "well, we need people to support us, or we can't stay on. But we don't get on there and ask for it. And it's amazing how people can see, when you're genuine, they send money.", my bills are paid by the assignments I do, and rights I license, from editorial to corporate, and so on. Osteen has some solid, life-affirming messages, and is changing peoples lives, and if you're not familiar with him, one of his mantras is "why don't you get your hopes up, why don't you start believing that, no matter what you have, or haven't done, that your best days are still out in front of you." Amen pastor.

When what you're reading here, and asking about, is helpful, that's great. That's the purpose. And, many many of you have written, with inquiries, suggestions for topics, and otherwise expressions of appreciation. Thank you for letting me know I am being of some assistance.

Keep those cards and letters coming.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

After days and days in shopping malls photographing "holiday displays" (come on, just call a spade a spade, they're Christmas displays!) for commercial clients who's entire business is all about decorating the malls around the country, my one wish would be that these malls install auto-power-off switches so that when I am working from 11pm until 6am in an empty mall, that I don't hear the same songs on rotation for days on end. But, alas, when I return home, and it's all about my daughters who are so excited to see Santa, listening to those songs takes on a different - more personal - meaning, and they somehow are not a bother anymore.

My wife asks what I want for Christmas, and I want for nothing. I am healthy, have a job I love, and a wonderful wife and two beautiful children. What more could I ask for?

  • Peace on Earth?
  • Good Will Towards Man?
  • Rights Respecting Clients?
  • Colleagues Who Value Their Own Talents and Rights As Much As Their Clients (secretly) Do?
  • A Photographer's Union?
Come on, let's be realistic, and just enjoy the holiday!

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Not Your Copy Right, it's Mine

My fellow blogger over at the Pro Photo Business blog brought to my attention this, in his entry - The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality, where he, in turn, refers to an article by David Pogue, of the same title, which can be found here.

This isn't a new mentality, heck, it's been pervasive for several years, most notably because the RIAA sued places like Napster, and the local soccer mom because they were infringing copyrights. The RIAA's position was "poor poor musicians, they're loosing money...", yet, if you know much about the record deals for the poor (read: up-and-coming) musicians, you know that the standard deal they get is that the record label owns the copyright to the first two albums, and further, that the artist pays a portion of whatever they earn back to the record label when they perform "their own" songs. (a common misconception, as they are not actually their own songs.)

Chase Jarvis, on more than one occasion has noted that the world of copyright is changing, and he's right. To wit:

(Continued after the Jump)
"I've said it publicly plenty of times: the face of copyright is changing, and as as visual artists, we should be well aware of how it could effect us. Blindly sticking a stake in the ground for copyright is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."
The Pogue article noted that out of 500 people in attendance at his talk, only two thought that downloading music and movies for free off the internet "might be wrong."

Until the laws change, however, while more and more people are going to be infringing on your work, (note: there are two types of creatives in this world - those that have had their creative works infringed, and those that will) there will be more and more opportunities for you to reap the punitive benefits from these thieves. Yes, that means registering your work, and yes, that means pursing them with an attorney. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy about this, because I'd rather be making pictures. But the fact remains, that when people steal your creative endeavors, you should be vigilant about going after them.

On the other hand, perhaps if you do produce work, and are paid for it, and wish to distribute it after the fact to others for their own private use, then denoting the work - at the least - with a Creative Commons designator stating what you do - and do not - want done with your work, will be one way in which you can share your endeavors, but ensure that it's not used by corporate America without their paying, yet still being available to the every man.

They write:
Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.
They go on to say:
Too often the debate over creative control tends to the extremes. At one pole is a vision of total control — a world in which every last use of a work is regulated and in which “all rights reserved” (and then some) is the norm. At the other end is a vision of anarchy — a world in which creators enjoy a wide range of freedom but are left vulnerable to exploitation. Balance, compromise, and moderation — once the driving forces of a copyright system that valued innovation and protection equally — have become endangered species.
As it stands, the law is, as above "... a world in which every last use of a work is regulated and in which “all rights reserved” (and then some) is the norm...", and I like that that is the default. Yet, I know of people who don't want to do this, and Creative Commons is their way to designate that.

So, pick your level of comfort, and be sure to designate that as such. Just because "the kids" think it's ok to steal your work, doesn't make it so. When the laws of copyright meet up with the patent laws that only protect pharmaceuticals for about 20 years (more here on that), then it will be a new world order for copyright, and people will, in order for creatives to continue to survive, cost so much more on the front end to commission the work, because of the shortened life-span of copyright. That may end up being an unintended consequence of a change in copyright. Who knows.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Business of Photography - The Proof is in the Pudding

One of my daily reads is Mr. Unknown over at A Photo Editor. I am just making a leap in assuming it's a he, so, go with me on this.

I've been seeing an interesting trend in his entries - many of them are tagged "photography business". Which is good. The latest is about the corporate greed that is driving downwards the availability of talent, by way of the photographers' ability to cover their costs of being in business. Earlier this week, I made an editorial portrait, and I do so again tomorrow, and it's a mix of what I do. I've been saying for some time, and often I feel as if I'm on a soap box without a line to step up when I step down, about how it's the bean counters to blame for what's happening, and how there will be a loss of talent because of it, and now, we're seeing evidence of that as APE is reporting on this greed.

(Continued after the Jump)

My friend and colleague Michael Stewart also recently started a blog -, and his latest article discusses something called HDR - or, High-Dynamic Range images. He's got an interesting example of a pool and home, and he shows you the images that were used to composite together to make what is otherwise a near impossible image to produce in a single shot. It used to be that it would take thousands of dollars in lighting equipment to make an image like that happen, but it can now be done with available light and a firm tripod, and little else.

These points illustrate that you shouldn't be basing what you do on price, or technical skills. Instead, it should be on vision, and customer service. Is there any difference, really, between this single white t-shirt at Nordstroms for $18, and this pack of 3 fruit-of-the-loom t-shirts at K-Mart for $9.49? Probably not much. But, the service - is it worth it? Nordstrom's has proven that the answer is yes, and photographers who choose to compete on points other than price or rights-give-aways have shown that it works in our field too.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Monday, December 17, 2007

On Assignment: Catering The Photo Shoot

Today we were on a shoot that called for catering. No, it wasn't the client that called for it, they weren't actually on set this time, it was the reality of the circumstances. We had a three assistant crew, two makeup people, two subjects, and four handlers, oh, and me. I get hungry, and anyone who knows me, knows that a sandwich and a Diet Coke will make me much less grumpy. So too, clients and subjects.

But what food, and why should I cater it anyway?

(Continued after the Jump)
When you're called to shoot something, even if it doesn't span a mealtime, bringing along food is critical. It's true - An army marches on it's stomach. So too, do assistants, and the rest of those on site. In fact, I've known more than one client complain about working with other photographers who either were upset because catering wasn't on the estimate, or got to a shoot, and it wasn't there, already laid out.

When we arrived today, before the gear came in, before the cameras were in place, the second assistant was detailed to set up the catering. I didn't want anyone arriving on set and not seeing food and beverage. Above is the bill (click to see it larger) for catering, minus the drinks, which we brought in a separate cooler - water, vitamin water, and Diet Coke. On a humorous note, our subjects, half-way through the shoot said "hey, where's the tequila?", to which I responded, without loosing stride "I didn't see that on the rider..." and kept shooting. (they laughed).

But don't even think of catering it yourself, or using Subway or Quizno's. Places which make gourmet sandwiches, cookies, and so forth, are a good solution, we like Corner Bakery here in DC. Be sure to know if anyone who will be partaking has food allergies or restrictions. A wide variety of the riders in the link above outline all sorts of restrictions, from "no pork", to brands of water and so forth. If it's a huge shoot, you may be best served to call in a caterer that has servers, but I'm not going there with this.

When the subjects walked in, they reacted by saying "wow, look at this, I didn't expect this!" And then I introduced her to the makeup and hair stylists, while her handlers grabbed waters and cookies, and headed off to quieter parts of the set with their blackberries in hand, satiated.

During a wardrobe change, the subjects opted to grab a bite, which ensured that they weren't feeling the pangs of hunger that would become moodiness that would result in lesser expressions, and an eagerness to depart. No one felt a need to order in, and when we were done, there were three cookies and four sandwich halves left. There were no Diet Cokes left (my fault, I drank most of them), and a few vitamin waters. All in all, just right.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In The Photo Business - It's All About The Usage

The frequent refrain from clients I hear when I ask (as a part of our conversation about my producing work that will run as an advertisement or for corporate/commercial uses) about what the photograph will be used for and to what extent is "...oh, we're not sure where we'll use it yet....", which is double-speak for "we want to get the lowest price from you, and if you really knew how much we'd be using your photographs you'd want to charge us more, so we're not going to tell you everything..."

That's not to say that there aren't clients who aren't straight with you up front - there are, but there are many who are not.

(Continued after the Jump)
But, it's worth backing up here for a minute, for those of you who don't get "usage". Simply put - if someone wants to use your photograph once (whether you create it specific to their needs, or as pre-existing stock), and it will be in a weekly newspaper serving your community, the benefit the client will receive (and the exposure of your image), will be "X". If the client wants to use it 10 times, then, for that client, the benefit (and thus, the exposure of your image) is 10x. When it then appears on billboards, or in the local daily paper, and on brochures, and so forth, the benefit multiplies again and again. As the client benefits from your work, you are entitled to an increased generation of revenue. It's only fair. Every time an ad agency or PR firm proposes an ad campaign to their client, they give a pitch, putting forth a detailed proposal about the metrics and benefits of the placement. How much it will cost, why certain viewers/readers/public locales/eyeballs are better than others, and how to produce the work.

Here's what one agency's proposal cover sheet actually* contained, as a part of an advertising pitch they made to their client:

The following estimates are provided for the various components based upon the media plan options presented today for XXXX XXXXXXXXX. All pieces will be based upon the XYZABCD concept, and will be customized as necessary for the specific media that was selected.

Photography that is unique to NYC and it's environs, and reaches both the parents and children is an essential part of this campaign concept. We have looked into a stock photography solution, and were unable to find appropriate shots and highly recommend producing original photography, that can be used for print, collateral, outdoor and web in the New York region.

We recommend a full-day shoot, in one New York City location. This will allow time for shooting photography for both the "parents centric" and the "children centric" ads in the same day, which is the most cost-effective approach. The budget for this shoot, including all photographer's fees, location scout, permit fees, stylist, and photographers rights package is $12,000-$14,000.

The estimate for professional services to review and select an appropriate photographer, coordinate shoot logistics, recruit and retain appropriate talent, attend and art direct the photo shoot, and review and select final photography is $5,500 - $7,500.
Talent fees for two ads, including a full buyout for the distribution outlined are estimated at $4,500-$6,500, which may include up to four talent.
Professional Services
Print Ad
The estimate for production of two print ads ("parent centric" and "children centric"), including copyrighting, art direction, headline illustration, coordination and management of photo shoot, art production and overall project management is $18,000 - $21,000.
Online Banner Ad
The estimate for creative development of an animated banner ad campaign is $5,500 - $6,500. This estimate includes adapting the creative concept for web use, art direction, copyrighting, and execution of Flash banner ads with static .gif backups. This provides one banner for each "parents centric" and "children centric" execution.

So, when you're contacted by a prospective client for a campaign, recognize that many things are already determined. They will often have already proposed a budget to the end client, however, more often than not, I have been called for a quote for an assignment and been told that what I provide will be for their pitch. Often, this is the case when you are the preferred photographer, that will likely win the assignment if the client wins it.

During the conversation, ask the person calling for the campaign's "media schedule" so you can determine proper usage. Ask for them to e-mail you the PDF, or fax it to you. As above, click here to see what it looked like for this pitch. If they say they don't have one yet, you can say that your estimate will be higher than it might otherwise be without it, and then ask what the usage will be - number of insertions, circulation, size, and so forth.

Your creative and usage/licensing fees will be either combined, or separate (see the points on this debate here), and once the client has outlined their usage, using photography business software like fotoQuote (details about them here), and be sure to use the PLUS language to outline the rights package (as detailed here).

By the time a client calls a photographer, more often than not, many of the details are worked out, the pitch and campaign approved in concept, and dollars allocated. Be sure to ask the right questions during your client dialog so everyone is working from the same page when you prepare your estimate. Ask for comps/layouts so you know what you're going to be expected to produce.

These things are true whether they're for a major campaign, or a one-time small-town paper campaign. They're true when they're for a brochure, an annual report, point-of-purchase poster, billboard, web page ad, and so forth.
* note: To protect the source, slight changes have been made to the media schedule and estimate proposal, but the content, look, feel, layout, and all language except identifying names/campaigns, and actual dollars involved are as presented. These dollar figures are comparable to those presented.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Friday, December 14, 2007

Please Welcome fotoBiz & fotoQuote As Our Latest Advertiser!

One of the pieces of software that I find as indispensible as Photoshop and Firefox, and thus, is parked right on my Mac's dock next to them is fotoQuote - simply put, the best and most up-to-date pricing solution for photographers, and one which I rely on. I've been saying this for years in my presentations, and believe it to be just as true then as it is today, so, there's no quid-pro-quo here, I am a true-believer when it comes to how great fotoQuote (and it's larger sibling fotoBiz) are.

Back in 1992, Cradoc Bagshaw began a quest - to solve the pricing dilemas of photographers everywhere - and he has succeeded (and re-succeeded since then) in providing top-notch, real-world information. In 1993, after painstaking research, he released what I honestly feel was a landmark tool for pricing photography. The first tool was the ASMP pricing guide, which, while a milestone back in 1982, but which became problematic for them, as an organization, when the Federal Trade Commission slapped them with concerns about price-fixing. Further, for over two decades, photo buyers and photo editors have pointed to the now outdated pricing guides, that ASMP was prohibited from updating. Not Cradoc. He regularily updates his software.

(Continued after the Jump)

So, what's his story? Well, Cradoc began when he was just 15 working for the Anchorage Daily News as...get this...Chief Photographer! Following that, he worked for Life, Forbes, Time, and countless others, as well as having his work represented by Black Star, West Light, and others. Cradoc really has earned his stripes as a photographer.

Aside from that pedigree, he maintains a very active and engaged life, speaking at NYU, the International Center of Photography in New York, UCLA and Brooks Institute of Photography.

At right, is an example of the over 200 pricing categories that fotoQuote has - this one is for a retail book cover stock photography use.

But the software doesn't stop there, there's an entire coaching section, which is a must-read before you engage in a phone conversation with a prospective client or buyer. And it coaches you for every use category/type, it's truly a remarkable opus, at your fingertips, dealt to you piecemeal, just what you need for what you're negotiating on.

In one instance, in fact, one that appears in my book, I was negotiating with a educational textbook publisher, and I used the software to ask the right questions and, as you can see by the negotiations that ensued between myself and the client starting on page 192 of my book, I was able to move an offer from $275 to $950 each, for two images, all based upon insights from fotoQuote.

This was remarkable, because, in part, the negotiating coach section was developed with the help of a past ASMP National President, Vince Streano. In a prophetic citation from the a 1999 Central Virginia Newsletter "....How do you smoke out actual usage and budgets, and how can you tell how badly the person on the other end of the phone wants your image? Are you prepared to let a sale go for $200 that you might have gotten $900 for?" This is just what I did, and the ending numbers are remarkably similar. Crazy. But, crazy good.

Back in February of 1994, promoting one of the software updates, a press release from the company noted:
FotoQuote automates the process of creating a quote for stock photography submissions. “Our research has shown that when a price quote is given in writing instead of verbally there is a much higher chance of getting the asking price,” said Bagshaw. “ There are fewer problems, including copyright infringement or rights grabs, if the photographer is willing to take the time to send the client the correct paperwork outlining the exact details of the job, including usages and rights that are to be granted."
It goes on to report on how the pricing figures are researched:
All of the prices have been carefully reviewed from actual sales records, and raised or lowered to reflect the current market.
Their website goes on to note:
To get accurate prices we reviewed thousands of confidential sales records from national stock agencies and photographers all across the US. We built a price grid and then checked back with experts in each category to be sure the prices were accurate. As a last step, we again checked the prices against thousands of actual sales records from agencies and photographers.

We scoured all of the available online pricing that we could find, looking for new patterns and checking to see whether or not there was any consistency in those patterns or if they seemed to be a quick and dirty solution to the new pricing situation. We worked with a pile of our own email requests for help from users looking for pricing solutions that were new to the industry and finally we monitored stock photo news groups to see what kind of pricing problems photographers were having and the possible solutions that were being offered. Finally, after building a greatly updated pricing model we started calling industry sources to check the prices we came up with. As a result, we "rewrote the book". You won't find the pricing information in the new fotoQuote anywhere else.
Now, Cradoc has decided he wants to promote his software here, and advertise with us.

As a long-time registered owner of the software, I was upset to learn, in the same ASMP Central Virginia article: -
On a sourer note, the program’s author reports that there are many unlicensed copies of fotoQuote in use by photographers and agencies. If that is the best behavior we as professional photographers can muster, then we deserve what we get. Come on, you know who you are and just howhypocritical that is. Buy the program.
Yes, buy the program. Don't steal his efforts he's made for our benefit. Don't steal his software, it's just as much a creative endeavor as a picture you've made, and when someone steals your photograph, you get upset, so do the right thing and buy it. If you are using a copy that's not yours, now is the time to order your own legitimate copy. It's good karma (and the law!) to do so.

fotoQuote - $139.95 full version, with upgrade pricing.

FotoBiz -" If you need to get your paperwork out, keep track of your images, keyword and caption them, then this is the program for you." $299, full version, with upgrade pricing. (this includes fotoQuote in it!)

UPDATE: For our foreign readers, fotoQuote has listed the conversion rates for currency. Those shown at right are the default figures, but what with exchange rates fluxuating, you may change the rate as markets change. In addition, if for whatever reason, you think that these real-world surveyed rates need a tweak, you may make an adjustment to a specific use, or an across-the-board percentage increase to all the rates!

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Your Photography Business: Get In The Mix

There are several different dishes I enjoy at restaurants around town. I have become a "destination diner", in that, I'll suggest we go to a certain restaurant because I am craving, say, Tortellini Rose from Paolo's, Tuna Tartare from BLT Steak, a Floating Island from Bistro lepic,  Pho from Pho 75 in Arlington, or my latest, Butterscotch Mousse from Johnny's on the Half Shell after last night's "after gathering" following the White House News Photographer's Holiday Party at the Capitol. However, if I had those dishes even once a week they would loose their appeal.

If every assignment I made was of a concert performance, or a lit portrait, so too, I'd be less excited by them. tonight I scouted a location for a book cover shoot on Monday, and photographed a holiday party for an association. Tomorrow (as you're reading this), I am doing a magazine portrait in the morning, and a corporate portrait in the afternoon, followed by a client's holiday party drop by (sans camera) and then a prospective client has called me to meet with them while they're in town to "look at my portfolio". Meanwhile, two of my colleagues are shooting a corporate assignment for me in New York City that has taken them and the biggest SUV I could rent along with a G5 tower and iMac and my Post Production Manager to deliver on-site files and immediate uploads for the client's review in Texas. (cha-ching!)

Diversity of a client base is one cornerstone of success as a photographer.

If all I did was portraits, or weddings, or events, or news, or documentaries, get the point...just one (or a few things)  I'd have established a client base that is one-sided, or of just a few clients. An exceptional photographer friend of mine has just one editorial client. He's a freelancer, and he relies soley on them for all his work. Sure, it's a high profile client with sufficient work, but he's at the whim of that client's decision, and he could get the ax at any time.

How do you mitigate this situation?

(Continued after the Jump)
A mix of clients.

Yes yes, there are tons of photographers who specialize, and there is a wide cacophony of voices telling you you should specialize. And, well, yes that's a nice goal, but I've held to the belief that "have check, will take picture", works pretty well. Does that mean I don't try, on my own schedule, and on my own projects, to have a style/genre/etc? Maybe. But, as with too much Pho, or too much Butterscotch Mousse (I stopped after two last night), it begins to loose it's wow factor. 

Perhaps, for some people, portraying the family dog is a calling. For others, babies and their new moms, and again for others, their own muse. Yet, everyone from Ansel Adams to Bill Allard, to know what I'm saying - all the greats - they do not do just what we know them for, but the school portraits (I've lost the image of Adams doing an outdoor school portrait that I once had, but it was a revised perspective that my young eyes once looked upon, seeing that in the lab at Black & White one day when I was processed...) and even Annie does corporate portraits (rumored to run $65k) when someone calls.

Who knows what I'll be known for some day. To me, being known as "...the greatest dad in the whole-wide-world..." by my daughters is what I hope to be most proud of, but maybe a picture or two will be remarkable. Then again, maybe not. I, however, sure enjoy the spectrum from Robert Plant to BB King to The President to a bush flight into Alaska for a book project to, well, again, you get the picture. Diversity not only rocks, it can ensure your longevity, and it's about the journey, not the destination.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Nikon vs. Canon - Introduction

As previously reported, I ordered my Nikon D3 and my Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III at the same time, back in September. I'd recently also written about seeing a D3 "in the wild" when covering a White House event, and I was eager to get my hands on my own.

That surprisingly happened all on the same day, yesterday, Friday the 7th, when both cameras arrived, separately, from Adorama. The first thing I did was call my friend Mark Finkenstaedt, a die-hard Canon photographer, and invite him over to have a look-see at both bodies, as they were unboxed, make a few photographs of them, and with them, and generally have some fun with what is otherwise sometimes a dry "review".

(Continued after the Jump)

What follows is a muti-part review of both cameras. Since I own both systems, and am not endorsed by either, and in fact, have been critical of both, I think I can take an unbiased look at each camera. My most critical concern was noise, and I don't shoot sports, so, for example, fast focus-tracking is not a top priority for me. I'd dropped $20k on a Canon system, having been a die-hard Nikon photographer, having found the noise in my D2x files at iso640 and above offensive. Couple that with Nikon's failure to address or even acknowledge that elephant in the room was just down-right inconsiderate. Then, you have the absolute failure of Canon to admit to their focus problem in the 1D Mark III, until Rob Galbraith essentially (and rightfully) creamed them in his review, which all but shut down the entire new line of cameras. So, I too was a bit leary of the 1Ds Mark III.

I won't endeavor here to do a review like Rob will on his site. You can count on him to be much more technical and exhaustive in his review. I plan on looking at some external component/control issues, and to focus on the noise and chip size issues. But I can't do this alone, so I've asked three friends to help out. To protect their identities, we'll call them Barbie, Marcus, and Penelope. I've written about Barbie and Penelope here, and Marcus, well, Marcus is a mysterious man, and to learn more about him, you'll have to check out his website.
I've written this in multi-part series, since you may only care about a few of the things I am talking about, feel free to skip around. If nothing else, you'll enjoy the photos!

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Canon - A first look

The Canon certainly looks and feels like the 1Ds Mark II, which I am "graduating" up from. It has a nice feel, and the buttons are familiar. I am pleased because the arrival of this camera doesn't so much make my Canon system complete, as much as it just provides a nice rounding to the available equipment.

(Continued after the Jump)

Penelope sure likes the size of the body and chip, but as we'll soon see in the noise section, and as Penelope no doubt knows, it's not the size that matters. With the arrival of this body, The Mark II will become my backup body, and the Mark III will become my primary body when shooting Canon. The camera is taller, and as to grip, this body actually feels slightly better in my hand than the D3, although, as someone who is 6'7", with large hands, this may not be to everyone's benefit. The D3 felt a bit more suited to a smaller hand, and I know of many a colleague who prefers the 5D over the Mark II because they think the Mark II is just to big/bulky/heavy.
In addition, the Mark III sounds comparably noisy to the Mark II, in terms or mirror noise and shutter-cocking. Further, the sensor-cleaning capabilities make this an amazing camera all around. I expect to upgrade from my wireless transmitter from the Mark II when I can get the new one for the Mark III, and it's smaller size, and attachment to the side will make it a much nicer accessory than that bulky add-on to the bottom of the body as is the case with the Mark II.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon - A first look

It was nice to have a muscle-memory familiarity with the Nikon body. It's interesting that Nikon sticks with the dial/rewind-crank bump on the left side of the camera, as almost a throwback to the F-series of cameras. The button capability of the 8008s cameras seems like a much more functionally appropriate thing to do. Further, the dial there, as Mark pointed out, is a place for fine dust to collect, as compared to the canon button system on the top left of their bodies.

(Continued after the Jump)

This body will immediately become my primary camera when shooting with Nikon, and I will just hope that when it fails, or I have to switch to my secondary body for a quick-lens need (i.e. my wide is on there and my D3 has my zoom) that it only happens when I am comfortably at iso500 or below.

Barbie sure likes the camera's familiar look. In fact, so much so that I had to do a little retouching to the photo because she was showing her appreciation just a little too much when I reviewed the shoot after the fact. Perhaps I was just so focused on how great I thought the camera looked, that I was more interested in looking at the camera than, well, Barbie and didn't even notice until the images were up in PhotoMechanic. That must re-validate my geek card.

The body did feel a bit smaller in my hands than I would have liked, but that's a bias of having larger than normal hands. Most people I know who say they prefer the D200 over the D2x say so for capabilities purposes, not body size. Not so with the Canon's, where people just think that the Mark II camera is just too big size-wise, and they prefer the 5D because of the feel in their hands.

The camera is damn noisy. I didn't put a dB meter on it, but it sure is loud. Further, why on earth they would put self-cleaning technology on the D300 and not on the D3 is just an example of incompetence and lack of due consideration. However, where it really matters, in file clarity and noise, Nikon really shines, and I was duly impressed.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon vs Canon -The Noise Issue

As I said earlier, my primary consideration for adding a Canon system to my arsenal was the noise of the Nikon, so I was eager to see what Nikon had done, and I was blown away. I had seen friends' samples, and even had my hands on a beta of the D3 a month or so ago, but I wanted to do a comparison.

So, I asked Barbie and Marcus to sit for a portrait session.

(Continued after the Jump)

Here's the setting I used:

Here are the specs - both cameras are right out of the box. I made no adjustments to the camera's settings, beyond setting the iso and shutter and f-stops. Both cameras had a zoom. The Nikon had it's 28-70 f2.8, the Canon their 28-70 f2.8. Both cameras were zoomed in to 70mm.

The images were shot raw, and processed in Adobe's Camera Raw. I know many of you will suggest Capture One, Nikon's propriety software, and so forth. I am looking for a direct comparison using the same software. I could have used Capture One, I just didn't have it on my machine.

The files were converted to JPEG, and I wanted them to look their best so I made some nominal adjustments to brightness/color to get them close. Again, I am concerned about noise. Comparing the untouched result wasn't functionally of interest, since I expect that all photographers will not pull a raw file and convert it to jpeg without looking at it and deliver it to a client.

If you'd like to download the resulting JPEGs, I have a flickr group set up, feel free to click here and download the full rez files.

In order to give you a one-to-one comparison, I have cropped deep into the photograph, so that you are seeing native resolution on Barbie's eye, not anything up- or down-rezed. I'll save that point for the section on megapixels.

First up is the Canon, at iso3200. This image is amazing in it's sharpness and clarity. The colors and blacks look sharp and crisp. I would be more than pleased to deliver a client an image at this previously verbotten iso.

Next up is the Nikon, at iso3200. Don't get tripped-up by the fact that the same crop delivers a smaller image, again, more on that in the megapixel section. Focus instead on the noise- or lack thereof. It's absolutely amazing. The color is smoother, and, as you'll see in the megapixel section, it up-rezzes better.

Next up is the Nikon, at iso12,600. Sorry, but Canon can't go that high. Look at the results! I would be comfortable delivering an image from a dark Congressional hearing, or a candle-lit church ceremony with this iso. The colors are more than fine, as is the sharpness. Moreover, the noise looks more like film grain than the noise of days gone by. The noise in the Canon above looks less like noise than it's predecessor, but it looks more like noise than the Nikon does.

Next up is the Nikon, at iso25,800. Yes folks, that's not a typo. And, again, sorry, but Canon can't go that high. Can you say "I can make an image in available darkness?!?!" Again, the colors are more than fine, as is the sharpness. Moreover, the noise here again looks more like film grain than the noise of days gone by.

At 3200 and above, especially in Nikon's range, I would turn to my client and say "what do you mean I can't use flash for this assignment? I'll give you the best I can", and these would be my results.

One interesting benefit of Nikon's higher ISO's, is that if I can be at f2.8 at a 60th at iso3200 for Canon, I can be at f5.6 at a 60th at 12,800, and deliver a greater depth of field, with similar noise/grain issues. In addition, a nominal change to the sharpness in the camera's or Camera RAW's settings, and you'd have an even better image, I did not make those adjustments on any of these images shown. Thus, for ISO's, it's Advantage:Nikon.

I know my client would be more than pleased with these results from anything at 3200 and above from these cameras, when they previously didn't think they could get a usable image. Further, these crazy ISO's will be a nice differentiator when we can shoot without a flash (or a slight flash fill to give the subjects a pop) and the client will be saying "wow, I can't get that on my D80/5D, I can see what's happening in the background in yours, mine's all dark in the background - you're a great photographer, when can I hire you again?"

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon vs Canon -The MegaPixel Issue

So, I was screaming mad when I learned that the D3's chip size was actually slightly smaller than the D2x (i.e., the D2x is 12.4MP, the D3 is 12.1; the D3 is, though, essentially full-frame). But, does it really matter? Well, that depends.

If you were someone who dropped $20-$30k on a medium format back, just to get a native resolution of 22MP, this camera's got to frustrate you, especially when you realize that the color depth of the Canon and Nikon is going to be so comparable to your MF back, that you'll feel comfortable shooting chocolate with these cameras.

So, what of the difference in chip size?

(Continued after the Jump)

The image specs and lens choices are the same as outlined in the noise section of this piece. In fact, since we're all worried about the size of the Nikon as smaller than the Canon, I'm putting up the Canon iso3200 here first to compare to the Nikon files I'll be showing.
Here again, so it's on the same page, is the Canon, at iso3200.

Here's the same Nikon iso3200 file, but it has been rezzed up to be the same size as the Canon file. No sharpening has been applied. It appears there is less noise, and it's smoother overall. I know it's not as sharp, but when you're so deep into this photo, either the viewing distance of the viewer or the reproduction abilities of the output device will all but take care of this concern.

Here's the same Nikon iso3200 file but it has been uprezzed and sharpened to my tastes. It appears equal to, or better than, the Canon image. In other words, by up-rezzing the file to the size of the Canon file, I can actually achieve a more pleasing final result than the native file results from the Canon.

Just for comparison purposes, here's the same Nikon iso3200 file as above, not uprezed, not sharpened. (in other words, it's the same file, just uprezzed, and then secondarily sharpened.

These results, for me, essentially kill the megapixel issue for me. Size, with the proper chip and internal camera processing software, is no longer a comparison point for me. I'm sure we'd have problems if there was noise at the ISO's I need, because enlargement would yield more noise, but since that's not a concern, it's amazing what a 12.1MP camera can look like when compared to a 22MP camera. My yardstick had always been based upon a conversation I once had with an editor at National Geographic. We were discussing, very early on when it was not digital cameras, but the scanners being used to scan film - that a file that was 60MB at 8-bit was scanning at pixel-to-grain 1:1 using Kodachrome 25 as the benchmark. So, anything over 60MB was just increasing the number of pixels that hold one grain of film, and thus, is overkill/redundant. I see that, properly done as Nikon has, it's not an issue at 12MP.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon vs Canon - Shooting Tethered

For many photographers, shooting tethered is a way of life. Not just studio photographers, but also on location, shooting direct into laptops and large digital workstations. Both Nikon and Canon, to varying degrees, previously failed on this front.

(Continued after the Jump)

Previous Canons constantly had the cord falling out, and my colleagues were inventing ways to make sure it stayed in the camera, with mixed results. Nikons too, had similar problems. In fact, the D2x was a step backwards as far as security of the data cable was concerned. The D1x has a much more secure Firewire 400 port as a solution, and it also came out of the back of the camera.

Canon has addressed this issue head-on, and in the most secure of the two. Canon's USB connects and is locked in place with a silver screw that slips into the side data port, with a place to store the cover on it's top. There's no way this cord is coming out of the camera, unless you unscrew it. The downsize, is that the plastic cable that holds the cable is a seperate piece, so too is the silver screw, and don't loose that data-port screw cap either. In addition to the cord there are three parts you can loose here. That's risky, and I hope that Canon stocks those for it's dealers. One major plus is that Canon includes a small USB cable for when you are using the camera to download to the computer, as well as a much longer USB cord so the camera can be much further away from the camera. This is about a $70 value and should not be under estimated.

Nikon, on the other hand, just wasn't thinking the issue through. They include a plastic piece that snaps onto the USB cord, and is not easily removed. This is a good thing relative to Canon. However, the little black hole next to the USB port on the camera is where the plastic pin on piece you connected the cord to slips in. It's shoddy, and will loosen even more over time. It wiggles and just doesn't make me feel safe. All they would have had to do was put a thread in that hole and make it a screw-pin through the plastic, and the piece would be about as secure as Canon's, with one less piece, and a lot less likelyhood that the pieces would get lost, since they're all securely connected to one another.

Further, and while unrelated to the point about shooting tethered, this photo illustrates it well, the Canon camera keeps you face further away from the back of the camera than the Nikon, meaning less smudge on the screen, and less "nose control" of the back navigation wheel/dial/plate.

Advantage: Canon.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon vs Canon - The LCD Screen

First, the math - Nikon's screen has 307,200 pixels , as compared to Canon's 230,000 pixels, so your preview screen is better on the Nikon's.

(Continued after the Jump)

The browsing is similar to that of the Canons and Nikon's of the past, however, I get the feeling that the Nikon is just a bit clearer. But, who's going to buy a camera because of the LCD screen? It's not like it's a cup holder decision in a car!

What might sway you to upgrade is Live view, and both have it. The screens are similar in terms of readability, and there's now a second navigation "joystick" above the one we're used to on the Canon, so you can navigate the screen without having to take the lock off the navigation wheel on the back.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon vs Canon - External Ports

One noticible point about the Nikon, is that it has an HDMI out, which I think, while not immediately beneficial to me, I can see the benefits of in the not too distant future. Canon is stuck with just the standard A/V out we're all used to.

(Continued after the Jump)

One of the other ports is the power port. On the Nikon, it's tucked in here under the flap, and easily accessible. On the Canon, you have to remove the battery and insert a separate battery sleeve with the AC cord connected. One potential issue here, is that if the Nikon suffers a momentary loss of power from the AC, it's battery will probably keep it on, whereas with he Canon, you'd be back to whatever your settings were before power-off.

I do, however, like that you can (continue to) remove the plastic covers over the ports if you want to, from the Canon. For the Nikon, it's not possible, unless you cut them, and don't do that.

Lastly, I'll just point out the three buttons on the top left of the Canon here, as compared to the button/wheel/dial combination on the Nikon. Remember this in the next section on buttons and access.

Advantage: Nikon (2x)

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon vs Canon - Buttons and Access

Even though I came from Nikon, with Nikon muscle memory, the Canon vertical grip just feels better. The way the four fingers are around the front, as compared to the three on the front one on the top, just makes the Canon feel better than the Nikon.

(Continued after the Jump)

Canon has re-tooled the AF button, so I don't have to assign it to the "*" button, and there's an AF-ON button easily accessible both vertically and horizontally.

I don't know why they didn't bring back the button controls from the old Nikon 8008 cameras, instead of keeping the old school look of the rewind crank and controls on the top left of the camera. That dial is a place where dust can get in, it seems like. At the least, it can collect/gather on the outside. (See the section on the LCD screen or the tethered capabilities to see what I'm referring to.)

Further, they've added the center button in the large back dial, so it's easier to navigate using that, even more than it used to be. All in all, both cameras have made significant improvements on the button functionality of the cameras.

Lastly, Nikon continues with their microphone capabilities, so you can record directly into the back of the camera notes about the image(s) you just made, and an AIF file is stored along side the files. A great thing for work in the field, or or on-the-fly captioning that will help an editor back in the photo department, or production trailer off-site.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon vs Canon - Card slots

I'm sure Canon was trying to do something smart with their SD card option, but the smarter way to go is how Nikon has done it, finally coming into the fray with two CF slots. There are plenty of CF readers, especially FW800 ones, but no fast SD readers. SD may well be the best choice next generation, or the one after that, but the CF cards are the best solution, and are also the fastest.

(Continued after the Jump)

Further, Nikon is using a much faster write capability here, which, while it requires the faster 300x cards, and, in turn, faster Lexar readers, in the end, one of the huge delays in my office is the speed at which files are written as well as copied off cards after the fact.

The door to the Nikon, I think, is much better. You just slip your thumb under the hatch and pop a button to open the door. On the Canon, you have to lay the camera down and use a second hand to twist the latch. The Nikon is much easier, in my view.

Advantage: Nikon

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon vs Canon - The Future

I feel that the Megapixel race is over, and that it's no longer about chip sizes, especially since Nikon has essentially returned to Full-frame with their FX sensor. It's going to be clarity and fidelity and bit-depth moving forward.

It has come to my attention that another camera is coming down the pike though.

(Continued after the Jump)

One of the key points that was made when I interviewed Steve Heiner at PhotoPlus, was that he was saying how great it was for the sports photographer and photojournalist. He, and I've heard this elsewhere, others, are positioning the camera as one that shoots fast and so forth. They are not referring to the commercial photographers. Why? Well, because of the D3x, that's why. Following in the footsteps of the D1, and the D2, so too will there be a D3x. I've heard that it's comparable to the Mark III as to file size. If the D3x has a comparable filesize to the Mark III, and the high ISO's of the D3, it'll trounce all over the Mark III, but I'll not hold my breath for that "perfect storm" of capabilities. It's coming in the Spring, certainly in time to get into the hands of photographers before the Olympics.

Will the capabilities of the Foveon chip, with it's Leica-like clarity make it's way in some altered form into the next generation of Nikon or Canon cameras? Who knows. I do know that when the D3x hits the stores, it will forever relegate my D2x to copy-work, and I'll begin re-thinking the notion of an 18 month technology life-cycle for cameras. I may not change my position, but these current offerings certainly make it worth discussing.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Nikon vs Canon - Conclusions

To choose, to choose. Barbie or Penelope? Errr.....Nikon, or Canon?

(Continued after the Jump)

Honestly, I am glad I don't have to choose. I've got a blonde and a brunette...err...a Canon and Nikon.

For large commercial jobs, where I am thinking I want a higher native resolution, it'll be the Canon I reach for. For low light situations, which are all too common, it will, without a doubt, be Nikon. In fact, with the noise issue out of the way, and most client deliverables needing to be down-rezzed anyway, I can see that the Nikon not only would be a better solution to speeding up my post-production process, but moreover, storing the RAW/DNG files will save me significant hard-drive space in my archives over the larger Canon files.

Will the Mark III have issues it's earlier Mark III siblings had? I hope not. Will Nikon have an as-yet-unknown issue? Who knows. We're all their guinea pigs, shelling out thousands to fuel their R&D, with the consumers being the beneficiaries.

Advantage? Photo Finish - Nikon by a nose, for what I do. How about you?

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]
Newer Posts Older Posts