If set safety measures fall short, will crew leave? They should.

Behind the scenes production photo with 4 large parabolic umbrellas

We all have a breaking point, that point in which we declare, “I’m out.”
Have you considered what your breaking point is in relation to set safety during a pandemic?

Things have gotten strange. Our production lives are no longer predictable, and we don’t know what to expect. Will we be safe on set? Will PPE be available, and will there be ample space to keep a safe distance? Who could have imagined set safety becoming so urgent?

I want my crew to know that I am doing everything possible to keep them safe. I’ve spent the last few weeks (months? What day is it?) on the phone, in zoom meetings, and attending webinars with producers, lawyers, accountants, and insurance agents. I’m creating policies and procedures for set safety to share that we all will follow.

Behind the scenes photo on a beach with pop up tents, strobe lighting, and a lot of light stands. Set safety during this shoot meant not getting sand in the gear.
Behind the scenes production for Country Music Television in St. Petersburg, Florida. See the final shot here!

We each need to define our line in the sand and then be prepared to enforce it. If you don’t feel like there are enough (or any) safety policies and procedures in place on your future productions, are you prepared to leave?

The decision to leave set is a struggle and leads to worries about the loss of income or the burning of bridges.

Avoid the dilemma altogether by asking what the Covid-19 policies and procedures are in advance of the shoot and request practical deal memos.

I issue deal memos for most jobs I produce. A deal memo establishes our working relationship, at what rate, for how many hours, overtime rates, kit fees, kill fees, etc. Effective deal memos protect us all by making our communications and intentions clear.

My deal memo now includes policies and procedures regarding Covid-19. If you are working on a production that doesn’t issue deal memos, consider creating one for yourself that outlines expected safety protocols. Start with the measures you are taking personally, to set a tone of collaboration. I’ve attached a sample deal memo at the bottom (below the resources), feel free to steal it.

Request a pdf of the production’s Covid-19 policies and procedures before accepting the assignment. If none are available, that is a red flag.

Plan an effective exit strategy now before you find yourself in an awkward spot. Discuss it with your head of production, and put it in writing. That way, if you see your line in the sand (and I hope you never do), you’ll know what steps to take. Stay safe out there and happy production!

Behind the scenes of a portrait studio with a white paper seamless background and lights on stands. Set safety back then mean not tripping on extension cords.
Waiting for improv genius Colin Mochrie to come to set. See the final shot here!

RESOURCES

Here’s a link to the best guide I’ve seen yet, created by ASMP lawyer Tom Maddrey. This page is the master article for links and materials related to ASMP’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic specifically focused on Health, Safety, and Legal matters.

Wondering what how to be prepared when assignments cancel? Read my last post, “Photo Assignments Postponed – Take These 6 Steps Now To Protect Yourself”.

Sample of a deal memo contract. Set safety information is missing.
Bio photo of Producer Therese wearing cowboy hat

Therese is the executive producer at Andy Batt Studio, and she is the founder and lead producer at Ask A Producer, a production company for photographers and directors. She also provides consultation, estimation, and negotiation services, and teaches workshops and seminars. When she’s not on set or at her desk, you’ll often find her surrounded by friends, laughing with a glass of champagne in her hand.

Photo Assignments Postponed – Take These 6 Steps Now To Protect Yourself

Two people connected by a tight rope practicing the limitations of social distance on the Hawthorne Bridge by Andy Batt

Hello, my dear friends and colleagues. As you know, things are getting crazy out there and our photo assignments are being postponed or canceled due to the Coronavirus. Are you prepared to answer the question “what will it cost to cancel”? Let’s talk about our terms and conditions (T&C). I’ve outlined 6 steps you can take right now to prepare yourself, and I’ve included an amendment you’ll definitely want to consider for future contracts.

Step 1: Understand your own T&C when your photo assignments postpone

If you are like me, your T&C are a version of the T&C from a trade organization. The last time I had my lawyer revise mine was 2016. So I dusted off my magnifying glass and reviewed my own cancellation policy. It’s not often that my photo assignments are postponed, so I need to refresh my memory!

Empty chairs restaurant dartboards coronavirus pandemic - what will you do when your photo assignment postpones?
Empty restaurant due to forced closure related to Coronavirus by Andy Batt

Step 2: Don’t have a T&C?

That’s ok, this is the perfect time to acquire a set of T&Cs! Trade groups like ASMP and APA are a fantastic resource! Not a member? It’s time to join because we are in unprecedented times and photo assignments are being postponed left and right. This is the time to band together and help each other. Join a trade group now and dig into those resources.

Step 3: Does your crew have a policy when photo assignments postpone?

If you have a crew booked, contact them and find out what their cancellation policy is. They may not have one, and this is a great time to develop deep loyalties by helping them determine what to do when photo assignments are postponed. Don’t leave your crew hanging. They are as worried as you are.

Your crew isn’t just assistants, vanities, stylists, etc. Also consider the rental studio, the caterer, the casting director…they’ll all have a cancelation policy that you should be aware of.

Step 4: Contact your client before they contact you

Your clients will appreciate your proactive stance. Send a quick note like ‘during these uncertain times, I wanted to be upfront with my cancellation policy. Based on our approved estimate and the agreed-to terms and conditions, if we cancel within 48 hours of the shoot, it will cost $_______. If the notice of cancellation is given two business days or less before the shoot date, Client will be charged ____% of the shoot fee in addition to all expenses incurred, $_____________

Step 5: Did you sign their paperwork?

If you signed your client’s paperwork, it may include a ‘force majeure’. Force majeure refers to a clause that is included in contracts to remove liability for natural and unavoidable catastrophes (like a pandemic) that interrupt the expected course of events and restrict participants from fulfilling obligations. If you have signed your client’s contract, be sure to read it thoroughly and see if you agreed to a force majeure.

Step 6: Are you currently being asked to bid a project that may postpone?

We know our terms if the photo assignment postpones. But what if you get sick and have to cancel? Are you liable to pay the cancellation fees of your crew? In a pre-pandemic time, we might power through the illness and get the shoot done, but that is no longer viable or responsible.

Reach out to your insurance provider and understand what your policy will cover. Pandemic insurance is likely not in your policy, it certainly is not in mine.

Faulty Coronavirus mask and hazmat suit worn by a man in an emergency fallout bunker. What will you do if your photo assignment postpones?
Jed Arkley plays Zeb in the cinematic series “Bad Choices” by Andy Batt – Who knew our dystopian series was going to become a strange reality?

I AM NOT A LAWYER, NOR AM I GIVING YOU LEGAL ADVICE

I’m closely following posts from the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP). They published an amendment for producers. I’ll post that below. Reach out to your trade organization and ask them to issue a similar amendment to help cover you.

Let’s all take steps first to protect ourselves, before assisting others. Know your own T&C, help your crew with their T&C, and then help your clients. You will always be remembered for your calm and professional demeanor during a remarkable and stressful time. And that will lead to more work down the line, I am certain of that!

Corona Virus Contract Amendment
Bio photo of Producer Therese wearing cowboy hat

Therese is the executive producer at Andy Batt Studio, and she is the founder and lead producer at Ask A Producer, a production company for photographers and directors. She also provides consultation, estimation and negotiation services, and teaches workshops and seminars. When she’s not on set or at her desk, you’ll often find her surrounded by friends, laughing with a glass of champagne in her hand.

A Response to: Six Reasons It’s Time for Brands to Replace Stock Photos With User-Generated Content

Image of an angry mom and nervous daughter driving in the wrong direction, into a dead-end neighborhood

Photographers are not to blame for boring stock photos.

Recently I came across a blog post that essentially blamed professional photographers for creating boring stock photos. The author said boring stock photos are the key reason companies should be using User-Generated Content. To sum up: stock photos are bad/boring, therefore companies and marketers are forced to look elsewhere. Deep into the article, we get this gem:

“People whose work is used don’t merely provide high-quality content for free; after being invited to take part in a campaign, they tend to also often become its biggest cheerleader.”

The author‘s conclusion (according to me): giant wealthy companies and mega marketing firms want free photography and unpaid spokespersons. I’ve dissected a few key sentences.

“Let’s face it, stock photography is boring.”

Advertisers and their clients have made it that way.

Their drive to pay less, and to apply the Walmart philosophy of value drove photographers away from creating high quality/value imagery. Why create really good work if it’s only worth a $1 to a Fortune Five Hundred company?

By shifting the financial burden onto the shoulders of the photographer, the stock model decreased their effective annual revenue down to almost nothing. “Just lower your prices and license more images! It’s so easy to license a million images for a 1$ each!’ said the fictional CFO at Getty Images that lives in my mind

What’s the solution for “boring stock photos”? Clients should pay more for images. That’s it. If collectively marketers would appreciate and reward creativity with actual money, they would see the quality go up immediately. Here are some examples.

Best Buy branding campaign outtake
Best Buy commissioned me to create a branding campaign—for each scene, once I got the shot, I quickly created a version with a decidedly darker outlook. See more quirky lifestyle images here!

“As consumers become inundated with marketing content, they increasingly resist anything that looks and feels inauthentic […] In fact, 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional marketing and 92% of consumers trust user-generated content more than advertising.”

Let’s talk about the millennial demographic.

Yes, talking to the millennial demographic seems to work differently. It’s a huge, undefined, constantly shapeshifting. catch-all term. The question that should be asked is ‘what was the real change?’ I’d say it’s the venue.

This demographic doesn’t read magazines or newspapers (print or digital) and doesn’t watch traditional TV. Marketers have to identify where they get their information (and marketing).

They use the web, content aggregators, social networks and text/chat to get their information. Frequently they are on their phone to do so. They are going to ignore traditional methods and channels of advertising. Just because the venue changed doesn’t mean you can blame “boring stock photos” for your inability to connect.

“Satisfied customers are increasingly taking to social media to write, talk or post about products and brand experiences they love, and those social engagements are key for marketers.”

This has nothing to do with stock photography.

Is your demographic really reaching out to brands to express authentic feelings of love? I wonder if it’s more likely they are bragging to their friends. Maybe, just maybe, they heard you can get famous and/or get free stuff by bragging on social media.

Billboard campaign for Oregon Lottery Powerball. One crazy driver and one very scared passenger in a red car on the road, looking like they may be driving off a cliff. The license plate reads "AHH-HHH"
I was commissioned to create images for the Oregon Lottery’s Powerball campaign—but it’s always worth taking the time to have a little more fun. See more quirky lifestyle images here!

“…the availability of authentic and unfiltered content [is growing], including images, from social media. And that presents an opportunity.”

Translated: companies don’t know how to carry on an authentic conversation. Therefore, they astroturf the channels their targeted demographics live on, aping what they think is working. Also, these companies are super excited to get 1000’s of images without paying for them.

“Here are six reasons why it’s time to ditch stock photos in exchange for user-generated content. We can’t all look like models […] Consumers know that models can look good in just about anything, which is why it’s important to demonstrate how that same item looks on a range of body sizes, styles, ages, ethnicities, and shapes. Unfortunately, traditional marketing doesn’t easily lend itself to that sort of variety, but user-generated content does.”

I’m putting the blame squarely back on your shoulders here, marketers.

Start choosing and requesting authentic looking real people, in your stock and assignment photography, and you’ll have plenty to choose from as that market segment grows. Again, you’ll need to start paying photographers to do this. We don’t do this for “fun”, we do it for a living, and we can’t help you if you don’t pay us.

“People are creating better imagery. The quality of user-generated content has increased significantly in recent years, with regular people now able to take brand-worthy photos. Part of the reason for the improvement is the gradually increasing quality of smartphone cameras, which now use sophisticated software to help users get the perfect shot every time. […] those with even a casual interest in improving their photography skills have a wide range of affordable or even free resources to help them up their game […] enabling more amateurs to capture higher-quality content.”

So, a person doesn’t need to have any training, experience, or skill to take good photos—you just need a smartphone and some Youtube lessons? Cool. And that is going to solve the whole ‘boring’ stock photos thing how? Oh right, it’s not.

You are also delivering the message that big companies and huge marketing firms should take advantage of people who don’t realize they have created a valuable commodity: “Oh, what a fun hobby you have! Hey, sign this and we’ll start using/ benefitting from your work while not paying you any money.

Olympian track and field runner Carol Rodriguez. Dramatic (not boring) stock photo of an Olympian training on stairs
Olympian track and field runner Carol Rodriguez for Monster iSport. See more dramatic sports images here!

“The numbers don’t lie. Brands in various industries achieve success with user-generated content every day, and sometimes the numbers are truly staggering. We’ve seen similar results across other channels—from websites to microsites to display ads—increase engagement, reduce bounce rates, and improve recall.”

Numbers do lie—and empirical conclusions don’t make them real.

The Sun appears to rotate around the Earth, and I can prove it by watching the sky!

You’re saying the same group that’s allergic to marketing has no issues clicking on those incredibly annoying ads that clutter up a website or are on social media and decide to stop looking at meme videos to go look at the website for a product they already own? They’re not clicking by accident to make it go away, due to UI design tricks? And you’re sure it’s not the result of a click-farm somewhere?

Data doesn’t lie—but it’s super easy to slip a little confirmation bias into the mix and decide that your data backs up your ideas. There’s a chance the author is right, but again this is not the fault of professional photographers.

“Though stock photography libraries can seem infinite, those who have spent time digging through them for the perfect shot know that it can be painfully difficult to find exactly what they’re looking for—especially if they’re looking for something that looks authentic.”

You’ve just described assignment photography

Companies pay photographers to create something not-boring, authentic, specifically & exclusively for them, using the talent that represents their authentic demographic. And surprise surprise, this imagery can be used even on social media! Weird, right?

“By contrast, user-generated content offers an even greater and constantly expanding pool of content to choose from. Furthermore, it’s a lot easier to find real people demonstrating real emotions—like joy, fear, surprise—on social media than it is to find models and actors with the chops to nail those expressions in a stock photography pool.”

Right. Again. Because marketers stopped paying photographers real fees for their work, especially in the realm of stock photography. It’s not hard to create really good stock photos that have all joy, fear and surprise you want. It is hard to do though if you’ve decided that an image is worth 1$, or in the cases, you’ve been describing 0$.

An example of great, not boring, stock photography. Don't blame photographers for bad stock photography
Fast, cheap, good. You can only have two. See more dramatic sports photography here!

With user-generated content, however, [companies are] able to collect images and videos from far and wide, with a volume and perspective unmatched by anything stock photography libraries can offer.

Companies can collect images and videos. And pay very little for them.

Just because you can do something isn’t permission to do it.

“People will help spread the word about your brand when you feature their content […] People whose work is used don’t merely provide high-quality content for free”

You said it. I quote “high-quality” and “free”

Am I the only one that has a problem with this model? I’m pretty sure all those Fortune Five Hundred companies could afford to pay for high-quality content. But doubling down, and making these people also provide you with free spokesperson duties? Damn.

“It’s never been easier. Many marketers know that audiences respond better to user-generated content, yet many are intimidated by the task of sourcing images—for example, securing rights to use them […] User-generated content has never been more accessible, effective or of higher quality than it is today. So why would anyone continue using stock images?”

I’ll agree with the author here at least, it has never been easier to scam your way into grabbing millions of images, using them for commercial gains, and not paying a dime. Marketers should be ashamed.

Don’t blame professional photographers for not providing you with free, high quality, not-boring images—you can place that blame right at your own feet.

You can read the original article here: https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2019/41895/six-reasons-its-time-for-brands-to-replace-stock-photos-with-user-generated-content

Your comments are welcome. Please feel free to share, re-post, etc.