The Digital Journalist
Common Cents:

Don't Do It Yourself
July 2007

by Mark Loundy

"Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me."

John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Sometimes you can't do it all yourself. When it comes financial management, few of us have the education or training to avoid some very scary contacts with the Internal Revenue Service.

When you earn $1,000 on a job about $300 should be set aside for taxes. Another $300 should be earmarked for short-term savings and retirement. Another $150 or so should be plowed back into the business. This only leaves about $250 from that grand you thought you'd made.

Of course the above numbers are only examples. Your own financial advisor will work with you to determine what is appropriate for your situation. And that's really the point. Unless you know how to manage a large billing in September to avoid getting smacked down at tax time, you need a professional who is experienced in working with creatives to guide you.

The Good

• Nielsen Business Media (formerly VNU), publisher of Photo District News, is upgraded from "Bad" (Common Cents, April 2007). The good folks at Editorial Photographers worked with PDN publisher Lauren Wendle and crafted a reasonable contract that gives the publications what they need without grabbing all rights from the photographers. This would not have happened if a lot of shooters hadn't just said "no" to the previous "non-negotiable" contract.

• (Common Cents, April 2007) gives photographers 100% of revenue and asks only for a license to use the images on the site for design and promotional purposes. Kudos to Frank Garland, Adolph Santorine and the rest of the folks at HSSN.

The Bad

D magazine. Work For Hire. At least they pay net 30 days.

• University of Georgia's College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences for offering $300 for all rights to an assigned image.

Splash Magazine, the publication of amateur swimming's U.S. governing body, USA Swimming, for the all-rights-forever-and-ever terms in its monthly photo contest.

The Ugly

• From ASJA Contracts Watch: It's bad enough that publications offer "kill fees" even after an assignment has been shot. Now Heartland USA wants contributors whose stories are killed after payment has been made to send the money back: "If Contributor has already received payment, he or she agrees to refund the amount over and above this kill fee."

• Watch out for contracts from American Express Publishing. They may not demand Work For Hire, but they do insist on 3 1/2-year unlimited rights and an exclusivity clause that essentially rules out most usefulness of the images for that entire time.

• The Virginia Gold Cup Association for demanding images, including all rights, in exchange for press credentials. They even specify that they be delivered on CDs, not DVDs.

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're shooting stock for an agency, don't just ship some images and expect the money to come rolling in. A good rule of thumb is to place about 1,000 images a year with your agency. Then, be patient. It may take a year or more before you start to see consistent income.


ASJA Contracts Watch

New Neilson Contract

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.