Editor's note: the following is a tongue-in-cheek, often irreverent, question and answer column published in the ASMP News solely for the entertainment of our readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of ASMP, the local chapter or other ASMP members. All opinions and answers are solely those of the author, and he is welcome to them.

Readers' questions about any aspect of photography, or life in general, are welcome and Dr. Photography will answer them in future columns, if he happens to feel like it. Send mail to:
Dear Dr. Photography

Dear Dr. Photography,

Is it true that a big-name photographer just got a one-year contract to shoot pictures for some magazine for a million dollars? Does this mean there's a new ASMP day rate?

Just Getting By in Burlingame


DP: A variety of trade journals recently reported that fashion photographer Richard Avedon signed just such a contract with The New Yorker. The agreement brings Avedon on to the New Yorker's staff as its very first staff photographer. According to the terms released, Avedon will provide 50 black-and-white photos during this period. These photos could include portrait or photojournalism assignments, or images from Avedon's archives. The contract -- $1 million worth -- also says that he cannot work for other magazines during that time. Avedon reportedly called the arrangement "a gift."

No kidding.

Dr. Photography resisted the urge to call all his current magazine clients in an effort to negotiate a similar deal, even though this precedent shows promise of reversing the seemingly endless downward trend in day rates.

For years, magazine photographers have been living with (and complaining about) $350 - $400 a day for assignment work. Editorial stock photo use is often paid at an even lower page rate. But now, thanks to New Yorker editor Tina Brown, photographers everywhere can rejoice at the new editorial standard.

Assuming that Mr. Avedon works five days a week for the next year to produce his 50 photographs, he will work a total of 260 days at an editorial rate of over $3,500 per day. Not bad as day rates go, even though he still has the overhead of a studio to support. He could make an even higher rate if he can find a way to shoot those photos in less than 260 working days, which basically, is less than one picture per week.

The contract also allows him to supply images from his vast stock and archive collection, instead of shooting new pictures. If he were to supply all 50 images from stock, and they were to be reproduced at a full page each, he will be paid $20,000 per page. Not bad as far as page rates go, either.

While ASMP does not set rates, ASMP members and other professional photographers everywhere are taking note. There's a wind of change in the magazine industry. Once again, it's OK to compensate photographers fairly for their work.

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©1993 Scott Highton
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