Can Editorial Photographers Make A Living Anymore?

I’ve often wondered? I certainly know plenty of photographers who do make a living in editorial photography and have always assumed there’s a large cliff between them and those who want to make it their profession but I have no clue what kind of money is being made and how many people are making it.

PDN is going help solve that problem with a survey (to find out what editorial photographers earn, how they’re surviving, and what kind of rates they’re getting) editorial photographers can take (here).

The survey comes at an difficult time for editorial photographers because by all indications we’re headed for a pretty bad winter of dropping circ and advertiser belt tightening (here and here) that can only result in fewer assignments and money available for photography. Hopefully we’re not far from the bottom and the industry can rebound like it did after 2000. With more and more photography headed online where the distribution and printing is virtually free it seems like publishers could still manage to pay for original photography so their publication doesn’t start to resemble google.

I think we’ve reached a critical juncture for the editorial photography industry and it’s time to take stock of where we are so we can make changes that will ensure the long term health going forward. The industry used to just take care of itself but I’m not so sure that will be the case in the future.

There Are 90 Comments On This Article.

  1. As a small publisher, I know we don’t pay nearly enough to even multiply our situation by five and allow a photographer to make a living solely on editorial. And the reason I mention that is because I sure do see more and more indie titles on the big box newsstands than ever before.

    Magazines at my level are alot like restaurants – and I’ve said this before – in that, if you’re gonna open a restaurant just to treat your friends to dinner, you won’t last more than a few years. And I think that most smaller, more accessible titles don’t pay even what the major titles have cut their budgets down to.

    Having said all that, I see many of my photographers working on personal projects, many times using the imagery they created for us to complete a book, show or some other inventive way to use what they create specifically for us, but make something out of the limited usage we retain for those very same images.

    My point is, if a shooter works for a magazine that he/she really has some personal interest in and works the usage fairly to make up for the extremely low rates, a book (for example) can be made and sold for profit/clout/exposure/career-furthering through the same venues that some publishers use (MagCloud, self-publishing sites, gallery publishers, indie publishing houses, etc.).

    I’ve seen a few photographers we work closely with actually do this very thing and it’s working out very well for them.

    I realize that no photographer wants to hear “The budget is low, but you’ll have great stuff for your portfolio.” That doesn’t put food on the table next week or pay down a credit card on Thursday. But book sales are rising, DVDs are cheaper than ever to make and sell, and media in general is more accessible to anyone who wants to make something. There are alot more ways, these days, to take control of the images a photographer makes for others and make them work harder for themselves.

  2. On my blog, I recently ventured an idea about pricing in the new era of publishing. While I by no means think it is a definitive answer, I do think it is a good place to start the discussion:

    http://tinyurl.com/5fb3x4

    I think photographers need to realize that the old way of doing things, especially in editorial, are practically gone and cannot be revived. But the public will always crave good images of events and as thing move more to electronic formats, alternative pricing must be developed.
    -Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua

  3. Rob,
    I am one of the people who makes a living almost solely as an editorial photographer. It is a funny time to be in this business. I have never been more enthusiastic about the possibilities of visual story telling or more pessimistic about the state of the publishing business.

    Now every magazine I have ever worked for in 17 years of magazine photography has claimed that they were just about to go broke -including the Time-Life corporation in the 1990s when they were experiencing 10% yearly profit growth.

    But this time things in the publishing world really are bad. You see magazines not just cutting assignment time but cutting staff. The world has changed and magazines have not adapted. Yes I hope we are near the bottom, but when things spring back magazines will likely be very different than they are now. How? Who knows.

    I do believe that talented story tellers will always have a place in our society. Talented magazine editors? Who knows.

    -Stephen Alvarez

    http://www.picturestoryblog.com

  4. Well magazines have a vested interest in seeing that photographers can make a living. There are always new stories and subjects that need to be shot. The way it works is that photographers shoot them and buyers buy (er license) the image. Simple commerce right? Photographers fill a need just as coffee bean growers supply Starbucks. What if there were no growers? What if there were no pro photographers?

    Leslie is right in that photographers need to change with the times. But it’s not that radical as long as you understand the basic principles.

  5. The media company that owns my magazine (along with 80+ other titles) just had a pretty big workforce reduction. We said goodbye to a lot of copy editors, ad salespeople, and misc. other staffers across the board last week. Because of what seems to be a tightening of the belts around here, I’ve been training some of the associate editors how to use a camera so they can shoot some of their own stories. Some of the freelancers who’ve worked with us for the past 10 years have been getting a reduction in the number of stories we pass to them. Nobody above us really cares that the magazine will look like shit, as long as the numbers don’t dip. As one of our publishers said, “Our readers don’t care about that artsy-fartsy shit.”

  6. The problem with the usual moronic behavior of publishers where content quality is sacrificed to maintain profits is that eventually your content will resemble what already available for free on the internet and then you’re sunk.

    I suggest a quick google before shipping a page to compare what you’re about to print with what’s already available. If it’s not up to snuff kill that page and add more big photography.

  7. If blogs are the new magazines (at what point can we stop calling them blogs) then we are in trouble. Day in and day out popular independent and large non-independent blogs steel images that they should be licensing or assigning. This is nothing new to complain about, so I’m not going to get into that topic specifically. Some of the images used are crapy snaps taken from flickr or an amateur source…. but they are also often higher quality professional pictures. Pictures that were likely taken on an assignment for a magazine at some point.

    If these blogs/websites are the so called future of magazines and they are just stealing images, not assigning shoots or licensing images… at some point they are going to run out of images to steal because the images aren’t being shot because nobody is paying the photographers to take them. (ok, not likely since they’ll just find some crap on flickr that “will do”).

    So, when all these magazines become online editions only, do you think they’ll still assign photography as they do now? As it is now they usually expect you to throw in online use… what happens when that is the only use?

    I love doing editorial work… but thank god I have that big ad campaign shoot to make sure I can eat.

  8. NAMES ARE IRRELEVANT

    “…I’ve been training some of the associate editors how to use a camera so they can shoot some of their own stories.”

    Who do you work for so I can make certain we stop marketing to your magazine/publication?

  9. The problem with online “publishing” in any form is that there is not sufficient ad revenue to pay for gathering the content. Good photography and good writing are expensive. Right now at least, putting photos and writing on the web doesn’t pay for making the photos and the writing.

    This is the biggest dilemma facing editorial photographers. How do we make a living given this business model?

    -Stephen Alvarez

    http://www.picturestoryblog.com

  10. NAME IRRELEVANT

    Wow, this MyGazines.com site is what the magazines themselves should have thought of. With a “Netflix”-like subscription service, I would browse a lot more magazines per month than I do now.

    How embarrassing for the publications.

    I just browsed the September 2008 Vanity Fair, all 410 pages, in less than 15 minutes. That’s cool.

  11. @ 10. Stephen: There will be significant savings in printing and distribution when readers move online or to a color kindle like device then the rest will have to come out of profits. Publishers should go into debt to build a sustainable future for publishing quality content online. That or die.

  12. NAME IRRELEVANT

    Rob, I actually agree with you. Although, we’re all also assuming most of America will still spend their shrinking disposal income on “magazines”.

    Think that savings will be past on to photographers after years of promise? Nah.

  13. When you talk “profits”, you forget that many publicly traded companies must sustain a certain percentage of growth and profit as part of their business model. If their numbers don’t reach investor’s expectations, their stock price tumbles and they go through downsizing to reach their 10-20% profit model. The big publishers business model is fully wrapped around investor expectations more than quality of product. Yes, we all know that quality keeps the pubs advertisers returning, but tell that to a CFO in a sluggish economy. Their first reaction to low ad sales is COST CUTTING. Reducing vendor’s pay is easier than layoffs, especially when there are so many photographers eager to get some tears and will go out of pocket to shoot an editorial. Lets not forget, that there are the A-lister Leibovitzs, Thomsons, Lindbergs, Meisels, Testinos, that are still making serious coin on editorial. The A-listers will be kept around to show that the brand is still strong and there are still efforts to keep quality strong. The B-listers are the ones who are easily replaced.

  14. Quoting #14: “The B-listers are the ones who are easily replaced.”

    I was thinking of that exact sentence last week, in terms of business model. For a photographer, or most any creative professional, your ability to sustain comes down to that one sentence: “How easily can you be replaced?”.

    That is the goal, it seems — to do something that makes it very hard for a client to replace you. You want the work so strong that when they have a snag in the schedule, they rearrange THEIR schedule to make it fit for YOU.

    I’m not there yet, and I doubt many others are either, but that’s the sentence that’s become my mantra.

    @ #11, who just browsed the most recent Vanity Fair, the big question is: “Would you have paid to do that online?” I seriously doubt it, due to the web’s (mostly) insistence that everything on the web be free. That’s where the rub comes in — if nobody’s paying to read the online versions, where is the revenue coming from, as the printed versions are retired, and the online versions brought forward? What revenue is going to send that photographer to Africa for a week-long shoot? Or, for that matter, to LA?

  15. @ 14. Ian: True. I’m hopeful that the next generation will bring different values to the table because I’m certainly done with companies that think profits come before quality products.

    This is an interesting observation on the next generation: http://tinyurl.com/5gattd

    @15. Reader: The ads are in the digital version just as they are in the paper versions. What’s the difference? You pay a subscription or newsstand price to have it printed and delivered, not made. The ads pay to have it made. In a digital version at least people can visit an advertiser when they see something they like.

  16. NAME IRRELEVANT

    Love the B-lister comment. Don’t love that I’m one of them that’s replaceable.

    @15: Actually, I absolutely would pay, a REASONABLE fee, to browse any magazine, or a cluster of them such a “women’s interest, fashion” or “sports package”. I’d even pay on a per-magazine basis, such as iTunes, if the cost were low enough.

    For someone like me, who’s honest, “green”, and critical, the problem isn’t about payment. It is about the fact that publications didn’t even offer the online option. As far as I’m aware, none of the magazines allow you buy a digital version of their monthly rag (correct me I’m uninformed). So now someone else went and offered me the option for free. Ut oh. Big problem for the magazine business.

    There are business models out there, such as Netflix, iTunes, Cable TV, Amazon.com, where they could come up with high volume readers and gain even more ad revenue, which from what I understand, is what really drives the magazine’s profits.

    This whole idea is way beyond photographers, so maybe I’m pushing my theories on the wrong blog?

  17. NAME IRRELEVANT

    @16: “You pay a subscription or newsstand price to have it printed and delivered, not made.”

    Sounds like more viewers equals more ad revenue which turns more profit which produces better quality that turns into more readers. Wow, sounds like a good idea to offer it for free online.

    Also sounds like they could insert even more ads because it’s not being physically printed.

    Plus, if I like a pair of pants in an ad, being able to click on those pants and be sent straight to an online shopping cart would be wicked.

    Or how about this, PERSONALIZE those ads to me based on my user settings on the ‘digital newstand.’ Wow. Then I might actually look at the ads!

    Technology, still changing the world.

  18. @ #18:

    But if the ads were personalized for you, in some kind of Front Door central clearing house that contained online versions of hundreds of magazines, would that not have an effect on how many magazines that Deisel, or Ralph Lauren, or Lacrosse bought ads in?

    Why buy expensive ads in eight different magazines, if the software would feed you the ad when you clicked on the title of any of those eight? Wouldn’t the other seven magazines get passed over by the advertiser?

    Yes, certainly, this Web 2.0 world is quite different.

  19. NAME IRRELEVANT

    @19: Good point. Although, advertising wants to hit their target market. Right now, they shoot blind hoping to get a hit.

    Remember years ago when iPods first came out? The music industry lost touch in how to advertise to potential ‘teen buyers’ because they completely stopped listening to radio. I was one of them. I laughed at the news, thinking, “That’s right, they can’t get to me with their annoying advertising and spoon-fed music anymore. Sweet!” So, Music’s revenue went down and they blamed Napster. Soon enough, word of mouth literally sailed or sank the ship. Still does.

    Same thing in this scenario, only now there could be a guaranteed delivery of the ad to the target demo. That’s something to pay for. And that target base would be instantly measurable in real time, available to the ad buyer before purchase.

    However, the debate continues: “Does Advertising still work?” Turn past an ad, click past an ad. Who really stops? Why? Aren’t buyers tired of sorting through mediums to get to the goods?

  20. I don’t know if this is the right question to ask.

    The answer is most certainly, yes, editorial photographers can make a living. And to me that’s really not a question that needs to be answered anymore.

    The better question is will the editorial world as you know and understand it survive? And it seems the answer is no it won’t.

    Better to look at the possibilities than to curse the darkness.

    Stephen Alvarez is a wonderful example. He’s got a compelling blog. I’m absolutely hooked on his series about Don Beni. (Stephen you need to post another one, I’m dying to hear what happens next!)

    Certainly, his appeal is to a very definite kind of reader. And I would imagine, if he chose, he could find a willing group of advertisers focused specifically on his audience. (Cavers, photographers and adventurers)

    See what I’m getting at?

    The idea of the editorial world as an industry is crumbling fast. The de-evolution of this kind of business model is the same one that is effecting a lot of other ‘industries’ and it seems to be inevitable.

    What about those dedicated content creators willing to work hard?

    Writers, photographers, and artists of all kinds have just discovered the long tail

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_tail

    or, to put in another way, the phenomenon of 1,000 True Fans

    http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php

    Hear, hear.

  21. My sense is that the magazines, (similar to newspaper), are living in denial, until the Final Day comes. They’re just gonna milk it til it’s dry, and then bail. My take on it is that they purposely don’t provide an online version because it’ll be an admission that people are reading the online versions instead of the printed ones. And once they admit that, then they’ve got to face the fact that a banner ad at the top of a webpage is going to bring in a tiny fraction of that full-page ad in the printed magazine.

    When is the last time you actually looked at a printed magazine, (unless you live in New York), or (unless you were in an airport)?

  22. NAME IRRELEVANT

    @21: Reader, I like your thoughts my friend.

    As for looking at a magazine, I’m pretty inapplicable being that I’m an editorial photographer. My parents though? Never look at magazines. Friends outside the industry, rarely.

  23. Yet another reason to NOT let yourself get pigeonholed into a set category.

    Why limit yourself to one type of photography…. I love shooting editorial stuff but I have three kids I have to put food on…. thus I also shoot corporate propaganda, events… and am even considering jumping into the lucrative wedding racket.

    I know Rob and others feel you need to establish yourself as a particular type of shooter… but I’ve been getting away with shooting all sorts of different types of assignments for 15 years now… keeps things fresh and fun.

  24. I happily paid a subscription fee for the online version of the New York Times which they later abolished and refunded. They must have their reasons for giving away free online that which I was happy to pay for. On the other hand, I’ve never been able to work out a reasonable compensation arrangement with the NYT that would allow me to shoot for them. I would love to, but they just aren’t willing to pay a reasonable amount of money for what they want.

  25. Here’s my list of “Damned Hard to Replace”, as in, “certainly not interchangeable with just any other photographer”. It’s not like some Photo Editor is going to just go down the Rolodex, and if one is booked, not think twice about calling the next person:

    1. Erwin Olaf

    2. Paolo Roversi

    3. Peter Lindberg

    4. Platon

    5. Cliff Watts

    6. Terry Richardson

    7. Max Vadukul

    8. Roger Ballen

    9. Merc and WhatsHisName

    10. Javier Vallhonrat

  26. Well, Martin Parr thinks so:

    M.P.:”A lot of times photographers don’t have enough imagination in terms of what subject matter is going to appeal to editors. A good idea and good story, well executed, is going to have a much better chance than a tired old story. Most photographers don’t really think about what they’re shooting. There are certain expectations about what photographers should shoot, and they stick to that.

    PDN: What advice would you give them to get out of that rut?

    M.P.: It’s very difficult. You have to be more ingenious, you have to think carefully about the appeal that your subject will have and how it will fit into a modern magazine that’s going to shy away from a more traditional humanistic approach. How to make it look interesting, and entertaining, and at same time have a level of poignancy and zeitgeist: I can’t tell people how to do it, can I? In the end, it comes down to the personality and individuality of the photographer to express that. But when people say to me the magazine market is dead, I just don’t believe it.

    http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/features/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003833926

    Also, Rob, don’t many editorial photographers actually make their living by doing ad work:

    http://www.billcharles.com/main/

    I mean Antonin Kratochvil is shooting ads for Pilsner Urquel in exactly the same b&w style as he shoots his photo essays. Anthony Suau and Gilles Peress are on the list too!

  27. re 12
    Rob,

    It is telling that the New York Times of all places has gone all online for free.
    At first I thought that all publications would head this direction. However, they are in a unique position, international reputation, but until online only a regional distribution. So moving online doesn’t effect their print ad sales.

    In essence online ad sales are added income. Most magazines are already national or international so online ad sales take ad dollars away from the print side.

    NYT is installing a new press (I recently shared a cab with 2 of the guys installing it) so they don’t not see print disappearing anytime soon.

    I think that what I am getting at is that whatever publication emerges is going to be fundamentally different from what exists now. A lot of publications -even some of the big names- will not survive.

    The same goes for editorial photographers. We are going to have to be fundamentally different to survive.

    -Stephen Alvarez

  28. I have started charging the exact same stock rates for new “online only” magazines that I charge for printed magazines. It’s a little tricky coming up with the new rates, somewhat trial and error – there are no stock rate sheets that are covering these magazines that I know of.

    I have been met with resistance to this, but there is no other choice. I gotta pay overhead. Even some of the most resistant editors have commented to me that they’re resigned to the fact that “the cheap ride online is almost over”.

  29. Debra Weiss

    @27 – “It is telling that the New York Times of all places has gone all online for free.”

    The NYTimes had always been free online, except for a year long period when they charged for access to certain things like Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman. The news sections were always available for free.

  30. One of the first online only mags to inquire with me about stock was this one: (linked to current issue) http://magazine.playbackmag.net/playback/200808/

    Previous to this my impression of online versions of magazines was fairly dim – usually just a scan and PDF of the print version, a lousy interface for reading and browsing.

    But this playback was interesting – you can click the links. The images fill your screen. Read a CD review – click on its cover and go buy it (with a kickback to the magazine for the sale, I’m sure)

    It immediately got me thinking “things like this are where magazines are going”. And they’re as image rich as any print magazine, and there’s no reason they should be charged less for a picture because its online.

  31. Magazines have almost always been in control.. of contracts, setting prices they decide to pay, terms, etc… should not most of the onus be on magazines to come up with pricing in this new ‘era’??

    Old way of doing things may be gone, then why can’t magazines step up and at the very least open a dialogue?

    They may not admit it, but they have as much to lose…

  32. Please…please quit your bitching and complaining. I make damn good money shooting editorial assignments and the rates get better and better…along with my images, my experience and my reputation. Have any of you thought of this? Ask for more money…demand more money…create better images. Stop acting like you are not in control of your own lives and careers. Enough!

  33. Debra Weiss

    @31 – “… should not most of the onus be on magazines to come up with pricing in this new ‘era’??”

    This is exactly why photographers are in the position they’re in – because most let the client dictate price. It is the quickest way to be put out of business.

  34. Debra Weiss

    @21 – “When is the last time you actually looked at a printed magazine, (unless you live in New York), or (unless you were in an airport)?”

    I read them every single day, I live neither in NY nor in an airport and I know I’m not alone in this.

    There are several problems inherent in looking at imagery online – really bad imagery can look really good, most monitors are not calibrated and reading online to many is not an enjoyable experience, while reading printed material is. Additionally, because so many of us spend so much time in front of the computer, a printed magazine serves as a respite from the relentless work environment.

    Just as stock photography should have become more expensive than assignment work, prices for online use should be equal to or greater than print. This will be an uphill battle as huge mistakes were made when setting up the internet business model.

    @ 26 “I mean Antonin Kratochvil is shooting ads for Pilsner Urquel in exactly the same b&w style as he shoots his photo essays.”

    There will always be clients who will actually hire a photographer to do what they do best. While there have been editorial photographers who have been able to make the transition to ad work, there are more that haven’t. The whole method of working is different and many editorial photographers and especially photojournalists are unable to make the switch. Even when an ad looks very editorial in nature, it was produced to look that way.

    In a program that myself and Mary Virginia Swanson developed and present, we highlight photographers who have crossed over into different markets, while remaining true to their style. Doug Menuez is a perfect example of this. Starting out as a photojournalist who covered the famine in Ethiopia, wars and drug addicts, he transitioned into corporate work and annual reports, and then into advertising where he is tremendously successful. Still a photojournalist at heart, he also still works in the documentary arena. Lauren Greenfield is another example of a photographer who gets hired for what she does. In fact, Apple had her recreate the cover of Fast Forward for one of their ads.

  35. That’s too funny!

    Debra, I was awarded a Gold Award (first place) for my editorial work by the Canadian Annual National Magazines Awards. And I’ve had my best year ever. Don’t talk to me about crossing over…. don’t talk to me about demanding more money… I know the drill.

    Demanding more money, alienating clients and not getting the opportunity to shoot some really fun jobs is not always in a photographers best interest.

    All I am suggesting in my original post is some dialogue between magazines and photographers… IMO, the best solutions, and probably the only solution these days, is a win-win solution. I believe the confrontational & patronizing ways you occasionally promote (intentionally or not) is not good for anyone.

    Maybe we should take our bickering off-line….

  36. Debra Weiss

    @37 “That’s too funny!”

    “And I’ve had my best year ever.”

    That’s tremendous. Good. Use that momentum.

    “Don’t talk to me about crossing over…. ”

    I didn’t.

    “Demanding more money, alienating clients and not getting the opportunity to shoot some really fun jobs is not always in a photographers best interest.”

    Why are assuming this will alienate clients? It might make them respect you. You need to define who you are and you might find that they are the wrong client for you and you don’t want to work for them anyway.

    “IMO, the best solutions, and probably the only solution these days, is a win-win solution.”

    win-win – code for “I’m a photographer and mortally dependent upon your approval of me for my sense of self. Please – I find this term loathsome as it is more myth than reality.

    “I believe the confrontational & patronizing ways you occasionally promote (intentionally or not) is not good for anyone.”

    I see myself as direct, not confrontational. I find it disconcerting that photographers see business as confrontational and alienating. It’s not it’s just business. With regard to patronizing, please see your comment #34.

    “Maybe we should take our bickering off-line….”

    This is not bickering. This is a conversation about what’s wrong with the industry. Dialogue is healthy. Besides, if this were off line, I’d have to charge you…

    Also, please watch MAD MEN. From the beginning. This should be required watching for all.

  37. Thank you, Debra. I believe the two issues discussed this evening overlap. If you give away magazines online for a long enough period of time, “most” people will not want to buy them in print. It’s true. And if you “accept” a job, remember no one is forcing you, for less than your/we are “worth” than every photographer hired after you will be subjected to those low expectations, those low rates. It’s just not good. Ask any photographer that has been around..if you go cheap…you stay cheap! Rates are not falling…photographers are giving in!

  38. Debra, for someone who I’m told loathes blogs you certainly are active here. Maybe you’ve changed your mind about blogging? Maybe you will change your mind about photography online. Consumers certainly feel different. Regardless, snapping at people who ask questions is counterproductive, extremely annoying and prevents others from participating. Enough.

    • @A Photo Editor,
      Hey Rob. I see no problem with Debra’s comments. We can all agree to disagree. I want to hear any comments that might help me get thru the worst economic crisis I have ever lived thru.

  39. Rob, ok, but Debra has provided some great advice over the past few days. I have very much appreciated her posts. You have provided the forum and isn’t it great that another expert can chime in like this every once in a while?!

    NEVER UNDERSELL YOURSELF!!!!

    Davin

  40. Debra Weiss

    @40 – I do loathe individual persons blogs when they have absolutely nothing to say and are used only as tools of self-aggrandizement.

    I look at plenty of photography online every day. Hopefully, Martin Parr is right and I’ll get to look at magazines for many years to come. Consumers don’t feel differently since the internet business model established long ago is making it very difficult to generate revenue.

    Exactly who did I snap at? Everyone on this forum is an adult. If they feel they’ve been snapped at, they can respond themselves. If they can’t, they’ve got a tough road ahead trying to make a living in this business.

  41. I appreciate Debra’s candor. The centre cannot hold and we need Debra on one side to keep from going to far toward the other ;)

  42. I have acquaintances who are in their teens and who baulk at the idea that I would BUY a cd when they can just download it.

    In a situation where these teens have a limited budget, why would they spend it on content they can get online?
    These buying habits will also feed into their adulthood.That won’t be a good sign for the future of magazines.

    Some things however won’t change, that includes their willingness to spend big amounts of money on luxury items that are perceived to be some sort of status symbol.

    For magazines, the problem is that most magazines rehash stories that have been told before, and create imagery that is usually generic to some degree.

    Blogs and websites are very good at replacing certain role of magazines like CD reviews, book reviews, etc (low-intensity work that can be done by many people), but they are still not in a great position to spend money assigning writers/photographers to cover stories that are out of the ordinary.

    I think that editorial assignments will be reduced, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and magazines will focus their budgets on creating just a few good stories (I can’t remember how many times I’ve bought a magazine off a newsstand simply because there was a very interesting story…GQ had its fair share)
    I don’t see how enough people can make enough money from editorials nowadays.

  43. Some of this is a matter of human conditioning. I notice that today, when I go to the NYTimes front page link, there is now an intro ad (Ralph Lauren ad) that you’re forced to look at before getting to Page One. While this “everything is free” mentality somewhat causes me to be irritated to be forced to view the ad before getting to the content of the paper, I still could be conditioned to do that on a regular basis, rather than being forced to get in my car, drive to the local coffee shop, and buy the printed version of the paper. Maybe the sites like the Times need to get a bit more aggressive in how their ads are served to the public. Maybe the “banner ad” approach needs to be rethought.

    As far as photographers:

    A. I know that many of them are coming up with “fake companies” that rent their owned gear to the magazines. This is income.

    B. Maybe some are successful in getting Space Rate on top of Day Rate, although this methodology seems to be a thing of the past. (Rob, did Men’s Health or Outside pay Space Rate on top of Page Rate?)

    C. Maybe some are successful in billing for Travel Days, although that seems to be meeting resistance too.

    D. Re-use to International Editions can be extra income, down the road.

    E. If you’re shooting for business publications, many times you can license images of the CEO direct to the corporation, after the embargo. Or, if the company featured buys Reprints from the magazine, you can license usage in those.

    But in general, I’m amazed that anyone that actually profit from editorial work. Maybe if you do it and file it (justify it) as Promotion, instead of actual main income. It seems like Everybody And His Brother is now a photographer; it makes you wonder who they’re all working for.

  44. It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers they come up with in the survey. I’m certain anyone shooting editorial is also doing all kinds of other work as well (Antonin is a good example but that was a fairly recent development) so to define yourself as an editorial photographer I would guess the majority of days you shoot on assignment are editorial jobs but not necessarily the majority of your income. As far as the rates go, shooting for a national magazine seemed like good income to me. Renting the gear back, travel days, day rate against space and resale all added up so hopefully we can see how many people and what kinds of numbers in the survey.

  45. Dear Rob,

    It was certainly a pleasure to meet you recently in New York at the PhotoShelter event. I wish we’d had more time to chat.

    I’d just like to comment on the informative exchanges and dialog offered by Debra Weiss to your blog – and I place emphasis on the term dialog. Debra has worked, on a high level, in this profession for many years and has her imprint on the careers of several high-level photographers as well as other areas of this business. I’m sure you’ve been around long enough to have encountered individuals and situations – in this business arena – that would make Debra seem like a “girl scout”. I know I have.

    I thoroughly enjoy viewing the daily topics and subject matter that you introduce; many of which focus on issues that are imperative to the sustenance of this profession and require the compassionate, informative, expert voices, opinions and viewpoints of individuals with experience and background. Factually based discussion often leads to awkward moments; its just human nature. However, there are many readers of your blog who will truly benefit from these fact-based exchanges while experiencing, first-hand, a real-life dose of what this profession is really about.

    As a side note: It is the Obama/McCain campaign that really needs to tone it down.

    All the best

  46. “As far as the rates go, shooting for a national magazine seemed like good income to me. Renting the gear back, travel days, day rate against space and resale all added up so hopefully we can see how many people and what kinds of numbers in the survey.”

    “Seemed” is the correct word. Repeat after me, editorial is not a business…

    Forget about rate stagnation, rights grabs, all of that, it now comes down to assigning. Throughout the 90′s and even a little into this “century” (?) I regularly got multiple jobs from the same magazine in the same month. That would never happen now, except in still life, where the sheer effort of moving all that merchandise around means you need to work with the same vendors month to month. Now photo editors it seems don’t need to know that much about who they hire, and are willing to dole out the assignments to a much wider pool of photographers. Why that is, I can’t say for sure. The days of working regularly for a title have vanished, you’d be lucky to get a gig every other month per title, meaning you need to be on really good terms with 6 titles to work once per month. Put that in perspective with the fact that they all close at roughly the same time, all are trying to schedule multi-day jobs and then you see how difficult it is. And 6 titles is a lot when you consider the photographer is supposed to be promoting a particular individual style and is not trying to be all things to all magazines. So by definition they will not appeal to a broad range of titles, leaving those few that they really want to work for. And I haven’t even said (again) how the cash flow issue makes it completely unrealistic to expect to earn money out of editorial.

    Anyway these pdn surveys are rarely informative, did they actually publish the results of the last survey, the digital fees survey? And if they did, it was in the magazine only right? Yes, that is pretty forward-looking of them.

    I am actually bullish on editorial only from the standpoint of access, for those of us who have difficulty self-assigning, it can be a great boon. As a “hobby” you could say, it works. If you are earning a living in other categories, then it is great. But you really don’t want to be solely in that space.

  47. Rob,

    Debra’s tone may be a bit much ( I don’t know her at all) but I’ve read some of the things she’s written over at EP and she’s always been right on target. Her tone here, I believe, is one of concern and urgency. And I think it goes along well with the tone of your original post.

    I want to add that I think what we’re getting at here is the growing shortage of great clients. And demand for great original photography. I’ve run into two clients recently that start the hiring process with we need an estimate but if it’s too high, we have our own 5D and we’ll just try and shoot it ourselves. I politely tell them to be sure and call me if they don’t get what they’re after.

    Which brings me to a recent conversation with Jay Maisel. Jay quoted someone that made the point that while

    “It takes a great photographer to make great photographs, it takes a great client to use them.” (or appreciate them, want them, pay for them) which gets back to Debra’s message of make great images and not undervaluing them. And not feeling like a client is doing you a favor by hiring you…

  48. Debra Weiss

    @46 “Just tone it down. It’s a bit much.”

    That would be too unhealthy a thing for me to do, and I way too health conscious. And what exactly is bit much? The fact that I have an extensive background in this industry, can speak to a number of issues based on experience and am willing to impart that information. Or is it my insistence upon photographers recognizing the value in their work?

    Through political correctness and a fake aura of sensitivity our culture has been “toned down” so that mediocrity is supreme. We are creating a society in which there is limited point of view, lack of original thinking and imagination, lack of courage and foresight, yet with a huge sense of entitlement. Congratulations to us. We are fast becoming a nation of anti-intellectual, passionless, compassionless solipsistic weenies.

    These are tough times and they are bound to get a lot worse. Painting an unrealistic picture as many offering advice sometimes do, is impractical and misleading. Photographers need to constantly evolve and adapt in addition to really understanding that this is a business – for some a very big business. Photographers have always been co-conspirators in the supposed ills of this industry. Whatever has been done to photographers by publishers and agencies has been done with the permission of the photographers. The notion that anyone would allow a client to dictate terms is representative of a fundamental flaw in understanding how business, and positioning works. This industry is fear driven – buy into the fear and you won’t be able to survive. We live in an illiterate nation. How many magazines would have sold without imagery? You’ve got leverage there guys. There are no tricks to this business. If you have what they want, they’ll pay. Just make sure you have what they want. Stop trying to make people like you and make better images.

    And please, don’t tone yourselves down or we’ll all become tone deaf.

  49. “One of the first online only mags to inquire with me about stock was this one: (linked to current issue) http://magazine.playbackmag.net/playback/200808/

    Previous to this my impression of online versions of magazines was fairly dim – usually just a scan and PDF of the print version, a lousy interface for reading and browsing.

    But this playback was interesting – you can click the links. The images fill your screen. Read a CD review – click on its cover and go buy it (with a kickback to the magazine for the sale, I’m sure)”

    They are using a product from http://www.texterity.com/

    Looking at the sample magazines, especially V Mag, the images are full screen and the navigation is simple. You can also go right to the section you want instead of flipping through each page. I could see this as a good solution for a more interactive portfolio for photographers.

  50. “Photographers have always been co-conspirators in the supposed ills of this industry. Whatever has been done to photographers by publishers and agencies has been done with the permission of the photographers.”

    It would take me 2000 words to explain what this is-bullshit.

    “the photographers” can you show me this monolithic group?

    you assume a static market, a static demand, a static supply.

    none of that exists.

    I agree, protect your prices and profits, but how that is done, is various.

    I am sure in the past rates were “higher” but the pool of available photographers was smaller, the cost to entry higher, the knowns more unknown.

    All industries have seen “efficiencies” increase which is a simple way of saying multiple things at once.

    But I am really tired of hearing that old cigar chomping-chestnut.

  51. Being passionate and having strong business ethics and tools does not require one to be cold-hearted and “business-like” in the old way. In fact, the opposite is a better road to a more fulfilling success.

    Almost everyone I have met on all sides of this business have been passionate about their work. Designers, art directors, art buyers, photo editors, etc., all want first to make the best work they possibly can. Secondly, they are overwhelmingly not anti-photographer–they are not “them” in other words.

    If we choose to look at these people as our colleagues and collaborators rather than people who are out to screw photographers, photographers will get a lot farther and have fewer ulcers in the process.

    Of course, if all you care about is money, if you don’t care about how you treat other people and interact in this world, then sure, you can be cold, demanding, and (maybe) make a lot of cash. But that sounds like a crappy definition of success to me. I would rather make a little less and build strong relationships (and even friendships).

    When you die, will your money be all that comes to your funeral?

    The business is changing, in all areas. The forefront is the editorial world. Newspapers are (sadly) disappearing in their print forms at the very least. The younger generations do not read print (books, mags, etc.) at an amazing rate. The medium is shifting and the way the media companies will be monetizing their products is changing too. The whole system is undergoing massive changes, some of which affect photographers.

    The best way to ensure a strong future for photographers in the editorial world (and others) is to come up with more fair ways of determining rates and values and that is best done working with the publishers. Will this be easy? Doubtful. Will some of the publishers be jerks? Sure. But let us take the high road in this changeable time.

    As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” And our world is changing–we can’t go back to how it was, we must look to the future and do the best we can. It won’t be perfect, but we can find a good “middle way” that will serve us all (publishers and photographers) better.

  52. Quoting Debra @ post #55: “There are no tricks to this business. If you have what they want, they’ll pay. Just make sure you have what they want. Stop trying to make people like you and make better images.”

    —-

    You mean, don’t be one of these interchangeable/replaceable guys?:

    http://tinyurl.com/58x29e

  53. @ Debra Weiss: Sure, leave a comment, state your position but over and over is tiresome. We get it. You’re a consultant. You stand up for photographers. You have strong opinions about how they should behave and how the industry should work (so do many of us). When I say tone it down I’m talking about the frequency. You can stand on your chair and yell as loud as you like but there are many more opinions worth hearing here from people who’ve had different experiences than you have.

    I opened this dialogue because I think it’s time for a change and photo editors are listening.

  54. I don’t know Debra but I find her comments both interesting and informative. If her style is a little provocative, so what? I don’t have to like someone’s style or tone to appreciate the value of what they say. On any given day there are a number of people who write as frequently without saying anything half as worthwhile. Keep it coming Debra.

  55. “I think we’ve reached a critical juncture for the editorial photography industry and it’s time to take stock of where we are so we can make changes that will ensure the long term health going forward. The industry used to just take care of itself but I’m not so sure that will be the case in the future.”

    Rob, I really don’t know what this means. It sounds … like a sound bite (very unlike you). Sorry, maybe I am missing your point.

    But who is “we,” as in “we can make changes”? If you are suggesting that photographers need to take more control, become publishers in a sense, or team with 3rd parties to publish and market, you may be right … i.e. mediastorm model … convergence, auctions of content, etc.

    In general, you can’t lay all burgeoning media failure at the feet of a “broken economic model,” although that is most certainly true. Traditional editorial, especially in print, has become … boring – boring to the younger generation in an age of cinematic wonders, video games, instant gratification, ritalin, and hyper reality trips without the side effects of the ’60s. People are still dropping out, only the drug has changed … and it’s free. The mindsucker has come home to roost. Reality sucks.

    But … I am not all pessimism. I really do feel something is coming, something fresh and new and universally appealing. I can see everywhere little signs of people taking measure, wanting more but not in a consumeristic way, an awakening or at least a rebellion of “traditional” American values. Have you looked at the best seller list lately? What does that have to do with media and photography? Everything.

    The publisher’s blustery cry of, “Our readers don’t care about that artsy-fartsy shit,” sounds to me like the cynical death rattle of a dying industry holding onto the ship as it begins to slip below the waters. The new media world I suspect won’t be dominated, it will be a more self organizing, viral, complicated organic system on a global scale. Somehow, money will follow eyes.

    And I agree with Parr insofar as approaching things differently, and even his assertions about print, at least in the short term. To put it another way, someone recently said, “if you’re photos suck, you’re not reading enough.”

    The king is dead, long live the king … but where is the king? Perhaps the age of kings, and patronage, is coming to a close.

  56. P.S. That Allard and Cobb were just recently “let go” as staff by NG as they neared retirement, a truly unbelievable and horribly, horribly inexcusable big corporate middle finger to all photographers, is perhaps the greatest death knell rung by the industry so far and a big, big wakeup call for those NOT shooting freelance and owning their own work. The king is indeed dead.

  57. The “we” is the photo editors and I’m suggesting that PE’s need to come together and figure out ways to make sure there are still talented photographers willing an able to shoot editorial. Because, it’s not just a simple as raising the assignment rates. The frequency of assignments to a single photographer that Robert Wright mentions is very interesting to me. And, what about saving money on stock so there’s budget left over for assignments. How bad is it? Can it be fixed? What do people get paid and how are they making a living. The survey might answer some of that so, I wanted people to participate in it. I’ll likely corroborate some of the results by asking people myself to see how it all stacks up.

  58. I got a call a few weeks ago from the NYTimes to shoot a movie director that I have long admired. The image was to run on the cover of the Sunday Style section and would be seen by a couple million people. I was excited.

    Then the bad news rolled in. They offered me the princely sum of $200 flat to complete the job. After I paid my assistant and rental gear I was going to be in the hole a few hundred bucks. I was expected to pay for the privilege to shoot this guy.

    This was not a 10 page spread in Fader or Radar but the NyTimes with 5 billion dollars in gross revenue.

    Then the contract rolled in. I don’t remember the details but I think they were asking for a work for hire and some kind of joint copyright. I, of course, passed on the job.

    I do not blame the Times for this ridiculous deal. If they can get photographers to pay to work for them and then sign away the rights to images then my hat is off to them. Why does a dog lick himself? Because he can.

    I am with Debra. Photographers ( especially NY photographers) are their own worst enemy. We are all responsible for this predicament and can not blame publishers for acting in their own self interest.

  59. Okay, I understand gathering data, taking stock, but how can changes at the photo editor level counteract market forces, advertising decline, publisher attitude, circ drop, bean counter management, all entertainment all the time mindset, etc. ?

    I’m not trying to be contrary, I’m honestly interested …

  60. “I am with Debra. Photographers ( especially NY photographers) are their own worst enemy. We are all responsible for this predicament and can not blame publishers for acting in their own self interest”

    define self interest and you have something there…

    It is easy to define corporate self interest because there are shareholders. Before media became “corporatized” the stock price was not the only element of self interest. Consequently, content mattered more.

    Now editorial magazines are focused solely on profit, to the exclusion of content. Because their ‘self interest’ is so narrowly defined their pursuit of lower fees is easy to understand.

    photographers on the other hand do not always define their self interest so narrowly, profit, exposure, projects, satisfaction, interest, all define the self interest of the photographer.

    But it is simplistic to say “all photographers should always pursue maximum profit”. You take jobs for different reasons at different times and reject some you took formerly.

    If photographers were corporate entities then they could behave like the corporate entities they serve. They are not however. So their decision making process cannot be whittled down to simple profit-seeking.

    There is no doubt that a large percentage of photographers do accept work that they know to be under compensated or somehow deficient. And sometimes they don’t. But the steady stream of new photographers and the steady stream of crap assignments does keep supply greater than demand, and so in this environment, there can be no larger move to higher fees. And it is nobody’s fault. The solution is to move on from the editorial space and do other things. Or become highly differentiated but don’t expect to work very often in editorial. And don’t expect to work very often in editorial…

  61. Wow, this has become an intense dialogue. It’s good to see so much passion exists for the business of photography.
    I read this blog earlier today, and then headed out to the dentist for a checkup. Yes, this is personal information you think you don’t need to hear, but I am going somewhere with it.
    I was sitting in the waiting room, flipping through Travel and Leisure, and I remembered this blog. Then it hit me. “Oh my God! What will I read while waiting for my dentist, doctor, etc?!”
    Here are my questions about the possible end of printing periodicals. If they all go online, does that mean every waiting room and waiting area in an airport will have laptops available? Will there be chairs attached to computer screens, like an old arcade game? My favorite was Centipede, but I kicked ass at Galaga. I digress.
    Will people just read off their cell phones and pda’s and iphones? If so, it won’t be long until our world looks like a mixture of Blade Runner and Fahrenheit 451.
    Also, if editorial goes all online, then will there be a need to own a $45,000 H2 digital system? I mean, what good is that hi resolution? Does it mean camera manufactures will come out with the “editorial ready” camera? A $50.00 body that shoots everything at 72dpi?

  62. Rob, I doubt you are ever at a loss for subjects to discuss here, but if so, here is a couple that I would be very interested in hearing about.
    Do photo editors care one way or the other if a photographer’s site is flash or html? Do they view html as too low budget? If a site is flash and takes a long time to load, do they get sick of waiting and go on to the next one?

    Also, I’ve recently been thinking about a promo campaign to be focused specifically on green energy ad agencies. The quandary is…do the people who are receiving said promo material care how it was produced? Should it be printed on recycled materials? Should it be printed at all? Is it worth noting to them how it was produced in a “green” manner?
    I phoned an art director friend of mind who owns a green ad agency and asked him this. His response was, “I uhhh..you know? I never thought about that before!”

  63. @ young tom: I’m just getting started with my thinking on this but I know photo editors can do a lot. I raised rates at the magazines I worked for. And, I’m looking at this idea where instead of giving 100 assignments to 100 photographers Photo Eds give 10 to 10. There are other ways for photo eds to become more powerful in the chain of command and the biggest is knowledge. Mostly I think sharing knowledge and discussing ways to win battles or strategies to prove the value of photography.

  64. @ Rob #72:

    I love your thinking on this 10/10 concept.

    There is this one magazine that I work(ed) for, (one of the very few; I mostly do advertising). But I love this magazine. I love what it stands for; I love everything about it.

    Then, I got into this casual discussion with the Editor once about why that only the Writers were ever listed as Contributors in the magazine — yes, it was a literary magazine, but they used photography very well too. I asked him, “Hey, since you don’t pay squat, and since everyone that works for you does it more for love, than for money, why not throw the photographers a bone, and list them as Contributors as well? It might even give them a sense of relation, even though they’re all freelance”.

    But they wouldn’t budge on that Contributor issue, and it went from being a casual disagreement to getting downright ugly. I stopped working for them; (hell, I never really “worked” for them, since almost everything I did was for peanuts money).

    I heard last month that they had begun to add Photographers to the Contributors page. I considered that a minor victory. If we were all honest, we all probably do Editorial more for the love, and for the freedom, and the adventure, than for the money. So why not pick out ten or so magazines, and really try to create a relationship with them? Of course, everyone wants to pick Wired and Fast Company, but I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. But if they won’t hire you regularly, why not another one, (that you believe in)?

    But what I love is the idea that you’d have some kind of real relationship with a magazine, and that you’d shoot regular assignments for them. And you’d regard it much more special than “just another editorial job”. I love that concept, even though it’s probably wishful thinking.

  65. Starting Over

    Product photographer here that made some nice $ for years shooting front of the book stuff that never got me anywhere and was replaced by staff photographers/ newbies that were willing to sign the conde naste / time inc / hearst contracts that buy your images outright for $400. a day for the chance to shoot for the alleged big boys. The news is that selling your soul to the devil doesn’t work in this case. At first I thought that the average reader didn’t care if a product was lit well or that a concept/idea was attached to the image, but as magazines fold I am reinvigorated by the possibility that it does matter. While companies that I have worked for have asked me to work for less $ claiming that they are over budget while the figures come in that they are at the top of the ladder for ad revenue in their given circulation rate move their content online, I hope to be surprised again by the fact that online photographs are crap compared to 4 colors of glossy laid down on paper. People may read magazines like the New Yorker for it’s writing, but its the concept heavy photography that inspire people to buy magazines and products. The essence of our economy.

  66. @67 Then the contract rolled in. I don’t remember the details but I think they were asking for a work for hire and some kind of joint copyright. I, of course, passed on the job.

    I won’t defend the practices of the Times nor those of any other low paying magazine. I respect Thomas’ prerogative to decline the job not just on principle but also solely on a budget that doesn’t match his production costs. No one wants to turn down a gig, especially one with a subject that is compelling for any reason although I do understand why some would reflexively pass.

    I’m a bit puzzled however on why Thomas wouldn’t consider exploiting the Times in the way that they were attempting to exploit him. I don’t mean “exploit” in a negative way either.

    Is there a reason that Thomas could not have just done the shoot and offered the Times a portion of the take? Maybe just offer one or two images?

    With a photo budget ($200 all in) that is equal to a ticket for a Broadway show or an NFL football game, does the Times really expect (or deserve) the equivalent of an ad shoot for Nike or Coca Cola?

    Why couldn’t one just shoot the gig and give the Times a couple of shots and keep the rest for ones-self. You’d have extras and out-takes and get a tear-sheet too. What’s wrong with that?

    Is that bad or contrary to some editorial credo? Honestly I don’t know. Maybe Thomas or others would find this approach to be somewhat shady although I certainly don’t. Personally I would see it as almost a win-win. As long as the Times’ immediate needs are met why should they care what an enterprising photographer makes for himself/herself especially when the photographer absorbs the production costs.

    I’ve never seen a contract from the Times and even if it is work for hire or co-copyright for all intents and purposes it would be unenforceable on out-takes and extras especially if no one from the Times was present on the shoot. Even more so if only a few images were delivered to the Times too. Who’s to say where the Times’ shoot ends and Thomas’ begins? Furthermore the Times would have very little standing when insisting that a photographer is an independent contractor and then claiming that every frame is work for hire. Possession is 9/10th of the law, right? IANAL.

    On the other hand it would hurt me a lot to hand over even a single image to the Times as WFH or co-copyright for the paltry amount that was offered. It would present a huge dilemma when weighing access to someone that I found compelling vs. sharing with a company like NYT.

    Still, there’s always more than one way to skin a cat.

  67. Rob, that makes a lot of sense … both for the short term and perhaps for the long term as well. Somebody has to come up with the next big thing … who better than photo editors ripe with ideas on “how it should be done.”

    Hope it’s not bad form to post this link but it seems appropriate to this discussion for those who have not seen it … Vincent Laforet on the future of photography and why wedding photography ain’t so bad …

    http://www.sportsshooter.com/news/2014

  68. Lots of input here.
    I’ve looked into the subject for the last 15 years and have basically met four kinds of editorial photographers:

    1 editorial photographers who shot stock on the side (under a different name usually)
    2 editorial photographers who shot porn on the side (under a differnet name usually)
    3 editorial photographers who shot advertising on the side (same name but not always)
    4 editorial photographers who do something else on the side (bartending, wedding photography etc)

    for a lot of them the side show becomes the main thing so I’m not sure if you can call them editorial photographers anymore but at the end you can call yourself what you want if you work in media or entertainment.

  69. @67/75 – this is a really old issue that has been beaten pretty pale on just about every list, but still an interesting one. The short answer is yes, the NYT does expect and often receives a great deal of work and commitment for their shit rate. Sometimes its as simple as photographers who went to J-school to learn a craft and set of rules/credo that today feels rarely practiced (depending on your perspective), and don’t mind choking down the rate to feel elevated by the reputation and aims of The Gray Lady, and its millions of readers. Other times its just a matter of boredom, fear, intimidation, ignorance, or a really cool assignment.

    I was a little surprised that your post didn’t end, Thomas, in a note that you decided to agree to it so that you had access to that subject and would use it as a partially funded promo/portfolio concept (regardless of the bad contract, though I think anyone can vouch that there are MUCH worse – no endorsement, but lets at least be fair). Not that I think you role that way, but that’s how a lot of people think about any call from the NYT, FADER, XXL, and the long list of other titles that operate in the same way (CPOY winners list= next year’s contributors).

    5 years ago I shot 50-60 days a year from the Times because it felt right for me at that point in my career and because I really wanted to play a part in journalism. Since then I basically turn each (rare) call from 111-111-1111 on its head and ask the editor to pitch the story to me for my consideration. Most of the editors are pretty thrown off by this (I really don’t know why, I do it with all of my calls, but some NYT PE’s become audibly angry), and I wait to hear the rare smart idea or great opportunity which sometimes leads me to say yes. It’s only happened a couple times in recent memory, but they ended up being week-long projects throughout the South and in Costa Rica in which I had a great deal of control and invitation to personal vision.

    Obviously the NYT is a beacon to which other publications take strength and weakness from, and on that account it deserves to have the shit beaten out of it on blogs and anywhere else for its insane approach to paying for photography. God knows their is a long line for beatings these days, if only photographers could find enough sticks. But there are (obviously) other factors involved with the choices that photographers (not at all a monolithic group) make beyond money and business, as Mr. Wright so eloquently (@69) pointed out (see you next week, Robert).

  70. Nice, only a couple of typos – not bad for early morning diatribes… ;)

    Also on the subject of making some cash money… Andrew cleaned up yesterday via the JB machine 20×200, selling out the small and medium sizes of “Moo Cow” in a matter of minutes. If you are reading this Jen… um, yes please?! Well deserved and great work, my friend. Now who needs a couple of 30×40′s to finish things off?

    http://tinyurl.com/57uup5

  71. magazines like golf punk in the UK use a totally new kind of business model – rack up huge debts to photographers – dump them when they put up any resistance and then hire new ones – I know things are tight but getting things done in this way is particularly ingeneous….

  72. The last two years and are engaged from time to time photography portraits for business magazines “third tier” I come to the conclusion that – photography as a profession – it FAN, which could enable a rich people, or their children – for example rante ..:)
    By the way – if carefully attentively, then a lot of such examples ..;)

  73. here’s a little story. I don’t say it’s good or bad. This happens in special interest media (so I’d say in a rather small scale):

    -Magazines hire Senior Photographers
    -Comanies sponsor Athletes to represent the brand
    -Athletes have contracts with bonus payments for published photos in magazines, photo incentives
    -Companies hire photographers to get editorial photos produced they would like to see
    -Companies advertise in the magazine
    -Magazines print the photos produced by their Senior Photographers who got hired by companies to produce editorial they would like to see because the magazines want to make their advertisers happy
    -Athletes tend to think they are the shit rather than thinking they are part of the machine

  74. Just getting another look at this thread. Great stuff. Especially John, Robert, both Tom’s, Stephen, Leslie etc…

    @36 Debra, You asked and I’m responding:

    “When is the last time you actually looked at a printed magazine, (unless you live in New York), or (unless you were in an airport)?”

    I haven’t read a magazine in ages. Maybe that’s part of the problem? I’m just a regular old joe. The average consumer. I think the only magazine I’ve actually looked at was the one in the grocery store line. Not to say there isn’t anything really compelling in there… somewhere.

    “There are several problems inherent in looking at imagery online – really bad imagery can look really good, most monitors are not calibrated and reading online to many is not an enjoyable experience, while reading printed material is. ”

    Then I’m the best damn photographer online and I should be charging appropriately:)

    “Additionally, because so many of us spend so much time in front of the computer, a printed magazine serves as a respite from the relentless work environment.”

    Relentless indeed. I don’t want to view or read anything after spending a day viewing and reading everything I need to online.

    “Just as stock photography should have become more expensive than assignment work, prices for online use should be equal to or greater than print. This will be an uphill battle as huge mistakes were made when setting up the internet business model.”

    This is a huge mistake in the business model of publishers not photographers. We are in the drivers seat. (Always have been actually, unless you’re thinking about money)

    You want to be great? You certainly don’t need a magazine publisher to show your work and as for the publisher?

    More often than not as you put it:

    “… they’ll pay. Just make sure you have what they want. Stop trying to make people like you and make better images.”

    And that’s really the question for me.

    Here’s my own answer: Don’t worry so much about making images they want. Make images you want and if “they” want them. Well… you get the drift.

    What a change in perspective. I think photographers are adapting, evolving and changing to the marketplace quite nicely. And a hell a lot better than the publishers.

    Oh, those poor publishers…

  75. Andre Friedmann

    “If you have what they want, they’ll pay.”

    The late Ruth Brown sang if she couldn’t sell it, she’d rather sit on it than give it away. Debra really hits the nail cleanly on the head. That’s a favorite activity, making assignment photographs that are what the assigning client wants and that have a really good chance of being *exactly* what a stock prospect wants, too. It’s been years since that’s worked for me in editorial, but it still works in corporate direct.

    The biggest ego trip of all is the negotiation where the prospect goes away because the price is too high but then circles back, one more time, because the work is too good to ignore and maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to license the work. Photographers (or agents) who don’t experience that regularly are missing out.

    The most important part is getting away from the mindset that devalues one’s own work, the mindset that says *any* sale of a license at *any* price is better than *no* sale. It’s good to not feel compelled to close all sales. That mindset, you youngsters, is the first step on the race to the bottom.

  76. The key to making it in the photo industry (as a photographer who’s done so full-time for over 18 years) is to run your business LIKE a business- no excuses- be a great photographer, but if you go into the biz, then you need business sense.

    That’s way we lost control of our industry in editorial (as well as stock)- photographers said “yes” to everything, including the low-paying bad contract jobs. If Nat Geo could get a high-quality photographer for $10/day, why shouldn’t they? That’s just good business. It’s up to photographers to turn it down.

    But after working with ASMP for 10 years and helping to start EP, I can sadly report the effort is futile – photographer’s can’t agree on anything, and most refuse (who think they can do it) to learn the business side- not to mention the 22-year old NYC editor who has no clue of what a photographer goes through to produce high-quality unique work and thinks $300/day is good money.

    So I charge appropriate fees and try to educate my client on the benefits of my services- if they don’t get it quickly, I move on while running my full-time photo business successfully.

  77. By the way, in my opinion surveys won’t help, and neither will ASMP, a grass-roots movement, or joining a union (as independent contractors, we can’t collectively bargain- that’s called “price fixing” and is illegal).

    After analyzing this for years the only solution I see is to form a Co-op (Wikipedia describes a Cooperative as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise).

    This basically means a company where photographer’s (are like employees or have signed a contract) work off of certain rates. Get a few thousand to join and agree and be a part of this group, and if a client wants to work with one they have to agree to their fees- the benefit of this is an editorial client just can’t go somewhere else (if you have a ton of photographers who are in demand). But again, getting this to happen is extremely tough- most went into photography to run their own businesses and don’t want to be told what to do.

    Then you could fight to get the photographer to be a “temporary employee” of the publication (similar to what S.A.G. does for actors) and we would get better rates, benefits, and the problem would be solved.

    Getting this to happen is like trying to climb K2 to January by yourself.