Category Archives: Business
Why Does It cost so much? –or– Why don’t I own it?
Filed under, “If I had a nickel for every time I heard this….”
The education of commercial art buyers at the client direct level is awash in a sea of misinformation and self-appointed know-it-alls. Some days I see the advantage of having a personal firing squad.
Professional Photography costs X dollars because commercial licensing of intellectual property is a component of the service we sell. Referring specifically to professional photography, we don’t make widgets. We don’t sell real estate. We don’t collect data and mine it for you. We do work on commission, we work at creating intellectual property in the form of visuals and it’s the intellectual property rights built into each and every photograph we build that provides us the ability to make a living wage. Licensing the use of intellectual property for your business or personal needs is part of our business model.
If one works in a situation where someone else carries the weight for you, (benefits, salary, retirement, etc.) then the idea of artists’ intellectual property rights may indeed be a mystery. Add in the costs of doing business, the need to make a reasonable profit and our pricing structure and you have our business model just about summed up.
It’s painful when we negotiate and end up not only having been denied our licensing rights, but maddening when those rights aren’t even acknowledged. It’s not a gift or an entitlement. It’s a right. Artists own their creative works unless they sign them away. It’s the creative-art-patent.
We do not create products. We create the expression of an idea. It’s custom designed to fit your needs and desires. If you’re willing to pay for it you can own our intellectual property rights by an outright purchase and transfer of our copyright. Not recommended of course due to the expense, but it ‘s available. I’ve sold it a few times in my career.
If you’re unable or unwilling to purchase our intellectual work outright then we’ll come to an agreement that let’s you license the portions you need and we’ll keep the rest. We’re then free (through our ingenuity and efforts) to look for other opportunities and revenue streams. Again, this is our business model.
When you purchase a home you are purchasing the property rights to that home and land. When you buy a DVD you own the physical disk but not its’ content. You’ve licensed the content for a specific use. Period. That intellectual property is the property of the creating party….movie studio or independent filmmaker.
I lose projects because ownership issues (my rights) drive costs past what seem like arbitrarily low budgets. Education about this issue is important to both sides so a mutually beneficial understanding is developed.
I’m not inflexible in my pricing either. I’ve adjusted with the state of the economy but it isn’t enough; a request for a quote came in: ten business professional headshots, retouched and ready to post online. The shoot was to be on location about 13 miles from my studio. I normally charge $600.00 a shot for volume jobs like this. But I wanted to see where the bottom was so I came in at the ridiculously low price of $95.00 a shot. I was crazy to let this quote out of my office but I needed to see where bottom was. But in fact I was too high! Some other knucklehead (dumber than me) low-balled the crap out of it after I already low-balled the crap out of it. That’s four low balls! And it wasn’t enough.
Now where’s that firing squad?
But it’s also something much more. More profound. More disturbing than at any other time in my career.
It’s the inability of individuals and businesses to accept that bargaining for these rights (or even the effort to understand and grasp the concept of ownership, licensing, copyright and associated costs) makes us crazy. Ready. Aim….
It costs more than you realize, or want to spend, or have been told is your budget to spend because it’s convenient not to think about what it takes to engage a professional who trades in the photographic arts.
The copyright law that protects every creative’s intellectual property rights includes photographers. And movie studios. And authors. And songwriters. And poets. And comedy acts. And TV shows. And professional sports leagues. We’re in good company and we aim to stay put.
So please listen when we tell you the proper way to license or purchase our intellectual property. It protects you from unauthorized use. If you use protected work that has been registered it gets expensive in a hurry.
But you know that right?
You don’t think I’m going to press my advantage if I catch you? Most likely I will. It’s about respect and acknowledgement of what our rights and protections are. Rights and protections we fight to keep in spite of what our government of the United States of Business tries to do. Daily. You have rights and protections that you want honored and enforced, company trademarks, patents and the like.
It’s a two-way street and today’s economic environment is no excuse for fostering an attitude that belittles the process, diminishes the relationship and adds to everyone’s stress level.
I build photographs, I don’t take pictures.
Thanks for reading.
Next week I’ll be attending the opening of a group show that I’m part of at the offices of IDA in Culver City, CA. The show opens April 19 at 6pm. Stop by if you’re in the area and we’ll have a toast:
8440 Warner Drive, Suite A1
Culver City, CA 90232
3 pieces were selected and I of course am thrilled at seeing my personal art form on public display. This isn’t the first public showing I’ve had for Remnants but it will be the most visible.
IDA is a busy design studio with many people moving in and out during the week and I look forward to connecting with folks who are attracted to my particular vision.
It doesn’t stop there either. I have a book out on the subject and maybe I’ll make a sale or two….
All in all a part of any artists’ plan should be to get the work out and have it seen by as large an audience as possible.
The journey continues…
Back in December I posted “Tuning Your Opportunity Radar“, where I wrote about one method I use to search out and market to businesses that mesh well with my photography business goals.
I’m glad to report this new piece of business came in and has begun generating assignments. I’ve completed three already, my new client is satisfied with the images, service and fees. I’ve been told that she believes she’s working with the right photographer. Sweet!
Right now we’re working on finalizing the rights agreement and we expect to sign a professional services contract before the bulk of the work commences this summer.
I expect to work on this project during the construction phase, it’s after construction phase (beauty photographs) and when it’s put into use as a concert hall. To that end my long term goal is to build trust, confidence and comfort with all the folks attached to this project.
Business is out there folks. But you must define what type of business you want and then develop a plan. And then put that plan into motion. And adjust as things unfold before you. Stay positive, stay focused and stay determined to see your plan through, whatever the outcome as any outcome will provide valuable information to you about your thinking, your personality, your methods and your tolerance level. This is a good thing to know when you’re self-employed.
Well I’m back in business with a new website and I know more now then I ever thought or ever wanted to know about WordPress sites, themes, pages custom menus, ftp transfers, directories and root folders…the list goes on and on…
Consolidating three sites down to one, working with three different customer support systems, support tickets, email conversations and live chats…drove me nuts for the past 3 weeks.
If the support forums are a true indicator, setting up a WordPress site is a PIA and I never want to go through this again. It may appear to be a simple process on the surface but the instructions are anything but, especially if you’re used to simple, direct, plain language and are a visual/hands on learner like I am.
Thanks for your patience. I look forward to spending time the rest of this year helping you in your endeavors…
’til the next post.
Hello all…well I updated my site to make it a more enjoyable user experience and because I’m not an IT guru, the update is a screw up. Missing blog photos and the subscription widget is just two issues that have annoyed me to the point that I’m moving my entire site and changing its look to make it more manageable.
Sorry for the inconvenience, I’m working as fast as I can on the move. It came up on me without warning and it’s a priority to fix.
There’s been an interesting discussion lately on Linked In about quoting prices for selling copyrights to another party. People have different ideas about what that should cost and what it practically means to you as an artist when selling your claim of authorship. I’ve been working on a blog post covering how to sell the idea of intellectual property rights transfers to your clients but it’s not ready for prime time. In the meantime I will be appearing on a panel next week that discusses how to make money from licensing your intellectual property rights and how to sell the idea to your markets…
This live webinar will be recorded for later playback. In addition to myself, Jason Horejs from Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale AZ, and entertainment law attorneys Todd and Jeff Brabec fill out this interesting and dynamic panel. More information and sign up is here.
Hope to see you on the broadcast with your questions…and our answers.
This program is being put on by the Copyright Alliance, an organization I proudly support.
For all self-employed people saving for the time when you want to work less and play more is as crucial as the product or service your business is providing. That being said, it ain’t always easy but it must always be a significant part of your monthly, quarterly or yearly plan. If not then what’s going to happen when the world no longer wants your product or service or you choose to no longer provide it? Dog food and newspaper blankets? Drastic for sure but you get my point. Plan, prepare and enjoy or else your later years will not be much fun. Or comfortable.
I’ve been saving and planning since 1983. I’ve had many good years of savings and investment growth and several years of it going the other way. The point is to get in the game. If you don’t play in some form or fashion then you don’t have any room to complain when you come up empty. I had a friend who worked very hard as an auto mechanic for years…supported his wife, two kids and his mother. Admirable for sure but he didn’t take care of himself or his future. I kept urging him to put something away. Even 50 bucks a month. Just begin the process. Get used to putting something aside, it gets easier each time you do it. He didn’t listen. Said his kids would take care of him like he did for his mom. Well he got hurt and working on cars was more difficult. His wife left him (that’s another story), his kids grew. His mother passed. The business he worked at was sold out from under him and he was let go. Last time I saw him he was living in a guest house trading rent for handyman favors around the property. Pathetic.
I know others in the same boat and while I feel for them, it was on them to do something and they didn’t. I know it’s a struggle. But you have to do something. Period. Remember nobody loves you like you mother. And sometimes not even her. So you gotta do it for yourself.
What can you do to begin? Read up on the terms used in the investment industry: stocks, bonds, returns, dividends, etc. Get familiar with the terms. Understand what they try to do. Understand the concept of risk. Find a broker and get a dialog going about what you can do with the money you have and how to begin investing. Don’t invest yet. Make them provide you with a written plan. I’ve had bad experiences with Prudential, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. I’m with a smaller firm called Crowell Weedon. I make sure they explain everything in writing. I get to stop by whenever I feel like it or I can call anytime. I’m trying to become more educated and savvy about how my money works for me.
I know my risk tolerance profile and what I’m comfortable with. For the record, I’ll take on moderate risk and I look for stocks paying a dividend. I reinvest those dividends. It’s a way to grow an investment without having to do much once the initial purchase it made. I also own value companies whose stocks grow in value over time
This is greatly simplified but it’s the point I’m making that is key here: do something today. Start small. Read first, you’ll be able to formulate better questions to ask the person you’ll be entrusting your money with. Losses are inevitable. So are gains. The trick is to have more of the later than former.
It ain’t easy and it ain’t that hard. But you have to begin. Today.
Do it and enjoy a comfortable time when you’d rather not work.
One way for an SECP to stay ahead of the pack is by pushing the envelope of their technical and visual creativity. Application of the tilt-shift edge blur miniaturization effect has been around since 2006 but that’s no reason not to explore it further. I love the deliberate miniaturization effect it creates and I’m a huge fan of this look. Focal Point from OnOne Software is an application that is good at creating this look in post-production. Photoshop CS6 has a tilt-shift blur filter. I also like the way edge blurring brings ones focus (pun intended) to the center of the frame. Although sometimes it doesn’t work… In compositions that include architectural elements, I like things squared up as per the basketball hoop. In basketball a lot of the action occurs away from the center of the hoop. Because I refused to budge the camera position, my best photos were when the action happened dead center. When the action was even slightly off center the images are flawed. Oops! Lesson learned. Action photography requires more fluid camera movement. Check.
I’m using it to create an effect on 60,000 images for a time lapse video. (Let me know if you want to see it and I’ll send out a link when it’s complete.) And if you know your stuff you can create a tilt-shift like effect in LR4. The advantage of doing the tilt-shift blur effect in post-production is that the effect can be controlled to produce a variety of permutations. And to some degree most all permutations are valid. This is both the good and bad about working in a post-production digital workflow because for some folks it apparently relieves them of the responsibility of thinking more profoundly about their work when actually building their photographs in real time. Don’t get me worng (:() I love working after-the-fact, spending time tweaking and adjusting my vision until the wee hours of the morning. But I occasionally work in real time, under real pressure to make my shots. It’s exciting. And dangerous because failure is hanging out with me. We’re friends of course, been together a long time. Being 100% present while shooting reconnects me to the creative process that drew me to photography all those summers ago.
All of the photographs you see here were done live. Meaning I made the appropriate choices while shooting and didn’t rely on post-production tilt-shift techniques to complete my images. I could have, but chose not to. I chose to give myself the challenge by doing it in camera without a net. Or Franky. (if you get the reference I’ll send you a signed copy of my book. But hurry only three will be winners). I also did it while working with vastly different subject matter and lighting scenarios. All with my trusty Canon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift lens. Choosing to shoot in the moment made me focus on the task at hand and not fall into the “we’ll fix it in post” mentality that pervade many younger creatives today. I admit sometimes it’s tempting to go the easy way when in the field and finish it up in post. I wanted a break from that workflow. And I wanted to test myself. The post-production software and tools I mentioned earlier are great and I’ve used them all. I just want to feel alive again and not some sort of robot that pushes buttons first and creates later.
This took me back to my roots, (gray as they are) and I’m glad to do it for it brings me to my point…I possess an vast amount of imaging experience and it’s my right and mission to bring it to the marketplace so my clients see my vision and hopefully how it can work for their projects when they need something that is thoughtful, relevant and done at the highest level.
I’m not saying all the photos here are home runs. (to see a more images click here) Heck a couple are only doubles. I can live with that because a lot of valuable knowledge was gained that will be applicable at the appropriate time. I choose to show you my work in various states because the subject matter and local conditions really matter when it comes to building effective tilt-shift images. This newly acquired knowledge in turn makes me more valuable in the marketplace because I know what will and will not work in a given situation. A business building skill meshing with a photographic building skill. what more could I ask for? Oh yeah…work!
Thanks for reading.
I was on the phone yesterday with the vice-president of photography operations for a very large company in New York. (I trust you can appreciate I keep their identity secret) They are on the verge of beginning a high-profile project in LA and I’m determined to be the contractor for their photography needs. The VP called me so we could get to know each other a bit. How did I manage to get this very busy person to call me?
I read the LA Times every morning when I’m in town. There is usually no shortage of stories about new business dealings happening LOCALLY. I emphasize locally because there is a lot of business to be had locally if one knows where to look. This particular story appeared in the LA Times in mid-summer. I could tell by the story that it would be a few months before anything got rolling. So I planned what I would say when I eventually (and hopefully) connected with the right person. As part of my research to locate this point person, I had to first locate the company contact info. Easy and difficult: for this company, it’s easy to reach the people who sell tickets, provide customer service, provide guest relations, etc. But nowhere on the company website were the relevant phone numbers listed. A Google search didn’t help either. But my opportunity radar kept beeping and I wasn’t going to ignore a good lead. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
I began by calling the lost and found office. (I was lost wasn’t I?) The person tried to be helpful and perused the company directory for me but after a few minutes of going nowhere fast I suggested the HR department as the place to go. But I was sent to another department by mistake. I assumed (wrong!) that I was indeed in HR and proceeded (after introducing myself) with my spiel. After a minute the person who answered laughed and said I was in the wrong department but sent me to HR as a courtesy.
I introduced myself again, (third time’s a charm) stated my purpose and then went on with my pitch. After a few minutes it was clear that this person had no idea what I was talking about (neither did the others I might add) but kindly suggested that perhaps the VP of photography might be the right person. I was sent directly to this persons’ voicemail, left a message and within ten minutes received a call back. And it was the correct person to speak with. Bullseye! Right where I wanted to be.
We spoke for a few minutes (this was just an intro chat) but covered important ground. I made sure to ask questions about this person and how they came into the position of VP. It’s not all about me and my needs. It’s about their work, their needs and how I may be able to help them. This is my radar equation: tuning into the correct opportunities for the work I want to produce. I invest time into knowing what type of work I prefer to do and I sniff out those opportunities that fulfill the mission. Simple. Easy. Takes patience and a willingness to hang in there when all inquiries seem like dead ends. It’s a process.
I’ve been doing this sort of business development for years and have had my successes for sure. And this seems like one of them. I’ve also experienced failures but that is the game isn’t it? Win some. Lose some. Spend time with your family.
Good luck tuning your opportunity radar.
I am an inspired and motivated person, otherwise I wouldn’t have hung around as long (30+ years) in the world of self-employment. (and as an artist no less!) But nonetheless, it’s important to put in process protocols that help drive one towards achievable goals. As a self-employed person, I’m always hunting for sources (old and new) to inspire and motivate. Today as I’m reading the online version of the LA Times, I got my hit reading Dear Amy. I have been a huge fan of advice columnists for decades, it’s one of the first places I go to when reading any periodical, while traveling, at home or otherwise occupied!
Today’s column had the catch phrase that is the title of this post…”Success Is Up To You.”
Of course there are obstacles that will get in your way: life on a daily basis, other peoples agendas, your own fears, etc. You have to figure out a way to get over these real (and often times) imagined humps. I fight this on a daily basis too. I’ve trained myself and learned over the years to accept my weaknesses and to play to my strengths. It ain’t easy. Of course if it was, we’d all be successful at working for ourselves.
So what to do? Try reading as much human interest and “how I did it” stories as you can. I’ve found these stories get me thinking about my own situation, what could I have done differently, what could I be doing differently and how not make the same mistake twice. Occasionally folks in the stories I read are people I already know about or have some connection to. That in itself is a validation that I am successful. We self-employed types must take it where we find it. Validations lurk everywhere…
What else? In addition to my chief role as a professional photographer, I have developed a career as a public speaker, trainer and author. Don’t get me wrong I am not in the 1%. I don’t live in the rarefied air of servants and private jets. I am middle class, I own a home, have money saved up and my son attends private school on a partial scholarship. Success is up to me to identify and define. Another marker for success is that I sleep well at night. Tossing and turning tells me I’m f_ _ _ _ _ _ g up somewhere and that I must deal with the issues sooner rather than later. Procrastination isn’t healthy.
I endeavor to do good for others and I try to do the right thing. That is success for me.
What else? I try to go out and meet people now more than ever and have new experiences as much as possible. This is a new strategy for me as I’m usually a homeboy, content to work out of my home office (success!) and commune in my garden (success!) I’ve added a new social aspect to my “Success Is Up To You” paradigm and it’s working: just yesterday I was speaking with a friend who is well-connected in the arts business. She is consulting with someone well-connected in the arts education business and they both know me. I got into a conversation with my friend (and just so happened to have met with the arts education person earlier in the week) and helped her bring some clarity to an issue she is struggling with. Success! Because of my comments and experience in arts education, I’ve been asked to serve on a panel. Success!
Success is up to me!