While I’ve shot my share of assignments for name-brand publications over the years, I’ve enjoyed working for niche magazines just as much. IEEE Spectrum is one that you won’t find on any magazine rack unless you happen to be standing in an engineering school library. Published monthly by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, they have 380,000 readers. My dad was one of those readers. He was an electrical engineer (you can’t spell geek without “E.E.”). He thought enough of the magazine that we transported stacks and stacks of them to California when we moved there in the 70’s (then back to PA four years later). So, I always have a little extra sense of purpose when I get to shoot for them.
I recently got a call from their photo editor, Randi Silberman Klett, to take some pictures for their annual “Dream Jobs” issue. She asked me to photograph a guy named Simon Hager, who runs a program for high school students in Philadelphia called The Sustainability Workshop. Most of his work focuses on teaching kids how to build electric cars. Even though I had shot assignments for Spectrum before, it was time for a new contract. Some magazines have contracts that last indefinitely. Others send out a new contract with each assignment. Spectrum prefers to renew its contract with its photographers each year.
Here’s a look at it (click to enlarge):
Here are my comments:
1) Photographer Responsibilities. They set up a purchase order with a budget that you’ll never reach. It says $40k here, but I’ve never billed them for more than a few thousand dollars a year.
2) Rights Granted to IEEE.
a) First worldwide publication rights in any form. Theirs exclusively for 90 days from first publication, non-exclusive after that. This implies to me that they can use the pictures in subsequent editions of the magazine without additional fee. That’s not ideal, but it’s unlikely enough that I decided it wasn’t worth fighting for.
b) Use of the pictures in the context of the magazine, to promote Spectrum, as well as use of my likeness. If I was famous, I would probably want to get paid for that. But I’m not.
c) Use in article reprints only after agreeing on a separate fee. Many photographers underestimate the value of article reprints. But I’ve sold enough to know that they are generally worth more (sometimes much more) than the original assignment. Though some magazines try to bundle those rights into the shoot fee, it makes more sense to separate them.
d) Electronic use is included. Fine.
e) Photographer retains copyright. Naturally.
3) Compensation. 600.00/day vs. space. Historically, it’s been customary for magazines to structure their fees in terms of a day rate against space. This way, the photographer makes a nominal fee for one or two small pictures, and the fee automatically scales up when the magazine uses more or bigger pictures or if they use one on the cover. It’s an elegant system for magazines, who don’t always know in advance how they’re going to use the pictures. In this case, Spectrum is agreeing to pay 600.00/day at a minimum. If your picture appears a full-page or larger, you get an extra 200.00. And if it shows up on the cover, you get an additional 1200.00. I like that they’re paying for space, but the wording is a little vague. Do you get paid the same amount if your picture runs one full-page or two full-pages?
4) Expenses. You’re an independent contractor. You’re going to provide receipts to get reimbursed for expenses. Sure.
5) Timing and Form of Submission. You’re going to turn in your photos on time. Of course.
6) Warranties. You made the pictures and they aren’t obscene. Okay.
7) Indemnification. You agree to pay for Spectrum’s attorney’s fees if you do anything to get them sued. This sounds pretty scary, but then you read further and discover that the limit of your liability is the amount of the assignment fee. I think that’s very reasonable. In an ideal world, they would likewise indemnify the photographer in cases where they do something to get the photographer sued.
8) Termination. They can terminate an assignment at any time, though they’ll pay you some or all of your fee depending on how much work you have put in on the project. Fine.
9) IEEE is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Nice to know.
10) Entire Agreement. Okay.
Overall, I think it’s a pretty fair contract. I give it “two thumbs up!”
I shot the assignment. Simon and his students were super-cooperative and photogenic. Their workshop turnout out to be a big, old warehouse that provided a great backdrop for the photos and there were tons of props to work with. If only every assignment was this easy!
Randi loved the pictures. She used one for the opener, across nearly two full-pages (I didn’t make the cover – rats!) She also used a second picture about a half-page. Here’s how it looked in the magazine:
I was thrilled with the display, plus it was nice to know that there would be some extra space rate. But looking at the contract, I couldn’t figure out what it should be. I emailed Randi and she told me to bill her 800.00 for the big picture and 600.00 for the small one. I saw the logic that the big picture was “…used at a full page or greater ($200 additional).” Meaning that it was the 600.00 day rate plus an extra 200.00 for that first picture being big. But as far as I can tell, the 600.00 for the second picture was arbitrary. Not that I’m complaining, I think it’s fair. (After all, I’m the one who signed an ambiguous contract.) If we were counting space in a more typical fashion, thinking in terms of 600.00/day vs. 600.00/page, I would count about 1100.00 for the opener (nearly 2 pages at 600.00) and 400.00 for the additional picture (about 2/3 of 600.00), resulting in 1500.00 rather than 1400.00. But what’s 100.00 between friends? I was happy with the fee. (I probably would have asked for more clarification ahead of time if it wasn’t a client that I didn’t know and trust.)
My expenses were pretty typical. One assistant at 250.00. Web gallery at 300.00. Strobe rental at 300.00. Two file preps at 25.00, and mileage. I bought my assistant lunch, but I usually don’t bill meals unless it’s a full-day assignment. Here’s my invoice: