Art Buyers Talk About Assigning Still+Motion Projects

Wednesday August 17, 2011 by Tiffany Meyers,

Posted in: Building your Business

I spoke to four agency art buyers about how they work with photographers to capture both stills and motion during one production. For all the buzz around this trend, it’s still very much in its early stages. But it’s clearly on the rise as agencies converge their desire for cost efficiencies with the need for integrated creative.

For still photographers, it’s an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new industry development as its terms are still being shaped. These four art buyers offer their thoughts on this hot topic:

Jigisha Bouverat, director of art production, TBWA, Los Angeles

Sandy Boss Febbo, executive art producer, Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis

Kelly Hopkins, VP/director of art production, GSD&M, Austin

Dave Lewis, senior art buyer, Fallon, Minneapolis

What are your expectations when you engage a photographer to capture stills and video?

Jigisha Bouverat: The number one expectation is that they deliver the artistry of their photography in their motion as well. We want to find the artist who can go from stills to motion and potentially broadcast. So if we’ve hired you, we expect you to be both a consummate photographer and consummate director. We also expect people to have the production in place to get the full value out of it. One of the benefits of using a photographer for motion is the cost efficiency. Because of the economy, everyone is thinking of ways to work smarter and more efficiently. Creatively, too, people are looking for integrated campaigns. It’s the way branding is moving.

What are some factors that make this kind of production work—or fail?

Dave Lewis: If it’s treated as an add-on, it typically doesn’t work. The concept of “we have the time why not shoot some video?” might sound good, but there’s so much that needs to be thought through in advance. When it has worked, it’s because the team prepped for the video when they were prepping for the print. For us, it’s also always important to have a broadcast producer on the shoot, because there are so many layers to producing motion.

What kinds of projects offer the most opportunity?

Kelly Hopkins: When this started to become a trend we were really excited about it. But as time has passed, we realized that a lot of photographers are still developing their skills. For most jobs like this, creatives and broadcast producers are looking for directors who can shoot stills. For photographers, it’s more likely to happen with smaller projects—like behind-the-scenes or web video—where stills are the priority and video is secondary.

Would you consider hiring a photographer to do broadcast TV?

Jigisha Bouverat: Absolutely. The difference at TBWA, in that case, is that a broadcast producer would hire the photographer. At very small agencies, you might have one producer who does all the hiring, but within larger agencies producers have core disciplines.

What do compensation and rights/usage terms look like?

Kelly Hopkins: With stills, the client purchases reproduction rights based on usage—which is based on exposure: The more exposure the image gets, the more the client pays for the usage/reproduction rights. The photographer retains the copyright and has a source for future revenue by future licensing or expanding reproduction rights. Video isn’t licensed the same way. The client hires you to shoot the video footage, which they own the rights to, though they pay for things like talent if it’s union. The director gets paid for his day rate and that’s it—no usage fees.

Sandy Boss Febbo: Often, compensation for stills is framed as a day or session rate inclusive of use. Depending on the photographer’s experience and the project, we’ll break out a separate option for the transfer of rights on the motion. That’s what we’ve tried to do for artists who are breaking into this, since we don’t want to over-commit. If what we shoot has value and we can use it, we’ll exercise that option and license it.

How would you advise a shooter just starting to explore this prospect?

Sandy Boss Febbo: There’s so much conversation about this, and reps are advising photographers to go out and get motion experience. But I would hope they’re moving into this area because they’re passionate about it, not because it’s what the market is doing. That’s always going to be our biggest desire: finding the artist who’s passionate about what they’re doing—and that’ll show in the work.

If an artist is truly interested, by all means sample. You have to get into it for a while to find out if it’s right for you. Once photographers get past that discovery period, they might want to think about representation. Some agents focus on stills and some do both stills and motion really well. They’ll know when it’s time because the phone will be ringing more for motion than for stills. It’s kind of pie-in-the-sky—but it could absolutely happen.