Common Cents
January 2003

by Mark Loundy

The difference between burlesque and the newspapers is that the former never pretended to be performing a public service by exposure."

- I. F. Stone, 1952

A recent E-mail from a magazine invited photographers to submit fashion photo stories for submission. "Unfortunately," said the E-mail, "we are not paying, but it is a good way for more exposure."

Exposure to a photographer is like hammering is to a carpenter. Exposing film or a sensor to light is an ordinary part of how we do our job. The problem is that more and more clients think that a tearsheet or a photo credit is an acceptable substitute for cash payment.

On the surface, working for photo credits-only might actually make sense for a rookie shooter who is trying to establish himself in the business. The idea being that future jobs will come as a result of the exposure — along with fat fees. But with the number of neophyte photographers in the industry, photo buyers are hoping that there is always going to be somebody around who is willing to shoot for "exposure." If that happens, the paying jobs will disappear along with our profession.

Unless you're shooting for a huge national publication like Vanity Fair or Esquire, the average photo buyer probably won't even see your "exposure." So not only will you have not been paid for your work, you won't even get any promotional value from it. In short, a savvy client will have taken you for a fool.

Your portfolio of excellent images and your professional demeanor will do just as well as a tearsheet from a client that won't pay for its own content. There is simply no reason for a photographer — no matter how inexperienced — to work for free.

The Good: According to Epictetus (ancient Greek philosopher) "The good or ill of a man lies within his own will." What I want to know is: Will somebody please send me some examples of good client practices?
The Bad: The New York Post. Work-for-hire clause.
The Ugly:Melphia Style Magazine for its all-rights, no kill fee and indemnification contract. This one even includes the knife-twisting clauses of resale rights and the right to use the photographer's likeness for promotional purposes.

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.

The Stock Artists Alliance (SAA) is a group well-worth checking out. According to their Web site, their mission is "to protect and promote the business interests of its members with regard to the worldwide distribution of their intellectual property." Photographer and founder Joe Pobereskin says that the SAA is "only global organization dedicated to providing education, advocacy and community for photographers producing rights-protected stock." If they can only accomplish part of their mission statement, they are a major step in the right direction for our industry.
In Memoriam:

Freelance photographers lost a good friend and a passionate advocate when photographer George Gryzenia died recently of a heart attack at age 40. George was an involved and knowledgeable educator about business practices and most recently spoke to the Michigan chapter of the ASMP about copyright and contracts. The attorney who shared the stage with George said that George had presented the topics so well that there was nothing left to say.

Many people did not know that George had struggled with juvenile diabetes since he was a child. Because of that, he could not obtain life insurance to secure the futures of his wife and young daughter. Please, take moment to sit down and write a check to support the family of a colleague who gave much of his all-too-brief time to our industry.

You can make checks payable to:
Helena Gryzenia Fund
c/o National City Bank
3500 Alpine NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504


Michigan ASMP George Gryzenia Memorial

Stock Artists Alliance

Seth Resnick's Rate Charts

Small Business Administration

Advertising Photographers of America Resource page

Editorial Photographers Yahoo! Group

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

© Mark Loundy

Mark Loundy is a visual journalist, writer and media consultant based in San Jose, California.

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