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Resumé of Failures

[by Barry Schwartz]

Barry Schwartz

Photographer, writer, educator

(General Principles Edition, Photography)

“Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days. This CV of Failures is an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective.”

                                                                    - Johannes Haushofer, “CV OF FAILURES”

 Assignments and commissions I did not get


Projects where I gave ballpark pricing on the first phone call, despite the warning voice in my head screaming “It’s a losing proposition!”  (Number of these incidents has been redacted.)


Projects I priced too low so it looked like I didn’t know what I was doing.  (Number of these incidents has been redacted.)


Projects I priced too high because I was tired of pricing myself too low. (Number of these incidents has been redacted.)


Negotiations where I knew while preparing an estimate that I had been assigned the role of “beard” by the art buyers because they had already decided to hire someone else, but had to prove due diligence to their bosses by having me bid anyway as one of three bidders. I tell myself these interludes are opportunities to perfect my negotiating techniques, and, hey, there was at least one other person who was never going to get the job, either.  So at least I learned something or made a good connection.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Projects I contracted for but should never have done


Gigs where I knew there was not enough money in the project, but convinced myself they would be painless, easy-to-accomplish, and go quickly.  (Hah!)


Gigs where the clients seemed not to know very much about how the photo or design process worked, but where I convinced myself they could be educated and in the end would be easy to work with anyway.  (Hah! Hah!)


Projects with a graphics / branding / advertising agency where I assumed because they’d done this before they knew what they were doing and could insulate me from their own client who was mostly clueless, but despite all that we would produce great work and make good money. (Oy.)

Documents that were really not very good


Estimates and contracts that were confusing, too long, and contained legalistic language that even scared the hell out of me. And where the type on the Terms & Conditions page was so tiny you needed an electron microscope to read it.


Emails whose tone was too casual or too businesslike for the recipient.  And too long.  Much too long.  No, really, seriously, they just went on and on and on and on.  You know?

Personal projects not done so they’re not on my website to inspire clients to hire me


I’m not going there.



Failing to remember I’ve learned more from my failures than my successes; and, hey, I’m only human so I should just chill and give myself a break. Anyway, most people never see my disasters because I successfully keep them hidden, so, really, what’s the problem?

(Based on Johannes Haushofer’s “CV Of FAILURES”.  He’s an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University. See for yourself:

Barry Schwartz is a photographer, educator, and writer in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

By Barry Schwartz | Posted: May 12th, 2016 | No comments

How Your Portfolio Edit Can Support or Tank Your Brand

[by Carolyn Potts]

Show too much=Risk being forgettable.

You probably know by now that your brand is way more than your logo. It’s visual consistency throughout your online and offline presence.

Think of Apple. One of the most iconic brands we know and probably the most widely-used example in discussions about branding excellence. If you had to assign three words to describe Apple’s brand values, you might say: clean, fresh, simple. From their stores to packaging to product design every user experience is consistent with those brand values.

Consider if they changed their website’s background to black.
Or their typography to a serif font.
Or didn’t have retail clerks dressed in simple, branded t-shirts.

Providing customers with consistency leads to feelings of security. Humans are hard-wired to avoid the unknown. That’s actually one of the reasons why it’s so hard to land a new client. (But that’s the subject for another article…)

One of the biggest mistakes I see photographers make when it comes to their branding, is they show way too much content. They also tend to segment work into categories that are not aligned with clients’ needs. It does not help a prospective client know who and what you are–or more importantly remember you!–when you show a bit of this and a bit of that and a some of this and some of that and boatload of this stuff, too. For those that remember late-night TV infomercials, it’s like you’re trying to be the Ginsu knife of photographers. “But wait! There’s more!”

You may say “But what about Apple?? They’re a computer company that sells phones, and music, and watches, and tablets. And next year they may sell TVs and cars!! Isn’t that the same as a photographer showing cars and food and weddings and landscapes and head shots and travel photos??”

No. Those “brand extensions” align with Apple’s core brand of developing the very best technology products that will delight and serve your digital lifestyle. If they started selling running shoes and chef knives and make-up (products that are probably used by many, many of their customers) how would you feel about their brand?

There is a way to show that you are more than a one-trick pony–that you can shoot many things that your client needs– but it requires first asking yourself “Who are my ideal clients? What are their primary needs? How can I best show them what they need to see to get them in the door the first time so that I can up-sell them later?”  When you edit your portfolio with those answers in mind, your brand becomes more memorable to your prospects. You will attract the clients who want and need you because you’re meeting their needs first.

Carolyn Potts, international photography marketing consultant, speaker and former photo rep, provides talented and proactive photographers with portfolio edits and marketing strategies designed to help them get more work. Find her at and Google +

By Carolyn Potts | Posted: May 9th, 2016 | No comments
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Paperwork Share

[by Jenna Close]

Paperwork shares are a great resource, but sometimes I wish I could see real-world examples of how and why photographers made mistakes. So, below you will find an actual job from early in my career illustrating some of the ways I screwed up my estimate.


Creative action & lifestyle images of subjects interacting with portable storage units. 5-7 final images, from a selection of around 30 variations (per location). Client will be responsible for shoot locations, Photographer will assist in finding talent.

Locations: 5 separate locations depicting target demographics: military housing, suburban house, city apartment, city house, college apartment

Talent per location:

Military: male and female couple, male in fatigues

Suburban: mother and children

City apartment: single male of race other than Caucasian

City house: young couple, male and female

College apartment: single female, college age or a little older, ethnic look preferred

Fees: $6800

this includes:

photographer + assistant

client website for final image selection

retouch and post-production on all final selections (up to 35 images)

FTP delivery of high res final selects

unlimited lifetime usage for Client & all Client franchises

Rights Granted:

Unlimited lifetime usage for Client & all Client franchises. Photographer may use images for promotion (print and web) without prior consent from client.

Total estimated costs: $6800

Let’s take a look at some of the mistakes I made here:

First, the Fee is too low for the overall scope of the job. One of the main things I didn’t account for was TIME. Time finding models, time driving to and from 5 different locations, time scouting, time involved in file handling, web gallery uploading and post production of around 35 images.

The estimate wasn’t detailed enough to protect me from differences in expectations of what I was to do. Scouting the locations prior to shooting was vital, and I set it up here so that I had to eat the cost of time and mileage. Next, I simply listed post-production without setting parameters for what that meant. I was thinking basic color correction, cleaning up a few things here or there. The client had something else in mind and so I spent several days in photoshop patching dried grass, removing wrinkles from the covers they put over the boxes and seriously cleaning up the locations (cars, fire hydrants, gum on the sidewalks, etc). If I had communicated clearly what my post-production expectations were ahead of time we could have had that conversation and come to a better arrangement before it was too late.

We had agreed that the models would be found through friends, not modeling agencies. However, I didn’t account for the fact that I felt my friends should be paid for their time. And I did pay them, but it came out of my pocket, not the Client’s. I also didn’t account for any specialized clothing, such as the fatigues, which I ended up purchasing myself.

I didn’t limit the usage, even a little bit. About a month after this job was wrapped I was driving down the highway and saw one of the photos on a billboard. It made me think about the value I had brought to the Client vs what I had charged for usage. The Client had every right to use that image on the billboard because I had failed to protect myself in the contract.

I think it’s also useful to examine why this happened:

I was a fairly inexperienced photographer at the time and $6800 was a lot of money to me. But even so, I had made better choices on other estimates during that same period. The real issue was that this was the first national, recognizable brand I had engaged with. I wanted the job for a lot of different reasons, income included, but more so because I believed it would elevate my status as a marketable photographer. I felt it would take my client list to a new level. I became afraid that putting my foot down would immediately scare them off, and I didn’t separate the emotions I was having from the hard facts of engaging in sustainable business practices.

Did I get the job? Yes. And I will never forget it as a prime example of lessons learned the hard way.

Jenna Close has made mistakes before and will make them again. The important part is to learn, teach others and move forward. She can be found at

By Jenna Close | Posted: April 25th, 2016 | No comments

The Struggle With Modern Day Usage

[by Jenna Close]

The single largest conflict with my client-direct jobs is limited licensing. Prior to the internet, promotional materials required a lengthy process of design and printing. Changes to existing materials happened neither quickly nor often, thus it was easy for clients and photographers both to keep track of image usage. These days change happens in seconds and the distribution options have increased dramatically. Many clients are daunted by the prospect of keeping track of image usage once it’s on the web. They have legitimate concerns about signing on for a very specified and limited licensing structure which they cannot completely control. It isn’t simply a matter of billboard vs magazine vs brochure vs annual report. Now it’s Facebook, and the company LinkedIn profile and employee LinkedIn profiles and websites, and Instagram, and all these shareable, wildly uncontrollable platforms.

I should note that the majority of my clients are hiring me to shoot a product or activity which is specific to them. In fact if I resold those images without their permission it would end our relationship. While shoots for magazines or cover news stories can generate images that have a resale value, my shoots typically do not. And in my world the following licensing options are becoming the final barrier to landing the job:

1) Limiting usage by time: You know the saying, “Once you put it on the internet, it’s there forever.” Just because the license isn’t renewed after a certain time period does not mean that the image can realistically be pulled from everywhere on the web.

2) Limiting usage by area of publication: especially online, images get shared, stolen, repurposed and posted without the original licensee being able to control the reach. Outside of the web, the license needs to be broad enough to cover all the variety of publications, ads, etc in use today, in addition to their web versions, which almost always accompany the print version, which leads me back to “once you put it on the internet…”.

I find that my clients are willing to pay a usage fee and typically understand why that equates to a significant increase in cost, but they want it to be mostly unlimited. Where I repeatedly succeed in placing limits on usage is with special items such as billboards, bus wraps and trade show displays. Trade show displays are the most common areas where clients will return at a later date to negotiate for that particular use. I also restrict third party rights. In many cases, other companies who participated in the project will ask to use the images. When I hold onto third party rights I can make additional income from that license as long as my original client is OK with it, which has never been a problem so far.

I bring this up as a point of conversation. Our client’s needs have shifted, but have we evolved to provide solutions to meet those needs? And how do we do that while still accounting for the value of our work? Right now, this is one of the biggest struggles of my business.

Jenna Close is a San Diego commercial photographer working primarily in the industrial, aerial and corporate markets.

By Jenna Close | Posted: April 18th, 2016 | 2 comments

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