Common Cents
Warm Puppies vs. "Success"
May 2009

by Mark Loundy

"Happiness is a warm puppy."

— Charles Schulz

It's not just about the money. There, I've said it.

A career is something that should be approached holistically. There is a value proposition of money vs. personal payoffs, such as working for NGOs or non-profits or doing personal projects.

The January issue of News Photographer magazine featured a story about photographers who chose clients who shared their personal passions about important issues. They partnered with organizations such as Oxfam or Worldvision to help defray the costs of photographing in troubled areas of the world. They were then able to market their images to editorial clients. All of them were careful businesspeople.

A few years ago [Common Cents, July 2004], I wrote about photographer Peter Kubal of British Columbia. Kubal uses his passion for insects as one of the foremost insect photographers in the world.

Career satisfaction might entail some personal reflection. What do you really enjoy? Is there a way to fold that into a photo specialty? I mean, how many executive portrait sessions are you going to tell your grandchildren about?


• It would be good if the government were to bail out the photo industry. Not gonna happen.


• Grit/Ogden Publications for their rights-grabbing contract. Some might say "True Grit." I say, "Chutzpah."


• Some clients are becoming self-conscious about their terrible rates. A Washington, D.C. area-based "e-boutique" recently solicited photographers for a half-day shoot for which they would pay $250. They ended their ad with the phrase, "Only respond if you are comfortable with the compensation."

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.


• They say that you can take your work "to the next level." They say that you can leverage "the power of crowdsourcing." Of course what the folks at Poptent don't say is that all of that leverage works because the freelancers they seek get the short end of the, uh, lever.

Poptent is really two entities. The Poptent side is where they tell independent video producers about how they can showcase their work before major corporations and commune with colleagues who "share their vision." The moneymaking side is called "XLNTads." This is where corporations are told about the true "power of crowdsourcing": The power to get multiple freelancers to create content for you and only having to pay one of them. Archimedes would be proud.

• Facebook snuck in a change to its terms of service a couple of weeks before anybody noticed. Currently, there's a major user revolt boiling up on Facebook's company blogs. Facebook changed the terms that terminated its rights to use user content after the user left the service. However, if you read the TOS and get past all of the run-on sentences, you will see that the rights are limited to use "on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof."

Not that that justifies the assumption of commercial use of likeness or other uses that would ordinarily be licensed for a fee, but it's a far cry from the way that the changes have been characterized by some.

After several days of watching torch- and pitchfork-bearing members outside their virtual windows, Facebook's management saw the light and – with much apologetic rhetoric – temporarily reverted to the old TOS. They have invited members to suggest more acceptable language.

The Facebook TOS need to be permanently modified to remove the objectionable terms and allow for termination of those rights upon a member leaving the service.


Common Cents, July 2004, "Specializing"

Definition of "Chutzpah"


Facebook Terms of Service (Scroll down to "Licenses.")

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.