business

Seven things to agree on before taking a commission

© Neil Turner, October 2014. Production of John Foster's Shot At Dawn in the Council Chamber at Bournemouth Town Hall.

© Neil Turner, October 2014. Production of John Foster’s Shot At Dawn in the Council Chamber at Bournemouth Town Hall.

Quite a lot the posts that I’ve uploaded to this blog in the last few months have been related to the business side of photography. For those who want more of the old dg28 – your time is coming soon. In the meantime I wanted to post my thoughts on what you should agree with your client before undertaking a commission. This is taken directly from my own outline terms and conditions which are posted on my website. I have absolutely no objection to any photographer copying and/or adapting these seven points for use in their own terms and conditions because, in my opinion, the more of us who do this the more likely it is that potential clients will be used to the concepts and it will require less pushing to get them to negotiate.

Terms and Conditions of supply – commissioned photography

INTRODUCTION – The following seven sections represent the basis under which I undertake photographic assignments and commissions for commercial, public relations and editorial photography. They are intended as a background document to which specific or varied terms can be added or amended.

There are, of course, many pieces of legislation that will have an effect on how my relationship with clients works, not the least of which is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

I really don’t want to scare clients and so I have worded them as simply as I can and I’m always happy to discuss and explain how my terms and conditions apply to you.

  • COPYRIGHT – Unless agreed in advance and in writing I do not assign copyright to any clients or third parties. Please be aware that buying the copyright is far more expensive than buying an extensive and wide-ranging license.
  • LICENSES GRANTED – As a client, you would be granted a license to reproduce and/or distribute the photographs. All licenses have geographical, time, media and usage restrictions. My policy is to negotiate a license that meets your needs and represents the best value for money for you and/or your client. Use of the photographs outside the terms of the license granted would be a breach of copyright.
  • LICENSE EXTENSION OPTIONS – If, having agreed a set of license conditions you subsequently realise that you need wider use of the photographs I am always happy to negotiate a license extension. Whilst the cost of buying extensions will be greater than that of buying the right license in the first place, you will find that my rates are very competitive.
  • DELIVERY METHOD AND DEADLINES – As part of the commission we will agree how, when and where the photographs will be delivered. Options include web galleries, CDs and DVDs, FTP, email and on USB flash drives. Photographs will be supplied in the agreed format within the agreed deadline. Copies of all files will be retained in line with industry best practice and any subsequent re-issue of any or all of the image files will be subject to a charge equal to the actual cost of producing and delivering them plus a 20% service charge.
  • INVOICING AND PAYMENT – Fees and costs will be negotiated and agreed before the commission takes place. Should the details of the commission change then alterations to the costs will be agreed as soon as possible. New clients will be asked for a purchase order or a letter confirming the commission, agreed fees and costs as well as acceptance of my terms and conditions in advance. Once the commission has been completed I will send an invoice to you with payment terms and methods outlined. The grant of license will only come into force once payment has been made in full. VAT will be charged where the law requires. If the client postpones or cancels the commission within 72 hours of the start time I reserve the right to charge 50% of the agreed fees. Cancellations or postponements within 24 hours of the start time may be charged at 100% of the agreed fees.
  • THE LIMIT OF MY LIABILITY – As a professional photographer I take great care and pride in my work and in my relationship with clients and the subjects of my photography. I cannot, however, accept liability for unexpected events including: poor weather, industrial disputes, sickness or injury, equipment malfunction, model release disputes, property release disputes and other actions or accidents that are outside my control and that cannot be reasonably predicted. Please note that any mains powered equipment that I use will be PAT tested, that I carry £5 million of Public Liabilities insurance and that my photographic equipment is regularly tested and serviced. Should you require any specialist insurance to be taken out for your project, the cost will be included in the fees. Back up copies of your images will be stored using reliable methods but I cannot accept liability for systems failures.
  • DISPUTE RESOLUTION – If, for any reason, you have any queries about the service that I have provided I will be happy to discuss your concerns. Photography is a creative activity and I accept commissions on the basis that you are buying my skills and that you trust me to apply those skills in accordance with our discussions and verbal agreements. Written confirmation of commissions should always include any “must-have” picture requirements and, where technically and creatively possible, I will fulfill your requests. If I consider any of your requirements to be unfeasible or if any of them become so during the shoot itself I will point them out at the first possible opportunity and offer solutions.

None of this rocket science and none of it would be form a great contract in isolation but we have seven things to think about and a rock solid basis upon which to build a working relationship with a new client.

Talking about pictures

On the beach at Fisherman's Walk just before a rain storm.© Photo Neil Turner

May 2015.  On the beach at Fisherman’s Walk just before a rain storm. © Photo Neil Turner.

I spent some of my day yesterday adapting a 2013 Keynote presentation with lots of my work in it ready to go and give a talk to a local camera club. I removed two thirds of the pictures and added a lot of different and newer ones and the thing that I had in the back of my mind at all times was that I had to have something interesting and/or witty to say about each one. That rules out just showing your current portfolio – although a good percentage of the photographs are the same ones – and means that you spend a lot of time remembering and fact-checking those stories too. It is actually a really good feeling to go back through pictures and smile about them even though they were mostly taken for money and not for the love of taking them. What a great way to make a living!

The promise to do this talk came about after a chance meeting in a cafe last year. My wife and I got chatting to another couple and we talked about my camera that I had (and pretty much always have) with me and it turned out that they helped run a local camera club. The invite was issued, a date was set and I’m due there in a couple of weeks. Unlike a lot of photographers I love to talk about my own work because it gives me a chance to go back through and get some fresh ideas from some of my old ones.

Refreshing an old presentation meant that I had to make a decision about what I wanted to say about myself and my thirty plus years working as a photographer and so I decided to start off with a few questions that I want my audience to ask subconsciously every time they saw a new picture. From there I decided to include examples of every genre of pictures that I do in the opening few minutes; corporate, editorial, news, portraits, personal work and schools are all in there just to give a flavour of who I am and what I do. The final act was to throw out about fifty of the one hundred and thirty pictures that I had accumulated because I only have about an hour and a half!

If you want to get a flavour of the themes there are a couple of old blog posts that you can read. The first is about what kind of photographer I see myself as and the second is about how many different types of picture there are. Of course I’ll throw in some anecdotes and lots of ad-libbing before the questions (hopefully) start to flow.

Now that I have a ‘new’ presentation I might even do a few more talks if and when I am invited…

Do you do corporate head shots?

headshots_header

I had a phone call call this morning from a potential client who had found me via a web search. That doesn’t happen very often and when it does the calls are normally from people trying to sell me something rather than commission me to do some work for them. The very pleasant lady who had called asked me if I did ‘corporate head shots’ and when I replied that I do and that I have done lots of them over the years she asked why there were none on my website. Wow… she’s correct. There are no easy to find samples of one of the most basic and important parts of my professional work on any of my folio sites.

During the call I promised to stick fifty varied images into a gallery and send her the link. I also explained that head shots weren’t the sole preserve of the corporate world and that some other sectors used them well and that the gallery that I’d prepare would have teachers and actors and other professionals too.

The way that I like to approach head shots is simple: concentrate on the person, make sure that the light on them is as good as it can be and have a sympathetic background. Where sets of pictures need to work together I want to discuss that with the client, their designers and anyone else who needs to have input. I often supply white backgrounds and sometimes I add a coloured light to them.

I love a good out-of-focus office, bookshelf, tree or cityscape and I’m not averse to a jaunty angle where it works. Colour works well and black and white can be very effective too – head shots is a wide ranging topic. They can be as simple as nice passport pictures and they can be half length – potential clients need samples – I completely get it and I have done just that… Here’s the gallery

Another anniversary

© Neil Turner 11/09/2008 The Petchey Academy in Hackney, London, E8 opened to pupils in September 2007.

© Neil Turner 11/09/2008. The Petchey Academy in Hackney, London.

The eleventh of September will always be remembered for the tragic events in New York in 2001 but it also has another, altogether more positive, place in my calendar. Today is the seventh anniversary of my first commissioned job as a freelance photographer having spent fourteen and a half years in a staff job. In those fourteen and a half years I had shot assignments in thousands of schools and it was somewhat ironic that my first freelance outing came from a Picture Editor with whom I had previously worked and was back in a London school. So much was exactly the same – only the end user of the pictures was different. It wasn’t even an educational publication, it was a specialist magazine for facilities managers.

It should have felt like the kind of job that I’d been doing for so many years. I was using the same cameras that I had been using for four years and the same lights that I’d had for at least eight years. I even arrived in the same car that I’d been driving for the previous couple of years but I was nervous in a way that I hadn’t been for a very long time. It didn’t help that I had been on ‘gardening leave’ for a month by then and so I had actually just gone through the longest period without shooting a job since I had left college twenty-two years previously.

The brief was to get pictures of the school, it’s facilities manager and his team. I like to think that I always go beyond the brief where I can and on this job that involved lugging my lighting kit onto the school roof to shoot a portrait as well as waiting for ages for people to walk through my carefully set up building shots.

© Neil Turner 11/09/2008 The Petchey Academy Facilities Manager Alan Gilbert MBIFM.

© Neil Turner 11/09/2008. The Petchey Academy Facilities Manager Alan Gilbert MBIFM.

Everything went well and I shot some nice pictures. The magazine used them very well as a cover and across five pages inside and, best of all, the publisher started to give me a sizeable amount of work over the next couple of years. Most importantly – I was off and running.

I find it remarkable that all of that was seven years ago. A lot of water has passed under a lot of bridges in the meantime and I have experienced those same nerves on more than a few occasions as I try new things, work for new people and take very different sorts of pictures.

Thank you to those friends and colleagues who helped kick-start my second freelance career. I’m still here and I’m still loving taking pictures.

© Neil Turner 11/09/2008. Facilities Manager Alan Gilbert MBIFM whose deputy is his brother Les Gilbert.

© Neil Turner 11/09/2008. Facilities Manager Alan Gilbert MBIFM whose deputy is his brother Les Gilbert.

Technical stuff: Canon EOS1D MkII cameras with Canon EF 16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L lenses. Lighting Lumedyne Signature Series 200 w/s pack and head.

Getting pictures away quickly

Getting photographs to the client has always been one of the less glamorous aspects of being a professional photographer. From sticking a pile of prints into an envelope and handing them to a courier to scanning negatives before using clunky slow modems to deliver them right up until today’s relatively painless methods nobody in their right mind would list this part of the process as either satisfying or easy.

The arrival of social media and the realisation amongst better clients that using our work rather than their own smartphone snaps has meant that we have had to speed things up a lot. I’ve always liked Eye-Fi cards but more recently I have been working with clients and with projects where something even more reliable and configurable is required. The worst part of it is that there isn’t actually one simple solution or workflow that will satisfy all of them in all circumstances. For a lot of jobs transferring the pictures from the camera to a smartphone or tablet before captioning and shifting them to the client is quick enough and I’ve written about that workflow before. New software appears all of the time and I am always looking at ways to make things smarter and quicker by introducing some automation and cutting steps out.

Live Ingest window from Photo Mechanic 5.

Live Ingest window from Photo Mechanic 5.

I have other ways to get pictures to my clients. For example, I was shooting a whole bunch of corporate head-shots at a conference recently and the client wanted them straight away for various social media and powerpoint uses. We needed to work out the best method for both of us and their AV people mentioned that a shared Dropbox folder would suit their needs best. Working backwards from there I decided to use my Canon EOS6D camera which has some built in wireless networking and set it up to send medium resolution Jpegs to one of my laptops sitting in the conference centre. That’s easy enough to do using Canon’s own EOS Utility software. I had Photo Mechanic running on the laptop with a “Live Ingest” watching the folder where the Jpegs were arriving. The ingest added a basic caption and my details as well as the accurate time before copying the files to pre-shared Dropbox folders where the client, their social media team and the audio visual technicians could do what they needed to do with them. Somebody else was then re-naming the files with the subject’s name and everyone was very happy.

That’s one solution but it wouldn’t necessarily work for other clients. Another recent case needed a different idea. I needed to supply very rapid pictures to the client’s FTP address from the camera. This made captioning much harder and between us we agreed that for social media use they only needed relatively small files and that speed was more important than anything else. Later in the day I would have time to process and properly caption the RAW files and so I set up the 5D MkIII to shoot RAW to the CF card and medium compressed Jpegs to the SD card.

Whilst the Eye-Fi ProX2 can send pictures over FTP I went with Canon’s own wifi transmitter the WFT-E7 for several reasons, not the least of which is that it gives you proper feedback when the file has been transferred. I also made sure that the playback on the camera screen was set to card 2 (the SD card) which makes selection and sending from the camera a lot easier. On this occasion I used my own 4G Mifi unit to do all of the transfers as I was in an area with brilliant 4G signals and there wasn’t much network congestion as everyone else in the place seemed to be using the free wifi. It takes about five minutes using the built-in wizard in the camera to set up a new connection and we tested the system ahead of the event. The idea was simple – every time there was a lull in the event, I would quickly scroll back through the recent pictures and use the ‘set’ button on the camera to transmit the chosen Jpegs to the client’s server and into a pre-designated folder on the server. If it became too busy to make selections I could simply switch to sending every single file. The system worked pretty much flawlessly all day and the battery on the WFT-E7 was still at 66% after five hours use. I did not have to resort to sending everything – much to everyone’s great relief!

Other professional cameras have their own dedicated wifi transmitters but some of them kill the camera’s own batteries. That is definitely the case with the EOS6D – battery drain is huge and you need to make sure that you have plenty of spares with you. Over the last couple of years I have worked with half a dozen different cameras and their accompanying transmitters – from Nikon, Canon and Fujifilm – as well as trying most of the aftermarket options from SD cards to the rather impressive Camranger. I really like the Canon WFT-E7 even if it is a bit cumbersome when attached to the bottom of the camera and so I tend to use it on a longish cable with the unit on my belt or in a pocket.

There’s one other technique that I use from time to time and it is probably the most reliable of all and that is to connect the camera to the laptop and share the pictures that way. When there is a choice between a bit of cable or a wireless connection I will always use the bit of cable because it is less prone to interference. It means that it becomes harder to move around but a cable from the camera into a laptop running with the lid closed inside a small rucksack is sometimes the way to go. Getting an Apple laptop to keep working with the lid closed requires some third party software and I’ve found InsomniaX to be very good for this specific job. The laptop battery takes a bit of a hit but it is otherwise a reliable way to go. This isn’t a particularly elegant solution but it is one of the many solutions that I have at my disposal.

Having many ways to achieve similar goals means that I can satisfy a range of clients by tailoring my service to their needs. Some days I don’t need to supply pictures quickly but those days appear to be getting fewer and further between. There’s so much more to this whole topic than I have space for here such as being able to verify which files have arrived safely and having the ability to back up remotely as you work. The worst part is that I am starting to find this whole topic interesting or even satisfying which, according to the opening paragraph makes me someone not in their right mind!

F4 and be there…

06 August 2015. Bournemouth, Dorset. Close up of part of a Canon 70-200 F4L IS lens. Hillcrest Road

06 August 2015. Bournemouth, Dorset. Close up of part of a Canon 70-200 F4L IS lens.

I’ve discussed zooms versus primes far too many times in far too many blog posts to rehearse the old arguments again and at the end of my recent post about zooming with your feet I mentioned investing in some new gear with a promise to follow it up with a blog post – so here it is.

The great New York press photographer Weegee is supposed to have said “F8 and be there” when asked how he got such great pictures. I’m not remotely interested in the debate about whether or not he actually said it but I am interested in the idea of apertures and, more importantly, maximum apertures.

For as many years as I’ve been shooting with zooms I’ve owned and used lenses pretty much exclusively with f2.8 maximum apertures. I have tried to count the number of f2.8 zooms that I’ve had in my career and it is at least thirteen and probably one or two more that have been forgotten. It isn’t just me either – 90% of press and editorial photographers shoot on a daily basis with a 24-70 and 70-200 combination and probably have a 16-35 or something similar in the bag as well. It made a lot of sense when you were battling against low light and film or chips that couldn’t function beyond a relatively modest high ISO. The downside was always the weight – 70-200 f2.8 lenses are big, bulky and very heavy and so I have been toying with the idea of replacing my f2.8 zooms with new f4 versions for quite a while.

Owning fast primes for those jobs where super fast lenses are needed has made the jump a bit easier whilst the quality of brand news lenses always gives your work a boost so I started the swap over three months ago with a Canon 24-70 f4L IS. It isn’t much smaller or lighter than the current Canon 24-70 f2.8L II but it has image stabilisation and a truly remarkable close focus (they call it macro) capability. The photo of the 70-200 at the top of this blog was taken with it without any form of accessory and I could have gone even closer had I wanted. I always tended to stop down to f4 or even f5.6 with most of my work using wider lenses and so this piece of kit makes a lot of sense and I have loved using it.

Jump forward a couple of months, throw in a great cashback offer from Canon UK and I bought the 70-200 f4L IS. This lens is half the weight of the f2.8 version and is brilliantly easy to work with. The image stabilisation appears to be very good and for much of the work that I do it is a perfect piece of kit when married to a Canon EOS5D MkIII. Next up will be the 16-35 f4L – a lens that I have borrowed and used and been delighted with. My old 16-35 f2.8L is still performing well and it isn’t a range that I use all that often and so I can wait for Canon UK to run another promotion.

Shooting at f4 isn’t a Weegee style philosophy but then neither was shooting at f2.8. I think that it is more of a practical reality where I have made a reasoned choice between speed and weight. Shooting wide open at f4 still gives some very shallow depths of field on the longer lens and owning fast primes is great cover for those extremely rare jobs where short bands of focus are needed. It makes great business sense to buy quality lenses that are almost 50% cheaper than the alternatives too – these days we all have to think about profit margins and the spiralling cost of doing business as a photographer is something that we all need to think about.

I haven’t disposed of any of my f2.8Ls yet but I haven’t touched any of them since their cousins came to town either.

Choosing between full frame Canons…

The Canon EOS6D, EOS5D MkIII and the EOS1DX

The Canon EOS6D, EOS5D MkIII and the EOS1DX

A couple of years ago I wrote about how, as a working photographer, I make purchasing decisions. The formula is simple: assess the actual need against the purchase price and proceed accordingly. On that basis I own Canon full-frame digital SLRs (the cost of switching to another brand would be too high – even if I wanted to) and about ten Canon lenses. My last crop-frame DSLR was the EOS7D which was lovely to use but utterly useless to me above about 640 ISO and I shoot at 1000 to 2000 quite a bit these days. I’m always interested in new kit but rarely do I buy something just because I want it.

The chances are that all three of the cameras in the picture are nearing the end of their model lives. The rumours of an EOS5D MkIV and even an EOS1DX MkII (or whatever they choose to call it) are already swirling around the web and it cannot be long before the EOS6D gets an update either. That doesn’t make them bad cameras – far from it, they are all exceptional bits of kit.

I was asked the other day by a talented amateur photographer that I happened to be shooting a portrait of whether it was worth his while “going full-frame”. There’s never a right or wrong answer to questions like that: Are they rich enough to buy on a whim? Can they afford the new lenses that they might need? Will it improve their photography? All I can do is to say that I love the image quality that the larger area sensors undoubtedly give you in low light. Any of the three cameras above (and their Nikon equivalents) will happily operate at 3200 ISO which is about as far down the road to shooting in the dark as I tend to need to go and so I’m happy to work with any of them.

The EOS1DX is three times the price of the 6D without seeing much (if any) jump in image quality. Of course you get huge jumps in build quality, speed of operation and in the flexibility offered and it is those options and features that you need to assess to justify the extra cost. The weight and size differences are also considerable and in using and carrying them it becomes obvious after a few seconds that they are very different animals and that choosing which one to buy is all about ‘horses for courses’.

Sitting neatly between the 6D and the 1DX is the 5D MkIII. Small enough to be carried everywhere, built well enough for most jobs and with plenty of options too. The speed of operation is good without being blisteringly fast and the files that it produces are right up there with the very best. It is no surprise that the 5D MkIII is my favourite for the work that I do and has been for the last couple of years.

On top of all of that there is the ‘mis-matched camera syndrome’ that I and a lot of photographers suffer from. Put simply, working with two cameras as many of us do becomes a bit harder when the two cameras are not the same model. Not only are the controls and menus different when you are shooting but so are the memory card options and (most importantly) the batteries and chargers. It can be really infuriating if you are travelling and have to bring two or more different camera battery chargers as well as multiple types of memory cards. Luckily Canon only use Compact Flash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) but that’s still more options than you might like.

If you are reading this Canon Inc (or Nikon for that matter) – can you do something about standardising chargers and maybe adopting charging and even file transfer over USB Type C as an option in your next releases? Standardising batteries across the range is probably a step too far but it might be a good idea if you can pull it off. How about making all cameras twin slot with CF and USB? How about making one of the CF slots on the 1DX replacement compatible with a quality CF to SD adapter? I’ve got lots of ideas and I’m available for consultancy (insert smiley icon here).

If your one of those disciplined souls who can ignore all new equipment rumours and announcements then you’ll have missed Canon’s upcoming EOS5DS and EOS5DSR – two 50+ Megapixel full-frame DSLRs which will have the pixel-peepers going nuts. The rest of us have looked at the specification and decided whether or not we are interested. I’m a ‘not-interested’ and will wait for the much-rumoured EOS5D MkIV to be announced later this year or early next. That doesn’t mean that I’ll just buy one – it means that I’ll think about it when I’ve actually seen one. The same goes for anything else that hits the market by the way.