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Portions of this column were originally written for the February 2010 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 2010, Volume 89
By Mark Loundy

"An inexperienced picker would pick the low-hanging fruit first..."

— Nursery owner Albert Pell in Fast Company Magazine

If I were running a publication, I would look for the best possible images at the lowest possible cost. I would look for the hungriest photographers with the poorest business practices and I would offer them minimal fees for all rights to their images.

Low Hanging FruitAfter all, I'm running a business and I want to make as much money as I can while spending as little as I can. Since I can't negotiate with my printer or the public utilities, I'm going to target the ones who have proven eager to be screwed-over. In business, they refer to the easy stuff as "low-hanging fruit."

I would continue to run my business like that for as long as I could find photographers willing to be victimized.

How can you really fault that approach to business?

The Good
BulletSalt Lake City photog Doug Pizac gives the US Postal Service kudos for prompt payment. The check arrived one day after the shoot — in the next day's mail of course.
BulletGuardian News & Media for apologizing to a photographer whose image they used without permission. The resolution included payment to the photographer.

The Bad
BulletIt's great that the people running Justin Timberlake's website asked permission to use a sport image on his site, but wanting it for free is a bit much for a zillionaire media star to ask for.
BulletThe online publication Pilfered Magazine for its ill-conceived concept of featuring images that were admittedly "pilfered" from the Internet. They have since decided to re-think the concept. It's hard to imagine just what that could possibly be.

The Ugly
BulletMediabistro for offering $250 total for two days of shooting its Web 3.0 conference. The rate is about one tenth of what would be a viable rate for many photographers. They ask for all rights and don't even cover expenses.
According to its own website, "Mediabistro is dedicated to enhancing the careers of media professionals at all levels."
BulletThe DC-area "Runway Modeling Contest" asking for photographers, bloggers and videographer to show up to their event. "Sorry, no pay this time."
BulletThe production company for famed documentary producer Ken Burns for failing to respond to multiple requests for what they are offering to pay for images they have solicited for his next project. I can only conclude that the amount is zero.

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 online community Freelance Switch has an easy-to-use rate calculator. It's labeled in dollars, but it's valid for any currency.
  • OK, you've figured out your Cost of Doing Business and come up with an economically viable rate structure for your business. But you're still not totally comfortable with an hourly rate that has three digits in it. Explain it to your clients (and to yourself) after reading Jen Kramer's Why Are Web Professionals SO Expensive? Now you can get over it.
  • It's not sufficient to just throw your images up on the Web and hope for the jobs to come rolling in. Photoshelter's Grover Sanschagrin and Allen Murabayashi have penned The Six Elements of a Successful Photo Website. In their acronym, S.I.M.P.L.E., P stands for, "People Want to Link to It." Imagine that.
  • Even more from Photoshelter: PhotoShelter's Social Media for Photographers is downloadable from their website.
  • If you've ever had somebody recommend your services, you've benefited from social media. Richard Wong gets down and dirty with SM in the Black Star Rising blog.
  • Writing in a discussion on the Digital Journalist website, attorney Ed Greenberg talked about the importance of registering your copyrights: "Told two clients just in the last week or so that their failure to register the apparently infringed works cost (each of them) at least $100,000. I then asked if it would be OK if I called their respective wives to tell each of them that although their husbands were warned by me to REGISTER, REGISTER they had failed to do so. Each turned blue."
  • In my January column, I included Fort Worth Star Telegram's payment-on-publication policy as an Ugly reference. Director of Photography David Kent told me that all contributors have always been paid upon completion of their assignments. That's great, so it should be no problem for the Star Telegram to remove the clause from its contract.