Monday, September 24, 2007

Copyright Seminar for Photograpehrs

The Advertising Photographers of America, Los Angeles Chapter will have a business seminar on copyright featuring Michael Grecco, Jeff Sedlik, and Stephen Spataro on September 27. Information can be found here.

Michael Grecco is a terrific celebrity photographer whose work appears in magazines and advertising. Jeff Sedlik is an advertising photographer who was very involved with the sales tax issue as it affected photographers in California. Stephen Spataro was the outside counsel for APA-LA for many years.

This is the first of a series of programs on the business of photography. Space is limited.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Copyright Ownership Isn't a Model Release

Over at f/8 and Beware I wrote about a young woman who is suing Virgin Mobile because a photograph of her on Flickr was picked up by some penny-wise and pound-foolish art director or ad executive and used on a huge advertising campaign for Virgin Mobile in Australia. You can read that piece, but the point is that putting your images up on the Internet means they are going to be stolen. It is that simple. Sometimes it isn't you that's done it. I've had work of mine show up on line because someone scanned the image and uploaded it. Since there are no copyright police, it's very hard to track down those uses and do anything about it. Because of the DMCA, it's very hard to recover--an ISP is effectively shielded from liability and it is almost impossible to track down the individual who can be sued, even if that person had any assets.

In this case, the girl has a privacy claim. Not the kind of privacy you might ordinarily think of, but the privacy right which is really a right of publicity--the right to license the use of her image or refuse to let someone use it for commercial purposes. That is a big-ticket mistake in the U.S., and, as near as I can tell, in Australia as well. Someone might have been able to use the girl's picture in a book or magazine article about vibrant teenagers without a model release, but the second it became about selling Virgin Mobile product, all bets are off. A couple of years ago, a professional model got an 8 figure jury judgment against a coffee company for using his image on a label--a use which exceeded the model release or contract he had signed at the time of the photography shoot almost 20 years before. Ooops.

Then there's the recent case of the photographer who claimed he had a model release for some photographs of Cameron Diaz from before she was famous. He was found guilty by a jury and went to jail because he either didn't have or forged a model release and they saw his attempt to sell the images back to Ms. Diaz as extortion (apparently, a publisher was willing to pay substantial money for the photographs, which pictured her with exposed breasts.)

The photographer in the Virgin Mobile case isn't in trouble with the girl because all he did was upload the pictures for a church group event to the Flickr share site. That's when all hell broke loose.

Let me also note that courts are very reluctant to give a blanket interpretation to a model release that states the subject has given up all rights for all time. Even a model release which is for nude photographs has been restricted in effect by a court who agreed with a plaintiff that she signed the model release for the photographs to be used in Playboy, but didn't want her body associated with Hustler. If the Governator has signed Sheila Kuehl's legislation, model releases or contracts signed by a celebrity may not be honored by his or her heirs, further devaluing a photographers files.

If you are looking to see if any of your pictures are on line, Google's image search is a fine place to start. Because I've photographed so many writers, I can do a search on a writer's name and see what comes up. I can also do a search on my name, because for some strange reason, people think that if they credit the photographer, they can do whatever they want with the image (part of the argument in the Virgin Mobile case, but they didn't credit the photographer.) This is so wrong. I used to make a substantial amount of money every year from the licensing of my stock photographs. This stream of income has almost disappeared, partly because the large agencies like Getty Images and Corbis have greatly depressed the market by selling images for a fraction of what they went for 20 years ago, and partly because there are so many "free" pictures on the Internet. The best I can recommend is to only put low-resolution pictures on-line. At least they'd look like crap blown up on a billboard, but I suspect technology will overcome that limitation pretty soon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Identity Theft

Not mine, at least not this time.

No, this time it is the theft of identity and credit of a number of photojournalists, which is brought to light by this special story from The Digital Journalist, found at this link. According to the article, an obscure, self-proclaimed "White House" photographer named Joe O'Donnell who died recently has been eulogized for taking some of the most famous images of the 20th century. Unfortunately, he's been taking credit where none was due.

One of the photographs involved is a tightly cropped image of John Kennedy, Jr. saluting the casket carrying the body of his father. It was an image which tugged at the heart of a nation back in 1963 and I have a vague recollection of it even inspiring a poem. The particular photograph, reproduced above, was actually made by UPI photographer Stanley Stearns, a fact easily proved by overlaying the so-called O'Donnell photo with the original.

This is the downside of the digital era: images can be copied easily and there are no copyright police. Often this kind of fraud comes to light only by accident. In this case, someone's house of cards comes tumbling down after his death, leaving family and friends to sort out the truth from the lies.

Remember to register your images and keep good records. Your heirs may need to take action someday when you are no longer around.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

New Links

I'd like to thank Kathy who suggested Strobist to me at my other blog. I checked it out and followed the link to Studio Lighting. I've added both to the photography links list.

Summer Time

School's been out for almost 2 months now, but I've shooting production photographs for What's My Line Live on Stage to keep busy. It has been a lot of fun, but that's over for a while, too.

I am not scheduled to teach in the Fall, but that could change depending on how crowded classes are. I had a great group of students in the Spring and their final projects were generally pretty good. I hope that several of them will go on to other classes and a couple of them might even be able to go higher.

I'll be taking the new Photoshop class offered by the Media Arts Department specifically for photographers. I took a class back when it was Photoshop 4, so an update is a really good idea, especially if we'll be working with CS3.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Felice Frankel's Scientific Photographs

Felice Frankel's work is featured in today's New York Times and there is a slide show of her photographs which is absolutely stunning. Click here to see it. If anyone has an interest in photography and an interest in science, this would be a possible direction for a career.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Final Projects Due May 30

As an addendum to our lecture on copyright last week, let me recommend the following YouTube link to a piece that explains copyright using Disney film clips, "A Fair(y) Use Tale."

It is absolutely brilliant.

Also, an op-ed piece by author Mark Helprin in the New York Times on Sunday suggests that copyrights should be perpetual. I don't agree, but you should be aware of his opinion.

We'll have a quiz on the copyright and business practices material on Wednesday. Be prepared to print afterwards.

According to the final exam schedule, we are finished with classes this Friday and our Final Exam period is on May 30. This was not my understanding when I started teaching this class. This means that you all MUST finish your work for your final projects this week and you MUST present your final projects on Wednesday, May 30, during our exam period, which is the same time as our class period. Make note of this, please.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Adjustments and Announcements

We may not have a classroom on Wednesday, April 25, so be sure to bring your cameras. My plan to give a quiz on Friday may be thwarted by a broken copy machine, but be sure to read the photography time-line in the book appendix anyway.

I was directed to an interesting web site/blog called "Shorpy" this morning. It has vintage photographs. The intention appears to be photographs in the 100 year old range, but there are many from more recent times including a selection from the FSA photographs of the Depression. You should check out the link I've added to this page.

APA/LA has announced a special event on May 10, 2007 entitled "There's Always Room at the Top: How to Get There and Stay There." Three photographers will speak, so it counts for the third writing project. One of the photographers is Doug Menuez, an absolutely wonderful shooter whose photographs documenting the rise of Silicon Valley has been acquired by the Stanford University Collection. Check out his website.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Digital v. Film & Harlan Ellison

Last night, I attended a presentation at the Writers Guild of America theatre premiering a cut of a new documentary film about writer Harlan Ellison, Dreams with Sharp Teeth. The theatre was packed, the film was terrific, and I didn't get home until about 2 a.m.

What does this have to do with photography? I photographed the event, starting with dinner at Pink's Hot Dogs beforehand, during the Q&A after the film, and even a few photographs of the reception and signing afterwards.

One camera, one compact flash card, one lens (traveling light.) The nice thing about digital is that I could change the effective ISO to reflect the different light conditions.

At Pinks around 5:30, with lots of white walls and overcast bright skies, ISO 200 (the lowest speed available to me) worked quite nicely. In the WGA theatre, where shooting with a flash was discouraged--it interferes with video cameras--I tried ISO 400 and moved up to ISO 1000 to try and stop motion. Harlan's always in motion. For the signing and reception, I relied on the in-camera flash on automatic, to allow for ambient light. I did, unfortunately, forget to adjust the ISO back down to 200. The photos will still come out, but they're not what I wanted. I expect quite a bit of "noise" at the higher ISO. In general, the best ISO is whatever is considered optimal for the camera (often the lowest ISO, but it would be the default for Auto settings--if your instruction book gives you that information.)

Next month, on May 22, Harlan Ellison will make an appearance at Pierce College as the first in our planned series "The Creative Voice." During the afternoon, he will meet with students and in the evening, at the P.A.B., students and the public will be able to attend his appearance at 8:00 (doors should open at 7:30, but the theatre only seats 370.) A reception is planned to follow the appearance and books will be available for sale. Harlan will sign books during the reception.

In his 50+ years as a published writer, Harlan has produced more than 1700 short stories, written for television and motion pictures, recorded audio books, hosted the radio show Hour 25, and appeared on numerous talk shows. He is one of the most honored writers of the 20th century, receiving Hugo Awards, Nebula (R) Awards, Writers Guild of America Awards, and Grandmaster Awards from both the Science Fiction Writers of America and the World Fantasy Convention. (Do not use the term "sci-fi" within his hearing.) A colorful personality who is in demand as a public speaker, we are privileged to have him appear at Pierce.

I would encourage all of my students to attend his appearances on the Pierce Campus. It will be a most memorable experience.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Passionate Photographer

This morning's Los Angeles Times ran an interesting article in Column One about Martin Schall, a German oil and gas engineer who has made yearly visits to Los Angeles for the past 11 years to photograph the architecture of the city. His website displays many of the images he has taken and he's gained a certain celebrity for his work. While professional architectural photographers would use large-format ( 4 x 5 or 8 x 10) view cameras, Shall's work is done on a 35mm equivalent digital camera (I assume the earlier work was shot on film) with what looks like wide angle lenses. Thanks to Photoshop, the tilts and swings of a view camera can be replicated in adjustments to small-format images and the photographs do not suffer from the kind of distortion (buildings falling backward, for example) that are often seen in 35mm architecture.

This article is a prime example of a photographer whose passion drives him on this very personal look at the city of Los Angeles. While he may not have intended to do anything more than make pictures he enjoys, the website has brought him all kinds of attention and opened other doors to him.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fine Art Photography

I discovered a beautiful website with the work of many photographers which you should all check out. It's called Masters of Fine Art Photography, and I've added a link in the list of photography websites. It is an excellent resource for looking at the work of other photographers when you are looking for ideas for your assignments and clip books. I've looked at Yousef Karsh's portfolio, which has 50 years of portraits of very famous people, Sabastio Salgado's, Jill Greenberg's and Joel-Peter Witkin's, some of which are quite shocking.

Also, be sure to look at the link on Monitor Calibration. Although I have not been able to find a gray scale to bring in, this is a nice example of one.

If you are looking for an exhibit to attend and about which to do your gallery review, retired Rolling Stone Bill Wyman has a show running until April 14 at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in Hollywood, 7517 West Sunset Boulevard. The Gallery is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Here are the links to the on-line articles about digital white balance I spoke about last week in class: Apogee Photo Magazine on White Balance and Color Temperature, Urban Fox on White Balance, and another one on Color Temperature taken from a book by Jeremy Birn.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Synching Strobe

After the incredibly frustrating experience of trying to set off my studio strobes last week, I learned that it is fairly easy to crank down the on-camera flash and use it to set off studio strobes with built-in electronic eyes, as my Balcars have. So we'll give that a try next time.
I also discovered that Hooper Camera on Devonshire in Chatsworth (just east of Topanga Canyon Blvd. on the south side of the street) had the screw-in flash devices I showed you in class. They also have one which will synch by cord to your camera (if your camera has a synch plug, of course) and set off the slaves. There were no prices on them, unfortunately.
CAI Camera, which is on Ventura Boulevard appears to be closing. I stopped by at lunch time today and the security gates were drawn, but no sign was on the door indicating why the store was closed. No one appears to be answering phones, and there's no voice mail announcement either. I guess it is just one less place to shop for equipment these days.
I did notice that Woodland Hills Camera was selling the collapsing reflectors/diffusers I used in class last week, if anyone is looking for them.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Photo Assistant Opportunities

Returning to the topic of learning to be a photographer's assistant, APA/LA is offering an Assistant Boot Camp on Saturday, March 31 at the Anthony Nex Studio, 3221 Hutchinson Avenue, Los Angeles from 9:30-1:30. It is free to APA Student Members ($45 Annual Fee) and $50 for non-members. You can register at I'll post the notice in class, but I'm sure you can find it on line.

Also, APA/LA announced an internship program they've set up with Santa Monica College and other local schools. I will do what I can to see if Pierce is part of that and making it so if it is not.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Photographer's Assistants

When I finished art school, I spent about six months freelancing as a photographer's assistant in New York. I was lucky in that I had a photographer friend who owned a studio lighting rental business and that my commercial photography teacher had gone back to New York to work in advertising design. Those two sources put me in touch with photographers who were willing to use women assistants (not that common in the early 1980s and a clue as to why I use my initials in my photo credits.) I was able to stay with my in-laws or friends, so I didn't have to pay rent in New York (my home was in the D.C. suburbs at the time.) In addition to the contacts I got from David and Tom, I also sent out hundreds of query letters to advertising photographers from lists I made by looking at work in the "Black Book" as well as by looking at credit lines, articles in photography magazines, and Communication Arts annuals. Today I'd be checking websites and sending my resume by e-mail.

When I set up my own studio, newly graduated photo students found me to look for work as an assistant. Every one of them will tell you they were paid on the day of the shoot and I always fed them well (not something I can say about the photographers for whom I worked.) Luckily, there are many photographers in Los Angeles, and many of them are in the market for assistants, either on a freelance or staff basis.

When starting out, it's a great way to learn. The money is a lot better than it was 25 years ago, but you are most likely to start out as a freelancer, working as needed by a lot of different photographers. If you have digital skills--meaning the ability to do the computer work necessary in today's studio--you can command top rates and will find steady work.

Unlike 25 years ago, assistants have resources for keeping in touch with each other and there are books on the topic of assisting. For some time, I've gotten an e-newsletter from, one effort to keep assistants informed and educated. If you check out the link, you can subscribe to the newsletter. It's free.

I noticed that they are offering workshops for aspiring or working assistants. Usually, these are held in New York, but they've scheduled one for San Francisco in April and are planning to hold one in Los Angeles. It looks like it may be a bit advanced for where Photo 10 students are right now, but it is something to think about for the future, especially if one is held in L.A. The price is a bit steep, but the program is quite intense and hands-on.

Many photographers' organizations offer special membership rates to students. This opens you to lots of information about the business of photography and the way individual photographers do things. I belonged to the National Press Photographers Association as a student, and I entered the contest they held annually for student photojournalists (I think I got an honorable mention for a feature or weather photograph one year.) I believe that the American Society of Media Photographers has a student membership rate and the Advertising Photographers of America may as well. Both ASMP and APA have chapters in Los Angeles which put on educational programs and student members are permitted to participate.

When looking for work as an assistant, it is good to know that photojournalists rarely have assistants, although some magazine photographers do. Advertising photographers and corporate photographers almost always use assistants, and the bigger the shoot, the more assistants on hand. Assistants rarely get to shoot, but they do get to know equipment really well. They also learn a lot about business management, clients, client contact, portfolio presentation, and logistics.

The most important skill an assistant can learn is to be one or two steps ahead of the photographer, rather like Radar O'Reilly on M.A.S.H. Needless to say, this is a thinking skill one develops from paying attention to detail and the big picture. Most of the time, a newbie assistant is a second or third assistant who gets to learn from the first assistant. Even if the newbie's job is largely about getting coffee, sweeping floors and keeping track of digital memory cards, it's a great learning experience. (And yes, people will want you to work for free to start, which is why it's easier to start if you still live at home. You might be able to get work/study credit from Pierce, too.)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

CLICK! Casting

Here is the information that I mentioned in class on Wednesday about the new reality show which is casting for photographers:

Vh1 Casting amateur Photographers & People interested in Photography
Reply to:
Date: 2007-03-03, 12:05PM PST


A new television show for Vh1 is searching for the next amazing photographer! You will get to work with and learn from one of the Top photographers in the World!

If you are an amateur photographer with little or no experience and believe that you have an unbelievable eye or a natural talent to bring out beauty in pictures…. Then we want you! We are looking for men and women between the ages of 23-40 with a creative edge and great personality to participate in our new reality competition called, CLICK!

The new reality competition series, CLICK! Gives amateur photographers the chance to live out their fantasies as they fight to get the perfect shots and indelible images that make people take notice. The winner will get $1,000.00 cash prize plus the opportunity to shoot a major, national campaign.

To be considered, email your Name, Age, Contact number and a Photo.
Send to:

Sam Rhima
Casting Director

Stock Photographers

Stock Photographers Wanted

I found this information on Craig's List. Because it is a royalty-free agency, I can't recommend you actually sign with them, but you should check out their website to see what they are looking for and their contracts so you can see the conditions involved with payment.

There are many stock photography agencies out there, but the two biggest are Getty Images (located here in L.A.) and Corbis (owned by Microsoft.) These two agencies have led the way on reducing the amount of money photographers see for individual licenses on their images. In the days when I had work with two agencies, photographers saw 50% of each license of their work. These days, the royalty rate for photographers is less than 20% and photographers subsidize a huge amount of the agency overhead.

Reply to:
Date: 2007-03-06, 1:40PM PST

We are Stock Foundry Images. Partner with us and see your work distributed around the world. We're looking for photographers who are adept at shooting people and scenes depicting business interactions, family life, lifestyles, sports action and leisure. The qualities we most look for are your ability to tell a story with pictures. As most of our images are sold for advertising purposes, it is imperative that your work appeal to creative professionals. This posting invites interested photographers to join us as partners, with remuneration based on a generous percentage of sales.

Technical Requirements:
- Possess own equipment
- Shooting digital, minimum 10-12 megapixel
- Ability to source, coordinate and network with models

This opportunity is open to photographers working in Los Angeles and all other major metropolitan areas. If interested, please reply with 8-10 sample photos (low-res JPGs) and/or a website showing additional samples from your portfolio. Visit to see samples of the type of images currently associated with our brand.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Tips on Tests and Reports

When taking an exam, it is better to make an educated guess at a multiple choice question or a true or false question than to leave the answer blank. In a multiple choice situation, you've got a 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 chance of being right--or it might be even better odds if you eliminate the obviously wrong answers first. With true or false questions, it's always 50-50. In either event, it's a possibility of getting the answer correct against a certainty of no points at all. While there may be some kinds of exams where a blank is better than a guess, the tests you take in this class won't be among them.

When doing an assignment, either a photographic shooting assignment or a written assignment, follow the directions. I want to see a solution which reflects what I have asked for. This is practice for the real world where a client will not be happy if you turn in an assignment which has no relationship to what you were asked to do. You can always turn in an additional solution which you think might better illustrate the problem, but solve the problem as asked first.

If I ask you to write about a photographer, I expect to learn something about that photographer. If you are given an image to write about, I expect you to write about that image. As much as I enjoy reading some of the material I have gotten from students about other things, you will not get credit for a report if the report is not on topic.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Assistance for Student Success

For any of my students who may need help with written assignments, Pierce offers a Writing Lab and help at the Learning Center.

The English Department Writing Lab is located in Room 1612. The hours are Monday and Tuesday 9-3:15; Wednesday 9-2:15; and Thursday 9:30-12:15. One-on-one writing help is available free of charge. One print out of each assignment is free of charge.

The Learning Center provides services to enhance student success and offers help in a variety of subjects, including English skills. All services are free to currently enrolled Pierce students, but there is a $3 minimum printing charge. The tutoring program is in room 1613, which you enter from room 1604, the location of the computer lab. The computer lab has 62 computer stations available for student use. A print card can be purchased at the book store. The hours of the Learning Center are Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday 8:00 am.-2:00 p.m.

In addition to these services, Pierce College has published a Student Success Workshop Calendar for Spring 2007. You may be able to find information at or check at the welcome desk in the Administration Building for a copy of the schedule. Workshop topics include such things as filing out a FASA, writing resumes, transfering, learning disabilities, stress management, using the library and time management. There are 10 workshops scheduled before the end of the month.

Impressions of Day 1

It looks to me as if about 2/3 of the class is shooting digital and 1/3 is shooting film. The biggest difference will be that the film students will have the extra step of having the film commercially processed and transfered to cd while the digital shooters will produce their own cds for delivery. At the end of class, one of the students asked if she could shoot the assignment on both her film camera and her digital camera. I think that's an excellent idea, and if anyone else is fortunate enough to have both kinds of cameras, I think it would be a good learning experience for you.

On Wednesday, February 21, everybody should bring in their cameras, lenses, and instruction books (along with the results of Assignment #1.) Enjoy your holiday weekend and shoot lots of pictures.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Welcome to Photography 10, Spring 2007

Welcome to our exciting experiment in teaching Photo 10 at Pierce College this semester. As some of you may know, Pierce is undergoing great change. This includes the construction of new buildings, which means the demolition of old buildings. Unfortunately, among the buildings slated for demolition is the black and white darkroom located in the old Bungalow cluster near Mason. In a few months, that whole area will be leveled to make way for the Center for the Sciences.

This semester, students in Photo 10 have the option of shooting either film or digital, but post-shoot processing will be handled in a digital work flow. What this means is that for those students who are fortunate enough to have a digital SLR, there will only be a digital work flow. For those students who are working with film SLR cameras, there will be an intermediate step to have your film processed elsewhere, most likely at a place like Costco where you can get a cd with jpgs of your images.

Please bring cameras, camera instruction booklets, and film or digital media to every class. In my own work, I use Nikon cameras and I do not know the intricacies of using most other manufacturers' equipment. I will need to look at your instruction booklets to be able to help you. So the first rule of this class is RYFM--read your f@#!#%! manual.

The second rule of this class is turn your work in on time. This class is part of the Media Arts Department and is an entry class into the photojournalism specialty. Deadlines are important. No publication ever went to press with a blank spot and a caption reading "photograph not supplied by M.C. Valada." Students always want to know how to get an A in this class. It's easy. Turn work in on time ready to be published as is. The photographs should say what you want them to say, be well composed, well exposed, well printed (or otherwise prepared for output), and well presented. The photographs should not need to be better composed, cropped, or retouched. You shouldn't give me excuses such as (but not limited to): the weather was bad, the light was bad, I couldn't find anything to photograph, I didn't have time, I had an exam, I can't afford the class (drop it now, please), or the dog ate my homework.

If you've signed up for this class because you think it will be easy, you've made a mistake. Learning photography is a lot of work because the only way you learn is by doing. I expect you to do a lot learning and a lot of work. On the other hand, none of you is here because a parent threatened to cut you out of a will if you didn't take this class. I assume that each of you is here because you like photographs and want to make better pictures. It might be that there's a new baby in the family or a trip you plan which cries out to be photographed. Maybe there are even one or two of you who realize that you might be able to make a difference in the world by becoming a photographer. So the third rule of this class is have fun. Photography isn't brain surgery and it is unlikely anyone will die if you over- or under-expose a picture. Unless, of course, you make the mistake of agreeing to photograph a wedding. Then you might be the one to die when the mother of the bride doesn't get the photograph she wants.

Rule four is ask questions. The only dumb question is the one you don't ask. You can pretty well bet if you've got a question, someone else does and is too scared to ask. If I haven't explained something clearly, let me know and I'll try it again.

We are all going to need to be flexible about the curriculum this semester. We aren't sure when our computers or software will actually be installed. The only things which are for certain is the class begins on February 14 and ends on June 1, which will be our day for the final. I do not give a final exam. Final projects are due and will be presented that day. Presented means that you each will talk about your project and the individual photographs in terms of technique. I will address this as the semester progresses.

Please post comments and questions on this blog which would be of interest to your fellow students. I will answer them here and, when appropriate, discuss them in class. Keep it civil.

I look forward to meeting and getting to know each of you this semester. If you have any questions about the program at Pierce or your thoughts about transferring or working in the field of photography, don't hesitate to ask. If you have any special needs, or English is not your first language, or if you might have trouble with the writing assignments you'll be doing, please let me know so we can make accomodation or get you help. My e-mail and office phone numbers are in the syllabus.