Kudos to Thomas Witte->

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Rich Pos, Dec 9, 2003.

  1. Rich Pos

    Rich Pos Guest

    For glowing praise of his free lance sport work in January issue of
    Jay Abend did an article about pro football photographers and paid
    tribute to Thomas on his free-lance work.

    There is also a shot of Thomas' gear he drags along to each game.
    David Attenborough doesn't pack that much equipment on an expedition
    to Antarctica!

    Way to go Thomas!

    Rich Pos, Dec 9, 2003
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  2. Rich Pos

    Bill Hilton Guest

    From: Rich Pos
    And his wretched Bengals are winning too! What a year for Thomas!!

    Bill :)
    Bill Hilton, Dec 9, 2003
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  3. Rich Pos

    Annika1980 Guest

    From: Rich Pos
    Way to go, Thomas.
    Now when are we gonna do that Titans game?
    Annika1980, Dec 9, 2003
  4. Rich Pos

    Rich Pos Guest

    The article mentions how difficult it is to get photographic press
    credentials to pro football games. It's even becoming complicated for
    some that work on national publications.
    Thomas and another free lancer were the exceptions.

    It did mention that one way around this was to reserve a skybox for
    the year, often stadium management will make exceptions for people
    that spend $5000 per game.

    Either way, it sounds iffy..... but what the hell do I know?!
    Why not contact Witte through his web site. I clearly remember the
    challenge / invite.

    BTW, your *updated* rogue shot is hilarious.
    Thanks for having the decency to show us your best side.

    Rich Pos, Dec 9, 2003
  5. Rich Pos

    Annika1980 Guest

    From: Rich Pos
    It is amazing how crowded it is down there with all the "VIPs" lurking about.
    That's one thing thing about shooting high school games. You can move around
    pretty freely (outside the 25 yard lines) without tripping over people.
    Usually there is only 1 or 2 photographers there competing for the same space.
    Annika1980, Dec 9, 2003
  6. I forgot all about that interview... Thanks for the kudos.

    Brett, things are extremely tense at NFL Photos right now and I've cut
    back on my out of town games quite a bit. Nashville was the first to
    go because even though it's the same distance as Cleveland, Pittsburgh
    and Detroit for me, it's just such a mentally draining drive and
    parking there sucks. I haven't forgotten about you, but it might not
    be this season as I'm in Cleveland and Cincinnati the rest of the

    As Rich mentioned, it's becoming a huge pain in the butt anymore
    getting credentials even for myself. Even when I'm shooting for
    Sports Illustrated I can't get an assistants pass anymore, but they
    WILL credential a second SI photographer and allow him to carry
    gear... It's a clusterf*** to say the least.

    Yes the Bengals are winning and I love it, but the real success story
    this year has actually been Miami (Ohio) quarterback Ben
    Roethlisberger... I've gotten so many stock requests from him lately,
    which is good since Maurice Clarrett is no longer at OSU.

    Anyway, I digress. Thanks for the kind words and hopefully I'll see
    some of you on the sidelines.

    Thomas E. Witte

    Thomas E. Witte, Dec 9, 2003
  7. Rich Pos

    Annika1980 Guest

    From: (Thomas E. Witte)
    No problem. Hey, maybe you can score me some Masters credentials instead.
    I rule golf pix.
    Annika1980, Dec 10, 2003
  8. Rich Pos

    Dallas Guest

    Thomas E. Witte said:
    Thoms, how is the market for sports photography in the US? Over here the
    freelancers are getting screwed like you cannot believe. I was actually
    having this discussion with a friend of mine who shoots sports for AP,
    Allsport, Touchline and various corporate sponsors. His passport collects
    a lot of stamps, but he gets paid shit considering his massive outlay for

    I was telling him that maybe he should consider weddings instead
    (naturally I am trying to shyster him out of his 400mm f/2.8L).
    Dallas, Dec 10, 2003
  9. Thomas, how is the market for sports photography in the US? Over here the
    [DISCLAIMER: This is tough to answer and I'll drift seemingly off
    course explaining it...]

    Dallas, that's the problem with Allsport/Getty actually. They pay (in
    the States) $400 US per assignment and expenses, and that is it. No
    royalties, no nothing. Allsport at one time was the gig to have, but
    since Getty swallowed them up, things have never been the same. The
    same is potentially happening with Getty buying the NFL photos library
    and everyone is up in arms because it is such a despised entity.

    That aside, there are still ways to make money at sports, you just
    have to be smart and respect yourself. When the economy started to
    get rocky a couple of years ago corporations pounced on the desperate
    photographers and started forcing them to sign work for hire
    agreements or other rights grabbing contracts. Many photographers, in
    fear of going bankrupt, relented and are now trapped in a terminal pay
    scale. Others, also desperate for work, began undercutting other
    photographers and/or flat out offering to shoot for free. This took
    work away from other photographers, who also had to lower their rates
    or sign the contracts.... It was a vicious cycle that ruined the
    market because they also are now stuck, unable to raise their rates.

    On the other hand, there were a few folks that held out like myself
    and several of my friends. I put my efforts in high gear to get on
    contracts that still respected photographers, like Business Week,
    Sports Illustrated and smaller, lesser known stock agencies like Icon
    Sports Media. It was rough at the beginning because 95% of my work
    was for Icon and they pay on spec... Meaning that I don't get paid at
    all until a photo sells. This seems ridiculous, but I really would
    have rather shot on spec than turn over my copyright. Five years
    later it's a different story. I'm still getting paid royalties on
    games I shot 5-10 years ago, and the Getty shooters aren't.

    This weeks ESPN magazine is an example. The two shots I have of
    Roethlisberger on page 10 and 130 total out to $400, which is the day
    rate for Getty... But the joy of it for me is the fact that these
    same photos have been selling a lot lately.

    So in the case of your friend, he makes more money up front than I do,
    but the difference is that I'll keep getting paid years down the road
    for the same game we both may have shot.

    Another thing that helps make me somewhat successful is simply saying
    no to contracts. If the client really wants you/me to shoot for them,
    they will work with you.... Those of you in the Orlando area saw the
    story of Brooke Christensen recently, who was burned severely a year
    ago. When they originally called to have me shoot her at the burns
    institute in Cincinnati, I refused to sign the contract because they
    wanted total copyright transfer. I referred them to other shooters in
    the area, but they wanted me to shoot the story, so they relented and
    made the exception. I got paid, and I kept the copyright.

    I'm sorry for making this winded, but I can't stress enough about how
    important it is to respect yourself and your self worth. There's no
    way I would have gotten to where I am now if I undercut other people
    or turned over my rights. Royalty based sales make up 30% of my
    annual income.
    HA HA! Who needs enemies with friends like you. :) (kidding)

    Thomas E. Witte

    Thomas E. Witte, Dec 11, 2003
  10. Rich Pos

    Annika1980 Guest

    From: (Thomas E. Witte)
    Thanks for the great info!
    Annika1980, Dec 11, 2003
  11. Rich Pos

    Dallas Guest

    Thomas E. Witte said:

    <snipped for brevity>

    Thomas, thanks a bunch for posting that. It pretty much sums up the reason
    why I never got more involved in pro sports photography. Copyright is the
    most important element of published work, so to sell it for the figures
    these agencies are asking for is practically criminal.

    Here in SA the local affiliate of Allsport is Touchline Media. They
    publish the local Sports Illustrated and several other sports magazines.
    They have a couple of salaried photographers who cover as much as they
    can, but they sometimes commission freelancers whenever the holes in their
    coverage appear. The money they were offering for rugby (which was the
    only accreditation I had at the time) simply didn't make economic sense,
    PLUS they retain copyright to all the images you send them. They had a
    minimum requirement of 20 "good" images per game.

    If you think about some of the useage that images they have copyright
    over, any photographer with half a brain in his/her head would never sell
    their copyright. I'm thinking of the image of Jonty Rhodes running out
    Inzamam Ul Haq at the 1992 cricket world cup, plus a few other shots that
    American readers would be unfamiliar with.

    I gave some consideration to shooting on spec for agencies, but there
    again, control over usage is out of your control and given the amount of
    white collar crime we have in this country, I just wouldn't trust anybody
    to sell my images on my behalf.

    It still remains an aspiration of mine to shoot international sports, but
    as a freelancer the cost of equipment is just too heavy to justify for me.
    I'll stick to making concrete paving and shooting as an amateur!
    Dallas, Dec 11, 2003
  12. Rich Pos

    Gordon Moat Guest

    This is becoming a common rate for editorial work as well. Even feature work
    barely pays more than that.
    Similar occurrences in graphic design, especially for publications, but also
    at design and advertising firms. Some AIGA chapters even supported this
    practice, since it greatly limits competition from creatives after they have
    left a company.
    Again, I have seen this happening in graphic design since just before I
    graduated in 1998. Many students fresh out of graduation took these "work for
    hire" jobs, since they either did not know better, or thought there was no
    other option.
    It also creates a new-to-the-job surplus, since there is less incentive to
    make it a career. When efforts show little after a few years, or when one
    loses a contract/job, and there is nothing to show, many go to other career
    paths. Worse are those who were promised copies of work for portfolios, then
    found themselves out of a job (with little besides college work in the
    portfolio), or got hassled by their former employer (I have seen this a few
    too many times).
    I have read similar accounts at digitaljournalist.org. You have stated your
    experiences well, and it would be great if your accounting of matters could
    make it to a larger audience. Have you considered trying to take this post
    further than this news group?
    I have lost a few proposals (mostly advertising related) over issues of future
    image usage. While I often use exclusive rights contracts, many companies want
    it all.
    I am a little curious if you have ever been handed a contract, when asked to
    do work. I suppose since I ma more advertising and editorial oriented, it may
    be more common to what I do. It would be interesting to me to have your
    comments on this.

    I will give one bad example, though I am not at liberty to give the company
    name. A very large company approached me about photography of their products,
    and image usage. Not only did they want all rights, and all materials used,
    they wanted me to assume all liability in the event another company sued them.
    While the exact wording is quite lengthy, the basic idea is that if one of the
    image ideas was too similar to another companies idea, and they got sued for
    it, that I would bear sole responsibility, and receive no support from them. I
    counter offered with my own contract proposal, and never signed their
    Absolutely. It is a shame that little of copyright, rights transfer, and usage
    issues gets discussed. Sometimes PDN reports on some issues, but you get a
    feeling that fighting later on could put oneself on a blacklist. Better to
    have everything settled up front. Shame that colleges do not stress these
    matters more importantly.
    Thanks for the posting Thomas. I hope you can contact Digitaljournalist.org,
    PDN, or someone similar, and get the opportunity to share your words and


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Dec 11, 2003
  13. This seems to be generally true of any hobby that is taken into the realm of
    a profession. I often think about how it would have been had I made my
    living playing the trumpet. But even as a hobby, when I play in my local
    community band (for free) I have to play things that I do not like, and be
    there when it's convenient for them, and not for me. As a pro, you would
    have to do the same thing, and your enjoyment of taking sports pictures
    would become a grind where you would have to go to events that you didn't
    like, and take pictures of things that didn't interest you, and then rush
    them into production at great inconvenience, and for not enough money to
    make it worth while.....We are both better off for keeping our hobbies just
    William Graham, Dec 12, 2003
  14. On the other hand, there were a few folks that held out like myself
    You know, nobody listens. They don't care. They are all led by greed
    and immediate gratification, and other are self concious and don't
    think they can shoot well enough to make a living selling stock. We
    have conversations like this ALL THE TIME on sportsshooter.com and
    there are still several hundred pros who see nothing wrong with
    this... They just want their money now so they can pay their bills
    live NOW, not 20-30 years down the road.
    It happens quite often. Typically I get a phone call asking if I'm
    available to shoot on such and such date, I say yes and 3 out of 10
    will tell me that they need me to sign a contract before they tell me
    the details. The other 7 will typically tell me what the story is
    about and then mention that they'll need me to sign a contract before
    I shoot. Regardless, almost ALWAYS do I have to sign some sort of
    agreement before I ever even get to the job site.
    That is just ridiculous, but sounds very much like an advertising
    contract. It's insane. Earlier this year I had to shoot another gig
    for Sports Illustrated where I had to stake out Morgana "the Kissing
    Bandit" for their "Where are the now" issue. I was nervous because of
    all the laws in place now-a-days and such and they said that no matter
    what, on any assignment, I had their 100% financial and legal support
    on. I ended up lucking out on the shoot. I was in a rented SUV with
    tinted windows across the street when she came out of the house and
    waited on the sidewalk for 5 minutes for her husband to pick her up
    for lunch. She was on the public sidewalk and I was in a public
    street. Win-win.
    Tell me about it. I know for a fact that Getty will not hire me
    simply because of the public lambasting I've given them. Editors and
    lurkers read these/those forums and newsgroups. But I honestly do not
    care. I do not and will not work for them. I will change careers
    before I surender to their agreements.

    As for why colleges don't address the subject, that's a toughy. I
    think one of the biggest reasons is because the whole work for hire
    and rights grabbing contract world is only about 5 years old, and most
    of the professors have never had to deal with it. It's such a new
    concept and most of these folks are veterans. In defense, my alma
    mater; Ohio University, did bring this up, but only for about 10
    minutes of one class period my sophomore year.
    I'm trying. Hopefully some of the folks that have read this thread so
    far gained some insight.

    Thomas E. Witte

    Thomas E. Witte, Dec 16, 2003
  15. After you had your covert shots safely in the bag you should have jumped
    out, waved the camera at her and hollered, "kiss someone babe and I'll get
    it published." The odds would have been in your favor... She likes
    Dennis O'Connor, Dec 16, 2003
  16. Rich Pos

    Dallas Guest

    Thomas E. Witte said:
    Good for you, Thomas. I wish there were more photographers like you in the
    media world.
    Dallas, Dec 16, 2003
  17. Rich Pos

    Alan Browne Guest

    Thomas E. Witte wrote:

    I've been lurking on this thread with interest.

    A couple/few years ago, I believe in Paris, the runway-fashion photogs
    got quite upset at how they were treated. The venue organizers would
    keep them corralled outside and then only let them in at the last minute
    to get setup. At all times treating them like leper-parasites (which
    may have been apropriate for all I know).

    A few photogs organized and then one afternoon when the doors opened at
    a major event, all the photogs who had been cleared and badged turned
    around and left.

    This of course got the point across to the organizers. In this case it
    wasn't about money; the photogs all worked for the magazines that sent
    the photogs... having a major show without the strobes from cameras
    blasting and the requisite exposure in teh mags kinda puts a damper on
    the event...

    In the end they gained ... , but it took a gesture. (I have no idea if
    the gains they made hold today...)

    Some such gesture in sports photography would possibly help ... if
    organized.... in the US I don't know if anyone could drum up the support
    and there is a large pool of folks willing to step in...

    Alan Browne, Dec 16, 2003
  18. HA HA HA, actually just like a light switch, she one day just wanted
    away from it all. She had been denying interview requests and
    portrait requests since she quit and denied all of them, hense the
    stakeout. Try to dig up the article, it explains why she quit. It
    was probably one of the most fun assignments I've ever had the joy of
    shooting though in terms of planning and patience.

    Thomas E. Witte

    Thomas E. Witte, Dec 16, 2003
  19. Rich Pos

    Gordon Moat Guest

    This has happened in some other professions as well. It is unfortunate, but it
    means that few will stick with it in the longer run. When I graduated in 1998, I
    remember some professionals visiting our college my senior year, and all of them
    stated that less than 1/3 of us would still be in a creative profession five years
    later. At the time, we all thought that was bogus, but here it is five years later
    .. . . . and I look around and see that less than 1/3 of those I graduated with are
    working creatively.

    I tried for a while on alt.design.graphics to speak out against "work for hire" and
    push getting a minimum of "non-competing usage" rights in any contract. Often my
    words fell on deaf ears, or attracted business owners vehemently trying to justify
    their work-for-hire practices. The newest contract type is now "all rights", which
    gets around some of the IRS problems associated with work-for-hire. This stuff
    really is a mess.
    Thanks for sharing that. I thought it was only advertising related work, but it
    seems it is much more widely used than I thought. I have been able to write on the
    contracts, change some clauses, and still get work, but I am not sure that would
    always allow me to keep working for a particular company.
    Unfortunately, there was also a clause about not revealing the contents of the
    contract. That section read more like a warning. Since this involved products not
    yet released, there was a separate confidentiality agreement. Looking at both of
    these, there were 22 pages of text. They wanted me to just sign it in front of
    them, and tried to rush me. I stated that I wanted to read it, so I stuffed it into
    my bag.

    Later, I called them with some questions, and they passed me on to the legal
    department. Those guys were jerks, but I guess they pay them for that. Anyway, I
    ended up writing in my own changes, and blacked out tons of stuff, then I signed
    the contract and the confidentiality agreement, and sent both back to them.

    The kicker is that I already did two jobs for them prior to getting the contract.
    After I sent back my marked up contracts, I have not had any work from them. Their
    accounting department calls me at the beginning of each year to verify my tax
    information, but that is it.
    Good thing. Not sure who Morgana is, but better to be safe around anyone well
    Strange, but it sounds like it was an exciting shoot.
    Corbis is not much better in the contract game. The "all rights" contracts are too
    easy for the big players, though some of them will bend a bit when asked. It sucks
    that asking just that type of change might result in no work. At least some smaller
    organizations still respect the profession.
    Sounds about right. I graduated in 1998, and I had very little about copyright
    issues in any of my classes at SDSU. Funny that my first copyright challenge was in
    late 1998, not long after I graduated. It ended in arbitration, and in my favour,
    but the pain in the ass was almost enough to make me quit.
    I know there are many amateurs and hobby photographers here, but anyone thinking
    about going pro should be aware of these issues. Anyone in college should also be
    concerned about these things. There are wordings that transfer rights, protect the
    client, and help the photographer build a portfolio, and while they may be tougher
    to implement, they benefit all players equally. Having things one sided to either
    the client, or the photographer's, advantage, lacks some balance and fairness. With
    a little luck, perhaps some fairness can return to photography.


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Dec 17, 2003
  20. Rich Pos

    Gordon Moat Guest

    There has been a few similar instances, some involving celebrities. One problem
    is that it is tough to get photographers organized.
    The idea is almost like a strike. Unfortunately, it cannot be done very often,
    since income is at stake.
    It is not just sports photography, or even photojournalism. There are many
    articles about these issues at digitaljournalist.org, and some other locations,
    but the effectiveness is limited.

    After I graduated in 1998, I began in graphic design. The contracts were changing
    at that time, and far too many "work for hire" agreements were appearing. After
    some of those got blasted by the IRS, or the state of California, the next change
    was an "all rights" contract. Since 2000, my work has shifted to be mostly
    photography. The contracts are still not great, but I have slightly more control
    over how the wording is done. The learning curve of the contracts has been huge,
    and could easily be a college course worth of material.

    In creative work, some illustrators and graphic designers have come together
    under GAG (Graphic Artists Guild, www.gag.org), and become a union of sorts.
    However, without certification, testing, and some government standards, this is
    barely effective.

    A similar situation exists with photographers. There are organizations, but there
    is not really a large push for certification, or licensing. Many are against this
    type of thing, though it could validate some efforts, and has the potential to
    support working professionals in the future.

    The biggest push has been copyright protection, but as that gets tighter, it has
    the reverse effect of generating more "all rights" contracts, which allows
    companies to side step most future issues. Often, that only leaves contract laws
    to invalidate a bad contract. The downside of that is you might win the battle,
    and then loose the war. It seems too much that winning in court might result in
    no future work, or blacklisting.

    There is also the Hollywood mentality happening too much. In the motion picture
    business, lots of new people work on speculation, often for no pay. The makers of
    films know this, and exploitation is rampant. Newspapers look to be headed in a
    similar direction, with fresh new photojournalists willing to work for next to
    nothing, on an open promise of future greatness. When the later rewards do not
    come, they move on, and are then replaced by another starry eyed newcomer . . .
    really sad.

    Sorry to rant, but too many creative people are walked on by corporations. It is
    not all the corporations faults, nor even the colleges, but somehow the word is
    not getting to the people just starting in the business. There is some hope, and
    magazines like PDN and Picture at least still have the balls to report these
    issues. I just hope more people listen and learn.


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Dec 17, 2003
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