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Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

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Portions of this column were originally written for the October 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.

October 2014, Volume 132
By Mark Loundy

"The more things change, the more they are the same."

— Alphonse Karr, 1849

When I started this column, more than 12 years ago, the photo industry was filled with starry-eyed newcomers, each one eager to assume the glamorous life of a photographer. The travel, the creativity, the hanging out with celebrities... Few realized that it was more about endless hours of editing, working the phones to drum-up business, not-so-glamorous schlepping through airports with huge bags of gear, etc., etc.

Glamour Fewer still realized the economic realities of running one's own business. Journalism and photo schools taught little about business. Online forums were almost exclusively about gear and technique. There were few books about running a photography business and fewer internships that stressed business issues.

The good news is that much has changed. Business discussions are common online. Schools have begun to stress the realities of entrepreneurship. A number of books have been written on the topic of photography as a business. Most importantly, the overall level of consciousness of business as an inseparable part of freelancing has risen considerably.

Yet photographer Michael Clark says he averages three to six emails a week seemingly from the same starry-eyed newcomers seeking that glamorous photographer life. Clark considers it "an honor" to receive these queries. He sees them as being as he was when he started his career. So he pays it forward by educating each of them with the realities of the business.

Clark created a graphic contrasting the myth of how people view photography with the real world realities. The myth, according to his graphic consists of "Creating Images" (65%,) "Traveling To Exotic Locations" (25%,) and "Partying Like Rockstars" (10%.) The reality portion consists of the usual business activities. Creating images gets only 9.4% of Clark's time.

Although the overall business savvy of photographers has increased, there is no shortage of young photographers who see only the glamour and are ignorant of the daily grind. The job of educating them will never end.

The Good
Bullet Designer Dan Cassaro for telling cable giant, Showtime, what they could do with their invitation to submit his work to promote a heavyweight championship fight. The pay? A trip to Vegas.

The Bad
Bullet The City of Lake Oswego, Oregon's photo contest. Rights grab plus indemnification.

The Ugly
Bullet Patent troll Peter Wolf for patenting a widely used sporting event workflow and then suing photographers who use 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.

  • Although it's probably just to avoid legal liability, Advance Publications business journals will no longer offer unpaid internships solely for college credit. That doesn't mean they're paying, but at least they're not accepting slave unpaid labor.
  • Former Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard has reached a settlement with Michigan-based photographer Brian Masck over Howard's unpermissioned use of the then University of Michigan player in a pose mimicking the Heisman Trophy. According to a story in MLive, the agreement gives Howard copyright of the image but allows both men to profit commercially from its use.
  • In the never-ending story of Morel v. AFP, a federal judge rejected AFP's appeal of a $1.2 million verdict in favor of photographer Daniel Morel after AFP infringed the copyright of images Morel made after the Haiti earthquake.
  • Yet another designer learned that taking the easy way is not always the best way. A Thailand-based textbook company had to recall more than 2,000 math textbooks after discovering that the image of the prim-looking student that it used on its cover was actually Japanese porn actress Mana Aoki wearing a schoolgirl costume.