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Portions of this column were originally written for the October 2006 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.

October, 2006
By Mark Loundy

"We lose money on every sale, but we make up for it in volume!"

— Unknown entrepreneur

If you read this column regularly, you're used to see reports about contracting markets, falling rates, rights grabs, etc. The industry has been in an upheaval for more than a decade. But what if there were a different way of looking at things?

Micro StockLet's say that the market had degraded so much that no client would pay four-figure commercial licensing fees. Ad agencies were all going for royalty-free images for a buck or two. How could anybody make any money on that?

What if you could license for only $1 an image that would traditionally go for $500 for commercial use — but you could license it to hundreds of clients and end up making even more than you would through the handful of licenses in a traditional business model?

That's how "micro stock" works. The idea is that a drastically lower fee coupled with royalty-free licensing creates a much larger potential market for an image.

Photographer David Hobby writes the "Strobist" blog. He wrote an essay about how under-pricing is destroying photography's middle class. The replies to his piece came from scores of photographers representing the entire spectrum from hobbyists to seasoned professionals with decades of experience. Their thoughtful and well-reasoned postings tell stories of different ways to be successful in the current market. They prove that one size no longer fits all — if it ever did.

The Good
BulletNo "Good" this month.

The Bad
BulletEuropean Pressphoto Agency's all-rights contract. They even restrict the photographer from licensing outtakes without permission from EPA.
BulletAdvanstar Publishing for its all-rights, forever-and-ever, retroactive-to-1999 contract.

The Ugly
BulletSmokey Bear, or rather his employer, the National Parks Service for their photo contest which turns out to be, effectively, a way for the NPS to collect a library of images with which they will be able to do anything they wish without compensating the entrants in any way.
BulletDorna, the rights holder for the British Superbike series for soliciting for an "Official Photographer" for the 2007 season. The photographer would supply Dorna "with a broad range of rights-cleared photos of the British Superbike Championship and related support classes at all events." The fee: Zero. Ugliest of all is that some poor sod is probably going to take them up on it.

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.

Leftovers
  • In various parts of the country, the Associated Press pays member photographers a small fee to transmit images from their take for the wire. For the past couple of years I've been getting reports that the AP is eliminating the fees and substituting an increased prize in its monthly photo contests. The photographers who informed me about this felt that they were getting the raw end of the deal from the AP and they felt cheated.
    This is a time where I'm on the AP's side. The photographers are employed by their newspapers — not by the AP. If they don't want to do the transmissions without the token payment, then they should simply say "no." If they feel that they should be compensated for the transmissions they should look to their own employers for payment. If they want to provide their services à la carte, they'll need to become freelancers.
  • Do you need a property release? Your lawyer will probably tell you to get one. There is an excellent discussion about property releases on the ASMP website.