Bill Jay’s Textstrips

Bill Jay’s pithy End Notes in each issue of Lenswork were always a joy to read. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed them until I picked up a digital copy of Lenswork #83, which is devoted to Jay’s writing. (A post at The Online Photographer linked to it, and I clicked dutifully.) Only a couple of pages into Jay’s “Textstrips,” I came upon this:

I have trouble imagining Attila the Hun as a landscape photographer.


I’m looking forward to the rest of the issue.

This photo has nothing to do with Bill Jay:

light, surface, blur

Chiseled Spam / This Ain’t Stock

Twentieth Century Fox is promoting an upcoming film, Unfinished Business. Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco all star in the movie about the “best business trip ever.” It’ll likely be the kind of trashy sophomoric humor I enjoy–at least for one viewing. This post isn’t about the movie, though.

It’s about one facet of its promotion.

20th C. Fox has partnered with Getty’s iStock to release a series of “stock photographs” that feature the film’s actors. The photographs are free to download this week. I’m sure they’ll show up in any number of office presentations. (Editorial is the only free license for the sticklers out there.)

Successful applauding executives sitting at the table

The blog that directed my attention to this promotion, Subtraction, described the photographs as being in the “grand tradition of cheesy, painfully bad stock photography.” The images aren’t so much “in” the grand tradition as being hyper conscious of the tropes of stock photography and taking those tropes and turning them up to 11. And they’ve got some really talented folks both in front of and behind the camera (and the computer…). They have been deliberately tuned and produced to the nth degree to tick all of the bad stock boxes but in doing so have gone far above the stock photography. This is smart, highly effective custom photography.


The photograph above is a good example. The flying wedge of business people is a stock photography staple. Stop, though, to really look at the photography. Notice how the talent hold themselves–they’re playing their parts perfectly. Vaughn remains himself–he’s not been over retouched to anonymous nothingness. The visual vibe of the image has a touch of over baked HDR but mostly has a filmic texture. Sure the background is blown out, but look at the “physical” defect the top left corner–there’s no cold plastic perfection of standard stock here.

It’s good promotion. It’s just not stock.

There’s no history. I don’t even have archives, myself. I keep nothing. What I like is to do — not the fact that I did. It doesn’t excite me at all. When people start to think that what they did in the past is perhaps even better than what they do now, they should stop.

-Karl Lagerfeld via

Obviously photography is intimately tied to history in a way that fashion is not, but I find Lagerfeld’s perspective fascinating in terms of working method. Could everything I do be of and in the moment? In a way, this applies as much to commercial as to art photography.

Photography Criticism Goes Mainstream: NY Times Magazine Redesign

There are few (if any) large scale general interest publications that feature photography criticism regularly and make it accessible for a lay audience. With the NY Times Magazine’s relaunch, Teju Cole’s new column, On Photography, appears to herald just such an offering. Cole’s first column is directed towards the work of Roy DeCarava. The column moves seamlessly between close readings of several photographs, technical concerns, the social context within which the photographs were made and the social impacts DeCarava’s work made that continue to reverberate in present (photography & film) culture. I think that the Times ought to be applauded for this offering and am excited to see where Cole directs our gaze next.

New Trends in Attorney Portraits

Dion Algeri of Great Jakes has a nice post up on current trends and best practices for attorney portraits in 2015. I’m in complete agreement that a more open, informal and personality driven portraiture is the new standard for attorney portraits.

Check out the post here.

The above image is a portrait I did in 2014 for Ford Marrin.

value of professional photos

The NPPA is in the midst of publishing a four part series about research author Sara Quinn did in conjunction with the University of Minnesota on what makes a photograph worth publishing. Part one can be read here and part two here.

While this research was conducted in regards to news photography, I think the following three conclusions from the research are worth consideration by corporate photographers and those using corporate photography:

  • “Professional photographs were twice as likely as user-generated photographs to be shared…”
  • “More time was spent, on average, with professionally generated photographs than with user-generated images.”
  • “The importance of “storytelling” to photography was mentioned by nearly every subject in the exit interviews.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last century, you’re probably clued in to the fact that professionally produced images are valuable in maximizing the time that potential clients spend with your materials. This research suggests that these professional images can be reinforced by focusing on storytelling. Skip those stock shots of skylines–draw in potential clients with narrative photographs that show your company and its staff engaging with one another. Tell a story with your visual assets.

There has been a move in not only the news but in marketing as well to turn towards user generated content in social media. What Quinn’s research suggests to me is that this might be misguided. (Again, this research wasn’t directed towards marketing photographs, but I bet the results would be similar.) The entire point of social media is for potential customers or clients to engage with your brand by sharing what you post with their social networks. “Professional photography is twice as likely as user-generated photographs to be shared…” Let that sink in. One of my clients has a very active Instagram feed (I’ve not contributed to it; my work for them has been event related). The work is professionally created or at least appears to be; it also is narratively driven. Posts tell stories that readers can associate with and aspire to. Professional doesn’t mean boring; these photographs are engaging, fun, quirky and honest. And, just because they are professional doesn’t mean they lack authenticity. User-generated is often touted as being “authentic”. Well, perhaps this research shows that authentic isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to social media.

If you’re wavering over whether or not to put professional photography into the budget for your next media campaign, stop wavering and put it in. Professional photography is worth the investment.

Recent Shoot: Portraits for Barbri (80 Law Students, 3 Hours, 1 Photographer)

A few weeks back Barbri called and asked if I’d be interested in shooting some portraits during an interview event for international law students. “Sounds like fun,” I said, “What are the details?” The portraits would be the incentive for students to take a Barbri survey; they expected roughly 75 students to take advantage. In the end, I shot ~80 portraits over three hours. All of them are below. The Barbri reps I was working with ran out of survey forms; apparently the portraits had the desired effect.

In this digital age, not only does your company need quality photography for its marketing, but so do all of your clients. If you’ve got an event in which you’d like to use photography as a means of drawing in potential customers while providing them with something of immediate value, I would love to help you find a solution for doing so. I am up for the challenge.

International Law Students photographed for Barbri, January 30, 2015

International Law Students photographed for Barbri, January 30, 2015

What makes you 48% more likely to be hired? A good profile picture.

You need a good profile picture if you want your web presence to help you close sales. One service that I use to help me connect with clients is Thumbtack. I love Thumbtack. The site recently did some research on what makes a profile effective. The screen shot below is of the results from their e-mail blast on the topic. Basic takeaway: a clear profile picture increases a vendor’s chance of being hired by 48%. Want even more business? Add additional photographs that show what you do, how you do it and where you do it to gain a further 41% boost. Pictures work. Hire a professional to help you Picture More Business®.

Thumbtack Profile Picture Research Results

What are you waiting for?

Why LinkedIn Profile Pictures Matter

As 2013 became 2014, a LinkedIn expert published a list of the top ten things one could do to improve your LinkedIn profile. The number one thing on that list was “Update Your Profile Picture.” The suggestion was backed up by the fact, from LinkedIn, that a new profile picture will give a profile a 10% increase in profile views. That’s pretty good.

I didn’t see a similar list this year, but it remains just as relevant now as before–especially as images are being used more frequently on LinkedIn’s home screen and in its e-mail blasts. The following is a screen grab of an e-mail I received earlier today. While I could point out Veronica Escobar’s picture because I photographed it for her, the image that caught my eye the most is Michael Deiner’s. It’s the black and white image in the lower left. Even though it is a small image in the overall collage, it stands out because it’s monochrome is stark and contrasty. Not only does the image pop off the screen, it also fits with Michael’s industry.

LinkedIn e-mail 20150127

Several other images strike me as less than successful; I won’t name names. If someone else’s head is peeking out from behind yours, it’s probably time for a new photo. If you’re eyes are hidden in shadow, it’s probably time for a new profile picture. If your face is less than 25% of the image area, it’s probably time for a new profile picture. And, if you’re that guy with an illustration for a profile picture, it’s absolutely time to put up a proper profile picture. Real pictures work better on profiles like LinkedIn. (And Zach, don’t give me any push back because you’re an awesome creative.)

How well is your profile picture working for you?