covid-19: see advice in the Freelance

National papers may pay less for a day's work than most run-of-the-mill magazines. Some rates have hardly increased in twenty years. Which other professionals are paid today what they were paid in the mid 1980s? Not national newspaper staff, which is why almost all staff photographers (outside the wire agencies) have been replaced by freelances at half the cost.

It can take over £100 per day just to cover the costs of running a photographic business, which for an editorial photographer frequently exceed £20-30,000 per year (see Day/base rates and the Day rate calculator). Annual costs of £20,000 spread over 240 shooting days are £83.33 per day.

A photographer working exclusively for nationals can work more photography days than in other fields, since so much post-production work is left, on tight deadlines, to picture desks. Even working five shooting days a week, 48 weeks per year (and this is impossible for a real photographer), it still takes over £80 per day just to cover costs.

To match a staffer's salary of £45,000 would take another £187.50 per day on top, making a total of just over £270.

To cover a staffer's additional benefits, such as a pension scheme, would take the day rate well over £300, or double what most nationals' freelances are paid.

A photographer not working exclusively for nationals cannot work more than three or at most four shooting days a week: up to two days are occupied with post production on other work, and running a business.

At four days a week it would take nearly £400 per day to earn a staffer's salary of £45,000 plus pension. At three days a week it would take about £500 per day.

It is no longer possible to earn a professional salary on national day rates without considerable additional sales through syndication - which may never materialise, and are in turn dependent on retaining copyright.

Photographers wanting to survive in this market therefore need to ensure they retain their copyright, and find supplementary work in better-paying markets.

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Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

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