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Portions of this column were originally written for the April 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.

April 2010, Volume 90
By Mark Loundy

"Avoid the dullards; avoid the folk who play it safe. They can't help you any more. Their stability model no longer offers that much stability. They are extinct, they are extinction."

— Hugh Macleod

No meteor slammed into the Yucatan peninsula like the one that doomed the dinosaurs. Yet just like the dazed velociraptors staggering around the scorched Earth of 65 million years ago, staff photographers are on the short road to extinction.

Don't Become ExtinctThe popular conception has always been that it's easier to give cameras to writers than it is to teach photographers how to write. It has always been the responsibility of the photographers to prove otherwise by producing complete packages themselves.

Staff photographers need to make themselves "go away" by becoming more in-tune with the needs of their customers (employers.) For the past few decades that has meant learning to do more than one thing.

But it's not as simple as just learning multimedia (although that is a must.) Most importantly, it means understanding what your employer needs. It may even mean providing solutions that they hadn't thought of yet.

Photographers need to be ahead of the curve on anything that will make decision makers perceive them as more valuable. Unfortunately, for the newspaper industry, the optimum time to start doing that was five or ten years ago. But it's never too late to start.

The old days are not coming back.

The Good
BulletThe best is yet to come. But not this month.

The Bad
BulletBauer Media, publishers of Grazia, FHM, Practical Photography and many others, for their all-rights contract. Not very practical for photographers.
BulletWichita Mid-Continent Airport for building their entire new website upon, "great adventure photos from travelers just like you." With zero compensation and a rights grab.

The Ugly
BulletHip hop magazine The Source for not only expecting a photographer to travel 100 miles to shoot a particular baseball player at spring training for free, but demanding ownership of the image.
BulletLocal search engine DexKnows pays a $15 bounty to reporters who can get a photographer to submit free images.

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.

  • Newsosaur has joined the list of sages preaching that freelancers need to charge reasonable fees. "Apart from the sheer righteousness of being paid an honest dollar for an honest day's work," he writes, "journalists need to stand together — and stand tall — to reassert the stature of their profession."
  • Youth hockey photographer Eric Canha finally landed a league he'd been pursuing for years — and they came to him to reserve his services a year in advance. Eric chalks up the sale to (gasp!) service and professionalism. "Those can't just be bullet points on a brochure. We deliver a quality product," he said. "We're there to work WITH them. It's just soooo much about identifying both the internal and external customers and serving each." Canha is even hopeful about the future, "I think that the companies that were started by all the GWC's (Guys/Gals With Cameras) are folding. So things are improving for those of us doing this for real."
  • It looks like Getty Images is going through their photographer files looking for any shooters who may be working under the more favorable terms of contracts written by companies acquired by Getty and switching them to the current contract.
  • Photography in public places is a topic that gets Carlos Miller all riled up. The Miami photographer's blog, called "Photography is Not a Crime" deals with his and others' conflicts with police, security guards and others who are troubled by the heinous act of photography.
  • Stock photographer John Lund did a lengthy interview with stock guru Jim Pickerell who posits that stock photography is dead as a profession that can generate a living wage.
  • Wedding photographer David Ziser recently blogged about "14 Mistakes New Photographers Make When Starting Their Business." Although most of the items apply primarily to event photographers, my favorite applies to everybody: "14. Not knowing how to run the business part of their business."