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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

US Presswire
Will Powers, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 2:53 PM on 03.23.07
->> PLEASE only those with experience respond. There are lots of rumors and I don't want to perpetuate rumors. Talk about your honest experiences with the company.
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Howard Curtis Smith, Photographer
Easton | PA | USA | Posted: 10:33 PM on 03.23.07
->> What do you need to know?

They are great people to work with. The company is still in the start up phase, and is growing. You are shooting on spec, so unless you can regularly produce double truck worthy images, you are not going to get rich. They are very picky on who they use as photographers, and I consider myself lucky to have been chosen.

I am not sure what else you are looking for. If you have specific questions that you want an answer to, you can email me. I am just a photographer with them, but I will answer what I can.
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Darren Carroll, Photographer
Cedar Creek (Austin) | TX | USA | Posted: 11:04 PM on 03.23.07
->> Well, since Section 2, paragraph M of their September, 2006 contract states that "Photographer shall use its [sic] best efforts to promote Agency's name and good reputation throughout the world at all times, and Photographer shall not make any disparaging remarks about Agency," I wouldn't expect many negative opinions...
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Bill Baptist, Photographer, Assistant
Houston | TX | USA | Posted: 11:26 PM on 03.23.07
->> DARREN!!
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Karl Stolleis, Photographer
Santa Fe | NM | USA | Posted: 11:38 PM on 03.23.07
->> I have very specific experience and I consider Bob R. a friend. I shot some things two years ago, in hopes of helping a friend out. I got a check or two that didnt quite equal up to covering my expenses.

I think what anyone needs to consider with Presswire is can you afford to lose money in hopes of making money. I wasnt in a position to do that but I think if you go out and do some amazing work Presswire has people's attention and can make you some money in turn.

Fact is, anyone who takes work on spec, relies on the photographer involves being VERY aware of the positives and negatives. Its a gamble that might pay off, if you have the skills.

Caveat Emptor
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 11:50 PM on 03.23.07
->> Will-
I think Darren answered your question. If not, re-read Karl's post.
Michael
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Howard Curtis Smith, Photographer
Easton | PA | USA | Posted: 12:01 AM on 03.24.07
->> Don't worry Darren, I am not going to violate the terms of my contract. I don't need to. The people I have worked with at US Presswire have been nothing but first class and I consider it an honor to be one of their contributors.

Besides, that is a rather unnecessary clause in their contract. It only reinforces existing statute and case law dealing with slander and libel. I feel it is there more as a reminder that we are professionals, and we need to act professionally because we are not only representing ourselves, but the companies we work for. This includes most photographers' favorite pastime, being malcontents.
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John Harrington, Photographer
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 1:20 AM on 03.24.07
->> Howard:

I have not seen the entire contract, however, so I will comment only on what was shared:
"Photographer shall use its [sic] best efforts to promote Agency's name and good reputation throughout the world at all times, and Photographer shall not make any disparaging remarks about Agency,"

The above does NOT "reinforce existing statute and case law dealing with slander and libel."

This, well said from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slander_and_libel

"The common law origins of defamation lie in the torts of slander (harmful statement in a transitory form, especially speech) and libel (harmful statement in a fixed medium, especially writing but also a picture, sign, or electronic broadcast), each of which gives a common law right of action."

Disparage:
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disparage
1 : to lower in rank or reputation
2 : to depreciate by indirect means (as invidious comparison) : speak slightingly about

It is perfectly acceptable, should someone have a negative experience, to share that experience, and such descriptions, when factual, are neither slanderous or libelous. However, they may be disparaging, even when factual. In fact, the sharing of ones negative experience is a first amendment right, that is being contractually precluded by the above term. Moreover, the contract includes the phrase "...Photographer shall use its [sic] best efforts to promote Agency's name and good reputation throughout the world at all times..." which is ambiguous AT BEST. A photographer could be found to be in breach of this term if they whispered nice things about them instead of shouting it, because, it is reasonably argued, shouting is a better effort than whispering. Moreover, "at all times", it could be argued, means that you are to act as a constant salesman. Failing to do so, places you in potentially exercisable breach.

I do take issue with their 9/27/04 press release, which reads, in part "Committed to ethical journalism and business practices, US PRESSWIRE is dedicated to providing high quality, live digital images and exceptional service. "

As Howard noted, "you are shooting on spec", which belies a LACK OF COMMITMENT to business practices that are sustainable. Further, for photographers shooting on spec, there is little incentive to provide "exceptional service."
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Howard Curtis Smith, Photographer
Easton | PA | USA | Posted: 2:29 AM on 03.24.07
->> John, while you are correct on your definitions, it matters little if you are sued for libel or slander, when all you are doing is writing or speaking in a disparaging manner. You may be within your rights to do so, but you may also be bankrupted proving it. A hollow victory at best.

While I am not privy to future plans of the company, I realize that I am working for a start up, not an established company, and they realize that the photographers are making sacrifices to help make the company a success. I would not consider shooting on spec for a large established company where I would be providing cheap labor while the bosses get rich. US Presswire is one of four clients that I work for on a regular basis. It is the only one where I am shooting on spec for all of my submissions. While the income I have made while shooting for US Presswire is small compared to my other clients, they have helped me become a better photographer. This plus a professional work environment keeps me shooting for them.

I have to disagree on your assertion that shooting on spec provides little incentive to provide exceptional service. There is no greater incentive than knowing that you have to produce exceptional work, or your work does not sell, and you will not get paid.
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Stanley Leary, Photographer
Roswell | GA | USA | Posted: 1:00 PM on 03.24.07
->> I would be very careful using wikipedia as a source. In this case it looks pretty accurate, but I do think people need to know it is wrong. Example: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17638311/
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John Harrington, Photographer
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 4:15 PM on 03.24.07
->> Howard -

Yes, you are working for a startup, making sacrifices. Back in the dot-com boom, those that sacrificed proper pay and reasonable hours were paid in stock/partial ownership of the company. I have seen no suggestion either here, or elsewhere, that those that volunteer their time, equipment, and talents, with the hope that they may generate some revenue, are being given stock options.

If, in fact, the owners have set up something, whereby, they value one share of stock at a typical $10 IPO value, and instead of paying you for your sacrifices, they instead offer you 10 shares of stock per assignment, and further advise you that that stock may, in fact, be worthless, but that you too are puting sweat equity into making something of it, and it could reap significant benefits down the line, then that would be fair. Further, those that worked more would garner greater equity, and thus, participate in it's future value.

While I recognize that many people who worked for startups took huge loses, and had worthless stock, that was the risk they took. Some made out great. Making the excuse that you're working on spec because they're a startup means they should be including you in the participation of the benefits in the future. Frankly, were I to be made an offer akin to this, I would seriously consider it, because I know just how hard I would work to make the endeavor a success, because I would participate in the fruits of that labor. I would further engage in it if I believed that the persons operating the startup were (or would be) working as hard as I planned to. While it seems that the owner's work and history gives substantiation to the likelihood that he will succeed, and will reap the rewards as it grows (and is sold), where is the benefit to all those that volunteered their time and equipment to make it happen?

I would not be surprised at all if the intent of the organization was to establish a critical mass of imagery, access, and so on, and then wait for Getty/et al to come a buyin'. If you have, for example, completed 100 assignments over three years while the organization has gotten it's sea legs, that would be about 30 a year, or just under three a month. That would equate to 10,000 shares, and at $10 a share, that becomes $100,000, over three years, which would be fair. Now, Getty bought WireImage for $200M. Assume for a minute that US Presswire, started in 2004, went on for three more years before the necessary critical mass of images/content existed. (WireImage was around for about six years, so that's a fair comparison). Assume further, that it "only" sells for $50M. That's still a LOT of money for the owner(s)/investors, with no planned (or contractually obligated) distribution to those (like yourself) who put in the sweat equity to make it what it was.

Of course, the flip side is that it just fizzles out, and, while not an optimum solution, is ok too. You leveraged your non-billable-to-other-clients time towards an investment that, when you did your due diligence on, you felt would reap the rewards if you gambled right, taking stock per assignment instead of a paid fee. Had that gamble paid off, you would have revealed in a good investment of your time and energy. If it had not, then you would have lost that time.

To Stanley, regarding Wikipedia - I agree there are risks to citing Wikipedia. I always look to them for a succinct definition/explanation, and if it's not a textualization of what I have in my head, I either just write it myself, or find another source to site. Thanks.

John
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John Harrington, Photographer
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 5:18 PM on 03.24.07
->> Sorry, my math is off by a factor of 10. It should be 100 assignments x $10 = 1,000 shares, not 10,000. I'd suggest that, perhaps, it actually should result in 100 shares an assignment, so that after three years it does become $100,000, or $1k an assignment.
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Carrie Niland, Photo Editor, Photographer
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 2:59 AM on 03.26.07
->> Oops, wrong thread.
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Carrie Niland, Photo Editor, Photographer
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 2:03 PM on 03.27.07
->> Will-

I think you should be clearer about what you are actually hoping to find out. Doesn't mean you are perpetuating rumors if you are more specific--or perhaps enough people have already answered your questions.

I probably have more experience working for uspresswire than anyone else on this thread.

Either way, here is my advice. Before working for anyone this is what I would do.

I would do more research than just posting a thread on a message board. Find out how they treat people that work for them---and I'm not just talking about photographers.

Read the contract carefully. Don't sign it if you think there is something sketchy about it. Ask questions. The right questions.

Don't let yourself get sweet-talked into a deal you are not happy with. Some people are good at making sure they get what they want and don't care how it affects other people.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and what you believe in.

Guess I don't have the wrong thread after all.
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Will Powers, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 2:41 PM on 03.27.07
->> Actually there was a great deal of comment, off the record. Most of the comments reflected low rates. One comment was that US Presswire didn't charge very much for photos and that the editor of the publication was embarrassed to use the photos because the photographers weren't making enough money.

Another comment reflected that US Presswire has changed to a subscription service for some users. That has to negatively impact the pay to the photographers if they are getting paid for use.

Some photographers had plenty of good things to say. The negative comments that I have summarized were the most significant comments.

On a personal note, I applied to work for US Presswire, but there are other photographers working for them in the markets where I have lived. Shooters that either had no relationship with US Presswire were making outlandish statements about the organization or generalizations about working on spec. I am curious about the facts, not rumors.

I'm a freelancer that shoots for many other wire services, but have had to give up ownership of my images. I have no retirement program. Having a potential income from images I shoot today has an interest to me. Truth of the matter though is, unless I had images of Barry Bonds ten years ago or shoot images of a player who would be that famous in ten years, it may not matter if I have ownership.

So these are the things I'm thinking about.
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Todd Rosenberg, Photographer
Chicago | IL | USA | Posted: 3:23 PM on 03.28.07
->> I have been with U.S. Presswire from the start. I will start by saying that I am, in no way, a good example to follow as the majority of my work comes from outside the sports field. In fact, at the moment, I do football and that is about it. I don't do much else. I make a good living outside of my sports work and thus I need to devote my time and attention to what pays.

I will not make any generalizations, because that is where trouble begins. I have covered the Bears and occasional Packer games for the service. I have had small runs in magazines and some decent clips from newspapers. I also helped a great deal in trying to establish an approach, having worked with a few agencies and wire services in the past.

Have I made a lot of money, no. Did I expect to based upon the current business structure, not in the beginning. Based upon what I cover, it would be hard, especially in the sports photo industry where there are major players making major transactions to secure major accounts. Working solely on editorial sales will not make one wealthy.

That being said. I started working for U.S. Presswire when the relationship with the NFL and their photographers dissolved. I wanted to work for someone who would allow me to continue to own my work and still provide a possible revenue stream. We owned our work at the NFL and the revenue had the potential to be very good. Was I a big earner with the NFL, no. But I did ok. I did not want to go to Getty or Wireimage with my work. I was approached to work on US Presswire. I have extensive deadline editorial photography experience. Am I making money from U.S. Presswire, some. Does it cover my expenses, as long as I only work local assignments. I make more from other stock clients, but they have been established longer and work on commercial opportunities.

My advice. Consider all your options. Never step into anything which you are committed and cannot back out. Know your business, know your work and watch what happens. I believe there are good intentions and strong shooters. I also believe there are necessary adjustments. Are there issues, yes. But as for people thinking there is a waiting period to be swallowed up by a larger company, don't believe it. If you have an option to make money and own your images outright, take it. Every option will have drawbacks, it just depends on what drawbacks you choose to take. But no matter what anybody tells you, look at everything said and make your own educated and independent assessment. You will hear a lot from all ends. Just make the best decision for yourself.

Like any small company U.S. Presswire will go through growing pains as it works to find the right working combination.

good luck.
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Michael Granse, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 1:05 PM on 03.29.07
->> The value of a share of stock is determined by the value of the company divided by the number of outstanding shares. I will admit that this is a rather significant simplification of the situation, but for the purposes of this discussion let us pretend that it is the ONLY measure of a company's worth.

If you are accepting stock as payment (this also applies to people who are receiving stock as payment/bonus/etc in a more traditional employment setting) make sure that you are paying attention to the number of outstanding shares.

My concern with the idea of working for shares of stock is that every new share that is issued decreases the value of each existing share, as the shares begin to represent a decreasing percentage of the company's value. This is like adding a new baby to a family without mom and dad getting a pay raise. There is less money to "go around" in this scenario.

In the case of publicly traded companies, it is very easy to find out how many shares of stock exist for any company. Simply go to your online brokerage account and look up the most recent detailed price quote for the stock and look at the "Shares Outstanding." Make sure that you use the DETAILED quote, or you will not find what you are looking for. If you do not have an account with a broker, go to www.bigcharts.com and get the detailed quote from thier site. This is an excellent site, and best of all it is FREE! The following is a link to a detailed stock quote for Applied Digital Technology from Big Charts as an example of what these

I have never had to do this sort of research on a privately held company, but my guess is that you would need to get this information from the owner(s). The owner(s) may not be particularly eager to tell you how much the company is worth, how much debt it has, and how many shares of stock are outstanding. I would be quite reluctant to accept a share of something as payment without some mechanism for determining the value of that share. Here is what could happen:

Lets say that you are receiving 10 shares per assignment for a company, and over the past two years you have accumulated 1,000 shares and Getty just tendered an offer to purchase the company for $5,000,000. $5,000,000!?!?! WOW!!! Your palms start to sweat, your mouth goes dry, your heart starts beating so fast it feels like it is going to burst out of your chest like that alien from the aptly titled movie "Alien." When you regain control of your senses and bodily functions, the thought occurs to you that you will need to do some calculations in order to figure out what your stock is now worth. For the purposes of simplicity, we will assume that there are no prefered shares of stock, no bond holders, no outstanding accounts payable, and that the company carries no debt. Thus, the $20 million dollar offer is going to a company that ONLY has common share holders.

So, what then are your shares of common stock worth? Lets do the math!

Value of Company = $5,000,000
Shares outstanding = 110,000
Value per Share = $45
Your shares are worth = $45,000

Value of Company = $5,000,000
Shares outstanding = 1,000,000
Value per Share = $5
Your shares are worth = $5,000

Value of Company = $5,000,000
Shares outstanding = 30,000,000
Value per Share = $0.16
Your shares are worth = $160


Each of the three hypothetical purchase scenarios involves the company selling for $5,000,000 and in each the photographer owns $1,000 shares. Note, however, the fact that the value of those shares is directly influenced by the number of shares that exist. This means that for the same $5,000,000 purchase price, the value of the stock holder's shares could range from $45,000 down to $160. This is quite a range, and without knowing how much the company is worth and how many shares they have issued you will have no way of knowing which end of this hypothetical scale applies to your situation.

Not having this information is like agreeing to work for a small leather pouch of brilliantly sparkling stones. Closer inspection could reveal that the bag contains millions of dollars in diamonds or dozens of dollars in rhinestones. I would insist on financial disclosure before agreeing to work for stock. Even with this information it is still a bit of a gamble, but at least you will know what the potential upside is before you make your choice. You have to have a good reason to gamble, and $160 is not a very good reason. $45,000 however is something to think about.
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 1:00 AM on 03.30.07
->> Will wrote: "I'm a freelancer that shoots for many other wire services, but have had to give up ownership of my images. I have no retirement program. Having a potential income from images I shoot today has an interest to me. Truth of the matter though is, unless I had images of Barry Bonds ten years ago or shoot images of a player who would be that famous in ten years, it may not matter if I have ownership."

Considering the degree of coverage major sports leagues receive, it will be very unlikely to receive much revenue over the long term from royalty sales, especially if the images can only be sold for editorial use. Unfortunately that's a significant disadvantage for anyone not hooked up with a given league's official photo agency. And it's a topic of debate out there in the world beyond the SS boards, whether it's better in these circumstances to take a WFH deal or keep ownership (and some would argue that the current situation exists because too many are willing to accept WFH... but that's not a debate I want to get into now). When it comes to something like a night baseball game, one of hundreds, if not thousands in a season, then chances are the images will not have strong stock value. Here the photographer who shoots 3 or 4 night games per week on a WFH will earn more than one shooting on spec for a premium sports wire. Beyond the newsworthiness of the first day or so, what stock value do those images really have when buyers can get nicer images of the same players from day games - or from a photo service they already subscribe to, such as AP, Reuters or Getty...?

To make sales through US Presswire, the photographer needs to be willing to take more chances. To work differently and harder, to look for uncommon angles or opportunities to create images that both catch the attention of editors and also tell a story about the game. In other words, create something unique. And this can be very difficult to do for various reasons. We tend to be habitual in life and it affects how we cover events - automatically going to the proven photo positions rather than someplace riskier, especially if under a tight deadline... which is definitely a challenge with US Presswire since one is expected to work to deadline. It's not a bad thing and in some ways the relationship offers a lot more flexibility for taking risks. If those risks don't pay off, the photographer can't exactly be fired since he/she is not even on staff, but also very likely won't make any sales.

I've worked with US Presswire, basically cherry picking events that interest me most, since i also need to devote time to regular clients. I'm not getting rich on royalty sales. When my images have sold, they have usually been ones that were different than those moved by the other wires from a given game.

So beyond the whole debate about shooting on spec vs. assignment vs. WFH... my point about Presswire would be that while you need to move some standard shots from a game, you're wasting your time if that's all you're doing. Consider that most papers and magazines get the AP and Reuters feeds. Why would they want to pay a premium for the same shots from US Presswire? Maybe that's one reason Presswire is offering subscription services (assuming they are), in a bid to try to entice more publications to use their images more frequently...? Though I agree such a move won't necessarily help the individual photographers, it might help the company retain publications.
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