How I Confronted a Newspaper and Got Paid as a Result

Not too long ago, I was approached by a newspaper (Journal Le Droit, a large daily newspaper distributing print in the Ottawa-Hull area) asking if I would allow them to print a few of my pictures in an upcoming special feature on a nearby town, Rockland, Ontario. Having photographed much of Rockland in the past three years, I gladly accepted and figured that I could somewhat benefit from some exposure.

Just to make sure, I asked if they were offering monetary compensation. They responded that a photo-credit would be placed at the bottom of the image in lieu of payment. Why not?

On May 22nd, 2012, the feature came out as part of the daily edition of the newspaper. They had chosen a few of the images I had submitted, and they were nicely printed, in colour. The first image contained my name at the bottom, but was barely big enough to be legible. On the second image I saw that there was something written there, but the writing was warped and not at all legible. Two other images were printed without any photo credit whatsoever.

Case in point: my fiancée, having seen the feature before I did and recognizing my style in images right off the bat, did not notice any photo-credit whatsoever.

Needless to say, I was disappointed to seeing my images used in such a way. The whole point in agreeing to do this was to get people to see my images and to be able to see my name attached to them. I understand some of you will say that it was foolish of me to agree to such terms to begin with, but I still maintain that there was, somehow, something to be gained in having images published (for free) in a newspaper where (potentially) there would be thousands of eyes directed at said pictures.

After seeing this I emailed my contact at the newspaper and explained my discontent. She of course apologized. I, of course, asked if this meant that I would get paid, given that they hadn’t given me proper photo credit. After a few back and forth emails and a discussion with her boss, she came back saying that payment would not be possible, but that they’d print an “erratum” in an upcoming news print. Although I wasn’t satisfied with this solution, I decided to wait and see what they would print.

A proper “erratum” would have contained, in my opinion, an acknowledgement of their mistake, a mention of my name, as well as a re-print of all of the pictures originally printed. What I saw in the Saturday edition of the newspaper (which I went to read at the local library), was a small “erratum” blurb, simply stating that an error had been made on such and such a date and that the name “Jean-Charles Renaud” should have been found under some pictures.

No picture(s) to go along with it.

This way of correcting a mistake would lead me to assume that they imagine their readers somehow keep a collection of all past newspapers, available for consultation when needed. This, of course, is not the case.

Not satisfied with this outcome, and also tired of the back and forth conversations, I simply sent the newspaper an invoice, charging them, per photo, for printing two of the four images without proper photo credit.

Granted, the amount I asked for could have been greater. However I didn’t feel as if the money was the point, I simply felt that they needed to learn a lesson. Being such a big newspaper, one would think that they wouldn’t be pulling things like this. It wouldn’t be acceptable coming from a small time newspaper either, but it might have been easier to let slide. They, however, had no excuse.

After a few weeks went by — I had, by then, assumed that they had simply deleted my invoice with a “let him come after us” mentality — to my surprise, I received a call from the newspaper’s managers who asked me who I was, and why he had an invoice with my name on it in his hands.

I proceeded to explain to him what had happened and what was promised to me, and also what I felt should be coming to me and why. I must’ve struck a chord with him somewhere, as he proceeded to tell me that he’d cut me a cheque of the requested amount; a cheque I eventually had the pleasure of receiving in the mail and depositing in my bank account.

My one-liner and lesson-learned: when in doubt, just send them an invoice.

About the author: Jean-Charles Renaud is a wedding photographer based in Ontario, Canada. You can visit his website here. This post was originally published here.

  • briscophoto

    Interesting story and nice to see how it turned out.

    I’m not surprised they didn’t run the photos again with your name clearly shown. I used to work at a newspaper and sometimes when we made a mistake (we’re only human) in a story, people had contacted us and asked us to run the story again with the correction. That’s not how things work. It’s a lot of space to run a full story again with a few words corrected.

    Sounds like there was a mistake make when the photos were printed and your name should have been clearly shown, but good for them for cutting you the cheque and not fighting back as we’ve read by other publishers so many times.

  • Christopher King

    @briscophoto:disqus I have worked for a newspaper as well. Somehow writers credits were never forgotten, just photo credits. Funny how one can be human for photographers but not for writers.

    It’s pathetic that newspapers make their earnings because of the photo and the story yet there is no respect for contributors.

    It’s also pathetic that newspapers consciously offer credits only and no payment and they can’t even do that.

    I’ve seen my photos run in newspapers/magazines too many times without photo credits.

  • Nobody

    Watermark watermark watermark.

  • JM

    No, the lesson here is don’t let them use your work for free in the first place…

    Plus, no one reads photo credits apart from photographers and anyway they are mandatory so the whole “we’ll use your photos and give you a photo credit” is daft from the get go.

  • Coops

    Ha ha I love a happy ending.

  • Rob LaRosa

    Exactly. If someone wants something from you (regardless of what it is) then that thing has value. Don’t give it away for free, especially when they’re using it to make themselves money!

  • ilo photo

    I would take this as the exception and not the rule. It is a bit of a long shot to hope that someone will see your tiny name at the bottom of a newspaper picture, google you, and then ask to hire you or purchase a print.
    However, if you had charged them in the first place, everything following after that is bonus, and you’re not in this situation. We are giving away far too much these days.
    Just my thoughts…

  • briscophoto

    Watermark wouldn’t solve anything in this case. they asked permission and he granted it.

  • Piet Opperman

    I had a similar experience. A (very) classy glossy magazine commissioned me to take a set of photographs to illustrate an upcoming article. We agreed a price per photo published. I submitted about 20 images for consideration, they selected two, and paid me for using them on their website as well as in print. When the article appeared on the website, I discovered that they had used four images. I invoiced them for the additional two right away, and they paid without any query.

  • briscophoto

    If you’ve seen your photos run with no credit then you should go after the newspapers/magazines like Jean-Charles did.

    “It’s also pathetic that newspapers consciously offer credits only and no payment and they can’t even do that.” Not really. The newspaper made the offer and Jean-Charles accepted. Had he been offended or not wanted to do it, he could have said no, but as he said above, he wanted to do it. Some people would argue it’s pathetic to agree to it, but to each their own.

    I’ve seen credits for stories left off too, about as infrequently as they were for photographers, but we rarely used submitted photos and we rarely freelanced stories so there weren’t many opportunities to make a mistake.

  • briscophoto

    Excellent point. In my experience, if they want your photo bad enough, they’ll pay for it.

    Jean-Charles had a reason to let them use the photos for free. Perhaps in his case the exposure would lead to more sales down the road.

  • Lee Harris

    Photo credits are a waste of time and like others have said should be obligatory anyway. If they are a commercial concern and are using it to make money then they should pay you, other wise it is just vanity publishing that hurts other photographers in the long run. The sad fact is that giving people something wonderful for free often means they value it for less, or even see no value at all.

  • 234232423423

    spoken like a real capitalist….. thank god there are people on this world who act not so selfish. no wonder the world becomes more and more a bitter place.
    but at least i can agree to the last part.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Get paid not played.

  • Dave

    The selfish party is the newspaper. There is nothing dishonorable about asking for what is owed to you. Do you get the newspaper delivered free of cost? Of course not. Try going to a newspaper and just picking up a bundle of their product and walking out, when all hell breaks loose, use the “Capitalist” line on them and see how it pans out.

  • JM

    I’m simply speaking as someone whose job is being a photographer…

  • Dave

    First there should have been a contract. Second, in addition the the term$ the contract should read that a photo credit must be included. And after seeing the slimy ways of this paper it wouldn’t hurt to add “photo credit must be same sized font as copy and on every image”. Sheesh, photographers are expected to donate there work all the time these days. I am chasing after money owed from three clients this morning.

  • jake

    strange world where we give a way things for free so that others can make profit with it.

  • Lee Harris

    It is not capitalist to expect a fair wage for a job well done.

  • jake

    “If you’ve seen your photos run with no credit then you should go after the newspapers/magazines like Jean-Charles did.” a once in a live contributor can do that, but its nothing i would suggest to a proffessional photographer. the only thing that will happen is that the newspaper/etc wont hire him any more. happend to a lot of colleagues of me

  • 9inchnail

    But it wasn’t a job, the images were already there. He propably took them because he enjoys photography, not to make money. So why not give them away for free? He never intended to sell them in the first place.

  • Haufmann56

    Actually NO newspaper/magazine would ever run images with a visible watermark.

  • Haufmann56

    Brrr…. These images are way over processed IMHO

  • bob cooley

    A publication would not run a photo with a watermark.

  • Jhawk77

    Excellent photos! You spent a lot of time on the assignment. You deserve compensation that you can deposit in a bank.

  • Rob Wermuth

    Do you get up and go to your job for free? we don’t create photographs as charity, it’s a job.

  • Rob Wermuth

    Photographers take photos because it is our craft, work, job whatever you want to call it. We sell them to get paid for the work we do.

  • Dan Carr

    This all went wrong when you said you’d give the photos for an image credit in the first place. Image credits are a simple ego stroke for the photographer. Almost the only people who ever read them are other photographers.

    When will people learn that an image credit, in a local newspaper of all places, will not pay your bills! All you have done (even though they ended up paying you) is contribute to the downfall of the industry in which you are a part of.

    Yeah next time they won’t make the mistake of not putting the credit on the image but they will still run free images.

  • Ren Bostelaar

    The real crime here is the HDR treatment, not the breach of verbal contract.

  • Melody Johnson

    That is why they are truly amazing pictures. Recall the luminous painters of the early 20th Century.

  • John Nathaniel Calvara

    Now, that is very much true, my friend. Being an artist doesn’t mean they can let you work for free. And unfortunately, people nowadays just ignore the photo credits and “look a them beautiful pictures from the newspaper cameraman”.

  • Carlos Osterling

    I don’t believe they are over processed. That’s his style and the way he intended them to be.

  • Nobody

    Um..really? His initial complaint was about not getting credit, last time I checked a watermark provides that.

  • da8iwr

    So an artist could sit and paint a picture, and then because he painted it for himself and not as a commission, he should just give it away for free?

  • Bob

    @da8iwr:disqus I’m not sure exactly what your complaint is. No one’s saying he *should* give them away for free, but since they’re his photos (or paintings) he *can* give them away for free, if he likes.

    Are you arguing that he has a moral obligation to charge for his work, so as not to devalue the work of professional photographers? I’m not convinced, but I’d like to hear your argument.

  • da8iwr

    9 Inch Nail said
    “He propably took them because he enjoys photography, not to make money. So why not give them away for free?”

    The entire story is saying he didn’t want to give them away for free, as he wanted payment either as credit (advertising) or cash.

  • W. Kolb

    I don’t understand why you’re complaining about this. Did you happen to look at how the paper credits all of their hired, full-time photojournalists? They do it the same way. The only difference is that they don’t work for free. I think your biggest mistake here was letting the paper use your images without paying you a dime.

  • RVB

    Unbelievable how many idiot photographers give their images away in return for a little exposure. All together now: “People DIE of exposure.” Repeat until it sinks in.

  • PeteM

    I don’t care to wade in on the should/should not provide photography for free/credit debate, however the point of this article was in regard to receiving promised compensation.

    If you want to be compensated, as was stated by many others here, have a contract. A simple contract is an email that states what is being exchanged and for what in return. Then ensure that the email states that you wish for the “client” to respond to the email accepting the terms. That alone will get you 100 times further than anything else. Contract law is very different from other forms of law and my experience has shown that simple things like this make judges very happy to see your side.

    Of course it’s no gurantee of anything, and worst case scenario is you still have to go legal, but it helps.

    Also, if you really want to ensure that you get “credit”, make that a part of the contract. Don’t say “I want credit” and leave it at that. Compliance with that could be your name in 6pt font. That’s not what you want. Write up a paragraph that states your name, email/web site and even 9 words that describes your business (or hobby) and have that included as part of the compensation.

    *I am not a lawyer*


  • Christopher King

    Yea it’s hard when you’re trying to make a nice impression on them while respecting yourself…It’s also hard when I was an editor at the student newspaper and the section editors don’t include the photo-credit when they submit their layout to the layout editor on print night. We try but sometimes it just isn’t a priority for others.

    @briscophoto:disqus yes you are right he could have refused the offer, however: If he approached them for usage it would seem natural that they wouldn’t normally have the intention of running these photos so a credit would suffice, except they are the ones that approached him so THEY wanted to run the images, they should pay up just like they would if it were on the wire.

  • Bob Ray

    It always amazes me to see the back and forth on this issue of payment. Photography is personal property and, of course, he ‘can’ do with it as he wishes; as we all can. That said – to which there is hopefully precious little disagreement – let us also agree that the newspaper is a for-profit business. The article in which these images appeared had an article written by a staff, paid-for writer. The newspaper is not free. It costs money so they can make money. It does become a rational argument that given the newspaper is making money from the article, they should pay something for usage of images that illustrate that article. Saying the photographer shot the images anyway and should give them away for free, misses the point entirely. Why shouldn’t the newspaper say to writers who enjoy current events, ‘Look you were going to ‘cover’ the issues by your personal interest anyway, so why not write an article for us for free?’ Really, photography is a business and asking for money for the product of your talents in business is beyond any question, acceptable behaviour. If you don’t think so, please consider scenario: whatever you do, your boss finds someone who enjoys doing it personally, and suggests they do your job – what you’re being paid for presently – for free since they’re doing it anyway? Somehow in that scenario, I believe we’ll likely have opinions more along the line of where – in my view – I believe they should be. Thanks for reading this far …. Finally to the photographer, nobody except your parents and maybe your wife read photo credits. I’d reconsider your thought that there’s value in that exchange. There simply isn’t, except for the newspaper. If you were right, I – well, all of us, really, would agree with you …

  • llal

    God I hate photographers and stock agencies. If sites like Getty Images didn’t charge £39 PER PHOTO and something more reasonable like bulk billing that an average blogger could afford people wouldn’t rip your photos. You’re quite a good photographer and that they didn’t offer you credit is unfair but these comments below expecting everyone to fork out hard earned cash for their photos is ridiculous. As a blogger I’d be stoked if a website linked to my site alone but it’s not my fault if I don’t have a viable economic offer. Please photographers, stop ruining the free and open nature of the internet just because you can’t figure out a way to make money yourselves.

  • [email protected]

    Tell me then JM. What is the approriate value for a single photo. Let’s look at the sports arena. Do you think it’s approriate Getty charges £39 per photo. Their not even good photos, all they have is access and a monopoly over the market. Stop thinking your photos are worth more than they are. You’re not a painter or an artist. You just click a button.

  • [email protected]

    Get your head out of your arses. If a newspaper were to buy every image that Getty charges £39 minimum for they would quickly go out of business. It’s not secret photographers have little understanding of economics. “Just give me money, I need money. I click a button” The internet should be free. Copyright law was invented to ENCOURAGE creativity. All it has done is STIFLE it.

  • la

    But your not an artist. #Clickingabuttonisnotanart

  • la

    But you charge far too much and that is way many photographers don’t make any money. If the photography community could come up with a viable economic offer than maybe the internet wouldn’t be choking under copyright restrictions.

    Besides wouldn’t this newspaper have been protected under fair use? It is after all, reporting the news. Do any of you actually understand the fair use or do you just want money?

    How is your craft different from a writer who blogs for free? Should he expect to charge every time he crafts a work of art? Why do Photographers think they can get away with it. The best things in life are free. The best things in life are not anal photographers who think their craft is worth more than it is.

  • la

    But under fair use Newspapers are covered if they are reporting the news, providing comment or criticism. In this instance the newspaper was providing comment on Rockland. That’s in the public interest and should be protected by Fair Use.

    When you’re ready to not charge ludicrous amounts for editorial pictures come back to us.

  • aldo

    Nobody commented on your photos – they are absolutely beautiful. I’m trying to get paid for a story of mine that was published. The paper has totally ignored my requests. I’ll try the invoice idea. thanks