Let me first be clear. Anyone who knows me well would tell you I’m not a materialist and money is not my primary aspiration. I have food on my plate, a shirt on my back and a photographic imaging device around my neck; believe me, I’m happy. But if I had a pound (British Sterling) for every time someone asked to use one of my images for the reward of ‘exposure’ I could probably make a decent living as a photographer. Well, no, probably not. But often enough I get such a request from some organisation or company to use one of my images with the promise of ‘great exposure’ for my generosity. Presumably in the same way that a lottery ticket would expose one to the possibility of winning?
It seems many photographers have seen and heard this too. Maybe some of you have experienced it. I’m sure plenty has been written about it so you will forgive me for airing my thoughts here.
In some cases, the exposure is significant and worth the donation. Many professional photographers will strategically offer their work free of charge to gain interest and exposure for the rest of their portfolio or services. They probably need to do so to market themselves. Social networks are teeming with examples of beautiful professional portfolios all vying for attention. It’s a saturated market and arguably any exposure, while difficult, is worthwhile. Some photographers even donate large prints to their local cafes, restaurants or shops with the hope of generating interest. More power and success to them, I say.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing one’s images and even generously bequeathing them to a magazine or organisation. I exhibit images on my blog and Facebook page, and also on Photography Life to illustrate my articles. I’ve donated images to companies and charities to use for their promotion, and a few of them have very graciously sent me tokens of their appreciation from overseas. I’m not trying to sell or promote anything other than my enjoyment of photography and an encouragement to others to do the same.
But what seems to bother many photographers, professionals and amateurs alike, is the assumption many other people or companies have that our images have no value at all and they should expect to acquire them free of charge. It’s only a photo, after all, right? They could go out and shoot it themselves if they wanted to, couldn’t they? It is true that the sheer volume of ‘ordinary’ images out there fuels that perception and drives the value of our art south for the winter. Or they could get it from stock? There are plenty of stock image options out there but not all of us use them, and why pay a fee when you can acquire something for free from a photographer with the promise of exposure?
Furthermore, the assumption that we’re all so desperate for exposure in a saturated ocean of imagery that we’ll readily agree to these requests is arguably also a little insulting. Does anyone really believe that they’ll somehow reap a windfall of exposure by giving an image to a company or organisation? Do these companies really think our self-esteem is dependent on their attention? Is that enough reward for us and are we that willing to short-change ourselves?
I’m sure most of us have heard the arguments expressed on our behalf that our images did in fact incur a great deal of cost to produce, and not just the gear we used but the time and travel too. I don’t make a living from photography and I’m not actively trying to sell my images anywhere, but I still believe my work has some value. At least it does to me. I found one company using some of my images (screen captures of the images on my blog) without my permission. I promptly sent them an invoice and the images were promptly removed.
Another (multi-billion dollar) corporation wanted one of my images of London for use on their twitter feed, promising me ‘exposure’ for the privilege. I politely explained that I really didn’t care about or need exposure and that the image incurred a cost to make. After initially offering to pay me a licensing fee (lunch money, really) I naturally never heard from them again.
Another potential exploitation may come from competitions. There are countless photography competitions out there promising prizes ranging from money to a slot in a magazine to a new filter for our lens. But read the small print and you’ll see some of them ask for a high-resolution submission while expecting the right to use our image in any and all of their promotional material. And this is often after you pay a fee to enter. This is normal for a competition, you might say, and I’m simply being overly cynical and paranoid. But while our image joins the other also-rans, we’ve effectively paid them to print and publish it everywhere. We may get a credit for it, sure, but how much do we really gain from that credit? (I don’t just mean financially.)
Of course I’m not suggesting we don’t enter competitions. I’ve entered a few myself. But maybe we should be careful. A genuine competition will let you retain all copyright and control of the image and won’t care about too much the size of the image (providing it’s not too small) until you’ve won, after which they’ll understandably ask you for a larger size.
Perhaps I’m being a little too narrow-minded. Perhaps I’m wildly over-estimating the value of my work. Maybe it’s so mediocre I should be grateful to give it away to anyone who wants it. While I don’t care about the money per se I do care about the principle of acknowledging the value and effort I put into it, and perhaps the only way to get others to do so is to restrict that work to paid use only. Of course, it’s easy for me to have such principles when I’m not making a living from photography.
I don’t know what the best answer is and many readers will have their own valid viewpoints at each end of the spectrum. But maybe if we stood on principle and insisted that the value in our efforts was recognised our photography would gain higher esteem in the eyes of those who prey on our perceived naiveté and assume that we’ll relinquish our worth for the illusion of exposure. (Or maybe they’ll simply move on to someone else…?)
All the images in this article were donated, requested or entered into competitions. I realise there’s no accounting for taste. Heard that one already.
I have never posted a comment on line before, but your premise is so compelling that I felt a need to agree wholeheartedly. Artists have been subsidizing art in general and their own art in particular since cave paintings. The promise of exposure as an inducement is especially pernicious. The artists love of the work and their willingness to sacrifice for the opportunity to create art makes them ready prey for those exploiters who are greedy for gain. Saying “no” as you have rightly done isn’t easy. You have earned the respect of all artists with this gesture. Keep up the fight NB: Lovely photos! GA
Thank you George! :)
Does anyone know if Zeiss is “stealing” photography on their website..? By using a Flickr module to “show off” their lens’s capabilities..? Go to this website, and scroll 1/4th of the way down — you will find the product info and on the left hand side a “Flickr” box that says “Pictures on Flickr”. Is this ZEISS’s account? I don’t think it is by looking at it. Rather, I think they are using other user’s images…. who posted their images on a social network.
If Zeiss didn’t license those images — is this legal..? It seems morally dubious and possibly illegal, especially for the photography industry (by the way, I am not saying that Zeiss is stealing the works of photographers who use their lenses in order to do marketing for free and therefore undermining the photographic industry…….. I’m just asking if anyone knows or has seen this kind of thing before and understands how it works). I’ve never seen a Lens company doesn’t pay for images of Samples of its products on its site, and just randomly links to the photos of random users.
Did Zeiss hand select and pay for the licensing of these images to be used in conjunction with their marketing? Or did they steal the images or use some unethical loophole, perhaps under the justification of “exposure” for the artist….? If licensed, or agreed, then why wouldn’t they host the images ON THE ZEISS site?):
Global, I don’t know what Flicker’s policy regarding the use of photos on its site. I do know that anything you post on FB for example can be used by FB for any purpose they want even advertising for themselves. If Flicker has the same kind of policy then Zeiss, you or I can use whatever they want.
That would be my thoughts too — on how Zeiss could be in the right.
But it just smacks to me of laziness or cheapness transformed to property theft, because some of the photos could be mislabeled. In that sense, its a misrepresentation of the product and liable for false advertising.
I think this is an attempt to skip paying artists; but I could be wrong.
If any Zeiss users have their photos in that stream, I would send an Invoice to Zeiss or email Flickr to check if this is a valid use, considering that it absolutely is Commercial Marketing of photographer’s works.
I know a lot of photographers promote themselves on FB and other free sights but if you read FB agreement it says they and anyone else can use, share or promote your photo in any way they want.
Your question intrigued me so I contacted Zeiss…
Here is the reply from Mr Brandststetter of Zeiss Public Relations.
He wasn’t too forthcoming initially so the following is gleaned from three emails:
“Thank you for your inquiry to ZEISS.
Can you please tell us why do you want to know this.”
“We have a very close relationship to the photographers that provide us their pictures and grant us the usage rights. We always try to have a “win-win-situation” for both sides.”
“Most time we get the pictures for free (especially for our blog) and the photographer receives international attention with the help of our channels.
But sometimes we also “pay” with our lenses for the pictures. The photographer provides us some pictures and as compensation he receives a ZEISS lens”.
“No photographers that we worked together for this purposes had any complaints about that and on the contrary, many photographers were very thankful because they received orders from all over the world after we displayed their pictures in our channels.”
“The photographers that received lenses from us were also very happy because they get a very good tool for their work and they also could sell it later for an attractive price. They often ask us to provide them lenses instead of money. Please understand that it is confidential how many lenses we gave to photographers over the years.”
“It’s a kind of sponsorship.”
So there you have it – straight from the horse’s mouth.
Give away your images to Zeiss and in no time at all orders will be pouring in from all over the world – just don’t forget to ask for your free Distagon or Apo-Sonnar.
Well, I think part of this goes to the question of “exposure”. Now I’m wondering how many lenses Zeiss actually gives up in exchange for showing pictures. I’m also wondering if they use one of my photographs would they make me a pair of Distagon progressive eye glasses.
You can tack my order onto yours – but make mine Biogon as I prefer a wider angle of view – like an antelope!
Getting older is a bitch (please excuse the pun).
LOL. I recently had a pair of bi-focal glasses made with one a small portion of the bottom lens for close vision. I wear progressive lenses most of the time but when placing my eye up to the viewfinder or working in live view I sometimes have difficulty finding the center of my eyeglass lens to focus. So I had this very larger pair of glasses with large lenses made so I couldn’t miss with my distance view.
I agree growing older is a bitch, but I have no intention of growing up. LOL
This topic comes up repeatedly for discussion, as I am sure it happens repeatedly. Perhaps the best reply is to offer a finder’s fee when all this business is referred your way through exposure. The persons “giving you exposure” will get their money back and more. After all, they are confident that you will profit, so they can also participate in the gains as well.
I did this once with a company trying to sell me advertising space which was “absolutely guaranteed” to increase my turnover.
When I suggested that instead of my paying for the advertising, I agree to pay them 10% of all the profits from all that guaranteed business that was about to pour through my door, they disappeared so fast you couldn’t see them for dust.
LOL, Betty you’re a card. I also like the ad sales person who tells me that all I have to do is sell one job to pay the ad for that month. So where’s my money???
Betty, I understand what you are saying. My comment about being compassionate was made to defend the person who was working for $35k … nothing more. People should not judge and make comments like you did… and then again with Alis… lighten up. You sound really angry and people in this group should not be the targets.
I am not an angry person – truly – but I am given to plain speaking which some take as being aggressive or judgmental.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing or maybe I’m just not ‘nice’ enough for some people.
Confronting the truth can be uncomfortable, but equally, sometimes a “loving kick in the pants” can be more helpful than any amount of being nice.
We all make choices and have to live with the consequences.
There is no point in someone sitting around and complaining about how hard done by they are.
They made a choice. They can make a new choice.
Confront the problem, take some action, do something different.
Lord, I’m starting to sound like an agony aunt.
Betty, in theory I have to agree with you. But in other discussion regarding this we agreed we did not have any idea what that posters situation was with regards to market share or work in the area. Neither you nor I would have stayed in that position if we were unable to negotiate a better deal but then it is apparent we are both Alpha personalities and would be able to rely upon our business sense to in crease income. Perhaps that poster doesn’t have the same ability or avenues to explore.
True, but when did complaining about a situation to third parties (who cannot influence anything), help to change that status quo?
Tea and sympathy are ‘nice’, but nothing will change without action of one kind or another.
This is true, but we are here in discussion sharing our joined experiences and that is what that person was doing. We may not agree with how he handled his situation and from what I read that you write, neither of us would have stayed on without additional compensation but that doesn’t change the way the poster saw his situation. As stated before, whether we feel he was right or wrong doesn’t matter, it wasn’t us in that situation and as he shared his experience we have done the same from our perspective. Perhaps reading all this, he will march into his boss and demand additional payment for his work. Who knows, unless he shares that as well.
“Confront the problem, take some action, do something different.”
That sums up my point about being pragmatic when our online images are stolen. We need to do something different to reduce our personal problem with it rather than hoping that the perpetrators will be punished.
No offence intended to you, Betty. I’m also given to plain speaking, to which many people object because they cannot begin to understand the important difference between fact-based and emotion-based communications.
I always find your comments highly valuable because they inspire me to think very carefully and critically about my opinions/beliefs. Thank you for taking the time to write your comments.
Pragmatism is fine up to a point and I agree we should not let anger drive our decision making, but by taking action I meant quite coolly and dispassionately handing the problem over to a recovery company.
No hoping involved.
They do the chasing, taking to court (if necessary) and exacting payment (albeit for a hefty percentage) leaving their clients (me and you) to get on with more productive pursuits.
At the end of the day something is better than nothing.
And justice gets done.
All true, that still doesn’t mean we should be a bully with our peers. It’s not our place to fix people and this is not “the place” to ridicule someone. This site is about photography. I think we should keep it related to photography and not tell people how they should run their lives. Everyone of us have our “stuff” to deal with… this is not the place to point it out. Sorry I said anything initially. If there were a private way to address things like that with someone that would be different, but basically telling someone to shit of get off the pot on line with all their peers hearing it too doesn’t belong here. Plain talk doesn’t mean talking down to someone. Done.
“Everyone of us have our “stuff” to deal with… this is not the place to point it out”.
You should remember who introduced his ‘stuff’ here in the first place.
They didn’t ask you to fix it. He was sharing, he wasn’t asking you for advice.
It’s a forum.
This article came up for me just at the right time. I have a friend who loves to be photographed, she’s a model. However she has somehow come to decide I am her personal family photographer. For a while it was fine to trade a haircut with her husband and do a photo shoot here and there with her… however now it is extending to her family who want photos for their websites. I am going to have to find a way to explain, kindly, that it is not a fair trade. I do volunteer my work to a breast cancer organization every year, however I am a survivor myself and no I am contributing to a good cause and to people I know are supported by the money made. I do not volunteer my photography to any other organization and limit it to just this one. It has given me great exposure and brought me some jobs… but I really do it for the cause.
Making money as a photographer these days is hard work… we need to be compensated… and we need to be kind to each other… so some of the comments I read below were concerning to me. Compassion is so important.
Yes compassion is important, but so is not going broke.
You have a family too.
I had a similar problem years ago (in a different field).
First it was family members, then their children, then their boyfriends/husbands, then their husbands’ friends, then friends of friends…..
Eventually, I found myself feeling resentful.
Why was I doing all this work for nothing – well, actually at a whacking great loss?
So one day I sat down and had a little chat with myself.
And after a while, I made a rule.
Immediate family only.
Worked like a charm.
Been happy ever since.
Grit your teeth and give it a try.
You won’t regret it.
Very interesting article…
Well, personally I don’t make any money from Photography. I am really only an amateur and my field of work is very narrow, namely dogs, more especially working dogs. But my friend and trainer asked if he could use my pictures for his articles in K-9 Cop Magazine, Police K9 Magazine and his new book on trailing dogs. I was thrilled and so proud to see “my” pictures printed. And the fact that it was pics of my own dog working (handled by my husband) made it only better. I got credit for the pictures but of course no money (didn’t even cross my mind to ask).
So, it is maybe silly but I am perfectly happy simply see my pictures in a magazine…
Which nicely illustrates the point that personal vanity or feeling flattered so often trumps our judgement of right and wrong.
YOUR judgement of right and wrong.
And yes, trailing dogs are my passion. And it is really nice and it flatters me to see my dog in a magazine. Not only because it’s my dog, but because she is the perfect illustration of how a working dog should be.
Well bravo for you and your dog – but what has “it is really nice and it flatters me to see my dog in a magazine” to do with right and wrong?
It just confirms from your own mouth that your judgement of right and wrong is based on nothing more than your feelings and forgive me, sounds really vacuous.
Betty, why are you so agressive with Alis ? I would not give my photos for free, but Alis has all the right to do it, specially under the circumstances he pointed out.
We live in a free country so Alis is free to do what he likes within the law.
That does not necessarily make it commendable.
Professional magazines can and should pay a professional fee for professional work.
Instead they flattered an amateur into giving away images so they wouldn’t have to pay a professional.
For starters, Alis is a “she”. And the author (my friend and trainer) is being payed by the magazine. And for personal reasons it would be quite wrong from me to ask for money for my pictures, same for his book.
A credit with the link to my website is a huge advertising for my dog business and this has far more value to me than a few dollars I could get for these pictures.
AND: these pictures were shot during training. I was not “hired” to do anything. I always take pictures during our works with dogs. These as an advertising for my business.
Apologies to Alis (I wrongly assumed Alistair).
If the author is being paid, then perhaps she might throw you a few crumbs from her table?
Joking apart, you should have said that you were being remunerated – in advertising (hmm..but is that just ‘exposure’ under a different banner?) rather than cash.
I wlll admit however that there are grey areas here and individual circumstances can change how we look at things.
Nevertheless, the principle holds true, unless given for charitable or altruistic reasons, work should be paid for, not taken under the pretext of bestowing some unquantifiable and usually non-existent advantage on the giver.
Betty, Alis is getting crumbs from the table as you put it. She gets free advertising for her business. I have no idea what that would cost in that magazine but I’m willing to bet it could be equal to whatever she might earn as a photographer. Or as she indicates more because it enhances her chances to promote her budiness.
With all discussions about doing work for free, when my barber decided to expand to a much larger facility and create a “salon” with additional services; massage, manicure, and aroma theory for his clients, I offered to make pictures for his very blank walls in exchange for being able to advertise my portrait services in his very busy new salon. This has worked out well for me as it enables me to keep my hand in some other photographic endeavor other then my regular work. I think this is what Alis is doing and in this case I think her decision is the correct one. Now, if another dog owner comes to her and asks for freebee photos, were I her, I wouldn’t do that. I would simply discuss my fee and if the potential client had the idea that they could get the pictures for free, just point to the clients cell phone. They all have cameras today.
Yes but that’s going full circle back to the ‘exposure’ hook.
It’s complicated because sometimes the exposure is actually worth the trade – but not often I think – and too often it’s just a rights grab dressed up as a benefit when it’s nothing of the kind.
I neither agree nor disagree with your statement, however, in this specific case the trade off seems to benefit Alis. In the overall I would agree most of the time nothing comes from this kind of arrangement. That has been my experience in the past and have not committed to that kind of relationship for many years.
BTW Betty, I just get the email of the critique section. Great photo of the bull elephant. I love the feature in the picture of the grass in the trunk. Beautifully done.
Now look what you’ve done….I’ve gone all pink.
But seriously, thanks.
Thanks for sharing that photo. Now, back to my body parts that have to be done by 5PM.
Very interesting article. I am a journalist and section deputy-editor at a big newspaper and we are religious about paying for stories and pictures with a flat fee which covers one time use. But getting paid for being published on the web? Wait, let me wipe away these tears of laughter.
One of the biggest problems with that is the culture of “free” that has perverted the web where people want everything – their news, their pictures, their entertainment – without paying a cent for it. It’s all-pervasive and it’s destroying the media industry (Chicago Sun Times/Sports Illustrated to mention a few examples close to heart).
I know at least one freelance shooter who insists (correctly) on being paid every time one of his images is used in print, yet continues to rip moves and music from the web for nothing. Until everybody gets used to the idea of paying for the things they consume, do not expect people to stop playing the “exposure” card on you.
You have a point….sadly : )
Anything and everything personal that we make available online is likely to be stolen — be it our digital images, our credit card details, or other aspects of our unique identity. It’s no longer a case of “It might happen, but it’s unlikely.”; it’s now a case of “Each time theft occurs I will have to deal with it in the best way I’m able.”
If we made our images available only as prints or framed prints, and charged each recipient for them, then at least we’ve been remunerated for our products/works. Making our images available online in digital format means that we’ve lost control of our products/works — we’ve also effectively lost ownership of them because anyone can edit the images, change the EXIF info, and remove/replace any added watermark, hallmark, signature, etc.
As far as I’m aware, it is the person who activates the shutter button who is automatically allocated copyright to the captured image. This is really good for photographers, but sadly the onus is on the photographer to initiate legal proceedings against those who infringe the copyright, which can incur significant costs with no guarantee of compensation.
We have to be pragmatic:
1. If we have painstakingly produced a digital image that we believe has monetary value then we must target a suitable audience: the potential buyers. Targeting the whole World Wide Web by posting our images online is also targeting all those who enjoy stealing the works of others.
2. If we’ve produced a digital image that we believe is valuable, for reasons other than monetary, again we must target a suitable audience: those who will appreciate it. If we publish this type of work globally online then someone steals it: we might reasonably conclude that it is more valuable than we thought and calmly point out the theft; or we might become very angry about the theft, in which case we have to ask ourselves what was our real motivation for publishing our work in the full knowledge that it would very likely be stolen. The people who steal these images are incapable of becoming good photographers therefore they pose no threat whatsoever to the original author — such people are hopelessly pathetic and they are not worth even a few seconds of angry feelings.
A sobering thought Pete, thank you. Fortunately, your last point is what I find most solace in. :)
I wouldn’t disagree with most of what you say, other than publishing work globally is for many photographers the only way of getting their work seen – it’s called advertising.
Just because you advertise your work does not make it OK for dishonest people to steal it and deprive you of a fair reward for your work.
Betty, advertising one’s photographic images is similar to advertising books in that the advertisement contains only a synopsis of the works rather than the full content. E.g. advertising images scaled to one megapixel or less that contain a prominent copyright notice would render them useless to anyone wishing to steal them.
Of course, it depends on whether one is advertising one’s services as a photographer or is advertising images for sale. If one is attempting to sell digital images rather than prints then it might be best to use the services of an image library. Once a full resolution digital image is sold (or otherwise made available to the public) the author has lost control over it. Protecting digital media is problematic because it is the blueprint for creating multiple instances of the work(s). Conversely, if someone steals our camera they have stolen one instance of its make and model, but they cannot produce multiple copies of it thereby causing a loss of sales to its manufacturer.
I agree with you but am I thinking of the amateur (or even the professional) who is not trying to sell anything necessarily but would like their work to seen; as opposed to remaining buried in a hard drive for ever. I see no point in that. Online display can be just for the pleasure of sharing with others or with the hope of enticing a prospective to buy images or services.
It’s nice to display images at a size which does them justice (yes, it’s showing off!) but that inevitably means they are large enough to be lifted and used without permission.
I don’t think it behoves us to be pragmatic. I would not be pragmatic if someone stole my credit card details.
Neither do I believe that making our images visible on line should equate with losing control over them.
Images can be tagged (visibly or invisibly), tracked and perpetrators made to pay.
Theft is theft and should be punished.
I know what you are saying because several times I’ve been on the receiving end of various forms of theft — none of the perpetrators were punished. Such is life, unfortunately, hence my thoughts on needing to be pragmatic.
I can remember a time when one of the UK’s foremost photography magazines of the day would feature an article every year or so about the ‘Unipart Calendar Shoot’ Patrick Lichfield, aka the Earl of Lichfield, was a well known high society photographer and if I recall correctly, a cousin to the Queen.
He would have a bevvy of models, props, great locations, and a budget to make your eyes water, from the client, Unipart (they were car parts distributors, and in those days seemed to be allied to BMC (British Motor Corporation) – Austin, Morris, Wolseley, MG, Riley, and possibly other marques.
Like him, any photographer who puts time, expertise, and money (travelling and equipment, and even assistants) into capturing commercial grade images, is entitled to be paid as such.
The problem is, back then, understanding of film was much more restricted to enthusiasts. The world keeps turning, and the DSLR is perhaps the professional’s greatest enemy as well as friend. People can pick up equipment from any online or retailer and start getting great images with ease, due to the nature of the equipment now. They also don’t have the constraints traditional film photographers had, namely, the cost of shooting an entire roll (or several rolls) to get the ‘one’ money shot – with a couple of memory cards, you can now shoot thousands of images ‘free’ and pick your money shot from them!
That is, perhaps, the dilemma of the commercial photographer. There is so much competition from ‘in house’ photographers (who double as client account managers, sales execs, etc) and the photo libraries, that he or she has to differentiate from these and show the work is both technically superior and innovative.
Organisations and businesses tend to keep costs down, so it is no surprise that getting paid for your work is an increasing challenge.
It’s different with ‘hired’ photographers who do, eg, weddings and similar occassions, both personal and professional, such as a company retirement bash.
As each generation of camera helps the novice to quickly become semi-pro, it is hard to see this problem easing.
A thought provoking article, thanks for that.
Serendipitous AD placement and article title…