The Digital Journalist
Common Cents:
It's About the Money (Duh!)

by Mark Loundy

"PROFIT is the reason one goes into business. MONEY is the reason one goes into business. LOVING WHAT ONE DOES is a PERK, a FRINGE BENEFIT, a BONUS, but it's not the REASON to go into business."
— Photographer Joe Pobereskin

When somebody asks what I do for a living, I tell them that I produce videos. But what I really do is make money. Everything I do for a client has to be a profit center. When I ship a disk to a client, I mark-up the shipping costs. When I rent equipment for a shoot, I mark-up the rental fees.

All of the "scut" work involved in making a job work is a service to your client and you should charge them for it. Every trip to Kinko's, every hour spent in front of the computer editing and processing images, every CD-R disk, even lunch has to be paid for by somebody and that somebody is your client.

If you're not billing your expenses to your client (with an appropriate mark-up) you're giving away your profits.


- No Good this time. Perhaps next year.


- KC Magazine for soliciting images for its November issue from area photogs. The pay: A credit line. I'm not picking on Kansas City, honest!

- Commercial real estate company CoStar Group. This company hires photographers to shoot multiple angles of businesses for the princely sum of $15 per site. A recent assignment of 17 sites would have taken the photographer an estimated 28 hours to produce, including travel time and post-production. That works out to slightly more than $9 per hour. Oh yes, and they require work-for-hire and indemnification agreements.

- Wiley Publishing for its "cannot offer monetary compensation" technique for acquiring images for their upcoming "Digital Photography for Dummies" book. I guess we know which "Dummies" they're talking about.

- "David Banner Heal the Hood" for requiring news photographers to sign a copyright transfer and a particularly odious indemnification agreement just for the privilege of covering the Atlanta event.

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.


If you aren't comfortable building your own Web site, you might want to check out Their sites are gorgeous, but don't forget to bring your wallet - they're also pricey.

Photographer Scott Highton is at it again. He's created a VR photography knowledge quiz on his VR Photography site. I only scored 65 percent. That's what I get for taking a quiz at 3 a.m. At least I got the business practices questions right.

Because of Hurricane Katrina, the IRS mileage rate increased to 48.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2005. This is an increase of 8 cents from the 40.5-cent rate in effect for the first eight months of the year. Remember, that's just how much the IRS allows us to deduct. According to the AAA, the average cost of operating a car in 2005 is 56.1 cents. With significantly higher gas prices, that cost is much higher this year. Gas, insurance, depreciation and repairs are all part of the equation. Be sure to figure your rate and charge accordingly.


Scott Highton's VR Photography Knowledge Quiz

AAA Report on cost of driving

NPPA Cost of Doing Business 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 (Discussion Archives)

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.