The Digital Journalist
Common Cents

by Mark Loundy

July 2006

"No degree of knowledge attainable by man is able to set him above the want of hourly assistance."

— Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

At the risk of repeating myself, knowing your Cost of Doing Business (CDB) is the single-most important thing any independent businessperson can know. Washington, D.C.-based photographer John Harrington recently did the math for shooters who may be tempted to work for one of the spec companies like Brightroom, etc., where you shoot major running races and blast away for hours-on-end shooting every single runner.

Typical Fee = $250


-Wear and tear on camera body = $50

-Mileage/Travel = $10

-General Overhead* = $20 [*Insurance (car, health, equipment, etc), equipment depreciation, etc.]

-Taxes = $80

-Remainder = $80

The above assumes that you're using a top-end camera like a D2x where it's economically practical to replace a blown shutter. If you use a lower-tier camera such as a D70 or 30D you would replace the entire camera when the shutter dies. That increases the camera wear and tear figure to $150. That would leave you with a remainder of about $30 after taxes or about $4 an hour for a typical seven-hour job. You could have made more than that at McDonald's - 15 years ago. After paying yourself $4 per hour, you would then have to turn yourself in to the authorities for paying yourself less than minimum wage.


•You can create your own "Good" by adapting the updated business forms presented by the good folks at Editorial Photographers.


The Lewiston (Maine) Sun Journal for its clumsily constructed rights-grabbing contract.


Maxim magazine's zero-fee-for-all-rights agreement for its "Hometown Hottie" feature.

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.


•If you thought that the Tasini case was the end of The New York Times' unpermissioned use of freelancer material on the paper's Web site, you might want to take another look. According to a sworn deposition by Jim Wilson, the #3 picture editor at the Times, the paper routinely reused contributors' images on the paper's Web site in direct contravention of the Tasini decision. The Times is being sued by photographer Thomas Dallal for copyright infringement after the Times continued to use Dallal's images on the Times' Web site despite Dallal's repeated verbal and written objections. Court filings also show that the Times destroyed relevant records in the case after Dallal requested that they be preserved. More to come.

•It's not just gasoline ... Fees are going up in July for most copyright registrations from $30 to $45.

•In my March column I talked about the dangers of working on spec - that is, without an assignment. Now you can educate your clients with the resources at You can even download a No!Spec logo to display on your own Web site.

© Mark Loundy

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