The Digital Journalist
Common Cents
December 2003

by Mark Loundy

Lately I've been hearing a few people complain about negotiating lowball offers or educating clients about why Work For Hire contracts are a bad thing. Some of them are starting to sound like Cubs fans without the characteristic, "Wait until next year." In short, they're giving up. They're thinking like losers.

We lost because we told ourselves we lost.
Count Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, Russian Novelist, Philosopher

If you approach a client, hat-in-hand, acting like an indentured servant, you will never win a single negotiation. However, if you treat clients as fellow businesspeople as equals they will respect you and will not perceive you as a pushover.

Never change a winning game; always change a losing one.
Bill Tilden, 1893-1953, American Tennis Player

Day rates are dropping and rights grabs are increasing. Saying yes to them has certainly not been improving things. And the alternative to "yes" is?

The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.
George Orwell, 1903-1950, British Author, "Animal Farm"

Attitude does count - especially to you. If you start feeling beaten down it'll show in your behavior and in your business decisions. Recharge your batteries by attending workshops or even by getting on the phone with a respected colleague. Plus, both activities are deductible business expenses.

On October 30th, New York attorney Ed Greenberg and a panel of editorial photography experts talked about "The War On Photographers" and tips on how to aggressively protect your interests when everyone else is actively trying to exploit your work.

Attorney Greenberg has previously talked about a meeting in which publishing managers and their attorneys scoffed at photographers' ability to defend their interests and flatly stated that they are easy pickings for the industry. You can find the transcript on the EP site at It's scary reading.

The Good: The Wall Street Journal for realizing that they could not reasonably expect two assignments on a single day rate and approving a second day without complaint.

The Bad: The Recorder Newspapers of New Jersey, for imposing a WFH agreement on all freelance contributors.

The Ugly: Bell South for offering discounts on Yellow Pages advertising as payment for phone book cover photography.

The Times of Northwest Indiana for requiring employees to sign property responsibility agreements for company-owned cell phones la the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in last month's column.

Leftovers: The NPPA's newly revamped the Business Practices area on its website is a goldmine of info and tools. They call the area the Independent Photographers Toolkit. The Cost of Doing Business calculator is excellent. Kudos to Greg Smith and Alicia Wagner Calzada for putting it together. If you build it, they will come.

I know times have been tough but they've hit a new low when you can buy your very own used photographer. San Francisco-based shooter Calbee Booth has put himself up for sale on eBay. The minimum bid is $24,000. The seller will ship to international addresses but the buyer pays shipping costs. The listing doesn't mention anything about a warranty.

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.


NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

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

© Mark Loundy

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