The Digital Journalist
Common Cents

by Mark Loundy

September 2006

"Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"

— Proverb

What if readers took photos and gave them to newspapers for free? It's happening more and more in places like the Indianapolis Star where the paper solicited Father's Day images from readers. They devoted their entire Page 1 to the story, using pictures from eight readers. The submissions that were not used were displayed on the Star's Web site where they were viewed by 230,000 people by the following Thursday.

The Star's editor, Dennis Ryerson, wrote in a column that times have changed. "Until now, readers lacked the equipment needed to provide print-quality photographs," wrote Ryerson. "They also didn't have the means to deliver those images to us quickly and conveniently."

If newspapers can get ordinary features from ordinary people, then it only needs professional photographers for images that cannot be gotten someplace else. That's why pros need to carve-out niches within the profession.

My July 2004 column, "Specializing," bears re-reading. I wrote about a couple of photographers who are the "go to" guys in their specialties. If you have the world's best images in a popular market niche, you'll never starve.

Disclaimer: I am currently working for, which operates several Citizen Journalism Web sites.


• No Good this month.


I'm sure that there's some Bad, it's just not here this month.


• Reprint Management Services for their way-below-market flat-fee pricing. Reprint licenses are priced much higher than editorial usage based on how many are printed. Consult Photoquote for reasonable rates.

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 were wondering what happens to a profession that is filled with practitioners who do it "for the love of it" you'll love David Pu'u's story in Surfer Magazine about how "real" pro surfing photographers live. One excerpt:

"They have little real income as a result of their avocation, so are either supported by parents/trust funds, work other jobs, or live in their cars, which are generally old Seventies-era Detroit-issue clunkers."

No matter how you construct your Terms and Conditions, one phrase should definitely be in there:

"Reproduction rights are granted only upon receipt of full payment of invoice."

That way, when a client is late, you have the additional leverage of copyright infringement to encourage them to cough-up your money. You did register your images, didn't you?

If you still doubt that video cameras are moving into the still area, Photo District News interviewed a number of photographers who are using HD frame grabs on a regular basis. One nay-saying editor points out that video cameras aren't quite there yet because of their relatively slow shutter speed. The last time I checked my relatively long-in-the-tooth non-HD Sony, the top shutter speed was 1/10,000th (ten-thousandth) of a second at 30 frames per second.

A few clients are now insisting on getting Raw files. If you can't talk them out of it, be sure to include an agreement that you are not responsible for any file characteristics affecting reproduction. Properly toned JPEGs are part of a professional photographer's services. If a client doesn't want to take advantage of that, be sure that they can't some back and complain later.

© Mark Loundy

Mark Loundy is a visual journalist, writer and media consultant based in San Jose, California.