225 BUILDING COMMUNITIES
June 5, 1999
The Internet is enabling photographers with common interests to build
communities and become much less isolated than they have been in the past.
This may change the dynamics of the relationships between agencies,
publishers and photographers.
Forums are becoming easier to set up. The service is often free. The
companies operating the list servers make their money through advertising
and the advertising on these forums is often very transparent. Editorial Photo uses
www.onelist.com and the TSI shooters group uses
www.egroups.com to manage their sites.
The disavantage of such sites is that they are unedited. It is easy
to waste a huge amount of time digging through comments of little value
in order to find the few nuggets of useful information. Some sites are
much better than others. I have found that the more focused the user
group the better the site tends to be. The trick is to train yourself to scan
material quickly and skip over subjects of little interest. The most efficient
way to receive this information is usually via a once-a-day digest rather than
each message as it is posted.
We reported on the Editorial Photo Forum in early May. It now has over
400 members. It is a password protected site, but is available free to
photographers currently supplying work to the editorial market. You must
be approved by a moderator to be on the list of subscribers. Subscription
requests should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The focus of the discussion with this group is the business of editorial
photography -- contracts, day rates, copyright, etc. Often there are 25
to 30 new posts a day on these issues.
So far the detail shared relative to specific experiences with specific
publications has been phenomenal. This type of information puts every
photographer in a better position to negotiate with publishers. It also
helps photographers spot trends when they might have thought their
specific experience was a unique and isolated instance.
Highlights of some of the information shared so far include:
1 - Reprints can be a big market for many editorial shoots, including
portraits. Seth Resnick gets $1,000 or three times the total space rate
whichever is greater for up to 5,000 reprints. Higher volumes are
negotiated. Many publications offer much lower fees for reprints, or pay
nothing, but will pay more if challenged.
Several photographers have reported getting the reprint fee raised through
negotiation although few achieved the fees Resnick is getting.
Forty-three percent of the re-use fees Resnick receives are the result of
reprints. Reprints are advertising, not editorial use.
Many publications fail to report reprint use unless they are asked.
It is recommended that photographers call the reprint department after
each assignment to determine if reprints were requested. Get to know the
person in charge of this department, not just your picture editor.
Establish the principle that you set the price for such uses, not the
publication. One photographer sends his promotional pieces, particularly
those someone might want to hang on their wall, to the people in the
reprint department as a may of cementing a relationship.
2 - Photographers have reported that they are earning an average of
between 50% and 200% of the assignment fee in reuse fees. Obviously, this
can vary greatly, but it points out the importance of retaining the stock
rights to images produced on assignment.
3 - The importance of presenting the publication with "your written
terms". Present your contract, don't wait for them to send their
contract. Seth Resnick and Joseph Pobereskin have supplied sample
agreements that they use. We will post these on Selling Stock within
a couple of weeks.
4 - Several photographers have been receiving $500 day rates from TIME, but
have never been asked to sign the addendum allowing on-line use. They
believe that because they have not signed their pictures will not be used
on-line. Moreover, if an on-line use is made they believe they are
entitled to additional compensation. While technically this may be true
their position would be much stronger if they had submitted to TIME their
own written conditions for doing the assignment, instead of working without
a written agreement. Such written understandings can also be submitted
with the work. Courts are likely to decide that Time's "standard practices"
are operative if there is no written understanding, signed or unsigned, from
either side. If a photographer routinely sends his or her own paperwork to all
publications it greatly strengthens the bargaining position.
It has also been reported that there is an unofficial policy at TIME that
those who don't agree to the extra $100 for web use don't get called for
5 - There is no "industry standard" day rate as many major publications
try to pretend. Some publications pay more than double what others pay.
There are also lots of variation on how they calculate the a day, and the
rights expected for the fee paid. It is important for the photographer to
carefully examine what he or she needs for the particular job rather than
trying to establish a standard "editorial day rate."
6 - Be careful to retain foreign rights and follow up on use. One
photographer pointed out that many computer publications have hundreds of
7 - Those who get the best fees tend to not have a standard "day rate" and
negotiate the "creative fee" very carefully on each job. The publication
may have a "day rate", but the challenge for the photographer is to work
with the picture editor to find ways to adjust the publication's standard
practices so the photographers receives appropriate value on his or her
work. Many photo editors are willing to work with photographers if the
photographers only ask and offer creative suggestions for meeting their
needs. One photographer said he gets higher fees 50% of the time when he
Some creative suggestions picture editors have agreed to inclued:
- Get paid for an upfront agreed upon time, regardless of the actual time
it takes to shoot the job. (When using this technique it is important for
the photographer to be sure he can shoot the job in less time than he is
being paid for.)
- When portraits of two people at the same location are required, the
publication pays for two days even though both people could be shot on the
- When the half day rate is greater than half of the full day rate
(i.e. $275 for half day and $400 for full day) get an agreement that you can
bill for two half days instead of a full day.
- Get paid for travel days.
- Get paid a cover rate.
- The creative fee is a guarantee against space. (Many photographers
seem to have given up worrying about space rate, but those who pay
attention to this issue and get the publication to commit up-front to
space fees, tend to earn more money.)
- Get paid extra for assignments that go longer than eight hours. Time has
paid an extra half day for any part of the first four hours over an 8 hour
day and a full extra day if the assignment goes more than 12 hours.
- Get advances for out of town trips.
By using these techniques some photographers are averaging between $550
and $650 for an assignment fee for each actual day worked for editorial
The important thing to remember is that even when publications have a day rate
there are still points that can be negotiated and such negotiations can result
in a larger overall fee for the shoot.
The driving force behind the growth of the TSI photographer's forum was the
release of the TSI contract last summer. Photographers discovered that
they needed to compare notes as they began to negotiate this very
difficult document. Developments showed that those who shared and worked
together ended up with a much better deal than those who tried to handle
everything on their own. After the contract issues were settled the need
for continued dialog became obvious. Now there are two TSI photographer
forums - one in the U.S. and the other in the U.K. Most photographer post
on one or the other, but follow the discussions on both. You must be a
current TSI photographer to gain access to these groups. TSI management
is not given access to these sites so contact a fellow TSI photographer to
Another useful source of stock photo information is the Stockphoto Network
forum. It has been in existence for several years. The URL is www.stockphoto.net.
This forum is open to everyone and is a
good source for more general information about stock photography. It tends not
to deal as well, or in as much depth, with issues that relate to
To subscribe to this service send a message to LISTSERV@joelday.com. The
message should read: SUBSCRIBE STOCKPHOTO First Name Last Name. To
receive the postings once a day in digest form send to same address above
another messsage that should read: SET STOCKPHOTO DIGESTS.
At Selling Stock we expect to see more agency oriented forums open up as
photographers recognize that they can benefit from the experiences of
others who are represented by their agency. There will always be
certain levels where photographers compete with each
other, within an agency. But there are issues in most agencies where
photographer cooperation and sharing is useful.