I just completed the book “Steve Jobs” that detailed the Apple co-founders life and times. Extraordinary book, even for someone who thought they knew all about the man, his colleagues and the company. That got me thinking about my business, costs and financial factors that I and other photographers face, and what it might mean as we race into 2012.

  1. With so many good photographers always on the look out for the next assignment, and many lesser qualified photographers working for free under the guise of “getting experience”, are publications leveraging their power to force real change in terms and conditions? Recent assignment offers have indicated a push by publications to eliminate and/or limit some standard expenses like digital fees and certain travel expenses. This at a time when the cost of digital cameras and workflow tools can easily cost a photographer between $6,000-$10,000.
  2. Apparently, politely inquiring about vague usage terms and negotiating a rate for exclusive use, as opposed to simply accepting offered terms/rate without question, means you can be seen as being too “complicated” to deal with. Does the industry have anyone to blame but themselves for this?
  3. Creative fees, formerly referred to as Day Rates, have remained stagnant for two decades while costs continue to climb.
  4. Are agencies as relevant as they were 10 years ago? Digital platforms and distribution channels that were once the sole domain of well-connected agencies are now much more open to individuals. With photo stock prices continuing their race to the bottom driven initially by mega-agencies like Getty and Corbis, is it smart to license through an agency? Take the heavily discounted images that agencies offer in bulk to their regular buyers and add to that the standard 60% agency split and any photographer will wonder if it’s worth it. I’m not saying it is or it isn’t. That will depend on your individual archive, agency and volume. But I can say that the digital revolution of the last 10 yrs has led many photographers to handle their own archives and make their own financial decisions.
  5. Stock sales through my archive lagged in volume compared to sales through my agency, yet resulted in more money. Is that reflective of volume discounting gone overboard? Or is it an anomaly?
  6. It was reported by the Associated Press today that Google spent $3.76 million in the 4th quarter of 2011 in an overall effort to defeat SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. Google has poured money into lobbying efforts and hired a dozen firms to plead their case to lawmakers and initiate a social media campaign. Yet another example of big corporations calling the shots. Unless something changes drastically, pirating copyrighted work will continue unabated.
  7. Why wasn’t Occupy Wall Street rallying against Google and it’s corporate dominance of theVENTURA, CA, July 1, 2008: Michael Ward is an adjunct professor who teaches at several colleges including Ventura College in Ventura, CA and has been affected by the high gas prices. (Todd Bigelow/Aurora) internet? Hypocritical that OWS claims to represent the 1%, many millions of whom are artists, yet allows Google to convince the world that artists having their content ripped off is a small price to pay for a “free” internet. Shameful, OWS, absolutely shameful……
  8.  Gas in 2002 in CA averaged $1.45 per gallon. The federal allowance for business use was 34.5 cents per mile. Now, ten years later, gas averages $3.80 per gallon, but the federal allowance is 51 cents per mile. For those not able to do the math, gas has increased in price 162% while the deductible allowance has risen just 50%. That’s crazy and another reason photographers are losing money (at least the ones with their own cars). Even at the 59 cent per gallon reimbursement that most magazines currently allow on assignment, that’s still only a 72% increase since 2002 compared to the 162% rise in gas prices. If anyone has been able to charge 162% more for mileage reimbursement to equal the rise in gas prices, please let me know!
Todd Bigelow Photography

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