The Digital Journalist
Common Cents

by Mark Loundy

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman — not the attitude of the prospect.”
— W. Clement Stone (1902-2002) U.S. businessman, philanthropist

The next time an editor calls you with an assignment, remember that part of their job is to get the best for the least. Their first offer is often what’s known in the sales industry as a lowball offer. The first thing you need to do is get it into your head that you’re negotiating. This means that you will listen to the initial offer and then work with the client and come to a meeting of the minds over a deal that is acceptable to you both.

Always know what your minimum number is and be prepared to walk away if you can’t get it. If you’re not prepared to walk, you have no business negotiating on your own behalf.

Recently, a client called a photographer with an offer to pay $300 for unlimited usage. The photographer consulted his trusty copy of Hindsight stock pricing software and came up with a fee of $375 per year for Web usage. After consulting with the client and finding out what they really needed, they settled on $500 for two years on the Web with separate usage to be negotiated.

Doing this right almost always means that you’ll have to call the client back. To properly estimate editorial rates you need to know the publication’s circulation and its advertising rates. For foreign clients, you may also need to know the currency exchange rates.

The interesting thing is that once the photographer responded professionally with a counter-offer, the client completely changed his demeanor. He started talking to the photographer as a colleague. He even admitted to the lowball ploy.

The Good

• We’re up to no “Good” this month.

The Bad

• Remember Paxton Media Group from last month? They’re the folks who tossed out 20 percent of the workers when they took over the Durham Herald-Sun. Well, they’re back this month with a “Bad” job posting at their Vincennes (Ind.) Sun-Commercial. The starting pay? $8 per hour. It would have been an “Ugly” but they might have really great benefits. Oh, sorry, I should have waited until you swallowed that mouthful of hot coffee.

The Ugly

• The New York Sun. While they “graciously” assign shared copyright back to the photographer in their Work For Hire contract, they then claim 50 percent of any proceeds the photographer might later realize from any further licensing of the work.

• I’m adding a permanent “Ugly” for any photographer who accepts less-than-profitable deals. Not only are they throwing an anchor to a drowning industry, they are making it a near-certainty that they themselves will not be financially successful as photographers. Clients respect good businesspeople.

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.


• Former hockey photographer Bruce Bennett is now running Getty Images’ hockey operation. He recently sent a memo to various hockey teams inviting them to sign with Getty. At one point, he likens photographers who protect their rights as holding images “hostage.”

While it would be easy to succumb to the temptation of making metaphors involving a Judas Goat, I’ll let you draw your own horrified conclusions.


Bruce Bennett's infamous hockey memo

EP Editorial Estimator


Hindsight Ltd.

Matthew 25:32-33 (Judas Goat reference)

NPPA Cost of Doing Business Calculator

Scott Highton's Business Fees Calculator

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.