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Portions of this column were originally written for the June 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.

June 2015, Volume 138
By Mark Loundy

"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."

— Dr. Seuss

You don't want a plumber to be creative in their work. You just want to water to flow, the drain to drain and the leak to stop. Photographers are not plumbers. A photographer can no longer succeed solely with journeyman lighting and exposure skills. Photography buyers, particularly in higher end commercial work, are looking for a specific voice. Or, as artist rep Maren Levinson said in an interview with photographer John Keatley, "You will get reduced to one sentence and it's your job to fill that sentence."

At first glance, that sounds like reducing yourself to, ewww, a brand, but it's really a great business reason to give yourself permission to be you — to follow your passion. What better reason to follow your inner voice than to develop a product that buyers cannot get anywhere else?

As Patrick Hall wrote in The Hard Truth Why No One Will Hire You As A Photographer, "People do not hire you because you are a good photographer." Advances in photographic technology mean that vanilla imagery can be gotten from the 17-year-old kid down the street. That part of the market is racing to the bottom. Viable fees live in the land where artists have clear, sharply defined, voices.

Rather than resist being pigeonholed for your strength, market into it. Sell yourself as the quirky shooter who shoots everything with two sidelights or the photographer who styles food with spectacular flame effects. Embrace your niche.

Another trend with larger budget shoot is the move toward video. Clients who are already paying for a stylist, a set and models are increasingly asking for motion along with their stills. Photographers with directing skills are in increasing demand.

So the next time you're going over your marketing and trying to be everything to everybody, think again. It can pay to be true to yourself.

The Good
Bullet The photographers on the ASMP LinkedIn discussion board responding to a question about Work for Hire agreements. The answers were on- point, and helped the questioner educate his client and avoid WFH.
Bullet U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign for quickly removing an unpermissioned image from its Facebook page and paying for the usage.
Bullet, a start-up portfolio site for real estate and architectural photographers for responding to photographers' concerns and eliminating a partnership that would have allowed to use Kurbside member photographers' images in exchange only for links back to Kurbside. Photographer Andrew Buchanan gives, "kudos to Kurbside for doing the right thing, admitting an error, and quickly correcting it."

The Bad
Bullet Radio station KRBD in Ketchikan, Alaska for its 10-week fulltime internship that pays a flat fee of $1000. That's $2.50 an hour.

The Ugly
Bullet The New York Post for a clause in its freelance contract that allows the Post to not pay for work, even after it has been performed, if they don't like 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.

  • The next time you're negotiating with a non-profit, arm yourself with some information about how they spend their money. Check out
  • This past May, the NPPA offered membership in Blink as a new member benefit. Blink is distributed employee management platform that organizations can use to locate and hire freelancers, including photographers. Be sure to read Blink's terms of service, though. It contains an indemnification clause that would be a deal breaker for me.
  • There has been a lot of concern about how cloud storage services such as Google Drive and Amazon Photo deal with professional content. Petapixel went over the terms of service of five of the largest companies and gave them all passing grades. Phew!