Photo Sales Redux
Recently, I got yet another request to allow the publication of a photo of mine in a periodical in exchange for credit. The person who wrote to me explained that the periodical had no budget for contributors. I sent back a polite note saying that I would be happy to allow the use of my photo in exchange for a reasonable fee.
The reply to my email said, in effect: All right, we won’t use your photo, then, and that was the end of it.
But later, on a whim, I looked up the name of the person who had written to me. Turns out that she is a freelance writer with a web page that advertises her services.
Well, I thought, that’s interesting. Here we have a freelancer who charges for her services, but feels fine asking others to give theirs away for free. Then I thought: Hey, be fair. Maybe she volunteers her services for that publication.
Well, if so, then that’s laudable. Many of us donate our time and skills to causes that we cherish. But as I see it, there’s a big difference between doing so of our own free will and being asked to do so by a person we’ve never met. Why should I give away my work for free just because the article in question is about a cause I value?
I’m starting to think that the next time someone asks me for the use of a photograph in exchange for credit, I will say something like this:
“Sure, I’ll let you use my photo in exchange for credit... as long as it’s the same kind of credit that the banks, utility companies and supermarkets will accept. If that isn’t what you had in mind, then please do us both a favor and don’t waste my time. And what is this issue of giving credit, anyway? What value does it have, except for expressing, at best, a vague hope that perhaps someone else at some unknown point in the future will pay me for my work instead of you? Will that make your conscience feel better? Nope, sorry, I don’t think I feel like dying of exposure today. When you’re willing to give me value for my work in negotiable currency, then we can talk. Until then, have a nice day, and don’t let the door hit you in the rear on your way out.”