NPPA Independent Photographer's Toolkit

Welcome to the NPPA Independent Photographer's Toolkit. Many photographers consider freelancing as a way to make extra money or get by until a staff job comes along. But if you don’t look at your photography as a business, you may be cheating yourself. Worse, you may be hurting your future by undermining markets you will need to survive.

You must be more than a talented photographer to succeed in the independent marketplace. Strong business skills are just as important. As a business owner, you have certain responsibilities: to yourself, to your employees, to your clients and to the government. A successful business owner seeks and finds a balance between these obligations to keep his or her business growing.

Most small businesses fail in their first year. Few survive for five years. This guide aims to help you beat the odds.

If you license photography from others or if you hire photographers for assignments, you may also find useful answers in these pages. The Photo Buyers Resource section offers information about copyright and your responsibilities as a manager.

If you are a staff photographer or an editor, this resource is for you, as well. As the value of freelance photography drops, so can staff jobs. Newsrooms face corporate demands for cutting costs and increasing profits. With contract labor available for significantly less than employees, photography positions are disappearing. Lay-offs and buyout offers are common. Hiring freezes are frequent. In such a climate, the welfare of independent photographers can clearly affect you and your staff. If they’re paid less for more, you’re worth less and will be asked for more.

Our Best Practices for the Business of Independent Photojournalism offer a set of standards for conducting business transactions, for both visual journalists and those who hire them.

This section is a guide to help you find your right track. But the information here is by no means the entire picture. There are many things to consider when running a photography business. Please look at this toolkit as a starting point along a winding road to a successful editorial photography business.

In that endeavor, we wish you all the best.