Need a Photographer? Then Find a Photographer.

In need of a photographer for your commercial or editorial project, or even your portrait in Greensboro, North Carolina? Then by all means, give me a call. But, if for some reason I’m not available, or if you need a photographer in another city and you don’t want to send me, or if you just don’t feel I’m right for the job, then take a look at the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) service “Find a Photographer”. On the national site, there is a listing by geographic area and specialty for the whole country with contact information and portfolios of member photographers. The national link is Most chapters also have their own listings. ASMP-NC, the chapter for North Carolina members has a link just for this state at In either case, you are provided with a comprehensive list of established and experienced professionals that can fill your needs in completing your next photography project.

“Founded in 1944, the American Society of Media Photographers (originally the Society of Magazine Photographers and later the American Society of Magazine Photographers) is the leading trade association for photographers who photograph primarily for publication. ASMP promotes photographers’ rights, educates photographers in better business practices, produces business publications for photographers and helps buyers find professional photographers. ASMP has 39 chapters across the country and its members include many of the world’s foremost photographers.” (from

PS. For all of you with IPhones, there is a Find a Photographer app available for your phone.

Bad Contracts are Bad Business

I started this blog to share my photography with other people, not to be political or post news about photography equipment. There are other blogs that do that better than I can. Most of my posts are simply images and maybe a few words about the people or places I shoot. Since I am a board member of ASMP-North Carolina, I do occasionally make an ASMP announcement or talk about the business of photography. This is one of these posts.

Professional photographers are often requested to sign contracts when they accept new assignments, and over the years I have seen my share, some good, and some not so good. An art director for a large US book and magazine publisher contacted me yesterday with a request to license an image he had seen on this blog for use on a book cover. He sent me a PDF of a layout with my image on it. Evidently he didn’t see my notice that no use of my images is allowed without express permission. Nonetheless, I gladly quoted him a very fair figure for very specific use and terms for the image, and he said everything sounded fine. He said he would forward a contract to me. I questioned the need for me to sign a contract, since the image was a stock image of mine, and my invoice and usage forms act as a contract by themselves. He said the publisher was required to have a contract and that their’s was very simple and would reflect my terms. I told him I would take a look at the contract and if everything were in order, I would then forward a high rez file.

Today I received the contract and it was the most heinous document I have ever seen in my 30 years of business. First of all, the contract read as if I was doing an assignment. My image is a personal image, shot on my time, and already totally my property (The shot had no people in it, so model releases were not involved.). I had offered the art director non-exclusive rights for a book cover first run plus reprints, period, with my terms being payment due upon receipt of my invoice. The contract I received required me to give the publisher exclusive world-wide rights to the image for the life of the work. Editorial use of the image was allowed in any of the publisher’s subsidiary publications for 15% of the original fee plus advertising use was allowed for 20%. They also claimed a six-month option to buy my copyright for an additional 100% of the fee and there was a clause stating that I would be required to reshoot the image if they found it inadequate (Remember, this was for a stock image I had already produced.). Payment for any invoice would be on their “normal” schedule, for which they did not define what normal is .

I immediately called the art director and told him that there is no possible way I will ever sign such a contract. He told me I could cross out any offending language, and I told him I would have to cross out the entire document. I then told him I would be happy to license the image for my original usage terms. He said he would get back to me.

The photography business is rough these days, and none of us can afford to miss a sale, least of all me. However, a bad business climate is not an excuse to give away your work through bad contracts, nor is it an excuse for publishers to try to take advantage of innocent and gullible artists. I still have hope in negotiating a sale, however, a bad deal is a bad deal, especially when it jumps up and slaps you in the face.

Photography Show and Exhibit by Dan Routh

(Photograph copyright 2009 by Dan Routh)

I am stepping away from commercial and advertising work and taking part in a photography show and exhibit on Friday, December 4, 2009 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm at Studio B Event Center, 520 South Elm Street in Greensboro, in connection with Downtown Greensboro’s First Friday art tour of downtown art venues. Everyone is cordially invited to come by and take at look. It’s free. I will be sharing space with Greensboro aluminum artist Scott Harris. This is something new for me. While I have shown individual pieces in shows and competitions over the years, this will be my first exhibit of this size. I’m excited and hope those who attend will enjoy what we hang. For more info on First Friday, go to

RCC Post Processing Seminar

On Monday I had the pleasure of presenting a short seminar to the commercial photography class at Randolph Community College in Asheboro, North Carolina. I worked with the class on digital post-processing techniques in Photoshop. My intent was to get the students to experiment with what is possible with post-processing and to push things a bit. Photoshop is a tool, and by understanding what is possible, a photographer can make decisions on what is the most efficient way to produce a photographic illustration. I don’t advocate Photoshop as a do-all, and we did push the envelope a little, but by learning what you can do, you can then decide what you should do to an image. I was impressed by the quality of the students I worked with and it was quite an enjoyable day, and I would like to thank the folks at RCC for having me. Above is an image of one of the students I did during the day as an example, a simple portrait against a plain brick wall and then pushed a bit.

(photographs copyright 2009 by Dan Routh)

Digital Photography Workshop

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of teaching a basic digital photography workshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The workshop was sponsored by my cousin Cory Routh who besides working for the State of Virginia as a marine biologist doing water quality work, runs a kayak fishing service in the Tidewater area called Ruthless Fishing. I hope the students enjoyed and learned something from the Saturday class. I know I enjoyed it. The workshop was held at First Landing/Seashore State Park on Cape Henry, a nice natural area with cypress swamp.

For more info on Cory’s company and kayak fishing, go to

(photographs copyright 2009 by Dan Routh)

New Digital DSLR Camera

(image copyright 2008 by Dan Routh)

I haven’t spoken a lot about camera equipment on this blog, because for one thing I don’t think it’s really important which camera you use. What is important is how you use it and what kind of photographs you produce. I do want to make a couple of comments about a new camera body that is available and how it changes the way I think photographically. Nikon introduced their D3 about a year ago and then recently they brought out the D700. I bought a D700. Both of these cameras bring to digital photography the ability to shoot very good images at very high ISOs.

The D700 allows me to shoot in very low natural light and produce stunning files. It has changed the way I approach things in a positive way. I’m not a tripod kind of guy. I find they slow me down and get in my way. The new camera lets me hand hold situations I could never shoot before. Frees me up to move and explore an image. It also allows me to use the available light more without having to light scenes. Believe me, I have spent almost 30 years lighting images, and there is nothing wrong with artificial lighting done right. But available light can be more natural, more real, and more moving in a photograph. Couple all this with the ability of digital cameras to shoot at variable ISOs on the same card, no longer having to worry much about filtration, and the recent advent of VR or vibration reduction lenses, and we have reached a revolutionary period in low light/available light documentary-style photography.

Photograph is of an old seed cleaner at Julian Milling Company in Julian, North Carolina.

Black & White or Color, Film or Digital ….. Stock or Assignment

(image copyright 2008 by Dan Routh)

Black and white. I learned photography shooting and processing b&w and that’s where my heart is. I guess most advertising and product photography is shot in color, but I still get excited when I see a good image in tones of gray. It may be all those books I read by Ansel Adams and I do still think in terms of the Zone System.

I learned on film, I shot every format of film available from 126 to 8×10 and for most of my professional life I survived on film. But, I guess I will take digital. Not that I think digital is any better than film; to be perfectly honest, I don’t really see any difference in the end product. Face it, film cameras and digital cameras are just tools to produce images. It’s just that today, it’s a whole lot quicker and easier to do things digitally. In my area labs are becoming fewer and farther apart and it’s almost impossible to find large batches of film for sale. Even if I shot on film, I would have to digitize the image to get it into my workflow so I find it easier to start with a digital file. I shoot in RAW format so my original files act as a sort of a digital negative. I find it pretty easy to replicate a film image with digital. Granted it does take some post processing. And, I really don’t miss keeping my hands in D-76 and fixer.

Assignment for sure. Today we are seeing more and more agencies and companies depend on stock imagery, the predominant reason being cost. I understand the economic reasons. Believe me, I understand the state of the economy. It just pains me to see part of the creative process disappear. Traditionally, an agency would create an idea for an image and then assign someone to produce it. I always have enjoyed being part of a collaborative effort to bring an ad or a brochure or an article to life. Today those same creatives either by choice or necessity seem to lean more towards stock imagery, royalty-free images and now even to free image services like Flicker. Sometimes they start with an idea and locate an image to illustrate it, and sometimes they find an image and come up with an idea to match it. If it works they are successful. But it seems to me that a lot of folks are trusting to luck, luck in finding that right image. There is an old saying that “it’s better to be lucky than good”, but my father told me that for the most part in life, “you make your own luck”. Don’t get me wrong, there are some talented designers that can use stock images very well, and there are some talented designers that can also shoot their own great images. I myself shoot stock photography and do indeed make sales. I just hope assignment photography survives, partly for the selfish reason that I survive financially on it, but mostly because I want to see the most creative, professional part of advertising and commercial photography continue. I hate to see that artistic collaboration between photographer and art director go away. After spending 30 years producing images, I think I still have something creatively valuable to offer. For the agencies and companies that depend on free or royalty-free or stock photography I hope they consider assigning more work and recommending to their clients that they do so, before someday their luck runs out.