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July 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Starving Underwater Photographers: Part II

how pros handle contracts and fees -- how you should, too

from the July, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Just like journalists and workers on the manufacturing line, professional underwater photographers are worried: Their careers are being turned upside down by the Internet and technology, and novice photographers are more than happy to take their place and work for little money or free. How will that affect the underwater photography you see in magazines? What's going to happen to top pros like David Doubilet, who worked for decades at National Geographic before losing his full-time spot there? The professional photographers we interviewed in last month's Part I article on this topic say their careers -- and their incomes -- have been hurt drastically. But when it comes to adapting to the changing times, pity the pro, or pat the amateur on the back?

The Publications' Point of View

Photographers often gripe that magazines pay little for their work, and now they're cutting rates even more, while turning to amateurs for photos. But, the publications say, have pity on us too. Because print media is in decline, they simply don't have the resources they once had, says Adam Hanlon, a U.K.-based professional photographer and editor of the photo blog Wetpixel ( ). "And no one has really figured out how to monetize online magazines. Hence, some have turned to using people who will provide photos for free in return for a free trip, or in some cases, simply image credit."

You can tell if a general-circulation magazine is doing well if it's thick with pages and filled with ads. If so, they can afford to pay. "A dive magazine that can still attract a reasonable amount of advertising can afford to pay to get the images it wants," says Hanlon. "This means that the magazine looks better and will sell more copies, which ensures continued advertising revenue." If magazines need quality images, they'll still approach a "known" pro who knows how to follow the magazine's art director's instructions. That's where the pro still has some advantage.

Steve Weinman, editor of Diver in the U.K. ( ), says his magazine is print-driven; photography is not its prime focus. "We want photos that illustrate our stories rather than copy to wrap around the photos." Most of his writers also take their own photos, so they submit both. "If we need to supplement those pictures or use a story not supplied with pictures, which is rare, we have an excellent contracted photographer whose extensive library we can use."...

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