The Digital Journalist
Common Cents
October 2003

by Mark Loundy

Since the industry is in jeopardy, this month, the category is "Potpourri."

Romantic notions

Some photographers will accept an exciting assignment, no matter how poorly it pays.

Photo buyers have come to realize that many photographers are starry-eyed romantics who know little about business. Until young photographers realize that photo buyers see them as easy pickings to be had for little more than a photo credit, then this industry will not recover.

Why would anybody even want to work in a profession that offered them so little respect?

Double duty

If you write and shoot, remember that both are billable services. Using one as a loss leader for the other is like leaving money on the table.

Veteran automotive photographer and writer Thom Cannell says, "Most magazines want writers to submit photos - ugh! Yet if you are a lousy photographer or cannot make photographs, they will hire a photographer and pay them. When I write, I get $150-$500+ per page. If I shoot I get X per assignment or whatever the contract is. If I write and shoot I (used to) get only page rate, not X + X, thus depriving me of additional income or a photographer of a job.

"Consequently I have stated to all my clients, 'If you want the kind of photographic work you are used to getting, my company supplies writers and photographers. Each is a billable service. It is your choice.' I have met no resistance on this point.

"So if you write and shoot," says Cannell, "please wise up and renegotiate, even with your old clients. They may well understand how your costs have increased (you're not going to tell them you've seen the Cost of Doing Business light!) and that you can no longer include extra services. If not..."

I'm mad as, uh, heck!

ARRRGGHH! I'm getting more than a little fed-up with photographers asking about what various outlets will pay for this and that. We are businesspeople. We have our own costs and our own fees.

The plumber does not come to my house and ask me how much I will pay to have my house re-plumbed. The checker at the grocery store does not ask me how much I'll pay for Reese's Pieces.

Conversely, if I think that one grocery store is too expensive or doesn't supply the services that I want, I go to another one. That's the way business is supposed to work.

This going to clients, hat in hand, and saying, "Please sir, can I have some more?" is getting old. It's time for it to end.

The Good: Not a gosh-darned thing this month.

The Bad: The Daily Bugle for offering rookie freelancer Peter Parker a pittance for exclusive pictures of Spiderman. Editor J. Jonah Jameson should be ashamed!

The Ugly: Advanstar Communications for its all-rights contract that blackmails contributors into giving up rights to material created since 1999 if they want to work for Advanstar again. The company publishes nearly 100 trade publications.

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.

Leftovers

Beware of potential clients who call newspaper staffers and insist on a job estimate while they still have them on the phone. This is almost always a sign of somebody who is looking to hire "on the cheap." Don't be exploited.

Getty Images tripled its net earnings in the quarter ending June 30. The company expects gross revenue for 2003 to be in excess of $500 million. In the past year, Getty Images stock has more than doubled in price. If you're a Getty shooter, I hope you got your share.

It seems everybody complains about the market, but nobody does anything. One group that is doing something is the Creative Eye photographers' co-op. They cut out the agency fee entirely by having the photographers own the agency.

Connections

Creative Eye Co-op

Getty Images Stock Quote

Advertising Photographers of America Resource page

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Editorial Photographers Cost of Doing Business Calculator

Editorial Photographers Yahoo! Group

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

Portions of this column were originally written for the September 2003 edition of News Photographer Magazine.

© Mark Loundy

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