Common Cents logo

Follow Mark on Twitter

Adventures in Federal Court: The High Cost of Lousy Paperwork

EPA's Video Contest Rules

HSA Bank's Health Savings Account Info Page

Jonah Kessel and Carmen Sisson discuss entrepreneurship and photojournalism

General Mills Brings in "Top" Food Photogs To Experiment

Top 13 Ways To Piss Off A Photo Editor

Top 10 Ways To Make A Photo Editor Fall In Love With You

Bill Cramer Dissects Here Media's Contract

Agence France Presse's slap to photographers (1)

Agence France Presse's slap to photographers (2)

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Business Manual

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

Portions of this column were originally written for the June 2010 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.

June 2010, Volume 92
By Mark Loundy

"If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going."

— Professor Irwin Corey

Change is not just what you get back from a Starbucks cashier. You must embrace professional change. Recently, the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism began offering a combined degree in journalism and software engineering.

ChangeMorris Communications strategist Steve Yelvington is actually looking for people with that sort of background. "It's our goal to make it possible for our journalists to focus on substance — content and interaction with the community — without being overwhelmed by technology," says Yelvington. "To make that possible, we need a small number of specialists who can combine an understanding of journalism with very strong tech skills. In some cases, those specialists may function as part of a team in the reporting and storytelling process. In others, they may focus on creating tools for journalists. We're hiring several people like that right now. They may disappear into the world of coding and never conduct an interview again."

Yelvington cautions that there is no escape from being comfortable around technology. "But even in a team setting where generalists can turn to specialists for help," he says, "the generalists need a basic literacy in the technologies that are in play."

That is unless, of course, they want to be Starbuck's cashiers.

The Good
Bullet General Mills for bringing in leading food photographers to teach for a day in their Minneapolis photo studios. No rights grab, paid expenses and a paid day rate.
Bullet Guideposts magazine for being willing to request that their legal department redraft the contract that contains the below-mentioned 50% kill fee so that it can only be applied before the assignment is shot.

The Bad
Bullet Guideposts magazine for their non-negotiable 50% kill fee. This means that you could shoot and deliver an entire assignment and get paid only half should they decide not to run it.
Bullet The U.S. Environmental Protection agency for its rights-grabbing video contest.
Bullet The Beale Street Music Festival for demanding copies of all images made by press photographers at its Memphis, Tenn. event.
Bullet CVS Pharmacy's photo contest: Rights grab.

The Ugly
Bullet The Society for Professional Journalists for taking advantage of the volunteer interns at their upcoming October convention: "As a Working Press intern, the Society retains all rights to the work you produce during the convention as part of your internship."
Bullet North Jersey Media Group for its all-rights plus indemnification contract.
Bullet The American Diabetes Association for the Work For Hire contract that it asks its volunteer photographers to sign.
Bullet Agence France Presse for suing photographer Daniel Morel for "Antagonistic assertion of rights" when the Morel sued AFP for allegedly transmitting the photographer's TwitPic image without permission.

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.

  • Somebody is paying a fortune in legal fees because of vague or non-existent paperwork. Photographer Todd Latimer is duking it out in federal court with Kawasaki and Hachette Filipacchi over motorcycle images that Latimer thought were for a certain limited use and his client thought were for additional uses. It's best to think a bit more and get the paperwork right to begin with.
  • A good alternative to high-cost traditional health insurance might be a higher-deductible, lower-cost plan with the savings put into a Health Savings Account to apply toward the deductible. HSABank is one provider, but most banks offer similar accounts. Check with your financial and tax advisors to see if this is a good choice for you.
  • If you're not an entrepreneur already, you're either going to become one or watch your business sucked away by those who are. Blogger Steve Buttry posted a conversation between Jonah Kessel and Carmen Sisson about entrepreneurship and photojournalism.
  • Photoshelter's Grover Sanschagrin posted twin blogs about managing your relationships with photo editors. His Top 13 Ways To Piss Off A Photo Editor and Top 10 Ways To Make A Photo Editor Fall In Love With You are must-reads.
  • Flash website or no Flash? See item # 7 in the abovementioned Top 13 Ways To Piss Off a Photo Editor. The short version: Flash is something that has to be tolerated to get to the photographer's message.
    If I'm a photo editor who finally has a spare moment to look at your site on my iPhone or iPad while grabbing a bite to eat and all I see is a Lego block icon, I'm just moving on to the next photog. Why take a chance?
  • Check out Bill Cramer's step-by-step dissection of a contract negotiation on his Wonderful Machine blog. My favorite part: "The rhetoric: 'we carefully crafted these agreements to be as fair as possible to both parties...'The reality: They wrote the contract in the most favorable terms to them."