PetaPixel

A Man Can’t Live on Image Credit Alone

So, from time to time, I receive requests to use my images for various purposes — like on a blog or a pamphlet or a calendar or the side of a zeppelin or for a urinal cake. Typically, if they are nice and they’re not going to be making a load of cash off where they’d like to use my image then I’ll let them use it as long as they give me credit. I’m especially generous with environmental interests and non-profits and ice cream manufacturers offering vouchers for all-you-can-eat tours.

But then there are the chumps (and chumpettes) who will be making a substantial amount of money off of the use of my image and I send them packing unless they pony up a fair amount of money. The latest version of this repetitive saga really got caught all up in my craw and so I felt the need to write a bit about it.

I should say here that this is 100% legitimate, the company that contacted me exists and has a rather impressive retail footprint in the US. The emails below are word-for-word with names removed to protect the company. The underlying issue I discuss does not begin and end with this example or company, it is much larger.


So, Monday morning I awake to an inbox message on Flickr that reads:

SUBJECT: Saint of the Wildflowers

Your photos are breath taking. I work a a company called [Company Name] located in Michigan. We always produce a landscape calendar for our customers to purchase. We match up scripture with the beautiful landscape images that God has provided.

This is a very low print run and only around 20,000 calendars produced. I was wondering if you would give us permission to use some of your photographs? I would be able to give you credit for your photograph. Please look at this an opportunity for you to reach a possible customers.

I have a meeting at the end of this week to present images. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks
L

Lead Graphic Designer

20,000 calendars is a low print run?! Can you see the dollar signs lighting up in my eyes? Wooooo!! Surely they must have a budget for the artwork — they have a lead graphic designer after all! So I reply after checking out the going rate at Getty Images to get an idea of what the market should bear:

SUBJECT: Re: Saint of the Wildflower

Hello L,

Thank you for the kind words regarding my photography and for contacting me with this opportunity.

I would love to be a part of your calendar, but I can’t allow my work to be used without monetary compensation. (It is work after all!)

I believe that fair compensation for use like you’ve described above would be $550 per image. That would cover use of each image at full page size for a one year run of your calendar.

Thank you,

Jeff Swanson
www.interfacingnature.com

I hear back quickly.

SUBJECT: Re: Saint of the Wildflowers

Thanks Jeff

Your very talented photographer and thanks for taking the time to respond. I completely understand your point of view and I do realize how much time and equipment you have into each photo.

This price is out of our budget for project.

Thanks
L

So I’m thinking, hmm, they have a budget after all. Let’s probe a little more and see what it is.

SUBJECT: Re: Saint of the Wildflower

Hi L,

Thanks for understanding that there is indeed a lot of preparation and skill involved in landscape photography.

If you’d like to make a counter offer that will fit your budget, I might be able to work with you on the price.

Thank you,

Jeff Swanson
www.interfacingnature.com

And again, she replied quickly and this is where the my jaw drops:

SUBJECT: Re: Saint of the Wildflowers

Hi Jeff

I have a very little budget. I don’t think we will be able to work together.

I have 100.00 for all photos. I’ve been finding some of them for free.

Thanks again
L

$100 for ALL THE IMAGES! WHAT!? That is HALF A CENT for all the images in each calendar. Let’s do some math here to show how painfully out of whack that is:

The calendar run is (only) 20,000. Say they can sell the calendar for $12.99 or so and have to pay $1 each for the printing of the calendars (a rough estimate from uprinting.com). That leaves $11.99 to cover the rest of the costs associated with producing and selling a calendar and some profit for the company. That comes out to $239,800 left over to cover the rest of the costs and some profit. Of that amount they have only reserved a little more than four one hundreths of one percent for compensating the artists that produced the artwork that will actually sell their calendars (when’s the last time you bought a calendar because you liked the font?)

This is appalling and I’m sure it happens all the time.


So here’s the message: I’m not a professional landscape photographer. I’m not relying on this business to feed myself and cover my rent. So, in theory, getting credit should be plenty for me. But here’s where that doesn’t work anymore: I know many landscape photographers who ARE making a living at this and every time I (or you or ANYONE) accepts an image-credit-only offer for publication it is effectively taking food off of their plates. What happens is that more and more companies start resorting to this method all the time because they are successful at it. So I implore you to think twice about your actions the next time you are approached with a similar deal. Don’t help to erode the market for high-quality artwork just because you’re not relying on that market to feed yourself.

Next, don’t believe the schtick they feed you about exposure. When’s the last time you saw an image in a calendar or on a urinal cake and said “Gee whiz! I like that enough that I want to track that artist down and send them money!” See what I mean? They already have your image to look at (or pee on) anytime they want. Plus, you can’t take image credits to the grocery store or gas station or zeppelin store. “Sorry Bill, I can’t pay you for this gas, but I will tell anyone that asks why my car is running so well that I bought it here from you at Bill’s Gasoline and Urinal Cake Emporium, that cool?”

See how absurd that sounds when you aren’t talking about art?


About the author: Jeff Swanson is a California-based photographer who specializes in dynamic landscapes. You can check out his work by visiting his website, blog, or online gallery. This article was originally published here.


 
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  • Kent

    Great post and well written. Unfortunately everyone needs to put their foot down to these type of people and tactics, until then photos worth real money will be given out in exchange for warm fuzzy ego massages!

  • jonathanjk

    This is great, I hope you gave them the cost breakdown as well. 

  • http://twitter.com/JohnMilleker John Milleker

    Fantastic! If you’re someone who gives it away for free for an obvious for-profit…. Stop! Not only is it tearing down the industry, but you’re labeling yourself as someone who doesn’t value your own work – how will others ever value it?

  • Angie Creasy-Thompson

    Well, I have the opposite problem. Someone took a picture of one of my goats at a fair and posted it on Flickr.  I was never asked, but I don’t mind the picture taking, my problem is that I can’t get the photographer to respond to me.  All I’d like is to post the picture on my website (on that goat’s page) and discuss getting permission to use it in my marketing (on a tee shirt or business cards).  

  • Superlarrio

    “Yeah we won’t pay you but It’ll look great for your portfolio!”… Bitch, please. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XWS4NNT2UXPJEX7JJKCBUFEBFU donuts222

    It’s the same argument with the micro stock photography…I get it when young people starting out are trying to use any road to make some cash (I’m guilty of it myself), but all it does is devalue the work, devalue the artist, and devalue the market. 

    Art it not free b/c it takes time and effort and above all TALENT — talent that those people don’t have, otherwise they would just go take the pictures themselves. 

    We’re not all going to make our living off our work…but have enough pride in what you have created to say NO sometimes.  Know 100% that it’s worth more, and don’t waste your time with people that aren’t going to recognize that.

  • Seriesrover2

    Actually I disagree with the poster here.

    The guy sent a pleasant email requesting access to use your images and implied it would be credit only.  You replied asking for a sum of money instead.  He replied saying they didn’t have the budget, but understood your ask, and was pleasant about your photography.  You decided to probe him for info and he responded, again pleasantly.

    So here’s the deal. Stop being offended – he was pleasant all the way through – he didn’t demand anything.  You have great skill and talent, but stop being so high and mighty and face reality that digital photography has been put into the masses.  He can go elsewhere – its called the market.

    What is “appaling” is that you are outraged at the exchange.

  • Julie Magers Soulen

    Thank you so much for writing this!!!  I am trying to make a living off of photography and if I wasn’t being supported by a very understanding spouse I would be on the street!  I have people tell me repeatedly that they love my work, but then ask for freebies.  Geesh!  I wouldn’t go to a dentist, architect, or banker and ask for free work.  And yet we see art everywhere in our society and take it for granted.  Please people, support the arts.

  • Julie Magers Soulen

    @ Seriesrover2 – No, I think the outrage is that it is “expected” to be free.  There is no consideration for the time and effort that goes into photography.  Sure the masses have digital cameras now, but that doesn’t make for great photography.  Just because you can afford a Ferrari doesn’t make you a great driver either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joey-Duncan/1111692326 Joey Duncan

    Well put, I agree. I’m not on a PRO level (yet haha) and it’s very easy to be like “ohhhh, ohhhh they like me! They really really like me!” and give it to them, but in fact they may be giving it to you!. And he’s right, even if you are ok with it, you may be hurting somebody else in the future. 

  • moi

    We don’t want others to know how well we work for free… that way they know they don’t have to pay up.

  • moi

    And then you’re not sure if your work is actually good or they want to get on your good side and hope to get freebies… 

  • http://twitter.com/StyleQuotient Melo

    This is so common it’s sickening.  I recently had a number of well known magazines contact me to shoot lengthy, regular campaigns or monthly features.  One of them offered $12.50 per image.  To be clear, they weren’t asking for usage, they were commissioning me to go out and shoot a minimum of 10images/week for $125/week.

    Needless to say I sent them a very direct f-you response.   I also pointed out that I don;t need to be in their magazine.  They sell one-page adds for $23,800/per with a 40/60 ad to article ratio.  Do that math.

     It’s crazy how multi-national companies regularly try pull this crap and stupid amateurs jump on these ‘opportunities’ not realizing how much damage it really does.

  • http://twitter.com/StyleQuotient Melo

     Seriesrover2… you don’t get it at all.

  • unklesteve

    Actually, the appalling part is that more and more companies increasingly expect artists, illustrators, photographers, performers, etc. to work for free for “the exposure”. This is becoming more and more of a problem across many areas of the arts. At no point did the poster express outrage at the way the person spoke to them, only that they were in a position to make $200k+ off a project but they expected everyone else to contribute for free.

  • MikeT

    I think that the truth is if you want to stay in the game, you need to have another source of income – a spouse, another job, a pension etc. Times have changed, and with millions of people flooding the internet with some pretty decent images (and now video) this is not going back to the Yousuf Karsh/Ansel Adams days. Most true with landscapes and journalism, maybe less so with portraits and weddings.

  • Guest

    I love this article. I do a lot of portrait work and end up giving away way too much of my work. Most of it comes from my church affiliation but still I would like to be fairly compensated. My problem is that Since photography is not my primary source of income, I find it hard to price my work appropriately.
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    The phrase “I would be able to give you credit for your photograph” does not exclude discussion of price.  It just means that he’ll get credit, not that he won’t get anything else.

    I somewhat agree with you though… I recently caught myself getting angry at a person who asked me to use my photos for free.  I was angry because it happens all the time, but they were asking very nicely and were forthcoming at their lack of budget.  I’m still not sure what the most graceful or advantageous way to handle the situation is, but saying “no” without being rude shouldn’t be so hard for us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Right?? They e-mail you and brag about how big their company is, then tell you they have the budget of a high school lunch. Any for-profit corp that has offices in multiple countries has no place asking for charity.

  • http://twitter.com/waleedalzuhair Waleed Alzuhair

    Excellent article, thanks for sharing.. The analysis done on the pricing is essential for any business opportunity before giving out a price quotation. 

  • http://www.ditlod.com/ Draknor

    I agree with Seriesrover2.  The only outrage is the way the photographer responded.  He made up some numbers from thin air about how much profit these calendars would generate & then got on his high horse about not being fairly compensated.

    When was the last time you purchased an internet browser? Don’t you believe programmers deserve to be fairly compensated? 

    How many websites do you leech free content off of without paying? Shouldn’t talented writers & designers be fairly compensated for entertaining & educating you?

    Do you purchase goods only made in America? Or do you buy imported goods because they are cheaper?  Don’t American workers deserve to be fairly compensated?

    The market is changing — you can’t stop it, you have to learn to live within the new market (or just keep whining about “the good old days”).  The new market is that good photography is now a practically a commodity. Sell to customers that value good photography & will pay for it, or educate your customers who don’t understand the value that good photography provides about why it’s worth its price. (Hint: If you can’t convince them, then it’s probably not worth the price you are asking, or they aren’t your target market).

  • http://twitter.com/jhbarclay jhbarclay

    Perfect post.  AMEN.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Freakstone Chris Freestone

    I don’t read this as the OP being angry at the Lead Graphic Designer requesting use of his picture, but at the company that gave said Lead Graphic Designer a budget of $100 and told him to get a calendar from that.  He’s been given a job to do and little money to do it with, I doubt that he would see a cut from the print run so it’s the company being cheap, not him, and I feel the OP can tell that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1444195588 Aaron David Cole

    I think many photographers (myself included) start out getting ripped off. Only after doing this for a while do we finally come to the conclusion that if we don’t start charging an appropriate amount we’ll starve. I’ve also had event organizers tell me that they don’t pay for photographs, it’s unfortunate and on at least one occasion I really wanted to tell that person (after seeing the “free photography” that they had on their site) that they should seriously reconsider that policy.

    I even had a local newspaper tell me that they don’t have a budget to pay photographers. It was so hard not to ask if they paid their writers.It’s hard not to hold some animosity towards them but, in the end you can’t waste the time. They’ve attempted to devalue your work and now their sucking up your time, time can be spent perusing paying customers.

  • http://www.ditlod.com/ Draknor

    I feel your outrage, but this is human nature. 

    When was the last time you shopped at a national retail chain instead of a local mom&pop shop?  Or buy something locally instead of online?

    Do you have a credit card with the highest interest rate & no rewards, or did you shop around for the best deal (for you)?

    Do you purchase items for full retail price, or do you shop around for specials, sales, and coupons?

    The fact is, we like to get things for cheap if we can – doesn’t matter if you are a large multinational or a teenager.  If everything else is equal (or close enough), then we’ll go with the option that costs less.

    Sounds like you made the right decision (for you) to not work with the magazines.  If the magazines thought you would add more value than Joe Schmoe Photographer (or if you could convince them that you could), then maybe they would offer more.  Or maybe its really not worth more to them. 

    Do you always buy the biggest, most expensive camera body / lens?  No? Maybe you don’t need the best features, so the middle or lower grade is good enough for you.  Even if you can afford it.  Why would corporations be any different?

  • ValentinoAntonio

    Well one of my photos got chosen for this year’s TVO calendar (arts channel here in Canada). . . Since they are non-profit I let them use it and I was glad to have one of mine chosen. There is a growing problem of photog wannabees out there that do not know better and give in to those blood suckers that take advantage of all the posted images out there from NON pro sources (thanks to digital explosion). I bet that if we were still using film, NONE of those flickr wannabees would be able to make ANY sort of image that the digital system can allow them to create.

    I’ll be using a Mamiya C330 Pro F this April on a wedding shoot, along with my 5DmkIII, I sometimes wish that the digital age would go away so that we would still have SOME sort of photojournalistic integrity to hang on to for a business . . . . but we are now saturated with “CNN i-reporters” . .. that is all these morons need to hear to give themselves away to billion $$$$ corporations for free. . . . the saps!

  • jdm8

    You have that right.  One of the local newspaper groups pays its graphic designers something like $10 an hour.

  • jdm8

    Maybe the fact that web browsers are free explains why they aren’t very good.  That said, the last paid web browsers I’m aware of was Opera, and I didn’t like it that much.

    In this case, I think it’s different when it is used in a for-profit, physical product.

    Also, the fact that they open with a bid of getting photgrapher credit shows they’re seriously lowballing it.

  • Seriesrover2

    And not only that, he only asked if he could use them. If not, he would go somewhere else – its not like he was actually using them without permission.

    Secondly, he mentions “God”, and without any other reference to what he was going to do with the calendars, who he worked for or their budget, it sounds as if it might be a religious entity who tend to work on notoriously low budgets.

    I wish photography was booming and I could make a ton of cash off it, but the reality is that its an every decreasing profession.  Getting testy because someone inquired about usage for credit isn’t worth letting your blood boil.

  • jrmy

    As a young writer in Hollywood, I’m constantly pitched projects and quickly reminded, “There’s no money in this… But if it goes anywhere, you’ll be given credit and involved in the production.”

  • Jeff Swanson

    I can assure you that this was a for-profit company that happens to sell religious products.  I have removed their info because they are not the entire problem, just a tiny part of it.

  • John M. Richards

    Agree with drawing the line at denying free photos to for-profit companies that refuse to share with you any of the profits they will make from selling a product that includes your work.

    On the other hand, I was happy to barter with a local indie band who traded me a couple of their rockin’ CDs for the right to use a photo of mine on the cover of one. Or the guy trying to self-publish a book for kids who sent me a free copy in exchange for using a photo I’d taken just for fun.

    Overall, you got to figure that if your aim is to make decent money with your photography, you’re going to need to market it yourself to legitimate organizations and work your butt off to differentiate your product. Nobody’s gonna make any of us rich browsing our public photos on Flickr.  

  • Alan Dove

    I hate to say it, but this is just the reality of the modern media market. As a print journalist, my business is already well into the transition that’s now infuriating so many photographers and videographers. You’re in the rage and denial stage right now. Next, you need to move to acceptance: if people really can get equivalent work elsewhere for free, then you don’t belong in the business.

    I realize (oh boy do I realize) how brutally depressing that possibility is, but there’s no escaping it. Think about it: if an amateur really can produce and give away images that are as good as yours, or if nobody cares to pay for images as good as yours, then you don’t have a product. End of story, find a new job. Clinging to the old market’s model will just doom you to irrelevance.

    There are still (and always will be, I believe) paying jobs for talented people. But they may have to find new ways to apply their talents.

  • Seriesrover2

    I do get it.  I love photography and enjoy it for all its worth.  If you want to enjoy photography AND make money off it you have to conform to what the market dictates…just like ANY profession – those that are able to change will survive.  The market is dictating that we’re flooded with beautiful images everywhere and the chips are falling on the side of the purveyor.

    This guy asked a simple question and offered credit for the photos. If you don’t think its worth while to let your photos be used, then don’t do it.  But to get all uppity because he can’t offer you compensation is pointless.

  • http://twitter.com/StyleQuotient Melo

     Actually, your analogy is left of center.  The magazine I mention knew of me because they wrote about my work and site as one of the 5 best in my country in the genre.  They knew my calibre, yet the did the lame thing of offering a pittance along with the promise of exposure.  My work has a larger viewership than they have circulation.  I, like many successful pros and bloggers no longer need publications for exposure.  And I let them know that.  The days of working for free just to get published are over.  WE are the media now.  I can shoot, design and print my own magazine before their next issue comes out and still make more than they offered me.  THAT is the point.

    The issue is that companies, more than ever are not just trying to save money as you imply, they are flat out ripping people off while they profit handsomely all while devaluing the intrinsic value of our work.

    If you want to defend that, knock yourself out. You can also do all that free shit work while you’re at it.

    Also, I don’t call up Nikon and ask for a D4 in return for my shining endorsement and credit to them for giving it to me.

    Give your head a shake.  Or then, maybe, you are one of the people who constantly makes empty promises in hopes of getting free service?

  • http://twitter.com/StyleQuotient Melo

     Annnddd… you still don’t get it.  The point is THEY CAN offer compensation.  They are a profit based liquid company.  They are just choosing to be cheap.

    I can get a cheeseburger for 99cents, but I don’t walk into a nice restaurant and ask them to match it.  Do you?

    If everyone bowed to what you ‘perceive’ the market to dictate, the economy would be even more unbalanced with a wider gap between rich and poor.

    I am always perplexed by people like you who choose to defend the systematic devaluing of anything valuable simply because the market wants it.

    In reality everyone wants everything for free… should we all just work for nothing because we’re going in that direction?

  • http://profiles.google.com/ksuwildkat Rob S

     Um, comparing it to a browser?  I use Safari, paid for by Apple.  Apple pays programers and the chooses to give the browser away free.  That is a business decision by Apple.  Microsoft does the same thing with IE.  Neither company goes to programers and asks them to program free so they can in turn sell a browser.

    “leech free content off of”?  NONE.  Its wrong.  Have i read information from a website?  Yes.  Have I seen a well written website and then asked the author to write more, without pay, so I could sell it?  No.

    Tossing in the “made in America” thing is just a red herring.  We are not talking about buying anything.

    I dont know what your profession is, but I am betting you get paid for doing it.  I am willing to bet you would not do it free.  I know I would not.  Besides the obvious need to pay for food/shelter, I have invested a significant amount of time and money at being very good at what I do.  I command a reasonable but substantial amount of compensation because I provide more value to my employee than I cost as an employee. 

    Personally, I would not have been nearly as nice about pricing the image.  $550 for an image that was going to be sold 20K times is VERY low. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/ksuwildkat Rob S

     I hear you but you.  I think it is important to remember that sometimes the value of your time is not always measured in dollars.  I have participated in Help Portrait where I intentionally “give away” pictures, prints, etc.  It COST me “money” but I earn far more.  I have “given away” images worth thousands to my church but been repaid for every one hundreds of times over in other ways. 

    I hope to be a full time working professional photographer some day but that wont stop me from receiving “alternative” compensation for some of my work.

  • Seriesrover2

    Exactly.  Everyone, everywhere buys stuff almost exclusively on price and how much they can get for that price.  One can complain at companies “making tons of profit” but consumers do they same thing when they have the chance.

    The proof is the need to slash prices / sales / move to offshore to make the products cheaper to make.  People might want good stuff, but they want it at the best price they can get.
    Its a shame, but with the internet and digital photography are making the professional or semi-professional business very difficult – and no amount of insisting how much you think you “deserve” to get paid, reality dictates differently.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ksuwildkat Rob S

    Great article.  I know this issue has come up before but it is one that bears repeating often.

    personally, I think we are about to enter a new phase of photography that will see the number of “pop up professionals” dwindle. 

    In the film days, the high barrier to entry kept the number of working pros down. 

    The advent of the affordable DSLR triggered an explosion of people who could suddenly take enough pictures to get a good one and then learn enough to get good pictures consistently.  I think the Nikon D40 marked the beginning of the “Affordable DSLR” age (March 2007).

    Since then we have seen millions of people buy DSLRs much like they did in the 70′s with film SLRs.  And just like we saw the compact point and shoot film camera relegate the SLR to a closet, I think cell phone cameras are putting a lot of DSLRs in their bags.  Face it, even a small DSLR is heavy and expensive and the gap between it and a cell phone is not that much for the vast majority of people.  I have seen soooo many of my friends buy DSLRs and be excited for a month or two or even 6 but then you see them taking pictures with a phone and ask “where is your ‘real’ camera?”  its at home, I forgot to charge the battery, memory card is full, I still havent processed the last pictures, etc.  Compared to a DSLR, a camera phone is a breeze – shoot, email.  Its easy for many of us to forget that for most people, taking a picture, downloading from the card, processing in iPhoto/Picassa/Photoshop/Lightroom, attaching to an email is a big pain the the rear.  Plus the images are HUGE and need to be backed up, the camera battery needs to be charged, lenses are heavy and delicate and all of that equipment is expensive.  We dont think about it becuse we love photography.  Everyone else just wants good enough with no effort.  So I think we are entering the next phase where there will be a HUGE separation between the DSLR photography community and the cell phone camera community.

    How does this impact things like described above?  I think as many of those DSLRs get put away the number of “good enough” images will go down while the desire for “better than cell phone” images will go up.  Will it ever return to “the old days”?  No.  But I think families and businesses will know that if they want better than cell, they are going to have to pay.

    or at least I hope so!

  • Donfelipe

    Why do you think your image is worth anything? Photography is a hobby and images are essentially free.
    And why does your cost breakdown include no internal overhead? Was this graphic designer not getting paid? How about the distribution channels, were they do this for free?

  • http://www.enzodalverme.com/blog enzo dal verme

    Show your “client” this video: Exposure Doesn’t Pay Bills  http://bitly.com/HmtzAx

  • Jeff Swanson

    Please read the post.  I don’t know anything about their overhead and make no assumptions about it, but I do acknowledge that there are other costs associated with the process of producing and selling a calendar.  I do know what their budget for art was and I can make an educated guess about their cost of printing.  That’s all I do.

  • Donfelipe

    You made an guess about the cost of printing the calendar. The labor and materials required in this is a pittance. You make no efforts to breakdown the cost of compiling and distributing the calendar. That seems to be a problem because it is clear that the time, and subsequently the cost, required by these facets of the process dwarf anything else.
    The fact that people are willing to give away their images goes to serve the proof that photography is not worth what it once was. There is no time involved in reproduction or transferrring of images. The equipment and skill required to make said photographs is no longer rare. These images are not unique.
    I’m more surprised anyone can actually survive on being a landscape photographer. I love nature and landscapes and pretty things but why wouldn’t I just go shoot that picture instead of paying someone to do it? What about this graphic designer, will he get credit for this calendar, or will the company logo be stamped upon it?

  • Seriesrover2

    Look, value of a good a photograph you take is dictated by how many people enjoy it, or some other similar measure.

    Value of a photograph, to get monetary compensation from, is dictated by what people are willing to pay.  You might blame a faceless company ripping you off, but at the end of the day its someone setting a budget and another person finding out what they can get for that budget.  All the “companies are evil and ripping us off” complaining is just a voice in an echo chamber.  Adapt and survive – there are photographers that are doing that well, though it is a hard game to get into.

    What you are saying is “my photos are ace”, therefore I want to get money from them to pay for my equipment and live.  And I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work like that and no amount of burger places / cameras / car analogies people might want to use will change that.
    FWIW the lady didn’t ask it for free, she suggested being credited.  Now, you many not believe its worth while, but ones name will go on 20,000 copies, for what, perhaps a couple of days work to prep them to send.  The alternative is that you neither get paid nor take a good free marketing opportunity which might yield something later on.  And what for, so you can make “a stand against the machine”?

  • Dave

     Correction: Photography is a hobby to some, a livelihood to others. It is free as soon as people start giving you thousands of dollars in photo equipment and related expenses. If you are going to debate, screw your head on first plz.

  • wickerprints

    So a publisher gets to have the right to ask a photographer for free goods and services, but photographers don’t have the right to demand to be paid a reasonable living wage for their work?  That’s hypocrisy.  Don’t feed me some excuse about free market capitalism and supply/demand economics because I guarantee you that if you use that kind of justification, you have no real understanding of basic economic principles.  The creator of the good or service ultimately gets to decide what their work is worth when that work is sold.  It is the photographer’s right to accept or reject the price someone is willing to pay for his work.  Mr Swanson simply decided to reject what was clearly an absurdly lowball offer and clearly establish that if someone wants his work, they will have to make it worth his while.  Could the publisher choose to shop elsewhere?  Sure.  But no other photos will be the same as Mr Swanson’s work.
     
    Maybe the publisher believes they can get something for nothing.  Maybe that belief is correct.  But if they believe they can get Mr Swanson’s work for free, then that is plainly wrong.  And moreover, all his article is trying to do is encourage other photographers who believe in the value of their work to stand up for themselves, rather than allow publishers to get away with their “something-for-nothing” mentality.

    Disagree?  Well, by all means then, give away YOUR stuff, since you obviously think it’s worthless.  Those who do value their work have every right to decide how much they’re willing to sell it for.

  • Dave

    This is a very valid subject but to be honest, I think you low balled your image. Coulda started higher. For all of you new photographers that are dying to see you name in print I have a suggestion. Print out your name by the dozen on a sheet of adhesive labels and stick them up anywhere your gaze may fall. Mirrors, windows, telephone poles, your dogs forehead, and stop ruining photography for the rest of us.

  • Jeff Swanson

    The ultimate profit for the company does not matter, I state that of the roughly $240,000 in revenue left after printing the company has set aside only 4/100 of one percent of that revenue for all of the art.

    People are willing to give away their images because they don’t know any better and they buy the line that it will be great exposure for them.

    The graphic designer is drawing a salary, I guarantee they would not be designing this calendar for a credit line.

    I also encourage you to pick up a camera and try it out.  It’s pretty obvious that you’ve never done that otherwise you wouldn’t have such a misguided view of what it takes to produce quality images.  I’m not trying to be snarky, I just think there is a general disconnect here and that a lot of folks think we just walk out and snap the image and that’s it.

  • http://www.ditlod.com/ Draknor

    Actually I recently went into business as a self-employed photographer, so the topic is very applicable to me.  

    And no, I don’t do work for “free”, although I have done work for “no monetary cost”. But I make sure that I’m getting something of value out of the deal.  I did some no-cost work for a client when I started to help build my portfolio.  But I got value from him in other ways, stated explicitly upfront.  And that value was enough to offset the lack of monetary compensation.  But today, it wouldn’t be, and so I don’t do “no cost” work now.  

    And I admit, my examples were not awesome — the point was, people go for free / cheap whenever they can get it.  And it’s a real person on the other end of that phone or email asking to use the image for credit, and a real person (or persons) who decided the budget. Maybe not smart people, maybe not people who value photography, but it comes back to personal decisions.