Asking me to give you my photo for free is not about the money, really, it is about the respect that currency is afforded. If you are asking me for my photograph for free, you are not respecting my art. Not always, but usually, free goods and services are considered of lesser value than goods and services you pay for.
Imagine a world renowned chef going to his corner grocery store – not a chain grocery store, but a small independently operated grocery store, or even better, a booth at a Farmer’s Market – and asking for free produce.
The chef says, “I’m planning on creating a prix fixe event at my restaurant, and sell reservations for $150 each, plus tip and beverage, tax and so on. There will be 13 dishes served in all, and I’d like to feature your delicious organically grown carrots in one or two of them. I won’t pay you a dime, but on the menu, I’ll mention where the carrots were grown, if I have room.”
Would you accept this deal? Would this pay for your growing costs? Your water? Your soil? Your time pulling weeds? For renting a booth at the Farmer’s Market? For your crop growing expertise? Granted the chef has put his own labor into the menu, and he could get flavorless carrots from Costco instead of using your carrots, but would mentioning your name be enough compensation? Would you get business from the guests who went to the restaurant and happened to notice your name in small print?
I say no, and would politely tell the chef to grow his own damn carrots.
Back to the topic on my mind, a couple of months ago, I got a request for usage of this photo:
Borscht – Russian Tea Time – not sure how this goes with hockey, maybe some Russian connection?
The email read…
I would like to feature one of your Flickr photos in my new hockey book. I’m very impressed with the quality and spirit of your photos – they would look great in print!
About me: I am an established sports writer from Toronto. This will be my eighth hockey project. My others include [REDACTED list of 7 books]. My next book, [REDACTED], will focus on NHL team history and fan culture. It will be in stores in the fall of 2012.
In order to use your image, I will need confirmation that the photo was taken by you. In exchange for permission to use your photo, I will of course formally credit you in the book and can also recommend your work on Flickr, your blog, Linkedin, etc. Please just let me know exactly how you’d like your credit to appear (usual format: Name/Flickr).
Please let me know as soon as possible, as my deadline for your approval is in the next couple of weeks. If you are willing to grant permission and release for your photo, I would need you to please provide an original high-resolution version of the photo along with notification of your permission to reproduce and publish the image.
I am happy to provide more details, so please don’t hesitate to email me with any questions.
Yes, I took the photo (at a Russian Tea Room in Chicago). My normal rates for inclusion in a book is $800 (US), plus a copy of the finished work. At this stage, working for free does not interest me, as I have to eat, pay health insurance, pay for my photo equipment and so on.
If you are interested in using my photo in your book, please send a formal request to my business partner at the following address:
and I’ll send you a purchase order, followed by a high resolution version of the image.
I never heard back from Mr. Hockey, I guess free was the only price he was looking for. And to be honest, this probably isn’t the best photo of borscht out there…