Sala de Prensa

Noviembre 2000
Año III, Vol. 2




Photojournalists find tough times on the Web

Jim Lowney *

As online journalism continues to develop, camera-toting reporters are finding new photo opportunities on the Internet.

"It has leveled the playing field," said Mark Milstein, a Budapest-based photographer with Atlantic News Service, which includes Knight-Ridder as a client. "Freelance photographers or journalists, with little or no support, can compete on a story-to-story basis with the biggest and the best news agencies, using the power of the Internet."

Milstein, who has covered conflicts from Kosovo to the Middle East, no longer has to primitively develop film in hotel bathrooms and then hope to find a wire office or a good phone line. Last summer, for example, he spent nearly a week photographing the deadly after-effects of earthquakes in Turkey, and though almost all local infrastructure was badly damaged, Milstein was able to file daily using a digital camera and a GSM cell phone.

New digital technology and the Internet's possibilities are transforming photojournalism, as most newspapers move away completely from film, and as freelancers find better ways to market themselves.

Professional photography Web sites and magazines now focus on new filmless cameras, software, and how to use the best new photo tools and toys. Trade magazines like Photo District News are heavy on consumer reports about digital cameras and photo Web site design.

Even newspapers that fail to post any photos on their Web sites shoot all their print photos with digital cameras.

Other newspapers are using the unlimited space on the Internet to present the news day in pictures and to praise and spotlight their photo staffs.'s "Camera Works" offers pictures from each of a paper's sections--business to sports--as well as special features like a gallery of Pulitzer-winner Carol Guzy's pictures.

The New York Times online gives its cyber readership access to "slide shows" of special news events -- like Communist China's 50th birthday, the fall of the Berlin Wall 10 years later, and the millennial New Year's Eve in every time zone. also provides video clips of lead stories and breaking news, as does, the BBC News Web site and scores of others. even has staff video shooters covering news events like the clashes with police during the anti-IMF protests in DC this spring.

Video, actually, may be the Internet's most threatening impact on the traditional still-news photographer.

"Video is going to be more and more common on the Internet," says New York-based freelance photojournalist Tyler Hicks who has worked in the Balkans for the Associated Press and the New York Times. "Get someone to shoot a few minutes of video of a news event and run it, or simply take single images from the video and post them as photos."

"It takes less talent to shoot for the Web, because of video," says Hicks, who still shoots with classic Leica cameras. "It will be harder to stand out as a photographer. ... It takes away from a photographer's ability and eye in many news situations."

While many of Hicks' photos have been published on the Web, he has never dealt directly with an online editor. If his or any other photographer's pictures end up online, they probably get there through a huge photo agency, such as Corbis or Liaison.

Stock and news photo agencies are part of the overall Internet marketing toolkit that is helping photographers sell more work.

Newsmakers, a two-year-old "e-wire service," has a straightforward Web site for news photographers to post and sell their images. An approved buyer can easily view thumbnail images and check a price list at a glance.

The price list highlights another difference of online photojournalism: Web sites pay less for photos.

If a photographer is on an assignment for The New York Times in Europe, a typical day rate is $250 for shooting, $150 for transmitting the images, plus related expenses. If all goes well the picture runs in the print edition, and is posted on the Times' Web site.

If the same photographer sees some news event -- say a violent protest in Vienna -- and sends images to Newsmakers, he has to wait for some news outfit to buy it before seeing any money. (This has always been the case with agencies.) If a Web site buys one of his images, he gets 50% of the $75 buying price. The photographer gets the same cut on each additional sale, unlike at traditional wire services.

Newsmakers doesn't just deal with Web sites, even though its entire operation is electronic; it also sells to newspapers and magazines, and charges them higher rates. And after all, submitting photos to an agency is far easier than getting a NYT assignment.

"A photographer has the chance of hundreds of newspapers running his photo," says Richard Ellis, CEO of Liaison-Newsmakers.

Ellis says that the agency has 800 clients; 50% are newspapers, 25% Web sites, 20% magazines and the other five includes publications like college papers.

Besides the big agencies, photographers' personal Web sites and online publications are also prime marketing outlets.

"It is a wonderful opportunity for exposure," said Genevieve Field, co-founder of the tasteful arty erotic site

"We are creating a virtual gallery," she said. "It gives photographers the opportunity to be seen around the world." doesn't pay for the nude photos it posts; it's more of a content- for-exposure trade, where photographers have a chance to sell prints to Nerve's 750,000 monthly readers, Field says.

Photography on the Internet "is not is a great way to make money," Field said, but's photographers boast strong reprint sales, she said. Nerve features a new photographer each week, and their portfolios remain on the site.

News and business Web sites are offering some photography jobs. Scanner techs, photo editors and researchers are needed, and there are even some slim chances to work directly for online news sites.

"We use freelancers from time to time," says Photo Editor Jerome Adamstein. "Ninety-five percent of our pictures come from the Times photo staff, but we often do original features for and that's when we work with freelancers."

There may be few full-time staff online photographer jobs right now, but they're out there. And they probably won't be advertised at old-school newspaper job sites like Editor & Publisher's. The National Press Photographer's Association job information bank or would be better bets. But non-news Internet companies focusing on entertainment, sports, business and goods will be leading the way. For example, a site for "hard-core sports fans," has its own staff of people shooting both video and stills.

So, will still-photography be able to survive and even co-exist peacefully with video on the Internet? Newsmakers' Ellis isn't worried.

"I see video as a major force," he said, "but there will always be a market for stills."

* Jim Lowney es un fotoperiodista y escritor freelance, radicado actualmente en Los Angeles. Sus textos y fotos han sido publicados en periódicos y revistas de Estados Unidos y Europa, así como en publicaciones en línea. Este texto fue publicado en Online Journalism Review y se reproduce en Sala de Prensa con la autorización expresa de su autor.

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