Ed and Jack have been talking about the changing, no actually the disappearance of the field of “Photo Journalists”.

There has been a lively discussion on Dirck Halstead’s blog, the Digital Journalist, that you can follow here.

As you can see, Ed has been very active in this discussion. Here’s just one of his posts there-

1. I do not believe that photojournalists as a group CAN adapt to the current atmosphere/business models/systems put in place by newspapers, magazines and media outlets. By whatever terminology one chooses to use, so long as TV (local and network) newspapers of all sizes and magazines employ free content willingly supplied by people who don’t care if they are compensated (even if their copyright is given away in the process) photojournalists can not support themselves. As this “system” continues, many of those publications (customers) are and will continue to disappear. There will be the occasional, very occasional exception of a shooter who makes a living on an ongoing basis but their numbers will be so small as to be insignificant. I have not a shred of optimism in this respect.

2. Like an accountant ,I am privy to the most intimate financial information of my clients and often the entities I am suing on their behalf. I have done a considerable number of divorces for photographers and a fair amount of “marital counseling”. The financial situation(s) of photojournalists is dire and much worse than is commonly reported. Very few photographers are open about how little they are earning and how infrequently they shoot – nor should they be. For financial reasons, they should remain closed mouth. No need to let potential clients or your competitors know how desperate you may be for work. They will smell it and eat you for lunch at the negotiating table.

3. If you take out of the equation the licensing fees earned on images shot in the past and only consider income earned on current and future shooting and licensing, a 21 year old is statistically more likely to become a professional athlete than earn $75,000 per year as a working photojournalist. Yes, I have done the math. Anyone out there think there are more than 5,000 phojournalists making $75,000+ on current shooting assignments and licensing? And that includes pros who have been around for decades. Anybody out there know of any job openings on the staff of any publication?

4 My efforts via the DVDs for Kelby Training, our column in PhotoShop User Magazine, our lectures and our upcoming book “Photographer’s Survival Manual” (all with Jack Reznicki) address: income preservation (how not to get sued), how to bill, how ,to negotiate, using proper paperwork, copyright registration and enforcement, in short all those things that are aimed at making and keeping money. We take a “Survive and Thrive” approach. It is not “my” magazine, it is published by NAPP and has a circulation of something over 120,000. Many NAPP members are not photographers but rather illustrators, graphic artists, CGI people and so on.

5. Some photojournalists have done well by expanding into video/film presentations. See Paula Lerner’s site as an example. She lectures on this topic and I refer you to her expertise.

6., I am no oracle nor have the “answer” to the photojournalists economic dilemma. Many of my clients now shoot weddings, cover sports or some narrow topic exclusively, and have prospered in other niches. I have repeatedly stated that there is no economic future in photojournalism and have become personna non grata on certain college campuses for so stating. Anyone paying for their child to go to college/grad school to become a photojournalist best have so much money or be so idealistic that they don’t care about the financial aspects of the matter.

7 Do not work for free.

8. Figure out your cost of doing business. If you are not making your nut, change your practices or your career. Run your business as if it were a business because (surprise) it is a business. Get a good accountant.

9. Don’t be a victim. Register your work, always, all of the time no exceptions.

10. Never take medical, legal, accounting or tax advice from a photographer or someone who blogs.

11. I have been involved with stock agency litigations and other matters more times than I can count. Never believe what you are told about the finances of any of them. Corbis has never turned a profit (through 2008) according to the press and its own press releases. Other agencies have been cannibilized and in the process have convinced shooters to take less of a royalty. Absurd. Many of our clients (some at our suggestion) self market their stock. By so doing a shooter can gross 1/3 as much as say dealing with Getty or Corbis and net more money at the end of the day.

I can’t and won’t hazard a guess about what the world of photojournalism will be or look like ten years from now. I (and others) correctly predicted ten years ago as to what it would be today and I was correct. I believe that the landscape over the next two to three years will be like a cemetary.

For those wanna be’s out there I believe that after they get over the thrill of seeing their photo in the paper (with maybe, just maybe a photo credit) they will realize that they will need to get a “real job”. You can’t eat photo credits. You can’t pay the rent by telling the landlord that Anderson Cooper showed your picture on CNN. You can’t buy health insurance by showing the insurance company your images of illegal logging in the rain forests. Reality will set in and they will soon realize that making a living becomes job one. Just my opinion.

Edward C. Greenberg