The Digital Journalist
Common Cents
December 2004

by Mark Loundy

"In human life, art may arise from almost any activity, and once it does so, it is launched on a long road of exploration, invention, freedom to the limits of extravagance, interference to the point of frustration, finally discipline, controlling constant change and growth."
- Susanne Langer (1895 - 1985)

Specializing in a niche subject is one solution to shrinking opportunities for editorial photographers (See August Common Cents.) But specializing in a single medium may limit your future.

Anybody who is waiting for stabilization in technology is going to be disappointed. The learning curve is going to be constant for anybody who wants to stay in the business from here on. If you think of yourself strictly as a "still photographer," you may find that your skills are falling behind marketplace realities.

As video resolution increases, it will become trivial to use digital frame grabs in place of dedicated still images. Savvy photographers who add video to their bag of tricks will find that the same composition skills that they use for still images work just as well in video shot composition.

Former Time magazine photographer - and publisher of The Digital Journalist - Dirck Halstead espouses the "Platypus" concept of photojournalism. Platypi are photographers who use whatever medium they deem appropriate to tell a story, often shooting both stills and video on a single assignment.

Still shooter Scott Highton has not only helped pioneer Virtual Reality (VR) photography, he's shared his expertise in a wealth of educational material on his Virtual Reality Photography Web site.

Just some of the skills that clients are already looking for:

  • Video
  • Audio
  • VR
  • GPS integration
  • Multi-viewpoint video
  • 3-D

Traditional still images will always have a place in the media, but only a very few elite photographers will be able to build a career out of making them. The mainstream belongs to those who are not afraid to grow by adopting new skills.

The Good

None this month.

The Bad

The Associated Press for lowering its member contributor fees again. This time in South Dakota. What could possibly justify cutting a $7.50 fee to five bucks? The AP's paper clip budget for South Dakota has got to be more than that.

The Ugly

None this month.

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.


  • The New York Times Company's stock price has been taking a beating recently. It seems that their net income fell to a paltry $25 million per month. No wonder they can't afford to pay their freelance contributors more. You can demonstrate your concern by sending cash contributions to The Times. But you won't be able to claim a tax deduction since The Times is not a nonprofit organizaion. Not by a long shot.
  • Apparently America 24/7 is having trouble getting its contributors to bite on its not-so-generous offer to include contributors' images in its Getty-managed collection (See November Common Cents.) The deadline for responding, which was originally September 13, 2004, was extended to September 24th. Then to October 1st. Then to October 8th...

Perhaps the contributors have more business savvy than 24/7 planned for. I choose to think so and be thankful for that.


The Digital Journalist

The Platypus Papers

Platypus Park Yahoo Group

Virtual Reality Photography

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.