Paper or plastic?
Leaded or unleaded? Betty or Wilma?
Life is full of tough choices. The toughest for freelancers is whether
to sign a Work Made For Hire (WFH) contract. But the choice is more
fundamental than many realize. It's not a just choice of signing or
not, it's a choice of professions.
Richard Owen, a freelancer from Florida, wrote on NPPA-L, "People
just getting into the profession still have rent to pay, food to buy,
equipment to keep maintained, etc. Sometimes you have to do something
in order to survive."
He's right, but survival is more than just getting a check. Survival
is for the long run. That's why even a rookie shooter has to start with
sound business practices. If you want to operate a money-losing business,
it'll have to be subsidized by your spouse or your parents. Or maybe
Signing a WFH contract without adequate compensation or working for
money-losing rates sets you up for financial failure. You'll never be
able to raise your rates for your existing clients and you will have
contributed to the not-so-slow decline of rates and deterioration of
The sorry fact is that the nearly the entire newspaper industry is no
longer a viable market for freelance editorial photographers.
Conan Owen wrote on NPPA-L, "There are too many photojournalists
in this world." He went on to say that publications have, "no
shortage of capable photographers who will go to great lengths, suffer
great hardships (including lower pay) and crawl over their fellow photographers
to get a day-rate and a by-line..."
Conan is right. One solution is to reduce the supply of photographers.
This can happen in two ways:
* Freelancers can continue on as they have. Eventually, they will go
out of business. (Would you like fries with that?)
* Freelancers can adopt sound business practices. This will reduce the
supply of cheap photographers running failing businesses. Publications
will be forced to increase their photo budgets or reduce the amount
of photography they use.
Photographers who operate real businesses are faced with a tough choice.
Sign only livable agreements, or do something else for a living. Even
those living in denial (not the river in Egypt) will eventually be forced
More from Richard Owen (too many "Owens,") "Let's work
at changing what stops us from organizing like the Screen Actors Guild
and build some organization into something with some LEGAL teeth behind
That's why the Conyers bill is so important. If you haven't already
contacted your congressional representative about it, use the links
blow to do so.
Now back to those choices. Samantha or Jeannie... candy mint or breath
The Good: Somebody submitted USA Today, but they were in my March
The Bad: The Dallas Morning News moves up one notch for limiting
its rights grab to 30 days. Kudos for the change, but this is still
definitely a very bad deal.
The Ugly: Family Fun magazine. Indemnification clause. Not so
Please let me know of any particularly
good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently.
I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't
want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include
contact information for yourself and for the client.
I'm hearing reports of a new shenanigan being perpetrated by at least
one major news publication. They call to see if a photographer is going
to be attending a particular event. They don't actually issue an assignment;
they just suggest that they might be interested. Then, if they do want
images, they avoid paying an assignment fee entirely. Don't fall for
this. If you get such a call tell them that you plan to be there ONLY
if you have an assignment.
I haven't checked this out, but it sounds promising. Freelancer Stephen
Wallace has created an online image distribution system called the Wirephoto
Lightboard designed for independent photographers. The service handles
multiple clients, copyright, distribution, and licensing fees. You can
find more on the Wirephoto.com
website. If you use it, let me know what you think.
representative look-up page
Writers Union HR 4643 resource page
Artists Guild HR 4643 page
of Loundy on the run
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Globe Freelancers Association
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© 2002 Mark
Mark Loundy is
a visual journalist, writer and media consultant based in San Jose,