The Digital Journalist
May 2004

by James Colburn

To: The Publisher
From: Me
Re: You Are Soooooo Lucky


I don't know if you fully realize how lucky you are when it comes to the photographers that you employ.

These are, in the main, erudite, intelligent people whose only real fault is a tendency to go a little heavy on the cilantro. They work from dawn to dusk, and beyond, without much (and I said "much") complaint.

They always have to BE THERE in order to get the picture. There's no "I'll phone him up later to flesh out the quote" here, no re-written wire copy, no lunches with the P.R. flack and NO SPLEE CHECKER!

Not only do they have to show up on time for the game or the press conference but they'll get there early... to get the good position. While they really appreciate all the equipment that you buy them (and yes, a 400mm f/2.8 lens IS necessary to cover sports) they will often go out and spend their own money buying things that they feel they need to do their jobs BETTER. Small things perhaps, but when you add up all the $100 monopods and $35 81A filters and $40 light stands that these people are spending their precious money on you begin to wonder.


It's because your photographers' "goal in life" is to make better pictures. That's right, it isn't to work from 9 to 5 and then go home. It isn't to make the big bucks (photographers learn early that you don't take this gig for the money) or participate in the latest multi-billion dollar IPO. They want to have a little fun, see something new, meet some interesting people and get the image recorded (I find it strange that I can' say "get it on film" any more...) AND GET IT INTO YOUR PUBLICATION.

They want their best work to appear in your newspaper or magazine every day/week/month and the will bust their butts to do it. Sometimes they'll forego happy family weekends because there's something "important" going on. They'll often work late, travel long distances, hang out with the world's least desirable people, all to get the photo that YOU need for your publication. Have you ever noticed how many of your photographers are on their second marriages?

Whatever you're paying them is not enough. You could raise their salaries by 50 or 100 percent and you'd still be getting a great deal. I'd dare to say the you get more bang-for-the-buck from your photographers than from any of your other employees.

So when you see the five picture story that darn near brings you to tears or go "wow" over the front page shot of THE pass remember how much your photographers do for you. When it comes time to figure our that mileage reimbursement number, go a penny up instead of a penny down. You are very, very lucky that these people are working for you.

© James Colburn
Contributing Writer