photo trends

Social media strategies

I see a few trends among photographers recently. The first is the use of Facebook and other social media sites like Twitter. In the last six months there has been an explosion of photographers joining and networking on the internet.

The old fashion way of networking has given way to the internet. I'm not sure how effective it is as far as converting it to actual paid work, but if you are a professional photographer, it is has become important.

I was posting tweets on Twitter about photography and was contacted by a photographer marketing coach Tyler Garns. His interview with me is at http://www.thinkbigart.com/blog/interview-with-a-sports-photographer/. Our conversation is about how social media is being used by photographers to market themselves.

The other big buzz word among photographers with a website is SEO, or search engine optimization. The goal is to be the first photographer on that Google page for that specific search term. Editors and photo buyers are increasingly relying on google to find photos and photographers. Google doesn't release details about how they rank searches, so most SEO is really voodoo. The usually recipe for higher search ranks are inbound links, fresh material and meta data that the so called Google bots can search and index.

The result of all this has been the boom of photographers blogs and websites with code that churn out search terms that hopefully will raise the rank of the page. Photographers who don't pay attention to SEO or social media risk missing key marketing opportunities.

Concert Photography

Hollywood - Shooting a concert sounds like a great gig. Getting paid to shoot legendary artists from the front row. It's not bad, but there are a few caveats.

Saturday I was at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theater in Hollywood to shoot Hullabaloo, a benefit concert featuring Edder Vedder of Pearl Jam fame and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Any photographer who shoots concerts knows the drill. First you can't shoot the whole concert. Back in the day, early 1980's you could hang out and shoot and watch the whole show. Now you can shoot certain songs. Some artists allow you to shoot the first two or three songs. Some stipulate an odd arrangement of songs in the middle.

Eddie Vedder only wanted photographers to shoot the fourth song. The Red Hot Chili Peppers wanted only the first two songs to be shot. I have shot U2, and they allowed the first five songs. A couple of weeks ago at the Ricky Martin concert at the Staples Center, you were allowed the first two. The other thing during the performance, is no flash photography. Available darkness only.

I don't really know what changed in the mid-80's. But it became standard for concert photographers.

Here are some tips on shooting concerts.

First bring ear protection. You could be shooting right next to a stack of speakers and the last thing you want is to lose hearing on the job.

Second, bring a flashlight. When the performance starts, its pitch black, a flashlight comes in handy if you have to fiddle with camera equipment or just find your way when your escorted out after the shooting time expires.

The third thing is to make sure you have the right lens in advance of the concert. A small club venue like the Music Box Theater, a wide-angle and a medium telephoto lens is all you need. But at the Staples Center and other 20,000 seat arenas, they might put you back behind the sound board, which could be 200 feet away from the stage. You better have a fast 400mm lens or you will basically shooting wide shots of the whole stage instead of dramatic shots of the lead singer.

The last bit of advice is understand that you will have a very limited time shooting so have a plan of action in place. If you need shots of the drummer or bassist, make a mental note before the concert. Plan on shooting some wider shoots along with tighter shots, two or three cameras make sense, you don't want to waste time changing lenses. Shoot very heavy, the lighting changes a lot during most concerts and you want to get as many photos as possible in that short amount of time.

Do Ethics Exist in Photojournalism?

The ideal situation for journalists would to be totally independent and non-partisan and just record and report the news.

In the real world that almost never happens.

One of my first jobs I was reminded by the editor-in-chief that a newspapers was a business and the our number one job was to sell newspapers. My idealistic view of the journalists being integral to a free society, the fourth estate, freedom of speech, voice of the people, was shattered.

How do the demands of fair and balanced reporting relate to the business side of selling newspapers? There is supposed to be this imaginary wall dividing the editorial side and the business side of things in journalism. The problem is the wall is like the emperor's new clothes, and not all that well built.

I have worked at small, medium and large newspapers. The one thing I was never handed was any thing relating to ethics. Nothing on what you could do or not do. Actually, I never held a job where ethics were spelled out. What are the rules? Are there no rules?

There is a telling scene in the first episode of "The Sopranos" this season. Tony Soprano, his sister and brother-in-law are playing Monopoly. All of sudden new rules are implemented. Tony's brother-in-law objects, citing the official rules in his protest, but to no avail. I remember the exact same thing happening when I was in the fourth grade. My friend made up the rules as we went along, eventually I learned what the rules were. I have had similar experiences in journalism.

One of the first rules of a newsphotographer is that you never manipulate people for photos. You are supposed to capture what is in front of you and by doing so, have truthful images. When I was a young teenage photographer shooting for my college student newspaper, "The Spectrum" in Buffalo, NY, that's what I did. I was so shy I couldn't do anything else. I didn't know how to direct someone to do something to make a photograph more interesting.

Then one day I covered an event that the mainstream press covered. The veteran newspaper photographer who showed up probably didn't even know I existed. He staged and directed people and was in and out of the event in no time. Was he unethical? His boss wouldn't have thought so. This is how things were done. And in most cases still done at big and small newspapers and other news organizations across the country. I have seen it first hand.

The second rule is that you don't manipulate the image after the fact. You know, photoshop it. It's funny that a software program is now a verb in the mainstream.

Back in the day of no computers, we made black and white prints. We darkened and lightened selected areas of the print in the darkroom. We rubbed ear wax on the negative to get rid of scratches. We used bleach to whiten someone's eyes or open up shadows.

Some photographers went a little too far. They had hockey pucks and balls that could be placed in a photo. They combined negatives. They darkened areas from pure white to pure black. It was called "hand of God" printing. The practice not only was accepted, it was encouraged, many award-winning photo used its methods.

Photographers tried to grandfather techniques from the old days, stating that Photoshop could only be used to replicate a darkroom print. Really?

It's pretty easy to change a photograph. Clone out something. Add something. A photographer who grew up learning from the veteran shooters who rules were that they were no rules, not only be tempted to change things radically to make a perfect photo, it would be like leaving the cars to the Porsche on the kitchen counter while you left on a two week vacation with your teenagers in charge. Wanna bet the Porsche has some uneven wear on the tires when you come back?

This is a typical day for a working photographer on a small to mid-size newspaper. Four to six assignments ranging from a feature portrait, a sporting event, a craft fair and a couple shots of features of people doing stuff that can be used anywhere in the newspaper. Some newspapers call it "wild art", enterprise feature, a standalone, and I even heard the term "rope" a take on the acronym ROP which means run of press. Pretty boring stuff. From this you have to make photos that make readers want to read the stories. For a photographer you also want to make photos that will be in your portfolio so you can land that bigger and hopefully higher paying job.

My first full-time job paid $280 a week. I worked 6 days a week and 14 hours a day. The minimum wage at the time was $4.00 an hour. The newspaper did not pay overtime. So basically the guy at the local fast-food joint was making more money and he didn't have to own expensive camera equipment, drive his own car or have a college degree. I had to fill a whole newspaper with photos. Front page, sports page, feature pages, local pages, special sections, a couple of photo pages a week, plus process and print all the reporters photos, and make prints for the public who saw their photo in the newspaper and wanted copies. Oh and by the way I was also in charge of ordering photo supplies, fixing and maintaining all photo equipment and trouble shooting the computer equipment at the newspaper.

With all that on tap, do you think ethics was a topic of discussion in the newsroom. Most reporters had a bottle of booze in their desk drawer and you couldn't see the other end of the newsroom because of the haze from cigarette smoke. That was 20 years ago. Okay, they banned drinking and smoking in the newsroom, but have things really changed? I know of one reporter who works out of a bar to circumvent the drinking and smoking rules. Ethics? This guy works out of a bar, so I guess bar rules apply.

There are some great photographers who have the backing of there news organization to put in the long hours to document incredible story-telling photos. Unfortunately with the down-sizing of newspapers and other new gathering operations, that has become a luxury. It's very difficult and expensive to cover stories that are important. The pressure to get those same photos in a few hours or minutes that should take days or months has lead to questionable means to get them.

Editors never ask how? They ask why not? Like, why did you not get that shot? The other newspaper has it. Why is that photo so boring? They never ask, did you manipulate the subject to get that great photo? It's the don't ask, don't tell policy. Editors don't really want to know.

Here is some of the answers they would get from some photographers if they were given truth serum.

  • I drove two hours looking for a feature and I saw these kids playing and they stopped when I got out of the car so I told them to redo the thing so I could get a photo. The last time I didn't get the feature, you yelled at me so I took things into my own hands.

  • I had two minutes for the photo and I missed the distracting thing in the background so I cloned it out.

  • I was told to get a picture of holiday traffic, but I couldn't find any so I used a long lens to make it look a lot worse that it really was.

  • The only place there was flooding was in this one area so I went there and got a low angle to make it more dramatic, plus the story was on how bad the flooding was.

  • I was late for the event with all the other assignments, so I had them re-create the event.

You get the idea.

So why are ethics important? A news photograph represents truth. Do you want a lie? Are you happy to pay for a premium product and to later find out it's a knock-off, a fake? The box shows a photograph of a mouth-watering steak dinner, inside it's a frozen mass of brown. Mission Accomplished? Jessica Lynch a hero? We make life changing decisions based on photos. The photo of that cute person you met online, it has been retouched. That beautiful house you saw on the internet, they didn't show you the termites in the basement? The elected official doing....oh forget it, it was a photo-op. Jaded, cynical? Men didn't land on the moon? The Holocaust didn't happen? Every photo is a fake? What and whom are we to believe?

The $1.5 million Cra$h


Irwindale, CA - Actor Eddie Griffin took a very expensive ride when he totaled a $1.5 million Enzo Ferrari at the Irwindale Speedway on Monday night.

Griffin was lucky he was able to walk away. Both airbags deployed and unlike other celebrities that were driving exotic cars around the race track, he wasn't wearing a helmet.

The event was to promote "Redline the Movie" which is opening nationwide on April 13th. The spectacular crash did make a dramatic impact, but I don't think the owner of the Enzo, Daniel Sadek, who wrote and produced the movie, had that in mind.

I got a sequence of photos of the Enzo hitting a concrete barrier and anyone who wants to buy a license for the photos can contact my photo agency, Landov in NYC.

The only reason I even came to the event because I really wanted some photos that were a little different and thought celebs and exotic cars would be a good mix. When Griffin took a couple of practice laps before the crash, I knew something might happen as he knocked over quite a few orange traffic cones that were laid out on the track.

My first reaction was shock. I knew he was in trouble right before the crash and held down the button on my camera and my newly purchased Canon 28-300mm lens. Later when I reviewed the photos on the LCD on the back of my camera, I was relieved that I actually captured the sequence. When something like this happens, you wonder if you mind and body actually coordinated together to take the photos.

I left immediately left the track to try to make sales of the photograph to publications on the East Coast. If Annie Nicole Smith autopsy report wasn't released on Monday, the papers could of found space for the photos, but their news hole was tight and it was too late. Hopefully publications in Europe will want the photos. Eddie Griffin isn't an A-lister but the last time an Enzo was wrecked on California's PCH in Malibu, it was a world-wide story.

You can see a video of the crash here.