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Celebrity Photography

Photo by Mark Mosrie

Photo by Mark Mosrie

Matt Bailey, liveBooks‘ own co-founder (that’s him to the left), recently wrote an informative piece for Photoshop Insider about effective ways for photographers to use video on their websites. We wanted to bring you some highlights from the story, which focuses on using video to market yourself rather than offering it as a service to clients. You can check out the full story at Photoshop Insider.

With the availability of affordable, high-quality digital photo equipment steadily increasing over the last several years, the market has been flooded with an unprecedented volume of photographs and emerging photographers. Most searches for images and photographers begin on the web. Yet this can create confusion on the part of the viewer about which photographer is right for what they need. How do you distinguish yourself from the sea of photographic talent available? You can start by marketing yourself as a professional who brings more to the table than a handful of carefully selected images. You need to develop an effective brand for yourself that communicates the value of your personal vision and experience. Video presents an opportunity to add more dimension to this brand in a number of ways.

Help people get to know you
The primary purpose of these videos is to break through the static nature of portfolio viewing and create a more human connection. If a prospective client likes your personality or feels they can relate to you in some way, there is a much better chance they will give you preference over someone they feel less of a connection with. This is human nature. The main challenge with a bio video is to create something that is “on brand.” If you are marketing yourself in a playful way, for example, be sure the video is a bit playful as well. A disconnect in this area can do more to confuse than ingratiate. If you are unsure, consult with an expert. Here are a few photographers whose bio videos have added a lot to their online presentations:

Jules Bianchi: Wedding and portrait photographer
Chase Jarvis: Commercial and sports photographer
Chris Rainier: Photojournalist and National Geographic Society Fellow

Let other people say nice things about you
Video is also regularly being used to highlight various other strengths, including video testimonials, vignettes from an actual shoot, and studio tours, among others. Adding a more dynamic, human touch to these areas brings life to them in a way that can be far more compelling than a page with text. Watching someone gush over how amazing you were to work with can have an emotional impact that makes the difference between someone hiring you or your competitor. This approach can be effective whether you market toward photo buyers, brides, or other types of individuals. In the end, we are all people, and all of us want to work with people we trust and like.

How to get started
Just like still photographs, there are down and dirty methods, as well as more elaborate, polished methods. Using a $200 Flip Video camera or webcam and posting to your blog could be perfect for your purposes. For many, a more professional approach will be more effective. It all comes down to your intentions and your brand. Do you want to be seen as a seasoned professional who projects quality and panache, or as a guerrilla upstart who provides a dynamic, gritty vision? These are the creative questions that need to be answered in advance, so you know what direction to take technically. If you can produce a video yourself or with a friend, so much the better, but, as with any photo shoot, be sure you have everything you need to be successful. If you need help, a video producer can help you sort through these preliminary questions.

Choose the best presentation
Once you have the video shot and edited, you will need to prepare a copy for the web. As with still photos, you will want to find the right balance between quality and loading speed.  A large, high-quality video can look amazing, but take a while to load.  Smaller, more compressed files will load quicker, but may not have the desired impact. If you have the ability to upload your own video and preview it on the web, you should certainly do that. Depending where you plan to display it, you may choose one of a handful of formats, including Quick Time, Windows Media Player, and Flash Video. All liveBooks’ websites give the user the ability to upload any of these formats on their own, or you can have us design a custom page structure and player in Flash. Here are clients who have taken that approach:

Justin Francis: Music video director
Double Plus Good: Advertising video producers
Oliver Rduch: Documentary filmmaker

However you are able to do it, do not hold off on leveraging video to your advantage if you feel you can benefit from it. Ultimately, creating a better connection between you and your clients could result in more bookings with people you are more likely to relate to. It can also result in clients who are more informed about you and your business before you even speak to them. And who knows, maybe you find you have a knack for it and can offer an extended range of services in the future.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: How are you using video to help market yourself? Have you seen tangible results from it?

After watching Harry Benson‘s Photographers In Focus video about getting his start in photography, we figured he would have some sage words for photographers trying to make their own start in the business. Below he talks about the sacrifices a photographer makes — which don’t feel like sacrifices if you love what you’re doing.
©Harry Benson

James Brown, Georgia, 1979 ©Harry Benson

Carmen Suen: How did you get started in photography?

Harry Benson: That was a long time ago. When I was a teenager, I felt like being a photographer was my only hope. I have always been interested in photography. And, I was never very good at academics. I thought, I could be a professional soccer player, or I could be a professional photographer. I played a few soccer games, and thought I wasn’t that great. When I was 21 or 22, I started doing wedding photography at local churches. It was at that time that I started to get more serious about photography. Eventually, I got a job at the Daily Express.

To me, photography is honest and straightforward. As a photographer, all you need to do is to take good pictures. If you work hard, and take the opportunities in front of you, you will succeed. There are, of course, obstacles. While my friends were going out for a drink, I was working. I seldom got to celebrate Christmas and New Year like most people do. I celebrate these holidays with my family in a different way. I don’t see it as a sacrifice; I see it as a privilege. It’s very lucky to be able to do what makes you happy.

CS: What was your first “big job”?

HB: Well, there was not really any one “big job.” But I think I have some favorite pictures — those I took during my 2-week trip with the Beatles in February 1964. I love those pictures because they are happy pictures.

That was a very special trip for me. I never wanted to be a rock photographer. But then I got this opportunity to travel with one of the most important groups in rock history. Because it was a newspaper assignment, I had to send pictures back to London every day. I had to consistently bring back good photographs. I needed to stay as creative and good as I could be. That was not easy, but I did it.

CS: Do you have any advice for young photographers?

HB: Always go to the smallest denominator, and don’t get carried away. Look for a job in a local newspaper, not a big city paper. Local newspapers pay for your mistakes. If you can take a great picture of a small town mayor, you can take a great picture of a president.

  • The long-awaited new has finally launched this week. A collaboration between LIFE and Getty Images, the new website features millions of images from the LIFE and Getty archives and more than 3,000 images are added to the site every day. You can download, share or print any of the images for free for personal, “non-commercial” use. We can’t deny this is an amazing (well-designed) resource, but like Vincent Laforet, we wonder how this will affect editorial licensing in the long run.
  • These days pretty much anything seems “greenable” so it’s not surprising that Aurora Photos is launching a “Green Collection” that “focuses on creative photography illustrating contemporary environmental themes and issues.” We like the journalistic approach of its “Nature and Environment Feature Stories,” which has slide shows that cover environmental issues from all over the world.
  • The New York Times broke the sad news on Monday of Helen Levitt’s death. The photographer, famous for her poetic imagery of New York City streets, passed away in her sleep at her Manhattan home at the age of 95.

  • Cable channel Bravo confirmed that a new reality show featuring celebrity and fashion photography duo Markus Klinko and Indrani is slated for a debut in January 2010. The glamorous pair were the creators behind iconic images including the album covers of David Bowie’s Heathen and Beyonce’s Dangerously In Love. American Photo’s State of the Art blog has more details. Another interesting development about photography invading mainstream TV is the anticipated launch of the Photography Network this September. An excerpt from their marketing pitch hopes Photography Network will be to photography “what HGTV is to home and garden and the Food Network is to food.” For a sneak peak, check out their demo reel.
  • Following complaints from photographers and an NPPA letter to Amtrak in January, Amtrak issued a new set of guidelines last week that incorporate NPPA’s recommendations. The new policies state that Amtrak police should not “delete, destroy, or alter photographs and video, along with the directive that they shall not request others to delete, destroy, or alter photos or video either.” After a lot of mixed messages and mistreatment from Amtrak, this is finally some good news for photographers.
  • After months of anticipation, the Getty Flickr stock collection is finally here. While most would agree it is impressive in terms of quality and quantity for something on Flickr, it comes with a hefty price tag also. We’d love to hear what you think about its potential and problems.
  • Big congrats to beloved Scotsman Harry Benson for receiving a CBE from Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace yesterday morning! Check out Harry’s insightful advice for young photographers here on RESOLVE.

  • The Guardian reported Monday that after ratings for the Academy Awards last year plunged to a historic low, producers asked key actors and presenters not to enter via the red carpet this year so viewers would have to watch the ceremony to see their gowns. Not surprisingly, the photographers who make their living from photos of Oscar gowns were pissed. The ratings this year jumped 13 percent — and in typical over-simplified fashion, we bet the academy attributes that to this new policy (not the fact that the styling was classy and classic this year, the presenter was hot, or even, that people need Hollywood distractions more when the economy’s in the toilet), and keeps it.
  • In an official announcement released via the NPPA website, Pete Souza, the recently-appointed official White House photographer, filled out his team with Chuck Kennedy as assistant director of the White House photography office and Lawrence Jackson and Samantha Appleton as official photographers. Kennedy’s precisely executed inauguration picture made front covers of hundreds of newspapers all over the world. Jackson was most recently a staff photographer at the Associated Press in Washington DC, and Appleton, named one of the “30 Under 30” by Photo District News, is known for her projects on Iraq and Africa. Souza said she will be primarily assigned to cover the First Lady. We wonder if it’s common practice to have a woman photographer specifically assigned to the first lady. Anyone know?
  • After months of speculations, Rocky Mountain News owner E.W. Scripps announced yesterday that the publication will cease operations after its last edition today (February 27, 2009). The paper, which has been serving Denver for 150 years, has won 3 Pulitzer Prizes in photography since 2000. Sadly this is likely the first in a long line of newspaper closings; the San Francisco Chronicle also announced this week that it is looking for buyers in a bid to save the paper. We can’t decide if it’s poetic justice or just sad irony that the best reporting on the closing was done by the paper’s own staff via Twitter.
  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates has finally lifted the 18-year-old photography ban, now allowing caskets arriving at Dover airforce base in Delware to be photographed, as long as families of the deceased agree to it. The Dover Air Force Base is the military’s largest mortuary facility, where bodies of American troops are sent before traveling to hometowns. We hope this is part of the wave of change apparently sweeping Washington. If those photos had been allowed earlier, maybe we wouldn’t have had to wait so long for that change.

Harry Benson, the always-dapper, world-renowned photographer, showed up for this recent liveBooks Photographers In Focus video interview in a well-fitted suit — albeit without a tie. According to Harry, his attire isn’t just good fashion sense, it’s also good business sense.

“If you need to go to the White House for a press conference, dress like a professional, not a plumber,” he says. “It shows respect for yourself, as well as who you represent.”

Harry should know, considering he photographed every U.S. president from Eisenhower to George W. Bush. He says he has seen photographers turned down for jobs simply because they were wearing jeans and no jacket.

“It is something that is so obvious to me, yet so many young photographers seem to fail to recognize it,” Harry says.

Now that he mentions it, that suit does look pretty comfortable — we bet he was wearing it even when he was bouncing on beds with the Fab Four. No wonder the Queen of England named the Scottish photographer a CBE (a designation just one level below knighthood) in January.

Check out the video for more Benson insights into being the best photographer you can be.

Shepard Fairey’s image below has achieved legendary status as one of the most recognizable icons of the now historic Barack Obama presidential campaign. The image above it may become as legendary for being the foundation of a successful copyright infringement suit against one of the most recognizable icons of the Barack Obama presidential campaign. The case for infringement is very strong, but that’s not why I’m pissed off at Shepard Fairey.

Analysis by stevesimula on Flickr of the image by AP photographer Mannie Garcia compared with Shepard Fairey's Obama HOPE poster.

Analysis by stevesimula on Flickr of the image by AP photographer Mannie Garcia compared with Shepard Fairey's Obama HOPE poster.

Last year, at the Microsoft Pro Photography Summit, I advocated a policy of letting your online images get swiped for non-advertising use as long as they were accompanied by click-through attribution to your web site. I feel very strongly that there is more value using your images to get exposure on the web versus the money you would earn in selling your photos to blogs and other online entities. This assertion has been heard with differing degrees of shock and appreciation. I have been sure to put my photos where my mouth is with the following paragraph on the “about” page of my website:

“Copyright rules governing the material on this site: As long as you don’t use any of the copyrighted material on this site for advertising purposes or in association with anything illegal, AND you give me attribution in the form of a link back to this site, then grab the goods.”

Before the internet became a quotidian communication medium, Shepard Fairey was a significant figure in the underground art world. However, his huge popularity in the mainstream, especially the popularity of his Obama image, is a direct result of the internet. Acknowledging Mannie Garcia, the photographer who provided the image for his art piece, would have been an extraordinary example of online creative kinship.  The type of creative kinship that fuels the remixing of existing creative works found online, as well as some of the best applications that have ever existed via the open source software movement. (If you’re reading this in a Firefox browser you’re reaping the rewards of this ideal.) Mr. Fairey could have brought Mr. Garcia some significant attention without detracting from his own.

In failing to do so, Mr. Fairey let us all down. He violated the unspoken, inviolate rule of the internet community. Acknowledgment has been expected online community behavior since the pre-browser days of the internet. It is the one continuous thread that makes the evolving internet a successful democracy.

I’m sure Mr. Fairey was totally unaware that his piece was destined for such popularity. I’m also aware that Mr. Fairey is notorious for using his work to challenge established social norms. But the Obama campaign was different. It was one based on change. It offered real hope that the ideals of the rest of us, the public, would finally take precedence over the few with access to power. Mr. Fairey’s failure to recognize the importance of the celebrity of his Obama piece as an endorsement of the true democracy of the internet is a disservice to us all. Especially when one considers how easy it would have been to give credit where credit was due.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Do you think the internet culture of open sharing has an unspoken rule to give credit where it’s due, or, on the contrary, has it made people more lax about crediting images?

Fine art and portrait photographer Michael Jang tells some great “breaking into the biz” stories in this video interview from our Photographers in Focus series. While still in art school, he used a letter from his teacher and some creative subterfuge to crash big Beverly Hills parties — and make the images that launched his career. We wanted to make sure you got a chance to see it if you haven’t already.

Michael is in San Francisco like us, so we thought we’d check in and see what he’s been up to lately. He’s excited about his recent conversation with aspiring photographers at the University High School here in town. Check out the San Francisco Chronicle story about his visit to the school as well as a collection of his very early family photos, which have just been acquired by the SFMoMA this year. Michael also gave us some bonus video footage of him speaking at a Photoshelter panel discussion.

“Don’t lose sight of why you want to be a photographer and your love for photography,” he advises. “If you can make good pictures, people will find you.” His point — that the real issue is not how to make money, but how to make great pictures — might not be the most popular, since it’s not the easy solution, but judging from the applause after Michael’s comments, it needs to be said more often.

February 6th, 2009

Photo News 2.2.09 – 2.6.09

Posted by liveBooks

  • After Tom Gralish helped pinpoint the photo that was used as the starting point for the famous Obama HOPE poster (by Mannie Garcia for the AP), the AP on Wednesday “reached out” to the lawyer of Shepard Fairey, who created the poster and is now much richer and famouser. Carolyn E. Wright, the author of the Photographer’s Legal Guide and the writer of the Photo Attorney blog, wrote a long post Thursday analyzing the AP’s case and concluding that she, at least, would take the case. via: Online Photographer. John Harrington has several good posts on it too: here, here, and here.
  • Everyone is atwitter over Paolo Pellegrin’s photo essay for the New York Times, Great Performers. And they should be. It’s stunning and unveils just how staged most celebrity photos are with its dedication to a photojournalistic truth. It also reminded me instantly of Paolo’s Iraqi Diaspora project, which I saw at Visa pour l’Image this year, and which had everyone in Perpignan atwitter to see a photographer so skilled in black and white also blow us away with color.
  • Greg Gibson has a great post on his blog explaining in detail how McLatchy-Tribune News Services photographer Chuck Kennedy convinced the White House to let him set up a remote camera at the foot of the podium during Obama’s swearing in. Probably the most impressive part is seeing just how many front pages ran the image…a great lesson for photographers about always trying to do something new, even when it seems like it’s all been done before.


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