Common Cents logo

Follow Mark on Twitter

More than 40% of contract workers report trouble getting paid

iStockphoto "Unsustainable" Business Model: From Crowd-Sourcing To Crowd-Shafting?

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Business Manual

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

Portions of this column were originally written for the October 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.

October 2010, Volume 96
By Mark Loundy

"Glamour is what I sell, it's my stock in trade."

— Marlene Dietrich

By now you know that the photography business is in the middle of a massive change. News organizations in particular have an enormous challenge in finding a business model that will work in the online world. At the same time, the perceived glamour of photojournalism has drawn so many hopeful shooters that fees have dropped, in some cases, to less than zero.

It's the glamourHoping to cash-in on that glamour (Pronounced "emphasis") is going to offer subscribers a direct connection to on-assignment PJs direct from the field. The idea is that numerous "patrons" will fund a photog in exchange for special reports a la Facebook status postings.

Will the unproven crowdsourcing model work? We'll see when they launch sometime in 2011.

The Good
Bullet I hope to have the Goods next month.

The Bad
Bullet MAEVE Magazine for its "pay with advertising space" policy.
Bullet Major League Lacrosse for its particularly onerous rights grabbing contract.

The Ugly
Bullet AOL for its "25 For 25" grant competition. AOL plans to award $25,000 each to 25 "journalists, artists and innovators who believe in the power of ideas." But the fine print grabs the copyright of all entries, not just those of the grant awardees.
Bullet Right grabbing contract plus a "right of first refusal" clause. This means that if you get an image of Elvis stepping out of a UFO in's five-county coverage area, you will have to first offer it to for its customary $75 assignment fee, for which price they will own your work outright and you will not be able to license it to anybody else.
Bullet Cengage Learning Center for offering $100 for a textbook that will sell for $125 with a press run of 30,000. That equates to three-tenths of one cent per book.
Bullet Tennis Australia for budgeting the equivalent of about $120 per photographer per day to photograph the events leading up to the Australian Open.

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.

  • Could you use a spare $4.7 billion? So could several hundred thousand independent workers in New York State. That's the amount estimated by a Rutgers University study that New York freelancers have been stiffed by deadbeat clients. According to a story in Crain's New York, the average company that owes money is on the hook for $12,000. It's also why I license my work based upon receipt of payment in full.
  • Micropayment agency iStockphoto may be reaping what it sowed. According to the Russian Photos Blog, in a reworking of its contributor agreement, the company admitted that its business model of charging next-to-nothing for images just isn't working. Its contributors are expressing (How should I put this?) a lot of anger.
  • I'm not sure if it was satirical, but a Huntington Beach, Calif. Photographer posted a listing on Craigslist saying that he or she would "shoot for food." The poster claimed to be camping, along with a full set of camera and studio gear, next to the Santa Ana River. The posting pleaded with other photographers not to shoot for food but to, " Get a job at McDonalds where you get fed and paid (at the) same time."