The Digital Journalist
Common Cents
September 2004

by Mark Loundy

"The king is dead. Long live the king."
- Traditional

Indeed, the king is dead, but since the body is still twitching, not everybody has fully accepted it. Digital, digital, digital. Sometimes it seems like the revolution is over and film has been relegated to the realm of hobbyists and oldsters who are still using their 1970 Argus C3s.

Not quite.

The Death of FilmBut some clients have tried digital and didn't like it. Because they don't understand digital workflow, they still ask for images on film.

But the fact is, film is going away and we're all going to have to live under the new regime. This is where we can take the initiative not only to get our own digital workflow under control, but also to educate our clients about it. Many publishers adopted digital technology because they were told that it's cheaper - it's not. Digital technology transfers work that was once done by pre-press technicians and drops it into the lap of the editorial department. If the client can't or won't perform this work, it's dropped into the lap of the photographer.

This is an opportunity to position ourselves as working with our clients to provide complete solutions to their problems - not just pictures. It's not good enough to shoot a fine quality JPEG, tweak the levels in Photoshop and e-mail the files to the client. We need to help our clients operate in a holistic environment that includes everybody from the art director to the printer.

Oh great! Now that I've bought a couple of DX bodies and spent thousands more on new lenses and computer gear, now I have to learn about color profiles? What? There's more than one color space? What's a color space anyway? Where do I learn about this stuff?

A quick Google search on "Digital Workflow" turns up quite a large number of resources. There is an interesting article on Rob Galbraith's great site about the nuts and bolts of the Sports Illustrated's Super Bowl operation. But one of the best is a live workshop conducted by former Editorial Photographers' president Seth Resnick. Seth grappled with the Digital monster the hard way and developed an excellent system. He also has an excellent sense of client service and understands the challenges of running a publication in today's world.

The one-week workshops are the best (albeit pricey for

many photogs,) but Resnick also conducts shorter seminars around the country that are a true bargain.

Good digital workflow not only increases your efficiency and quality, it is a superb selling point. If you can position yourself as offering complete solutions to your clients, you will have a lot more leverage when it comes to pricing issues.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly are taking the month off.


- Are you the low-rent choice? If you work for a weekly or suburban newspaper, newsletter author David Kandler thinks so. He advises his newsletter-publisher readers to look to newspaper photographers for low-cost images. This is a classic example of newspaper photographers being perceived as lacking in business savvy. After the article started making the rounds online, Kandler removed it from his Web site.

- The resolutions that I proposed to redirect the NPPA toward economic issues were defeated at the July meeting of the NPPA Board. To learn more about the proposals, go to Stay tuned for further efforts to address the critical need for stronger leadership in this area.


D-65 Digital Workflow Workshops


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.