Friday, September 30, 2011

Fearless Photographer: Portraits

From time to time a book comes out that challenges you to think differently about your portrait photography. To not just think outside the box (which is so cliche), but to really engage your subjects, and to get them to open up, be more of themselves that you're used to seeing (or they're used to showing), and really create some amazing portraiture. Fearless Photographer: Portraits - by Charlotte Richardson* is just such a book. I've added it to my recommended reading list, and encourage you to buy it and check it out.

Charlotte rarely uses Photoshop to composite/fabricate images (and discloses completely whatever may have been done in Photoshop) throughout the book. So, for example, when she places her subjects in a heart-shaped ring of fire - they really are surrounded by fire, not dropped in in post-production. As a photographer for over 20 years, she first trained to "get it right on film", so concepts like "we'll fix it in post-production" are approaches she abhors. Wherever possible, she strives to realize a vision in-camera, not as pieces composed after the fact. The book is a fun and easy read, with practical advice and Charlotte is never afraid to tell you her mistakes as well.

The book, in the end, isn't just a how-to, but also gives you inspiration and encouragement to really engage your subjects, and, yes, be fearless.

Here's an overview of the book and one of the behind-the-scenes videos (below), and after the jump are seven more videos showing behind-the-scenes looks at several chapters of the book.

Fearless Photographer Portaits - Behind the Scenes - Hearts on Fire: Ray and Angel

Fearless Photographer Portraits - Overview

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Fearless Photographer Portraits: Behind the Scenes - Chloe Alyce and Lucky

Fearless Photographer Portraits: Behind the Scenes - Preteens: Olivia and the Beach

Fearless Photographer Portraits: Behind the Scenes - Soccer Stars

Fearless Photographer Portraits: Behind the Scenes - Hunter: Rock Star (and cover subject)

Fearless Photographer Portraits: Behind the Scenes - Blaine: A Man with a Message

Fearless Photographer Portraits: Behind the Scenes - Lyndi and Clyde: Beauty Tames a Ton (Literally)

Fearless Photographer Portraits: Behind the Scenes - Agent C's Hot Wheels

* Charlotte is my better half, and I served as a humble assistant to bring her visions (and those of her subjects) to reality. She also cornered me into appearing a few times in the book.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

UPDATE: US Presswire & Gannett

Despite the deafening silence surrounding Gannett (NYSE: GCI) acquiring US Presswire officially from Gannett, other tidbits of information are coming through the grapevine, and other interesting places.

One such interesting insight comes from Photographer Thomas Shea, who's shot for USPW for some time. Shea posted this on his Facebook account:

As such, it seems that Gannett is making good on all the back debt that US Presswire photographers are owed. This is often the case when a company acquires another company - they not only get all the assets of that company, but also assume all the debt. Also what happens in many cases, is, if say, a company is valued at say $1,000,000, but the company also has $500,000 in debt, that debt is deducted from the valuation and while the purchase price/valuation is $1M, the actual payout to the company's owners is the net amount. While it is unclear if this happened in the Gannett USPW deal, it often does happen.

(Continued after the Jump)

For photographers looking at the potential detrimental effects on their bottom line, the website (here) shows a $375/$400 range of pay for an assignment. That's an incredible rate in comparison to the $100/$125 payments that Gannett is making to USPW photographers under the new deal.

As late as Sunday September 14, USPW Holdings COO Bob Rosato, is still working for Sports Illustrated, having been on the sidelines of the Ravens game and producing an SI regional cover, here. It may be that Rosato is playing out the end of a deal with SI as the Gannett arrangement ramps up, or there may be some other arrangement in place.

Also of interest, is that apparently Getty Images and US Presswire have exclusive licensing deals with college schools, whereby here, one photographer quotes the Michigan Wolverines as saying:
"The school also does not credential photography services beyond Getty Images and US Presswire, which have licensing relathonships with the school, according to Ablauf."

Lastly, it seems that US Presswire (a la Gannett) is now covering high school sports - here. In the past (4 other times) USPW has covered a high school game, it was because 1. Ashton Kutcher was a coach; 2. Joe Montana's son was QB; 3.) Matt Barkey (went to play at USC). The only other thing about this game was it featured two USA Today top-5 teams. It could be that this is a new order, "on high", from Gannett.

It looks like photographers who used to earn $375/$400 won't be needed with the $100 photographer in abundance from the ranks of the USPW folks. This is yet one more example of how what you do not only affects others, but yourself, if, say, you were shooting for Gannett when they called, and USPW in the meantime - you contributed to your own cost-slashing.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

Monday, September 12, 2011

US Presswire Confirmed Sold to Gannett, Name Change

According to the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations, US Presswire's mailing address has changed to that of Gannett (NYSE: GCI) headquarters in McLean, VA on September 7, 2011:
Mailing Address
Changed 09/07/2011
Also changed, US Presswire is now legally known as USPW Media Holdings, LLC, according to the same filing.

What remains to be known is what was paid for US Presswire. Likely Gannett will have to disclose this figure sooner rather than later, as it is a publicly traded company.

Over on the website (here), photographer Darren Carroll makes a remarkable point about all the photographers who were working for free for US Presswire:
"IF all of those photographers had insisted on getting paid a decent rate to cover those 5,300 games, Presswire would never have been in a financial position to offer such a bargain-basement deal for its pictures."
Carroll went on to do the math and illustrate the fact that these photographers, working for free, subsidized the build-up and sale of US Presswire:
"5,300 games (U.S. Presswire's number, from its own press release). For argument's sake, let's be conservative and call a "decent" rate $500 per game (commensurate with the standard S.I. day rate). If every shooter who "worked" for U.S. Presswire would have insisted on being paid that amount, that would be a $2,650,000 hole (not counting other overhead) that US Presswire would have had to climb out of just to be profitable. And the only place the company could have made that back was by charging more for its sales and licensing. Basically, then as Allen Murabayashi alluded to in an earlier post, all of the photographers who agreed to work for free just subsidized U.S. Presswire over TWO AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS to help conduct its operations in 2010."
I can't think of a more solid example of how working for free is detrimental to all photographers and benefits corporate owners.

(Continued after the Jump)

Here is the corporate filing data from the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations website:

You can view the listing here.


Worth Reading:

US Presswire, Message Thread 1-51 on
US Presswire, Message Thread 52-103 on
US Presswire, Message Thread 104- on


Gannett Acquires US Presswire, 9/7/2011

One Gannett Photographers take on the US Presswire Acquisition, 9/12/2011

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One Gannett Photographers take on the US Presswire Acquisition

The Gannett (NYSE: GCI) acquisition is sure to have an adverse impact on Gannett staff photographers. To be expected will be a reduction in the Gannett organization sending it's staff photographers to games when there are 2-3 photographers already there shooting the event for a fraction of the cost they previously had for a freelancer, let alone a staffer.

One well known sports photographer (non-Gannett) sent along the following figures from the Maryland State Personnel Management System for direct an indirect costs for a $49k salaried employees, which is as follows:

Salary* $49,019
Social Security $3,979
Health Insurance** $8,528
Pension Retirement $4,541
Deferred Compensation Match $0
Workers Compensation $667
Unemployment Insurance $52
Personal Leave $1,197
Holiday $2,394
Annual Leave $2,993
Sick Leave $998

This assumes that a Gannett photographer earns $49k, and I believe their number to be significantly higher. Yet, let's consider this as a solid example on the low-side. This does not, of course, include the costs for transportation, photo equipment, and a laptop. You can reasonably expect that figure to add $6k a year, minimum, to the indirect cost of a staff photographer. So, with a salary of $49, added direct and indirect costs of $25k, and the estimated additional $6k gear allowance, you're looking at $80k a year to carry one staff photographer. Not to mention travel assignments where air/hotel/car rental/meals/etc are an added cost. Why pay an annualized cost when you need only pay the sports photographers on the days you need them, and they're local? As such, Gannett photographers who have spent most of their days covering sports should consider their days numbered, and they have much to be concerned about.

We heard from one photographer, who shared his concern as a comment on the original story we broke. He wrote:
(Continued after the Jump)

I'm a photographer at a Gannett paper who was instructed not to talk about the Presswire deal. We are as uncertain of the future and what this deal means as the US Presswire photographers probably are.

Does this mean Gannett will stop using AP & Getty and rely exclusively on Presswire for wire sports? And use it to renegotiate lower rates? Does it mean Gannett papers will no longer contribute sports photos to the AP wire and now market them through Presswire, competing with the Presswire photographers?

Are Gannett's motives even darker? Does it mean that Gannett papers will no longer staff NFL/MLB/NHL/NBA and the like instead relying on Presswire?

Let's face it, it's a lot cheaper to send one or two US Presswire photographers to a NFL game for a flat $100 each than two staffers who in addition to their salaries get health insurance, expenses and mileage etc. By the time you stretch the math out you could probably send three Presswire people for what one staffer would cost.

Gannett's motive could be even more nefarious. Once the Presswire deal is concluded, Gannett will have a large roster of reliable freelancers at its disposal. Will they start to use them to replace staffers. If they will take $100 to work a football game maybe they'll take $25 to do a community back to school assignment? Again, much cheaper than sending a staffer.

It's interesting that neither Gannett nor Presswire have made any announcements about this yet. Rumor has it that a number of Gannett people are traveling to Virginia next week to hear about the deal and what it means. I guess we'll have to wait till then to find out what's in store. "
This staffer has made a number of astute observations, and is rightly concerned. This will have an adverse impact on every staff photographer, including those at the other wire services. With Gannett no longer needing AP/Getty for the sports package, there will be fewer photographers assigned to those games, and Reuters/AFP will also possibly see a similar impact.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The ACLU and Photographers Rights

The American Civil Liberties Union has come out with a remarkable - and timely - resource in their piece "You Have Every Right to Photograph That Cop" (ACLU website - 9/7/11). Ten years ago tomorrow, my ability to cover the attack at the Pentagon was cut short by an overzealous FBI agent despite my having been in the same location for over 5 hours and behind a fence line. That had not been my first experience with overzealous police or federal authorities - in this case one who refused to provide his name and only flashed his badge - and it also has not been my last.

At right is a Supreme Court police officer approaching me to admonish me that cannot be where I am - the public front steps of the US Supreme Court - to take photographs - this, before 9/11, as if that's actually a valid excuse. It is not.
(Continued after the Jump)

Countless times I have been directed (or watched others directed) by overzealous authorities with a badge (and sometimes a gun) to leave an area because we were press, while the general public was allowed to wander aimlessly in the area - or even shoot pictures with a point-and-shoot - and threatened with arrest if the directions were not heeded. This is, and has always been, unacceptable. Yet, I take high offense when the blanket excuse is " can't do that/be here because of national security..." .

The ACLU cites law enforcement programs that "suggest that photography is a 'precursor behavior' to terrorism, and direct the police to react accordingly." So is driving a car to your intended destination to commit terrorism, and feeding yourself during the process. Ludicrous, I know. Yet, it's the comparable. Further, anyone who really wants to take a photo can do so surreptitiously.

As someone who has worn a press credential for over 20 years, and who served two terms as the President of the White House News Photographers Association, I have seen too many egregious encroachments on the tenets of the First Amendment, and it's nice to see the ACLU taking a stand on this issue.

Be sure to read, print, and carry a copy of the ACLU's "Know Your Rights: Photographers" guide to "Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties."

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gannett Acquires US Presswire

According to sources familiar with the deal, US Presswire has been acquired by Gannett (NYSE: GCI). In a conference call last night amongst contributors and US Presswire management, the details of their new deal were discussed.

Among the details, US Presswire photographers, who previously shot on spec and had to cover all their own expenses, now would be compensated, albeit at a nominal amount. According to sources, US Presswire's Bob Rosato, who is set to stay on as the Chief Operating Officer of US Presswire under the new Gannett deal, told photographers that now, with an "assignment fee" of $100, which must include all expenses, that all the photographers are getting their expenses paid. This lead to some grumbling amongst conference call participants who concluded that some photographers have been getting expenses paid, while others have not. Under the terms of the deal, the $100 assignment fee will apply for the first year, with $125 being the assignment fee paid in the second year.

(Continued after the Jump)

Further details of how revenues would be divided came to light during the conference call. Images that were previously a part of a subscription arrangement, similar to the one that USA Today was paying $600 for, which ultimately became a $1000 a month deal when they added and Sports Weekly, for with an "all you can eat" stream of images, would not earn those on assignment any additional fees, whereas it previously did, albeit at a nominal $5 or so per image, according to one source who's often been paid these amounts. Further, if USPW has a photographer on assignment at a game, and another USPW photographer requests a credential to cover the game, any images that the requesting "not on assignment" photographer submits will not generate any income from the subscription feeds, however any a la carte sales would remain paid at regular rates.

There are no planned departures, with all senior management reportedly staying on. A new contract that all contributors will be required to sign is in the works, and the timetable for the formal takeover, while happening soon, has not been announced with an exact date.

With Gannett re-launching their Sports Network brand (as noted here), it seems this is among the faster ways that Gannett can get a network of photographers rapidly, although it remains unknown if all of the USPW content will be used without charge within the Gannett family of properties (USA Today,, Sports Weekly, all of the Gannett newspapers, etc) or will there be some compensation.

Rumors abounded several years ago that Getty Images, seeing US Presswire as a thorn in their side more than a valuable property to acquire, offered an excessive amount of money to USPW owners - in the realm of $4m - $5m - which they turned down. Rosato, staying on as the COO, also is reported to have resigned his position as a photographer with Sports Illustrated, supposedly because of conflict of interest concerns if he were to stay on.

Photo Business News has written several articles about USPW in the past, and taken a critical look at how photographers have frequently gotten poor deals and the short end of the stick. With this new deal, management will likely have little room to offer as an excuse that they don't have any money to pay photographers, as they have in the past.

We've made outreach to Gannett throughout the day, and the response we received, was no comment.


US Presswire "Steps In It" With MLB and Getty Images

US Presswire - Introduction
US Presswire - A Conflict of Interest
US Presswire - Friends Don't Screw Friends
US Presswire - Contract Analysis
US Presswire - The Client's Perspective
US Presswire - The Freelancers Perspective
US Presswire - Closing Thoughts

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.