Monday, April 5, 2010

How's this for transparency?

About Pictage Sponsor/Endorser Programs.

Wow ... So I’ve been waiting for the industry unrest to turn our way and I guess it has. Even though that’s true, I’m actually still enjoying reading most of what I’m seeing because it’s amazing how much you learn when someone is unhappy. (So hard to get people to tell you why though! ugh!). Anyway, the current stream of consciousness happens to be around whether or not Pictage pays photographers to say we’re great. I like the idea of that, but I have a sense that if we did that for any length of time we’d probably be in trouble, so the answer is no, we don’t. In the interest of transparency though, let’s take a look at what we do, do. (which I hope is not easily confused with doo doo!) ...

Pictage treats Joe Buissink like a member of our own staff (Hey, a guy can dream can’t he?) He’s the only “endorser” who’s actually on the Payroll. Think about that relationship kind of like a shoe company and a basketball player. Nike/Jordan if you will. Joe’s a heavy user. (Actually usually drops off his film himself!). He utilizes many of Pictage’s services and provides consistent feedback with regard to what he sees. In addition, I see Joe’s talks, conversations, etc., as helpful to the community (they are always bursting at the doors) and so I have no compunctions about this relationship and I make no apologies for it. Several other members of Pictage’s ad-hoc advisory board may get discounts on Pictage products or services as a form of compensation for the time they spend helping us get better. (that takes a lot of time). There is no other direct compensation for anyone who endorses Pictage. (so far as I know!)

Everyone else falls into a different category. All of Pictage’s educational activities are on a user volunteer basis. We don’t sponsor paid workshops. We may, in some cases, provide a free membership or other type of product for a photographer to use as a giveaway for a paid event but that’s about it. As an example, in the case of Mike Colon, we sponsor a dinner on the night of his workshops (we do the same for Dane’s where we provide lunch). Speakers for our own conference, PartnerCon, are selected through a process of abstract submission and user survey. (Who do you want to hear from?)

In addition, Pictage provides a level of financial support for events that we believe have educational value for Photographers. Recently we sponsored “Inspire Boston” and “Rebirth” (just concluded on the Mississippi Delta), two workshops with a slate of relatively unknown speakers (all working professional photographers), and a focus on providing a high quality experience to their attendees. We think this is inline with our own event, PartnerCon, held in New Orleans last year and this year in November. Pictage seeks to be a resource in these events, but we do not attempt to influence speakers, agenda, etc. We don’t see that as our place. (ask the organizers). I personally endorsed Carlos Baez’s workshop in Las Vegas because I knew it would be a hands on, direct learning experience with a lot of value for the attendees. I think Pictage bought Pizza for the folks who came.

Pictage does pay expenses in some cases. These are usually when there is a large expected turnout due to a lot of regional demand. (It’s important to note that Pictage only provides speakers like this when there is significant regional demand.). These expenses, in varying degrees can include travel, facilities rental, etc. Pictage only pays these expenses in situations where there is no charge to the photographer for attending the event.

Lastly, for all PUG leaders, and a few other folks, Pictage grants the membership fees for free. These folks bust their butts scheduling, planning, promoting and hosting the activities in their areas and that’s the least that we can do to help them out. Pictage pays for meals, etc., in these meetings, but we do not force a curriculum, speakers (including yours truly) or anything else. My view is that what happens in a particular community should be up to that community and not us or anyone else.

In the spirit of transparency I think that’s really the exhaustive list of everything we do. I’m not sure there’s much there to apologize for either. Times change. Where last year our users might have been clamoring for one speaker, this year they may be wanting to hear from someone else. The speakers with staying power are the ones who meet their audience’s needs. The ones who don’t meet those needs are charting their own courses. Supplying these speakers to the marketplace in a free to attend - free to not attend forum - is one of the services Pictage’s users expect and I think it is just that, a service. If you hear someone who rings your bell and you want to go to their workshop. Good for you and good for them. If you decide you can’t stand someone. Well, that’s ok too. (just let me know!)

I hope that helps to clear things up.




Scott said...

Hi Jim thanks for this but I'm not sure why anyone in our industry feels the need to respond to anonymous trolls and cowards. 99% of the noise I am hearing is coming from punks who post under assumed names from their mom's basement. If a person isn't willing to identify himself, and stand up for what he says, I personally don't find any merit in anything he says. Pictage doesn't owe anyone, least of all anonymous trolls an explanation - at least not in my book.

Jason Walbridge said...

As a former employee of Jim's, I would have to say this is fairly comical - in a weird and sad sort of way. I am no photographer (if you'd like proof, lemme know - I'll send you pictures)... but I "follow" Pictage because I am excited by what they're doing. I'm excited by their ingenuity and resourcefulness.

I'm not privy to these rumors, but I would say that there must be no, or very little merit to them - whatever they are. Jim is a stand up guy who is focused on the execution of how the details are handled - while keeping his priorities in order.

Jim - "Onward" - I love it! I miss it!

Jason Walbridge

Misty Miotto said...

Hey Jim!

:0) I am always singing Pictage' praises... I have had a few people (newly introduced strangers) lash back and make comments to me even at WPPI like "what are they giving you to say that". Then I shared my story with them how I also left Pictage and the differences I have seen since I have been back. Now I am sure not all of them have been convinced to sign back up but the ones who have I am sure they will be glad they did. One by one people will see the new face of Pictage and the true family that exists here and the ones who don't probably are not "pictage family" material anyways :0)

Also on a lighter note I feel like I have been scouting people to church on Sunday as I have been sharing all of my wonderful experiences and memories we had at Partnercon 2010 :0) I know this year will be even more amazing (I hope there is enough room for all of us) and I can not wait to hang out and see everyone again! I love your transparency Jim :0) Not that you owed it to any of us but it is still what, in my eyes... has always made you special! In the words of a great man I know...Onward Pictage Onward!!!

laura k moore said...

I appreciate the transparency jim. Pictage is becoming more impressive and grounding the more transparen and aggresively relational it becomes!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Jim! Good leadership always gets backlash...wear it as a badge of honor.

I am proud to be a paying member of Pictage. And I will continue to evangelize for free!!!!!!!

Nathan Peel
Cincinnasty, OH

Jim Collins said...

Just to be clear ... transparent I guess! This was not in response to anything anonymous, but rather a question from a group of members who had a concern. There have always been lots of rumors about this stuff, so I decided to just put it all out there for everyone to know.

Hope it helps.

Hey Jason, great to hear from you. I'll be back down in South Florida again soon and hope to see you when I'm there. It'd be fun to hook up with some folks at Aruba!

Scott said...

Jim good to hear you weren't worried about the trolls. You have nothing to fear from them or anyone else. Since you took over, most folks I know think the world of Pictage.

Chris Lin said...

Who are you, then Scott? Scott who might be posting from anyhere?

Suppose that 99% of it is noise. Still, that's 1% that's potentially worth something. Is that worth listening to or are you going to discount it because you don't agree with it?

Don't lump all anonymous and pseudonymous commenters in the same basket. It's disingenuous to all of them. It's easy to resort to name-calling.

Chris Lin said...

Jim, I hope that more people in the industry follow your lead in sharing what they're invested in financially and personally.

Studio Foto said...

We have been using Pictage since 2001-02 and have probably been responsible for a bunch of new members. I almost left, I won a FREE membership to another proofing company ..... I only used it once and realized how good Pictage was! I have never been paid, I have never been recognized by Pictage! Oh well I like the company and I'm sticking with them! Thanks for the years of support:). Thank you to Jim for bringing back the spirit from 2002:)

Paul and Laura said...

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I'm sort of taking the side of the anonymous trolls.... And this is not against Pictage in anyway - not at all - as a former employee I know their policy when it comes to money and speakers, and I have always had a lot of respect for the rules they made.

For a long time myself, my husband and many, MANY of our photographer friends have been saying the things that these anonymous critics have been saying, but we have kept our comments out of public forums. Why? Because, well, we would like to be able to attend WPPI without having people throw things at us. The followers of many popular speakers can be downright fanatical in their devotion - so I can understand why some of these nay-sayers are staying anonymous.

To me, this backlash seems to be a cleansing for the industry - and its long overdue. Of course photographers should be responsible for their own actions and for how they spend their money - but this is an exciting industry! I can see how easy it would be for someone new to photography to be swept up in the excitement, to see fame and dollar signs - and to hear that "so and so" got there in just a few short years.

We often considered doing a workshop in the past, because we love to teach, but the multitude of poorly planned workshops, taught by unqualified "professionals" made us reluctant to jump in. We would never want to associated with photographers that talk the talk, but don't have the background, experience, or the bank account to back it up. (To our credit, we've been at this 7 years, have taught photography classes locally, shoot an average of 25-30 weddings a year, and have banked... well, lets just say we are comfortable. Yet we still would question whether or not we would be qualified to give education and advice that can shape someone's decisions - decisions that will greatly impact their career, lives and their families. That is called being careful and responsible - something that sadly, many popular speakers don't always think about). One of the more famous speakers have been known to say its ok to "fund the start of your business with credit cards" - that is more than just irresponsible, its morally reprehensible.

It is sad that the "trolls" don't feel that they can speak freely, but I sort of understand. Even typing this is making me a little nervous. At the end of the day, people will forget the snide comments and mudslinging, but what they will remember is that they should be careful about where they spend their money and who they support. A little research can save you from a lot of financial heartache.

Jim Collins said...

Paul and Laura,

I hear what you're saying. I kind of covered this in one of my first blog posts as well. I'm not a fan of the more personal attacks, but at the same time I sort of figure that if someone puts him/herself out there as a public figure then you have to be ready for a few rocks. (and you probably ought to know how to handle them). Like I've said, you have to look for the themes and the one you're pointing out is a big one.

With all of that said, and you guys know I love you to pieces, your excuse for not doing a workshop kinda sucks! You guys have built a successful studio (you're making a living!), your work behind the camera and your editing rocks and you both have a lot to offer. You're the kind of people who SHOULD be doing seminars. At least in my view.

Thanks for the post and for your candor. I look forward to seeing you again sometime soon!


Gary Masters said...

I sing the praises of Pictage, I tell their employees when I interact with them, and i am blown away by their service. I'm not paid a cent. Companies pay millions in sponsorships to have people say good things about them, and there is nothing ontoward about that. Go Pictage! Your new interface rocks! I've checked the competition and I have no intention of going anywhere.



I really enjoy your blog because you listen. You respond, and you criticize with dignity.

The transparency is a great thing, and I don't get the feeling you feel pressured to do this to kowtow to anonymous twitterers. I really thought it was awesome that LaCour did it, and now Pictage.

Thank you for defining boundaries of what is fair and reasonable!