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The Biz: Archiving and Bidding

Lesson 32 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

32. The Biz: Archiving and Bidding


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Location Assessment


Gear Overview


Direction and Wardrobe


Exploring Location and Available Light


Bar Owner: Setting the Scene


Shoot: Bar Owner


Shoot: Bar Owner, Evolving the Look


Lesson Info

The Biz: Archiving and Bidding

Always remember, things change. I've referenced magazines 'cause that is my frame of reference for many, many years. You may love the magazine. The magazine doesn't love you back. It's an institution. The people may be very fond of you but they're gonna move on. Look at these magazine. The American edition GEO, Newsweek, Life, Travel Holiday, they're all gone. Who is still standing? The scruffy little freelancer. Those big powerful institutions are all gone, okay? We are still out here fighting the good fight because we love to do this so much, and we're resilient. Photographers are very resilient creatures, okay? We roll with the punch. How many folks here have lost clients? Had somebody hiring you like crazy and then all of a sudden moved on? Right? Got fired? Whatever, whatever they did, moved on, and they don't use you anymore. Okay? It's the process you go through. And that leads you to being very, very careful with your archive, okay? Because that becomes home base in lots of way...

s. And passive income, I can't emphasize enough how much passive income is an important aspect of any photographer's life, and that can come from maybe if you've done a book, you have royalties. It might not amount to all that much. As the book ages, your royalty is diminished but there is still like this constant trickle effect. Stock photography, which is what this is referencing here. Which is, if I may, it's a pretty huge... Not huge. It's a large enough receivable for us that it definitely helps. Many, many years ago, we started sending images to the Image Bank as Getty used to be called. And then Getty became this. There were many types of stock houses back in the day. But we're still with Getty, and we still submit to them occasionally, not as much as we used to be. Everything has become such a legal hoop-jumping exercise because there has to be certain kinds of releases on this and that. There is recognizability issues, all kinds of things. But the images that we have submitted, I think we have about maybe 1,600 images with Getty, which is a fairly good-sized library but some other photographers have 30,000. Some people will shoot specifically for stock and submit to Getty. But Getty also has their own stock shooters now, so they go out and create archives for them. But it's definitely been a very valuable receivable for us. Some months, not a whole lot. Other months, depending a lot. That's why if you know the value of your archive, there have been certain images that we've just always been amazed. Do we include the? Well. (laughs) And so there is Wilma. Now Wilma actually has not been submitted to Getty because Wilma was such a hot ticket that she remained with us still. This was a story Joe did for National Geographic on the Neanderthal, and Joe will tell you a little bit more about her. They got to become very close friends. Very close. But when the shoot was over, and we had all the material, and it was then the embargo was lifted from the Geographic 'cause there is a certain period of time you can't send your images out. We were getting all kinds of calls and emails and requests to use Wilma, every picture that ran, and then others. This woman has really worked it for us. (laughs) Incredibly. She has been a fantastic source of odd revenue that's come in. Who would have thought? Yeah. Wilma is a perfectly recreated Neanderthal female, and I had to literally carry Wilma into the woods of Spain. She is made out of silicon and various other elements put together by the brilliant, brilliant museum artists. They're fantastic. They're Dutch brothers, the Kennis brothers, and they are known worldwide by museums as the go-to people to recreate certain kinds of animals or periods of time, et cetera. So she is a authentic-looking Neanderthal female. All sorts of research went into creating Wilma as we refer to her, referencing obviously. (Lind laughs) So where is Barney? But you have to, as a photographer, you go out with Wilma. We brought her to Spain. And there is the farm that we were on, and the farm, the area that the Neanderthal DNA was found was part of a property that was owned by these folks. This woman was one of the owners. And you have to think on your feet editorially. This is a little bit of an aside here but Wilma is out there, and I'm photographing her. Wilma doesn't speak (laughs) and she doesn't smile. I'm like carrying around this doll basically, this life-sized doll, which was a little strange (laughs) actually. Having conversations with Wilma out in the woods, it was just like I'm losing my mind. (Lind laughs) But I thought, well, the lady here, so the lovely person, had kind of reddish tinge to her hair, and they had determined that Neanderthal could have had red hair, and I thought about the connection of the ancient DNA found on this property, and this lady who owned the property, so we put 'em in a picture together. Put a backdrop out and photographed it with the farm in the background and this and that. And there is Wilma in all her glory. This is in a Spanish national park, brandishing a spear, obviously completely naked and completely anatomically correct. So Geographic asked me to minimize the nudity aspects of things by lighting her in a shadowy fashion, et cetera, of course. They give you this naked lady and then say-- Cover up. Downplay the nakedness, you know? (laughs) It's kind of a dichotomy of. And so I tried to have fun with it. (audience laughing) But one thing that we did do out in the field was again editorially reasons, there is again the lady who is the. And this is very realtime. So this is done on the side of a barn in a farm in Spain. This again is a Lastolite blackout, a six-by-six blackout. I just leaned it against the wall, and I put the lady against the wall and Neanderthal. 70 to 200-millimeter lens, identical light sources. These are eight-in-one umbrellas popped onto lampeds here with Elinchrom packs. And so this is the camera work. I want to show you this just because you have to fire up your imagination, and that's what I came out with. That's done in the camera, okay? That's a double exposure done in broad daylight, not a studio session, not a blackout, nothing like this. No controlled environment. That's where we shot it right there. So I'm able to do one exposure with flash, double exposure. Shot the one flash down, turn the other flash on, fire again, come up with that. And I thought it would be kind of a cool cover for the Geographic. They did not share my enthusiasm. (Lind laughs) They did run this as a cover, and the cover that they ran was similar to this. They cropped into Wilma and just ran kind of a piece of her face as the cover. And you can see the marvelous craftsmanship here. All of that going into this very difficult time. It was tough being a Neanderthal. (laughs) We kept that take apart from the general run of our stock photography. Lind was getting fielding phone calls because oddly enough, certain stories. You think that maybe the stories, ain't got to be anybody care about it. Well, science has a very powerful resonance, okay? Something like Neanderthal is kind of a hot topic there for a while and still remains. Every once in a while, we get a phone call for her. I shot a group of gold coins for Businessweek magazine way back in the day, literally in the early '80s. That's probably been my most lucrative picture. Just gold coins on black velvet-- Maybe the hand or something, right? A handful of gold coins or something. I think it was, yeah. And not particularly well done. (Lind laughs) Really, it's kind of a lousy photograph, but I put it into my stockpiles, and it's been a hit. Currency, wealth-- The wheels of Parmesan cheese. Wheels of Parmesan cheese. I shot these wheels of cheese in Italy for whatever reason. Big money-maker. All that sort of stuff. Very, very popular photographs. So you never know where lightning is gonna strike, and your archive will come into play to get you through a tough month. Lind and I referenced the fact that we have had some difficult times, and one of those things that assist you, get you through those difficult times are the payments that you can get from hanging on to your archive. Clients know this. And so now the battle on. Lind interfaces with clients and you oftentimes what, you get a breathless young art buyer or someone on the, "Oh yeah, I want a copyright, "all rights in perpetuity." What's your response? (laughs) I know what mine would be. That's why Lind answers the phone. (both laughing) Yeah. As I say, I mean specific to break out the title, the art buyers and the art directors and art producers know the drill. It's the clients who hire themselves directly want to hire Joe who tend to be more clueless about all of the licensing. They just don't understand the language. They don't understand how it all works. And then I have to educate them, which I'm happy to do, but it's frustrating too 'cause its almost like try to learn more about what you want before you make that phone call to the photographer but they don't always know, and so that's my job to fill them in and explain what it's gonna be if you want Joe to do a shoot. If I'm that person and I call you up and say, "We're interested in Joe shooting this thing "for a new pharmaceutical lifestyle thing, "and shoot is gonna be in Florida for three days. "We'd like you to bid on this. "And it's all rights in perpetuity "and transfer of copyright "and just get back to me." What do you say? What's the first thing you say? If they really said all of that, it's very confusing because they're asking for an awful lot. They kind of do. If they're using that lingo, they kinda have a clue but let's reel it in. And just even the word that Joe used bid, how many of you are familiar with the bid process or that there even is one in advertising mostly? Are any of you? So so? Okay. The bid process is something that's been around for decades. And it's very common practice in ad agencies to triple bid a job. So they will contact. The basic process is it starts in the agency. There'll be a team of creatives who go to the art buyers, art producers. They kinda go by the same name. And they'll say, "Okay, we need someone "to shoot this new campaign, new pharmaceutical campaign." This is the kind of look and feel that we need, so who can you recommend? And it's the art buyers who actually have kept a file on photographers who via their sent-in promo or they've met in person or reps have put them in front of them, and then they'll go to that file and say, "Okay, there is a couple of people "I think would be great for this." They call in those portfolios, and then they sent them off to the creative team. They make their decision. The art buyer will then have to contact these three photographers and get bids from all three. Usually they will give them the same parameters because otherwise you're not comparing apples to apples, you're really all over the place. So they'll give them the parameters of the shoot, everything that's involved, the licensing that they need, sometimes the location or they will leave it up to them to come up with what location would you think this shoot would be best serviced. And then the bids come in, the art buyer does the evaluation like, "Mm wait a minute. "This photographer wants a $50,000 fee "and wants to spend 75,000 in expenses, "and someone else wants a $10,000 fee "and wants to spend 100,000 in expenses." It could be all over the board, and it's the art buyer's job to contact them all, figure out why are we all over the place here, and then bring it to a more comfortable place to then present to the client. And then the client sees the three options for talent, and knowing that they're all pretty much within a range, give or take sometimes 15, $20,000, sometimes more, and if the art directors feel and the creatives feel that even if it's the most expensive photographer but that's the person they want to shoot the job, that's the person they will pitch to the client most strongly as their number one choice. If the client is much more budget-driven as most tend to be, they will say, "Mm we need to come in "somewhere lower than that," so either the art buyer has to go back again to that photographer and do another revision. We have been through this on my end. I've done probably 10 revisions to an estimate because I'm asked to chip away this, take out that. Do you really need that? Let's take that out. Keep carving and carving to a point where we will then, Joe and I will sit down and say, "What's our walkaway price?" Because if there is so much of this that's being carved away, we still have to do the job well and put some money in your pocket. So how much carving can we really do? (clears throat) Excuse me. It's at that point. Then we'll go back, and I'll make a presentation of a new estimate, the final estimate, and this is where we are, and it's kind of a take it or leave it. We'd rather be awarded that job but we're not always. So that's part of the bidding process, and that's very common. So if you ever have to enter into that, in advertising particularly, you just have to be ready for the game of it all because that's exactly what it is. Sometimes it's not your fault. (both laughing) Those times are rare because everybody knows it's the photographer's fault. That's just a given, right? That's written down somewhere. But imagine that. We did a job, and this was a major job, and we had a mandate to do kind of up close and personal with military personnel. So that looks like a real kind of tough situation in some jungle somewhere, et cetera, et cetera. He is an actor, and it's a lake in Connecticut. We actually couldn't cast real military personnel. We had to cast for them. So that's how that came to be. Right. So Lind has great contacts. She had friends who had a house on a lake as I recall. Yes. And we ended up in this lake in kind of freezing weather. It wasn't the dead of summer. Let's put it that way. And we're in really thick wetsuits, and I'm in the water with him, and my assistant, Scott Holstein, at that time is also in the water with a speedlight on a stick and a warm gel and a raw light to simulate early morning daylight, and he is off to camera right, and I'm talking to that speedlight, and it's a one-light picture. This, Lind had to go get a crane 'cause we wanted to get the pre. They wanted the emotional moment where soldiers in a field over in the Middle East for instance, before they go into a scout or something like that huddle up and are just together as buddies, as friends. And so it had to be a sandy environment, so this is crane at the New Jersey shore. Right. (laughs) Not the Middle East. So you have to work within your budget, and they wanted a completely downward look. The fun part for me of doing this particular shot was that these are all fashion models and whatnot in New York City, and it was so exacting for this client that they insisted that we have actual real military gear that is state of the art, and we also have a military advisor on set with us to make sure that we didn't do something stupid or something that would be inappropriate, and he was a real DI, you know? And he is looking at these fashion folks, and he goes, "I got to get them a little rougher," you know? And he gets them to line up on the beach, and then he gets them to turn with him, and he gets them to march up the beach and then run double time, and he's given 'em cadences, and he's working 'em through about an hour of calisthenics before I actually got 'em in front of a camera. (Lind laughs) They were like, (panting) "What the hell? "Where is makeup?" (laughs) "I don't know if I signed up for this." "I want to go back to the trailer." But they actually had a really good time, and we had a military wardrobe stylist as well because to Joe's point, everything had to be very specific. So that was again a new skillset that we didn't necessarily have, military styling but-- That's the thing about taking these jobs. You're terrified, right? And it can be jobs large and small. It does not matter the scale of the job. I can be equivalently terrified of a simple production job, something where I'm just gonna go out with an assistant and a light and encounter somebody, or a big production. I get equally nervous beforehand because relative to that job, I still want to do well, right? And so all these values that we're talking about, yes, maybe you're not gonna be in a position any time soon to get a crane on a beach in New Jersey but the attention to detail from large to small is very important, and making sure that the contract is. I'm informed, like Lind tells me on location, "This has to happen, this has to happen. "We are mandated to do this. "You have to give them horizontals and verticals. "Even if the vertical doesn't completely work, "you need to deliver that." And Lind is also my guardian angel on location because I don't know if anybody has ever had this, I've had this happen to me where client just walks up to you or the representation of the client walks up to you, "Oh by the way, we just need this additional form signed." I don't sign anything on location. Yeah and then-- Give that to Lind. It's an uncomfortable awkward moment when certain things like that should have been handled before. And she'll vet it, and we'll see where we go from there. Out in the lake too. A pretty good set of pictures. And none of 'em got used. That was the irony. It went to the CEO of the company, and the CEO looked and said, "I don't want like this up close feely, "touchy-feely personal stuff with soldiers, "I want hardware." And we shot other. We also did a shoot on the West Coast where it was a soldier moving out of the house with the family like being relocated, and it was very lifestyle. There were many photo situations we did, the soldier coming home and meeting his baby for the first time. It was intended to be a calendar of a variety of different situations, and this is a small example of that. But when the guy at the top at the company saw the pictures, it's like, "Didn't somebody ever tell him "about it to begin with?" So nothing was ever published, and that was really frustrating 'cause after all the work, we still got paid but it wasn't just about a paycheck, It was also to see the work being published. You're very proud of it, and you want to see it being utilized the way it was intended to be but it was one of those things. The more time you spend on a job, the less money you make. Suzy. So can you use those for stock photos then if they didn't use them but you got paid? Yeah. To a degree, there are some, and we certainly use them for presentation. And depending on the releases that the model signed, there are images that we can use for stock depending. Most of the model were out of professional agencies, and they signed up only for that one shoot, so only for that one client. So depending on the level of the talent determined by the release that they signed, which everything is guarded and guided by all these contracts and agreements. Modeling agencies are very, very careful if they're representing a particular talent. It's really hard to get a release that enables you a wide range of stock usage 'cause obviously, and I'm sympathetic, and I know Lind is too because we're in the same boat. Our skills are our skills, and we value our skills. And yes, we get pushed to the wall sometimes about just releasing everything. Our models are in the same boat. They make their money with their face or their skills or their athletic ability or whatever it might be. If you want to use it more, you have to pay more. And clients try to resist that logic. I've actually been put in a position where I'm just trying to get something through. I've said like, "Okay, you rent a car, "and you keep it for two days, "and then you say you know, I like this car. "I'm gonna stay longer. "I want it for three more days. "Is the car rental agency gonna charge you "for those three days? "I think so." (laughs) You know? I think so. So more usage, more money. It's a very logical equation. Though in our industry, us being the creative types, sometimes it's hard to make that impression strongly enough on a client. But then can they use the image? The model? They can use the image only for self-promotion. They can't hand it off to a client. No. No, very rarely. And we're very good about that with our talent. Lind is wonderful at this. She maintains good relationships. It's not a stable of go-to people but we have reused models. Yeah, we do. We do. It's not even playing favorites. It's just if we know there is someone who has the right look for the shoot, and we've really enjoyed working with that talent, then we will go back to them, but we often like to switch it up too because each shoot requires a different look often so. Kinda going back to the financial side of things and estimating and all that. So I have two sides, one would be working directly for a client, the other would be working for an ad agency. Would you have a separate rate because that agency obviously is gonna give a little markup to that for their sells, right? So do you give them the wholesale price per se? No. (laughs) And that's where it comes down to usage. So a rate for editorial is very different than a rate for a commercial, advertising, print, out-of-home, social media, point-of-purchase, point-of-sale, packaging. The list can kinda just branch out. That's when a client, if they want all of that, then it's all rights. It's called all rights or unlimited use, and then the term in perpetuity. How many of you are familiar with that? In perpetuity, forever. So some people will just say unlimited use in time. The language that I like to use is the all rights in perpetuity, not to be confused with transfer of copyright, which is very different, which is something that we will be addressing in the other slide, a couple of slides from now. All right. Oh Ellie, do you have a question? Yeah, have you ever had an instance where you had to survey seasoned assist? And if you do, do you have a lawyer on staff, so to speak? That would be awesome if we did. Yeah. Yeah. Thankfully, we don't have that need. (laughs) I'm glad I shouldn't even say. Yeah. There have been a couple of contracts that have been questionably difficult that we have put in the front of an attorney for their vetting and just to make sure that we were all on the same page of understanding our need to certain things change. But most of the time, Joe and I really just look it over 100 times and make sure that everything seems to be okay. And if it's not, we bring it to the attention of whomever is actually presenting that contract to us. The other thing too, underneath all of this, and as we are discussing, the beauty of Lind and having a Lind is that I stay out of it most of the time. The last thing I want to do is as the creative, as the person behind the camera is get into a wrangle with the client or the art director or anybody at the agency about money before we get on the set. I want to walk on the set like I have never met anybody before, like, "Oh I'm the creative flower. "Oh oh I'm getting paid? "Who knew?" You know? (laughing) Like, "I'm here to express beautiful things," and Lind behind the scenes has done all of the grist, the gritty work that needs to happen to get me in that position, and I stay clean of it. So the art director is not already inclined to be pissed off at me having been through the budgetary process. It's true. It is good to have a Lind kind of person in your life if you can whether that person is a studio manager or an agent. We've had a couple of agents in the past, and we just liked the independence of not but nothing against not having an agent. It's also good to do that. What that person will do is be the interface with the art buyer, producer, or sometimes the art director directly, or photo editor. Again, depending on who is hiring you or the client directly. And that does keep the photographer out of it because it's difficult to be the creators as you all are and also have that. It's good to have a business hat on. You have to know about business and understand it, but to act as your own business manager while also being the creator, it sometimes really is a tough area to be in because you want to just go create, you want to do your thing like Joe said. I want to walk on the set and everything is like cool. Right. Like I don't even know about what you're gonna do with my pictures. Let's just make some good pictures 'cause you end up in some highly tension-producing situations where everybody is on the set or out on location for a 15-hour day, and nerves will tend to get frayed anyway, so you want to start in a really positive position. I did a major head job a couple of years ago, and I was on a boat for a couple of days in a river with the art director. We got along fine. It was good that we didn't have any sort of backstory, you know? We both had our respective camps. We would kibitz a little bit. I'm sure have heard that old joke. How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb? 99? Or one, excuse me. And then 99 others to stand to the side and say, "I could have done that job better." (audience laughing) So he was talking about photographer's ego, so I told them about that joke. He goes, "Oh yeah, yeah. "There is an art director version of that joke." I said, "Really? "I've never heard it." He goes, "How many art directors does it take "to change a light bulb?" And I said, "How many?" He goes, "None. "I'm an art director. "I don't change light bulbs." Aha. (audience laughing) So we had a good little kibitz there, you know? But an art director is a beautiful valuable resource on location. They can help shape your vision. They can point things out. They give you a visual direction. And a good art director also gives you that with the flexibility of the edges of it being you're allowed to move and offer them things that they might not expect. A wonderful collaboration between a photographer and an art director produces really good work. Because it's not just about the photograph, which is obviously very important piece of the puzzle here, but the concern of the art director is the client, and the client has approved a layout, and in the layout, the product has to go over here, the copy has to go over there. There is maybe a block of text over here, which means a photograph has to go somewhere in this mix. So the model can't be in the middle of where the text block was gonna be, and there is just so much moving around that can be done because the client signed off on the layout. So there are those parameters that are sometimes a little constraining and difficult to deal with.

Class Materials

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Joe McNally Gear List
McNally Lighting Diagrams

Ratings and Reviews


What is there to say, this is a master at work. I feel like I owe Joe a hundred lunches for the information I’ve learned from him and used in jobs through the years. Personally I relate to his slightly self-deprecating style quite well. Joe’s a confident, supremely knowledgeable and incredibly experienced photographer who doesn’t need to wear that on his sleeve to get the point across. He is also clearly a great leader who has built a terrific team. I snap up everything of Joe’s I can find and use it as a library, where every time you watch you take away something new. Thanks Joe, you’re a legend and good on Creative Live for offering this wonderful and beautifully curated course.

ileana gonzales photography

When I saw the chance to learn from the great Joe McNally I jumped through the screen at the chance to be in the audience. It's one thing to see how a fantastic photographer works, thinks, composes and styles, but to get a behind the curtain view at the way his entire shop operates was truly amazing. By allowing us to see Lynn's processes and Cali's workflow it encouraged me to diversify before taking the plunge into the business side of photography. Truly an amazing team and an unforgettable learning experience.


Joe is fantastic! The wealth of information, experience and extraordinary talent he shares is invaluable! He's also a very engaging, humorous instructor who keeps an audience a part of the "discussion." Don't miss a Joe McNally class, seminar or workshop opportunity!

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