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|| News Item: Posted 2005-04-02

Let's Talk Business: When Bad is the Norm
By Rick Rickman

Photo by
This month's column is designed to give us all a chance to examine what we really find acceptable. There are a lot of things happening in this industry today that work against photographers. However, when photographers consciously begin to work against each other it's time to look closely at how things need to change and change for the better.

There was a proposal from Getty to the National Hockey League that made it into the hands of some enterprising photographers who saw fit, in good conscience, to distribute this proposal to many members of the industry. I think it's important to enclose this proposal here in its entirety so everyone can read it for himself or herself. The text follows below:


Bruce Bennett
Director of Photography, Hockey Imagery
Getty Images
75 Varick Street, 5th floor
New York, NY 10013

Way back in the early days of hockey, when BBS (Bruce Bennett Studios) was in existence, I put together what we called the NHL Co-op program. We would eat the expense of sending 6-8 photographers to the Draft, Awards or All-Star game, and would split the costs among the teams, so that the expenses were covered and the teams would receive quality photography at minimal cost. Now comes 'BBS on Steroids', also known as the NHL/Getty Images Team Partnership program. We all know what a really warm reception this received at the Draft this past year. Glad I wasn't there.

Quite simply, our mandate and our goal, is to leverage what each team is doing on the local level, and create a central archive of hockey images which the NHL and all teams share. This allows for many positive benefits, but the key one is the consolidation and distribution of hockey still images in the same fashion as the NHL maintains control of its' video product. Getty Images boasts the superior platform for the building and distribution of digital assets making the access of these images to you and its client base quite painless. So here I am, no longer as BBS, but rather as an employee of Getty Images, selling you something that I truly believe is in your best interests to get involved in. OK, call me two-faced because as a freelance photographer with 30 years of experience, freezing my butt off at your local arena, it threatened my photographic way of life.

Well, times change, we move on, and sometimes we see the light. There is a better plan out there. Sorry if this is sounding religious. The fact is, that Getty Images has proposed a better plan. One in which, at minimal cost, you get photography from many NHL arenas. You will have usage rights to this material forever, in perpetuity, without additional fee until the cows come home...and even longer. And the photographic history of your team will be yours to keep with no reservations and no way for a photographer to hold your images hostage.

There is no arm twisting here. You are not being forced to accept a deal you are uncomfortable with, or one you don't think is in your best interests. I'll probably get fired for telling you this (well, probably not), but one of the employee mandates at Getty Images is 'No Silos'. I look at this expression, and wonder if we could port this to NHL photography, where would we be? All teams share photographic material openly through the ease of the Getty Images web site, look out for each others needs, and work together to build an archive of photographic material that benefits the teams and the league itself. Nahhhhhhhhhh. Can't happen. Maybe it can. Read on.

In Totally Random Order

1. Live game coverage is expected for over 400 games in the first season and more each succeeding year. When the plan is fully implemented, every game will be covered with the live transmission of 8-10 photos on game night, with the remaining images following within a few days after an event. This will provide a broad base of images immediately after games and tons more will follow. This plan benefits the media, your website and the league's website. The more teams that sign on, the more games are covered. Every home game is covered for teams that sign on, so take the NHL/Getty Images Partnership member teams, multiply by a minimum of 41, and throw in games in non-partnership arenas which will be covered on a case-by-case basis. This can save you thousands of dollars a season by not subscribing to AP or Reuters wire service for web images.

2. Teams and the NHL are granted rights to use the images IN PERPETUITY. You can no longer be held up by a team photographer who controls the rights to images of your club. Even if Getty Images goes poof/belly-up/bites the dust, whatever, in the future, or no longer has a league or individual team deal with your club, these photos are yours to use FOREVER. That's a long time. By the way, if you are having an issue of losing historic images because of a bad previous deal, contact me. Maybe I can offer some guidance.

3. Photos of all domestic NHL events are included at no additional fee. These include All-Star, Awards and Draft (not Olympics). This alone could save you $500-$1000 a season.

4. Clubs have editorial use of Getty Images wholly owned images on, as well as anything produced from this point forward, for use in all team editorial and promotional vehicles.

5. Many clubs have those mom-and-pop weeklies which you may want to comp photos to from time to time. Just let us know, and we'll provide the images as a courtesy.

6. Your team's corporate sponsors have the use of any images your photographer produces (assuming you wish to give them use.) Otherwise Getty Images will handle the sale of the image and offer a discounted rate to your local corporate sponsor.

7. Images can be delivered on a CD within a few days after a game. We do prefer to edit through a photographers shoot, and eliminate unusable photos as well as rotate images for your ease of you're your CD should just contain highly usable images. However, you can receive what you want from the photographer as soon as you need it. Just let your photographer know what is needed.

8. We will staff your home games with our highly qualified professional photographer....or yours. This is for all home games, exhibition, regular season and playoffs. We will work with you to get the best possible action photographer, and if you prefer one individual with whom you already have a relationship, we will evaluate their work and hopefully continue that relationship. Maintaining quality from arena to arena will help all teams, since you will have access to all material shot in all arenas.

9. Major press conferences (such as new coach, new arena, new GM, new owners) are covered at no additional fee.

10. Your team shot is included.

1. The training camp head shot session is included. (As in the past, when you deliver these images via FTP to the NHL (and bill them) you will receive $500 back from the league) Getty Images is not involved in the league fee, so if this changes, don't blame us.

2. As players are acquired during the season, Getty Images will shoot the standard head-shot in your team uniform, as well stylized studio portraits (don't worry, it will be brief), so that Getty Images, as well as your team, will have feature photography for promotion and program use.

3. When requested by the team, Getty Images will post images from PR events on their site at in a section called The Publicity Channel. The access to photos in this area is free. You would simply send out your PR release, and include a link to the high-resolution photos, which can be downloaded and used free-of-charge. Maximize your PR events.

4. You have full access to images shot in all arenas. That means that if a player or your team sets a record on the road, and Getty Images covers it, those images are yours to use...forever! If you are looking for variety, you will have home and away photos, third uniforms and many varied views and angles to choose from.

5. Access to assistance from Getty Images professionals in Digital Asset Management. This is what we do, and it's what we do best. The Getty Images website will manage the images for you. We can also provide solutions for you to manage these images for your teams needs or across an entire organization including multiple teams and arenas. We will help in planning and implementing the workflow to maintain and access digital photography. It's great to have 20,000 images a season...but if you can't find them when you need them, it doesn't matter how many you have. As well, we will provide assistance and guidance towards the safekeeping of analog (slide, print, and negative materials in your possession) for long-term security of your historic images.

There are no hidden agendas here.
This proposal is as straightforward as we could make it.
To this end, here are some other things clubs should think about BEFORE you agree to this deal.

Public relations events are not included unless they are major events. You have the option of hiring your team photographer or anyone else to cover hospital visits, check presentations etc.

1. One of the basic tenets of this deal is that the photographer we assign...or your team photographer raises the bar in covering the game. Our photographer will work with you to help supply whatever you need. We want to be your source for every photo need on game night and away from the rink as well. If there is a plethora of game night wacky photo shoots, we do suggest that an additional photographer be assigned by the club to handle these shoots. With many clubs, many of these events can be handled by 'the web guy' on your staff. Cost of this will undoubtedly vary from market to market. In this way, the action photographer can concentrate on coverage of the game, changing batteries and digital cards in remotes, moving positions between periods, fixing errant strobes, and similar activities. Usually our team photographers have assistants who can handle these needs, or we can suggest or provide names of shooters who can handle this type of activity.

2. Getty Images does not offer print services from images. At least, that's not our core business. We can recommend pro photo labs in your area or refer you to labs which can make prints as needed. As well, we're pretty sure your team photographer can handle or broker your needs, as most have contact with local printing facilities. In this day of digital photography, this usually means simply
e-mailing images to photo labs.

3. No editorial control of images. Sorry, it can't happen. Getty Images photographers shoot alongside other wire services, newspaper and magazine photographers, and must maintain a level footing to compete. This is the same arrangement that Getty Images has with the NBA, MLB and NFL. Our editorial integrity must be insured as we compete with all media outlets that cover games.

1. Feedback. Feedback on this plan, feedback on the working relationship with the photographer. Feedback on the images that are available to you on Feedback on turnaround time, quality from building to building. But, more importantly, feedback on what you really need!!! I know from my own experience working for four NHL teams, that every team's needs are different. Let us help you.

2. You cannot convey photographic rights to your team photographer. They will not have ownership rights to the photography they shoot. Once they sign on with Getty Images, they relinquish rights to sell editorially or commercially. In return for signing those rights over, they will be paid a fair industry standard day rate. In the past, many photographers (although I can't think of any offhand) charged their team's lower rates for access and strobes, and made their money elsewhere. These avenues of income will most likely be limited in the future, so your photographer will be looking at increasing your rates to survive. Getty Images would pay all fair rates for their labor.

3. Team photographer (or team employee) transmits 8-10 images on game night. So, we are requesting a high speed Internet connection to allow the photographer to get back to the action immediately so nothing is missed. In some venues, and with some games, we may staff with a digital assistant to assist in transmitting images.

4. Union-free, fee-free strobe usage. Want high-quality. We need strobes. In some buildings we have them, and some we don't. So this will be handled on an arena-by-arena basis as the policies and ownership varies.

5. Oh, I almost forgot. $15,000 USD. We'll bill you after the All-Star break. Or tell us if you have something else in mind. Whatever. Big bills, or small bills. You pay us, and we pay the photographer.

6. If we're missing some images you desire, or can't find them on the site, just call or e-mail. Tell us your needs and if we don't have them in the bag, we'll shoot the scenes you or your marketing people need.

One PR director asked the entirely fair question 'Who does MY team photographer work for. Is he looking out for my best interests and covering my needs.' That team photographer is responsible for covering every scrap of hockey that takes place in the building. That's a tall order. And although it is difficult to put it this in percentage form, I do have a B.S. in accounting from C.W. post College. Let's say that your team photographer concentrates on your team 85% of the time. The other time he is shooting more of a news style image that is marketable editorially and commercially (although
these would probably be good for you too) and features more of the visiting team. All the team photographers follow the same Twenty-nine teams multiplied by 15% = 435%. Our plan gives you over 400% more imagery than you are getting now. Math trickery. I think not.

Call each other. You PR types have been known to stick together. Call me. I'm an approachable guy. Really. Tell me what you really need, and what your concerns are. Let's play 'Let's Make a Deal'. I firmly believe that this will be a great deal for every club regardless of what you are paying now. In reality, $15,000 is a very small price to pay in the scheme of things when you are talking about insuring the long term photographic history of your club and looking at the value of what you receive. We have estimated the real photographic value of this deal is over $75,000 when taking into consideration today's photographers' fees and photo usage rates. Upon completion, this will undoubtedly bring long term benefits to the NHL and its' clubs. We'll bring the value of the distribution, the digital asset management, and the superior shooting skills of Getty Images photographers to the table.

Let's help bring the whole NHL Photo thing out of the dark ages. Now, more than ever, is the best time to work together, and unite every party towards the completion of this project which has floundered in its' many incarnations over the past 12 years. All we need is the go ahead to do what we do best. Give this a chance, and together we can build this program so all can benefit. Call me at my office, or just drop me a line.

I do feel that we should have contracts signed, and all details in place so that photographers are on board, and all logistic matters including strobes and transmission issues are in place well before the start of the season. No, we're not looking for cash up front, just for an agreement to proceed laying the groundwork. This will avoid bumps in the road when games begin. Give us the go ahead, and I'll have Carmin Romanelli, Vice President of Sports Business Development, prepare a contract. Contracts will be prorated depending on when the season starts. In addition, if you seek NHL guidance, I would suggest that you contact Patti Fallick, the Vice President of NHL Productions. Patti is overseeing this partnership program.

Thanks for your time,
Best wishes


It's not surprising or unexpected that Getty would forward a proposal like this to the NHL. It is a great deal for Getty and would supply them with a huge amount of materials to distribute world wide that would generate a great revenue stream. It's the same kind of proposal they have with Major League Baseball, National Football League and the National Basketball League.

Most everyone in the industry is at least familiar with these deals. For years now Getty has become the leading stock agency in the world by fostering deals that give them distinct advantage over the rest of the industry. Getty has been very successful in producing one of the finest delivery systems in the world and put extraordinary resources into using advanced technology to distribute the work in their collection.

These deals are always good for Getty. Rarely are these deals an improvement in the conditions for photographers collectively. Granted, Getty isn't in business to do anything but make money for itself and it's shareholders but at some point any member of any industry has opportunities to better those industries. At some point there is a moral imperative that would direct a company who makes it's money from photographers to do some things to better general conditions.

In the proposal, Bennett and Getty admit that the amount that they would charge the league was well below the market value of the work involved. The fact that Getty is willing to undercut the market by so much at the expense of other working photographers, in my opinion, borders on efforts at restriction of trade and collusion. After reading the proposed deal above I think you can come to your own conclusion.

As a freelance photographer, it's clear that if a large entity comes to your best client with a deal that lowers the value of what you do, so much that you can't compete it is a bad deal for you as a freelancer. Historically, big business has always tried to eliminate it's competition by driving prices down. The federal trade commission sometimes takes these tactics to task if the practices are so egregious that they fly in the face of fair competition. That can and should be a topic of greater debate later on down the road.

In the proposal above, Bennett writes:
"OK, call me two-faced because as a freelance photographer with 30 years of experience, freezing my butt off at your local arena, it threatened my photographic way of life."

Bennett goes on to say:
"The fact is, that Getty Images has proposed a better plan. One in which, at minimal cost, you get photography from many NHL arenas. You will have usage rights to this material forever, in perpetuity, without additional fee until the cows come home ... and even longer."

In a truly interesting statement he finishes his first paragraph with this little ditty.

"And the photographic history of your team will be yours to keep with no reservations and no way for a photographer to hold your images hostage."

I find it interesting that anyone who has ever had the opportunity to work as a freelance photographer would ever say that they would ever hold a client hostage with the work they had created and produced. Charging a fair price for the work produced can hardly be viewed as hostage taking. When someone freelances for a long period of time it's not unusual to learn that the best way to secure a future is to hold on to the rights to your work.

These rights will help your retirement and create a library of value for you and your family. If you doubt that, talk to people like the Turnley brothers who sold their library to Corbis for a multi-million dollar sum. Talk to Roger Ressmeyer who did the same thing. Talk to Bruce Bennett who made a tidy profit off the sale of his works to Getty.

That's correct, this is the very same Bennett who signs on the proposal above calling for the leagues to encourage their photographers to sign on to the Getty deal and lose all rights to what they shoot from that point forward. Everyone on earth has to do what's best for themselves in all business matters. However, there should be a moral imperative that lives within us all that helps us to try to do what's just .

I think that in many cases, America has lost its way in terms of what's acceptable business. If a person spends years learning the ins and outs of a profession and deep in their heart know what's good for the industry they survive from, then in an instant begin to encourage photographers who don't have the insight to understand the business as well as they should, go down a path that you would never follow, is that fair or just?

Selfishness has taken hold of our business senses and wrung them out to the point of absurdity. Would you tell your son or daughter to do something you know is bad for them? Would you tell your friends to pursue a path that you knew would harm them? Would you encourage persons you worked with for several decades to do something that would injure the associates you spent so many hours with? Can you, in good conscience, look at people and send them down the wrong path? If you can, then you are in serious need of some values clarification.

This industry is small and for it to continue to have value to future generations, it will have to be nurtured and shepherded to a better place. This will take courage and yes, some selflessness. Making conscious decisions to screw your friends and associates to better yourself won't help this industry prosper nor will it help future photographers enjoy the ability to make this trade a way to make a good living.

I believe that there is a moral imperative that is always in play in the universe and what we do comes back to us. It might be wise to make sure that what we are revisited by is something we can take pride in. Ask Ken Lay if he is pleased with his role in life. Did stealing all that money improve his life and make him happier? Is Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom making the world a better place? When we actually gain the insight that it's not the number of dollar signs on the accounting ledger that matters but, what we leave to the world, we can move on a path to real success. Do you have the courage to take the high road? Try to find out.

(Rick Rickman is a freelance photographer based in Southern California. He is a regular contributor to Sports Shooter and writes often about business practices and other issue facing the photography profession.)

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