The Digital Journalist
Common Cents:

Stick Together
October 2007

by Mark Loundy

"We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."Benjamin Franklin

Seong Joon Cho was looking forward to graduating from school next year and starting a career as a freelance photographer. But the burglars who broke into Seong's Seoul, South Korea, apartment made off with all of the student photographer's gear. Seong posted about it on SportsShooter expressing desperation and the feeling that his career was over before it had started. Within hours four photographers had offered to send Seong cameras and lenses and another was planning to seed a PayPal account as a camera gear fund.

We are at our best when we break out of our personal bubbles and take broader responsibility for the world around us. When we say "no" to bad contracts, we make it easier for the next person to negotiate a fair deal. It's also good karma.

The Good

• Although Rodale Press continues to try to snare aspiring shooters with terrible Work For Hire contracts, they have no problem with photographers changing those contracts to something more reasonable. Oh yes, this is called "negotiation."

The Bad

• Rodale Press for insisting on reprint rights AND exclusivity for images used on covers – for no additional fee.

Natural Living magazine, for offering "credit-only" assignments. The magazine is headquartered on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles - some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. I doubt that their landlord is providing them space "just for the exposure."

The Ugly

• Reuters for hanging an all-rights contract on the unsuspecting amateur winners of their contest to hang for a day with a Reuters photog.

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.


• John Harrington recently blogged his way into the inner workings of US Presswire and its on-spec assignment model. It is a seven-part epic story of friendships lost, unpaid fees, hopeful neophytes and fundamental disagreements on how to survive in a whirlwind of economic upheaval.

• Travel agency owner Robert Nyarkos is going to have to fork over more than $64,000 to photographer Robert Burch for using Burch's photos on the travel agency Web site. Burch had registered the images with the Copyright Office years before.

• A real conversation between a photographer and a potential client:

C: "Well, we don't have a budget for photography this year but can pay you next year."
P: "Being a non-profit organization I thought, OK, no problem. I'll help you out …"
C: "Great! We just made a contract with a new PR firm who will be handling all of our media."
P: "Are they working for free this year too?"
C: "Well, no, they're not. That's why there's no money for photography."

The photographer declined the job.

• A recent Craigslist item in the Washington, D.C., area came from yet another start-up magazine soliciting "credit-only" assignments with a promise of future payment. If the magazine can't raise enough start-up capital to pay its contributors, they are not likely to survive long enough to ever get to those future payments.

• Sometimes you've just gotta laugh. Of course that's the whole point with the comic strip "What the Duck," featuring a long-suffering, camera-toting duck.


John Harrington Blogs About US Presswire

Photog Wins $64k (Photo District News)

Seong Joon Cho's Equipment Stolen

"What The Duck" Vault

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.