Portions of this column were originally written for the October 2004 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.
By Mark Loundy
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for one day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime..."
Light from the setting sun skims across a perfect crescent of sand in the south Pacific. Small boats bearing tourists and commercial fishermen head for hotels and to Miller Time. Ah, paradise.
Not so fast. During the 1998 Asian economic crisis desperate local fishermen in this north Bali bay resorted to dynamite fishing and nearly destroyed the coral reef that supports the fish that they depend on. The practice would have ended their livelihood forever.
Photographers who accept bad deals saying, "it's better to get a little money than no money" are performing the business equivalent of dynamite fishing. They're destroying their own futures by lowering market rates and terms to the point that they won't support a profitable business.
But it's not enough to complain about the problem. Education is the key and we can't wait for official photojournalism curriculum to include business courses. We have to take responsibility ourselves to assure that young photographers understand the realities of business and to help make sure that they will have a viable profession from which they can retire.
Ask to make a business presentation to your local high school or college journalism classes. Talk about contracts, copyright and the Cost of Doing Business. Come back every year and give the new students the Straight Skinny.
What happened back in Bali? The reef and the local way of life were barely saved by education and intervention by conservationists and by the fisherman themselves. Informed fishermen spread the word to their easy-money colleagues and stopped the destruction just in time. With enlightened conservation practices the reef is now coming back to life, assuring a future for the fish and for the fishermen. There is hope for us all.
Kennesaw State University wanted to hire a photographer to shoot two soccer games during a three-day out-of-town tournament. In return for all rights to the entire shoot, they offered a whopping $150 and no expenses. The photog countered with a reasonable offer and was flatly turned down. The real "Ugly" in all of this is if any other photographer accepted the deal.
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.Leftovers
One more reason to make sure that your paperwork is in order before the shoot: In a recent case in New York a photographer sued for unauthorized usage when a client used more images than he agreed to. The trouble was that he did not submit a delivery memo and had no signed agreement from the client. In short, he couldn't prove his claims and the judge ruled against him.
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