Stella Kramer

Stella Kramer


– Stella is an award-winning photo editor and a creative consultant, and she’s worked with top of the line magazines and newspapers, New York Times, Newsweek,
Entertainment Weekly, People, Sports Illustrated, et cetera. Many photographers rely on Stella to help them sharpen their vision and really understand what
it means to be a professional to, in terms of developing their
portfolio and their website and in a way fine tuning
what they show the public. Alright, Stella has been awarded along with the New York
Times editors and writers, the 2002 Pulitzer Prize
for Public Service, as well as the 2002 Infinity
Award of Special Recognition from the International
Center of Photography, and she also won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography with her colleagues at the New York Times. Stella, one of the things
that you really do so well is how you stay up-to-date. Everywhere I go, Stella is there. Be it a screening, an
opening, a lecture, a party. So, it’s, and. (audience laughs) Well, especially the first three, no. And it’s important in this day
in age here in New York City to really stay up-to-date. So, by having Stella
here and having you share this hour with us, you will also be up-to-date. So it’s a real honor and a privilege to welcome Stella Kramer. (audience applause) – [Stella] Thank you. Thank you all for coming. I really appreciate your coming out today, and yes, I’m here for
the air conditioning. So you’re photographers,
first thing that I’ll say is I am not a photographer. I do not take pictures, I
know nothing about cameras, lights, lenses, any of that stuff. But I am a photo editor,
and I have been for years. I’m also a consultant, and
what that means is that I work with photographers one on one. I help them to pull their
work together to present the strongest reflection of their work and who they are. I help photographers to
set and achieve their professional goals, and I help to edit and sequence their work. So that’s my elevator pitch in a nutshell. Excuse me a second. My glasses. As photographers, you have
to learn how to present not just your work, but yourselves. Because honestly, that’s
what it’s all about. You have to sell yourself,
as much as we don’t like to think about it that
way, that really is what it comes down to. The competition is extreme,
the opportunities are less, and you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd, and
part of that is who you are. Not just your work. Unfortunately though, I
often ask photographers to talk about their work,
and what I get from them is: – [Recording] Yeah, um,
wait, let met start again. Um, you know, um. – Or what I get are
people saying that they’re capturing memories with
visual art influences to explore the meaning
of important passions. Whatever the hell that means. Art speak. So while you might believe
that the images speak for themselves, the images
do not speak for themselves. Unless perhaps you have
a magazine where you have a headline, you have caption information, you have a context. Or you have work on a gallery wall and there’s an art statement. Then the work might speak for itself, although it’s not really
speaking for itself. Otherwise you have to be
able to speak about your work articulately, with passion,
and in a way that puts across who you are, and who you want
people to know you to be. Whether that’s at a portfolio
review, which in the trade among us reviewers is known
as photography speed dating. You have a short period of
time to make an impression. You’re not going to, if you’re
at a speed dating event, not that you would be, and somebody says, “Well tell me about yourself,” and you go, “I don’t know, I’m, you
know, I’m a New Yorker, you know, I’m like, I don’t know.” You’re not getting a date. So if you sit down in front
of a potential client, a portfolio reviewer, somebody
who asks you a question at a party and you act that way, you say I’m a photographer, I
take pictures of people. Person will walk away, they
will have no impression of you. What you have to be able
to do is really explain who you are. So my first question is, how many of you, before you
started taking pictures, or when you first started
taking pictures, actually asked yourself why you were doing it? What did it mean to you? What was the reason you
were taking pictures? Just because you can? You know, you have an
iPhone, it’s easy enough. Or is there some underlying
message that you’re trying to communicate
through your work, and that you’re working through
your creative vision in order to communicate with people? Most of the time people just
do things because they can. And so when they’re
asked about their work, they don’t really know what to say. And they don’t know how to speak about it. Photography is not just
about taking pictures, it’s about relationships. The relationship you have to your work, the relationship between
you and your clients, with the people you’re
shooting or the subjects that you’re shooting,
even if they’re non-human. And I say that because
there are a lot of people who photograph, do very intense projects, photographing animals and
they have deep relationships with the animals they photograph. And it’s also with everyone
you come in contact with because you never
know who the person is that will advance your career. And if you live in New York
you are one or two people away from people who can
make your career for you. Because everyone knows somebody
in the creative world here. Your friend of a friend,
your friend’s boyfriend, your roommate’s sister, whatever it is. So it’s very important
that you think beyond just your photography. Therefore, don’t be an asshole. That might go without
saying, but I’m gonna tell you a story because I
would think that people would know these things. Don’t insult people, don’t
argue with them or yell at them when you’re
talking about your work. Don’t make demands of them. Because the world doesn’t
revolve around you. And you will get a reputation
as an unfriendly person and that will be very bad for your career. I was at a portfolio review
a couple of years ago, and a woman came over,
didn’t introduce herself, sat down, and said, “What
are you going to do for me?” I looked at her and said, “Nothing.” That’s what I told her, and
then I didn’t say a word for the next 20 minutes,
’cause most reviews are about 20 minutes long. She started showing me her
work, I just sat there. Didn’t interact with her. I could not believe that
that was the way she thought she was gonna make an impression on me. But she did. She made a bad impression on me. And I made a point of forgetting her work. I’ve also been in situations
where I’ve been discussing the work with a photographer
who then yells at me and tells me that I don’t
know what I’m talking about, that I’m wrong. And when I ask why they would
pay money to sit with me just to tell me that,
they had no answer to it. Another person whose work
I immediately forgot. I warned the other reviewers
about the photographer and I’ve never seen the
person’s work anywhere. That’s the truth of the matter. You don’t want to help,
or promote, or pass along information to people about
somebody that you just don’t want to be around. That isn’t a person you
want to interact with. So while you may think
that your work is fantastic and that’s all that should
matter, be honest, it isn’t. It’s like everything else in the world, how you interact with
people colors everything. And it will color the impact
that your work will have and how far you will go. So, I’m gonna say a couple of things that might sound really old
fashioned and might sound really obvious, but I say
them because so frequently people just don’t do it. When you meet someone, shake their hand. If you’re a woman make sure you do that and I don’t mean like oh, hi, how are you? I mean a real handshake. It’s a really important
thing and it’s a really important thing for women. Because it sets the tone
for your confidence, and it makes people realize
that you’re a professional and that you want to be
a player in the world. Introduce yourself, don’t
assume they know who you are. Have your elevator pitch. Can you describe your work
in, you know, a couple of sentences? If you can’t, practice doing that. Speak with conviction. Don’t have a very quiet
voice, don’t say um, or like, or all those things that you
heard on that little audio bit, because if you don’t
have conviction about your work, why should I? The opportunity to get
past your own insecurities, your own nervousness, your
shyness, if it’s not gonna be when you’re presenting
your work, then when is it going to be? Be nice to people. Really, be nice to people. Listen when people are talking
to you about your work. Listen to them, you don’t
have to accept everything that people tell you,
but you need to listen to what they have to say. Because sometimes something that they say might click for you months down the line. And if you weren’t listening you’re missing that opportunity. Engage people in
conversation, don’t be afraid to ask the person that
you’re meeting with, or that you’re sitting in
front of, ask them questions. Because you think your
work is gonna be the thing they remember, honestly
it’s you they’re going to remember, and if they get
a good feeling about you, then they’ll remember your work. Because portfolio reviews
you see 12, 15 people in a row, if you’re
there for several days, after a while even great work, it all blends together. But what you remember
are the people you had a good time talking to. They were fun, they were
funny, they were interesting, they were articulate,
that’s what you remember as a potential client or a
photo editor who you’re meeting with to try to get work, or as a reviewer. So now, the other thing is presentation goes beyond just you and
talking about your work. And it goes beyond just your work. It also gets into more things,
your promotional materials, your business card,
your website, you know, your leave behinds, all
of that stuff is part of the presentation of you and
your work as a photographer. Always thank people for their time. Even if you’ve just been
talking to somebody on, casually, at a party
or whatever, thank them for their time. Thank them for their interest. After portfolio reviews,
or when I speak to classes, I always am curious as to
how many people I will have, I will hear from later
on who will thank me. And how they’ll do it. Usually people will send an email, okay, that’s nice and everything. But there are people who
send handwritten cards, and that is worth its weight in gold. Because these days old
manners are hard to find. So if you use old manners,
people remember you. Because you’ll stand out from the hundreds or the dozens of people that they’ve met. I keep all those cards
that people send me. I don’t know why. It’s not like I look at them
and I read them and I think, oh I’m so wonderful. It’s that they took the time,
the effort, I hold on to them. It means something to me. I have a little caricature
somebody sent me, a photographer sent me, I don’t
know if you’ve heard of him, Larry Fink, we talked a lot on the phone, I tried to find a way to hire
him, it never worked out. But he sent me this little,
little note with a little caricature, and I still
have it and it’s going on 18 years now. And it’s in my file
because it was the sweetest thing and he was one of the
only people who ever did that. So those things matter. You know, we get so
caught up in the future and all of this new
technology and all these new ways of communicating. And honestly, the old
ways of communicating really have impact. Actually talking to people
instead of texting them, or messaging them through
Facebook or even sending emails. Those things matter. They really leave impressions
and people who work in the photography world
that you want to meet, gallerists, museum curators,
art buyers, photo editors, we’re all kind of old school. We probably use technology,
I don’t use it as much as most people do, but we still
are old school in the fact that we like seeing prints. We like turning pages of portfolios. We don’t wanna see everything on a screen. We don’t wanna go like this through life. It just doesn’t have the
same kind of meaning. So old school ideas, old
school ways of approaching things, regular, just
normal things that you learn when you’re a little
kid, really do matter. Okay, so I wanted to show you some promos. And leave behinds that have both positive and negative aspects to them. I wanted to start out with this one, because there’s an idea
among a lot of photographers that the more that you
show, the more chance you have of making an impact. That is actually the opposite of reality. Because I would rather
see one fabulous image than, I don’t even know
how many are here, 35? Teenie weenie little things
that have no impact to me. They have no meaning. They’re badly color corrected or they’re not color corrected at all. And they’re so tiny that
I get nothing from this, and then I totally don’t get
what this is about at all. It looks like it was
photographed off of a closed caption TV. Why would you do that? So this is an example of no. Somebody spent money and time and effort to do something that
didn’t make an impression on anyone they gave it to. And I guarantee you of that. Here’s a different one
along the same lines. I don’t know what this
person is trying to tell me. Why do you have this giant orange thing? I like orange. But would I hire someone
because they can photograph an orange wall with a switch on it? I’d be more likely to
be interested in their portrait work, but look how
tiny that one is in the corner. This person also spent a
lot of time, believe me, a lot of time choosing which images. And yet the same thing happens,
which is you don’t really get a sense of who the photographer is. And that’s what the promo cards are about. Leaving an impression of
who you are with somebody. So that they can tack it
up on their wall because most people who work in
offices work in these ugly cubby holes, and if
they work with photography this is the sort of stuff
they use as art around them. To make their little
area a little brighter. You might put that up
there but you’re not really thinking about the
photographer or hiring them. Here’s another example
where you have these really dense images. And there are really a lot of them. And the idea is to give
you a sense of all of the project that they’ve done. But to me what they’ve
done here is they’ve given the whole project away, and
yet they haven’t presented it in a way that stays with me. It just, it’s small and it’s too dense. One image of this project
would’ve been worth so many, so much more than
the nine that are here. So decisions like this
are really important. And a lot of photographers
don’t take the same concern for what they choose
for their promo images as they do for other parts of their work. And I say that because
when I was a photo editor at magazines, the first
thing that made me start thinking about doing
consulting was the fact that I would look at somebody’s
work, love their work, get to the back of the book
to get a card, a promo, to keep, and it’d be like the worst image in their entire book. And I could never understand
why they would choose those images, and what
would make people choose the wrong images. And what I found, it was
mostly because they didn’t think about it. They didn’t ask people what image do you like the best of mine? What do you respond to? They would just arbitrarily pick images. Here’s another one. They’re kind of pretty, but they don’t say anything. They really don’t say anything. So what would I come away with thinking this photographer does or is? Or their aesthetic, I
wouldn’t really come away with anything from here. Here’s an interesting
example where you have a strong image and then
you have, I took the names out to protect the innocent,
you have the information running up the side. So what I come to is if
I want to put this up, do I put it up this way,
or do I put it up this way so I can read the information? Why would you do that? You have a border at the bottom. Why would you not put
the information there so that if I put this on
the wall in front of me I’m staring at it day after day after day, and believe me, I’m thinking, when can I use this photographer? But as strange as it sounds, nobody wants to have to go like that. It’s just, it’s the truth, believe me if you have a portfolio and you have, you have images vertical and horizontal, nobody will do this to look at your book. They just won’t. So you have to think about these things. Part of presentation is
thinking about the other person. How do people view your
work, not how do you view your own work. And not how does your
family, your best friends, your lover, they’re gonna
tell you wonderful things. You need to have outside opinions to find out how people view what you do, what they like in your work, what they think is the strongest. In order to make smart decisions about your own presentations. Now this one is really clever. It was shot for the New York Times. You see that on the top. So you get a sense, now this
is a professional photographer. You have his name, his
cell number, his URL, the one thing that’s missing
is his email address. Photographers always think, well, I have my website
up there, the person can go to my website and get their, get my email there. No, that’s three, four more
steps than I want to do in order to work with you. If I wanna work with you, I
want everything right there for me, I don’t wanna have
to take the extra time, go to your website, and then, a lot of people will have
these forms on their website, so they don’t even have
their email addresses. I’ve moved on to the next photographer. And that’s the thing,
you don’t want to give a potential client a reason
to move on to the next person. Because honestly, in
this world, talent alone will not get you anywhere. It’s the whole package. If talent alone got us
places, the people in Congress would not be there, they
would not be politicians. The president before
Barack Obama would never have gotten into office. Britney Spears and J Lo
would not be multi-platinum, multimillionaires. They’re where they are
because of dry follow through, presentation, package,
everything but talent. Talent is secondary. You can find talent all over the place. What you can’t find is the whole package. So that’s more about not
thinking only about yourself. You might think you’re
the greatest photographer, the most talented, you
might see other people be successful and think why
them, I’m better than them. That has nothing to do
with reality and you’re wasting your own time. What you need to do is
seriously look at what you do, talk to people, see how they react to it, and try to think of it as if they’re, it’s not your work and
you’re looking at it. How do you respond to it? Now this is an interesting situation. This photographer sends
out these post cards. Not, not too frequently, so
he’s not like a mail stalker, and by mail I mean snail mail stalker. But what he does is he writes
a little note on the back. And the little note always
relates to the card. I mean he sent this in February,
around Valentine’s Day. But he, it’s the handwritten
note that makes the difference. He made a human connection
with everyone he sent the cards to, and I have
a half dozen of the cards. And each one it just has
like one or two words. Little, just a little
thing, but it’s handwritten. So it separates him from everyone else who sends promo cards. So everybody knows him
because they’re going, oh, did you get his newest card? Now this is an interesting
situation with promotion. This is the front and that’s the back. This person is telling you who they are. Right there. Energy, strength, right
in your face, not afraid to stand there and say who they are. The only thing missing
is the email address. Once again, forgetting the email address is the number one thing photographers do with their promo cards. And it drives me crazy. Now this photographer, this
was his original promo card. Yikes. I love his work, I love his work. I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t know why he chose these images. I don’t know what that’s about. But then, he put out that promo card. That has everything. It’s got strong work that
resonates when you look at the card. It has his email address. His URL. His name, his cell number. I can take that card and I can stick it right in front of my face and
everything is there for me. But it took him a while to get there. And what it took was
interacting with other people and asking other people and
seeing how other people reacted. Now I have to admit I’ve
worked with him before. And I’ve been one of the
people saying that to him. So, it worked. Now this card, fantastic image. I saw this photographer at
a portfolio review, wow. I was just wowed by this image. – [Audience Member] Natan de Wolker. – [Stella] Yeah, oh yeah,
he did, that’s right, Natan. But, there’s no information. Once again, do I pin the
card up with the back that doesn’t have the picture but has the info? Or do I turn it to the photo
and then I don’t have the info. If you’re leaving a border,
why can’t you put it there? It’s not going to
interfere with the image. And don’t make the font so
small that I can’t read it even with my glasses
because that happens a lot. And don’t make it like
some pale gray so I really can’t see it and I have to
find a magnifying glass. Because that makes me feel old
and useless and terrible and I don’t care how good you
are, I won’t work with you. But that’s the truth. You know, like I said,
it’s not all about talent. I would rather work with a
slightly less talented person who I love being around,
who I enjoy talking to, who I know I can rely on, who’s great, who does great work, on
deadline, no problems with them than the most
talented prima donna asshole there is. Because it’s not about the, I’ve worked with so-and-so for me. For me it’s the exchange
that you have with a creative person, it’s a creative collaboration. And I want that to be the most
fun that it can possibly be. Not the most tedious and difficult. Now, leave behinds. This is a leave behind. I saw this person’s, this body of work and this was the leave behind. It’s gorgeous. – [Audience Member] A student? – Yes, that’s right. Josephine Dvorken and I met her at SVA. It’s beautifully done, it’s simple. It doesn’t have to be huge. It tells you everything you
need to know about this project. And it’s got everything you
need right in the back of it. It’s something that I keep. I don’t just say, oh this is nice, I’ll
hold on to it for a while. I’m gonna keep this. Like, this is just mine now. And I really appreciate that. She took a lot of thought, spent a lot of time
really thinking it out. In order to produce this,
to leave this behind after I had looked at her work. This is a great one. On the other hand, there is this. This beautiful little handmade
book that ties with a close. I saw this person’s work
at a portfolio review. Print after print after
print after print after print after print after print. Boring as all get out. Beautifully printed,
but the work just didn’t warrant a stack like this. And it was a stack like this. I went through it, you know, we 20 minutes trying to find
something to say to her about the work, really had a hard time. And then before she left,
she gave me this tiny little book with a couple of the images I love this book. I love this. This I’m keeping. When I look at, when I actually
look at the work it’s like, oh yeah, I remember that, nah. Not my thing. – [Audience Member] Not our student. – No, not, no no no. Not your student. But I love this leave behind. So she made an impression. It’s just not my cup of tea, the work. But I’m sure it resonated
for other people. For a gallerist, a museum curator perhaps. Not with me, but I will
keep this ’cause this is like the cutest little thing ever. So, that’s part of it also. What is the right way, the right size, the right thing to do as a leave behind? It doesn’t have to be
tiny, it can be like this. This is a matte cloud. This is fantastic. I cherish the fact that
I have this because it’s almost like having
the person’s portfolio. It’s inexpensive, it’s beautifully done, the paper is lustrous. It looks fantastic. And it’s a great leave behind to remind me of the person’s work. This is Stephen Mallon. So it can be like this,
it can be like this. It can be anything. But it, does it serve the work well? This work, this industrial
work wouldn’t work tiny. It would be no good that tiny. At the same time, this
work, which is really a study of, it’s like the
old masters’ fruit paintings, you know like a pear,
and two pears, and a pear and an apple, and two
pears and two apples, really that’s what the work is. That wouldn’t have worked big. It worked small. So leave behinds are
another place that you make decisions about how you’re
presenting your work. Smart photographers spend time thinking about the best way to do it. The best size to do it. Should it be textured paper? Should it be matte cloud satin paper? Should it be big, should it be small, should it be handmade? All of those decisions
will really play your work to the larger audience. And it’s part of your presentation. It’s part of this whole package of who you are and who,
and what you’re trying to tell us about your work. So now I wanna go to
portfolio, to websites. For the same reason. To the point. Strong. Clean. Easy to navigate. Facebook button, all the
information you could need. You could use. You want a website that
reflects your work. You don’t want to just
find a cheap template, put your work up, and think that’s okay. I have a personal hatred for
black background websites. Well-known, everybody knows I hate them. I don’t even like gray. Because I feel that too frequently when people use black as a background, they’re trying to add a gravity to their work because they
think that that will help make their work deeper,
more serious and important. But for someone like me, it makes me go, oh, that’s what they’re trying to do. It never helps. And that doesn’t mean there
are not fabulous photographers with black background websites. Because there are. I just personally don’t like it. I like white, I feel that
the work jumps off white much better than on dark backgrounds. So here’s another website, clean, big opening image, if you go to the about
page you get a sense of what this photographer does from his personal photo as well. There’s more writing
here than I usually think works out, but if you have a really strong background with what you’re
doing, it can be warranted. But at the same time, it’s
clean, it’s easy to read, everything you wanna know is there. And this is his blog. It’s terrific. It carries on, for me it
carries through the idea that he shoots strong, clean imagery. So with your website,
it’s not just the website. If you have a blog attached to it, it’s gonna be what your blog looks like. It’s gonna be what your
blog has to say as well. It’s also gonna be how do I find you. Do I find you in Facebook
or Twitter or LinkedIn or Google Plus or Instagram? Can I access them from
your site in case I want to see that as well? This is Stephen Mallon again. You know what he does. Here it is. Couldn’t be stronger. Clean, inviting. If I had to shoot an
airplane or a giant ship I’d want him to do it. Or machinery, because it looks fantastic. It’s heroic. I don’t know if you know this
photographer Theron Humphrey. You might know his
project Maddie on Things. Theron did a project where
he went around the country and photographed people every single day. He went to every state. Along the way he had a
coonhound dog as his companion and he started finding
out that he could put his dog on all kinds of things. Started posting those, that
became a huge viral hit. But this is a beautiful website. What the Maddie Project
did was lead to something he’s doing now called Why We Rescue, which is he’s photographing people with their rescue animals. So he’s taking the
portraiture from his trip, the animal, and it’s come together. It’s clear what you can see. You can click on anything. I couldn’t take a picture
of the entire screen, I’m sorry about that. But basically whatever you
want to know is right there. And that is Theron and Maddie. This is a photographer,
an art photographer. Also, just clean, gives
you a place to literally dive into her work. I think that’s a really clever opening. And as you can see, her
categories are different because she’s an art photographer. So she has names for them as
opposed to subject matter. But it doesn’t matter because
I know what to do here. I know where to go, I understand what she’s trying to tell me. Same thing with this photographer. Lifestyle, there we are. Strong images, different, colorful. Sort of in your face. Which is part of the energy
that she’s trying to project. And this is a different
example, where you have like a sort of grid where you
can go anywhere you want and it’s all very obvious for you. So it’s, there is not
one way to do anything. There are a myriad of ways. It’s choosing the right way
for you and for your work. And each one of those photographers have chosen the right way
to promote their work. Which doesn’t mean that
they might not change it at some point. Because everybody evolves, everybody decides to
do things differently. You grow, you change,
you’re influenced by things. But if you start out when
you put your website up, you want it to be a
reflection of you, not just oh I had to do a website so I
found this really cheap thing and I just threw it up there
and I’ll change it somewhere along the line. I hear that a lot. It doesn’t change. It doesn’t change, it
doesn’t change, and honestly if it doesn’t change, if
somebody looks at your site once they’re not gonna go
back if it isn’t strong. If they go back and it hasn’t
changed, there’s no new work, you haven’t fixed the design
of it or the navigation of it, they will not return, they will move on to the next photographer. At the same time as we have
these certain, very clean and clear ways of presenting yourself. There are exceptions to the rule. If you are a singular,
very quirky, very unusual photographer as Chris Buck is, nobody photographs like Chris Buck. So Chris Buck has a
website like nobody else’s. It works for him because
it sets him apart. And he is that singular
uneditorial photographer. He’s got a very unusual, unusual way of looking at the world. So, he has a very unusual
way of putting up a website. So once again there is no one rule but if you’re not that
singular, something like that isn’t gonna work for you. Because the symbols are
gonna start confusing people. And they’re not gonna go into it. Here is an example of, like,
a really, really bad website. All I had to do is put it into Google, bad website. (audience laughs) – [Audience Member] That’s so sad. – [Stella] What can I say? It’s everything that’s wrong
with photography in the sense of people who think
that they’re professional photographers but really aren’t. They’re just people who take pictures. And maybe they’ve made
a business out of it. Maybe they haven’t, it’s hard to know. But honestly, you could, I
could take these pictures and I can’t take pictures. So the different typefaces,
the black background, the I don’t know what
it is you photograph, whatever all that stuff is down there, whatever’s going on along the bottom, it’s just not working. This one is even worse. I don’t get this at all. I found this and it was
just like so strange to me. Like, it makes me wanna,
make that curtain go away so I can see the photo. Like, I don’t understand
what all that information is and that you think I’m
actually gonna go into that. When what I wanna see is a photograph and what I’m seeing is
all of these things. Hey, you, welcome, have a seat, why? Why would I have a seat? I want a photo. (audience laughs) So that’s something to think about. If you’re a photographer I want a photo. I don’t want words. I don’t want descriptions. I don’t want information except in a an acceptable way which is contact info, this is how I reach you. I don’t wanna have your philosophy
written around your work. I don’t, I definitely don’t want sound. We, but I’m sure you all know that. And I don’t want clicking sounds either which I still find on websites
and it’s shocking to me. And then we have the
dreaded black background. Which, just to illustrate
my point, depressing, sad. Bad. It’s like, I don’t wanna get out of bed kind of stuff. I’m gonna pull the shades
and live in darkness forever. This is not something that
invites me in and makes me want to explore. And it isn’t just based on the work. It’s the whole thing. It’s the package. And yes, this person chose to do this. But honestly, this was a
person who didn’t wanna hear what anyone else had to say. This is a person that is
convinced of their own greatness. And no matter what anybody tells them, it doesn’t work for them. I worked with a photographer recently who I had worked with previously. Who hired me in a panic
because she had actually been working with another consultant, I thought that was an
interesting thing to tell me,. And, in the three months they
had been working together, she didn’t have anything to show for it. She was freaking out. She wanted a website up. She wants something, can I help her? So, being a nice person,
because I am a nice person, I accommodated her in a
way that, in retrospect, I should never have done. I began working with her,
I did an edit for her in about three days, sent it off to her. And she calls me up and she
goes, “But I don’t like it.” And I said, “Well, okay,
were there some things I left out that you’d like in? Usually what I send to
you is a preliminary edit, you mention a photo you really like, I work it back in, we go
back and forth on this.” “No, no, I don’t like what you did.” “Okay, well, it’s subjective, you know.” All art is subjective, if
you show it to someone else they would do it a different way. If you like your way of doing
it, which is what’s on your site right now then
that’s fine, just keep it. “But I paid you.” Well, yeah, and I gave
you an edit in three days which is something this
other person hadn’t done in three months. I don’t understand what the problem is. “But I don’t like it.” What can I say? That’s somebody who thinks that the world is revolving around them. That’s somebody who wants
me to pat them on the head and tell them how terrific they are. I am not a shrink. I’m not their mother. But this is something that
I run into, unfortunately more frequently than I’d like. I had to just sort of cut this person off and then that’s the end of it for me. I worked with another person who felt that I had not given them
everything that I said I would. We met a half dozen times,
had ample opportunity to discuss anything, but
hadn’t brought anything up. These specific things up,
hadn’t brought them up in any of the discussions we had,
and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t willing to
do more work for him. Another situation, the
world revolves around him. I should be willing to do
anything, any time, always. I’ve had people email me on, I have had people where I met them, met with them on Friday,
they email me on Saturday, they call me Sunday
afternoon because they didn’t hear back from me because
they emailed me on Saturday. I was planning on waiting
til Monday, but then those people don’t think that I should only, they think I should be
working seven days a week 24/7 for them. You know, that’s another problem. So when you work with somebody, whether it’s an editor at a magazine, whether it’s an art buyer,
whether it’s a gallerist, whether it’s somebody who wants to re-edit your work for presentation
on their gallery walls or their museum walls or whatever it is. You have have to think of the other person and not yourself. That doesn’t mean you can have dialogue. But you can’t expect these
people you’re working with to be at your beck and call. To do only what you want. As if they have no expertise,
they have no background to be making changes or
choices that they make. That it’s all about you. Because it isn’t. So when you’re presenting, just to sort of go back
to what I was saying. It’s you, it’s your
work, it’s your website, your portfolio, your promotional material, it’s how you interact with people. If you’re applying to a gallery
most likely you go to the gallery online, you see
what their submission policies are, and yet
people just ignore that. I have a friend who is a assistant director at a big
gallery and one day she’s there and a photographer shows up
with a portfolio and says, “Can I show you my work?” And she goes, “Well, we have
instructions on the website which is, you submit jpegs.” He’s like, “Oh, yeah, I know about that. But I’m here, so, so won’t
you look at my work?” Just because you think
you’re fantastic and special and wonderful doesn’t mean that the rules don’t apply to you too. Because she’s busy, you
interrupted her day. It’s not like she’s sitting
there waiting for a photographer to show up to show her, show the work. She’s got things to do
and yet this photographer thinks he’s too important for that. You don’t want to be the person that doesn’t listen to the rules. That doesn’t mean you can’t break rules, because I’m a big believer
in breaking rules. But you don’t break rules at
the expense of another person. Because that shows that you’re
just thinking about yourself. You have to realize that
other professionals, be they gallerists, assistant
directors of galleries, directors of galleries,
museum curators, art buyers, production people, anybody
you’re gonna come across working with, they are professionals too. And it’s a reciprocal relationship. They are not there to serve you. When I was a photo editor
at magazines we used to have this little joke. We had to work with editors,
that’s another thing photographers don’t realize. When you work in a magazine,
a newspaper, you’re not the end all be all as the photo editor. You have to show the work,
either to your director or to the other editors, and frequently they make decisions that
you don’t agree with. But what can you do? You’re not the top of the
totem pole so you don’t get to be the final say sometimes. So sometimes pictures
run that you don’t like, that you don’t think are the best. But the photo editor’s the
one that takes the flak from the photographer. Because they don’t realize
that I have to answer to someone else. So I have gotten phone
calls ripping me apart for my horrible choice of photography. And when I explain that I wasn’t the one who made the decision, it
was the executive editor who knows nothing about photography, who decided he liked a
picture because the person was wearing a color he liked. And believe me, that happens. The photographer was simply
thinking about themselves. So I know I’ve gone over
that point many times. But really how often in your life are you thinking about
somebody other than yourself when you’re interacting with them? Be they your friend, your
family, your significant other, someone you run into on
the street or whatever. It really requires a certain personality or a personality change. And honestly if you need to
make the personality change it’s gonna only benefit you. It is. It really is. Because it’s better to be
known as a nice person, a person that you like interacting with, than somebody who’s a pain in the ass, or rude, or uninterested in
anyone beyond themselves. That won’t help your career. What will help your career
is being someone that’s nice, so that the person you deal
with says to their friend, wow, I just met this
really nice photographer, who then says to their
friend, hey, I know this really nice photographer, who
then says to their friend, oh, you were looking
to hire a photographer, here’s the name of a
really nice photographer. And that’s how it happens. Whether that’s getting on
the walls of a gallery, whether that’s getting an ad campaign, whether that’s getting a spread in a magazine or a newspaper. That’s how it happens. Because art buyers know art buyers. Photo editors know photo editors. Gallerists know gallerists. And we all know each other. So the good gets passed around and the bad gets passed around. And believe me, believe me,
if there’s a bad rep to you, it’s not going to help your career. Because, as I said at the
beginning, if talent alone made the difference the
world would be a fabulously better place than it is. Movies would be better, they
would not be all remakes and super heroes. Music would be better, it wouldn’t be all whatever the hell it is. ‘Cause I can’t even listen to it. So I want to, well this was the last one I was gonna show you. It’s the same as the others, it’s nothing. Yeah. But you see this is, in a
sense this is the competition. People who can take
pictures because pretty much anyone can take a picture these days. The cameras pretty much
just do it for you. You put any kind of a filter
to make it look better. You can wipe things out of it completely. There’s so much you can
do, but that’s not what a professional photographer is about. But that doesn’t mean that those people are not your competition. The difference is showing
why you’re a professional and why that is not professional. And I will leave you with one sad story. It came out today that
the Chicago Sun Times fired their entire photo department. Which means they let go of at
least 20 staff photographers and any photo editor or
any assistant photo editors that they had. They now say that the
reporters can just take iPhone pictures and they’ll just
work with freelancers. So it’s not an easy world out there. But that does not mean that
there are not photographers that are succeeding and
are becoming well known and are having their work in books and on gallery walls and in
magazines and everything else. It just means you have to
work harder to make sure that what you’re pulling together reflects who you are and you have
to have the confidence to get over your own insecurities about talking to people, your own shyness about looking people straight in the eye and projecting yourself. And you have to learn how to do it if you really, really
want to have a career. Because I do believe it’s possible. It’s just not easy. So, with that, thank
you all very, very much. (applause) – [Audience Member] You said
that an email address is important to always have
on the leave behind. What about a telephone number
on a website, on a card? – Oh, that’s fine too. – [Audience Member] I mean, but– – You mean one or the other? – [Audience Member] I mean can
you leave off a phone number? – I, you know, honestly I’m
not sure I can answer that. I’m one of the few people you’ll ever know without a cell phone. So I can only assume that cell
phones are really important for people because people text each other before they email each other. But I’m only, this is only
what I read about, I don’t really know the experience of that. So I would say that more
likely you wanna have both for the old people like
me who would email. And for everybody else who would text, so they’re gonna wanna know
what your phone number is. – [Audience Member] Okay. – Anyone else? – [Audience Member] Hi Stella. – Hi. – [Audience Member] You
mentioned the website and I’ve always been curious about
your thoughts about whether it should be one major
photograph and whether the change of that photograph
should it be quarterly or do you have any feeling about that? As opposed to a number of photographs. – Well, you know it depends. And it really is gonna be
something where you’re gonna have to really look at
your work in both contexts. Sometimes grids work really well. If your work fits, can be
seen in a size of a grid. You know, if people shoot
crowds it’s not gonna work if you’re doing little grids of pictures. So that’s gonna determine it. I like big images, I like
to have an image to look at. I hate slideshows that play automatically, that I can’t figure out how
to stop it or control it. A lot of the, a lot of
the companies that you you get websites from do that. And I think that’s really
bad, ’cause everyone I know, photo editors and art
buyers, want to be able to control looking at the images. How often you change things depends on how much you’re shooting. But it should generally
I think, like every three months or so you should
add something new in. Because what it does is it
gives you an opportunity to mass email people and say, hey, I’ve got new work. Look at my site. And every opportunity to promote yourself, to re-establish contacts
with somebody that you’ve met or shown your work to is an
opportunity to advance yourself. If you don’t change your
website, you can’t tell them to go back and look at it. So your website becomes ineffective. But at the same time you have
to be shooting some new stuff. And some people, because
they’re working or family, or other commitments, they
find it more difficult to shoot for themselves. You have to carve the time out. You know, even if it’s an
hour every other Saturday. You’ve got to be shooting
for yourself, regardless of whatever work you’re doing. Whether it’s photography related or not. So you can make changes into your website, and also because
assumedly your photography will grow and change. The more you shoot the more clear you get, the more ideas you get, so
that alone will give you more material to do,
to put on the website. And it’s okay to take stuff off. To rotate work in and out. Because a lot of times
photographers can’t let go of what’s on there, so they just add more to it. And you don’t want a website
that’s so dense that people don’t wanna look at it. You know, where every category
has 50 pictures in it, and somebody starts
looking and they’re like, I can’t deal with this. ‘Cause that’s what happens,
our attention spans are not great anymore. And honestly people in the
business that you want, potential clients that you want, they’re too busy to
spend that kind of time. And you don’t want it to be
like the first five images are fantastic and then
it like goes like this. Because then why do you have 50 images? So these are all things
that you have to figure out, you have to look at other
websites so that you can see what you think works
well and what doesn’t. And if it works well would
it apply to you or not. You have to ask people,
other photographers, friends of yours, people
that you’ve just met. They’re really good,
because they don’t have any emotional connection to you. So they’re not gonna tell you necessarily what you wanna hear. But it might take a while
to figure out what the right balance, the right mix, that’s, that might take time, you know. But part of it is also you’re maturing as a photographer, as an artist. And it comes with time if you want it to. Any other questions? – [Audience Member] On a
website with the new technology, like if I’m shooting motion
with the camera also, is it better to have an
outtake image with a link to, say, Vimeo, or a small
snippet of the actual motion work within the
context of the website? – Well I’d keep it on the
website because you want people not to leave your website
to go somewhere else because you don’t know that they’ll come back. So if you have a snippet
on the website and maybe the longer version is on
Vimeo and there’s a link, that’s probably better. Because that keeps them on
your site, it gives them the choice of whether
they wanna leave to see a longer version. And it also allows them to know, know from being on your website
that you do do motion work. Which is becoming more
important but I would not tell all of you to suddenly
start learning how to do it. Because you should only
do it if you want to. If you don’t want to, don’t do it. Because if you’re just gonna
do it because you think you should, you’re gonna
have a steep learning curve, it’s not gonna be very good, and you’re gonna give
it up, and you’re gonna get really depressed,
and then you won’t shoot, and then you lose your house,
you know, everything else. (audience laughs) Really, I mean, I’m a big
believer in doing what you want to do and not
being convinced to do things just because people say you should. Rather be the best that you
can be as a still photographer than be a mediocre motion photographer. Because as much as you think
you’ve seen way too many images in the world, and
we all have, you will start seeing way too much really bad video. Shortly, if you haven’t already. So you don’t wanna be that. You wanna be good at what
you do, and good at something that you care about. ‘Cause that’s the other
thing, if you don’t really, if you’re not really excited
about doing the work, then get another job. Because it’s hard to do these things. It’s hard to be a photographer
if you’re not gonna be excited about being a photographer. If you’re gonna be like,
well, I really love shooting, but I hate doing video but I’m doing video because I have to do
video ’cause everybody says you have to do it. You know, you’re gonna
really not be happy in life. And seriously, it’s just not worth it. It is not worth it. And it’s never worth
doing things just because people tell you you should. I don’t believe in that,
I believe the decision has to be yours, even if
it runs against everything everybody else believes. Because in the art world,
and you are in the art world, whether you’re an art photographer or not, there are so many people
that don’t get noticed til later on in life. There are people who don’t get noticed til after they’re gone. That’s not what I’m suggesting (audience laughs) But at the same time,
it’s better to do things that you want to be doing. Because then you can live with yourself, you can look at yourself in the mirror. You know, otherwise honestly,
I don’t wanna see photography be, I don’t wanna start
meeting lots of photographers who hate being photographers. Because you know, that’s
just, that’s awful. They’re, you’d be better off, really be better off doing something else. Any more questions, comments? Yeah. Think we have to run all the way around. Oh yeah, get behind the camera, I got you. Oh, I’m sorry, if you’ll wait
there’s someone in the back. – [Audience Member] Yes,
do you have a preference, or your opinion, on a
photographer’s website URL. Should it be their name,
or a memorable words? – Good question, always your name. Because the first thing,
first thing people do is they Google you. And you don’t wanna be the
person that they’re like, is that that person, or
is it, is it that person? Like, who is it? You don’t want that. Your name should, you should buy your name as your domain name. And if you haven’t done
that you have to find a way, if somebody else has bought it, you have a name that other people have, you have to find a way to take it back, even if it’s, you know, Jean Smith one. Whatever it is, because I’m
not gonna, I’m not gonna know to look for you
if your site is called Wonderful Photos, Inc.,
because I don’t put that in to Google. And you don’t want, you know, I wanna put your name in and find out who you are. And that’s the other
reason, because your name will connect you if somebody has written about you, if someone’s
mentioned you somewhere else, if you’ve got LinkedIn, if
you’ve got this and that, it’s gonna come up with your name. It’s not gonna come up otherwise. Because I’m not gonna use
the words that you use. So really don’t do that. Don’t do that. Lot of people do it, I don’t know why. Okay. – [Audience Member] I actually have a lot of questions, but– – Nu-uh. – [Audience Member] But
I’ll keep it to one. – Only one, yeah. – [Audience Member] I
was, I work in a magazine department and I very much
admire one of the people who works there, and I was
wanting to get her input on stuff, but she’s in
a very high position. And I’ve been hesitant to,
thank you, to contact her. And I’ve helped her out on
a few things, so I’ve been thinking well, at least she
knows who I am, but I don’t know how to take that next
step without, you know, you were talking about
consider the other person but at the same time don’t be too, too shy, well I’m trying
to figure out, I’ve been, you know, thinking about
the best way to do that. – Well, I believe that you should always ask the question of someone else. The worst that can happen
is they don’t have time for you or they say no. It’s not gonna kill you. You work with her so you
sort of know her schedule. Right, you know when she’s
really busy, or you don’t. Well, then, really it might
take more than one approach. It might take making a, you
know, sending her an in house email and saying, you know,
I’d love to meet with you, something like that. She doesn’t get back to you,
maybe you go up to her office and you leave a note for her. You know I, when I worked
at thew New York Times I worked on the newspaper and the magazine is its own universe. And I decided since I was
working there I might as well meet Kathy Ryan because, why not? And I thought maybe she, you
know, figured she’d probably heard my name or something. So I made an appointment to meet her. I got in front of her and
she had no idea why I would, why I wanted to meet her. It was really weird, really
uncomfortable, but so what? Honestly, so what? You should find a way to make contact if it doesn’t work the
first time, wait a little. Try the second time. One way or another you will
end up connecting with her because you work in the same place. So don’t be afraid to do it. The thing about, the thing about
thinking about someone else the reason I say that is
because you don’t wanna be a stalker. And people do that, they’ll
start sending like an email every week, and then
they’ll send you an email asking you why you didn’t
answer the first email. I have that happen. That is not what you want. That’s not thinking
about the other person. But there’s no, there’s
nothing wrong with wanting to meet someone and trying to do it. It may or may not work, but
the fact that you’re already there gives you a better chance. Because she will know your
name, you have worked with her. So you can just, ask her
if you can buy her coffee. In magazines at about three,
3:30, it’s the time for coffee. If you show up at her office, let’s say with a cup of coffee, and say you had brought
her a cup of coffee, that might get you in. You know, you can ask her assistant what, how she likes her coffee. Serious, no, I’m really serious, why not? Because every magazine I
worked at, 3:30 was the time that someone did a
coffee run and or sweets. When I first started working
in the Time, Inc. company they used to have a dessert cart that showed up at 3:30 on the dot. Everybody left their desk to go to it. Buy coffee and some kind of a sweet thing. So, that might be it. I mean, you know, be inventive. There’s no reason why you can’t do something really inventive. What’s the worst that can happen? If it’s not gonna kill you,
or put you in Guantanamo, what’s the big problem? So somebody says no or
they’re weirded out that you wanted to talk to them, so what? You know, it didn’t ruin
my life that Kathy Ryan didn’t understand why I
wanted to say hello to her. What do I care? You know, I made a try. Because I wanted to do it. You know, so, so be
bold enough that if you want to, try it out. The worst that happens is it doesn’t work, so you wait a little
while you try it again. ‘Cause you should never
take no as the final answer. Should wait til you hear it
a second time, seriously. Because you might be contacting someone when they’re busy, they’re
sick, their child is sick and they have to run, they’re overwhelmed with work, whatever it is so
they don’t have time for you. That doesn’t mean a
little bit down the line they won’t have time for you. But if you’re immediately
put off because they say no, like photographers will send out promos, they won’t hear from
anyone, and they’ll just go, oh, they hate my work, everyone hates me. Maybe everybody you sent
things to were on vacation. How do you know? Until someone looks
you in the eye and says leave me alone, I hate
you, I hate your work, don’t believe it to be true. It’s okay to have a sort of inflated sense of yourself in that way,
that you’re good enough, that you have a right to do that. That you should be contacting them. And that if they don’t
accept it and they don’t want to meet with you,
okay, that doesn’t mean they won’t a little bit down the line. You had a question. – [Audience Member] One last question. I have several but I’ll– – Once again, okay, oh
okay well there you go. – [Audience Member] I was gonna
ask in terms of prioritizing money, in, aside from
portfolio and website, expenditure on things like promotion, competitions, like, printing
things versus submitting to competitions, going
to portfolio reviews, if you don’t, you only
have like a limited pool of money to do that with, how would you prioritize that? – Don’t, don’t enter competitions. There are very few that
really have value for you, but there are thousands of them. And they’re just moneymaking ventures. So before you even think
about doing a competition, see what they’ve, what the
winners, what’s happened to the winners, and if
nothing’s happened for them don’t even do it. That’s the thing I’d
say about competitions. Portfolio reviews, it
is an issue of money. So you might have to
save up to go to one that you wanna go to, but there
are a lot of free ones in the city here. You just have to find them, whether its part of a
professional organization like APA or ASMP, or the
schools have them, or whatever. So you can get portfolio reviews for free here in the city. You probably can in other ways. And I will say this, although
I’m also a member of this, but there is this thing called Eyeist, which is an online
portfolio review service which has topnotch people. It might be more in your
budget to do it that way. So that’s something to consider. You know, money gets in
the way of everything. It’s really true, so you have to really, what you need to do is plot
out what it is you wanna do. And see what you can do
first with little money, and then if you wanna save
up for a portfolio review maybe that’s a good thing to do. But you can do that less expensively. There are a lot of ways to
do things less expensively and with the web, promotion
is really cheap now. You know, you can get things
done really inexpensively. So there’s probably
something for every budget and if you really have
no money it just means you have to be that much more inventive. And that much more
clever about how you let people know about you. I mean there was, there
have been people who paper the city with
little cards of their work and then everybody ends
up seeing their work. I don’t know, there’s all
kinds of things you can do. And you can do it inexpensively. You just have to be more creative. And with that I think, I think
we’re finished, thank you.

3 thoughts on “Stella Kramer”

  1. I looked for more of her lectures after watching her course on KelbyOne. This is some of the best face-smacking advice we could all use. Loved it! So many quotables! Thank you for uploading.

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