Photogs Dish Anonymously About Clients’ Rates Via New Tumblr Site

A new site on Tumblr set up by an anonymous editorial photographer seeks to provide a platform where photographers can share information about what clients in all fields, from editorial to advertising to non-profits, pay photographers.

Still in its infancy, the site, Who Pays Photographers, is based on a similar Tumblr, Who Pays Writers, which, you guessed it, lists fees paid to writers. According to the anonymous founder of Who Pays Photographers, the response has been a bit overwhelming, indicating a serious interest among photographers to talk about, and read about, the fees clients pay for photographic work.

Thus far the site has information about The New York Times, Getty Images, AP, AFP, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN and several other clients in the US and abroad.

We exchanged emails with the creator of Who Pays Photographers to find out a bit more about her/his goals for the site.

PDN: How long have you worked as a photographer and in what field?

Who Pays Photographers: I’m an editorial photographer with 6 years experience, about half of that time as a staffer at a magazine, and more recently, as a freelancer.

PDN: What inspired you to start the site? Was it just a natural reaction to seeing Manjula Martin’s Who Pays Writers, or was there more to it?

WPP: The site was a simple reaction to Who Pays Writers, a site that was linked to a number of times during the recent Nate Thayer kerfuffle with the Atlantic. It seemed obvious that the photo industry could really benefit from having such a resource and I found it surprising that nothing of the sort existed.

PDN: Why the anonymity? Martin divulges her identity.

WPP: I’m maintaining anonymity because I’d like the site to simply be a reflecting board. Manjula Martin does a lot more editing and curating of opinions, alongside the rate quotes, so the site is (relatively) more about her. I’d be interested in moving in this direction possibly, but for now, handling the huge influx of submissions is already fairly time-consuming.

PDN: How have you promoted it?

WPP: The response has been a little overwhelming. For Monday alone, the site has had 15 thousand unique visits. Submissions come from surprising corners of the world (e.g. $26/day is the going rate for one Polish newspaper); on average, I receive three-to-six an hour depending on the time of day. I originally shared the site on Facebook with some fellow photographers; interest has snowballed via Reddit, Twitter, etc.

PDN: What are your goals for the site? How do you confirm the veracity of people’s submissions?

WPP: I hope the site will be a resource for new and established photographers. At times, I’ve found photographers can be quite secretive when it comes to talking about actual rates. As almost everything is anonymous, I have no way of confirming the quality of submissions; the data is public on the site and I hope that viewers who care to correct the record will simply submit their info on their experience. E.g. 4 reports on working for Le Monde will provide a fuller picture and possibly also, reveal which data point is inaccurate. For sure, this may lead to false info occasionally, but ideally, the info will be self-correcting.

PDN: Do you view it as a resource, a forum for gripes? Do you think something like this is inherently negative, or do you view it as a positive exercise?

WPP: Because the site is based on anonymous submissions, there is a slight trend towards negative posts. But I think this could be positive overall, in that photographers will have at least the beginnings of a sense of a given client’s track record, and possibly, in making such info public, the client will clean up their act.

PDN: Have you heard from any clients yet, griping that they’re listed?

WPP: No one has complained yet and for gross inaccuracies, I’m definitely ready to delete any clearly false or misleading info.

There are plenty of incomplete submissions that do not get shared for lack of context or detail. Yesterday, I installed a web form to ensure better submissions and the results are now viewable in a spreadsheet.

The site gives an impression of having a lot of data but it’s currently really limited to assignment rates, wire service rates, stock sales and the odd NGO day rate. For young, new photographers, the numbers on the site will probably be very discouraging—but there’s a lot that isn’t touched on within the site about the wider business of photography, such as how to negotiate for better rates, pitch unique projects to multiple magazines, diversify sources of photo income and so on.

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6 Responses to “Photogs Dish Anonymously About Clients’ Rates Via New Tumblr Site”

  1. Dave Says:

    I had a look at the sheet and frankly, these rates are an utter disgrace! I cant believe how far editorial rates have fallen! Not that they were ever high but, these are no longer sustainable and it looks as though everyone has given up with the exception of a few dreamers hoping to become the next Annie L.

    I dont see much in the way of good writing or photography being done at all anymore with the exception of Vogue, Vanity Fair and a few other and I suspect they pay much better than the rubbish on this list. Worse still is the ongoing rights grab and general greedy behaviour of publishers now.

    I stopped sending mail and postcards to magazines a long time ago, 120 days to pay, lower and lower rates and increasingly difficult rights grabs and I finally gave up. If you’re shooting anything for any of these pubs or giving up your rights to the images, you’re an asshole and you’ve ruined what used to be a great industry.

  2. Dean Says:

    It’s an interesting tumblr page. As for the rates, I have worked for a few of those publications and the day rate is really just part of the fee. Sometimes I have made more on the other expenses then the day rate. Many places have a standard amount for expenses it’s not just “submit your cost” situation. Of course today the bigger question is usage and what do you give up by taking the money? More and more it’s a liability issue that is tricky. They can re-sell the photo but if anyone sues them then that’s on the photographer.

  3. Old Dog Says:

    This only reinforces that photographers in general are shitty business people. And if a photographer is making more money by inflating expenses, rather than a creative fee, you are part of the problem.

    I refused to do anymore editorial jobs long ago after doing it for 20 years because of the increasing rights demands and paltry non-negotiable rates. A big name publisher thanked my 10 + years of efforts (including many covers) by returning all original medium format film in a large white envelope without any cardboard protection or tracking via regular mail! And a few magazines I shot for (including the last cover) filed bankruptcy and refused to pay. And refused to return my film!

    With few exceptions, photography usage for buyers has become a market for amateur photographers. Read closely the “terms of usage” for Instagram to see the futures trend.

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