Monday, July 21, 2008

Photographic Inspiration

We look at lots of photography here at S+A, as you would imagine. There is a surprisingly vast amount of pretty average work out there; surprising, given how difficult it is to survive as a commercial photographer. I guess that's an indication of the nature of the market. Most advertising assignments don't require the kind of imagery that inspires. While we like to think of our own group differently, the fact is that even we don't put the majority of advertising work we do into our portfolios. Thankfully, editorial jobs have helped feed that need in the past, but even that is getting to be more of a challenge these days. That leaves personal work to do the heavy lifting. Kudos to those artists who manage to defy the odds (money, time, energy and inertia) to successfully create work on their own. Comrade did that recently with the "Three Girls" series below, which were inspired by the amazing "hair designs" done by Carlos Ortiz (many of the props were physically woven into the hair), along with the influence of two of the photographer's personal interests: graphic novels and Renaissance paintings. Other credits go to Elena Arroy for make-up and Gillean McLeod for wardrobe.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Managing Expectations

Does this ring a bell? "The good news is the creatives want you to do the job. The bad news is that the AE just told me that the budget is _______ (half of what we estimated)." Ouch. It's OLD news that production budgets have been declining for several years now, and with the economic climate continuing to darken, things aren't likely to change soon. Unfortunately, photographers have taken the biggest hit since EVERYONE wants the same quality at the end of the day, and to deliver it, we need the right amount of production infrastructure. Or do we? The real answer is "no". We could create fantastic images for less. The reality is that significant production monies are gobbled up by "process", due to clients' unwillingness to trust their agencies and vendors. Every little element must be pre-approved; every available option explored and formally served up well before the shoot for review so there is time to respond to comments like, "I like that location, but with the wallpaper from the one before..." Production to a large degree has become about managing expectations, and as things continue to tighten, I expect that will become even more important. It would be great if our agency counterparts would join in that effort and make it a collaborative one. Don't ask for Prada when the Gap will do. Don't promise the client a Jaguar when you only have the budget for a used Honda. Say "no" when they ask for things that don't make any sense. We do share the same goal, after all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Work for Hire?

An Art Buyer from a respected global ad agency called today to ask my opinion. Turns out she has a meeting with one of the agency's biggest clients tomorrow (a HUGE packaged goods company for whom they've done some outstanding work) to respond to the client's cost consultant's recommendation that they initiate and enforce a work-for-hire agreement with all of the agency's creative "vendors" (I love that term...). For those of you who don't know, work-for-hire means that the "employer"(agency/client) owns ALL RIGHTS (including copyright) to anything produced on their behalf, in perpetuity. The originator has no rights to the work, nor does he or she receive any of the benefits other "employees" get (ie: insurance, 401k, supplies, etc..) It would be one thing if the budgets associated with work-for-hire projects were commensurate to the value of the copyright being granted, but unfortunately, clients pushing this agenda typically have LOWER budgets than those clients who aren't. Thankfully, this AB feels that such a policy could potentially have far greater negative consequences on the quality of the agency's work than the potential savings or convenience it would provide the client, and she was looking for as much ammo as she could get in order to make that case in the meeting. She's certainly right to be concerned, as work-for-hire is the last line in the sand for seasoned photographers and reps with integrity, and no one I know would agree to work under those terms. I wonder how long that will be the case...