Stop allowing others to take advantage of you!

20150321_CHS_FW_Bridal_BW-0003As a long time professional photographer, I still am thrilled when a publication contacts me and offers me an opportunity to do photography for them. It usually goes something like this;

“Hi! This is So-and-So from XYZ publication. We’ve seen your work and would love to have you cover a photo project for us!”

Well thank you for noticing my work. Where was it that you saw my work? (I’m always interested in finding out which images others find compelling.) Please tell me a little about your project.

“We have a couple of stories that need accompanying images for our upcoming issue, including a cover shot. Would you be available in the next week or two?”

Checking my schedule, I mention several dates that are open. Now comes the fun part…

What kind of budget are you offering? What’s involved and how much time will be required? I ask.

“Oh, we’re pretty tight, and this will be used for editorial. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or so!” says the happy voice on the other end of the line.

With this in mind, we agree on a price for our first collaboration, and then I ask about how their accounts payable would like to have the invoice and how quickly I may expect payment after the shoot. I find out that they normally pay after the issue comes out which can be a month or more. At this point, I give my little speech about not being the Bank of Stan, and that they can have price or terms, but not both. The happy voice tells me that they can expedite it if needed. It’s needed. Before bidding each other farewell, they mention that they will need to have me fill out their W9 and sign a contract. I’ve seen a lot of contracts, and there’s never anything in it for the photographer.

When the contract shows up in my e-mail, sure enough, they want it all and are giving no quarter. A couple of things get my attention. If they decide not to publish the images, no pay will be forthcoming. They require all copyrights to be transferred to them in perpetuity and the photographer may not use them whatsoever. All of the liability during the shoot lies with the photographer (which isn’t really an issue as I have liability and E&O insurance), including securing all model & property releases. Most people tend to glaze over when reading any sort of contract as the boilerplate is mind numbing, but when it comes to your livelihood, I highly suggest taking the time to examine it thoroughly.

So maybe the next time you get the “opportunity “ to do Work Made For Hire, you might take the time to look out for your interests as well. Just remember, if you don’t, nobody else will!

Safe travels!

2015 – The year of CunningFox Photo Education

Contrary to popular belief, I have not been trapped by a large piece of office furniture or kidnapped since the end of December!

As some of you may know, I have been very fortunate to partner up with other wonderful photographers over the past four decades and last year brought together three of us on a new project. It all started from a desire to create something bigger than each of us was capable of by ourselves, and to be able to “give back” through speaking engagements, workshops and mentoring. The culmination of several months of meeting and brainstorming resulted in CunningFox Photo Education, with partners Douglas Carr Cunningham and Iveta Butler.

We began in earnest with a free monthly speaking series hosted through the City of North Charleston, featuring photographic topics for all levels of photographers. Douglas was able to bring ThinkTank camera bags on board as our first corporate sponsor, allowing us to give away some of the best bags in the industry to our participants!

At the same time, we’ve been working hard to finish The Charleston Darkroom, the premier black and white darkroom in the region, along with a workshop / classroom for lighting, posing, product and presentations. To say all of this has been a labor of love for us is quite the understatement and we are so looking forward to sharing this with the photographic community. Best of all, we get to have a blast doing this together.

For now, I leave you with a few images to show what we’ve been up to. Normal service to resume soon!

The-Charleston_Darkroom-001 The-Charleston_Darkroom-004 20150202_CFPE_ThinkTank_winner-001 20141201_CFPE-004 20141201_CFPE-005 20141201_CFPE-006 20141103_CFPE_Presentation_winner-001

In search of the next great image

The life-long pursuit of the next great image

I have been on a quest…, for the past four decades. And me thinks I’ll be on this quest for many years to come. Not quite as “out there” like Monty Python’s Holy Grail, but close. Yes, the Quest for The Next Great Image still has a hold on me.

I have seen so many wondrous things through the lens and many that just make you stop and say “Huh?” out loud. The joy in all of this is that there is plenty of fodder for interesting (at least to me) conversations and stories. As it has been said before; it’s not the destination, but the journey that matters.

I suppose I should give you a little background first. I fell in love with photography at the ripe old age of 12. My dad had given me his Agfa Ambi Silette 35mm rangefinder with three lenses and my grandfather had given me his Polaroid Land Camera. I was in heaven, as I had finally found a medium that I could create with as my mind’s eye saw. Previously to photography, I was into drawing and spent many hours a day working on the kitchen table, my desk or my grandfather’s drafting table. The big issue was that everything I tried to draw would wind up becoming an airplane, a motorcycle or a car of some sort. No matter how hard I tried to capture nature and the human form, it eluded me.

Once armed with my trusty camera (and there have been a lot of them over the years!) I could go out into the world and create to my hearts content. But I found that no matter how nice the images looked or the compelling story they told, I always felt like the next time would even be better. Please don’t get me wrong; I have had the good fortune to produce some very compelling images over the years, even published in a wide variety of publications. My clients have usually been quite thrilled with what I am able to produce for them (especially on those next to impossible deadlines and small budgets!) and people enjoy viewing my images. It is me that is my worst critic. I imagine that some of you are also your own worst critic, too.

As I approach each new day, and another chance to create images, I do my best to see things from a different viewpoint. Sometimes I change things up entirely just to see how it comes out. Like hauling a station wagon load of lights and modifiers out to photograph caterpillars feasting on milkweed or taking a walk with just a fisheye lens on my camera and capturing my usual locations with a different look. And portraits can look real interesting when shot with a fisheye!

So as I get ready for another crazy week of sittings, events and meetings to photograph, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for that elusive next great image!

Ciao!Testing / having fun with the Sigma 50mm 1.4 around Charleston 20140613_OSA_web 0095 20141003_Mike_Floyd_web-0001 20141017_ACE_Cafe-002 20141017_Italian_Trade_Association_AIMExpo-003 20141017_National_Cycle-001 20141026_Charleston_Cruise_Ship-001 20141028_Da_ECC_Boyz-001 20141108_NCIFF_Morning_Program-0006 20141109_NCIFF_Finale-0147 A to Z Tree & Land Service, Rome GA Burdick_Gang 002 Burdick_Gang 005 Dorchester County 1/8th mile dragway test & tune night Lemus 001 Megan Landreth photo test Miranda Charleston Riverkeeper's 2012 Oyster Point Runoff

My professional photography support group

A funny thing happened to me the other day. I had been at a SCORE business workshop (for us creative types, something I highly advise going to!), wanting to energize my business brain. The speaker mentioned how businesses should make it a point to use images unique to their own company. While she was speaking about not using stock images (as everyone has the same image, what sets you apart?) I was nodding my head in agreement. And then she said something that stuck in my brain; “Don’t steal images to use on your website and marketing materials.” It got me to wonder, as I am a long time professional photographer, if anyone had stolen my images to use on their site in the digital age.

So I decided to do a rudimentary search using Google, and low and behold found a batch of wedding images I had done for a client / friend a few years back. The problem was they were showcased on another photographer’s blog, with their watermark, and some bad editing, and a statement telling her reading public that I had given my client the images without editing them. That she “had come to the rescue!” and had just finished these wonderful “edits” for them. I felt like I had been kicked between the legs and slightly nauseated. Who was this person I had never heard of telling people that I wasn’t professional enough to finish the images before presenting them to my client. That hurt. (The client had been given finished files plus an archive of the RAW images for safekeeping at their request.)

Enter the calm, cool, collective thoughts I had; Why, I’ll sue! I’ll make a scene! I’ll call Professional Photographers of America! Copyright infringement! Argh! Sputter….

Maybe before I fly off the handle, I should get another perspective on this. I belong to a great group of photographers located in beautiful Charleston SC. So I thought I would put the question to them, especially since my friend and fellow pro Chris Smith had just posted yesterday about image theft. I made it a point to make screen captures of the offending site, just in case.

What I got in response was amazing! Within minutes there was an outpouring of support from my fellow professional photographers, with many recommendations on how to proceed. I decided to start by requesting the offending photographer remove the post with my images that they had post-processed and added their watermark. I dug around and also found their phone number and proceeded to call. Without going into all the details, let’s just say the first call wasn’t as fulfilling as I had hoped, with a rather curt response, no apology and finally an agreement that they would take down the post. Well, I thought, at least that (post removal) is done. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. It was the photographer, sounding a little nicer this time. I actually think I got an apology, in between the justifications for why it was done.

Two things came from this for me. The first was that we should all remain diligent in protecting our intellectual property and company reputation. Yes it is a little time consuming, but know when these things happen and dealing with them quickly and efficiently is key.

The second was much more meaningful for me. The power of support and friendship from my peers in a tough industry that has such a profound impact on my wellbeing, that it actually put me in a much better space which carried over into the rest of my day! Sometimes we don’t realize how many people we have out there willing to take up the charge for us or cover our back. How do you even put a value on that? Pretty cool, indeed!

B&W Photography

The least desirable position on a WWII B17G heavy bomber was the underbelly ball turret. Only one way in and one way out, so if the ball should jamb in another position, the hatch could not be operated. Part of my Black & White Photo Challenge series.

Next week, The ProActive Photographer; Why I love being the second shooter at weddings.

Safe journey!