The Digital Journalist
Common Cents
April 2004

by Mark Loundy

Education may boil down to who knows what first. I've always thought that education is the answer to many of the problems that face our profession. If young photographers are educated about business practices early in their careers, they'll make the right decisions and they will prosper.

Unfortunately, the other folks are also getting educated. What are they learning?
* Images are valuable beyond their initial use
* Many photographers will sign Work For Hire agreements
* If one photographer won't sign a bad agreement, the next one will
* Newspapers are a good place to find freelancers who will work cheaply
* Entry-level staffers will work under slave like conditions - thinking that they are "paying their dues"
* Many photographers know little about business and aren't interested in learning

II-B OR NOT II-B? Education is the centerpiece of the resolutions to change the NPPA bylaws. It's about the education of student and mid-career photographers about business practices and education of the public about the value and complexity of photography. Are you up to saving our profession? If so, go to and click on the "What can I do to make this happen?" link.

The Ugly:

The USO is best known for its overseas tours during World War II and Vietnam featuring entertainers such as Bob Hope, Ann-Margret and Frank Sinatra. Now we can remember them for a big, fat, ugly Work For Hire contract for their tour photographers. Not exactly the best way to support the ideals that the troops overseas are fighting for.

(The Good and The Bad are taking this month off again for space reasons in the print version.)

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.


* More than 30 years ago, photographer Leif Skoogfors couldn't know that the gawky fellow, out of focus in the background of a picture of actress Jane Fonda, would turn out to be a major celebrity himself.

Like Dirck Halstead's picture of then-president Bill Clinton hugging unknown intern Monica Lewinsky, an ordinary image attained extraordinary value. Luckily for Skoogfors, he retained the rights to the image that shows presidential candidate John Kerry behind Fonda. Skoogfors is collecting licensing fees for an image that should have been history - not current events.

* The NFL is negotiating to take over their image library containing more than 30 years of images. The rub is that the photographers who shot the pictures own the images. Few of the shooters have agreed to the sale as of this writing. Their concern? The front-runner in the takeover is Getty Images and the former NFL shooters are concerned that Getty has a conflict of interest. Getty assigns freelancers to shoot sporting events (including NFL games) and demands that they sign Work for Hire contracts. That means that they get 100% of any stock sales from images shot by their own photographers. The fear is that Getty will favor their in-house images over those from the NFL Photos because they have to share the revenue from those images with the photographers.

The photographers want to keep the collection together to maximize its value, but many are considering pulling their images and marketing them separately.

The saga continues.

* If you point clients to your work online or send them files as E-mail attachments, it pays to find out how they are connected. Services such as Earthlink, AOL and United Online (Netzero, Juno) offer so-called "high-speed" access to dial-up clients. These services don't actually provide higher connection speeds; rather they use a combination of caching and file compression to reduce web page load times.

The concern for photographers is that these services may not deliver the exact same image file that you send. For the Web, the way around the problem is to instruct clients who use these services to hold down the Shift key while clicking the Refresh button on their browser. This will force the image to load in its uncompressed form.

Earthlink Director of Corporate Communications Jerry Grasso says that the Atlanta-based ISP does not compress E-mail attachments and its upcoming service will use a lossless compression algorithm. Neither AOL nor United Online responded to requests for comment about their services.


Leif Skoogfors' Kerry-Fonda image

Boston Globe Freelancers Association Announcement

Proposed bylaw revisions

Boston Globe Freelancers Association Announcement

NPPA Bylaws

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.