Bright and early on the 7th of May, we welcomed a group of guest speakers for a focus on the world of commercial photography.
Our latest Breakfast Briefing – hosted in the Library at Shoreditch House – explored photography and its varied commercial applications; from editorial commissioning to image licensing. We first heard from Madeleine Penny, Picture Editor at The Sunday Times Magazine, who took us through her process of curating and commissioning photography for a thriving national publication amid the time contraints of weekly deadlines. Madeleine is trying to push the magazine’s photographic content to new heights by constantly expanding their network of artists and commissioning riskier, but hopefully more engaging, concept-led work.
Rebecca Swift, Director of Creative Planning at iStockphoto, was next up to share insights into the world of image-licensing from her perspective as part of the pioneering global photo sharing website. She lead our guests through a whistle-stop tour of images, including the most licensed image of all time, the most replicated and the most financially beneficial. In comparison to Madeleine, Rebecca works with over 200,000 photographers based in almost every country and manages this worldwide community through a number of methods. One of which is iStockalypse, a city based educational program where both amateur and professional photographers can learn skills and tips on creating successful licensable images as well as important information on selling and protecting their work. Responding to the data collected through iStock’s search terms and click throughs, Rebecca is able to identify burgeoning new trends in visual communication and ensure her community of photographers are producing the right images to meet client needs.
These punchy presentations were rounded up with YCN’s Doris Tydeman and Dorcas Brown, sharing some of the finest contemporary photographic talent currently being added to the portfolio section of our website.
Six things we we learned
One. Trust your photographer
Only when you relinquish control and allow the photographer to do what they do best, do you get the best effects. Madeleine has a good relationship with all the artists she works with, making a point of meeting every one to understand their work before commissioning them. In doing this she is able to play to their strengths and trust them to use their creativity and instinct to produce the best results, without being constrained by a unweilding brief.
Two. Be inclusive
iStock – the web's original source for royalty free stock images – welcomes work from artists all over the world and nutures this global community by supplying resources such as online tutorials, legal and copyright advice and educational events.
Madeleine works closely with the writers, photographers and art directors to create images that add a new dimension to the texts in the magazine. Often working from unwritten editorial pieces, Madeleine must ensure she has in-depth discussions at each and every stage to ensure that the concepts are well thought out, resulting in the best possible shoots.
Four. Use social media to spark conversations
Rebecca spoke of using Facebook to communicate with photographers around the world, claiming that this was actually a much more reliable method of communication. In addition, Twitter is their tried and tested tool to source specific client or customer needs from the online iStock community.
Five. Prepare and plan
For an article focussed on armoury, Madeleine and photographer Johanna Parkin visualised a simple image of a weapon, not unlike an exploded diagram. Only allowed to hire the actual AK-47 for a matter of hours, this composition required days of meticulous preparation. The team recreated each part of the weapon out of cardboard and craft materials for a series of lighting tests – to ensure that once they had the real thing, everything would go to plan.
Six. Stay aware of visual trends
Last year, there was a 42,000% increase in searches for 'selfie'. There was also a 10,000% rise in people searching using the terms 'hipster' and 'coffee beans'. Staying on top on these visual and social trends has allowed Rebecca to constantly react and change the rules accordingly. For example, one pre-requisite for an image to be added to the site was that the photograph had to remain in clear focus if blown up large scale. Following the trend for 'perfectly imperfect' photographs which embrace soft focus and artistic blurs, Rebecca made this rule redundant.
We'd like to thank our speakers for kindly giving their time this morning, and to Sam Bush for the photographs below.
Location:Shoreditch House Library,
London, E1 6AW,
Start:7th May, 2015 at 9:30am
End:7th May, 2015 at 11:00am