Best Practices for Working with Independent Photojournalists

  1. Follow ethical practices in business relationships, as you would in reporting – including telling the complete truth and adhering to the NPPA Code of Ethics.

    • Be honest and up front about assignment requirements, risks and rewards.

    • If your organization requires a contract, be clear about this from the beginning. Do not expect photographers to sign contracts on the day of an assignment. The necessary usage rights should be part of the initial negotiations, along with the fees.

  2. Pay fair rates for the value that you and your organization receive.

    • Recognize an independent photographer’s costs add up to much more than staff salary.

    • Value comprises more than costs, including such factors as image uniqueness, the size an image is used, its prominence, circulation/viewer numbers and more.

    • Pay space rates for value exceeding an assignment fee.

    • Expenses should be paid fairly and promptly, including mileage fees at least equal to IRS rates, and markups for supplies photographers must purchase in advance, test and inventory.

    • Digital capture saves publications time and money. It costs photographers both. Digital rental and production fees are appropriate charges that should be paid.

    • Each assignment requires preparation and follow-up and precludes scheduling other projects. If an independent photographer competently covers multiple assignments in a single day, he/she has earned multiple assignment fees.

    • Long days (over 8 hours) deserve additional fees.

    • Travel, pre- and post-production time should be paid with at least half the assignment day rate.

    • Pay additional fees for high-risk assignments--such as combat and disaster coverage--which carry more potential costs to photographers and provide higher value to media clients.

  3. Contract only for the rights you clearly need and pay accordingly.

    • Industry standard has been that a freelance news assignment includes one-time publication rights. Without a written agreement to the contrary, this is what you are licensing.

    • Work-for-hire contracts are inappropriate for freelance news photography.

    • Use of images and footage in multiple media should be compensated with multiplied licensing fees.

    • Reuse and multiple uses (including tables of contents) should be compensated with additional fees.

    • Embargoes affect the value of news images. They should represent (beyond first use) no more than two news cycles (e.g., two days for a daily newspaper or broadcast; two weeks for a weekly magazine or broadcast).

    • Work contracted for “first use” should not be unreasonably embargoed. When it is clear images or footage will not be used in a reasonable period, release them to the photographer for resale.

    • Contract for reuse of images in advance of the reuse.

    • “Fair use” of images under copyright law is a gray area that requires a detailed examination of all facts relating to a specific use. There is no blanket exemption under the Copyright for any type of use.

  4. Loyalty and professionalism go both ways. Take care of those you hire.

    • Specify assignment details in writing. Ensure photographers understand what is needed to complete an assignment competently and safely.

    • Do not take unfair advantage of a photographer who is new to the business. Photographers worth hiring once are likely to be worth hiring again. Helping them get established means they may still be in business when you need them again.

    • Don’t send photographers into unreasonably dangerous situations. Help photographers extract themselves and their equipment when they get in trouble.

    • When those you trust enough to hire find themselves in a dispute, give them first benefit of any doubt.

    • Be sure both you and the photographer have all information needed to get the photographer paid. Promptly and properly forward all requests for payment – and follow up.

    • Do not ask photographers to indemnify your organization for circumstances beyond their control.

  5. Credit photographers accurately and legibly, adjacent to pictures or in broadcast credits. Expect multiplied fees or legal action for failing to do so.

    • Make sure copyright, caption and credit data are included in data layers of any archived image files.

    • Lobby for prominent credit for picture stories and other special uses.