Archive for July 26, 2012

When Good Publications Go Bad (Or Just Do Something Really Stupid)

“Wow, I expected better from PDN.”

The message board title on the photography website SportsShooter.com automatically captured my curiosity. “PDN” referred to Photo District News, one of (in my opinion) the leading publications that covers the business of photography. The magazine had launched a new digital publication aimed at female photographers, which was nothing out of the ordinary. Once a male dominated field, many women have now taken over and redefined several areas of the business including family portraiture, weddings and even boudoir photography.

PDN took the liberty of setting all of that back a couple of decades with the material they packed into this thing. A selection of article titles:

“Stay Smashing: Follow these tips from Smashbox Cosmetics global pro lead artist Lori Taylor and avoid makeup meltdown during arduous summer shoot.”

“Seasonal Flats: These flats will keep your feet covered, comfortable and cute while you’re on photo shoots.”

“Step by Step: Create these beautiful paper lanterns for your home or studio.”

“In Mint Condition: Stay on trend with these green accessories.”

Feel free to check out the rest of the train wreck here.  To their credit they were kind enough to throw in a couple of articles on technique and business (how progressive!).

The interesting thing, though, was the opinions professional articles had on the content. They ranged from anger over the subject matter to lack of surprise, saying that many photographers were focusing on fluff, rather than technique and business. Some even said that it really didn’t matter, since the target audience wasn’t able to compete and wouldn’t last in the marketplace.

Here are my thoughts:

1. This is a slap in the face to women in the industry. It’s like a respected business magazine running makeup tips for businesswomen. Interestingly enough, the week this came out I received two other photography magazines, “Rangefinder” (owned by Nielsen Business Media, which also publishes PDN) and “Professional Photographer.” Both magazines happened to run several articles featuring women and, get ready to be shocked, they actually focused on the business aspect of photography! No accessories to be found.

2. Yes, there are a number of photographers out there that value style over substance and couldn’t care less about the business aspect. While they might not be a direct threat to experienced professional photographers, it’s one more roadblock they have to deal with in doing business.

An interesting twist to this story is that not long after the uproar started, Nielsen Media released this statement:

Dear readers,

On July 10th The Nielsen Photo Group, parent company of Photo District NewsRangefinder and other publications and photography events, introduced a new, free digital magazine edition of PIX for photo enthusiasts. The content of this edition is specifically geared toward women who enjoy photography as a hobby, featuring articles and product suggestions intended to inspire women to shoot more and create better photographs.

An e-mail announcing PIX was sent to The Nielsen Photo Group’s entire audience including hobbyists, students, emerging and professional photographers. The e-mail introducing PIX mistakenly had the name Photo District News in the sender line.

We value your opinion and are dedicated to learning about what you want to see in future issues of PIX. Our success lies in understanding the needs of all photographers and continually innovating to meet your ever-changing desires. Please feel free to e-mail our marketing director, Michael Zorich at michael.zorich@nielsen.com with suggestions for what you’d like to see in future editions of PIX, the photography lifestyle digital magazine for women.

Thank you

Maybe if they would’ve taken this approach to begin with, this whole mess could’ve been avoided.

Red Hot Temperatures and Bluebonnets

If you’re just here for the bribe (giveaway, drawing, whatever), feel free to skip the brilliant prose and head to the bottom for details.

Someone once said, “There are two seasons in Texas: Summer and not summer.”

In 2011, that was proved true, as the seasons went somewhere along the lines of:

Not Summer (Winter): “Ahhhh, yes. This is why I love Texas.”

Not Summer (Spring): “Eh, a little warm for this time of year, but it’s still oka…RUN!!!! A TORNADO!!!!!

Summer: “Man, I miss the summer of 1980. Oh look! Another small woodland creature just spontaneously combusted.”

Not Summer (Fall): “Can I come out of my house now?”

For about 10 minutes that summer, the traditional Texas bluebonnets appeared before realizing that natures’ broiler had been left on 350 degrees. Within that small window of opportunity, I managed to find a small group of flowers along Interstate 30 in Fort Worth that hadn’t yet been reduced to ashes and decided to photograph them.

Many people assume that professional photographers hit the shutter release and through the grace of God and Canon or Nikon, beautiful photos appear. We wished it happened that way too.

One of the results of the adventurous photo shoot.
(Click photo to enlarge)

For the bluebonnet photo, I parked on the side of I-30 and hopped out of my car as other vehicles whizzed past me just below light speed. After hiking up a small slope, I set my bag down, grabbed my camera body, made the lens selection and hit the ground to get the bluebonnet photo to end all bluebonnet photos. Then the ants found me.

Some men attract good luck, some beautiful women, others large sums of cash. I attract insects. With stingers. And bad attitudes.

The ants proceeded to let me know that I was not welcome in their ‘hood and drivers along a major D/FW highway were treated to a man who appeared to miss his medication that day, flailing on his back and repeatedly slapping his right leg. Something tells me Ansel Adams never had to deal with this. If he did, his biographer was kind enough to leave it out.

Once the ants were satisfied with their conquest, I finally got down to the business of making photographs. I found a group of bluebonnets that looked healthy and had great color. Balancing my flash on my camera bag to produce nice, directional lighting, I composed a shot and started clicking away. There were clouds out that day, so I had to battle the changing exposure between sunlight and cloudiness. I was in “The Zone.”

Then Fort Worth’s Finest decided to stop by.

For the record, I truly have the utmost respect for police. As a photojournalist I had a front-row seat for many of the things they deal with and I will testify, it’s a tough, thankless job. But that day, I really didn’t want to get arrested for taking photos of flowers.

The officer pulled up to the stoplight on the access road above me and curiously looked down in my direction. I looked up, smiled weakly and nodded, hoping my body language communicated that I was far too fragile to go to jail and be some large man’s girlfriend.

While he had every right to haul me off to the pokey for committing a crime against photography (felony cliché picture taking of flowers), he simply shook his head and drove off once the light turned green. I tried a few more angles and figured that between sweating my way to dehydration and the vicious ant attack, I was done.

Getting home and editing the shots, I surprised myself by choosing a photo that didn’t have the traditional blue sky, but the shot you see above that had darker clouds which helped the flowers to really stand out. In hindsight, it was well worth the adversities.

Just don’t tell the ants that. They’re already a bit full of themselves as it is.