There are many aspects to finding a photographer. These may include, experience, location, availability, price and personality. Part of evaluating whether any creative is a good fit for your job involves looking at a portfolio of their work. But what if the work you’re presented with isn’t their own?
Stock Photos Many businesses use stock photography. Whether that’s the more exclusive and expensive rights managed photography or low cost royalty free micro-stock images used everywhere.
Businesses using stock images include media outlets, travel agents, and perhaps you do too. With micro-stock it’s impossible to control who else uses the image or where it’s used. For example, there is a popular micro-stock image of a happy Scandinavian family used by several health professionals – including their direct competitors. In another example a micro-stock image of adolescents was used for very different messaging: one to promote quality education and elsewhere the same photo was advertising condoms.
Photo: Robert Edwards
People Know The Difference Consumers are visually astute when generic stock images are used. I previously posted about Jakob Nielsens’ study of how people are more engaged with “real” images than generic micro-stock images. Visitors to a travel website don’t necessarily believe the pilot in the photo is a real pilot and probably a model. No harm done as they know when they travel they will have real pilot flying their plane not the one pictured.
Where I Draw The Line When you view a photographer’s portfolio on their website you assume they are the authors. If not then to me it’s the same as a retailer showing an photo of one product but delivering a very different product. It’s substitution and with photography it’s passing off.
Photo: Robert Edwards
Unfortunately I’ve seen photographers not disclosing the use micro-stock images in their portfolio including wedding, corporate and event photographers. One didn’t even bother changing the image which included the stock library’s filename and metadata that included the real photographers name and contact details.
Technically these photographers are doing what any business who uses stock images does. To paraphrase Jakob Nielsen they are using “fluffy pictures… to ‘jazz up’ web pages” (no disrespect to the stock photographer). When you visit a photographer’s website you look at the quality of work there to see if they have the ability to do the work you require. Not see if they know how to license stock images.
How You Can Tell Visually literate people can pick a stock image. Vince Vaughn’s movie Unfinished Business was promoted, tough-in-cheek, using generic stock images and pasting the lead actors faces into the images.
As a visual communicator I’m hypersensitive to images that have been badly Photoshopped. Here are some common mistakes in no particular order and how to avoid them.
1. Distorting An Image When Transforming It. A photo has a set aspect ratio and when rescaling it using a tool like Transform it’s easy to accidentally make it too tall or wide. The trick is to hold down the Shift key while resizing. If you know what image dimensions you need use the Image Size dialog box.
Don’t accidentally squash images.
2. Using Wrong Color Profile Images have a color profile tag embedded that describes how to accurately display it. If you use a color profile in the wrong context it affects how an image looks. For example if your website images look flat and dull chances are they are in Adobe RGB (1998) or worse CMYK. Your photographer, designer or printer has supplied images intended for repurposing or printing but certainly not for the web.
Simulation of wrong colour profile.
When you edit images in Photoshop you can see what color profile an image has and should Convert it for the appropriate end use, e.g. sRGB for web or PowerPoint. Do not Assign a color profile for this as it doesn’t change the image but tags the photo with the wrong color profile.
3. Convert To CMYK Have a professional do your CMYK conversions. Every printer, paper stock and ink-set has it’s own CMYK profile. Why not DIY? If you’re about to print hundreds of thousands of pages and you incorrectly convert to CMYK guess who has to pay for the the reprint?
Don’t do your own CMYK.
4. Save As High Res 300DPI I’ve previously posted on just this point alone! DPI indicates the scale an image is reproduced not it’s resolution. Image size is best described in pixels: e.g, 5383 x 3600 pixels. When you resize an image in Photoshop you will first see Pixel Dimensions and way down below Pixels/Inch.
Use Pixel Dimensions to determine high or low res.
5. Destructive Editing Every time you edit a photo and save it you throw away pixels. Adjusting colour, contrast, brightness doesn’t create new pixels it deletes some to apply your enhancements. You can work non-destructively on TIFF or PSD files by using Adjustment Layers. You will also save on disk space by not creating multiple TIFF versions of the same image with new edits. As the name implies Adjustment Layers can be adjusted later without changing the pixels.
Customer service is important to me, both as a service provider and as a consumer. I value good customer service and aim to offer the same to my clients. Great customer service makes a big impression on me and my spending habits. This post is about my personal beliefs and not meant to be a how-to guide. So your milage may vary.
What is Good Customer Service? Authentic concern for your customer and what they need.
What it comes down to for me is a personal interaction. A genuine interest in helping someone purchase what they require. Yes there are metrics to gauge customer experience and I’ve been through several training programs.
Scripts, surveys, techniques, body language, psychology, etc, make good statistics for comparative data. But the face-to-face human interaction can’t be faked. I’m either talking with a human or a robot.
Honesty SPIFs, bonuses, etc, aren’t there to help the customer. They’re designed to motivate and drive sales of specific items. While I understand some businesses do this to move boxes I don’t see any place in my profession for such incentives.
Manners Politeness doesn’t cost anything. Being abrupt and rude will costs sales. We all have bad days, we are human after all! Recognise those times and work around them.
Negotiating and bargaining is not a cultural thing, it’s just business. Being respectful and understanding goes a long way to create an agreement where both parties are happy and continue to work together in the future.
Price Typically we associate quality with price. If a customer is shopping on price, which is a legitimate motivator, then don’t write them off. There’s a saying, “Price, Quality, Time: pick any two.” If I can’t meet someone’s budget or I’m booked up I endeavour to help them out. With a large network to draw on I will recommend a colleague or an alternative. The bottom line here is I will try to help whether or not it’s going to lead to a booking.
Good Experiences What prompted me writing this is lately I’ve had to use after sales service with widely different experiences. I will continue to use Apple and well, here I am “singing their praises” because of their very friendly, blameless customer service. I happily pay more for this level of service and as a technology influencer recommend their products to others.
Another tech company who I won’t name and shame made me jump through hoops for a failed hard drive warranty repair. Tens of hours spent wasted with online chats, emails, phone calls, in store and despatching has left a sour taste for their brand. I will never buy or recommend any of their electronic goods because of inconsistent, poor customer service.
From these experiences I ask myself how can I use what I learned from these two competing companies to offer better customer service for my clients. The takeaway is: admit when there’s a problem, apologise, offer a fix ASAP, and then deliver on that promise. Naturally that’s just the right thing to do.
Room For Improvement Whenever possible I let a business owner know when I’ve had a really good customer experience – especially for the sake of the employee. Far from perfect I’m always learning and striving to improve customer service. If you’re a client of mine I welcome your feedback, good or bad, on how I can improve your experience.
Skill Film meant you had to “get it right in camera”. There was no chimping (looking at the camera LCD to check you got the shot) but there was Polaroid for test shots and client feedback.
Cost An initial $20 000 investment in film cameras would last a decade or more and lenses lasted forever. As film technology improved photographers could “upgrade” simply by purchasing new film stock. With digital you have to update your camera every 18-24 months to stay current. Along with computers, hard drives, cards, etc. As digital sensors begin to outperform lenses those lifetime investments will eventually need to be replaced too. Unfortunately I’ve seen several photographers go bankrupt investing too heavily in new digital technology.
Quality Digital looks digital. Film had an analog look that Instagram and various apps try to replicate. Bright areas of an image on film tend to gradually fade to white whereas digital highlights often blow out sharply. Tonal transitions are masked by grain in film, yet another look often replicated with digital filters.
Film images are unique
Scarcity Film, particularly slide film and Polaroid, is unique. It has one original and every copy made is a second generation visibly inferior. Of course negative film, whether black and white or colour, is designed to make multiple prints. However the original negative is unique and valuable.
Magic Film photographers are magicians who conjure up a latent image on a piece of celluloid. No-one can see the image until the alchemist has processed the film and reveals the secret creation. It’s a skill in itself that was once handsomely rewarded.
Nostalgia for the photographic darkroom
But Not Me! OK I’ll admit as a teen seeing my first print appear under an amber light in a darkroom was magical and addictive. But I don’t miss the “good old days”. Not at all!
Digital Skills Photographers need to be computer savvy. The physics of light are the same and photographers still need to know how to photograph, control light, and work with their subjects. Digital requires a new skill set. It’s less forgiving than slide film I used professionally.
Digital Costs Photography has always been relatively expensive. Digital compounds that and it means photographers, especially professionals, need to be very smart with their ROI.
Digital Quality Digital surpassed film well over a decade ago.
Digital Scarcity (or lack thereof) The ability to make 100% duplicates of digital images is a huge benefit. It means all my images have identical copies as back ups. My film archive has one copy slowly deteriorating. I monitor the health of my digital archive and when an image deteriorates it’s restored from back up.
Computational Photography: new doors for creativity
Digital Magic Photography is more magical for me than ever. The rise of computational photography breaks down barriers to pre-visialisation. The act of capturing an image has no value. It’s the vision, preparation, execution and post-production that is the magic of the modern photographer.
Around year end is a good time to review your back up. Specifically, how your personal images are stored. Here are five things to consider.
1. Do You Even Have A Back Up?
You should at least have an extra copy of everything. On another hard drive or in the cloud. Ideally have three copies (see point 5) with one stored offsite. If you only have one copy of your images then it’s only a matter of time before they are lost due to hard drive failure, data corruption, viruses, ransomware, burglary, fire, flood or human error.
2. What’s Your End Game?
What do you want to do with your images? Maybe your photos are disposable and show what you eat to share on social media. They have no future value to you. In that case you don’t need to worry about back up.
However if your photos are of your children, family and friends most likely they’re precious. You want to share and hand them on to future generations. This is the most important scenario for having a proper back up.
3. Cloud Is OK For Phone Cameras
Google, Apple, Dropbox and others offer free or low cost solutions to sync your smartphone JPEG images to their cloud storage. This gives you an easy way to back up and share those images. Note these cloud syncing solutions are not a true back up. If you accidentally delete all your images eventually your cloud images will sync and be deleted.
For cloud back up a dedicated service like Backblaze will copy your entire system to their servers. When a disaster occurs you can recover data including your images. But it takes time and is very dependent on your internet speed. In Australia that rules out this type of service as our internet speeds are going backwards. For the rest of the world look at Cloudwards who review cloud services.
Apple Time Machine
Your images are only as safe as your most recent back up. Ideally automate the back up process with software like Apple’s Time Machine or Microsoft’s Back up so you don’t need to remember. Even better are Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac and SyncBack for Windows.
5. The Best Solution Is (Still) 3-2-1
In his book Digital Asset Management for Photographers author Peter Krogh recommends a 3-2-1 strategy for back up:
3 x separate copies
2 x different media (hard drive, cloud, optical, etc)
1 x off site (cloud, external hard drive, etc).
Back up to different media (illustration by Tina Hartman)
Anything less is compromising the safety of your photos. Use a system that is the most simple for you and one that you will use.
Make Back Up Your New Year’s Resolution
Don’t make the same resolution that you’ll likely break again in the new year. In 2018 plan to make sure all your images have a back up. At the very least buy a large external hard drive, plug it in and turn on your operating system’s built-in back up software. And have a Happy New Year!
Teaching is a vocation. It’s a calling for those individuals who shape our lives and those of our children. The most quoted section from Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten tells us the rules of a civilised world are taught that first year at school.
As with any parent I take a close interest in those who teach my children. I’ve seen great teachers who have had a huge impact on them. More than the pedagogy it’s the simple things, the human element, that influenced their outcomes.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward
You might guess as a photographer that my art teacher played an important role. Colleen Hinder had an enormous influence. Her classes encouraged exploration and removed traditional rules. She encouraged, inspired and celebrated our work. Once, unable to blend colours in a painting I resorted to a fan brush, to which she exclaimed, “The student has become the master!”. Mrs Hinder talked with us as peers; she never spoke down to us. Her positive, forward facing outlook absolutely stimulated creativity.
Practical lessons in art history and theory flamed my passion for art. The length of written assignments was given as “anything from the back of a matchbox to a telephone book” as long as it answered the brief. Without knowing it Mrs Hinder gave me the confidence to continue on to study art at university and pursue a career in a creative profession.
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein.
Education photography is an area I’ve specialised in for over twenty years. It’s given me the opportunity to work with several hundred schools, to see behind the scenes and meet hundreds of teachers. I began this post with ‘teaching is a vocation’ and that comes from witnessing the men and women who dedicate their lives to support students. Many go well beyond their job description to care for student welfare.
As a caring profession teaching never seems to be adequately rewarded, at least not financially. Teachers please know that over a lifetime you are a major part in the development of who we become.
Photography conferences are a great way to learn, network and socialise with your industry. You can cram maybe a years worth of experience into just a few days. Please share your tips on Facebook and LinkedIn for attending conferences.
For well over 50 years the Australian Institute of Professional Photography has been representing the profession of photography in Australia. While similar associations have shrunk the AIPP continues to grow. In recent times the Australian Video Producers Association, Professional Schools Photographers Association and the Australian Commercial + Media Photographers have all merged with the AIPP.
A History of Professional Photography in Australia by Paul Curtis.
AIPP is a membership organisation governed by its members who support one another through:
Peer review via awards
Helping each other in an increasingly isolated profession
Photo: David Simmonds
Business Development AIPP markets its members to photography buyers through recognition, accreditation, public relations, marketing and advertising.
Lobbying AIPP actively engages with federal, state and local government on behalf of the profession lobbying on:
Many More Benefits A long association with the photography industry AIPP has many sponsors and even more importantly, support from individuals and the leading brands. No, its not a discount club but members do receive vendor discounts, access to free magazines, legal advice, contracts, and other benefits.
Like any membership organisation to get the most out of it you need to participate, get involved, volunteer – and of course join AIPP.
Like many Corporate Photographers I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to manage my digital camera images. With images Lightroom can edit, convert, print, publish them and more. However video support is limited to managing those generated by still cameras and smartphones, and all modern cameras offer that. With video Lightroom only really offers video trimming and basic grading features. For professional video editing an application like Adobe Premiere Pro is required.
Apart from editing images Lightroom is also the centre of managing an image collection. You can (and should!) rate, keyword, tag, add metadata, move, delete and do all your digital asset management within Lightroom.
How do you manage videos not supported in Lightroom? Many higher end video cameras capture formats not recognised by Lightroom. What I do with video editing is package each project in a folder structure with all its assets (raw video, audio, music, images, documents, Adobe Premiere files, final edits, etc,). I then catalog the final edited master in Lightroom. That way I can search for and scrub videos even when they are offline. If and when I need to access the project and its assets I search for the final edited master in Lightroom, right-click and select ‘Show in Finder/Show in Windows Explorer’, which reveals the project files:
After you right-click & select ‘Show in Finder’ the video project files are revealed.
In an ideal world Lightroom would allow us to catalog any file type and use proxies for those it doesn’t support. If you require that level of digital asset management Phase One Media Pro is a better option.
Phase One Media Pro lets you catalog any file type.
As a corporate photographer with experience in Digital Asset Management clients sometimes ask me what I suggest for their business. Bynder Orbital is a new freemium Digital Asset Management (DAM) application launching soon. Think of it as Dropbox for DAM. Here’s a 60 second video explaining Bynder Orbital:
Bynder Orbit is a ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) storing your assets and the application over the internet. That means there is no need for users to install or maintain applications on their computers or devices.
Bynder Orbit Interface
Users will get 100GB free online storage to manage their assets and pricing for higher tiers are yet to be announced. 100GB amount of storage is enough for small businesses managing vector and bitmap images for graphics, JPEGs, etc. Storing large files such as video and camera raw (DNG) files will quickly eat into your free account limit. Orbit currently supports a wide range of file types outlined in their Knowledge Base. Add-ons like connecting to Adobe Creative Cloud, WordPress and more are available in the Bynder Marketplace.
Bynder Orbit isn’t just for business. The interface is simple and would suit novices including families wanting to privately share their images, videos and other content. The Bynder terms of service are far less daunting than social media corporations. Just don’t make it your only storage. Remember, Cloud Storage essentially means you’re storing your stuff on someone else’s computer. Like every storage service out there Bynder could disappear overnight. So have your assets stored locally on at least two other storage systems (hard drive and back up copy).
DAM for Dummies
Earlier this year Bynder offered a free digital copy of ‘DAM for Dummies’ (Bynder Edition). This 84 page book is a great introduction to the principles and terms used in DAM. Sign up for your free copy here.