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Copyright 2012 Blake J. Discher

In an effort to hone my motion skills, I enter contests from time to time and have put together a great crew for producing films or shorts that (I’m proud to say) have received awards. The most recent effort was a one minute “commercial” for TechDeck, those miniature skateboards kids (including my eight-year old son) play with.

Another contest is the 48-Hour Film Project, which I’ll be heading up a team in mid-July here in Detroit. Our warm up was a local community college’s 48-Hour challenge this past winter where our team took one of the three prizes offered.

Today, a good friend asked if I’d be interested in taking part in a contest run by the folks at a company called Zooppa (twitter @crowdcreativity hashtag #zooppa). From their website, www.zoopa.com:

What is Zooppa?
Zooppa is the place where you can make your own ads for famous brands. Brands provide a creative brief for each competition, and award prizes for the best ads. At Zooppa you can make money, meet other creatives, grow your portfolio, and have your work seen by millions. Whether you’re film maker, an animator or a graphic designer, Zooppa is the place for you.

Actually, Zooppa might NOT be the place for us, read on…

Read more » » »

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Most emerging photographers consider themselves generalists if for no other reason than that they want to work and any paying job coming their way sounds like a good one. But if this is where you’re at in your career, you’ll need to at some point do two things: first, become more of a specialist and second, be willing to let go of those early, low-paying clients. In this essay I’ll talk about the low-paying clients.

Let’s imagine the owner of the muffler shop on the corner of Main Street calls you to shoot some pictures of his shop for an ad he is running in the local weekly newspaper. We’ll call him Joe. He’s only willing to pay a small fee and you’ve done all you can to show him your value, why you’re better than everyone else, and most important, you’re convinced you’ve negotiated as far as you can with him on price. You do the shoot, he’s very satisfied, and he wants you to do more work. The fact remains though, he’s a low budget client.

I’m convinced there are two ways to make more money in any service business, including photography: work more or get better clients. I’ve taken the road of working to get better clients. More sophisticated clients understand copyright, understand licensing, and are in general much easier to work with. They are used to working with professionals in every aspect of their business.

Joe on the other hand sells a muffler and his customer owns it. Forever. The very concept of copyright is possibly foreign to him. He thinks since he’s paid you to take the photograph, he owns it. Licensing? That’s at the Department of Motor Vehicles!

As you begin to gain better clients, don’t be afraid to let go of Joe… ask me how I know. What happened to me will happen to you, guaranteed. You’ll have a day booked with low-paying Joe, and that great client you’ve been after for some time now, calls you asking you to shoot that very same day.

Don’t let Joe hold you back. At some point it’s no longer worth it to work for him. Instead, use that time working on your website, your physical portfolio, your other marketing efforts, tweaking your LinkedIn profile, or making a few phone calls or sending samples to prospective clients.

To move forward, you need to let go of whatever it is that’s holding you back. Even if it’s a client. The one exception, at least for me, is the low-paying client who is a rich referral source. To this day, I have one client who, even though I’ve not raised my rates for over ten years, consistently gives me quality referrals. She knows to keep my ten-year-old pricing “our little secret” and in fact pre-sells me as “one of the more expensive photographers in town, but definitely the best!”

I’ll be presenting my sales and networking program “No More Grumbling – Get Out There” in Dallas tonight, September 22nd, and in New Orleans on Tuesday, September 27th.

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ASMP is bringing Strictly Business 3 conference to Los Angeles on January 21-23, 2011 over in downtown LA at Sheraton. [And I'm going to be a part of it!] Interesting part is instead of a set list of classes, you are free to choose 6 of the following :

  • The Agile Photographer: A Multimedia Partner for Business w/ Jay Kinghorn
    The Artist Lost and Found with Sean Kernan
    The Basics of Copyright, Licensing and Pricing with Susan Carr
    Breaking Into the Biz with Judy Herrmann
    Choose and Use Your Catalog Software with Peter Krogh
    Copyright Registration Workshop with Kate Baldwin and Jim Cavanaugh
    Essential Business Basics with Susan Carr, Judy Herrmann and Richard Kelly
    Essential Pre-production for Video: How to Budget, Quote and Crew Video Projects w/Richard Harrington
    Finding The Right Gallery For You with Thomas Werner
    Microstock: End of the world or a new world of opportunity? w/Ellen Boughn
    Multimedia & Digital Video Primer with Jay Kinghorn
    Secrets to Driving Traffic to Your Blog with Rosh Sillars
    Shooting Video with the HDSLR Cameras with Gail Mooney
    Stock Recipes with Shannon Fagan
    Strategic Estimating with Jeff Sedlik
    Strategic Reinvention with Judy Herrmann
    Thinking and Shooting in Motion with Gail Mooney
    What Makes a Successful Portfolio? with Ellen Boughn
    Work for Hire and Other Video Practices — Understanding Your Rights as a Video Creator w/Richard Harrington
    Your Website — Your Essential Marketing Tool with yours truly, People Photographer Blake Discher

  • In essence, you put together your own seminar. Private consultation is also available. To find out more, click here. Pricing and registration right here. By the way, this is open to the public so even if you are not an ASMP member, you can take advantage of this though at a higher price than members.

    Jan 21-23, 2011

    Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown Hotel
    711 S Hope St
    Los Angeles, CA 90017

    Reprinted from PIX Feed LA with permission. Who’s the bald guy?

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    Last Friday, the New York Times ran an article titled, “An Ad Engine to Put ‘Mad Men’ Out of Business” which talked about an online service called PlaceLocal that automatically creates online ads. From the article:

    “New software called PlaceLocal builds display ads automatically, scouring the Internet for references to a neighborhood restaurant, a grocery store or another local business. Then it combines the photographs it finds with reviews, customer comments and other text into a customized online ad for the business.

    The program, developed by PaperG, an advertising technology company in New Haven, Conn., is aimed in part at small businesses just beginning to advertise on the Web sites of local newspapers or television stations, said Victor Wong, its chief executive.”

    I was immediately intrigued about how the service works so I went to the site and created an ad for a my favorite deli here in Detroit, The Russell Street Deli.  The ad it created in less than two minutes was fairly basic, but included moving images (using Flash) gathered online, and testimonials presumably from reviews on the internet:


    OK, so it’s not the sexiest ad in the world, but for someone with a limited budget that precludes hiring a photographer, it would certainly work online.  The user can select from a number of sizes including vertical and horizontal banners and the site creates the new ad instantly.  Being a photographer, I was interested in how they were selecting images and whether any respect being paid to copyrighted content. My query to them in a form on their website:

    I am curious as to how you eliminate copyrighted images from ads that are created on the fly, or if you do.  If not, how are the creators being compensated for the licensing of their images?   Cheers, Blake Discher, www.groozi.com

    Less than an hour later, Victor Wong himself responded. His answer:

    Hi Blake:

    Thank you for your interest in our product. We are definitely respectful of right holders, and make best efforts to make sure the elements used to create advertisements follow comply with copyright regulations. Specifically, we have taken the following steps to address copyright concerns:

    .    We use content from our partners who have secured content rights
    .    We use content from the websites of advertisers so they can reuse their existing content in their advertisements
    .    We offer a library of stock photography as an alternative to customers without their own photos
    .    We strictly adhere to restrictions of photographs offered under the Creative Commons or other relevant licenses
    .    We require users to certify that all the elements used do not infringe intellectual property of others
    I hope this is helpful.

    Thanks,
    Victor

    A few thoughts…  It’s refreshing to hear that Mr. Wong is mindful of copyright issues and has created a system in which safeguards are in place to protect rights holders. Aggregation of internet content began with news gathering sites and it’s no surprise to see it move to this sort of use.  Because this model is sure to expand, it’s even more imperative that before images are placed online, they be registered with the copyright office, watermarked, and contain full metadata including your contact information for licensing.

    What do you think of this service?

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    It took less than 24 hours from "upload to illegal download" for the daily Mexican newspaper Frontera to steal an image posted to Flickr by Illinois-based photographer Mike Boatman.  The newspaper serves the conurbation of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. That's the image over to the left, but shown here small enough so as to not add salt to Mike's wound should anyone be contemplating its theft again. (This article could very well turn up at a future date in a search for "Paola Longoria".) Posting to the Advertising Photographers of America's (APA) Yahoo group, Mike wrote: "I was reading this article in Photoshop User magazine about Flickr and how some photographers are selling images; how corporations are using Flickr as a research tool, and that Flickr has adequate usage rights protection." He continued, "Up to now I have personally been very conservative about what I post online because the internet does not have a delete button, and anyone can steal your work, or will steal your work.  So until now I have only posted images that I use for personal marketing that I assume will be stolen. I had a little extra time while on an assignment on May 19th; my shoot was not due until late afternoon, so I set up a Flickr account.  I post two very sale-able, exclusive images from the 2009 US Open Racquetball Grand Slam of players Paola Longoria and Rhonda Rajsich, the number one and two professional players as just a test."

    They were posted with proper copyright notice and "All Rights Reserved" checked. But on May 20th (the next day!), Mike's image of Paola showed up in print, in Frontera. He was not contacted for permission to run the image; it was, plain and simple, an unauthorized use of a copyrighted image. And as if to insult him even more, they failed to provide a credit line.

    Mike graciously gave permission to write about his experience, saying, "Looks like I did the Flickr posting wrong and did not safeguard my work.  If you want to write about my experience as an example of what not to do that is fine. What ever is the best way to get the word out so no other photographers get their work ripped off is great. It was purely a lack of knowledge on my part. Hopefully others will not make the same mistake of posting too large a file and relying on the Restricted Usage tag on Flickr to be a substitute for a watermark in the center of the image." Mike says he figures it's a waste of time and money to go after a Mexican newspaper. And he's probably correct. This from then United States Ambassador to Mexico Antonio O. Garza, Jr. in a 2005 report still present on the US Embassy website:

    "The United States Mission in Mexico recognizes the imperative of strong intellectual property rights protection (IPR) for American business, and is working to help the Government of Mexico find ways to improve IPR enforcement in Mexico. We know that stolen, pirated, and counterfeit goods undermine investment opportunities and can significantly impact market share for U.S. companies. We are also aware of the considerable efforts Mexico has made in recent years to improve IPR protection, although a lot of work remains." (Full report.)

    We've all heard that old maxim, 'First time shame on you, second time shame on me.'  Mike has made some changes to his Flickr photostream. Specifically, he's updated each of his images to include a very visible watermark: The lesson in all of this of course, is to upload low-resolution, watermarked images to Flickr or any other photo sharing portal.  If an honorable company wants to use it, they'll contact you.  For a very thorough review of the terms and conditions of Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, check out the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) "Best Practice Recommendations for Social Networking Sites" report. Do you use Flickr to market images? Please share your experience in the comments. Thanks!

    In the meantime, if you represent Frontera and care to fairly compensate Mike for the use of his copyrighted image, I'm sure he'd be willing to take your call.

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