Common Cents
Nuts and Bolts
November 2008

by Mark Loundy

"No. I start with the nuts, then get to the bolts, and then get the hell out of here."
James Caan in "News Radio"

I provide my clients with finished products in which I typically wear all of the creative and editorial hats — videographer, producer, director, editor, etc. I start by figuring out how much I need to charge hourly, based upon my cost of doing business and how much I want to pull out as profit. I use this number only for internal purposes and I never release it to the client. I do not want my clients to think of what I do as an hourly commodity.

For each project, I determine how many hours it will require and add a fudge factor of about 25% (more if I think that the client is going to be high-maintenance.) I build in a limited number of approval rounds and have the client agree up-front how much it will cost them to go beyond that. That way, everybody knows what to expect and the client is not surprised by an invoice that is larger than they expected.

I bill expenses on top of production fees and mark them up to account for my overhead.

And now you know.

The Good

• Rodale Press's Bicycling magazine for being generally open to reasonable negotiations.

The Bad

• Gannett's Open Air Magazine. Rights grab. Beware: Word is that Gannett is moving toward standardizing all of their publication contracts with similar language. The good news is that they have been backing down when photographers say no.

ESPN magazine for the questionable editorial judgment of allowing the University of Florida to decide which images they would be allowed to see from their game with Miami. UF supplied the images for free and ESPN cancelled a freelance assignment two days before the game.

The Ugly

Construction Equipment magazine charges $7,000 for a full-page ad. You'd think that they'd be able to afford more than $10 for a photo.

• Musical group Ryan Adams & The Cardinals for a bald-faced, rights-grabbing pre-concert release.

• Gannett's Fremont (Ohio) News-Messenger for offering $25 on top of a work-for-hire contract for coverage of a Paralympic athlete in Beijing.

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.


• PhotoShelter has closed their Collection business. The photographer-friendly agency simply could not compete with the big fellows.

• So you think you're getting a handle on this image rights stuff. Well look out, here comes video. is a new start-up aimed at serving as matchmaker for smaller video producers and publishers of video content. The Editors Weblog speculates that MVR may become "the Getty Images of video entertainment." Don't anybody tell them that MVR will have to get past Getty Images, which is clearly intent on being the Getty Images of video entertainment.

• Take care if you outsource any retouching services. There are reports from Hong Kong that some retouchers there are registering images that they have worked on as their own original works of art.

• The American Institute for Graphic Arts has a lot to say about working on spec. The short version: Don't do it.

• Remember that a contract from a client is not chiseled in stone (even if it is.) It's a starting point for negotiations. If you're not comfortable with what to change or add, check out the contract review section on the Editorial Photographers Web site []. If you get really confident, you can even (gasp!) send your own contract to your clients.

• Sticking together can really work. Alp Magazine recently sent out a request for submissions to a number of photographers for a special issue. One of them replied to "all" that they would not send in anything until they were paid for usage dating back to last winter. So far, zero submissions. We'll see what happens next.


AIGA Position Paper on Spec Work

Editors Weblog Story About

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

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© Mark Loundy

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