The Digital Journalist
Common Cents:
February 2007

by Mark Loundy

"It takes in reality only one to make a quarrel. It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion."
- William Ralph Inge (1860 - 1954)

New Year's resolutions represent a basic optimism that we can always do better. Here are 10 resolutions that I hope freelancers make for 2007:

• I resolve to not accept assignments that pay less than my Cost of Doing Business.

• I resolve to determine what my Cost of Doing Business actually is.

• I resolve to standardize my paperwork.

• I resolve to not accept an assignment without a signed agreement.

• I resolve to ask a friend to handcuff me to a large tree to prevent me from accepting "on spec" assignments.

• I resolve to learn that it won't kill me to register my work with the Copyright Office regularly.

• I resolve to finally accept that I will not get a staff job by shooting freelance assignments that pay little-to-nothing.

• I resolve to never again refer to "selling" images.

• I resolve to help a young photographer learn that the photography business is primarily a business.

• I resolve to shoot at least one assignment a month for no other reason than for pure enjoyment.

The Good

Newsday and Sports Editor Oswaldo Jimenez for upping per-assignment rates by 30 percent.

• Fairfax Media of New Zealand for modifying its freelance policies to not insisting on all rights and for working with professional photographers to create a fair relationship.

The Bad

The Marblehead (Mass.) and Swampscott Reporter for its utter lack of a photo budget.

Facilities Online magazine. Ditto.

Newsday for a rights grab in their "Best Shot" feature.

• for offering "VIP Status" to its contributors. This typically equates to two drinks at the bar.

• Incredibly, rights grabbing has even infested Frisbee players. The Ultimate Players Association demanded rights to all photos taken of their national championship. What happened to mellow?

The Ugly

• The Tucson-based non-profit arts organization "Many Mouths, One Stomach" for clothing a rights grab within a liability release on a photo pass for their All Souls Procession.

• The "legitimate specialty publisher" soliciting photos for a calendar about Kansas City in exchange for a credit line and five copies of the calendar.

• Patrick McDonough, Creative Director of Cummings Advertising, for referring to the concept of photographers owning the rights to their images as an "arcane idea." The article was written a few years ago and Cummings recently pulled the piece from its Web site and disavowed it as not reflecting its "current attitudes or operating structure." Geez, I certainly hope so!

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.


European Press Photo (November 2006 "Bad") is reworking its freelancer agreement – reportedly for the better.

The AP Images (December Common Cents) agreement with AP staffers for off-hours stock images is apparently hung up on how to handle compensating staffers for images that the AP might want to use on the regular wire.

Be careful when letting clients make travel arrangements for you. Clients will typically book the cheapest non-refundable flight available. This can put you in a bind if there are weather delays and can be limiting if you are traveling with a lot of gear – particularly with carry-ons. If clients insist on making travel arrangements, be sure that they are billed directly to the client so you don't have to front the money and wait to be reimbursed.

Don't expect Getty Images to loosen its purse strings anytime soon. A report in the October 2006 Photo District News says that the company was laying off about 28 people, including two sports photographers. The reason? As of this writing, Getty Images stock was trading near its three-year lows.


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.