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Portions of this column were originally written for the March 2012 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.

March 2012, Volume 109
By Mark Loundy

"It is fun to be in the same decade with you."

— Franklin D. Roosevelt (In a letter to Winston Churchill)

Ten years seems a long time from now. But the past ten years of writing Common Cents have, to me, lasted no longer than a Kim Kardashian marriage. When former News Photographer editor Jim Gordon emailed me on my birthday in March of 2002 about writing a business column for the magazine, the biggest topics of conversation among photographers were along the lines of "Nikon vs. Canon" or "Is it ethical to use Unsharp Mask on my images?" Very few people were talking about business issues.

A new decade already?But business has become a primary concern since then. John Harrington has written two editions of his Best Business Practices for Photographers. Business issues are all over the SportsShooter message board. The forums on the Editorial Photographer website are all about business. Most gratifying of all, students are learning that business courses are a vital part of their curriculum.

I'm proud to have helped bring business topics before photographers and I'm grateful to Jim Gordon for the opportunity and to current editor Don Winslow for his continuing support.

The Good
Bullet The University of Utah, for deciding not to impose a work-for-hire agreement on the freelance contributors to its campus newspaper.
Bullet The British judge who applied what I call the "hot potato" principle of copyright law in a case where a website owner used images that his design studio had told him were royalty free. The website owner tried to put the blame on the designer, but the judge ruled that that the infringement occurred on the website and awarded the photographer £10,0000 plus interest.

The Bad
Bullet Santa Monica (Calif.) Mirror, for its unpaid internship.
Bullet mMetro, LLC (,) for its Work For Hire contract.

The Ugly
Bullet American Media Distribution, for soliciting photographers to cover events in exchange for not being charged admission to the events being covered.
Bullet Late last year, Getty reduced the photographer's cut of their sales to 35%. Some of their contributors had been getting as much as 50% — the former industry standard.
Bullet Global Special Effects for trolling college photographers for images of their product to avoid paying stock licensing fees.

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.

  • Photographer Kristian Dowling's story of unpaid fees, broken promises and a small claims court victory, in the November Photo District News.
  • A group of 83 National Geographic photographers launched their own website to act between management and shooters. It's a bit sad that they think that they even need something like that.
  • Shakodo is a website devoted solely to answering the question, "How much should I charge for...?" Berlin-based photographers Juergen and Akiko Specht run it.
  • Surprise, there are editors out there who make ripping-off images an ordinary part of their workflow. The British Journal of Photography quoted an email purportedly written by a picture editor for the Daily Telegraph as saying,
    "Our industry therefore adopts the stance that if a picture has no overwhelming artistic value and if there is no issue of exclusivity (i.e. it is already being published online or elsewhere) then no reasonable copyright owner will object to its being republished in exchange for a reasonable licence fee. The only alternative to such a stance is not to publish pictures at all unless they come from a commercial library, the available range of which will inevitably be inadequate."
    The editor is right in one way: The alternative is to not publish the images at all.
  • Photoshelter is continuing their industry education offerings with The Photographer's Social Media Handbook.
  • Do you like the 9-5 life? Are you looking to get rich quick? Then the freelance life might not be for you. If you're looking for more reasons, the Freelance Folder blog has 10 of them for you.
  • IRS mileage rates for 2012 are 55.5 cents per mile for business miles driven.