Publications frequently have a standard contract for hiring photographers to fulfill editorial assignments. Typically, the contracts ask for very broad usage rights (especially considering the pay scale being offered). Some publications are flexible and the terms of these contracts can be negotiated.
The ability to negotiate successfully for improved terms and rates will depend largely on your relationship with the editor, your reputation, the urgency of the assignment, and the special qualifications or benefits that hiring you affords. For example, if you are traveling in a remote area and an urgent story arises close by, you are in a strong position to change the contract and raise the rate. Conversely, if you are in a large metropolitan area being asked to cover a story that is not time sensitive or “special” to the editor, your negotiating position is weaker.
A few truths about editorial work:
- Editorial work usually pays less than commercial.
- Photo credits can be valuable to building a career, but you cannot pay your rent with a photo credit. Be smart about when and where you exchange photo credit for appropriate compensation.
- Trade publications, although not as glamorous, generally pay better than consumer publications.
- Most publications will pay for production time and expenses.
ASMP Contract Analyses
ASMP reviews and fights to change the most egregious editorial contracts. Check out these critiques and develop your own contract analysis skills.