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A Brief Guide to Photographic Markets 1: Editorial

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This series of posts is intended as a very brief outline to some of the markets for photography that are available in the commercial world. I've split them into 4, as they'd be one hell of a post otherwise. I can't claim that this list is exhaustive, I'm sure there must be a few other ways to make money out of photography. It should be of some help to those attempting the assignment this year, as well as of general interest to the rest of you. That's presuming you ever hope to make any money out of photography that is....

So, to begin, here's an outline of the editorial market.

Local News

Fairly obvious what this market sector covers isn't it? Local news photographers have suffered in recent years, as sales of many papers have dropped. The current thinking is that the increase of free papers, along with the availability of free news content on the Internet has been the main cause. Most local paper photographers used to be full time (see in-house market below), but increasingly papers are relying on a pool of freelancers to get the work done, thereby avoiding the running costs of salaries, paid holidays and so on.

The range of work a local paper photographer may be asked to do is very broad, and could cover everything from studio portraiture to doorstepping local celebrities, aerial photography, sports photography, right through to the annual nativity play, and with a healthy amount of “grip and grins” thrown into the mix. The fees are never huge, although freelance day rates tend to be higher than the comparative full time ones. However, it's important to consider the trade offs – as a freelancer you'll keep your copyright, but may only work a couple of days a week, and will almost certainly be responsible for buying and maintaining your own gear. If in full time employment, your employer owns your copyright, but you've got some semblance of job security, as well as a broader support network, both in respect of things like equipment and computers, as well as holiday and sick pay.

Life as a local paper photographer can be very last minute, plus it's very common to have to cover a lot of ground in one day or shift. Back in the early 90's when I worked at a local paper, the office record stood at 13 shoots/different locations in 1 day, and I believe it's since been broken.

National News

Life as a national news photographer is broadly the same as that of a local paper photographer, with the difference that you'll have to cover a wider area, and the stories tend to be slightly more high profile than things like Golden Wedding anniversaries. In pretty much every other respect the jobs are almost identical; there's a big swing towards freelancers rather than full-time staffers, the fees are never huge, the hours can be awful, and you can find yourself covering a very wide range of subject matters. I won't go to the lengths of listing some national papers as an example – if you can't think of any you're probably not ready for the real world yet.

Consumer Press – Magazines

Consumer Magazines are the ones that you see on the shelves of Borders, WHSmiths, Tesco's and so on. Think Vogue, What Car?, Men's Health, and Cage and Aviary Bird. The market sector is obviously very large, as any trip to a major branch of the above shops will tell you. The range of subject matter is also correspondingly large, and if you can think of something to shoot the odds are there's a magazine that will be interested in pictures of it. Despite this, it's very common for photographers to specialize to some degree, as a knowledge of subject matter and the specific market can be a major advantage in securing work.

The majority of magazines are published by large companies such as IPC, Dennis, Bauer and Future, although smaller publishing houses exist that tend to cover very specific market sectors. Most of these companies are based in London, though there are notable outposts in Bath and Peterborough. The photographic content of most magazines is usually made up of a combination of bought-in stock library shots (see below) and work commissioned specifically for the magazine. Fees can range from as low as the high double figures up to a thousand pounds or more, for each job or shoot, though the latter is generally only for much larger shoots on more prestigious and high selling titles.

Consumer magazines have been suffering slightly with the recent recession, both as a combination of falling sales and a drop in advertising revenue. Each magazine will have a slightly different balance as regards their income bias between sales/subscriptions and advertising space.

Very few magazines have full-time photographers, relying instead on a pool of freelancers who will be called in depending on their specialization and suitability for the shoot in question. As a consequence, the rights a photographer retains in magazine work can vary a great deal. As a full-timer, you have very few rights to your own work, and more and more companies are asking freelancers to sign “all-rights” contracts which amount to pretty much the same thing. More acceptable to freelancers are “first rights” contracts in varying forms. The general thrust of these is that the magazine retains the rights to publish the images first, and usually enforces an exclusivity period as well, to prevent the work being sold to their competition within a short time. After this period the photographer is then able to sell the work on themselves to third parties, either directly or via a stick library (see below). In return for signing this contract the magazine companies normally promise to pay the photographer within a certain time period, then generally pay them whenever they feel like it.

Contract Publishing – Magazines

Contract publishing covers titles like the Ford magazine, the Tesco's magazine and suchlike, along with titles for charities, large companies and so on. They operate in a very similar way to consumer magazines as far as rights, and commissioning work goes. The 2 main differences are that the fees are often higher, and that there's an extra link in the chain of command. At a consumer magazine, once the art director and/or editor is happy with an article and the corresponding pictures, the feature will run. In contract publishing, there's also the client to keep happy. In the case, for example of a feature for a Tesco's magazine, a representative of Tesco's will have to finally approve the work to make sure it stays on message.

Trade Press

The trade press is almost a hybrid of consumer and contract publishing. Generally speaking, such titles are not visible on the news stands, in the same way as much contract publishing is, but they are also very market specific in the way that much consumer publishing is. Trade journals are by nature specific to their trade – think Farmer's Weekly, What Hammock, and the Draper's Journal. Their appeal is pretty limited, and the personnel within are usually specialists with much relevant knowledge. Budgets tend to be lower due to the generally smaller circulations of such magazines. The photographers rights will generally be much the same as those for contract and consumer publishing.

Other markets: Books and Stock Libraries, Advertising, Design and PR, Social, Commercial, Event and In-House.


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