Awhile back I worked at a magazine that paid people really, really late. It wasn’t always that way but after the dot com crash cash flow became a problem (along with the bigger problem of advertising declines) and the genius CFO decided that rather than take out the usual line of credit to cover the times when the printing bill and payroll drained the account to the point where there was nothing left to pay contributors he decided to wait until late paying advertising accounts finally delivered a check. This of course saves the company whatever percentage of interest the line of credit would have charged for a cash withdraw and turned contributors into an interest free bank.

The reason this all happened in the first place is because advertising clients decided to stop paying their bills on time. Now that advertisers were in charge, they could set the terms of the deal and magazines had to just let it slide rather than penalize them like they had done in the past. So, really it’s the advertisers who are screwing everyone in this deal not just magazines screwing contributors.

So, every couple of months Getty and Corbis would turn off our account which we’d usually discover as we were trying to put the issue to bed causing much pandemonium in the production department and begging by photo editors to which they’d say “nope, you can’t have any images until we receive a check” and we’d have to FedEx a check to their accounting department. And, sometimes photographers would hold final prints hostage because we hadn’t paid them for the last job we did together, so we’d have to FedEx a check out before we could get the prints. I ended up spending more time then I should have listing to photographers yell and scream about payment and carrying our expenses on credit card and I tried to not take it personally.

One day I got a call from Mary Ellen Mark who’d recently shot a feature story for us. I was so proud that I’d landed her to shoot for the magazine and was so intimidated when I had spoken with her about the assignment and then when she’d called me from location to discuss the images she was getting and in general giving me an update on what was happening. Well, M.E.M. was not calling to tell me what a fabulous Photo Editor I was. No, she was calling to rip me a new one from head to toe because it had been over 90 days since she’d turned in a bill and had yet to receive payment and Christmas had passed and all those expenses we’d owed her would have come in handy. So, I sat there on the other end of the phone for a good 15 minutes possibly half an hour as Mary Ellen Mark shredded me into tiny little pieces and then stomped up and down on the pile of pieces and then loaded them into a cannon with a couple pounds of gunpowder and shot them out so they fell from the sky like confetti.

Some things are just out of your control but if you’re a part of a system that behaves badly you’ve got to take your lumps and go back to work and try to make it better. Just because you can get away with behaving badly doesn’t mean you should. Karma can be a bitch. Ask the record industry execs.

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  1. Rob
    Thanks again for an intelligent perspective from”the other side”.

    The Terms & Conditions on my Estimate, Delivery Memo & Invoice state that PAYMENT IS DUE UPON RECEIPT”. When that payment is not received within an acceptable time frame, the client-whether it’s a magazine, corporate client or a designer-gets a second Invoice with interest added, just as my credit card issuer would send to me, if I were ever late on a payment. Payment usually comes quickly, especially when I agree to drop the interest charge.

    “Just because you can get away with behaving badly doesn’t mean you should.” Totally correct!

    Thanks again


  2. rob, you really ask the hard questions. he’s right ladies and gentleman…………………….i JUST received payment on a invoice and it was 120 days past due from this publisher. I’m grateful I’m not a young photographer that was relying on this to pay my rent.

    I wonder if my 2 full time employees would allow me be tardy on the payroll, let me guess…………….NOPE!

    I got an novel idea in these situations……….hold film hostage!

  3. What’s always irked me is that they’ll never issue an Advance, yet, they want you to use your own cash to finance their job, yet, they still want original receipts, and UN-marked up.

    In my book, if you pay me an Advance, then we’re using the client’s cash for up-front expenses, and in a way, you could justify no markup. But if I’m using MY cash to finance the job, then that clearly calls for a markup. Yet, they’ll fight you tooth and nail on this.

    Advice: always book the travel and hotels thru the magazine, on their corporate card, or thru their service, to avoid carrying the AMEX charges for that.

    I’ve seen very few magazines business practices where it’s a win/win situation. 99% of the time, it’s milk the vendor out of as much as we can get away with.

    It’s not so bad when you’re young and naive, but it’s like Chinese Water Torture after a while; it begins to eat at you, and you feel taken advantage of. I’m not coming to the defense of anything related to Mary Ellen Mark, but on some level, I can certainly understand the depth of her frustration.

  4. Thank you for bringing this up! it is one of the biggest problems I (we) have!! Slow payment is constantly threatening my livelihood. The fact that multi-million dollar companies are holding out on individuals is disgusting. Those decision makers and corporate bill payers aren’t having their rent or health insurance put in jeopardy when making those “hold payment” decisions. But it definitely puts mine in jeopardy every time that check is delayed. Especially when I have put personal funds out on their behalf(which is most of the time). If those practices effected their personal income and stability the way it does ours, things would be a lot different. Shame on them! And good for M.E.M! I certainly keep on top of late payers, and apply all the pressure I can…but always have that fear of alienating the client from further bookings….That typical Catch 22. So i’m very glad M.E.M went all out with her scolding. Assume we all feel that way and are just too scared to say it!

  5. one thing we should all remember when having this dialog is that it is NEVER the photo editor’s fault. Frankly, they are very sympathetic to the issue and for the most part advocates for us!

  6. This discussion is just like the war in Iraq. The debate has been going on for years, everybody agrees that it is wrong, but nothing will actually change.
    I love photography. I do it because I love it and I have figured out a way to get paid. If I wanted a job that was going to provide money on time and security I would have gotten a job in the military industrial complex.

  7. Slow payment is the bane of my existence, along with most of the others here. It really is a big problem for the industry. I only have a couple payments pushing the 90-day mark, but they’re big ones, and the only reason I don’t have the 180-day payments I did last year (rhymes with “Flambé Mast”) is either through constant cajoling or because I’ve stopped working with them. Corporate work is at least as bad.

    Of course, in the personal markets I work in, I demand full payment before I even start shooting. That must sound utterly alien to the accountants.

  8. @andy: Damn right. Having worked on the side that hires photographers, we got it from two sides — frustrated that our best workers are getting screwed over, and these are the same people who will delay a check request or purchase order for six months because they set it aside.

  9. I feel much better now that I know Mary Ellen Mark is getting the same treatment as me. It is truly disgusting. I have stopped working for clients that would prefer to use me as an interest free bank and only pay up when threatened with a copyright infringement lawsuit. This of course means I won’t be shooting editorial much longer…..:) At least wedding clients have no problem paying in full a week before the shoot.

  10. Let’s make this very clear, after an experience of delayed payment and one continues to work for that client there are no victims just volunteers.

  11. Thanks again for telling it like it is Rob. Curious. What did you tell your photographers who called? I have always been given a total runaround on this. I don’t think one single editor has ever been honest with me about why I haven’t been paid on time. This may have more to do with our disgruntled nature than not being paid. I hate being lied to much more than not being paid on time. I assume I will not be paid on time. Should I also assume that an editor will lie to protect their employer? I think i know the answer to this :)

  12. I probably lost $5000 last year in basic interest I would have received from ING due to late payers.

    I always pay my credit card in full, but wonder what it’s like for people who carry a balance.

  13. @ 11 “Let’s make this very clear, after an experience of delayed payment and one continues to work for that client there are no victims just volunteers.”

    It’s so true. We work (fairly regularly) for a publication that has a reputation for paying horribly late. 3 months after every job we do for them I end up having to email the accountant, who I’m sure hates me, to ask where our payment is. Sure, THEY stipulate payment due 60 days after final publishing date, but of course it’s never that easy. The worst part is, if you don’t want that job because of late payments, if you don’t say ‘yes’… somebody else will. And they’re waiting in line to say ‘yes’, just waiting for their time to shine. ‘They’ have been waiting, and ‘they’ will always be there waiting. So in certain cases you decide. Do you want your name on the byline, or somebody elses? In certain cases, sure, it’s nice to get paid, but it’s not about the pay as much. It’s about exposure, or whatever the tradeoff be in your eyes. And yes, it b-l-o-w-s. When we shoot 7 images for this mag, we could really use the money from the shoot, but now we know not to expect it for a long while…

    When we first started out, we were the ones waiting in line to pick up a job. Now we are the ones waiting in line to get paid. But hey, we volunteered.

  14. @11 Did few things for Conde’ Nast and it took 90 days, but there’s nobody even close to Dennis publication(maxim, blender, Stuff etc), it took a tons of email and many phone calls that my former agent and i made to get paid in 6 months, they are “famous” for doing business like that.
    @14 you are absolutely right.

  15. Has anyone gone ahead and lied to their lying? I think I have mentioned it here before.
    But calling ahead mentioning that you might have received someone else’s amount written in you name?

    usually causes chaos and wanting to fix the situation right away.

  16. @9 Yeah that was helpful, lamer.

    I always find out who is in charge of payment from the art director and then talk to them. I’ve had one case in which I had a strong feeling the mag was gonna fold, I could smell the rot already. I had done two shoots for them and delievered one so when they were late I held the shots ransom.

    The owner was not answering my calls so I took a drive to their office and the office was closed down. I then called the owners house because at this point I was coming to their home.

    I got the fucker on the phone and he was pissed at me and wouldn’t tell me where he lived.

    I made him meet me at the studio and made him bring me cash for both shoots.

    As he left he apologized and said that he’d like to work with me again in the future. I told him when he gets his shit together. That was their last issue.

    Personally in Phoenix credit gets you nothing and people call me weekly to ask that I shoot for them on a credit basis.

    In what cities is shooting for credit getting photographers work? LA, NYC?? then you also get late, late payment and the cost of living is super high, I have no idea how you all do it.

    Thing is if we as an industry put our foot down and stop shooting for mags that try to mess with photographers incomes eventually the quality of work will suffer and the magazine will change their policies.

    Also I charge an admin fee up front. It goes on the first line item. If the client pays in 30 days they get the discount of taking off the admin fee.

  17. Oh man, Rob. I really wish I could’ve heard that phone call. In fact, I HAVE heard that phone call. Well not that one specifically, but one like it. I’ve known Mary Ellen Mark for years, and way back in college I interned for her. Since then we’ve maintained a fairly good relationship, and she even contributed a quote for the back cover of my book (now THAT was nerve-wracking to ask for!) But I certainly remember sitting in her studio, scanning the selects that came in, and listening to the business-end of some really intense phone calls. And that’s one thing I always loved about Mary Ellen – I mean, even if you put aside the considerable, awesome talent for just a moment – the woman simply does not suffer fools. And when you’re that good, even if you occasionally run into them, you don’t have to keep your mouth shut! If Mary Ellen likes you, though, she’s just the sweetest woman in the world.

    (Not saying you’re a fool, of course, but rather the Greater Fool that is the magazine)

    I think most of us recognize that it’s not the individual photo editors who are the problems. We all have invoices sitting in our accounts receivable files slowly accruing days. . . I mean, hell, it’s rare that I don’t have SOMETHING that’s 60-120 days or more past due. And this happens in part because photographers are terrified of pissing off photo editors. Whenever possible I try to talk to the accountants directly, and I don’t think there’s a PE in the world who’ll get pissed at you if you politely ask for the email address or phone number of someone in accounting. What you’re effectively doing then is asking them to let you handle your own problem, not forcing your problem onto them. I’d think that’d help the relationship, not hurt it.

    Getting the accountants to respond, though, is often difficult. Right now I have an invoice past due from September (174 days and counting, baby!) and I’ve been trying for two weeks just to simply get a RESPONSE of any kind from this magazine’s accountants. They’re just ignoring me completely. Awesome.

    @ 13 – Yeah, one reason I pay my credit cards in full every month (and make sure I CAN do this) is because if I have to be a zero-interest bank for my clients I sure as hell don’t want to pay any unnecessary interest myself!

    The best PEs I work for don’t carry over the general attitude of their accountants – that is to say they don’t assume (or allow) there to be an adversarial relationship between themselves and their photographers. It’s funny though – Rob, I wonder in how many cases do these CFO’s decide to also delay their own payroll, not just the payments to vendors/contributors? I’d guess not very often. And even though I think most PEs are on our sides, do they really understand the severity of the situation that a lot of us face when we have to pay our rents? No, they’re smart enough to get Real Jobs!

  18. Wow.

    I love this blog. I’m not a pro and I love reading Rob’s posts as well as the comments.

    These topics are so relevant that the discussions are always worth the time spent. Favorite blog on the Web right now, for sure.

    Thanks for the life lessons. Business students must be obliged to read posts like this; it transcends photography!

  19. I worked for a very similar magazine. I was as honest as I could be upfront when hiring photographers telling them that 90 days was the norm and that if they wanted to walk because of that I certainly would not judge them because of it. I think asking the magazine to cover hard costs where possible is a good option. I would put travel, studio and equipment on the CC to ease the burden – until the art dept. AMEX went unpaid. Or the Fedex account froze. Photographers would call around the 90 day mark and for the most part they were polite and understood it was not myself who was in control of the accounts. I simply told them to call the owner and his assistant and to do so everyday until he answered their calls. This had a high rate of success. Sadly, just like there are bad magazine owners there are also bad photographers. One in particular called and threatened the front desk intern who answered the phone…regardless of his talent he won’t ever receive a call from myself nor any of the other PE’s and AB’s that I am close with.

    My advice from the inside on getting your money. Be understanding of the art buyers or editors position but do not let them forget who you are and what you are owed. A good, respectful PE/AB wants to keep up relations with you as much as you want to keep relations with them (just because they are at a bad mag now doesn’t mean they will be there forever). Beware of the cheque is in the mail line. If it is used ask for the cheque number and date it was sent…account departments should keep these records unless they are absolutely clueless – it protects them as much as it protects you. Ask your contact to help you escalate it…and take it to the top if you need to.

  20. The first thing I learned as a photo editor was, don’t answer the phone. It’s almost never the editor’s fault, unfortch they always have to carry that invoice cross.

    The first thing I learned as a photographer, don’t hold your breath for payment any sooner than 120 days, 90 if you’re lucky. Although I have to say, record labels have always been my most reliable, fastest paying clients. Too bad the industry is dying.

  21. 90 days! 120 days! What are we now, a banking facility as well? 90/120 days credit is unacceptable for a small photography business let alone a sole operator.

    S*r*w that. 30 days standard, 60 for ongoing clients that throw work your way often.

    I’m not digging some magazine out of a hole with one of those last minute “our regular guy is ill/busy/can’t be bothered – so are you free tomorrow” jobs and THEN waiting 90 days for the paltry fee.

    Honestly. We are our own worst enemies putting up with that.

    My t&c’s state “licence begins upon RECEIPT of payment”.


  22. Am I the only photographer who uses DNB’s Debt Recovery Services?

    Why yell and burn bridges when you can have a reputable firm like Dun and Bradstreet represent you for the dirty work of debt recovery?

    I offer an early payment discount. If they don’t pay by the due date, their account goes straight to DNB, automatically.

    I can’t take credit for these ideas. The practices are outlined brilliantly in John Harrington’s “Best Business Practices for Photographers.”

    My debt recovery policies are spelled out clearly in my contract. If clients know that non-payment is going to effect their business credit report, they’re more likely to respond.

    Even better, if they can save $300 for early payment! Money talks. I don’t bother yelling. It’s just good business.

    – Eric

  23. Add URB magazine to the list of offenders. By far the worst delinquincy I’ve ever dealt with… going on 9 months now.

    @23 – An excellent idea, and reasonable terms. My new best brow-beating friends.

    It sure beats my “Milton” from Office Space phone calls to the client’s accounts payable department: “Uhm… excuse me. Mr. Lumbergh told me to talk to payroll and then payroll told me to talk to Mr. Lumbergh and I still haven’t received my paycheck and… if I don’t receive my paycheck soon then… I’ll… I’ll set your emergent urban culture magazine office building on fire…

  24. Periodically 5-7 times in one year (-during 3 years) I shooting for the american and europe corporate magazines. Recently began to feel problems from them, same as well as with the russian editions (the biggest back payment in Russia 120 days). Very, very pity.. But we hostages from people who to us pays money..
    And I think a situation will become complicated in due course..
    Regards, Alexey

  25. Something that really strikes home with me in all these comments is the issue of honesty. I learned recently that a magazine I’ve shot for a lot has been paying basically everyone but me. Why? Because I was more friendly and understanding than the others. I even declined jobs for their competition to help build their book. My loyalty has been rewarded with a sizable bill that they pay down seemingly at their whim. Meanwhile I struggle to pay my own bills and launch my starting shooting career. How does someone just starting out handle it? Well I do it by selling everything of value that I own except photo gear. Anyone want to buy a house? How about a pint of blood?! ;-)

  26. you know it’s bad when you are getting your royalty check for resale before the original invoice is paid

  27. I worked in a camera store in Colorado 15 years ago and remember one of our regulars coming in to buy film. He was grousing about so-and-so magazine and lousy rates and past due payments – and left me with this sage advice: “The best way to make any money as an magazine photographer is to slowly sell off your gear piece by piece…”

  28. Oh don’t even get me started.

    This doesn’t relate to magazines in particular but to the industry as a whole.

    I had a major apparel industry retail client that waited until the day of a shoot deliver deposit checks. Not a big deal except when the shoots were week long extravaganzas requiring a great deal of expenses. I learned to plan ahead.

    The fun part was getting paid on the balance. “We don’t have the invoice” “We need you EIN” “We only pay on Thursdays and Friday during the full moon” “The name of your family pet wasn’t on the invoice”. They got pretty creative about it. As frustrated as I was I also was amazed that anyone would keep a job like that. Working AP in a major corporation would not be top on my list of careers.

    So the balance on all my invoices starting going into net 60. And then the real kicker. AP informed all vendors that all invoice balances would be paid net 90 without late fees. On top of that you had to pay $300 to be part of the “new, improved” invoice system. If you weren’t in the new system? Your invoices could go into net 120.

    We’re talking a MAJOR international brand. Not surprisingly, next quarter their earnings were the highest they’ve been for a while. Someone was doing their job, I guess.

    Needles to say I “fired” the client. Am I better off? It definitely put a dent in my income but it felt right to walk away.

    It’s really too bad we can’t put together some sort of union to organize a strike to prevent this kind of stuff. As freelancers we have no outlet to talk and organize to stop these things from going on. Except for blogs like this.

    It’s nice to know that you’re not alone. I used to take this kind of behavior very personally. I thought that “if I were a well known photographer who people respected I would get paid on time!”. Now I know that’s not necessarily true and that no matter where you are in your career you’ll always have clients that will work you for every last penny.

    Thanks for the outlet Rob, you give me hope that there are people in the business actually concerned about good image making.


  29. I was assisting a photographer for the last 2 years regularly and VIBE took 5 and a half months to pay an invoice for a fashion shoot that we did 6-7 double page spreads in one shoot day for them. Then, when the check arrived, it bounced, yes you heard right VIBE bounced a $15,000 check and then it took another month or two to get a valid check. Also, as a note this was last year.

  30. I was the credit and collections department at a weekly entertainment rag for a while, and the slow payers were a huge problem for us as well. We did pay all of our contributors very quickly, although the pay was low.

    It was quite an eye opener, and a great learning experience. I had to call really large corporations worth billions asking were the payment was on a $2500 ad. It was really pathetic, but I almost always got it. I learned how to ask for it, when to ask for it, who to talk to, when to be nice, and when to get angry. And of course when to send them to collections.

    It helps me to this day, although now it’s harder not to take it personally. I also realized how precarious the finances were at so many companies, and that late payment was often the only way to manage their cash flow. They pay the the ones most important to staying business first. Utilities, payroll, etc. We photographers, unfortunately are a long way down the list. You can burn a lot of photographers and still find someone to do the job. Several magazines have been mentioned as extremely slow payers. Think they have trouble getting photographers to shoot for them? Of course not. It’s a part of their business model.

  31. Is there a FTP that only transmits when payment is received via PayPal;)

    I had a fairly large Ad job two months ago that could not have been more difficult. The job was awarded at the last minute and I told them that I could not proceed without an Advance. I was working the day before till about 5pm and the rental house closed at 5:30. I told the AB that if I did not have a check in hand, I could not finance the job and would not be at the location the next morning. Needless to say, I received a check and the shoot happened. Of course, the VP of Business called and asked if they could have 30 days instead of when I delivered the files. I relented and as expected I had to call after the 30 day period. The check was on a desk in the Accounting Dept, I guess they couldn’t afford a stamp.

    Talk about poor PreProduction/Karma…

  32. (sound of joint being rolled and lit. sound of exhale).

    wow, this conversation is really bumming me out, man. all weekend long, and now, rob leads off the week with another (realistic) downer post like this.

    i’m working on software that will FTP a password to my TIFF files, even after they’re in place at the magazine, that will drop one Layer, and expose the underlying Layer, if the Invoice has not been paid. you’ll be able to choose between CarrotTop, a picture of an empty parking lot shot with ringlight, or that picture of Britney exiting the car. If the magazine doesn’t pay the invoice, my picture disappears, and the gag photo gets printed in the magazine.

    Speaking of empty parking lots, if you want to cheer up, wander over to Joerg’s site, and read that amazing interview with Joakim Eskildsen. Now THERE is a man with commitment to photography. And images to match. Pentax 6×7, film, and two lenses; that’s all a man needs. Seven YEARS devoted to one project.

    (sound of another exhale).

  33. I’ve got a non-payment situation that is now past 270 days. If you’re interested, here’s one email from the editor: “How to put it – other than we ran into an unfortunate situation with our sales agency – basically the publisher found out they were giving ads away this fall for buying in the spring…all came to a head when the publisher started calling agencies asking why the hell invoices 120 days old were not being paid. We are now a good $300,000 in the hole. Before enlightening me of this he went to our investor (who is funding our parenting site) and has convinced him to give us debt financing in ——-. The money will be in sometime in February, and your invoice will be paid the next day.”

    It’s now mid-march and after my tenth follow-up I received an email asking if I wanted a check that is back dated to May. They also “promised” me interest on the past due payment. I don’t think either will end up happening and I’m shocked they’re still in business.

  34. “I always pay my credit card in full, but wonder what it’s like for people who carry a balance.”

    I was forced to carry a balance after severe equipment failure last summer. Late payment has meant it has taken me until now to clear that balance as the interest would make it more and more difficult to put a hole in the balance. One national radio station took over four months to pay up expenses they owed me! That really hurt!

  35. Great post Rob. I must say that you left Men’s Journal in a good place though. I was payed in about 30 days from the time of invoice.

  36. @24 — thank you for this, eric! great resource.

    my lawyer does an excellent job with a simple phone call or letter (posted, not emailed). that always gets a check, fedexed, within 1-2 business days. and costs me $0. she is the best!

  37. Hello Rob,

    Boy, talk about timely! I’ve been wondering for some time now if/when you’d get around to this aspect of the business.

    Of course this is a thread that COULD have unlimited entries, I’m SURE we have ALL dealt with these situations and the anger, frustration, confusion and angst it causes-to say NOTHING of occasionally explaining to OUR vendors, bankers, etc. why we can’t pay our bills on time.

    Suffice it to say it’s ‘not right, NOT fair, not ethical, etc., etc., etc.,’, however from the CFO’s p.o.v. it’s just ‘good business’. Then again the CFO probably sees photographers, and their images as ‘just widgets’, so why pay for now what you can pay for later and keep the money to earn interest on in the interim? Besides, as mentioned ‘there’s always another one waiting for that next job’.

    In a perfect world we’d all band together and ‘boycott’ the pubs. with bad contracts, rights grabs, bad payment schedules, etc. Hah! Like that’ll EVER happen.

    I have a lot of regular editorial clients, and I like the P.E.s and ADs at all of the pubs. Some pay net 30, some net 60 and few @ 90 days. Maddening. The one magazine client, the ONLY one that ALWAYS pays in UNDER 30 days is Guideposts. Granted, perhaps not the (insert name here) of ‘Big Media’, but they have it right there in their P.O. (you all get those, right?) along with the usage to be licensed is: “PAYMENT WILL BE MADE IN 30 Days. OR LESS”.

    Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a Christian Publication? Maybe they just want to do right by those that do right by them? Who knows?

    According to the EP database (last updated 6/2005!) their page
    rate for one 4/C page was $85K+. Circ. 2.7M. They have a lot of ad pages, a good business model, interesting assignments AND they pay on time. What’s wrong with this picture?

    Thanks for the venue you’ve created, it’s a wonderful two way forum!


    Robb Scharetg

  38. For all of the fellow celeb shooters, try adding a line to your invoice’s terms and conditions that requires payment within 30 days or prior to publication other the client forfeits their embargo.

    They want that exclusive bad enough they’ll pay on time to make sure they get it.

  39. Just one more thing: r.e. the comments regarding -‘copyright/grant of reproduction rights NOT licensed until payment made in full’, judging from the stories related on here in this thread, along with my own personal experiences it seems like we should just forgo that line.

    I know, I know-we have to have it, in order to prove ‘willful infringement’, etc. However, do you REALLY think that accounting/AP AND the CFO really give a rat’s _ _ _ about that?

    IF we were like FedEx, Getty, Corbis, et. al., or the Water or Power companies, or even the printers MAYBE pubs. would care. But they pay late, when it’s ‘financially convenient’ AND ignore any interest charges we try to pass on. After all, they have ‘on staff counsel’, we don’t. I’m SURE that IF they got a late C/C bill with an interest charge on it though there’d be no arguing about paying that. Right?

    Sorry to be so cynical, but unless we CAN turn off their power, or NOT print the pub we’re basically held hostage. Witness Mary Ellen Mark’s experience . . . we’re all just content providers in the eyes of the money people. Oh to be Getty, and shut down the image pipeline, if ONLY for a day!

  40. Real talk! As someone who still assists more than I shoot, it’s a real cold one when a photog tells me I’m not getting paid till they do. Doesn’t happen too often, but there’s some dodgy folks out there. Also, my first published image, 19 years old, double-truck, no idea what I was doing, but had what someone needed when they needed it. Needless to say, my naivety was obvious and these cats had a new excuse every time until they stopped taking my calls, which they did until they mysteriously disappeared. I had to show up in the New York office (I live in California!) just to get my tears!

  41. Sounds like a whole lot of photographers really need to read that book, and look at the Dun and Bradstreet website.

    I send clients to collections THE SAME DAY their account goes past due. NO EXCEPTIONS. NO EXCUSES.

    You guys are getting pushed around because you let them push you around. Let them deal with people who squeeze blood out of stones for a living. Sure, they take a chunk of the bill, but 70% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

    AND you don’t waste any of your time dealing with non-payment. That’s a HUGE relief for me. I don’t have time to think as it is, let alone waste time on the phone with people who’ve let the due date slip (and that happens all to often!)

  42. Every now and then, we have an invoice going the wrong way and never gets to account and then on the day that we go to press, said picture agency suspend our account. We’ve learnt our lesson. Now, when it comes to commissioning photographers and the jobs done, after an invoice has been sent out to me, I make sure I call the ‘tog a 2 weeks later to find out whether payment has been made or not so I can do the relevant. The last thing you want is a situation that karma, as you say, comes back to haunt you.

  43. I used to work as a photo director. I now run an agency and am amazed at the time I spend tracking down payments.
    A few tips I have found from being now on both sides of the billing game are:
    1. Follow up on the bill prior to the 30 days. Just send a quick email or call – “just checking in to make sure the bill is being processed and nothing is holding it up?” It seems everything can hold up a bill… Signed Contract, receipts, someone being on vacation, a question from a managing editor that doesn’t get answered etc. etc. In that same email I attach the invoice again.
    2. Be very nice to the photo editor and ask if there is someone else you can contact regarding the matter of payment. Managing editors seem to be helpful at times when dealing with this.

  44. God forbid you are 5 friggin minutes late delivering the images though.

  45. Liz, I think the suggestion of asking the photo editor if there is someone else you can contact is a good one I forgot to mention. I always ask that if my first call to the photo editor doesn’t get me paid. The last thing I want to do is harass a photo editor for money. I know it’s not their department, so letting them know I’m not mad at them personally seems like a good way to go about dealing with them.

    Don’t shoot the messenger, or something like that. Particularly when they’re the ones that hire you.

  46. You want to make it as easy as possible to pay you as well. Send a completed W9 to all new clients with the invoice (and get an EIN even if you are a sole proprietor to protect your SSN from getting too much exposure). Ask new clients how they want to be invoiced (duplicate? On pink frilly paper? Whatever it takes…) and who the contact person will be in Accounts Payable (AP)–before you invoice. Ask if you should submit a copy directly to AP as well as to the PE…just, in general, find out how that client works then follow their steps as much as possible so that they have no excuse for not paying you on time.

    Then follow up with the AP person after submitting the invoice to make sure it is being processed. Be nice to the AP person and remember to thank her/him…lots.

    Don’t bother the PE or other creatives with billing/payment hell if at all possible as it is rarely something they have much control over.

    Finally, politely but firmly hold their feet to the fire about getting paid. That’s not being an ass, that’s running your business professionally.

  47. We always get in touch with the accounting dept in these situations (and normally end up getting paid in a relatively short amount of time). I act nice, and normally get pretty good response… I’ve never had a problem getting an accountants email from a photo ed, either…

  48. […] Another post by Rob Haggart aka A Photo Editor discusses how big magazines are bending under the pressure of big advertisers and passing along all that bad behavior to the poor editorial photographers. Basically, they hold the cards so they feel they can manipulate the game. […]

  49. Sure Rob, it does all boil down to bad advertisers, but how about the publisher get on the horn with the deadbead advertisers and make the same threats (you don’t pay your bill, we won’t run your ad), or better yet, write it into their contract and actually enforce the thing. Last time I checked, it was the magazine’s publisher who wrote the advertising contract terms.

    I know you’re getting the short end of the stick in this situation and I appreciate that you’re trying to make a broken system better, but when running a full page image costs a magazine $400 and a full page ad results in a MINIMUM of $6000-8000 in revenue, I have a hard time standing by and financing Hachette/Conde/Time Inc. It’s called cash flow, and you better believe it is flowing there, except when it’s in the cash is flowing to vendors.

    Fact is, it’s a competitive industry and only the big deal people like Mary Ellen, Annie, Steven (M or S), Jim Nachtwey, etc. have enough clout to throw around or make any sort of threat that would actually make a noticeable difference in the magazine’s look and/or sales.

    I mean, I have had checks from the above mentioned publishers come 9 months or a year PAST DUE (ie: past their 90 policy), but I can imagine who it would hurt more if I decided to pull a hissy fit on them. You should feel honored to have gotten a new one torn by MEM in person. I hear she’s much less intimidating than Annie and Jim dodges bullets for a living (literally) so I can imagine he would be pretty formidable.

    After all, ask yourself how many publishing companies have their own high-rise building and then ask how many photographers do…

  50. Having been on both sides-a photographer and a (former) magazine
    owner,publisher,editor, photo editor, basically the man of many hats, I never, ever not paid a writer or photographer. Just the other day, while going thru old files was a letter by me in response to a really bitchy writer wanting to get paid. My response was, ‘as stated in our guidelines, we pay 30 days after publication. Enclosed is your check for….” And this was 28 days after publication! Needless to say, she never got another assignment from me! Not for the money issue, but just for being a bitch. Be nice. On the photography side, I have always been paid, but the worse was from Indexstock, the now (former stock agency). They were 2-3 YEARS late on payment, but I was finally paid when I threatened the owner that I was sending over my goomba Sicilian cousins. He paid up pronto, and if he didn’t, well lets just say I was not bluffing.
    On Mary Ellen Mark bitching you out for 1/2 hr., with any other photographer, you would have hung up on. But she sounds like the major domo sliver-bitch from hell! My god, she probably got paid for that one shoot more than I have ever made in a year in photography. She is RICH, what gall to tear you a new one. “Don’t you KNOW who I am”! She must have sounded like one of those drama queens from the TV show “The L Word” (which us guys only watch for the hot lesbo scenes), but they act totally psycho, and MEM’s behavior did not sound any better. Did she ever work for you again? Or apologize? Oh thats right, when you are SO famous, the little people don’t matter. I was thinking of taking a workshop from her, but not anymore. Or maybe I should and harass her for fun (do a Dianne Arbus for us, please. Besides she was 100 times more talented than you). Please excuse my rambling rant, but it really struck a nerve.

  51. I’d like to hear people’s experiences with the whole “Flat Rate” versus “Space Rate” arrangement. It seems to be, the Space Rate was the common practice for years, but now, it seems more and more common to get a phone call offering a Flat Rate fee plus expenses, or even more weirdly, a Flat Rate including expenses.

  52. This post would only be better if you told us the name of the magazine. Maybe that way, when photographers deliberately chose not to work for the publication, it will be forced to pay photographers on time….

  53. It’s hard to tell whether this is a group of photographers or battered women. You get a financial thrashing yet you continue to sleep with the publication, or others like them.

    I love photography, but more than that, I love photographers. Interesting, intelligent and creative folks. It’s a shame that the neural trigger that fires creativity doesn’t trigger the body to grow a pair. Publications hire you because of your creative nature. They will pay you promptly if you have the balls to put them in collections and/or serve process for copyright infringement on the 45th day. No exceptions.

    And just for fun, you can require AP/CFO info.
    Home address:
    Children’s names:
    Children’s school:
    Blood type:
    Emergency contact:
    Name of individual authorized to claim remains:


  54. As a photo editor working on multiple projects and issues simultaneously, I make a point of moving invoices over to my finance department every week. The ones that usually get hung up on my desk are due to bad documentation of expenses or worse — surprise expenses that were never cleared/discussed in the first place.

    One thing that I find surprising is that some photographers (usually the ones rep’d by agencies) take far too long to send invoices over. Sometimes, I have to call/e-mail them or their agents repeatedly to remind them to bill me before the end of the year. I am not sure how they are covering the float on these expenses for these jobs but it makes for messy book keeping on my end (and probably on theirs too). I suspect it is because my job is “small” relative to their other projects. Maybe I can get a discount on the job for late billing…

  55. interesting post on heather morton’s blog today. (art buyer). it’s about the bidding process for ad agencies. mildly related to this topic.

  56. @53
    Dennis publication(Blender,Maxim etc.), Vibe. These are really bad.

  57. > one thing we should all remember when having this dialog is that > it is NEVER the photo editor’s fault.
    Big fat lie, IMO.
    A Photo Editor who knows in advance what’s going to happen is a
    Photo Editor who would rather have photos than warn shooter.
    That kind of Photo Editor = con artist.

  58. Even if the subject is already over, I want to inform you that in Italy there is a big company issuing lot of magazines – from pop to high style magazines – called Cairo Editore – that regularly pay contributors bills after one year from publication. Exspenses a little before.

  59. As a working photographer for the last 20 years, this was good to read. When I am chasing late payments, I do appreciate that often its not the fault of the person who has commissioned the job that the payment hasn’t been made, but the accounts dept. It still doesn’t make it any easier to have to carry the expenses for the extra length of time…

    good luck with any future hassles you run into….


  60. bidding hotels…

    The TrackBack specification was created by Six Apart, who first implemented it in their Movable Type blogging software in August…

  61. @Nancy,

    Up until this post I was pretty frustrated reading this thread as I have been encountering the same problems… At least that gave me a good laugh! In a sort of melancholy way at haha

  62. Well said. So it’s not just deepest darkest Africa that suffers from this phenomenon! Late or non-payment. Especially colleagues, family and friends who abuse one’s generosity.
    I get strange looks when I arrive at a (non-commissioned private) function without my camera. “What are we going to do now? We were hoping (read expecting) you were going to take photos for us?” My reply? “You have a camera on your cell phone…”
    Magazines: The “We don’t pay for images, you will get a credit and exposure…” bull is why I won’t work under those terms. I can’t put my ByLine on the dinner plate. Now they use the trickery of competitions, and because there are so many out there with a “Professional” camera submitting their holiday pics, the PE has got a hard drive full of work suitable enough for publication, but never paid a cent. The submitter has bragging rights to a few friends for a week or two but that’s where it ends and the magazine has just increased their bottom-line and shareholder profits.
    I’ve yet to see a repeat run of images from Joe “Holiday” in the same magazine or any other. The shot used was a once off wonder.

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