Tag Archive: money
“instead of trying to pick apart the meaning and motivation behind photographs, these articles will try to find out how photographers are actually surviving in 2013. I want to talk concretely about the challenges facing photographers, and the conditions that affect their work, both in the personal and professional sense of the word.” -Dan Abbe, Why How You Living?, American Photo
We’ve been on the subject of business in photography recently. American Photo has embarked on a fascinating series profiling photographers around the world and how they cobble together a living. Called “How You Living?” the series takes a candid look at what photographers do to get by. Here’s a short explanation about the motivation behind the series. The crux of the interviews, though, is something not often talked about in photography circles: how do you make a living? The short answer is that there are very few people who make their living entirely from taking pictures.
Only a couple of the photographers make some or a substantial part of their income by using a camera. Others fit in photography alongside full-time jobs, freelance design work, teaching, or whatever else it might take. For those of us making a go of freelance photography, this might not be news, but it’s refreshing to hear photographers speak openly about how they make things work. For those of you just starting out, know that you’ll probably need to supplement your photography with other work (or less interesting types of photography) for some time. I know I certainly did.
The Atlantic, a 156-year-old publication, has been at the forefront of digital media. Its diverse blogs (I read James Fallows and Ta-Nehisi Coates) and online projects (InFocus, Atlantic Cities and the Atlantic Wire, for instance) have helped the Atlantic lead the push into the new media environment, all while making the publication profitable again. That’s what makes Jan. 14′s missteps, publishing an ‘article’ sponsored by the Church of Scientology in the same format as the Atlantic’s online news, so confounding and laughable.
Here’s what happened: The Atlantic is experimenting with models of funding online journalism. The Atlantic decided to start running paid content in line with its regular reporting, the first of which was something called “David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year” (archive of article with a few comments) posted at 12:25pm on Jan. 14, 2013. This article and some associated sidebar content looked indistinguishable from regular Atlantic content (and showed up in searches of the Atlantic’s online archive), though they were marked with the words “sponsored content.” The Atlantic’s marketing team was monitoring comments on the Scientology article and deleted a number of negative comments. Criticism of the article spread across social media. And at 11:35pm, less than 12 hours after it was published, the advertorial was removed from the site and links to it forwarded readers to a message stating, “We have temporarily suspended this advertising campaign pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads” and saying “We screwed up.”
Advertising content that looks like editorial content is nothing new. You can see “special advertising sections” in many newspapers and magazines. The Chinese and Russian governments have been particularly persistent with advertorials that look like news reporting in international news publications, including the Washington Post and New York Times. But the Atlantic’s Scientology debacle was a step too far for readers, not least because the Church of Scientology has a reputation for being a threat to democracy and unfriendly to those reporting or sharing information about the church.
For more about the Church of Scientology, make sure to read the New Yorker’s piece about director Paul Haggis and the Tampa Bay Times series investigating the inner workings of the Church.
And in the vein of editorial independence in online media, earlier this week a CNET writer resigned after CNET’s parent company CBS forbade the writer from giving a technology award to a company that CBS is currently suing.
Pricing creative work is a dark art, so here’s another helpful video to get you in the mindset of fair fees for your work. It’s primarily geared toward portrait and wedding photographers–the topic of licensing only comprises a few seconds of the video–but the lessons on realizing the real cost of doing business as a photographer are invaluable. Before you ever quote a number to a potential client, you need to figure out what it costs you just to go out and take pictures, making consideration for your time of course, but also for your equipment, taxes, transportation, rent, etc., not to mention a small profit.
(via A Photo Editor)
“…it is now quite easy to find quality photojournalism without ever picking up a newspaper or magazine. Unfortunately, not nearly as much innovation has taken place to fund these photo stories as has taken place to display them. Aside from obtaining a grant (or taking on a side job), there are very few ways to replace the funding that major news organizations once provided to cover conflict, foreign affairs and investigative stories.” -Tomas van Houtryve
Tomas van Houtryve, whose work we love, has an interesting post about experimenting with alternative funding sources for his photojournalism. Magazine funding has dried up, so he’s using his websites and online services such as PayPal and Flattr to solicit donations as a way to fund his long-term documentary work. Others, such as Molly Landreth, have also had success raising funds with kickstarter. I’ll be interested to see the results.
Update (by ML, 9/14): We just added a Flattr button to this and an older post where we featured van Houtryve’s amazing project from North Korea. As you can see, it is unobstrusive and very easy for bloggers to add the button to posts featuring someone else’s work. An exciting development, can’t wait to see where this may lead.
You heard me right: Publicly traded newspapers stocks have been doing quite well lately.”
Rick Edmonds the Poynter Institute‘s Biz Blog analyzes the stocks of publicly traded newspaper companies and finds some interesting results. Of the nine stocks listed almost all are up at least double from their 3-month low (the Washington Post Company’s stock, now at $370, isn’t because the stock price is so high, and McClatchy at 69 cents a share (finally more than the cost of a single issue of many its papers!) is up only 75% from its 3-month low). Many of the stocks are still quite low–well below 5 dollars a share–so they’re still considered risky buys. The news is good sign, however, after weeks and months of bad financial news for all media companies. And, if you’d bought any of these stocks in early March, you would’ve doubled your money by now. Long-term prospects, of course, remain dismal. Warren Buffett’s recent pronouncement that “For most newspapers in the United states, we [Berkshire Hathaway] would not buy them at any price,” does little to reassure.
Can’t remember exactly where I found this link, but it’s a useful motto. Replace “writer” with “photographer” or any other creative professional, and repeat it to yourself. Then repeat it again. When a new contest you’ve never heard of asks for a big fee, say it to yourself. When an art gallery asks for an exhibition fee, say it to yourself. When a magazine or organization asks for free pictures or, worse, asks you to pay, say it to yourself. “Money flows toward the photographer.”
No, that doesn’t mean that the author should get paper and ink for free, or that he won’t pay for postage. It does mean that when someone comes along and says, “Sure, kid, you can be a Published Author! It’ll only cost you $300!” the writer will know that something’s wrong. A fee is a fee is a fee, whether they call it a reading fee, a marketing fee, a promotion fee, or a cheese-and-crackers fee.
Is this perfect? No. Scammers have come up with some elaborate ways to avoid activating it. But it’s still a good and useful tool, and will save a lot of grief. Any time an agent or publisher asks for money, the answer should be “No!”
Yes, there are exceptions. You’ve got to pay for marketing, and you’ve got to get your name out there, and there are, sometimes, reasonable fees associated with worthwhile contests. But, in general, money flows toward the photographer. And get yourself over to the NPPA’s cost of doing business calculator and make sure that you aren’t paying more to take pictures than you’re making with your licensing and assignment fees.
Hot on the heels of the Tribune Company’s beginning the bankruptcy protection procedure, the Annenberg School of Communications website reports that Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton has said that the paper’s online revenue now exceeds the paper’s editorial payroll costs (third paragraph, last sentence). This is being widely noted (most links go to this Recovering Journalist post), and Jeff Jarvis has some followup with numbers.
This seems like good news, and hopefully more papers can soon make the same claim. I’m worried, though, like one commenter on Recovering Journalist, that the good news has come after at least 523 layoffs at the paper this year (Papercuts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Getting the website to cover payroll is likely much easier with 500+ fewer employees. And while I don’t have numbers to back this up, a newspaper requires a lot more money than its payroll in order to operate. There’s continual equipment and material fees, legal fees, and many other expenses involved in putting out the news. The New York Times, for instance, has it’s own Research and Development Group (and here’s a great tour through the facilities with Talking Heads front man David Byrne), which has got to be expensive to operate but which is necessary to forge ahead in the new media environment. Covering the payroll is a part of the picture, and it’s a great step, but in order for newspaper journalism to continue either in print or online, the companies will need more money.
Strobist posted an article about when photographers should work for free, and it’s been picked up by the photo blogs a bit. Vincent Laforet has thankfully weighed in with a more sensible take on the issue, especially given his “free” work with the 5d video. In his response to the Strobist piece he mentions that he managed to sell his 5d video to Canon after the fact and for a larger sum than he would’ve gotten had he been hired to make the video. The moral of the story is not to work for free unless other people aren’t getting paid or there’s an extremely clear way to make money or business off the work in the immediate future.