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,

You are an idiot! In your last column, you implied a comparison of photographer's fees with those of the construction industry. The two businesses are completely different and should not even be considered together in the same sentence. Why don't you compare photographers fees to the music industry, or some other creative field, rather than treating us as just another bunch of laborers willing to work any job for a few bucks. Your poor taste in humor and stupid remarks have caused irreparable damage to the years of work that ASMP photographers like myself have done to further our image. And what other idiot is the editor who allows such drivel to be published?

Infuriated in Inglewood


DP: While Dr. Photography might take offense at the tone of your letter, he understands that there are probably many things you still have to learn about the business of photography and will dismiss your cross attitude simply as immaturity.

Analogies between different businesses are always dangerous, simply because businesses are, well... different. If a photographer applies the practices of another industry to his or her business, they are courting disaster. Likewise, a building contractor who uses the wrong standards will ultimately fail, as well.

You suggested comparing photography to the music industry, or perhaps some other creative field based upon a sensory perception, such as photography is to vision.

Music has a history that is far longer than that of photography. The existence of primitive instruments dates back into early civilization. Correspondingly, the business of music has had many more years to develop into the inextricable tangle of licenses and royalties it has become today. Anyone who has ever tried to license a particular recording, has found that permission must often be obtained and royalties paid to the composer(s), the publisher, the printer, the musicians, the unions, the recording company, the distributors, and any studios and agents involved.

While photographers have adopted some of the music industry's practices, including ASMP's current formation of a copyright collective, there are obviously going to be limits. When a client buys use of a photo, I doubt very much that they will want to have to pay royalties to the models, the stylists, the lighting assistants, the art director, the booking agent, the location and prop owners, the processing lab and the caterer, in addition to what they owe the photographer.


The folly of analogies to other industries becomes clearer when you consider other creative arts that are based on the five physical senses. Imagine if the culinary arts industry adopted the business practices of the music world.

If you went to a fine restaurant for dinner, you would pay the maitre d' for placement at a good table (OK, so that's not so unusual). You would then pay a use fee to the vineyard that provided the wine (you're not buying the entire vintage, just use of a small bottle). Some people also consider that buying a beverage is really only a rental, since you will only get to drink it once, will only possess it for a short time, and ultimately, will return most of it to the earth, anyway. Food, of course, can be thought of similarly.

When dinner arrived, you would owe a creative fee to the chef, usage fees to the restaurant owner, and license fees to everyone including the farmers and their collectives who provided the raw materials. Sometime after coffee and dessert are served, you might find yourself once again tasting your meal, traces of which resurfaced in a small belch. That would be a second use of the meal and would require additional payments to all those listed above. If this was a business dinner, additional fees relative to the business value of the meeting would also apply.

One's imagination could run wild trying to apply similar analogies to other sensory professions. Perfumes and fragrances are a multi-billion dollar industry based solely on the sense of smell. Even sex, which has been around a bit longer than photography or music, is an industry that is based solely upon stimulation of the physical senses. It has even been considered to be an art form by some.

The point of all this "drivel", as you put it, is to illustrate the dangers of analogy. The risk of drawing such, is that analogies may expose more differences than similarities, particularly when used to compare business practices. Photography is photography, and being in business as a photographer does not mean you can run your business like a musician, a chef, a building contractor or a prostitute. You should run it like a photographer.

Finally, to respond to your last question, the editor of this publication happens to be a highly paid professional, a personal friend of mine and of course, owes me money. The reason that any editor would publish "such drivel" is because they have been entrusted with the editorial direction and tone of their publication, and you have not. From your own puerile remarks, you should understand why.

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©1992 Scott Highton
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