The Digital Journalist
Common Cents:
Breaking Up
May 2007

by Mark Loundy

"Let there be spaces in your togetherness." - Kahlil Gibran

They may be breaking up the old gang of Creative Fees and Usage. Most photographers stopped using the "Day Rate" model a number of years ago because it implied ownership of the images by the client. The generally accepted way of billing was with separate creative and usage fees. The creative fee depended on the complexity of the shoot and the usage fee depended on what the client wanted to do with the images.

Recently, some photographers (myself included) have stopped invoicing separate line items for creative fees and usage licensing. I just quote a single production fee and spell out the rights that the client will be licensing. The underlying math is the same as before and the bottom-line numbers are the same, but one single fee is simpler and gives the client less opportunity to quibble.

No matter which system you choose, or whether you call it a "production fee" or a "licensing fee" or just a "fee," the critical point to make is that your work is being licensed (not sold.) The quicker you can get past negotiations, the more time you can spend on actually making images. And that's what I got into this for.


• I'm hearing some nice things about Tina Anderson over at Family Circle magazine. Reports are that she's a joy to work with and she seems to have the flexibility to deal fairly with photographers.


• Big Sky Motion Pictures for "extending an opportunity for the up and coming photography students to build up there portfolio by getting to photograph a Hollywood Movie Premiere in San Francisco." If they're going to rip off students, at least they could spell the invitation right.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune for trying to impose a Work For Hire contract after a shoot.

• North Carolina State University for soliciting free images for a calendar publicizing a three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar construction project. A reasonable fee would cost them less than they're spending on paintbrushes.

WSA magazine's terrible rights-grabbing, indemnification-demanding contract. They do not even consider negotiating.


The Los Angeles Daily Journal for oh so many things. One example: payment upon acceptance. They promise to let you know if your work is acceptable within 30 days. If you haven't heard from them by then, assume that it has not been accepted. I'm not kidding; it really says this in the contract. It's no surprise that the Daily Journal is written for lawyers.

• North American Publishing's contract is awful for many of the usual reasons. The most telling sentence is: "You hereby waive to the maximum extent possible any and all rights to attribution and integrity." You certainly would if you signed it.

• The unnamed photographer who ratted-out a colleague who was trying to find out if he had experienced any success in negotiating better terms with WSA magazine.

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.


The next time you blow off online rights as a "minor issue," remember that IDG (publisher of Computer World and PC World) currently makes a third of its revenue online and expects that figure to rise to 50 percent by 2009. Online is now officially big bucks and you should be compensated for having your images used on a Web site.


IDG Executive's blog

NC State'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.