Common Cents logo

Follow Mark on Twitter

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 April 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.

April 2012, Volume 110
By Mark Loundy

"People see online media as another option. In the car, you use radio, on Sunday morning, a newspaper, and at work, you go online. Online media had become an important component because it has become an option. Before it was just an afterthought"

— Tom Regan

You know what an afterthought is, right? It's when something occurs to you when you're pretty much finished with a primary task — something with a relatively low priority. Web payments have been an afterthought for most markets. Often, Web use is paid at a fraction of print use, or worse, not at all.

AfterthoughtAlthough there has never been a good reason for that low priority, it's becoming even harder for clients to justify it. Newspapers, which are one of the least lucrative markets for photographers, are realizing more and more revenue from online operations. According to a report from Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab, more than 100 papers now require readers to pay for some or all of their digital content. The New York Times paywall has exceeded its revenue expectations and it has cut the number of free articles that you can read for free in half.

Some publications have specialized mobile or tablet products or dedicated apps that heavily emphasize visuals. The value of images for them is even higher than "traditional" Web use. Time, Inc. charges $1.99 to download its People Celebrity app from the iTunes store.

I'm seeing reports from photographers that some editorial clients are more open to negotiating higher rates for online use. That is the first indication that I've seen of a rising photographic market rate in decades. It's also an indication that you should push back with confidence on lowball offers for digital use. (See Common Cents, March 2005)

Since nearly 100% of my corporate video work is for online use, the issue rarely comes up for me. I quote a project rate that includes usage and they pay me. Period.

The Good
Bullet We experienced an ill wind this month. As you know, an ill wind blows no good.

The Bad
Bullet You know they're out there. Send 'em in.

The Ugly
Bullet for the statement by one of their editors, "We do not pay for pictures," after being caught using an image from another publication 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.

  • David K. Sheets of the St. Louis chapter of the Society of Professional journalists uploaded his Keynote files from his presentation, "Taking the Plunge Into Freelancing" Although a lot of what he talks about is aimed at writers, all of the business, personal and work habit advice applies equally to photographers. My favorite line is where he counsels, "Putting off procrastination."
  • Getty images has stepped back from going after non-commercial unpermissioned re-uses of their contributors' work, such as on Facebook and Pinterest. By doing so, they send the message that it's OK to steal work online — as long as you don't make too much money from it. John Harrington wrote about this in his blog and implied, at the end, that he was speechless. John threw 2,500 words at the story anyway.
  • I'm very pleased that photojournalist Yunghi Kim has joined the NPPA board of directors. Kim has long been an enthusiastic promoter of freelancers' interests and founded The Freelancers Cooperative on Facebook.