Common Cents logo

Follow Mark on Twitter

The Digital Journalist

The Platypus Papers

Platypus Park Yahoo Group

Virtual Reality Photography

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Resource page

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Editorial Photographers Cost of Doing Business Calculator

Editorial Photographers Yahoo! Group

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

Portions of this column were originally written for the November 2004 edition of News Photographer Magazine.

Mark Loundy is a media producer and consultant based in San Jose, California. Full bio.

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Press Photographers Association.

November, 2004
By Mark Loundy

"In human life, art may arise from almost any activity, and once it does so, it is launched on a long road of exploration, invention, freedom to the limits of extravagance, interference to the point of frustration, finally discipline, controlling constant change and growth."

— Susanne Langer (1895 - 1985)

Specializing in a niche subject is one solution to shrinking opportunities for editorial photographers (See July Common Cents.) But specializing in a single medium may limit your future.

SpecializingAnybody who is waiting for stabilization in technology is going to be disappointed. The learning curve is going to be constant for anybody who wants to stay in the business from here on. If you think of yourself strictly as a "still photographer," you may find that your skills are falling behind marketplace realities.

As video resolution increases, it will become trivial to use digital frame grabs in place of dedicated still images. Savvy photographers who add video to their bag of tricks will find that the same composition skills that they use for still images work just as well in video shot composition.

Former Time Magazine photographer Dirck Halstead espouses the "Platypus" concept of photojournalism. Platypi are photographers who use whatever medium they deem appropriate to tell a story, often shooting both stills and video on a single assignment.

Still shooter Scott Highton has not only helped pioneer Virtual Reality (VR) photography, he's shared his expertise in a wealth of educational material on his Virtual Reality Photography website.

Just some of the skills that clients are already looking for:

  • Video
  • Audio
  • VR
  • GPS integration
  • Multi-viewpoint video
  • 3D

Traditional still images will always have a place in the media, but only a very few elite photographers will be able to build a career out of making them. The mainstream belongs to those who are not afraid to grow by adopting new skills.

The Good
BulletNone this month.

The Bad
BulletThe Associated Press for lowering their member contributor fees again. This time in South Dakota. What could possibly justify cutting a $7.50 fee to five bucks? The AP's paperclip budget for South Dakota has got to be more than that.

The Ugly
BulletNone this month.

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 New York Times Company's stock price has been taking a beating recently. It seems that their net income fell to a paltry $25 million per month. No wonder they can't afford to pay their freelance contributors more. You can demonstrate your concern by sending cash contributions to the Times. But you won't be able to claim a tax deduction since the Times is not a non-profit organization. Not by a long shot.

  • Apparently America 24/7 is having trouble getting its contributors to bite on their not-so-generous offer to include contributors' images in their Getty-managed collection (See October Common Cents.) The deadline for responding, which was originally September 13, 2004 was extended to September 24th. Then to October 1st. Then to October 8th...

    Perhaps the contributors have more business savvy than 24/7 planned for. I choose to think so and be thankful for that.