Assignment No. 2 Results

(in case you forget what the assignment was, click here)

Rather than spend a lot of text talking about each image, I thought I’d just post them all (yes, all… lots of people who said they were going to participate didn’t, more later on that) and talk in general about the results. Btw, the crops on the thumbnails below are a WordPress default I can’t figure out how to change. The whole images are linked to the thumbs, uncropped, so look at those to see the work as intended by the photographers. Also, I posted two images each from two different photographers– don’t get used to this. The rules are going to have to be followed more tightly as we get more participants and that means one photo to a photog. But for now, let’s just look at everything. 🙂

The photographers, in order (L->R)

David ZaitzMichelle Alger

Tony Novak-Clifford (both)

Justin ThorntonKen & Lois Wilder (funny, the two last names here make a famous Am. playwright)

Kevin HalliburtonJay Goodrich

Kelly Ng (both)

Rodney Yardley / Ryan Gibson

Adelio TrinidadWilliam Cardoza

First of all, I think you’ll notice that several people made images using the same basic subjects– that is, a fish bowl and toy house. This is not a bad thing! Just because several photographers thought of the same basic idea doesn’t mean there was a lack of creative thinking on their parts. When you are given an article to illustrate, finding something that communicates the major theme of the article to the masses will generate similar results. In fact, while some of the non-fishbowl images are great, a photo editor may not be thrilled with all of them as visual solutions because some of them weren’t as clear.

But even those that are similar aren’t the same. I have to say I have a fondness for Alger’s thumbs-up diver, but as I have said before, I have a warped sense of humor. And others went in very different directions, like Zaitz’ twisted homage to the famous Iwo Jima image. But I think everyone thought about the assignment, and that makes the work successful.

That being said, while only one photographer actually used text on the image(s), several sent explanatory notes. Here’s a hint: if you have to explain an image that goes with an article, it’s not strong enough (or, you don’t have enough confidence that the image is strong enough). Remember, the idea behind this assignment was that you were suppose to illustrate an article. So, the readers will have all the words already– you just need to visually represent the theme.

One of the photographers very kindly included his concepting worksheet and has given me permission to share it… that would be that last thumbnail, of course. I wanted to do this because I think it is great to show how at least one person thought through the problem. Thank you Kevin Halliburton, for being so willing to share.

He’s got an awful lot jammed onto this one page of notes and sketches! But he starts with the “Key Concepts” and that is really smart of him. From there he explores other ideas and you can see that his final concept is included on the page. Hard to tell if it was first or last or if he played with everything before deciding on that one, but whatever the system he used, he didn’t just pick one and not explore.

Of course, if this were a real assignment, the photographer would be talking with the photo editor throughout the process so the explanatory notes would not be needed either. I wanted to bring up those notes and the use of text above because, mostly, of the confidence issue. When you send an image, you need to believe it does what it is supposed to do! Moreover, you need to believe it’s good. One photographer sent an image with a note expressing that the photog did not expect to make the cut. Don’t say that! If you don’t believe in your work, who will? (It was a strong image, btw).

Generally, I am really proud of the growth and thought coming from some of you–especially those who don’t usually do conceptual work. There is a lot of thinking in these images, and that is what is most important. Anyone can learn the technical stuff, but the thought is harder– it really has to come from inside the artist.

So, for those of you who submitted, I am really pleased. For those of you who meant to but didn’t, I’m sure for some of you it was a case of getting busy with “real” work, but for some of you it was a case of just not getting your shit together. You know which category you’re in. I encourage all of you to try and do the next assignment. Make it a significant priority–don’t give up paying work, of course, but PLAN and SCHEDULE to make it happen otherwise, that includes time to concept.

I’ll post the next assignment within a week. I have some thoughts swirling about it.

In the meantime, how about some comments from all of you about this one…

Taxes & Donations

This issue is popping up again on the forums so I thought I’d mention it here. In the USA, if you want to do pro bono work, great, fabulous, but don’t look for a tax benefit from it. You cannot deduct the value of your donated time or services (and that includes usage fees). This is actually one of the clearest IRS rules out there. You can find it here, in Publication 526.

Those are the actual words used in that IRS publication, btw: You cannot deduct the value of your time or services.
Shockingly clear, especially for anything coming from the IRS, isn’t it?

Now, even though you don’t get to write of the value, you do want to preserve the value in the mind of your pro bono clients. You never know when Betty from your favorite charity will leave to work for Big Corp and want to hire you. This way, she’ll have a clue what the value of your services (and the industry in general) really are. You do this by showing on your invoice the full value and then noting a discount.

For example:

Creative Fee   $2500
Usage License   $3500
Total   $6000
Discount   -$6000
Balance Due $0

So I encourage you to give to organizations you believe in and want to help. But do it because it comes from your heart and forget about getting anything out of it. Just give.

THE Change

Stop what you are doing and watch this. Wired has this great video about their new iPad version. Note that this vid shows actual code, not CGI.

More importantly, note how they talk about this change is (very possibly) the one that will result in an experience users will want to pay for. Wired isn’t going to be giving their work away for free, it sounds like, even though there will be plenty of ads in the iPad edition.

Also note how they are encouraging sharing the content via social media tools. I’m assuming this means clips and links, not wholesale shifting of the content, but whatever it is, it means that your images will be seen by more and more people.

This change in publishing, what I think may indeed be THE change we’ve been hoping for, requires photographers to reconsider their pricing models. What used to be okay for print editorial should not be for this expansive use. And when it comes to the ads that will be in pubs like this, the game is also changed. How will the pricing work? That is something that needs to be worked out.

But I can tell you this: if photographers give it away now, in these early days, they will be setting a bar they will never be able to raise later.

We need metrics and an understanding of how the pubs will be billing advertisers to understand the relative value of images in both the editorial content and the ads in these new iPad-ish pubs. Now is the time to be open and to work WITH publishers, but that doesn’t mean rolling over on the numbers. Respect can and must go both ways on this. Photographers (and illustrators) are going to be more important to grabbing content consumers’ attention– the pubs know this. We need to figure out a fair and equitable way to help these pubs succeed and for creative content providers to get paid for their work.


Discussing photography

Here are a couple of links to keep you busy today.

The first is Andrew Hetherington’s knock-off of the Dinner for Five idea– a roundtable (in this case literally) of photographers.

The second is a new photo industry info aggregator: The PhotographyPost.

Me, I’m going to be in bed, nursing a wicked cold and reading for law school. Lucky for me we didn’t have classes yesterday or today so I’m not missing anything for being sick… except my only break for the term. Poo.

Get to this if you can

If I weren’t going to be in the middle of my finals, I would absolutely be at this…

ASMP presents Copyright and the New Economy: Issues & Trends Facing Visual Artists

April 21 in NYC.

Damn. Should be great. Looks like the speakers and panelists are really knowledgeable people in these areas, including Prof. Lessig of Harvard, whom I have historically loathed for creating Creative Commons but who recently has begun to shift his views some. I’d love to hear what he has to say at this event.

So, I can’t go, but if there is any way you can, get yourself there. This is all about the legal and economic foundation of your livelihood!

Not doing

Because I am a full-time law student, I simply cannot do a lot of what I would like to do for the industry these days. For example, I have to take a pass on working with many individual clients, and that hurts financially, of course. But also, I can’t follow up on many of the important news stories that affect the community– at least not anywhere near as much as I like. And that is frustrating. There are things happening of which I am aware, but I don’t have the time to research them as I would normally. Gaaah!

But this is necessary. Not doing now is what I must do in order later to do more and better. I focus now on my legal studies so that after I graduate and (please o please) pass the bar, I can really serve my clients well.

This is true for all of us. We have to make sacrifices now to get something better later. But sometimes I think we forget that. Sure, the culture these days is one of immediate gratification and that is a contributing factor, but I think as mostly individual businesspeople we feel the obsessive need to do everything and to do it right now. Once we start working for ourselves, somehow, not doing doesn’t seem like an option any more.

But it is.

Here are 10 reasons to not do:

  1. You cannot do everything. It’s impossible, so give it up.
  2. The more you do, the greater the probability (not “possibility” even) that you will suck at it. You won’t be giving anything the attention it requires.
  3. Multitasking is the worst way to work. (see #2)
  4. Trying to be all things for all possible clients dilutes your message so that in the buyer’s mind you are nothing special.
  5. Delayed gratification makes you more grateful.
  6. Taking the time to cultivate your vision means less $$ now but more in the long run, like over the course of your career.
  7. Investments of time are at least as valuable as investments in money (or, increased skills = increased rates).
  8. Focusing on doing the work that you love (and not doing the crap work) and building a business based on that may mean a business that starts more slowly, but it will have better legs.
  9. Taking the time off to regenerate yourself will make you more productive.
  10. Taking time to be with people you love, without the phone or work distractions, will improve your relationships resulting in a better mental state for you and more productivity overall.