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Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

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Portions of this column were originally written for the January-February 2013 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.

January-February 2013, Volume 116
By Mark Loundy

"To sleep, perchance to dream — aye, there's the rub."

— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the Director of Photography at a major metro newspaper:

"Hi Mark,

There's The Rub "I've followed your Good, Bad and Ugly column for some time and found some of the examples helpful in working with our freelancers.

"I'm the Director of Photography at (redacted) and am updating our freelance contract to better represent what's happening in the industry. With my shrunken staff we use a steady stable of shooters. Some are former staffers, others from organizations that have reduced staff so it's quite a crew. But with web demands, video and the such, it's way more complicated than the 'old' days of work for hire.

"I was hoping you could point me towards some boilerplate newspaper contracts. I'd like to pick a couple over to see how we stack up so that both the freelancers and the newspaper are best represented.

"With appreciation in advance,

It's not often that I get a chance for direct input into the business relationship between a publisher and its freelance contributors so I jumped at the chance:


"My unapologetic preference would be for you to lead the industry with a contract that pays freelancers more than the pro-rated cost of using a staffer (including the cost of benefits.) In short, I want to discourage the use of freelancers in favor of hiring more full-time staffers. And when you do use freelancers, they should be reasonably compensated for the limited use of their work.

"I understand that these are things that you want too and that you are in a difficult position. But the solutions to this challenge are both quite simple in concept and very difficult to implement. Aye, there's the rub.

1. Reasonable rates (See "The Loundy Doctrine"
2. Limited-use license
3. The freelancer is indemnified by the company"

— Mark Loundy

I hope that I have an effect on the end product, but I also understand that newspaper department heads are constrained by financial realities not of their own making. But maybe I can move the needle just a little bit.

The Good
Bullet Pennsylvania Magazine for its one-time, one platform contract terms.

The Bad
Bullet Beware the Paya-NCAA Photo Marketplace, it gives the NCAA rights to your images without additional compensation.

The Ugly
Bullet Pennsylvania Magazine for its extremely low payment rates.
Bullet The Soundgarden contest to photography the band's 2013 winter tour. Rights grab.

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 New York Daily News has pulled the plug on its longtime practice of employing so-called permalancer photographers — that is, freelancers who worked regular fulltime shifts, but weren't considered employees or eligible for benefits. According to Capital New York about five or six of the former permalancers were offered salaried positions, but the remaining dozen or so, are out of the gigs they've had, in some cases, for years.
  • Editorial Photographers has merged into the much-larger APA. EP will remain as an independent chapter of APA and all EP members will be able to upgrade to an EP-APA membership at a discount.
  • The long-running case involving Agence France-Presse improperly using photographer Daniels Morel's images from the Haiti earthquake aftermath is winding to a close. According to stories by Reuters and the British Journal of Photography, a federal judge has ruled that AFP and the Washington Post infringed on Morel's copyright by downloading images that Morel had posted on Twitter. A number of issues remain to be decided, including damages.
  • I've been writing about the importance of knowing your Cost of Doing business since the second Common Cents column in 2002. So I'm only too glad to tout cinematographer Ryan E. Walters' guest column "How Much Are You Worth?" in the NoFilmSchool website.