LENI SCHWENDINGER, Light Projects
Light Projects works with a professional photographer who is known for his high quality images involving light. We put together a consortium of owners, contractors, and other interested parties so that we can afford the best. The photographer then grants equal rights for use to the group, for in-house/promotional use. We make sure to pass along his name to magazines and books so that he can negotiate rights for print.
ERIK CONROY, Director of Marketing, Energie
From the perspective of the lighting manufacturer, we are not at all averse to sharing in the cost of professional project photography. Our greater dilemma lies in finding projects to photograph, not deciding whether or not we should contribute to the cost.
As an emerging manufacturer, we strive to find photo-worthy projects and the design intent behind them. We recognize that application photography can be one of the most effective means to promote and sell our products. However, due to the structure of the commercial architectural lighting industry and the layers of organizations between the manufacturer and the end-result, often we know very little about the finished project and the overall outcome. Given this, we struggle with whether to ask our agency representatives to spend their time visiting projects, taking pre-photos, and sending them to us, versus spending their time in the field actually selling our products.
With this said, our message to designers who cannot afford project photography would be to simply ask the manufacturer if they would share in the cost. Contact your local agency representative, tell them you have a project that shows a given fixture applied well, and send a few digital shots. Most manufacturers would be happy to take a look!
BRIAN BLOOM, Liggett-Stashower Public Relations
We have our clients (who are manufacturers) purchase the rights for photography. This allows the media to use them both in their magazines and websites.
WALTER DUFRESNE, Photographer
My own experience is that the piracy of photographs is no more (or less) frequent than the piracy of software, lighting design, or fixture design and manufacture. For me, this has been good news: lots of registered copyrights, lots of licensing, and very little infringing. With few exceptions, designers seem to bring lots of integrity to their work and their business practices.
Fees for licensing the creation and use of a handful of new interiors photographs are frequently less than a few thousand dollars. Many commercial artists work to help their clients sell more design services while providing the best value for their money. But, by definition, any design studio that has difficulty finding five hundred bucks in its budget to publicity license the use of a single photograph is not exactly a good prospective client. Again, there are no designers who remain in the industry working on such narrow margins. It means that the design studio's owner is failing to re-invest in his/her business.
As to whether a design studio owner should use photography of his/her built projects for the marketing of design services (rather than illustrations and renderings and other computer-generated pictures of what the project should look like) is its own fascinating question.
DANIEL E. EDENBAUM, President, Drago Illumination
Hopefully we can all agree that lighting is the single most important thing when it comes to architectural photography. As a startup company that needs to build its portfolio, photography is doubly important to me. I try to include a photography clause in my contract, and even offer fee reduction incentives if I think it will help the client agree to allow the project to be photographed. This is especially true for residential clients, who many times just don't like the idea of strangers seeing how I illuminated their kitchen or bedroom.
Unfortunately, lighting designers do tend to be at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to fees and having the budget to adequately photograph a project. AE firms and manufacturers have bigger budgets, but accommodating so many parties with varying degrees of interest and usage can get complicated. What I have found works best is for the lighting designer to be the point person directing the photographer. However, each company who is interested in photos should have a separate agreement for copies and their own usage rights with the photographer. The lighting designer doesn't want to be the middleman brokering deals or selling the photos for profit. In this manner everyone gets the photos they want, and the photographer gets adequately compensated.
Lastly, the photographer is very important. I have found that very few actually know how to photograph architectural lighting. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to use a flash. Furthermore, I only work with photographers who will grant full usage rights without charging a small fortune (normally all they ask for is a credit), and I refuse to use a photographer who charges for every single usage. That would be like me charging a client for every time they turned on the lights.
DOUGLAS A. SALIN, Architectural Lighting Photographer
The digital world has changed the outcome of high quality architectural lighting project photography. Today almost anyone can pick up an inexpensive digital camera and shoot a mediocre image. With minor knowledge of Photoshop, these can be transformed into something somewhat serviceable.
Many professional architectural photographers are leaving the business. Who needs them? They charge too much and are too restrictive with the rights to the images. But a professional photographer cannot make a living on a $100 sale to a magazine. Trade magazines rarely pay for images; they do not have the budgets. As a courtesy, I support the trade by providing lighting images gratis for editorial purposes, though I charge nominally for cover shots.
The professional photographer is living in a shrinking world. There are fewer paying clients. A client is defined as someone who values the photographer's training, creativity, and experience, and who wants high quality architectural images. Even fewer clients want a high quality 'lighting' shot, so the lighting photographer is a vanishing breed. There are many architectural photographers who understand diddly-squat about lighting issues. Architects hire these non-lighting professionals all the time. Many times, a job is lost to a neophyte architectural shooter with a digital set up who seduces the client with the concept of quick and easy. High quality lighting images take time and planning. It's expensive, like fine wine. A well-produced film-based lighting image will generate magazine, trade show, and ad quality for many years of service. It will also be a beautiful contribution to the designer's portfolio.
Who should pay? Designers have no money. Architects do have money, but lack interest in lighting shots. The current record of our industry is looking dull. Twenty years from now, will superlative work be forgotten because it was not accurately recorded?
As a film-based architectural lighting photographer with 20 years of lighting industry experience, I'm worried that too few patrons exist to support and acknowledge talented lighting professionals and the industry of lighting. Become a patron of your industry.
MICHAEL WYPASEK, Advertising Manager, Paramount Industries
My background is graphic design, with over 20 years total experience and the last 7 in the lighting industry. But a key lesson I learned right away is that application photos are what sell lighting. So this is an important issue for our industry.
I have worked with photographers in three general scenarios: 1) If I pay for the photos, I own them outright. The photographer does have permission to use them as portfolio samples to sell his own services. This has been the way I've primarily worked for my entire career, especially working on product photography with commercial photographers. 2) The photographer owns the copyright to the photos and grants me unlimited usage for a one-time fee, as long as I run a copyright notice for him. This seems more common in the lighting and architectural fields, where a shooter may try to sell the photos to the architects and the various contractors and vendors involved with a project. Working this way, he stands to generate more exposure for his work and greater profitability. 3) The photographer maintains ownership and grants me rights limited to a specific use (show booth, ad, catalog, etc.), time period, or size. This essentially reduces the individual shots to 'stock photography.' Some photographers do this for greater income potential, especially if the subject is a highly recognizable public structure or scene. Some do it simply because of artistic arrogance. This is the most costly way to operate, and I rarely work with photographers in this way.
Maybe my view is colored by my role as a writer and designer, because my work is always 'for hire,' owned by employer or client. I don't necessarily sympathize with photographers who have an inflated estimate of the importance of their work, but I do value their work. I don't want to get soaked by suppliers; but if their work is good, it will make our company look good, so they deserve to be paid adequately for their skilled service.
So I guess my answer is yes, manufacturers should contribute towards the cost of photography. They profit from it, so they should help foot the bill. Good photography sells product.
MICHAEL ROGERS, Lighting Designer and Engineer, ABS Consultants
One solution, if possible, is to do the photography yourself. We have found that most building owners and tenants do not mind an additional photo shoot if it is properly arranged. By taking my own photos I have control over the composition and quality. Photography of architectural lighting isn't easy to do, but does pay off with practice. I do my photography with a Canon Digital Rebel 6.3 megapixal SLR, and have a variety of lenses and filters. I do my own post-production work with Adobe Photoshop Elements that came with the camera. We are currently using our own photos for our web site and brochures, with no copyright or ownership issues.
ELLIOTT KAUFMAN, Photographer, Elliott Kaufman Photography
The photographer always holds the copyrights to all of the images and only those who have participated in the initial shoot can use them as stated unless further permission is given. A disciplined photographer states unambiguously in his initial proposal/agreement what the limitations of usage are and who is entitled to participate in that usage. Those who have entered into the agreement can use the images in only those ways. If additional parties want usage after the shoot, they must go directly to the photographer, as he/she is the only one who can grant additional usage rights. If a participating firm sells the images, or gives permission to use them to a non-participating firm, this becomes a very sticky licensing problem at the least, and an invasion of copyright at the most.
Architectural photography can be an enormous undertaking and requires years of experience to successfully capture the essence of design, interiors, and particularly lighting characteristics and personalities. If lighting designers (and other specialists like contractors and manufacturers) participate in the initial shoot, they can be part of the decision of what is photographed and how it is shot. Lighting designers can provide the photographer with their unique perspective so that the photographer's orientation includes the projects aspects that are critical, particularly how the lighting story can be captured. It seems clear that given the creative skill, time, and money invested in lighting, documentation of the same should be a basic investment budget line for every project the lighting designer holds dear.
JACK D. NEITH, Architectural Interior Photographer, JDN Photography
I personally feel that the photographer and the paying client should share equally in the ownership of the photo. This means that the paying client should not have to pay for reproducing rights over and over again. They should be able to use the photo with unlimited usage and no time limit. Additionally, the photographer can also use the photo for whatever he or she wants.
Unfortunately, photography budgets are never thought of in advance and are always under funded. I spend thousands of dollars for equipment (a digital back for a large format camera costs in the neighborhood of $40,000.00 and that does not include lighting, software, lens, etc.) I try to be competitive in my pricing by offering my clients unlimited usage, no time limit for copyrights, and by shooting more shots for my day rate than my competition. I also try to share travel expenses between numerous clients.
Should my client have the ability to split my fees with others that are interested in the photography of a location, I try to help them out by contacting the other parties, doing some of the legwork, and invoicing all that share in the expense separately.
I work directly with manufacturers and can tell you that they are constantly looking for great locations for photography. Some will even subsidize the cost. Unfortunately, most designers don't do any legwork. Call the lighting manufacturer's advertising manager and send them scouting shots. You might be surprised to find out that they will hire a photographer to shoot the installation. Keep in mind that whatever manufacturer you contact will own the rights to the photos, but you can ask the photographer to make you a deal on copies.
There are many ways one can pay for photography. Ask your photographer, you might be surprised. Some will try to help you out. I know that I will.