I got a call a little while back from Maggie Soladay, photo editor at The American Lawyer magazine. She had an assignment to photograph a pair of attorneys who were trying to keep the city of Harrisburg, PA out of bankruptcy. She needed a portrait of them in a setting that would give the viewer a sense of the city. She expected to use one photo with the article.
Maggie said she could offer a fee of 500.00 plus up to 900.00 in expenses. I asked her if she paid for space and she said no, but if she used a picture on the cover, she would pay an additional 500.00. I asked her if she had a contract or if she’d like to use mine. She said she’d send one over. I told her that it sounded like it could work and that I’d take a look at the contract.
Here’s the contract she sent:
It’s pretty short and to the point. It could be a lot worse, coming from a magazine about lawyers. Here’s the breakdown:
1) The pictures are original and not defamatory. Fine.
2) Included in the fee, they get exclusive first use of the pictures and non-exclusive reuse “in context” for editorial or promotion use. “In context” means that they have to show it in the layout as it originally appeared. I don’t mind this because it’s rare that this would happen, and the fact that it’s in context generally means that it’s more about the article or the publication than the photo. I’m more concerned that they can use any number of pictures any size for 500.00. There was a time when I might drive a harder bargain than that. An additional 500.00 for the cover would be quite low if it was a consumer magazine that sold on the newsstand, but for a trade magazine I think it’s (on the low end of) reasonable.
3) They can use the photos for article reprints and for “out of context” use for a predetermined fee (see schedule A). The prices for the article reprints are a little on the low side in my experience, but not unreasonable. The prices for out of context print and web re-use are less generous. 25% of the 500.00 fee is only 125.00, which is what I’d normally charge for use of one image smaller than 1/4-page. Here, they can use the picture any size for that fee. I’d normally expect 100.00 for web use and they’re offering 55.00 (seems like an odd number).
4) In the past, a three month embargo period would be considered a little excessive for a monthly publication, but it’s not unusual these days. And given the subject matter, embargo time is not a big issue here. Additionally, I’ve found that if an opportunity arises to re-license an image to a third party during an embargo period, you just have to clear it with the assigning photo editor. Typically, as long as the issue has hit the news stands, most publications are pretty flexible regarding the embargo period.
5) Even after reading about personal jurisdiction, I still don’t understand it. Here’s how Maggie explained it, “Paragraph 5 of the contract says that, ‘Each party consents to the personal jurisdiction of the federal or state courts located in the State of New York.’ What does that mean? Our artists and photographers are all over the world. England for instance has very different media laws than we do.” I’m not sure why it’s not sufficient to say, “Should a dispute arise, it shall be governed by the laws of the State of New York.”
A few facts to consider. The American Lawyer is published by ALM. It’s sold by monthly subscription for 445.00/year. It’s not sold on newsstands. Their circulation is 9600 with a readership of 89,000. Their average reader’s household net worth is 2.4 million dollars.
To some photographers, this fee and contract will sound like a pretty good deal. Others will think it’s a little stingy. For someone like me, it’s pretty much middle-of-the-road. Whether it works for you depends upon how busy you are and what fees and terms you’re accustomed to getting. I later asked Maggie how frequently she accepts revisions to the contract. She said, “Never. Unfortunately I was instructed that we cannot use photographers or illustrators who require revisions.” How frequently do you pay more than 500.00/day plus expenses? “500.00 is the fee for all of our shoots but allowed expenses within budget differ. We don’t have flexible budgets per issue so I am really straight, clear and fair upfront. I can’t afford surprises and I like clarity from the beginning.”
I chose to do the job. Here’s the call sheet:
The subjects were great. My dad grew up in Harrisburg, so I enjoyed poking around the city. I finally found a spot in a parking garage that framed them nicely and offered up a good view of the city. Here’s how it ended up in the magazine:
Here’s the invoice:
Months later, I got an additional payment for a reprint (turns out they’ve raised the reprint rates slightly since I signed the original contract):
And a few months after that, I got another:
In addition to her day job as photo editor at The American Lawyer, Maggie is the New York City chapter chief of Salaam Garage, a humanitarian media organization that works with non-profit organizations to support positive social change.