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Portions of this column were originally written for the November 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.

November 2012, Volume 115
By Mark Loundy

"Nothing in this section shall prevent a duly authorized representative of any news service, newspaper, or radio or television station or network from entering the areas closed pursuant to this section."

— California Penal Code 409.5 (d)

It's difficult to disprove a myth if it seems to actually exist in real life. That's the problem with the so-called "press passes" and the companies that exploit the ignorance of inexperienced photographers by selling them.

Freelance_Fantasy Disbelieving the reality of press passes is a challenge when the mass media is full of images of journalists wearing event credentials. Hollywood perpetuates the myth by showing reporters and photographers entering areas otherwise closed to the public by flashing an official-looking card.

Some government agencies, such as police and fire departments and the Secret Service contribute to the myth by issuing press IDs and extending special privileges to their wearers.

The California law that permits emergency personnel to close disaster areas to the public has a news media exemption, but there is no definition of news media identification beyond the phrase, "duly authorized." No credentials are mentioned.

Individual news organizations issue their employees wearable IDs, sometimes emblazoned with the word "PRESS" or "MEDIA."

But there is no such thing as a press pass as the general public commonly perceives it. Vultures like the International Freelance Photographer Organization (IFPO) feast upon pro photo hopefuls by supporting the myth of the press pass and charging $81 for each of its "Lifetime Memberships." Of course the memberships are for a lifetime. Once somebody has figured out that they've paid good money for something that they could have printed themselves and laminated at Staples, they've learned their lesson and won't be coming back to re-up.

You can even get a custom title for the card they sell you such as "Nature Photographer." Now to whom would you show that? I hear that Yogi Bear is pretty gullible.

IFPO's latest scheme is called "US Press Corps." It's $39 for three years. What happens after that? How can you get thrown out of something that exists only for the purpose of selling laminated cards?

Unfortunately, there is an endless supply of people yearning for the (also mythical) glorious life of a professional photographer. So companies like the IFPO will never lack for customers.

The NPPA also started selling press IDs a few years ago. While I think that it is inappropriate for the NPPA to offer them, for the reasons that I put forth above, there is no comparison between the two organizations. The NPPA's numerous educational and advocacy efforts bear no comparison to the IFPO's raison d'Ítre of selling misleading press IDs.

The Good
Bullet The government of Canada, for passing a law that presumes, for the first time in that country, that photographers are the owners of their own work, whether that work is commissioned or not.
Congratulations to the Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators and Professional Photographers of Canada for their more than two decades of work to make this happen.
Bullet Toronto-based Couch Labs for the usage terms for their image backup service, MyShoebox. It's minimal and sticks to just the rights they need to run the service.

The Bad
Bullet The new iPad publication, Huffington for slow payment and lack of response to payment inquiries.
Bullet The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for its new contract that asks for, essentially, all rights.
Bullet The latest entrant in the image-library-creation-disguised-as-a-photo-contest scheme: Land Rover USA.
Bullet Even Adorama is getting into the act with its Great American Photobook contest. Disappointing.
Bullet Fine art lab iolabs, Inc. for their Papercuts project which offers a paltry 30% of sales to the contributing artists.
Bullet The National Park Foundation's Share the Experience contest. Rights grab.

The Ugly
Bullet The photographers who have not objected to the new HSUS contract.

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.

  • Thirteen San Francisco Bay Area photographers joined together in 1999 to fight assignment rates that had not changed in years. The group stopped taking assignments from Businessweek, which encouraged that publication to vastly improve its boilerplate contract. Thirteen years later, the organization that those photographers formed, Editorial Photographers, is "merging into" the much larger American Photographic Artists. The combined group will have approximately 3,200 members and will pursue goals similar to both of the constituent groups.
    The new APA/EP chapter will operate as an independent non-profit under the organizational umbrella of the national group.