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We all know that over the last few years digital photography has grown by leaps and bounds. Digital image quality is getting better almost exponentially and computer editing tools are getting easier and faster for professionals and non-professionals alike.
What I would like to argue, however, is that analog, film-based forms of photography will make a huge comeback in the very near future — in fact, it’s already happening.
In 2007 Kodak conducted a survey of 9,000 professional photographers asking them if they still used film. Over 75% of those surveyed responded with a ‘yes’.
More recently, San Diego-based commercial shooter Robert Benson took a small survey of fellow professional shooters, asking who still uses film and for what purposes. The answers highlight why film is still an important choice for professionals.
In this interview Brian Finke says, “I almost exclusively shoot film … I get the, WOW, reaction when I pull the first Polaroid and everyone on set sees I’m shooting film. I am instantly seen as an art photographer…” I love Bryce Duffy’s explanation of how film differs from digital. He says, “It’s like listening to a vinyl record on a turntable through a Macintosh tube amp through good speakers versus listening to a high quality MP3 on your iPod through a pair of expensive speakers.”
To further understand why film will remain a serious force within the future of the photo industry, take a look at the skyrocketing popularity of the Holga film camera. In the past few years, websites like Lomography have made this camera a must-have for many hip young aspiring artists as well as established shooters reconnecting with their roots.
The Holga is also, arguably, the worst film camera ever made. It is made of cheap plastic, the lens is plastic, it only allows for minimal focusing control, its poor design and construction allows light to leak onto the unexposed film, and it almost requires modification to work. It’s like a little handheld photographic chaos creator. And in this way it epitomizes the best aspect of ‘analog’ imagemaking: You never really know what you’re going to get.
Plus, since the camera is so inexpensive, people also love modifying it and creating their own new cameras to further their own specific creative visions – on film. That whole idea is even at the core of the Lomographic Society’s 10 Golden Rules.
I feel the rise in digital photography has actually inspired many shooters to go back to using film, especially with simple cameras like the Holga. And there will be further digital backlash instigated by younger photographers who reject many aspects of the current digital world. These are the same types of people who will take down their on-line social network profiles, start handwriting letters, and block text messaging from their cell phones (or get ride of them altogether). These artists are the future analog creators. Growing up in a digital world, they have a fresh way to look at what the analog world means.
More proof that film still matters can be found in the public’s response to Polaroid’s announcement that it would cancel its instant film lines in 2008. Save Polaroid was formed immediately and there was a massive response on Flickr from photographers all over the world. I personally received at least 10 e-mails from professional photographers the day it was announced.
The Save Polaroid movement was so strong, it inspired The Impossible Project, which lobbied to bring the instant film back. The Impossible Project has now taken over one of Polaroid’s former production plants and is set to release a black-and-white version of instant film within the next month. I’m excited to hear that 8×10 instant film might be back this year as well. You can watch a great video about all of it here. (Dave, I dig that hat and beard combo.)
In case you missed that timeline, Polaroid instant film production was canceled, production plants were disassembled, then they were brought back to life by a very dedicated fan base less than 18 months later. After that, let’s just say I’ve got a lot more faith in the instant film business than I do in the auto industry.
As a little aside, I’d like to remind you all the Fuji did not stop production of their instant film lines when Polaroid did and is still making various lines of instant film.
As a professional you might be yelling at me through your computer something like, “Clark, that’s great that a bunch of hipster kids love playing with a Chinese toy camera and crying about Polaroid cutting off their fun instant pics, but come on, there is no serious market for this type of imagery in the commercial agency environment…” Although that may be true right now for agency work in general — I believe there is potential for its growth in the near future.
Here’s why: I personally know one under-30 commercial shooter who was commissioned for a fairly substantial agency assignment last year using a Holga and/or other types of Lomo cameras, specifically for that ‘look.’ And guess how old the art director was who wanted that ‘look.’ 24.
Film has a potentially big place in the commercial world because those fore-mentioned hipster kids are in art schools all over the country right now and in a few years they will be the art directors and creative directors hiring professional photographers. And they will want to see something else, something interesting to them, including something that isn’t digital. Obviously, digital isn’t going anywhere and will continue to grow and develop as the technology changes, but film is already on its way back.
One major barrier I’m sure someone would bring up if I didn’t is the processing costs associated with film. In many ways, that was a huge part of film’s downfall in the first place as digital technologies became the cheaper option. My thought on this point is fairly simple. The use of film within the future of our industry will come back as a stylistic choice as opposed to a price-point choice. If a given shooter has a film look, he or she will be able to use film and the client will pay for it.
I also think photographers today can use much less film they did before digital options were available. It is possible to do a whole shoot using only a single sheet of film. Plus, there are always digital tools to back up your film shoots in case that one sheet doesn’t turn out. Part of the reason professional shooters used so much film before digital was because there was no back up. It had to be right on at least one piece of film.
The way I see it, film will come back strong before it even gets a chance to go out of style — just like ’80s fashion. Plus, I’m sure Terry Richardson will be partying with a junky 35mm camera somewhere for the rest of his life. As long as he is kickin’ it, we can all … keep on rockin’ in the film world!
What are your thoughts on the use of film in the professional photo world of the future?
Miki Johnson: How did the idea for the Menuez Archive Projects arise?
Doug Menuez: After Stanford Library acquired my archive they began to preserve, research, and scan the 250,000 images from my Silicon Valley documentary project from the ’80s and ’90s. A few years ago they called and said their budget was cut and asked if I had any ideas for funding.
I was sitting on a couple hundred thousand model-released, timeless lifestyle advertising images that we’d often thought about doing something with, but I was always busy with assignment work. This was the catalyst. I was very lucky to meet an experienced and creative entrepreneur, David Mendez, and together we wrote a business plan around selling high-end stock to this growing niche in advertising. Amazingly, we managed to secure funding from investors despite the down economy.
MJ: Who do you imagine being the primary audience and/or buyers for the archive? What kind of imagery is it providing?
DM: Ad agencies seeking never seen before, intimate, emotionally-compelling moments from everyday life for high-end ad campaigns. We have been getting a lot of calls over the past few years as more big brand campaigns go to stock and creatives seek images that are more special and not so widely seen as what’s offered by the giant houses. We are a boutique and are bringing old fashioned research and service in our collaborations with creatives on their campaigns. You can search our archive easily, but you can also send your layouts and we will custom search and present the results to you.
We are including a lot of my personal documentary work that is released, and we just completed our first shoot in Miami, covering a wide range of stories, including a working mom, an afternoon with a Hispanic family, a teen house party, Parcours daredevils, an older boomer couple traveling, and much more.
What’s exciting is that we researched and found real stories of real lives, just as on any other personal project I do. These stories and images are therefore compelling and authentic, but also model released. We also have a variety of editorial material, some historical, some current, and we are selling limited edition prints of my fine art projects.
MJ: How does MAP fit in with your larger business plan?
DM: MAP is a huge breakthrough for me in that it allows me to develop all the work I’ve done over the years, and create revenue from material sitting in boxes. That new material from assignments and stock shoots will help me stay relevant and replenish the archive over time.
I have so many projects and images that it’s hard to finish any one thing. MAP will provide a platform to build on for the next phase of my career. That includes continuing to produce documentary projects, films, and books. More »
Apple’s release Wednesday of their new tablet computer, the iPad, had been eagerly anticipated in part for its potential to “save” the struggling publishing industry. Its impact on photography was mentioned several times in our cross-blog discussion about the future of photobooks and is being weighed across the photo blogosphere this week. Fred Ritchin at After Photography calls it a disappointment for content producers and Rob Haggart at A Photo Editor is reservedly excited about consuming magazines in this new way. Bastian Ehl at Black Star Rising takes a less cynical approach, arguing that the iPad’s annoying non-support of Flash is actually designed to force users to pay for content.
One of the first narrative movies shot entirely using DSLRs (Canon 5D Mark IIs in video mode) launched its trailer online on Tuesday. The Coming Soon page for Betrayed was big news when it went up in August, so we’re excited to bring you an exclusive first interview with director Joshua Grossberg on RESOLVE.
Emily Miller: How do you simplify the photographer’s job?
Mark Gordon: Our services boil down to digital capture, from start to finish: pre-production, capture, deliver, and post. Within each of those steps, there’s equipment provided: computers, cameras, vehicles, and printers.
Within pre-production, there’s a dialogue that opens up what the job looks like from the eyes of the photographer. I will make efforts to also have that conversation with the producer. Each has their interpretation of how the job is going to be executed. I offer a package that fits best for the photographer and his/her needs, as well as the producer and their budget.
EM: How does your tagline “Watch Your Back” relate to your work as a digital tech?
MG: It’s basically a willingness to operate within the production, be a part of the team, and look out for the best interest of the photographer. I’m there to be their right hand. I give support so they can focus on the creative process. Providing that support and comfort eases their concerns about the technical side of things.
It’s also asking simple questions: Are you doing verticals or horizontals? And it’s very subtle, simple things presented in a manner that is not alarming. I think the appropriateness of on-set behavior is big. A lot of photographers are not comfortable with an art director interacting with a digital technician, but it happens. The support mechanism is truly to understand where I am and what the expectations are in advance. So when a situation presents itself, there’s an understanding of how that situation is going to be handled.
EM: What do you need to know from the photographer, producer, and client?
MG: Typically, it would start with the producer: Shot count? Are we in the studio or on location? Will there be multiple location changes? If we are on location, what’s the environment? Power supplies? From the photographer, the dialogue is typically getting an idea of how they approach the creative process, and how their approach is going to meet this specific client’s needs.
It starts to build a picture for me to understand how I’m going to plug-in on set. Even down to having the computer close by, having it tethered. We’re shooting the cards, does the client have access to the monitor? Do they want to do a formal present with the client?
It’s discussing a shot before it happens, like a walk-through of the shot. That way I can pick up the process they want to approach the job, facilitate accordingly, and also make it fit within the needs of production and the client.
EM: How do you customize your gear and process to fit the specific location you’re working in? More »
Kristina Feliciano: How do you find photographers? Through referrals?
Maureen Martel: Always. We’ve never solicited photographers. Except for Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who we approached after viewing his work at Mary Boone Gallery. I think it was 1986. And Nadav Kander — I had met his studio manager at the time [in 1984]. And when I saw his studio, met him, saw his work on the walls, I had said very casually, “If you’re ever looking for a rep in the States, we would absolutely be interested in talking with you.” He was very methodical about how he was rolling out his career, and he contacted us nine months later.
BS: We’ve been in this industry so long that even if they didn’t come by referral, there’s some association through art directors or other people. We got John Midgley through Liz Von Hoene and Jeff Lipsky through Kwaku Alston.
MM: And Matthias Clamer also knew Jeff.
BS: But I knew of Jeff myself. You could see Jeff in all the editorials.
KF: How do you know a photographer is right for you?
BS: Personality is huge.
MM: A huge, huge part. Application for the marketplace is also key. Key key, key key, key. If you can’t apply it, you can’t satisfy the client. You also have to be dedicated to the medium. Some photographers want to love them and leave them. They want to come in and make a lot of money, and leave. More »
As I explained in my first post, a brand is not a logo or a website or a design. A brand is a promise, what people trust, feel, and believe you or your product to be. Branding is how you express that promise to people. Here’s some tips to help you define your brand — only then can you express it through branding.
First, your brand will ultimately be defined by other people, mostly your customers and potential customers. They will make up their minds about you and you will usually have to live with it. Your job in building your brand is to try and influence them before their minds are made up. It is easier when they don’t yet know you and harder when they do.
Therefore, your brand can not be just anything you want it to be. It needs to be based on some truth about you, as well as client needs. Otherwise your brand will be rejected as not credible. Your brand also needs to be flexible so that it can evolve as you or the market change over time.
For example, while Polaroid’s brand was successfully built around innovation in instant imaging, its brand become too closely associated with chemical imaging in the minds of consumers and has struggled to stay connected with people in a digital world.
Second, be clear about what you need your brand to achieve at a strategic level. For most people this will be to set you apart from your competitors, to make you top of mind and memorable. By default, a brand should also say who you are not. A strong, healthy brand never tries to be all things to all people. Strategically your brand offers a way for clients and potential clients to quickly and easily categorize you. When they need what you’ve got, you want them to know exactly who to call. Ideally your brand should also make you look like the original or the best solution, making it hard for others to copy you.
Here are some great examples of photographers who have done this successfully.
Terry Richardson has one of the strongest brands I have ever seen. He has no logo and no real design to his website. Yet he stands out. He is unique, highly memorable. He shoots some of the world’s most famous people with a small, inexpensive digital camera. Why is his brand so strong? In a world full of smartly presented photographers who all look, shoot, and feel similar, Terry is distinctly different. (Check out the video, where Terry talks about his approach and his new Belvedere Vodka campaign.)
Another example is Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik. In a market saturated with great landscape photography, much of which never sells, Peter’s business generates more than $30,000,000 per year (US!!). Peter’s photography, while brilliant, is hardly the sole reason for his success. The essence of Peter Lik’s brand is the creation of a photographic experience. In particular, his galleries are must-see destinations. What you buy is not just a beautiful picture but a small part of everything that you experience in Peter’s world.
The critical third stage in defining your brand is determining what the attributes are that make up your brand. Attributes are like brand DNA. These are the tangible and intangible, emotional and functional characteristics that you and your business, product, or service are — or could credibly become. If expressed and managed correctly, these attributes become the reasons for people to trust and do business with you.
Here’s an example. I asked 10 people who know of Peter Lik to give me 20 words that describe what they believe him to be. I put every word, including those repeated, into Wordle, which creates a prioritized word cloud showing most-used bigger and least-used smaller. This this is a visual representation of Peter Lik’s brand attributes, according to these 10 people.
You’ll notice that the functional description of him as a “landscape photographer” is rated low. From a brand perspective, this is excellent because being a landscape photographer is just the cost of entry, it is not enough to define him as unique. Peter has purposefully built his brand around the attributes that help set him apart. That is how a strong brand works.
So, how do you determine your attributes? Here are eight questions that will help you find them. More »
Name: Lisa Wiseman
Location: San Francisco
Full-time job: Photographer
Personal project name and short description
The New Polaroid — This project is shot completely with my iPhone and is an exploration of iPhone as the new Polaroid. As the iPhone is becoming a ubiquitous and trendy accessory, on-the-go picture taking is now the norm. I see people using their iPhones to take spontaneous photos in the same carefree way that cheap Polaroid has been used in the past. In concept and ideology, the iPhone mimics Polaroid; however, it pushes the aesthetic forward by utilizing a new non-film (but technologically infantile) medium. Just like traditional Polaroids had a specific size and unique look, iPhone photos are unmistakable because the technology limits them to a fixed size and resolution and imbues them with a unique chromatic aberration that says “iPhone” and nothing else.
When and why did you start it?
I have been shooting with my iPhone since I got it approximately two years ago. I started showing The New Polaroid alongside my portraiture portfolios on my website and in my book in June, 2008, along with other personal work including a project shot on traditional Polaroid film. It was important to me to show my potential clients another side of my shooting personality — I wanted creatives to have a feel for what the world looks like to me and what I photograph when I’m not shooting portraits. With a wider breadth of work encompassing still lifes and interiors, I wanted to show that my vision carries through everything I shoot. Showing personal work has directly led to jobs, and when I show my work in person my work seems to resonate more with the viewer because it includes the iPhone images and traditional Polaroids.
Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far? More »
Irving Penn, one of the masters of photography, died Wednesday, October 7, 2009, at the age of 92 at his home in Manhattan. Penn leaves behind him a wealth of iconic imagery, from portraits of cultural leaders to obsessively exact still lifes. Photography Now has a great selection of Penn’s work online and the Getty Center in Los Angeles is showing Penn’s exhibition “Small Trades” now until January 10, 2010.
Scientists Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, inventors of CCD (charge-coupled device), will be sharing this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics with Charles K. Kao, the “Father of Fiber Optics.” Although the duo had moved onto other research projects, their discovery made digital imaging possible, from point-and-shoots to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Both Outside and Esquire launched a moving magazine cover this month, with the full videos available on their websites. Alexx Henry, the photographer behind the new Outside cover, made a name for himself doing a “Living Movie Poster” for the movie Mrs. Washington. It’s the second time Greg Williams has shot a moving cover for Esquire, after the first one featuring Transformer star Megan Fox.
Fashion label Ralph Lauren landed in hot water this week with a “poor imaging and retouching” job on one of their advertising images. After Boing Boing brought attention to a photograph of already thin Filippa Hamilton photoshopped to unltra skinny, Ralph Lauren’s legal department sent the blog a take down notice. Bad move. Now The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post, Yahoo!, Jezebel and ABC News have jumped on it. PDN has the details.
Agencies: Digitas Health and
Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Communications Group
Photographer: Jayne Wexler
Artist Rep: Kevin Schochat
Producer: Susan Shaughnessy/SKS Productions
Location: Los Angeles
Total people on set: 30
The ad agency had three photographers in mind for the shoot, and the photographer Jayne Wexler was considered a favorite. The agency called her directly, and Jayne called her rep, Kevin Schochat. Together they talked about the concept, dates, and availability. Next, Jayne and Kevin considered which producer they wanted. Usually, the photographer or the rep has a relationship with a producer. Sometimes the ad agency has a relationship with a producer, and they will recommend one. In this case, Jayne decided she wanted to work with me.
There were three bids submitted for this job, and the estimating process took more than a week, including several rounds of back-and-forth with the agency. We were trying to meet the agency budget, but we were the only team estimating traveling expenses, so our costs were higher. The agency was very fair and understood our numbers, but it took time to get the estimate and photographer approved.
I typically work with my favorite program, Excel, for bids, as does the rep. I turn my document into a custom-designed PDF, so it looks like a neatly presented document with my logo and client info on it. Excel allows you to make changes quickly and frequently, which is so useful when estimating and making revisions.
During the estimating process, I have a crew in mind. Typically they are on hold from the beginning, especially the stylists. Once the agency awards the whole job and the money, then I book. I review the costs, rates, and expectations with each person, to confirm we are all clear. Sometimes the rates, expenses, and layouts have altered during the estimating process, so it’s essential to clarify at this point.
In this case, the casting and location line items were approved first, and then days later the rest of the job was approved. We began right away with a creative call between the photographer, agency, and myself to review layouts, casting specs, and location needs. I hired Eastside Studios in L.A. to cast, and I began researching locations with my coordinators.
Then stylists, photographer, producer, and agency have creative calls. These calls solidify the wardrobe direction and the prop needs. From there I can build a firm schedule, and manage expectations and deliverables for the team. As soon as the job is approved, the rep and I submit a request for the advance, to receive the appropriate percentage of the expenses up front. This money will get the job rolling and secure locations, studios, and all immediate out-of-pocket expenses.
When assembling a crew, I consider the photographer, the project and style, the budget, and the personalities that fit with the requests. It’s also important to have crew members who can work closely together to support each other. The wardrobe stylist and prop stylist know each other, work together often, and were able to help each other styling vintage clothing and props.
With Crestor, because everything was being shot in L.A., I suggested and hired the crew for Jayne. Jayne brought her first assistant, Piero Ribelli, with her, but I introduced Jayne to Mark Gordon, digital tech, along with Ubaldo Holguin and Joe Klecker, who were local photo assistants we used in L.A. Based on temperament, professionalism, and personality, I knew they would fit great with this team.
Having team members who know each other and work well together adds another layer of efficiency. Photographers often get in a groove with certain stylists, and definitely photo assistants and digital techs.
Often the crews stay the same, but sometimes we’ll add or lose somebody because of availability. Like Jayne in New York, we’ll have almost the same crew every time we work with her. For every photographer I work with, I specifically craft a crew that seems appropriate for them, based on their personalities, needs, styles, how fast paced they are, and what they expect in terms of styling.
Who: Susan Shaughnessy, Producer
What: Manage people, schedule, communicate, delegate, problem solve, have fun, take responsibility; write checks; provide deliverables/links to casting, scouting, and visuals that need approvals; take care of photographer; organize everything; insure everything; handle travel, catering, transportation; create production books; answer questions, ask questions, provide confidence; do due diligence; be flexible; stay on budget, get overages approved as needed; work closely with art buyer-producer/agency, accept praise on behalf of crew.
Where: Brooklyn is home, but I produce anywhere
Who: Jayne Wexler, Lifestyle and portrait photographer
What: I find a producer if the budget allows one. Go over the layout, all the details, and shot list. Discuss the casting with the producer. If a location is needed, we find a scout and start scouting. On shoot day my assistants and I set up lights. Then they usually get the set ready and shoot a digital-Polaroid for me to see. In the meantime, I discuss the details with the prop and wardrobe stylists and the hair and make-up artists. Once we are set up and I’m happy with my lighting and composition, we start shooting. After the shoot we edit the images and choose the best selects for the job, then we either make a website or send a disk or hard drive to the client with jpegs. Depending on the size and complexity of the retouching, the client will either retouch in-house or I will use one of my retouchers. Then there is the billing, which can take as long as the production.
Where: I live in NYC — “Nolita” — been in the same apartment for almost 23 years! My studio is on Vandam Street, west of Soho.
Who: Kevin Schochat, Photographer’s agent
What: When a request comes in, I go over the specifics of the job with the creative in charge. I then work closely with the photographer and producer to prepare a detailed photography estimate. I negotiate all fees and rights for the photographer. Once the job is awarded, I follow it closely to make sure everything is running smoothly and we are staying within budget. I also go to the shoot, if it is local, to see how it is progressing, meet the client, and deal with any last minute questions or changes. After the shoot, the photographer and I usually review the invoice together. Then I contact all the key people involved to make sure they are happy with the results and thank them for their business.
Where: New York City
Who: John Robinson, Prop stylist and set designer More »