Friday, December 10, 2010

Photo Sales Redux

[rant on]

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.”

[rant off]


  1. Good for you refusing the request.

    However, this kind of practice is happens much too often with the hope to use photos and other work in exchange for credit in their moneymaking venture. A piece of the action, or at least making a licensing fee inquiry, would be more worthy of consideration.

  2. yeah, see what you mean. I give photos for free creative commons. people are starved for good pictures and yet, I've had people use an image I took of them as a professional shot but when they go to get a new one, pay someone else for that same use, yet not consider paying for one they'd used, sometimes yanking it off the net without asking permission nor giving credit.

    funny, too, people at poetry readings often seem to say they have no cash, can't buy a book, yet somehow they can eat a restaurant meal between bites of words.


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