Hi- your photo of the Old Town Triangle/ Historic District sign is fantastic. I’d love to use it for a mailing…I’m a Realtor. How do you feel about that and how would you want to be credited for the image?
I politely responded that I’d let her use the photo for a reduced rate of $300, asked where I should send her a purchase order, and then even asked as a post script if she had any interesting loft style properties she could show us, preferably live/work buildings.
I never heard from Ms. Kindel again. She only wanted an image to use for free in her mailer, I’m sure she frequently agrees to waive her real estate commission when she sells a place, right? I wonder if she pays anything to the USPS when she sends out her mailer? Probably not, they don’t expect compensation for their work either.
Today’s edition of NYCHMPFF1 is brought to you by indignant potential clients who want to spend less, much less, and resent being told their offered price is too cheap.
After being told that no, I would not give him my high resolution Photoshop file for him to print at his own printer for less than a cost of print, I received this rather snide email (partially redacted to protect the guilty)
Second, I am not looking to use your work in a mass produced publication. Before I could explain that the piece would be hung in my private residence, printed once by in archival pigment [you] started dropping numbers… I constantly have people complimenting me on the pieces displayed in my Chicago residence, and my girlfriend and mother happen to be interior designers. Best of luck to you in the future.
Sorry for any misunderstanding. I was under the impression you wanted to purchase a print. If you wish to use my digital file and your own print service, I’d have to involve my attorney to ensure my copyright being maintained, and that would make the price triple, at the very least. I’m not comfortable with the liability involved with this.
Thanks very much for your compliments on my photography. I’m flattered by your invitation to be displayed in your house. But photography is work, it takes time, and in this economy I can’t afford to do it for a couple of nickels in my cup and a pat on my head. I’m sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work.
Drink Your Big Champagne and Laugh
I could have continued, but didn’t, “Do you get mad at your electric bill and demand to pay one twentieth of the cost of your service because you know some electricians? I am not Filene’s Basement For Photography”
Obviously, this is a frequent problem. Tim Kreider begins his rant on the subject thus:
NOT long ago, I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money. As with stinkbugs, it’s not any one instance of this request but their sheer number and relentlessness that make them so tiresome. It also makes composing a polite response a heroic exercise in restraint.
People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.
A familiar figure in one’s 20s is the club owner or event promoter who explains to your band that they won’t be paying you in money, man, because you’re getting paid in the far more valuable currency of exposure. This same figure reappears over the years, like the devil, in different guises — with shorter hair, a better suit — as the editor of a Web site or magazine, dismissing the issue of payment as an irrelevant quibble and impressing upon you how many hits they get per day, how many eyeballs, what great exposure it’ll offer. “Artist Dies of Exposure” goes the rueful joke.
I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing. I have to admit my empathetic imagination is failing me here. I suppose people who aren’t artists assume that being one must be fun since, after all, we do choose to do it despite the fact that no one pays us. They figure we must be flattered to have someone ask us to do our little thing we already do.
I will freely admit that writing beats baling hay or going door-to-door for a living, but it’s still shockingly unenjoyable work. I spent 20 years and wrote thousands of pages learning the trivial craft of putting sentences together. My parents blew tens of thousands of 1980s dollars on tuition at a prestigious institution to train me for this job. They also put my sister the pulmonologist through medical school, and as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.
Here, for public use, is my very own template for a response to people who offer to let me write something for them for nothing:
Thanks very much for your compliments on my [writing/illustration/whatever thing you do]. I’m flattered by your invitation to [do whatever it is they want you to do for nothing]. But [thing you do] is work, it takes time, it’s how I make my living, and in this economy I can’t afford to do it for free. I’m sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work.
Feel free to amend as necessary. This I’m willing to give away.
I’ve gotten lazy about blogging the periodic requests to use my photos in a commercial setting without compensation. I have no concern with websites or blogs using my photos, even quasi-commercial sites like Chicagoist, Curbed Chicago, or the like, as long as these usages don’t require payment to view. In my reasoning, I get benefit from such exposure, not to mention I read most of these sites anyway, or could. However, printed use is different: the targeted audience has to pay a fee to read the magazine or book, thus I should get a slice of the pie. Does this make sense?
I work as a writer for Black Card magazine. We are doing a feature on America’s Best Street Foods and we want to feature The Wiener’s Circle in Chicago.
They don’t have any images of their hot dogs, but I found the one on your flickr page. Was wondering if you might be willing to let us publish it in exchange for a photo credit in the article and a free copy of the magazine?
We are on an urgent deadline.
My first reaction was irritation at the forced urgency. Why do I have to rush to respond? I’m not the one who waited until the last minute to secure photographic rights for a story assigned months ago. An admission: I’m that guy on the highway who slows down when drivers tailgate me. Especially if I’m driving by myself, I’ll block irritating drivers from passing me for twenty minutes (alternatively slowing down and speeding up, as traffic changes) or longer. Unless you have a flashing siren on your vehicle, I doubt sincerely your time is any more valuable than mine, and no, I won’t get out of your way if you are rude. Of course, if Illinois caves in, and allows concealed handguns to be carried, I may alter my behavior. Probably not though. I hate being told to hurry up. I have enough deadlines of my own without incorporating yours as well.
Secondly, Black Card Magazine is a trade publication solely for the upper echelon – for instance, American Express’s Centurion Card, which requires cardholders willing to pay an annual fee of $2,500 just to have the card, plus a $7,500 application fee. Not for the peons, in other words. American Express had an operating income of $33,800,000,000 last year, I think they could afford to pay photographers if they chose to.
Wieners Circle Rages at the Dying of the Light
So I replied that I would be happy to allow one-time usage of my photograph for the fee of $800. I’m not holding my breath for a response (it’s been 24 hours).
Hi Seth, As with many, I am captivated by the quality of your work!
I am a professor writing an ebook on “Chasing Wisdom” and would like your permission to use your work entitled “Gate – Buckingham Palace” as a photograph in my book.
I propose the following credit line: Photograph used by permission. Copyrighted by Seth Anderson.
Of course, please propose a credit line of your preference if you so choose.
Thank you for your consideration. My normal rate is $800 (US) for a one-time usage fee. If this is something you would consider, please send me a purchase order, and I’ll invoice you and send you the image.
Please consider that I am self-employed, and responsible for all my own costs (health insurance, electricity, and so on), and thus am not interested in working without compensation.
I’ve written more on that topic a few times, including here:
An ebook often has lower costs associated with its creation, perhaps I would consider a lower fee as well, but we shall see if I get a response. Ideally, I would take the time to create a form letter from these various requests, but I never seem to get around to it.
Parenthetically, the referenced photo is ok, but I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites. I’m sure there are many, many similar photos of the Buckingham Palace Gate taken every day.
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.
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: [REDACTED]
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…
Another entry into the continuing series of I’m not giving you something for nothing. The previous entry has more back story if you missed it. Today’s requestor was more upfront with what he wanted, and that there was no money available, even though he’s being paid to create the book. For the record, I am not offended on being asked to use my photos, it is some sort of low level honor.
Here is the email, with personal information removed. I’m not trying to embarrass the requestor, usually, just document it.
My name is [REDACTED] and i am a writer and comedian (please check out [REDACTED}, google me,or check out my work for [REDACTED high profile blog].
I have a humor book coming out through my publisher, [REDACTED], which will feature funny/cute pictures of kittens and cats. Would you potentially be interested in having one of your photos in the book? Unfortunately, there is no pay. But you will receive photo credit (but will have to remove watrermark), a free copy of the book, and a very fun book to share with your family and friends. If you’d like to see what the book will be similar to, visit Amazon and search for [REDACTED funny title], or [REDACTED] –the prequels to this book featuring pictures dogs and kids.
Of course, it’s not guaranteed that a photo will be used, but i really liked your photos (especially cat in fridge ) and think you’d probably get in.
If you’re interested, please email me directly at [REDACTED email]. I will also need to you to eventually send me an attached hi-res photo as well.
I is in your fridge, eating your food – the photo in question. And yes, my cat jumped up in the refrigerator as we were about to start putting the groceries away. He hasn’t done it since, however.
I responded, trying to be a little funny:
No thank you, I’ve decided I like to eat more than I like to see my name in a photo credit. For some reason, my bank will not accept photo credit as legal tender.
Thanks anyway, and good luck.
Cheerio, Seth Anderson
The requestor cheerfully responded:
I completely understand :). thanks for getting back to me.
As professional photographers, we receive requests for free images on a regular basis. In a perfect world, each of us would love to be able to respond in a positive manner and assist, especially with projects or efforts related to areas such as education, social issues, and conservation of natural resources. It is fair to say that in many cases, we wish we had the time and resources to do more to assist than just send photographs.
Unfortunately, such are the practicalities of life that we are often unable to respond, or that when we do, our replies are brief and do not convey an adequate sense of the reasons underlying our response.
Circumstances vary for each situation, but we have found that there are a number of recurring themes, which we have set out below with the objective of communicating more clearly with you, and hopefully avoiding misunderstandings or unintentionally engendering ill will.
Part and parcel with requests for free images premised on budgetary constraints is often the promise of providing “credit” and “exposure”, in the form or a watermark, link, or perhaps even a specific mention, as a form of compensation in lieu of commercial remuneration.
There are two major problems with this.
First, getting credit isn’t compensation. We did, after all, create the images concerned, so credit is automatic. It is not something that we hope a third party will be kind enough to grant us.
Second, credit doesn’t pay bills. As we hopefully made clear above, we work hard to make the money required to reinvest in our photographic equipment and to cover related business expenses. On top of that, we need to make enough to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, transportation, etc.
In short, receiving credit for an image we created is a given, not compensation, and credit is not a substitute for payment.
Photographer at Work – Tri X 400
and point 8:
“You Are The Only Photographer Being Unreasonable”
When we do have time to engage in correspondence with people and entities who request free photos, the dialogue sometimes degenerates into an agitated statement directed toward us, asserting in essence that all other photographers the person or entity has contacted are more than delighted to provide photos for free, and that somehow, we are “the only photographer being unreasonable”.
We know that is not true.
We also know that no reasonable and competent photographer would agree to unreasonable conditions. We do allow for the fact that some inexperienced photographers or people who happen to own cameras may indeed agree to work for free, but as the folk wisdom goes: “You get what you pay for.”
Photographing the Photographer part 1840
and point 5 expands what I tried to tell Requestor Number 86, and says what needs to be said more forcefully:
We Have Real Budget Constraints
With some exceptions, photography is not a highly remunerative profession. We have chosen this path in large part due to the passion we have for visual communication, visual art, and the subject matters in which we specialise.
The substantial increase in photographs available via the internet in recent years, coupled with reduced budgets of many photo buyers, means that our already meager incomes have come under additional strain.
Moreover, being a professional photographer involves significant monetary investment.
Our profession is by nature equipment-intensive. We need to buy cameras, lenses, computers, software, storage devices, and more on a regular basis. Things break and need to be repaired. We need back-ups of all our data, as one ill-placed cup of coffee could literally erase years of work. For all of us, investment in essential hardware and software entails thousands of dollars a year, as we need to stay current with new technology and best practices.
In addition, travel is a big part of many of our businesses. We must spend a lot of money on transportation, lodging and other travel-related costs.
And of course, perhaps most importantly, there is a substantial sum associated with the time and experience we have invested to become proficient at what we do, as well as the personal risks we often take. Taking snapshots may only involve pressing the camera shutter release, but creating images requires skill, experience and judgement.
So the bottom line is that although we certainly understand and can sympathise with budget constraints, from a practical point of view, we simply cannot afford to subsidise everyone who asks.
I may not make my sole living from photography, but I do make some money from it, and all the money and more is invested in the art. I know my attorney charges me for each and every thing possible, for photocopying forms, for sending letters in the mail, and so on, and I gladly pay. There are lots of small expenses that add up – health insurance, internet fees, L & P fees, you get the idea.
I am going to start documenting all the requests I get from people wanting to use my photographs for free, and their responses. This is a fairly regular occurrence – usually a dozen1or so times a year – every year – I’ll get an email, mostly via Flickr. Nearly always the request starts with the same basic initial thought: “I’m so and so, and I’m working on a book or some other project, and I want to have your photograph, for free, even though I plan on selling the finished project. I’ll give you a photo credit though.”
Yesterday I got this request:
I am currently working with several photographers, manipulating their images digitally to create artistic representations for a deck of cards that I am creating & publishing. I would very much love to use this image of yours in my deck. Would you please consider granting me permission to use the image? Full credit will be given to each photographer who’s work I feature in the deck, and this deck will be sold and distributed globally to card-readers, students and collectors.
If you’d like to see the progress of the deck so far, you can do so on my Facebook Page: [REDACTED]2
Anchor Baby – the photo in question
if you are planning on selling your deck, we’ll need to work out some sort of compensation arrangement, or royalty agreement. I’ve gone as low as $800 (U.S.) in the past.
Should I send you an invoice?
I actually have gone much lower – especially if the project is good or interesting, or the requestor is polite. Occasionally I have even given away one time usage of my photograph for free, but I don’t do that often. If this is a commercial endeavor, I should be compensated for all the time I took to snap the photograph, manipulate the photograph in my digital darkroom, upload to the web, etc. not to mention my equipment, computer, software, camera, lens, and so on. Again, not to be a jerk, but if you think your work is worthy enough to sell, well then, so should mine be worthy enough. I may not make my living as a professional photographer, but I’m not independently wealthy. I like having coins in my pocket.
The requester responded, rather snottily:
None of the other photographers are asking for royalties. Credit and getting their name attached to this global project was all that was required.
No, sorry, i am not willing to pay. I have other options, many other photographs, many other photographers who want recognition… 🙂
Well, isn’t that peachy.
I couldn’t help myself, and emailed back:
Hard to pay my landlord with photo credits, thanks for understanding.
Ideally, by documenting this reoccurring request, I’ll hone my responses so they are a little wittier. I really should create a form letter that I could work off of.
which is where I figured out that this is request number 89. It probably isn’t, but if I’ve been a member of Flickr for 8 years, well you do the math [↩]
if you really want to know, I’ll tell you privately [↩]