Buchanan Studios Blog

news and events from Buchanan Studios

Posts Tagged ‘business

ain’t it the truth

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The other day Rob Haggart at aphotoeditor.com had a post that basically came down to the simple fact that “good ain’t cheap.” I’m now in my 15th year of being a professional in this business and this seems to be an ongoing theme. I’ve never worked in any other industry so my frame of reference is limited. But put 10 photographers in a room with beer and you’re most likely to get a bitch fest about how bad things are right now. It was like that in 1995 when I started and from what my mentors have told me, it was like that in 1980 when they started. It all comes down to this. Do it right, or do something else.

Written by stevebuchanan

May 8, 2009 at 6:26 pm

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How do usage rights work?

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We don’t sell photography, we license it.

Photography is copyrighted intellectual property, just like books, music and software. Like musicians, authors and software publishers, photographers are paid a fee for creating the work and then residuals or royalties for the subsequent use of those works.

Our fees are based on two main factors. The first being the time, effort and expense of creating the work. These are commonly referred to as production charges. In addition to the actual shooting time there is also pre-production time (set building, prop hunting, location scouting, etc.) and post production.

The second factor involved is usage. Many clients new to the field don’t fully understand the usage concept and often have the idea that “I paid for it, it’s mine.” This is understandable as most of what we pay for is stuff, tangible items(ie commodities.) Intellectual property isn’t a commodity so many of the rules are different. Our usage fee is based on how the client will use the images created. Images created for a national ad campaign that will run in 10 major consumer magazines will have a higher usage fee than those created for a local campaign because they’ll have a greater impact. When you go to the gas station the amount you pay depends on the quality of gas(regular vs. premium) and how many gallons you buy. When you license photography your total depends on the quality of the work(production costs) and how much impact the images will make.

Often clients simply don’t know how they intend to use the images created, or for how long. If that’s the case then we can grant an unlimited license, but it’s always better to plan out the usage so we can craft a license that gets you what you need, but doesn’t have you paying more than necessary. If you don’t need to put the image on a billoard in Buenos Aries then you probably don’t need an unlimited license. Many times clients are also concerned that at the end of the license period that they will not be able to use the images any more. Not so, we’ll be happy to re-license the images at the same rate as they were originally licensed.

At the end of the day usage saves the client money by allowing the client to pay for only what they need.

Written by stevebuchanan

January 23, 2009 at 11:06 am

Why use a food stylist?

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sandwich, photograph, food, photo, maryland, maryland food photographer, md, dagwood, mid atlantic, commercial

The short answer is it makes the work better.  I know lighting.  I know composition. I know lenses and file types and filters.  I don’t know cooking, I don’t know food chemistry.  That’s where the food stylist comes in.  It’s the stylists forté to know how to cook the food (or not) in the manner that will produce the look you’re aiming for.  It’s a combination of experience, talent and education that makes this possible.  Food stylists are a great combination of chef and visual artist. Most stylists have degrees in culinary arts and years of experience in the food service industry.  They’ve learned the craft of food styling from apprenticeships as well as the occasional workshop or class at school.  A few come at it from the other direction and were artists, film makers or photographers who got into food styling from that side.

Often we’re approached by a restaurateur or small chain restaurant that’s looking to do some photography for marketing purposes.  Maybe they need shots for their menu, their website or other such uses.  Invariably the talk turns to pricing and after finding out what they need I’ll send over an estimate.  Since I like to keep my clients in the loop on exactly how they’re spending their money I itemize my estimates.  This will occasionally lead to the questioning of line items on the estimate and I’m happy to answer any questions.  Many clients will question the need for the food stylist stating, “Our chef can prepare the food, we don’t need a stylist.”  Sometimes they’re right.  Usually not.  The chef’s job is to prepare food that tastes out of this world.  Our job is to prepare food that looks out of this world.  How food is prepared for photography is nothing like how food is prepared for customers.

Above image styled by Harry McMann

Written by stevebuchanan

January 22, 2009 at 10:32 am

What’s the point of a copyright?

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The short answer is a copyright is the legal tool that allows an artist to control their creations and therefore profit from them.  Creators of intellectual property (photos, books, music, movies, etc) have a constitutional right to profit from their creations. Otherwise why create them in the first place? Ego? You can’t pay the mortgage with ego. 

Many purchasers of intellectual property rights are confused by the seemingly arbitrary pricing that creators charge. How can the same photo cost one buyer $200 and the same photo cost another buyer $2000?  The answer is impact. Intellectual property is basically free to duplicate, so the traditional economic model of supply and demand doesn’t apply. There’s a limitless supply of copies available so there needs to be a different model for determining pricing.  That $200 photo might end up being viewed by a couple thousand people whereas the $2000 photo might be viewed by 100,000. More impact, more money.  

There are other factors involved with pricing such as time and expense associated with the actual production, level of competition in the market and yes, there is a bit of arbitrary x factor in many pricing schedules, but there is a rhyme and reason to the process.

Written by stevebuchanan

January 5, 2009 at 11:04 am

John McCain, Jill Greenberg and Bob Garfield

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A few months ago portrait photographer Jill Greenberg made news among photographers, editors and others in the industry by shooting photos of John McCain, at that point the Republican nominee for President. She delivered the images exactly as assigned by her client (Atlantic Monthly) and then proceeded to shoot additional images for herself using lighting that was, um, unflattering. The ensuing crapstorm went on for a while with people all around saying not so nice things about other people and it all boiled down to this. She didn’t like McCain, and decided to make him appear evil. Not for publication, just for herself. Generally that’s fine but she really stepped in it when she published them on her blog. It got picked up, and well, it snowballs from there.

That was September. This week the NPR program “On the Media” has a larger story about journalism ethics (or lack thereof) in magazine photography. Their point being that there is no standard of objectivity among magazine photographers as their is among journalists. Generally I like OTM and there’s certainly enough to complain about in the magazine industry when it comes to photography, but they missed a big point. Among photographers, this type of work is generally referred to as editorial. If you turn to the editorial pages of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal you don’t see unbiased, objective journalism. You see analysis and personal commentary by the columnists. 

Photographers have a professional responsibility to their clients. We need to deliver the image they assign to us. We also have a responsibility to the industry our clients represent, in this case magazine publishing. Finally we have a responsibility to our subjects to be honest about our intentions. 

There’s probably an entire graduate level thesis here but in the meantime you can read more about it at…


Photo District News

On the Media

Jill Greenberg

Atlantic Monthly

Written by stevebuchanan

December 2, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Just keep swimming

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I’ve noticed a theme when I’m on the phone with current and (hopefully) future clients. They’re all saying that they’re not sure how things are going to pan out with the current economic snafu, and therefore they’re holding off on new marketing. To a certain extent this makes sense. We market when we have something new to say, a new product, new service, new location etc. Right now business expansion is pretty much kaput, so not much new going on. But this can also be counter productive. Right now your clients/customers are looking for ways to be more efficient and make their dollar go further. If they’re willing to change brand loyalties, how will they find you if you don’t market? Also, businesses that haven’t planned for the recession may not be around for much longer, which opens up the market to their old customers. How will they find you if you don’t market? There are several outstanding articles out there in the blogosphere on this…

Seth Godin

Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua

Duct Tape Marketing

Written by stevebuchanan

November 20, 2008 at 9:17 pm

It’s the network stupid

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handshake, maryland people photographer

Apologies to both Verizon Wireless and James Carville.

From time to time we get asked for something that’s outside our area of expertise. Of course it’s difficult to turn work away in any economy, but it’s important to make sure the client is always well served. We’ve spent a good deal of time and effort building an network of fellow professionals in a wide array of industries. From time to time we trader referrals and work hard to keep in touch with all of them regularly. I once heard a colleague describe a good referral as “sending someone you love to someone you trust. If you have a need that seems outside of how you normally think of us, give us a call anyway. It may be something we do all the time but have never done for you. If we can’t handle it, we probably already know someone who’s perfect for the task. And remember, it goes both ways, so let us know what you’re really good at and what you’re looking to do more of.

Seth Godin’s got a really good article on this subject here.  If you’re into marketing and you’re not regularly reading his blog, start.

Written by stevebuchanan

November 4, 2008 at 5:43 pm

Respect the copyright, part 3

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China’s record of protecting intellectual property rights has been, well, abysmal. Lately Microsoft has been ‘black screening’ users of pirated software when updating their software. Ironically, MS may be liable under Chinese law for hacking. (click here for story)  As one radio announcer put it, that’s like getting sued by the guy that stole your car because it has a flat tire.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally not a fan of Microsoft. To this day, I can’t use a windows machine without getting a shiver down my spine, but any organization that fights for intellectual property rights is ok in my book.  Please, don’t use pirated software.

Written by stevebuchanan

October 24, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Privacy and photography

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portrait photography in maryland

Privacy is a big issue today.  It might be a brawl in Beverly Hills between bodyguards and press photographers (paparazzi.) Or the company brochure with that guy in it that got caught stealing, the truth of the matter is that we live in a world that sometimes requires us to cover our, um, selves. Most photographers are familiar with model and property releases and many use them religiously, though by no means all.  In it’s simplest form a model release is a form that people in a photograph sign that gives photographer permission to use the photo in any way they see fit.  It’s irrevocable and usually will stipulate the subject has no say over how the final images will look. Of course, minors need an adult guardian to sign for them.  

A property release is basically the same thing, only instead of covering people, it covers private property. The general rule of thumb is anyone recognizable in a photo needs a release.  Exceptions to the rule are photos used for news purposes (magazine editorial usually is covered by this exception.)  In addition to technically being a contract, releases also generally head of any issues because, like all business paperwork, it forces the parties involved to answer the tough questions before they become long painful issues.

Written by stevebuchanan

October 24, 2008 at 10:09 am

Stock photography industry changes

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adirondack chairs on deck, annapolis, md

zipper ride at carnival, kent island, md

Ever since Photoshelter announced it would stop selling stock on their website I’ve been looking for other stock photo licensing opportunities. I currently sell food based stock through StockFood USA and are very happy with the relationship I have with them. But I’ve been trying to find a way to get my non-food based stock images out there in a relatively painless manor.  I don’t have a lot of this type of work so signing on with a traditional agency really wouldn’t work and I don’t have the time, expertise (or web traffic) to set up my own online sales engine.  For a while I thought that digital railroad might be an option, oh wait, they’re liquidating. Then today I read a note on Rob Haggart’s A Photo Editor blog about a new option, ImageSpan allows content creators (like me) to publish work with the licensing terms embedded into the file. The files are then shared with aggregators like base.google.com and Adobe Stock Photos. I’ve just listed a few images with them and we’ll see how things work out. I think this could be a great opportunity to open things up for relatively low volume image producers like me. The challenge for ImageSpan (or any small stock agency) will be to break through the entrenched subscription base the big players in the industry have. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Getty and Jupiter, in fact a lot of my Stockfood stuff is sub-represented at Getty.  I just like competition in the industry, it makes us all work harder.

Written by stevebuchanan

October 23, 2008 at 11:12 am