SI Lays off remaining 6 photographers.

ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark.Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
edited February 16, 2015 in Sports
Sports Illustrated laid off their remaining photographers.

NPPA announcement.
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  • CavalierCavalier Life is a Bokeh Foresthill, CaliforniaRegistered Users Posts: 2,486 Major grins
    edited January 24, 2015
    I heard that the photographers that were laid off will probably be the contract photographers that SI will use - and probably with the SI staging/lighting equipment. Meaning that the mag photos quality might not suffer as much as the photographer's health benefits!
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
    edited January 24, 2015
    Rarely is a layoff good for the employee ;)
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  • CavalierCavalier Life is a Bokeh Foresthill, CaliforniaRegistered Users Posts: 2,486 Major grins
    edited January 24, 2015
  • jonh68jonh68 Major grins Registered Users Posts: 2,711 Major grins
    edited January 25, 2015
    Pro photographers with staff jobs are in the minority and those jobs are being lost. Now, those that were pj/sports photographers are going to have to think like business people if they wish to stay working in those fields. Instead of employees they have think in terms of being contractors. Just about everyone I worked with when I was on staff at a local newspaper have been laid off. Those of us that have managed to find a way to make money working for ourselves would not want to go back to working for someone else. Others have had to find work doing something else.
    ian408 wrote: »
    Rarely is a layoff good for the employee ;)
  • johngjohng Sports Shooter Registered Users Posts: 1,658 Major grins
    edited January 26, 2015
    Yeah, nothing really new here. Staff Photographer jobs have been getting decimated for the last decade. It's similar to what manufacturing went through (although a lot less impacted people in PJ work). I always feel bad for people that lose jobs this way - especially if they are older. One real message here is: if you're a student and you think you're going to work as a PJ and be able to make a living wage, you are kidding yourself.
  • mercphotomercphoto Bill Jurasz Registered Users Posts: 4,550 Major grins
    edited January 26, 2015
    This is really sad. SI had great photography. I really don't see how relying on contract work will result in the same level of end product. When will writers be next?

    I work in hi-tech. We always joked that management will stop relying on Far East Asian engineering departments once the only ones left to off-shore is management themselves. :)
    Bill Jurasz - Mercury Photography - Cedar Park, TX
    A former sports shooter
    Follow me at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjurasz/
    My Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mercphoto?ref=hdr_shop_menu
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
    edited January 26, 2015
    mercphoto wrote: »
    This is really sad. SI had great photography. I really don't see how relying on contract work will result in the same level of end product. When will writers be next?

    I work in hi-tech. We always joked that management will stop relying on Far East Asian engineering departments once the only ones left to off-shore is management themselves. :)

    They'll just contract the work out. Probably using the argument that paying a contract wage eliminates all those pesky employee benefits & costs (~30% of salary)making the bottom line look "better"-just like high tech did.
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  • mercphotomercphoto Bill Jurasz Registered Users Posts: 4,550 Major grins
    edited January 26, 2015
    You're right Ian. Strange, isn't it, that journalism has significantly reduced developing its own original content, relying on "citizen journalist" and stock imagery and contract work, yet other companies like Netflix and Amazon (and HBO long before them) are seeing original content as the best way to stand out from the pack?
    Bill Jurasz - Mercury Photography - Cedar Park, TX
    A former sports shooter
    Follow me at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjurasz/
    My Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mercphoto?ref=hdr_shop_menu
  • jonh68jonh68 Major grins Registered Users Posts: 2,711 Major grins
    edited January 26, 2015
    This also presents more opportunities as well. For a magazine like SI it needs original content, not just stuff grabbed from a wire service. Enterprising sports photographers will be able to band together and provide specialty content like having 2-6 photographers covering a big sporting event and in ways that are custom. If SI doesn't hire their services then someone else will.
    ian408 wrote: »
    They'll just contract the work out. Probably using the argument that paying a contract wage eliminates all those pesky employee benefits & costs (~30% of salary)making the bottom line look "better"-just like high tech did.
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
    edited January 26, 2015
    jonh68 wrote: »
    This also presents more opportunities as well. For a magazine like SI it needs original content, not just stuff grabbed from a wire service. Enterprising sports photographers will be able to band together and provide specialty content like having 2-6 photographers covering a big sporting event and in ways that are custom. If SI doesn't hire their services then someone else will.

    I was hoping something like this would happen.
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  • johngjohng Sports Shooter Registered Users Posts: 1,658 Major grins
    edited January 27, 2015
    Jon - I don't see what you're talking about working very well long term. The trouble will be finding enough deep-pocket clients to support the workforce necessary plus enough income for the overhead of the "agency". I think we're more likely to see photographers hired directly as independent contractors. I suspect with an entity like SI, the terms of service will be duration, not just assignment. But I don't see the revenue stream being large enough to cover overhead in an "agency". Now, if you're simply talking about 2 or 4 such contractors teaming up that might happen. But, as with many other creative endeavors, business skills are the downfall of lots of endeavors. I don't see it working great. And, when you go from 2 "partners" to 6, you're practically doomed to fail. Especially when there is only enough work for 3 people.

    And, of course, you've got lots more expenses you have to cover. I suspect we'll see SI use their former staff on a contract basis and build out a network of local talent so they're not flying people all over the country. For large events, they'll pool together a "team" from their contract shooter pool. Over time there will be less time-based contract shooters and more event based. It will be curious to see if a group of shooters could make your model work over a multi-year period though.
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
    edited January 27, 2015
    johng wrote: »
    Jon - I don't see what you're talking about working very well long term. The trouble will be finding enough deep-pocket clients to support the workforce necessary plus enough income for the overhead of the "agency". I think we're more likely to see photographers hired directly as independent contractors. I suspect with an entity like SI, the terms of service will be duration, not just assignment. But I don't see the revenue stream being large enough to cover overhead in an "agency". Now, if you're simply talking about 2 or 4 such contractors teaming up that might happen. But, as with many other creative endeavors, business skills are the downfall of lots of endeavors. I don't see it working great. And, when you go from 2 "partners" to 6, you're practically doomed to fail. Especially when there is only enough work for 3 people.

    And, of course, you've got lots more expenses you have to cover. I suspect we'll see SI use their former staff on a contract basis and build out a network of local talent so they're not flying people all over the country. For large events, they'll pool together a "team" from their contract shooter pool. Over time there will be less time-based contract shooters and more event based. It will be curious to see if a group of shooters could make your model work over a multi-year period though.

    You cannot simply be laid off from your job today and come back as an independent contractor doing the exact same thing in the exact same way tomorrow. How you do your job, how you are paid, who pays expenses, who provides equipment, how the contracts are written, etc. all matter when you work as or employ a contract a workforce.

    I bet the model looks more like MaxPreps and maybe you see "teams" assembled for larger events.
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  • johngjohng Sports Shooter Registered Users Posts: 1,658 Major grins
    edited January 27, 2015
    Ian - I agree it is not the exact same way. But contract work forces typically have 2 different types of contract - assignment/project based or time based. Typically, a company would still want key resources "under contract" for a period of time. You might have a 1-year contract or 6-month. Other, less key resources are hired on an assignment/project basis. In either case, you still have to determine terms for T&E (travel end expense) and equipment. I suspect you would see more and more situations where the employer requires the shooters to supply their own equipment just like a normal stringer would.
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
    edited January 27, 2015
    There's nothing wrong with contracting key resources for a year or less or for charging for t&e or gear rental. The problem comes when you use SI for setting up travel, getting gear, or when SI tells you how to work. IRS rules on contract employees are pretty specific with respect to employers and contract employees. An employer needs to be careful when it comes to controlling expenses, how and when contractors perform work, etc.. In simple terms, "if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck". Which is to say as the employer, you need to be very careful that your contract employees are not treated like employees.

    I believe it would be better to contract with a company for coverage than an individual. I can be more specific about my requirements without having to worry about contract employees.
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  • mercphotomercphoto Bill Jurasz Registered Users Posts: 4,550 Major grins
    edited January 27, 2015
    There's an excellent thread going on over at Sports Shooter about this.

    http://www.sportsshooter.com/message_display.html?tid=42824
    Bill Jurasz - Mercury Photography - Cedar Park, TX
    A former sports shooter
    Follow me at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjurasz/
    My Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mercphoto?ref=hdr_shop_menu
  • jonh68jonh68 Major grins Registered Users Posts: 2,711 Major grins
    edited January 27, 2015
    ian408 wrote: »

    I believe it would be better to contract with a company for coverage than an individual. I can be more specific about my requirements without having to worry about contract employees.

    This is what I'm talking about. I don't know how it would work but SI and other publications are going to need custom work or their publications are going to look the same.

    Your big wire agencies will have the stock photos covered. It's going to be the photographers that can produce the specialty shots that will/may do well. With the rush to the bottom and good enough is good enough it will be a struggle.

    I feel for the staff but if the current business model cannot support their salaries what else can SI do? They are in the business to make a profit. The value of photography in the market place is going down. Guys in the pj/sports fields cannot rely on staff jobs anymore. Publications are experimenting with new business models and sports photographers are going to need to look at different ways of providing services.
  • johngjohng Sports Shooter Registered Users Posts: 1,658 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    Ian - My thought is the same as with Jon. I doubt there is enough money to cover the overhead of such a company. That structure works great in high volume models like technology consulting. I just couldn't see there being enough work to keep the people running the "agency" employed as well as keeping the shooters paid.
  • mercphotomercphoto Bill Jurasz Registered Users Posts: 4,550 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    Proof in the pudding will be over the next 6 months, we'll see what the photographic content of the magazine is over that time. My prediction is a noticeable decline in quality. johng has it right, contract work in Tech works well because there is so much work to be done, and its work on a long time frame basis. I fail to see how it will work in this situation. SI is shooting itself in the foot and listening way too much to bean counters. You do not let go of your crown jewels and expect to just get it back on the open market like this.

    Food for thought as well. The tech industry uses contrac workers, but by and large most people are employees. Contract work is used to handle short term needs. The talent pool is the crown jewel. You keep that talent pool in-house. You do not see Oracle, Intel, AMD, ARM hire nothing but contract work to do their processor designs, and hope that on the next project they get them back. You keep them from going to a competitor.

    Those SI photographers, they have networks, contacts, relationships that make them just as valuable as the photographs themselves. This is a foolish move driven by MBAs who cannot understand the value of something that cannot be quantified into a number on a spreadsheet.
    Bill Jurasz - Mercury Photography - Cedar Park, TX
    A former sports shooter
    Follow me at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjurasz/
    My Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mercphoto?ref=hdr_shop_menu
  • StumblebumStumblebum I shoot, therefore I am San Jose, CARegistered Users Posts: 8,029 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    Obamacare at work.
  • mercphotomercphoto Bill Jurasz Registered Users Posts: 4,550 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    Completely unnecessary political remark.
    Bill Jurasz - Mercury Photography - Cedar Park, TX
    A former sports shooter
    Follow me at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjurasz/
    My Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mercphoto?ref=hdr_shop_menu
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
    edited January 28, 2015
    johng wrote: »
    Ian - My thought is the same as with Jon. I doubt there is enough money to cover the overhead of such a company. That structure works great in high volume models like technology consulting. I just couldn't see there being enough work to keep the people running the "agency" employed as well as keeping the shooters paid.

    I don't know but I bet there will be someone who tries. If this does happen, SI should expect to pay a lot more per photo and photographers can probably expect to shoot more than what they would normally.

    Who knows? Maybe we will see more Getty Sports images and fewer exclusives? I'm sure that in a few months, we'll start to see what affect it will have.
    mercphoto wrote: »
    Completely unnecessary political remark.

    Normally, I would agree (and would ask not to inject politics into the thread). However, I think it's relevant given the increased cost of healthcare has gone into a variety of different industry decisions on staffing. I'd be willing to bet it factored into SI's staffing decisions.
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  • SamSam San Jose CA Registered Users Posts: 7,419 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    Stumblebum wrote: »
    Obamacare at work.
    mercphoto wrote: »
    Completely unnecessary political remark.

    I knew someone would jump on this. Laughing.gif, But mercphoto is right this isn't about politics.

    Sam
  • SamSam San Jose CA Registered Users Posts: 7,419 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    ian408 wrote: »
    There's nothing wrong with contracting key resources for a year or less or for charging for t&e or gear rental. The problem comes when you use SI for setting up travel, getting gear, or when SI tells you how to work. IRS rules on contract employees are pretty specific with respect to employers and contract employees. An employer needs to be careful when it comes to controlling expenses, how and when contractors perform work, etc.. In simple terms, "if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck". Which is to say as the employer, you need to be very careful that your contract employees are not treated like employees.

    I believe it would be better to contract with a company for coverage than an individual. I can be more specific about my requirements without having to worry about contract employees.

    I haven't looked at any resent IRS definitions of employees vrs independent contractors but as I remember the wording it is / was almolst impossible for anyone to qualify as an independent contractor.

    Think about it, let's say company X calls you up and is in need of some product photography. They don't just hand you the product and say come back with pretty pictures. They will be specific. Some more that others but they will dictate a lot of how, when, where as well as what the final product will look like. Very similar to how an employee would be instructed.

    Sam
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
    edited January 28, 2015
    Sam wrote: »
    I knew someone would jump on this. Laughing.gif, But mercphoto is right this isn't about politics.

    Sam

    ACA/Obamacare reduces the number of hours required for employer provided health insurance from 40 to 30. The cost of policies has also increased. Which means more people will receive healthcare as a part of their employment. That's a very real cost.
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  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
    edited January 28, 2015
    Sam wrote: »
    I haven't looked at any resent IRS definitions of employees vrs independent contractors but as I remember the wording it is / was almolst impossible for anyone to qualify as an independent contractor.

    Think about it, let's say company X calls you up and is in need of some product photography. They don't just hand you the product and say come back with pretty pictures. They will be specific. Some more that others but they will dictate a lot of how, when, where as well as what the final product will look like. Very similar to how an employee would be instructed.

    Sam

    In your product shot example, I send you the product and you delivery images. I pay for the product you produce. I can be as specific as needed to get the result I want. You decide how to do it, what equipment, and when you'll do it. You do it in your own shop. And if it meets the specs, I pay.

    If I wanted to hire you to do the same thing, we'd have a contract. You'd come to work and do product photography. The difference would be I'm paying for your services for a period of time. You can produce as much or as little in the time allotted by the contract.

    The big deal comes when you treat a contractor like an employee. The obvious differences are you wouldn't let them attend company meetings outside the scope of the project or events (like a company party). Ideally, a contractor requires less direction and more autonomy than an employee.
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  • jonh68jonh68 Major grins Registered Users Posts: 2,711 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    johng wrote: »
    Ian - My thought is the same as with Jon. I doubt there is enough money to cover the overhead of such a company. That structure works great in high volume models like technology consulting. I just couldn't see there being enough work to keep the people running the "agency" employed as well as keeping the shooters paid.

    It doesn't necessarily have to be an established company but a few great sports photographers/pj's forming a co-op. Each photographer can establish their own identities but pool their resources. You wouldn't need a staff, just a partnership with other photographers. This can just be a matter of working with guys that were just laid off. The guys from SI already have clout. I bet if they formed a co-op, come up with rates they would get work as individuals and as a group. They could still pursue their own work as well as be prepared for specialty coverage. They probably would not be able to rely on this kind of work totally, but it would be a source of income, better than working $100 to cover a college football game and hoping for stock sales.


    Stock agencies and wire services are going to get the same shots and SI is not going to look any better than other places in regards to the pics they will have access too. However, they and others are going to need specialty shots to stay in business. They don't have a staff of swimwear shooters but they don't use stock photos.
  • jonh68jonh68 Major grins Registered Users Posts: 2,711 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    Sam wrote: »
    I haven't looked at any resent IRS definitions of employees vrs independent contractors but as I remember the wording it is / was almolst impossible for anyone to qualify as an independent contractor.

    Think about it, let's say company X calls you up and is in need of some product photography. They don't just hand you the product and say come back with pretty pictures. They will be specific. Some more that others but they will dictate a lot of how, when, where as well as what the final product will look like. Very similar to how an employee would be instructed.

    Sam

    If that is the case then when someone hires a builder for a custom home then they are employees.

    I did freelance for the local newspaper. They sent me assignments etc but I was paid by the job. I don't know my IRS laws but this is how things are done in photography world. Someone pays me and if they have an idea and I can do it, I do it. They pay me for the job and there are no other obligations. If they like my work I will get more work.
  • SamSam San Jose CA Registered Users Posts: 7,419 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    ian408 wrote: »
    ACA/Obamacare reduces the number of hours required for employer provided health insurance from 40 to 30. The cost of policies has also increased. Which means more people will receive healthcare as a part of their employment. That's a very real cost.

    OK, some additional clarification on my post.

    First I knew as soon as I read stumblebum's post about Obama care someone would jump on him.

    I also said I think this discussion is not about politics.

    I also understand your point about the effects of Obama Care and agree.

    But I think that the SI firing of all their staff photographers is more a part of the times and the declining expectations of photography than any one single event or policy. Now if SI begins laying off large numbers of employees due to increased health care costs, I would reconsider but don't think that was near the primary reason to eliminate the entire photography department.

    Staff photographers have been vanishing for awhile now, and I don't see them coming back.

    Sam
  • SamSam San Jose CA Registered Users Posts: 7,419 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    ian408 wrote: »
    In your product shot example, I send you the product and you delivery images. I pay for the product you produce. I can be as specific as needed to get the result I want. You decide how to do it, what equipment, and when you'll do it. You do it in your own shop. And if it meets the specs, I pay.

    If I wanted to hire you to do the same thing, we'd have a contract. You'd come to work and do product photography. The difference would be I'm paying for your services for a period of time. You can produce as much or as little in the time allotted by the contract.

    The big deal comes when you treat a contractor like an employee. The obvious differences are you wouldn't let them attend company meetings outside the scope of the project or events (like a company party). Ideally, a contractor requires less direction and more autonomy than an employee.

    You could be right. I just read the IRS definitions and they actually seem to be different then I remember with some additional verbiage that seems more reasonable.

    Sam
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,462 moderator
    edited January 28, 2015
    Sam wrote: »
    OK, some additional clarification on my post.

    First I knew as soon as I read stumblebum's post about Obama care someone would jump on him.

    I also said I think this discussion is not about politics.

    I also understand your point about the effects of Obama Care and agree.

    But I think that the SI firing of all their staff photographers is more a part of the times and the declining expectations of photography than any one single event or policy. Now if SI begins laying off large numbers of employees due to increased health care costs, I would reconsider but don't think that was near the primary reason to eliminate the entire photography department.

    Staff photographers have been vanishing for awhile now, and I don't see them coming back.

    Sam

    Of course. But when looking at costs, you have recognize the impact benefits have on the bottom line. Healthcare is a huge part of that as are travel, gear, office, and so much more.
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