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Portions of this column were originally written for the July-August 2012 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.

July-August 2012, Volume 113
By Mark Loundy

"All things are difficult before they are easy."

— Dr. Thomas Fuller, 1732

Like elite athletes, we make it look easy. A click of the shutter, and it's done. And that's how we can be our worst enemy. It just looks so damn easy. It's not even very expensive. An entry-level SLR doesn't look all that different from a top-of-the-line pro model. Hence, you get all the "moms and dads with cameras" on the sidelines at youth sporting events. Anybody can do it, right?

So EasyIn a commoditized business, often the critical difference is a personal relationship.

Eric Canha is a successful Massachusetts-based youth sports and editorial photographer who makes his marketing personal. Recently, he wrote in the online SportsShooter message board, "(On) those fields that do have a fence the difference between where I'm standing and the parents are standing is a whopping three feet and in most cases not even THAT because I want to be close enough to the parents to strike up conversations, build relationships that will bring in portrait sittings, get the inside scoop on who's in line to replace the members of the board who are leaving, The reason that the mom with the Rebel is so popular giving the photos away isn't because she's giving the photos away, it's because everyone LIKES her and socializes with her. If you want to go to a high school or youth game, shoot it, and expect people to come to your site just because you handed them a card or flyer, you don't have a grasp of the youth/prep customer."

In the end, becoming a part of the community is just as critical to a youth sports shooter as it is to a local newspaper.

The Good
Bullet Kudos to The Echo Foundation and its project manager Ryan Sullivan for listening to feedback about its overly broad photography contest rules and for modifying them to asking only for the rights that they need.
Bullet MediaStorm recently started charging $1.99 for access to their original content. Kudos for splitting it 50-50 with the photographers.

The Bad
Bullet The Winkflash photo contest. Rights grab.
Bullet National Pro Fastpitch softball league for requiring that photographers allow free use of all images that they shoot at NPF games.

The Ugly
Bullet The Ontario Canada-based Niagara Falls Parks Commission for requiring news organizations to pay a $250 fee to shoot the recent Nick Wallenda safety-harnessed wire walk TV stunt over the falls. I'm exercising considerable willpower not to go completely off-topic about this one.
Bullet STA Travel Group for their offer to send a pair of photographers on a four-week travel assignment to produce promotional images in exchange for expenses. Just expenses. I can tell them where to go.
Bullet The Pike's Peak International Hill Climb for their rights grabbing contract that charges photographers $250 to take pictures.
Bullet Ya gotta hand it to They've got a pretty good thing going. They charge their clients $300 for a commercial video shoot and pay the photographer $75. When their clients opt to extend their "subscription" for six months for $300, they pay the photographer nothing.
Bullet Of all organizations, the Professional Photographers of America are running a rights-grabbing contest. I'm rolling my eyes and shaking my head.

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.

  • Beware when presented with an "all rights" contract. It could be that the client is just fishing for a sucker and is perfectly used to more reasonable terms. Don't simply accept it when told, "this is our policy." Often, it is not. Always counter-offer with terms that you can accept.
  • It's a good thing that a group of UK photographers are standing up for their rights. It's bad that not all of them are doing it. It's Ugly that the thing that they're standing up to is a rights grab by the rock band Stone Roses.