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Portions of this column were originally written for the June 2014 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 2014, Volume 129
By Mark Loundy

"If you're playing a poker game and you look around the table and can't tell who the sucker is, it's you."

— Paul Newman

One of the few ways a sports photographer can still make money beyond the typical minimal assignment fee paid by the major media companies is through commercial resales. But even that might be going away via a corporate ploy reminiscent of Three-Card Monte.

Who's_the_sucker? Here's the play: The company will tell the photographer that, although the assignment fee is low, they can make real money from their cut (usually 50%) of commercial resales. At the same time, the company is selling "memberships" to corporations (the usual commercial customers) for flat-rate access to all photos. Since commercial use by members is covered under the photographer's assignment fee, the photographer is paid nothing more.

So there is less and less reason to shoot freelance editorial sports photography. The assignment rates have plummeted to near symbolic levels and the promised big bucks from commercial sales are being switched-out for the loser card of corporate memberships.

The Good
Bullet Even the big guys can be reasonable. A photographer, who got their usual rights-grabbing contract, was able to negotiate terms that he found reasonable with minimal pushback. Don't be afraid to negotiate!

The Bad
Bullet I've pretty-much stopped mentioning photo contests, since most of them are some form of rights grab. But the Weather Channel has national reach and its "It's Amazing Out There" photo contest does not surprise. It's a total rights grab, not just for the winners, but also for all of the entries. Essentially, it's a very low-cost image library to use as they wish.

The Ugly
Bullet Legends Football League for seeking photographers to shoot in exchange for use in their own portfolios. Not very professional.

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 Chicago Newspaper Guild officially formed a unit this past April for freelancers called "Working Journalists." If you're a freelancer in Chicago, it's worth checking into.
  • The high school sports market just got a bit tighter as USAToday High School Sports (USATHSP) struck a deal with Scoopshot, a nationwide crowdsourcing platform to supply high school sports photos. Scoopshot is a company with, "capabilities to conceivably include every game in every sport, in every community throughout the country." If you're having difficulty keeping track, USATHSP is a division of USAToday Sports Media Group, which is, in turn, a division of Gannett.
  • The next time you shoot a product against a white background, you might want to have your lawyer in the studio with you. Amazon (yeah, the book people) has patented a lighting arrangement for shooting on white seamless. This was not picked up from
    The Onion.
  • Many of the recent positive developments in copyright law have come from overseas. Most recently an Australian court awarded more than $US 20,000 to a Hawaii-based photographer after a suburban Melbourne travel agency used his images on its website.
  • Australia is also the source for some negative news. Fairfax Media announced the cutting of more than 70 positions from its newspaper division — including 30 photographers. The photo cuts were justified, "as a result of using more pictures from Getty Images."
  • If you've thought I've been a bit tough on Getty Images over the years, here's a tidbit for you. Getty's owner, Carlyle Group, will be paying its new co- president and co-chief operating officer $53 million in cash and stock over the first three years of his contract. That's $9722 per hour, not counting benefits.