You may remember a previous post of mine. It’s not hard to forget as I was ranting. I seem to be getting good at ranting. If you can’t remember the post, refresh your mind HERE

The above post dates back to February this year. At the time, the post gained great momentum and plenty of social media time. People in the creative industry could relate to my plea. I would say since that post, things have improved. Of course, that may well be because those looking for a freebie shouldn’t contact me!

However today, I had one of those emails. And I quote:

“Hi Ian. I’m a contributor for **********, and I’m working on a winter running post with *********. I noticed you have a beautiful shot of her atop a mountain. Wondering if you would be willing to provide that image un-watermarked in exchange for a full credit and direct link to your site. ***** is part of a massive national network of action-sports publications, so the play is potentially big. Would love to talk to you about other images for the future, too! LMK what you are comfortable with.”

It is easy to think on first reading, wow, ******* want to use MY image on TV and in articles. But hold on a minute. They want an unbranded image for free?

“so the play is potentially big”

What, so big that you can’t pay me to use my image?

I replied:

Hi *****,

Many thanks for the email and interest in my photography/ work.
I don’t supply images for credit and for free. I make a living at this and without payment, I can’t go to the stunning locations to capture the images you like. This post puts my thoughts into perspective HERE.
I am more than happy to work with you and to come up with a working relationship moving forward. 
If ****** is as big as you say, I am sure money for great photography can’t be too demanding.
Yours in sport,
In other words; don’t take the piss! Photographers, designers, magazines, anyone in the industry and other industries, please take note.
I received a reply:
Duly noted. As a fellow freelancer it is always awkward for me to ask for something for free. Unfortunately too many good photographers are giving it away, as you know, which has created a spiral effect. ***** actually used to pay for images and even full photo collages, but I guess the good stuff came too cheap and they moved away from that model. I will certainly keep you in mind for paid gigs going forward, as you obviously have an eye and we are in a similar area for content. Cheers!
This is my job! I am not playing at this. I don’t want sympathy, I want photographers and those who work in this industry to WAKE UP and stop giving work away for free.
Rant over. If you agree, sympathise, like what I and those like me produce, then please share. Without our work, content, images, writing and stories, what will you have? You will have bland free content that all merges into mush. That is not good for me, for those like me and it is certainly not good for you, the consumer, who has to look at and read shit!
Apologies for the rant!

13 thoughts on “PHOTOGRAPHERS wake up!

  1. Of course you should receive payment, Ian. There’s a lot of cost involved in your photos given the locations involved – they are not pretty snaps from the local park. I wonder if the freelancer who approached you writing the article for free? However, I can only imagine that publications these days are struggling with a tightening margin as sales decrease in the face of more and more free content on the Internet including podcasts.

    • Agree Ramon. Social media, websites, podcasts and so on do make it harder for publications. But top-quality content still requires a fee. Many magazines for example sell 20.000+ per month at say £5 a copy – that generates a decent pot of cash to work with!

  2. As a graphic designer I completely sympathise with the issue (since work-for-exposure, design competitions, & spec work are all rife within my own industry). I do a bit of teaching here and there, and understanding the value of design/photography in it’s commercial applications is one of the things I try to explain and drive home.

    While I fully sympathise with your need to rant, I also think that in order to bring about better understanding and positive change, the issue needs exploring a bit deeper than just ‘stop working for free’. — I feel like the key message is more along the lines of ‘Understand the value of your work’.

    Where art, design, or photography is to be used in any commercial application, the client should value the work of the designer/photographer and pay them for their time & experience. A contract should be used, and usage rights (either limited or buyout) agreed. Basic professional stuff.

    However, running is a community of people, and not always for commercial purposes — there are times when it is fine to ‘donate’ your time and work, and still have people understand that your work has a value. For instance, I’m a fell runner and it’s an area of the sport where there is not a lot of money at the grass roots level. It’s fine for photographers to donate their time/skills to documenting a sport they are involved in, because often they feel like they are giving back to something that has given so much to them.

    (There are also easy practical ways to show value of donated work – by providing a discounted invoice, for instance, to show what it would have cost if it were a commercial application)

    However, should inov8 or Salomon want to use the photos to sell shoes & kit… then it becomes a completely different application, a commercial one, and photographers should respond professionally and respect the value of their (and other photographers’) work, by not giving their work away for free.

    Anyway, just my thoughts on the matter – you do have my sympathies, I think photographers get a rougher deal than designers (I have a lot of music photographer friends)!

    Keep up the good work Ian!

    • Agree 100% Graham. To be honest, I think the community know this with my work as I provide this website and a podcast free of charge. Yes, I do donate work. But blatant ‘commercial’ companies looking to cut corners is taking the piss.

  3. Can I share this post for free? Sorry, couldn’t resist. Completely sympathize Ian, it really is such a sucky situation. It reminds me of the direction online music is heading and what is available for ‘free’. Good rant btw. Who doesn’t like a good rant now and then!?

  4. I work as a wedding photographer but I don’t earn enough to make a living. My wife earns the main income. Despite the skills involved, I don’t think people value photography enough to pay a sustainable wage for it. It’s a free market and unfortunately if a product is not desirable enough it won’t sell. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it is and playing hard ball won’t change anything I don’t think.

    I know how pissed off I feel when I see the price of race photos or when I see what PixiPhoto want to charge me for photos of my kids. I don’t want to pay it because I don’t think it’s worth it. If I think like that and I know the level of expertise required to take decent pictures, then it’s no wonder the man in the street doesn’t want to pay.

    I am also a videographer. I film a lot of my runs as Film My Run and will happily do it for free for RDs who give me a free race entry. Arguably filming and editing video takes up a lot more of my time than editing photos. But I know RDs wouldn’t pay for my services and I am very happy to be allowed to run for ‘free’ as ‘payment’ because I love what I do.

    And there’s the thing. People make music and take photos and create great art, not for money, but for the love of it. So those who want to make money will always have a problem because so many others are doing it for free because they don’t care about raking in the cash. Artists will never go on strike and people will not stop creating art because they aren’t getting paid. The creative spirit has to fly. It is not done for our financial well-being but for our emotional well-being.

      • I think you’re treading on difficult ground there. I would imagine the employees of Pixifoto think of themselves as photographers and it’s a bit unfair to brand them all as just people with cameras. I know one girl told me she had come out of university with a photography degree and was gaining experience. I would also suggest that the public in general see them as photographers. i totally understand your point Ian, I really do, and I have sympathy with it, but you have to roll with it and move with the times as the music industry has had to do. We need to use our initiative to think of new revenue models. Getting angry about it won’t help you. You’ll just come across as a bitter old timer who can’t adapt to the modern world.

      • No, you misunderstand, Pixiphoto are people managers who take pictures just like cooks who microwave food and call themselves chefs. That is not to say Pixiphoto photographers are not talented, that are just not using photography skills in that job. It’s photography by numbers. F8 and be there!
        In regard to adapting, you couldn’t be more wrong. I adapted years ago and run a very successful photography business.
        What I don’t understand are photographers who give away or sell the work. It has value, and as the term professional implies, we earn a living from it. Hence professional. That is why I am vocal and don’t work or give my work away for free. Of course, providing services to enhance PR or exposure can work, I do do that, but it’s very structured and controlled. Read my post again and the original post from earlier in the year. This is magazines or websites who are making money from ‘our’ work yet they ask for it for free. It’s crazy.
        You don’t earn a living with photography that gets a free race entry, that is called a hobby which is something completely different.
        I am very happy with my business model, it’s other photographers that I am questioning.

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