I am lucky, very lucky! I have a life and business that allows me to travel to amazing places documenting a sport that I love. It’s a dream job and one that I throw myself into 100% each minute, of each hour of everyday.
It’s a job that not many can do. It requires long hours, an ability to handle stress and you need to be fit. Well, you need to be fit if you do the job in the way that I do it!
I have built a business out of hard graft and my commitment has been rewarded. For example, in 2014 I travelled and worked on over thirty races. In 2015, I will work on a similar quantity.
I do have a ‘USP.’ I am not only a photographer. I offer a one stop package for a race with writing, podcast and a website that generates thousands of hits on a daily basis.
But don’t be mislead. If I was doing any other job, I would arguably be wealthy. But working in a niche sport does limit what is available in regards to re-numeration. I accept that!
However, I don’t like having the piss taken!
Let me give you a scenario:
Imagine you work for a magazine. You go to the office on Monday and you start work at 0900. You take a lunch break at 1300, return to work at 1400 and then work to 1800. You do this day after day… At the end of the week, the magazine you have toiled on is ready. You have dedicated forty hours minimum to its success. Your boss comes in, congratulates you on an awesome job and says how great your work is! You feel proud. You feel happy and you pat yourself on the back.
“We have decided not to pay you for your work this week. We have no budget! But don’t worry, we will give you a credit in the magazine. It’s a real plus for you, your name will be associated to the incredible body of work you have created. What more could you want?”
I am well aware that belts are being tightened in the world of running magazines. Lets face it, It’s no surprise… magazines print old news that will have appeared on websites like mine weeks and more than likely months before. However, it’s always nice to have something in print both from a consumer perspective and a contributor’s perspective. But lets not be fooled, somebody somewhere is making money.
Let’s just look at a potential scenario:
- A magazine sells at £4.99 per issue.
- They sell 28,000 copies.
- That is £130,000+ of sales.
“It will be great advertising for your work and getting published by us will help you professionally.”
So does this argument have any merit?
Who doesn’t like seeing their work in a magazine? It’s a great showcase and of course as a photographer, it’s a confirmation of my ability.
However, readers of magazines are not the people who are going to commission future work from me, so, other than an ego boost; little gains come from a ‘credit.’
But, I do get a tear sheet and I can add it to my website HERE to show that I am credible and trustworthy! My photography is so credible that the magazine editor didn’t respect me, or my work enough to pay me for my time, skills and professionalism?
“Yes, but other magazine professionals and people in the industry will see how good you are, phone you up and commission something from you.”
No! Potential clients think, aaagh, you worked for ‘X’ magazine, they have a reputation for not paying, so you probably did the work for free.
Without wishing to blow my own trumpet. I am well established in the trail, mountain, sky and ultra world. My work is known and I get the job done. That is a USP and it is a bonus for any commissioning editor or client.
I can overcome obstacles and always come up with the goods. These things all mean far more than if I have been published. As a photographer, the best way to help me (and those like me) is to do what professionals do — treat us with respect and pay us for the work we do!
I work on races all the time. I provide a service and I get paid for that service. So, when an editor of a magazine emailed recently asking me to use my photos of a particular race I asked, “what budget is available” and I was clear. “I can be flexible.”
“We don’t have a budget for photography,” the editor said in a way that was almost saying; “how dare you request a fee.”
I replied and I used my scenario of going to the office, working all week and then getting a ‘credit’ instead of getting paid.
“Ah, but that is different,” they said, “You were paid by the race to cover the event and therefore you should provide images for free to help promote the race, that is normal!”
Errr no! Some races ‘may’ well have a photographer that ‘may’ be contacted in who ‘may’ have signed a deal where all images are available post race and then the images ‘may’ be used in multiple media outlets? In theory, the photographer will have been paid ‘extra’ to allow this.
I don’t do this!
For one, it devalues my work.
I provide a quality service and any fee I receive covers my time and not the images I take. My images are mine and they are unique to me. They have my style, my fingerprint and that is the value. They are a piece of art with intrinsic value and they are protected under copyright.
Of course, I also provide considerably more! My website can get over 40,000 hits per day when I post images from a race. I also write race reports and I promote a race through my reach… social media has a huge benefit and you will see ‘branded’ low resolution images of my work everywhere. It’s a package that I provide and one that works.
It is time to stand firm
Photographers please stand firm. Don’t let publications walk all over us.
I, just like you am a professional. I have done five years at university; I have been in the business for twenty-five plus years and I have served my apprenticeship.
My work is unique, valuable and worth a fee.
If we are not getting paid, how are we different from the millions of budding photographers who do this as a hobby while still making money in another profession? How do we pay the rent, how do we put food on the table if we don’t charge for our services?
It is time to stick to our guns and not give away our work and make the magazines (or other businesses) pay us our due rewards for the work that we provide.
What other profession would be expected to work for free?
Clients have the money, they just play the game and far too many times, they win through pressure. If we have photos that are good enough to be published, they are good enough to be paid for!
Magazines will always continue to get ‘free’ content from enthusiasts but in time, the quality will soon drop and with it, the life of the magazine.
Note: This post has been generated through a frustration from those in the industry who continue to use bullying tactics in a hope that I will succumb to providing content for magazines and other similar publications without payment.
This post is not a reflection on races, race directors and brands who I work with on a professional basis, day-in and day-out and who I have an excellent working relationship with. To all those, I thank you for your continued loyalty.
Please look at my photography website HERE
Image sales available HERE