PetaPixel

This Photograph Is Not Free

So this was the first sunset I captured in 2012. It cost me $6,612 to take this photo.

$12 in gas to go from work to this spot and then home. The camera I took this with cost $2500. The lens was another $1600. The Singh Ray Reverse Neutral Density filter was $210. The Lee Wide-Angle Adapter and Foundation kit was another $200. The Slik Tripod was another $130. The shutter-release was another $60. When I got home, I uploaded it to a computer that cost me $1200, and then I used Lightroom 3 which I got for $200. I then exported it and tinkered with it in Photoshop which costs about $500.

12+2500+1600+210+200+130+60+1200+200+500= $6,612

So if you’re a magazine, website, corporation, sports team, or advertiser who wishes to use this photo, please don’t come and ask to use it for free, or in exchange for credit or “exposure”. You found my photo so obviously I have “exposure”. You have an advertising budget, and this is what it’s for. You obviously don’t expect your writers to work for free, or your secretary, or your boss. No one is going to publish it for free. Just because the picture is digital doesn’t mean it was free to make.

As someone mentioned, THIS single photo didn’t cost me $6,612, but if you wanted to create it, from scratch, that is what is involved. So I consider it the replacement value if it’s stolen, or how much my lawyer will send you a bill for if it’s found being used without my permission.

If you give your photo away for “credit” then the best possible scenario for you is someone will see your photo, contact you, and ask if they could borrow one of your photos… for credit. Try this… next time you’re at dinner, tell your waiter you’ll tell all your friends how good the service was if he gives you dinner for free.


About the author: John B. Mueller is a photographer based in Ventura County, California. Visit his website here.


Thanks for the tip, Morts!


 
  • Dave

    Obviously you haven’t read the post/ comments properly. 
    How much does the music industry fine someone when they are caught pirating music? the $20 the album cost? No. Its the same with movies. Why can’t it be the same with Photos? You might be able to get the rights to use it for $20 but you steal it and use it for profit. They find out and sue you well above what it would have cost you going through the proper channels.

  • Phil

    So many of you are completely missing the point of this article….he isn’t saying that he would charge $6k for every photo because thats the cost of the gear, he is making the point that work goes into decent photography, and that credit or exposure doesn’t pay the bills. The anecdotes he makes regarding the waiter and dinner is the way you should be looking at this. A good point explained in what I would think is a fairly logical way!!

  • http://grs614.zenfolio.com/ gail

    touché

  • Sir_bazz

    And it’s just as wrong in the music and movie industry.  Do you really believe that an $80K+ fine for downloading a single mp3 is a fair punishment for that act?

  • Jules_12

    Are you the biggest jew ever or what? all i hear is your a spastic photographer with too much time on his hands. my baby sister could take a photo on a digital camera and photoshop to look like this! How bout this, i pay you your 6g and you use it to buy a sack!

  • http://www.jmedeirosphotography.com/ Jennifer

    Brilliant!

  • Brainfxr

    keep this post in mind when a politician tries to tell you medical care should be free.

  • Michael Orlosky

    Wait, did he just write this article for free? 

  • Bob Muerden

    thats a lot of wording for a mediocre picture…

    I am a professional photographer, but also a psychologist. Don’t get pretentious and let the world of it get to your head. I know the exact reason why this stems from your brain. 

  • Lanedittoe

    Fuck arguing. i really like the shot. 

  • Teddyj7

    How about you talk about the beauty you captured and not about the money? you disgust me sellout.. you don’t belong in photography if all you want to do is make a buck and get exposure. 

  • smarie89

    Nice picture.  If you cared about people stealing it, maybe you shouldn’t have put it on the net without watermarks.  Your rant makes it a little hard for anyone to want to do business with you.  Just saying, I don’t mean any harm, and I wish you much success in your endeavors.

  • Jimwarren

    Wow, you are a moron. None of that was relevant and it seemed as if the purpose was to brag about how much you spent. Who cares? Its a great photo and I have encountered stolen images before, however you know nothing about copyright laws. Bloody horrible post mate, get a life.

  • Max

    What a fucking cunt. Fuck you and your greed

  • superdigua

    I think, if everyone pays for the pictures they use, those photographers would be happy to charge for 10% of current price.

  • Andy

    WOW. what a load of moronic and idiotic posts on here.
    Talk about missing the point of the article!!
    OK John may not have put it across in a simple, one syllable way in which some of you may have understood but the point is very simple and if some of you ranting idiots would care to read it again just maybe you will realise what he is actually saying.

  • J P Photos

    Don’t forget to factor in the time that it took you to write this up!!!!!!!

  • http://brianhurseyphotography.com/ Brian Hursey

    It is crazy how many people are missing the simple point of this. I am a photographer I get asked all the time for free photos.  The point is that to “Stop asking photographers to work for free.” Thats basicly it.  It drives us bonkers because people say they LOVE your photo then ask for it for free or next to nothing.  

  • LeifS

    Even worse, if the scabs can find it, they lift it. Then they get indignant if caught.

  • Mark

    I wonder what the owners of the property he takes his photos on think of him using this to make money. If no one owns it, then fair game, but fuck if I’m going to let an asshole like this take a picture on my property or of my property and make money from it.

  • http://brianhurseyphotography.com/ Brian Hursey

     How do you know he is on Private property? Most locations like this are either in public beaches or public over looks and so on.  Also he could of got permission from the owner of the proprietary. The majority of photographers ask I always do if asking to use private property. 
    A photographer can take a picture of anything as long as it is taken from public property or from private property with permission meaning if you have say a barn on a hill with a sun set and they take a picture of it from a public road or public land they can sell it use it however they like. However if they come on your property without first asking your permission than that is a whole different ball park. Photographers own the copy right the moment the photo has been taken. They can sell it or do whatever they like with it as long is its on Their property, public property, or on private property with permission. That means anything in view of that property. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography_and_the_law#Private_propertyhttp://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf

    Again the only point to this is dont ask photographers to work for free. People are looking way to deep in it. 

  • http://brianhurseyphotography.com/ Brian Hursey

     How do you know he is on Private property? Most locations like this are either in public beaches or public over looks and so on.  Also he could of got permission from the owner of the property The majority of photographers ask I always do if asking to use private property. 
    A photographer can take a picture of anything as long as it is taken from public property or from private property with permission meaning if you have say a barn on a hill with a sun set and they take a picture of it from a public road or public land they can sell it use it however they like. However if they come on your property without first asking your permission than that is a whole different ball park. Photographers own the copy right the moment the photo has been taken. They can sell it or do whatever they like with it as long is its on Their property, public property, or on private property with permission. That means anything in view of that property. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography_and_the_law#Private_propertyhttp://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf

    Again the only point to this is dont ask photographers to work for free. People are looking way to deep in it. 

  • Abcdefg

    Gigantic watermark = no need to worry. Your image is on the internet, and I intend as of this moment to save it and use it in posters, books and everything I can print out. Next time, don’t bitch. :)

  • Dork

    That’s what I tell my landlord every month dickhead

  • Anonymous

    Missing the point? He’s just preaching to the choir; there is no point apart from that.

    The people he’s complaining about aren’t going to read this article and suddenly have a change of heart and stop asking for free photographs. 

  • Editor

    The moral of the story here, I think, is don’t expect to get the fruits of other people’s professional labors for free. You can get very good photos for very little money on stock photo websites, so there’s really no need to steal or beg for freebies. And if you need a specific shot, commission it — it won’t cost anywhere close to $6,000, and the photographer still gets paid.

  • Scott

    So many comments to read so maybe this has been said before but… The camera really should have cost you a few billion dollars considering thats how much money the company spent developing it over the life of the company. Of course all of the companies developing tech for its components had costs as well. So basically this photo should never have occurred because you can’t afford the camera.

  • Craig

    Yes you might have invested $6600 in equipment to take photos, no argument there. however, to say a single photograph cost you $6600 to take because you had to buy the equipment to take the photograph with, then once the photograph was taken, processed, edited and printed said photograph, then disposed of the equipment, than yes I am happy to believe the fact that the photograph cost you $6600.

    In the real world, you would use the equipment for more than just one photo. Let’s say you take and process 100 000 photos with this equipment. Than technically speaking, based on the above, a single photograph would cost you 6cents in equipment cost.

    Therefore the cost of your photograph would be more like $12.06 for example. Bit more realistic don’t you think?!

    Just saying….

  • Guest

    Good luck with the rest of your life.

  • Stamford Muse

    But they do expect writers to work for free, sorry to break it to you

  • Shawn

    Valid arguments… But keep on mind that any product that is made is only worth what someone will pay. Not saying nobody would pay that for this photo, just saying that your argument of it not being free may be true, but ultimately it seems like you invested too much money to “make” this product viable for a business.

  • http://brianhurseyphotography.com/ Brian Hursey

    Still people are reading way to into this. He was just trying to make a point. Don’t ask for photos for free.  People think because photographers sell a single image for a couple of hundred of dollars, or a couple of thousand for advertisement image depending on what it is used for or the amount. Does not mean they make a good living. The majority of photographers barley get by and most can not even afford health insurance for their families. 

    The whole point of this is to basically just say. “Don’t ask photographers to work for free for exposure” No one ever looks at the credit and it never gives us more business. 

     Craig said 100,000 photos are shoot with that equipment over its life. But he forgot to note that to advertising a photographer my only sell 10 or 20 max during that cameras life for advertisement. Not 100,000.  And sure they may shoot some weddings and portrait sessions. However as a photographer you barely can live off that let alone keeping up equipment. 

    Clearly the majority of the people posting on this have no clue on running a photography business and the way the photography market works. Please people think about what your saying before posting. He was just saying the price of the equipment as not a literally you need to pay me for what the equipment cost, but to make a POINT to not as photographers to work for free. 

    I do photography part time and given the way people now look at photographers and do not apreciate the experince, skill , and quality of pictures. I would never want to do it full time. It is very difficult to make a living. 

  • http://brianhurseyphotography.com/ Brian Hursey

    Still people are reading way to into this. He was just trying to make a point. Don’t ask for photos for free.  People think because photographers sell a single image for a couple of hundred of dollars, or a couple of thousand for advertisement image depending on what it is used for or the amount. Does not mean they make a good living. The majority of photographers barley get by and most can not even afford health insurance for their families. 

    The whole point of this is to basically just say. “Don’t ask photographers to work for free for exposure” No one ever looks at the credit and it never gives us more business. 

     Craig said 100,000 photos are shoot with that equipment over its life. But he forgot to note that to advertising a photographer my only sell 10 or 20 max during that cameras life for advertisement. Not 100,000.  And sure they may shoot some weddings and portrait sessions. However as a photographer you barely can live off that let alone keeping up equipment. 

    Clearly the majority of the people posting on this have no clue on running a photography business and the way the photography market works. Please people think about what your saying before posting. He was just saying the price of the equipment as not a literally you need to pay me for what the equipment cost, but to make a POINT to not as photographers to work for free. 

    I do photography part time and given the way people now look at photographers and do not apreciate the experince, skill , and quality of pictures. I would never want to do it full time. It is very difficult to make a living. 

  • http://brianhurseyphotography.com/ Brian Hursey

    Still people are reading way to into this. He was just trying to make a point. Don’t ask for photos for free.  People think because photographers sell a single image for a couple of hundred of dollars, or a couple of thousand for advertisement image depending on what it is used for or the amount. Does not mean they make a good living. The majority of photographers barley get by and most can not even afford health insurance for their families. 

    The whole point of this is to basically just say. “Don’t ask photographers to work for free for exposure” No one ever looks at the credit and it never gives us more business. 

     Craig said 100,000 photos are shoot with that equipment over its life. But he forgot to note that to advertising a photographer my only sell 10 or 20 max during that cameras life for advertisement. Not 100,000.  And sure they may shoot some weddings and portrait sessions. However as a photographer you barely can live off that let alone keeping up equipment. 

    Clearly the majority of the people posting on this have no clue on running a photography business and the way the photography market works. Please people think about what your saying before posting. He was just saying the price of the equipment as not a literally you need to pay me for what the equipment cost, but to make a POINT to not as photographers to work for free. 

    I do photography part time and given the way people now look at photographers and do not apreciate the experince, skill , and quality of pictures. I would never want to do it full time. It is very difficult to make a living. 

  • Glynn

    I get the original point.  The cost logic is flawed by conventional business terms.

    By the same logic, each publisher would load it’s entire business costs on to every edition of every publication….

  • Paulmrichards

    logic says the photographer won’t get touched by anyone wanting to buy a photograph in case they upset him

  • Abergenhenegouwen

    Thank God the sun came up for free….Maybe the taxes can be donated to the fact that it shined so beautiful that morning !

  • Sean

    Unfortunately, lots of people DO want their writers to work for free.

  • http://twitter.com/sophbenj Sophie Benjamin

    Unfortunately plenty of these publications DO expect their writers to work for free.

  • Candy

    well actually they do expect to get their copy for free from writers.
    Sad but true but there are so many who will work for “exposure” but yet can’t complete a full sentence. Posted by a “real” writer married to a photog.

  • freak

    lol..funny statement…freak…we are not going to use your photo..it’s all yours…

  • Palaninr

    Pl add photographer’s efficiency charge cost. It’s come  very big amount . 

  • VoiceOfReason

    In other words, you really don’t get the original point.

    IF… and ONLY IF… he were to actually attempt to sell the photo for $6,612 (and he most certainly isn’t doing this) would your observation be the least bit relevant. 

    If you had actually read (and *GASP* tried to comprehend the article) you would probably actually GET THE POINT. 

    If you had read even the first page of responses, you’d probably actually GET THE POINT.

    It’s amazing to me that I can return to this thread of comments day after day and see even more ignorant responses.

  • Pilot61

    Perhaps. But why should he or any other Phothgrapher allow people to “steal” his work? I agree 100% with him. He has the skills, the correct equipment, and you misunderstand what the final price is. If you are a Dr., and you have all that education, time, effort, do you give your services away, just so you can have  “exposure”. Why let people steal your work? I would go after them to with my attorney. In a heartbeat! Just because it is digital, and on a website, does not make it free. There are laws against that. Very strict laws. So pay for what you want. On everything.

  • Glynn

    Nice insight.

    Given that you don’t know how much of the article I read (I read it all) I am assuming you think that I thought he was going to try sell the photo for $6,612.

    That is not what the article said…..

    At the same time I cannot think of a business situation where, in assessing a loss or theft, the total overheads are added to the unit costs of production.  That would be like adding the building costs of a car factory to the value of a stolen car.

    It is the same logic as adding all overheads to the sale price of any product.  Why would photography be different?

    If that is the logic being followed then all the hours spent acquiring the skill to take the image would need to be added etc 

  • Tracey Easter

    AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!!!!

  • Dlwilson80

    I completely agree. All these amoture photographers offering there work for free are just devaluing there own skill and that of others. Further more people come to think of them as being the benchmark for quality in photographers which only makes it harder for those of us that are professionals to ask what is a fair price.

  • Corym223

    Okay, so if somebody does pay $6,612 for this photo. That would mean everything that it takes to create the photo has been paid off, so the next picture you take, are you just gonna charge gas money?

  • Plantsman

    While I agree with what the author said about the investment in equipment, time, etc in getting a great shot, in the end what a image is worth is the amount a buyer is willing to pay. No more, no less.

  • Steve

    What a dick