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Portions of this column were originally written for the March 2015 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 2015, Volume 135
By Mark Loundy

"On the pinnacle of success man does not stand firm long."

— Johann von Goethe

The pinnacle of sports photography employment disintegrated just before the Super Bowl when Sports Illustrated eliminated the position of staff photographer.

Sports_Illustrated As much as I, personally, value and respect the skills and experience of the SI staffers, they had become expendable. Sure, some professional photographers might be able to see a drop in quality of SI images — but probably not.

There are lots of supremely talented photographers who will be able to maintain the magazine's visual standards on a freelance basis — some of them are the former staffers themselves.

So what practical reason did SI have to retain a staff? Surely, there was no business reason. Those numbers were crunched decades ago. Only the last vestiges of editorial power at Time, Inc. kept them on the masthead. With the spinoff of the magazine division (along with a bunch of debt,) that power evaporated.

CBS Moneywatch quoted SI spokesman Scott Novak spewing the depth of corporate doublespeak saying, "It was a strategic decision to approach photography in a bold new way that will give us access to more resources around the world and to maintain the standard of quality that Sports Illustrated fans are used to." I wonder if Novak had to anesthetize himself before writing that?

ASMP Executive Director and former photo chief for National Geographic, Tom Kennedy said, "Committed photographers deserve the same loyalty that they have historically provided to Sports Illustrated."

The truth is that readers do not see photography the way photographers do. SI will still be SI. Readers will not see a diminished pictorial quality. Only we fellow members of the profession will mourn. The most surprising thing about this is that it took this long to happen.

All editorial staffers need to develop a deeper understanding of their value to the businesses that write their paychecks. For local newspapers, that value transcends the ability to create an engaging image and encompasses a deep engagement in their community. It is that engagement that generates loyalty to a newsroom and makes it a "must-read."

Likewise, no editorial staffer can afford to be disengaged from the business realities of their employer. The days of blithe ignorance are over. Editorial staffers need to be as flexible and wide-ranging in their skill set as needed.

As for Sports Illustrated, there will not be a nanosecond of regret in the corner offices of Time, Inc.

(Portions of this column appeared in a January post on Facebook.)

The Good
Bullet Nope. Lousy month.

The Bad
Bullet The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's "Weather In Focus" photo contest. Rights grab.
Bullet The city of Lenexa, Kansas' art poster contest. Rights grab.

The Ugly
Bullet Stock photo service Dreamstime inked a "beta" arrangement to be a provider of stock photos for Google ads. Great, huh? Google is a huge market. Not so fast, the arrangement pays the photographers $2 for non- exclusive use and a whopping $2.20 for exclusive use. Plus, their rights agreement includes relinquishing copyright.
I can't stick my finger far enough down my throat.

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 Sam Santilli of West Virginia told readers of SportsShooter the story of being beaten-out for a youth baseball league contract by a dad who had a kid in the league (aka Guy With Camera or GWC.) Sure enough, the league got fed-up with the GWC's unprofessional "product" and they called Sam to get him to shoot for them again. Sometimes quality does win-out over price.
  • For more than three years, photographers have been signing Tony Wu's "Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work For Free." Wu directs people to it when they request his work but don't want to pay him. The most impressive thing isn't the blog entry itself; it is the page after page of photographers who have signed it in solidarity. There were nearly 1,500 when I checked it in mid-March, with the oldest signing dated October of 2011 and most recent one being March of 2015, when I viewed it.