Couldn't have said it better

Apr 26, 2005
This ought to be a sticky, and a must read for anyone who doesn't see how giving away photos for credits or way below market value hurts proffessional photographers.Its a reply from sports

We've all heard the arguments before, I'm not taking any jobs away from the pros.Here is a case in point how it was done ,one person at a time.

4 pages of posts on this here "us presswire" 1,2,3,& 4

Cedar Creek (Austin) | TX | USA | Posted: 11:50 AM on 09.11.11
->> Thanks, Jeff. You know, I did just that. And I think, after looking back on what I wrote then in light of all that's been discussed afterward, there's one little sentence I want to highlight again, and it's this:

"Think about it. IF all of those photographers had insisted on getting paid a decent rate to cover those 5,300 games, Presswire would never have been in a financial position to offer such a bargain-basement deal for its pictures."

That's the key. The idea that on an individual basis, photographers see their decision to work for free on a limited basis as relatively harmless in terms of the big picture, but in so doing , they don't realize that that very assumption is precisely what lets the "big picture" work in this case.

Think about it: 5,300 games (U.S. Presswire's number, from its own press release). For argument's sake, let's be conservative and call a "decent" rate $500 per game (commensurate with the standard S.I. day rate). If every shooter who "worked" for U.S. Presswire would have insisted on being paid that amount, that would be a $2,650,000 hole (not counting other overhead) that US Presswire would have had to climb out of just to be profitable. And the only place the company could have made that back was by charging more for its sales and licensing. Basically, then as Allen Murabayashi alluded to in an earlier post, all of the photographers who agreed to work for free just subsidized U.S. Presswire over TWO AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS to help conduct its operations in 2010.

Now, you might think the three or four or ten games you do for U.S. Presswire every year because you're sitting around the house and have nothing better to do are pretty meaningless, but look at that paragraph above to put it in context. Find a bunch of people just like you who are willing to do that (and they have), and it all starts to add up.

Look, the people who run the company aren't stupid--they know a good thing when they see it. When I was first contacted by U.S. Presswire about shooting for them, it was explained to me that they really didn't have room in their budget/business plan to pay photographers at the time. I found it odd that a company dedicated to the concept of distributing and licensing photographs wouldn't have a line item in their budget for producing photography, so I, and others, politely declined. But many others didn't.

And thanks to that stroke of genius--the foresight to know that there was money to be made by many photographers' desire to be on the sidelines at a big game, to have "major league" sports pictures in their portfolios, and their ambivalence about how much money they made (or lost) doing it or how they got there, U.S. Presswire found its niche, and it found a considerable cost savings. And they can use that cost savings that their photographers have so graciously provided them to undercut other photographers on contracts with their existing clients, and put them in a position to offer unbelievably cheap, sweetheart deals to places like Gannett and other entities with whom they'd like to do more business (or perhaps get bought out by, or maybe purchase a commercial license from) in the future. Who wouldn't do the same thing, right?

Well, I would like to think that, when it comes to our business, a lot of us wouldn't. Think back to Robert Seale's earlier post. Like him, I am constantly contacted by people offering their services for free to get a foot in the door, or to learn, or because they think it will lead to other things. Hell, judging from some of the e-mails I get from well-intentioned young shooters, if I wanted to I could have free assistants for life, someone to do all of my billing and invoicing, and someone to scan, edit, and caption my entire film and digital archive and never have to pay a penny for it. But like Robert, I don't. Just because the offer is there doesn't mean you have to take it; and just because there are people out there who are young, or hungry, or naive, or independently wealthy, or who want to help out a "friend" as he starts up his new business (or all of the above), doesn't mean you have to build your business on their backs.

When it comes to a business arrangement like that, I believe Robert called it "Ethics. Morals. Sleeping at night with a clear conscience." Some people have it, some don't.

But hey, what's done is done. US Presswire has taken full advantage of the situation, undercut people, helped drag down stock prices, and established a national brand for itself, which it has then in turn built into a national network of formerly free, but now just really, really cheap labor capable of churning out photographs of thousands of sporting events across the country at minimal cost. And, if reports are to be believed, it has sold that reputation and network to one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. It will soon have the corporate and financial backing of Gannett, Inc.

If you're a staff photographer at a Gannett paper? I'd be a little more scared right now. And if you're an agency or an individual photographer with a contract or licensing agreement with a school, a team, or a league? Have a look over your shoulder. Something's probably coming up behind you. Something well-financed with a built-in cost structure that you are going to have a hard time competing with.

You have to hand it them. Andrew Carpenean, in answer to my first post, was right about one thing: it's a hell of a business model.

But again, what it all comes down to is this: They did what you'd expect them to. Not what we hoped they'd do--and trust me, as someone who really looked up to the founder of U.S. Presswire as I was getting into the business, the word "disappointed" doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about what they're done to this business and how they've taken advantage of many good people in it. I'm no stranger to posting about it, and I'm used to the reactions I get, both from Presswire shooters--who've engaged in the basic, expected name calling, to Presswire management, which has made thinly-veiled threats about interfering with my future prospects at places like Sports Illustrated, to threatening lawsuits for "Tortious Interference" if I don't stop offering my opinion about their contracts and business practices. What I think they're missing is that while I think they're business practices are reprehensible, I can't blame them for taking a gift worth potentially millions of dollars and running with it.

No, the people I'm even more disappointed in are the people without whom they couldn't have done it. The people who continue to let themselves get taken advantage of week in and week out, whether they see it or not, whether they care about it or not. They are the ones who let businesses like Presswire survive and thrive. We are professional photographers. We deserve to be compensated appropriately for our work. Any organization that does not recognize that is not worthy of our efforts. But no one is going to do that unless we require it. And any photographer who does not recognize that, well, you are indeed part of the problem. The biggest part of it.
Last edited by a moderator:
Sep 21, 2008
This needs to be posted in the sports section too.

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