The Digital Journalist
Common Cents
December 2006

by Mark Loundy

"The key word is flexibility, the ability to adapt constantly. Darwin said it clearly. People thought that he mainly talked about survival of the fittest. What he said was that the species that survive are usually not the smartest or the strongest, but the ones most responsive to change."

--Philippe Kahn, founder of Borland International

The "Leftovers" and "The Good," "The Bad" and "The Ugly" features grew beyond their customary sizes. So this month I was flexible enough to let them take over.

The Good

Newsday blogger Denise Flaim for refusing to use a submitted image until she got permission from the photographer.

• "Poet Patriot" Roger Hancock for cheerfully removing copyright-protected 9/11 images from his Web site after a sharp-eyed photographer explained the realities of copyright law.

The Bad

• The unfortunately named (they've got some) "" for its princely offer of zero for its internship.

• Team sports photo company Olson Photography for offering freelancers $15 per hour. Most freelancers would be losing $100 or more if they worked 10 hours per day for this outfit.

• The owners of the glossy high-concept car magazine Intersection for creating a business model that includes a total of $1,600 for monthly editorial fees. If they couldn't adequately capitalize their business, they should have thought of something else to do.

• The U.K.'s Guardian Sunday Magazine for its right-grabbing photo contest. The offending language was stricken from the rules only after photographers loudly objected.

The Ugly

• Any photographer accepting Intersection's zero-fee-zero-expenses assignments.

• Commercial apartment services provider Pierce-Eislen for offering $12.50 per 12-image property assignment. At that rate you'd have to shoot 20 properties or more per day just to break even.

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.


• There is more to your fee structure than just a creative fee and a usage fee. If you're asked to locate a stock image and submit it to a client on spec, industry professionals will expect you to charge a non-refundable service fee. These fees are a lot less than they used to spend on courier services. They are also payable whether the client uses the image or not. Don't be afraid to bill for them.

• The AP Images (formerly Wide World) is ratcheting-up its efforts in the stock image market. They recently sent a note to all AP staff shooters encouraging them to shoot stock on their own time in exchange for a 35 percent cut of sales (and retention of copyright) as long as the photog remains employed by the AP. If the photog leaves AP, they continue to get a 30 percent cut if they use the AP as their exclusive agency. If they opt for non-exclusivity, the AP still archives the images and the photographer's cut of sales drops to 10 percent.

• Never send any written material without using spell-check. You may be a photographer, but poor spelling or grammar equates to poor attention to detail for many potential clients and it will translate to lost sales for you.

• With Reuters opening a virtual bureau in the virtual "Second Life" game world, I've got to wonder if they intend to pay for freelance submissions in Linden Dollars or U.S. Dollars. This opens up a whole new universe of rights definitions.

• Photographer John Harrington has written a terrific new book called "Best Business Practices For Photographers." He discusses everything from creating a business model, to dealing with usage rights to digital workflow. The several case studies in the 26-chapter book are an invaluable insight into how a photographer operates in the real world. (Disclaimer: I was the technical editor for the book.)


Newsday Columnist Denise Flaim's Blog

"Poet Patriot" Roger Hancock

Reuters "Second Life" Bureau

John Harrington's "Best Business Practices For Photographers" (

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Business Manual

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Editorial Photographers

Editorial Photographers Yahoo! Group (Message 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.