Friday, October 26, 2007

Did You Know 2.0

I just returned from a five day shoot in some beautiful parts of the country that I hadn't seen, southern Colorado and northern Idaho/eastern Washington state. Driving from Spokane to Moscow, ID was like traveling through Napa without the wineries, just farms. The occasional small town reminded me of Vermont. Why don't more people live there? A great part of the job, despite it's limitations, is seeing new things and meeting new people. It absolutely helps get the creative juices flowing. I was very happy with the images I got in both places, environmental portraiture.

I got back this morning and found this video very inspiring, if not a bit scary, on Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua's blog. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dave, Phil, Andrew, and Passion

I'm one of the many photographers in New York this week, catching up
with friends and showing my book. My primary agenda includes today's
ADC portfolio review and a shoot later in the week. I won't stick
around for the festivities this weekend.

Yesterday I met my good friend David Schinman for breakfast. Dave and I go back to our days as hardcore NY assistants. He's a very talented photographer, and he's getting more and more busy each time I talk to him. I was very inspired listening to the excitement and optmism in his voice. It's the tone you can only hear from someone who realizes that a lot of hard work is starting to pay off.

Another meeting of note yesterday was with Phil Mimaki at BBDO. The normal routine is an exchange of pleasantries, good feedback, "we'll definitely call your book in for something." In and out in 20 minutes max. It turns out that Phil is a very creative guy with whom I share a lot of personal sensabilities. We talked for close to an hour, and it made me remember that doing business is much better when you can get along well with someone as opposed to acting like dueling robots.

I ended the evening by meeting the Jackanory himself, Andrew Hetherington, for drinks near Astor Place. I was completely impressed with his take on the business of the working photographer. The point, I found, was that everything general about the photo industry needs to be personal first. We ultimately do it by ourselves, and reaching out to hold each other's hand once in awhile isn't always a bad thing. Andrew was very eloquent, and generously gave me a copy of his new book, which I'll gladly reciprocate when I return home to California.

The unifying factor was connecting with people who share a passion for what they do. It's infectious.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Want a new logo!

Jack should try being a photographer.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Forbes cover, gratuitous self-promo post.

Nothing like a guy on white seamless to pad the portfolio. The editors were great and I'm proud to have done it.

© Michael Sugrue/Forbes

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Enjoying the Road

I recently returned from a quick trip to Alaska for an assignment. This month has been particularly travel-laden, with some trips to some pretty cool places. I don't say that to show how busy I am, because most of my work is shot within driving distance of San Francisco.

My wife always gives me a hard time about traveling. It's tough to leave family, often on short notice to somewhere moderately exotic compared to home, and make it sound like I've got the short end of the stick. The truth is, I find traveling for work a lot like living in a diorama. The kind you made in 6th grade with Star Wars action figures and Brady grass inside a shoe box.

You get to see something new, but it's usually a very limited experience. Different people, different light, different landscape. But inevitably it falls short of anything resembling an enriching experience. You can't really enjoy it for long because you have to be responsible. Just when the shoot is done, the gear is shipped, you have to deal with all the crap that an airport entails. Two days shooting in Alaska hardly qualifies as a cool Alaska experience.

That's why it meant a lot to me when my assistant Kelly said that I was the most fun photographer she's worked with. In my previous life as a New York assistant, I worked for some serious pricks, so I guess I learned that lesson the hard way. Life is what you make of it, so you might as well rack up some frequent flyer miles along the way.

I met these dudes on the side of the road in Alaska on our way to the airport. Hitchhiking in the opposite direction, they were there to experience just what I had missed.

©Michael Sugrue

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Profit Margin

In the last few days I've heard a lot of people lamenting the existence of low price (or even free) stock imagery. Clearly, this contributes to the de-valuation of our work. I want to relate the following story that shows what photographers may be up against in some cases.

Earlier this year I photographed the namesake of a non-profit for a magazine. I liked the image, and after it ran in the magazine, I put it up on my website.

Several months later the non-profit contacted me about using the image in some of their collateral and marketing materials. I responded that I could give them a quote if they could give me the specific usage they needed.

They came back saying "We're non-profit and don't pay for photography. Other photographers in the past have just let us use their pictures for no charge." Of course, I'm not non-profit. I explained that, despite what the "other photographers" do, my business is set-up to earn a living from the licensing of my photographs. Perhaps a discount could be negotiated, but nothing would be given away free of charge.

They were so offended that I wouldn't give it to them that they called the magazine, which had my back. About two weeks after that, I received an e-mail from the attorney for the subject, requesting that I immediately take down the image from my website. I wanted to let them sweat it out because I thought it was vindictive and pathetic, but my attorney wife disagreed. I did the right thing and took it down.

I'm not sure if they found another photo of this person that sufficed, and I don't care. But apparently they're so confident that they can get stuff for free that paying for it genuinely upsets them. Clearly, I would not consider this non-profit to be representative of a sophisticated photo buyer. However, "good enough" imagery is proliferating the web, and usually at no- to low-cost.

This example just gives me motivation to hone my own vision, so those that hire me do it for a unique type of imagery that's not available elsewhere. And to pay fair market value for it.

There's a great example of sticking to your guns on Photo Business News here.