Common Cents
Cleaning Up
December 2009

by Mark Loundy

"We improve ourselves by victories over ourself. There must be contests, and you must win."

— Edward Gibbon (1737–1794)

It was late. On the top floor of the Acme Publishing building the editors of Modern Shoelace are brainstorming. "We need fresh images," raged the photo editor, "We can't keep using the same tired old file photos. We must've used that picture of gold lamé work boots in front of the Statue of Liberty six times last year."

"But we've already run through our photo budget for the year," said the managing editor. "We can't pay for anything new."

"Who said anything about paying?" intoned a voice from the shadows in the corner of the room. The night janitor stepped into the pool of light around the table. "All you need to get a whole lot of photos is $100."

"How the heck are we going to get anything for $100?" asked the photo editor.

"Just offer a $100 prize for the best shoelace photo," said the janitor, "and make sure that every entrant gives up all their rights. You'll end up with a big pile of photos and it'll only cost you a hundred bucks."

"Genius!" thundered the managing editor. "What did you say you do around here?"

"I clean up," said the janitor as the door closed behind him.

The Good

• From Seattle-based photographer Andrew Buchanan: "Kudos to Taunton Press's "Fine Gardening" title for their relatively contributor-friendly Freelancer Agreement for stock images, including payment on acceptance, a 100% kill fee, and a willingness to engage in meaningful and realistic negotiations on rights and usage." Kudos indeed!

• Adorama's PhotoZAP critique site submission policy: They ask for display on the PhotoZAP site and that's it. That's the way it should be.

The Bad

• Chinese press agency Xinhua for offering $15-$20 for Central America coverage plus an all-rights demand and a no-expenses policy.

• ESPN for its non-negotiable Work For Hire policy.

• The New Haven Symphony Orchestra is looking for photographers and videographers. No pay.

The Northwest Herald of Crystal Lake, Ill., for lowering its freelance rates from $75 to $50.

• Downey Fabric Softener's requests for photos of wrinkled things. You get coupons for fabric softener. They get all rights to your images.

• Fodor's Travel's "Show Us Your National Parks" photo contest. All rights to all entries. The few chosen as winners get about $75 worth of books. Fodor's ends up with a library of park images.

The Ugly

• The U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its WFH demand topped off by a refusal to license self-promotion rights to the photographer who shot the images to begin with.

• for its no-pay, all-rights Wedding of the Day feature.

• GUP, the Netherlands-based photo magazine for its admitted policy of simply ripping off images from the Internet because, "contacting 15+ photographers worldwide – every issue – is a very complicated thing."

• The wedding photographer in Washington, D.C., looking for a second shooter for four hours of work for $80.

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.


• When Philadelphia-based shooter George Widman received requests for commercial use for some of his stock images, he cautioned the requestors that the subjects of the pictures had not agreed to commercial use of their likeness. Widman applied both a belt and suspenders to the situation by sending a note not only to the potential users of the images, but a cc to the subjects of the images. This way, if the requestors should "accidentally" use the images beyond their license, Widman will be able to demonstrate to the subjects that he had exercised due diligence in protecting the images.

• The Stock Artists Alliance has been absorbed by the larger Alliance of Visual Artists. The AVA is an umbrella group that includes the Professional Photographers of America. We'll see how the change affects the freelancers belonging to the SAA.


AVA Absorbs SAA

GUP Magazine Not Ashamed of Rip-offs

Popular Photography's Photo Contest

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.

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