A Photo Credit Doesn’t Pay the Rent

In the belt-tightening world of editorial photography, many media outlets now offer a photo credit, rather than monetary compensation, for the use of your photo. “It will be great advertising for your work,” they tell you, “and getting published by us will help you professionally.”

Should you buy this argument?

Here’s what I can tell you from my experience:

    1. The vast majority of readers never look at photo credits. They glance at the photo and then jump over to read the story. So much for “great advertising.”

    2. Editors generally don’t look at where you’ve been published, unless the publication is very prestigious. Assigning photo editors are more interested in the quality and breadth of your portfolio. They want to know if you are consistent, if you are dependable, if you can overcome obstacles to pull off a shoot. These things all mean far more than whether you have been published in a particular outlet.

Ultimately, the best way to help yourself professionally is to do what professionals do — get paid for your work.

In standard stock uses, a quarter-page photo in a small, regional publication should bring in enough for you to buy a nice, new iPod touch. And that’s worth a lot more than a photo credit.

Thanks, But No Thanks

Recently, an editor of a local magazine called asking to use my photos of a popular country music singer. I inquired as to the publication’s usage rates.

“We don’t pay for photography,” the editor said in a snotty, entitled tone.

“That’s nice,” I replied. “And I don’t give away my work for free.”

End of conversation.

Guess what? Five minutes later, the singer’s publicist called to apologize for the magazine’s rudeness. The publicist had attended the original shoot (which I’d done on assignment for another publication) and had recommended the editor contact me for use of my photos.

The publicist asked my fee and paid it, and the photos appeared in the magazine. In the end, I got a photo credit — and a check.

Stand Firm and Set Your Own Price

The lesson here is to stand firm. Don’t let publications walk all over you and use your work for nothing.

If you’re not getting paid, how are you different from the millions of hobbyists uploading their photos on Flickr and all over the Web? How do you plan to put food on the table?

Set pricing on your photos that includes usage terms — one-time, English-only, no Internet, and circulation size are good places to start. FotoQuote software is an excellent tool for pricing your photography, as is Jim Pickerell’s book, Negotiating Stock Photo Prices.

Remember: if your photos are good enough to be published, they are good enough for you to be paid for them.

82 Responses to “A Photo Credit Doesn’t Pay the Rent”

  1. A great post. Just today I took photo credit for an ad. I really love the company and they have been very supportive of my work and have done a great job of spreading the word about it. As such I felt comfortable with the credit, but, now I get this in my RSS feed and it made me thing twice.... From now on I need to ask a fair fee for my work regardless. Thanks for a great blog! I read it often.

  2. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  3. This blog post couldn't have come at a better time... definitely food for thought!

  4. Good work. The argument they give photographers is ridiculous if applied to any other business. I could never dream of walking into a car dealership and saying "I like this car- if you give it to me for free I'll tell /everyone/ that asks who gave it to me. It'll be great advertising for your work!"

  5. Just want to remind other creative professionals -- such as writers -- that that this applies to you, too. If your writing is good enough to be published, it's good enough to be paid for, too.

    Thanks for another good post.

  6. But don't forget the other portion of photographers.
    I understand your field and it's different than my field.

    Yes photo credit never directly pays the bills.
    But lets not knock it too much.
    It is powerful in-direct help.

    For event (wedding, concert) photographers it's often the credit (watermark, direct links, a great shout out)that gets us the next gig.

    We have to market our services a lot, and yes photo-credits often gets us that next job that does pay the bills. (Best of all we don't have to pay for this marketing)

    So while I understand the commercial or stock photography field, don't forget the rest of us.
    For us the credited job is already paid for... but I want that bride to put her pictures up and tell all her friends. (And that bride can do that for free in my opinion)

    Again I support your stance on stock or fine art.
    Make your calculated stand... sometimes it's theft, sometimes it's FREE marketing.

  7. Couldn't agree more.
    This "free publicity"-thing never worked for me, it only tells a potential client "...hey, I'm cheap!".

  8. So the editor doesn't pay for photography? Does he give away the magazine too?

    Yeah that's what I thought.

    Thoughtful and interesting post.

  9. Love your boldness in the face of that editor who said they don't pay for photographs. Loved it. Sweet, classy response on your part.

    No one is ever going to buy the cow if they are getting the milk for free.

    I have just reached the point in my burgeoning photography career when I will stop doing the photo credit compensation.

    Someone called me recently gushing about my work and how they want me to photograph an up-and-comer on their music label--for free! I was expecting them to throw $1,000 my way they way they started out the conversation. After reading this post I will stay firm and simply state I just cannot do any work for photo credits anymore.

    Thanks again. Black Star Rising is becoming a daily read for me. I hope you can keep up the pace of great material as I'm becoming dependent on it!

  10. The point he makes is for stock/editorial photography. Wedding photography credit after the fact (you were paid already) is irrelevant.

    As wedding photographers we want to get our stuff in magazines for promotion because the audience is totally different - brides are looking for vendors, therefore may look actually look at the credit. Not so true in other photography markets. And so what what if someone want's you because of the credit - what if that person asks for a freebie and promises yet more "free advertising" for that photographer? Such a deal.

    Suddenly, the lights go off cuz the electric bill wasn't paid.

    ...it's just a way editors trim cost's...similar in aviation where a lot of pilots are asked to fly for peanuts to gain "time" in the seat.

  11. To Jarvie: If you shoot a wedding or another gig for credit , why do you believe that it will lead to paying jobs?

  12. Thank you for an informative and evocative post! I fell for that line once and then realized how accepting such a "deal" not only devalues my work, but all the other struggling photographers out there as well. Thanks for your insight.

  13. Today I got a cheque for almost 2000 Euro for printing & framing work by another photographer who very kindly gave his client a DVD with no photographers name to be found. I wonder what the photographer thought his client was going to do with the RAW files!
    I’m not complaining; keep handing over the DVD’s guys, I’m happy to take the money if you don’t need it!

  14. A very timely post. Week in and week out I get these requests. Admittedly this is something I did do ocassionally when learning the ropes, but there was rarely ever any thanks, just expectations and that I should be grateful that my photos were chosen.

    Just the other day a music magazine approached me to use an image, explaining that they were non profit and couldn't pay anything towards it. I bet the staff get paid and I bet the printers get paid! I thought I would try a new tack and I told them they could use the image if, in return, they gave me an advert in their magazine. Of course they weren't interested then - How dare I ask for something in return! A credit should be enough!

    I'm not sure what it is about this business, but 'free' is a word that is heard time and time again. I wouldn't dream of going into a shop or hiring someone and asking them for their goods or services for nothing.

    I simply haven't got the time or funding behind me to support other peoples needs in this way. If people want to run charities or non profit ventures that is entirely their choice, but it isn't mine. Occasionally if someone has done me a favour, I don't mind returning it, that's fair, but this is with people I know and have struck up a relationship/friendship with.

    It's a big subject for debate and ultimately up to the individual, but on this matter I am saying 'Enough!'

  15. Agree wholeheartedly - lets hope this encourages photographers currently giving away their work for credits(nothing) to value their work

  16. Intresting read, and I agree, Buuuuut I now have made a magazine on a butget of love and have some amazing photographers shooting for it for nothing but love..
    These guys are very proffesional but are dear to the cause, We as yet don't ern from the magazine as that to is built on love, but boy does it niggle me I can't pay, I do try and give them mags to sell so they can ern a few petrol tokens as I have been in there shoes being a photographer myself, when it does kick in I hope to take them to the olympics with me...oh and buy there lunch... cheers

  17. There is an important backstory here that seems to be submerged in this post.

    When you (Harrison) received the ORIGINAL assignment, you presumably negotiated a rights package at the time with the original client (a publishing company I presume) that must have spelled out what rights you retained and which ones they were purchasing. Without this agreement between you and the ORIGINAL client, all subsequent uses of the images would stir up a hornet's nest of accusations and counter accusations about who owns what and what they can do with it.

    So, imagine for an instance you shot the original image for the singer him(or her)self, the publicist or some other corporate concern whose business was promoting the singer. The rights package, your fee (presumably), and the places the image could be used without additional payment to you would be quite different.

    I may be stating the obvious, but I did not hear this addressed in the original post. Spelling out the "rights deal" up front with the one who pays you is critical to all that follows regarding further usage by whomever, and for whatever compensation, be it a credit line, dollars or anything else.

  18. RW,

    Correct, I shot this for a publication and they had exclusive first use, after that I can do with it what I want. Today many outlets want you to sign a work for hire agreement. Work For Hire says that you work for that publication and anything you shoot is owned by them and they can do with the images whatever they want and you ONLY get the assignment fee. This is something else one should not do, work for hire agreements are another thing that is great for the publication, bad for photographers. Suffice it to say that if you do have to sign something horrid like that be sure you get compensated accordingly.

  19. Hi. I'm one of those hobbyphotoists who uses Flickr, and gives away images all the time.

    I have to say I'm shocked. It never crossed my mind that professional photographers were under such pressure to donate their work in return for being credited. I only pay for the photographs I get professionals to shoot for me.

    I'm writing a book called "How I do 99% of my work for free, and live well on 1%". In some way I'm going to be inspired by your predicament.

    I barter. I write for hotels in return for beds & meals. I write for my accountant in return for my tax return. I'd write for a photographer in return for an image I loved.

    But, that's not what's going on when some smart alex says "it'll be good for you to be published here". If someone did that to me, I'd twitter it immediately. If I was a photographer I'd take their photographer for an exhibition around the theme of "Chancing Your Arm".

  20. man, this is exactly what has happened to music. people don't want to pay for anything anymore. everyone says we should give our songs/albums away for free as some kind of publicity for performances we are expected to do that will supposedly pay the bills, but that is completely short-sighted.firstly, it takes hours and hours to compose and record songs, not to mention money for the gear to do so. who is paying for all of that up front? me, the independent artist. and i can't afford to go on tour! so that "recoupment" concept does not work. sure, giving away our art - whether it be music, photos, writing, video or what-have-you is a way to potentially have more people experience your art, and perhaps even remember your name. but we are quickly turning into a society that devalues the artist's labors.

  21. Anji bee, "a society that devalues the artist's labors." - when was it ever different? However, the only people who can devalue the artist's work is the artist. No one can devalue your work - unless you let them. This view might not make your rich in money but it protects the rest of your riches.

  22. Just to throw a log on the fire..
    Re web publishing. Definatly no fees offered, but a link back into your website can drive traffic ? . Yes but a recent series of shots I uploaded attracted over 200,000 hits and I only sold 3x budget prints of another shot?.. So.. still no food on the table..
    I have been at task with local publishers over rates and now really only deal offshore with bigger more ethical editors.this new model is a work in progress and with royalty free and glory publishing proffessionals are being challenged to stay as such, ie earn a living.

  23. At the beginning of the year I allowed an editor to use a few shots to illustrate one article, only to find out six months later that he had been helping himself to my images without any further permission. He has avoided all attempts to accept responsibility and acted like an unprofessional idiot when I asked for the going rate according to NUJ freelance fees guide (http://media.gn.apc.org/feesguide/index.php?language=en&country=UK&section=Photography&subsect=Magazines&page=INDEX).

    You can't trust anyone.

  24. Simon,
    May I please have the name of that editor & publication? I'd like to get in touch, and read the publication of such an enterprising person.

  25. If all else fails, take out an advert in the same publication using the same space they used with your photograph. Then when they send you an invoice, return it to their accounts dept with your own invoice attached. And a friendly suggestion that you are happy to write one off against the other. They wont be so quick to use your photographs again without permission.

  26. The publication in question is Fighting Spirit Magazine, the editor is Martin Mathers.

  27. Thanks v much Simon. I'll follow it up.

  28. I’m not expecting any compliments on this one. Rather I’m expecting some bricks and stones. But here goes. I hope some stock photographers who are new to the industry will scroll down far enough to be able find me down here, because you are the people this topic is about.

    Pros, naturally (or rarely) give their photos away.

    We are discussing a deadly hidden secret of all professional freelancers.
    It’s the RULE of the freelance jungle.

    Will the creative pro please step forward who has not in her/his early entry days as a professional given away a free article, a free photo, a free garage band concert?
    The BlackStar Rising site admittedly is for pros who have had at least 3-plus years’ experience at professional freelancing. Sure, as a freelancer you have to be protecting yourself and excluding competition by doing a better job than the youngster who is coming up from the ranks and getting known by an age-old marketing technique of getting your foot in the door by giving away a gratis sample of your work.
    It’s a given -no stock photographer, except hobbyists, can exist very long unless they get paid for their photos. But isn’t all of the above ‘speaking to the choir’?’ Somehow, the picture is painted above that photographers never have given away their work.
    In other professions, as we all know, offer enticing offers to introduce themselves, get their foot in the door, when they’re just starting out. We all love the ‘free offer.’ They do it. We take it. We all encourage it. And don’t feel any guilt. For example:
    Accepting a free pass to the new theater down the highway
    Accepting a free ticket to the new dance studio, fitness center, or stage play
    Or accepting a PR person’s free pass to the concert
    Or the garage band’s opening night
    Or a sample of the new product being introduced at Wal-Mart
    Or a grocery store coupon
    A free article from Ezine or similar website
    Or a free meal at a place where kids eat free

    Art directors, photo editors, can recognize the “newbie”. These buyers are looking out for Numero Uno too.
    Not unlike us when we accept that “familiarization tour” to Guatemala or the free pass down at the local sports stadium.

    If I get any responses on this commentary, I request that he or she start with, “Yes, I gave some of my work away when I first started out.” --Rohn Engh

  29. “Yes, I gave some of my work away when I first started out.” Re posting above by Rohn Engh.
    However, I was not bullied into parting with my copyright and that’s what’s happening today mainly thanks to the recession.
    Customers are demanding the original files or they will go to Snapper Joe down the road who will happily sell his soul for the price of a few pints. Snapper Joe will not be in business this time next year; in fact he is probably already driving a Taxi or worse still collecting the dole while offering his services as a "professional photographer". And unless you want to join him, stick to your guns and stop giving away your work, if its good enough for someone to want it then its good enough to get paid.

  30. i'm sorry but too many photographers are just plain suckers that get roped into the photo credit scam - and it is a scam. There are entire industries that exist based on photographers giving away their work.

    How many wedding magazines would exist if they actually had to pay for their content?

    How many billions did The Knot take in last year? How much did Grace Ormonde make? I would bet it was a a lot more than the combined incomes of the photographers that provided the actual material printed on their pages.

    The photo credit in lieu of pay is the biggest and smartest scam ever created in the history of the world.

    I want to start a business where I can find contributors to send me their valuable assets for free. I'll then repackage them, sell them and pocket all the money. Oh - I'll be glad to quietly tell people the work is really yours just so they know and maybe they'll hire you sometime, but meantime I'll be building houses on both coasts, sending my kids to private school and vacationing on my yacht in the Caribbean.

  31. As a former newspaper reporter, I always thought of the byline as "in lieu of paying you a living wage" ... it's amazing what people will give up for a little ego stroke.

  32. Excellent post; I have photographer friends who could use a little extra backbone. You're being a great example.

  33. I always say "no, thanks" to this kinds of proposals. In several ocassions, after seing "no thanks", I've got, like the opt, a new call and a money offer. So, it's worth saying "no, thanks".

  34. I totally agree that you should get paid for your work. Whenever I'm pricing a shoot I always try and think about how much it would take for me to go out of my way to pull the shoot off and that's the price I use. Meaning that I always try and price up to the amount that I would be happy doing the shoot for. Instead of thinking of the price that's going to get the sale.

  35. I wrote about EXACTLY the same thing in 2007 here:


    Credit lines are for suckers and hobbyists. Professionals charge what they are worth!


  36. I lead a team of volunteer photographers that shoot one of the biggest chontemporary christian festivals in the US every year. Almost every one of them is a professional outside of that week. The promotional company that puts it on is not a struggling non-profit & we all know it. We would be nowhere without those who love the craft an volunteer thier time.

    With that being said...get your stuff! Payment can come in many forms. For this team, they would all be there anyway so free passes, meals, and for some lodging is a savings on top of being able to hang with their favorite bands, speakers and comedians.

    There is a company that I do some other services for and occasionally they will ask for my expertise in the photo industry. I'll publish thier images to my site and I have gotten work from thier employees that I would not have gotten before. They also will provide me with products that I would normally have to purchase. That's cash saved for me.

    I'm all about getting payment with a monitary value (photo credit doesn't have one), but I don't always have to be able to spend it.

  37. Amen! After being flattered a magazine wanted my photos and content ( in exchange for a link to my blog), I had second thoughts and withdrew after adding up my time - and the lack of traffic from their site.

  38. One word GREAT!

  39. Yes I know of a photog who paid for models, permits, catering & more to do a fashion shoot on the beach here in LA & all done just for photo credit.

    Surely the editors/staff of the magazine won't work just for a credit line.

  40. Well said! If your a professional then you should get paid!

  41. A wonderful article. People take us for granted and don't think twice that we have to make a living like anybody else. Free is worth nothing and I, as a photographer, give it all.

  42. Weird that I ran across this today. I was evicted this morning.

    I've been a freelance writer/photographer for seven years. They were great until last year. As clients began offering abysmal prices - or no money at all - I found myself turning down work more than taking it. In many cases, it would have cost more to travel for the assignment than I would have made.

    All those pretty bylines don't mean very much tonight as I ponder where I'm going to live and what I'm going to do next. I want to use my skills to make a difference in the world. I'm not giving up. I still believe in journalism. I still believe in my work. I still believe I have something valuable to convey.

    But that passion, that determination, still doesn't pay the rent.

  43. I am way past working for photo credit. I did editorial photography for magazine that paid for it in ad space. But the ad didn't get me any work. And I felt they lost respect for me as a photographer. Even though I do lifestyle and editorial portraits, I got asked on a half-day's notice to fill in for their nightlife photographer to take some pictures cocktail hour. During that time, both the editor and feature writers wanted me to take headshots of them in the dodgy lighting of a hotel lobby. I did it, but was very reluctant to do so, all the while feeling that I wasn't able to do my best work. Needless to say, the shots weren't used, and I felt that they lost respect for me and relegated me to a jack-of-all-trades photographer instead of the type of work I wanted to do. Working for free benefitted them, but gave me very few assignments that showed what I could really do as a photographer. In 2010 my pro bono work will only be for networking opportunities where they understand the type of work I wil be doing, and allow networking with clients for potential portrait/wedding work--or projects that are well designed so I can use them in my portfolio.

  44. Yep, been there had this happen before and I told the blokes to go shove it.

    NYC in 1998, a small weekly "what's going on in town" mag similar to Time Out. The first assignment I did for them was a Sarah Brightman gig, this was unpaid but they paid for the film & such...basically I was demonstrating to them what I could do.

    I sit down with them the following day to review the slides, they hand me the contract and I look over it (very short only like 5 pgs total) and look up at the publisher fella and say, "This all looks great except there's no mention of pay." With absolutely no change in expression or posture he says, "You're getting published."

    Well gee golly was this where I was supposed to jump-up for joy and bounce around the room like Tigger? I looked at him and said, "I've been published in 4 different states. When you decide how much you want to pay me, call me." Needless to say I never got a call back.

    Now I won't say that I left the magazine that day feeling oh so happy for standing up for myself, if anything I felt angry and demoralised for being put in such a position, to even be asked to consider to not get paid. It's difficult to take the high road and stay on there when the industry as a whole has become so tainted. A perfect example is how the New York Times has turned to its readers to supply them with photos now with no compensation:

  45. Carmen, that is so sad that you were evicted today. have a look at this news clip, it didnt surprise me that they went out of business. Any family portrait photographer who sells the digital files for "Home Printing" is going to end up on their own scrap-heap. So at least you went out with your reputation in tact! http://www.azfamily.com/news/consumer/Picture-perfect-moment-ruined-after-photography-chain-closes-81790577.html


  46. Too many people give their work away for free - and I've been guilty of that also. Recently a company that provides an application for the i-phone asked for one of my images on the back of great publicity..but they couldn't pay me for it. Like a fool I let them have the image and then I find out their application (shmap) is recieving rave reviews from newspapers and magazines worldwide.
    So I wrote to them and said I could shoot similar work for them but there would be a fee. Guess what, zero response. Since then I have declined any requests for freebies but have diverted them to my iStock portfolio...might have got a few donloads out of it but I doubt it. They probably tap another photographer. Why is it photographers and writers are expected to work for nothing. I thought that was only nuns and volunteers.

  47. Hear hear. The only publicity one can expect from a "free" usage license is to earn the name of someone who gives his/her images for free...

    An important contribution any of us, professional photographers, can make to the professional community is to EDUCATE serious hobbyists and starting pros as to why this habit of giving away images is hurting everyone, but first and foremost themselves. At the end of the day, it will also help the publications too - because they will not need to settle for lower quality photography just because it's free.

    The only exception I make is a certain amount of pro-bono work I do for selected charities, ones I believe in their cause. All the others, as long as want me to treat you as a client - I expect you to treat me as a vendor, i.e. pay the usage fees.

    Thanks for the interesting post!


  48. The annoying thing about doing a freebee for a charity is when you discover that everyone else at the gig is getting paid except the photographer, even that lovely lady who booked you and persuaded you to do it for free is getting paid herself!


  49. "How many wedding magazines would exist if they actually had to pay for their content?"

    Wedding "magazines" aren't "magazines" at all. They are for the express purpose of advertising and selling some product or service. When I did weddings, I had no problem supplying photos to these magazines. I was not going to be selling that image again and to get it to potential brides who probably not otherwise find me was worth giving the image away.

    Doing work for charity causes will only pay off if
    you do it constantly and make a name for yourself amongst that circle.

    Of course, some of us do it because it is charity..after all thats the whole point of charity isn't it?

  50. I am a photography student (2nd year) and have an opportunity to work with a magazine that is expanding to my area. They offered me photo credit on each image, plus a half page magazine ad per magazine to get myself known. I do want to do editorial work in the future, and I don't want to be thought of as only for free. I figure that the magazine ad, if it generates business, will be beneficial to me. If it doesn't work, I can negotiate fees in the future. The person in charge of the magazine here locally is a friend of mine who I've done paid work for in the past and who as put my name out there and generated other work for me.

    In your opinion, do you feel a magazine ad, if it generates some business in the future, is worth the exchange of free images? I would have a license with them, and not sign any contract that included the phrase "work for hire." I do know that much.

    I don't want to be undervalued or taken advantage of, so any advice is greatly appreciated.

  51. Excellent article. We also have frequently this probleme in France :)

    Never never never any credit will give you new clients. I saw that with a recent big serie well sold through the world (dozen doubles pages, posters and cover) : nobody no my name because of these pix :)

  52. Great article. And about time too! As often as i hear people saying "but it will be great promotion for me", the only people that actually look at the credits are other snappers … well mostly. The irony in all of this is that the publications (web or print) don't give their product or advertising space away for nothing. Supply of quality content improves a publications overall look and feel, if not make it. Imagine publications with out imagery! Don't forget our value people.

  53. This reminds me of a story I read some time ago about web design, often lopped into the same category. Here's how it went (from what I remember):

    Web Designer (WD) and Car Dealership (CD) discuss getting a website built.

    CD: We'd like a website, but in this economy we can't pay you. What we'd like to offer you is the ability to put your name and a link to your own website at the bottom of our site. That way, whenever anyone goes to our site, they'll see how amazing it is and get referrals to you, and in turn you'll make money! How's that sound?

    WD: Hmm. How about if you give me a car, but I don't want to pay for it. In return, I'll let you put a sticker with the name of your business on the back of it and I'll drive all over town every day with it. Everyone will see how amazing the car is and that I bought it from you and will in turn come here and you'll make money! How's that sound?

  54. Thank you Harrison. I really enjoyed this post and it is surprisingly timely for me. I was just pondering these questions and ideas last night. Thanks again!

  55. Credit do not fill our stomach but can fill theirs ... OUR photos that will give credit to their publications and not the contrary.

  56. I can understand this for photographers covering commercial events and dealing with newspapers and other print outlets. However, I don't think it makes sense for wedding photographers sharing their photos with wedding websites. Brides-to-be are much more likely to look at the photographer's name under an image, especially if they can click on the name and be taken to his/her website. You can't expect payment from a website for that when you really are getting free advertising.

  57. A pertinent article, and excellent timing as far as I am concerned since I am just embarking upon a new career in photography. Thanks for these words of wisdom.

  58. Great advice - even if it's hard for some of us newbies to swallow. It can be easy to be excited that a magazine actually likes your work well enough to ask to publish it - but actually getting paid for that publication is even more exciting!

  59. your article is on point.
    Publications say to me "Can I give you credit?" I respond YES I do, VISA, MC, and AMEX as credit.

  60. Great post--have linked it in three different places already. People need to understand---we do this as our JOB and that means needing to be paid for what we do.

  61. "we do this as our JOB and that means needing to be paid for what we do."

    Personally I think the "this is my job" excuse, is an incredibly weak argument to try and state your case to a client. Many clients couldn't care less about that (this article and subsequent thread would not exist if they did!).

    The whole argument needs to be turned around so that clients are sold on the benefits to them rather than the benefits to the photographer - what are we providing to clients that's of value to them, that benefits their business to an extent that they are prepared to pay for it?

    Trying to win the argument with "it's my job" is pointless because clients will simply reply that they'll go to someone who doesn't do this for a living but who would be happy to see their name published beside their images.

  62. This is a fantastic article. Great points put forward, Dominic I am with you even down to the charity gigs :-)

    Also folks the whole point is to stick to our guns as professionals and not give our images / files for free. Shops won't give out their items for free. Why should we? A credit was great when we were starting out and we were delighted to see our name in a mag. That soon wore off when the got the name on the credit wrong or left it out but more so when we realised that credits do not put the food on the table.

    I love the point about taking an ad in their mag and telling the mag that they can write it off against the use of your image :-)

    There can be anything from 2 to 5 days or more work in any one wedding from meeting the couple pre wedding, to meeting the couple after, editing all the images, designing the wedding book and printing it. FACT! Put a price on that! (Per hour :-) )
    Thanks for this article.

  63. Does anyone have any advice on putting together a contract regarding usage and payment etc.? I have been contacted by a travel magazine regarding a photo I have on flickr and I am unsure about the proper way to allow them one-time usage of the image while legally protecting my rights to the photo and getting credited/compensated. Thanks in advance for any advice!

  64. Thanks great post. I always see up and comers shooting for free to get published. Great way to ruin the industry.

  65. A great read for everyone! Not only are some "professional" photographers working for free for editorial magazines but most are low-balling too. I'm based in Toronto and I know for sure some editorial photographers are charging as little as $150 for editorials(for Cover photos + usage and all). I know this because I received a call from one editor after receiving my estimate and she told me exactly that.
    My response was "Thanks, but no thanks"!

  66. Sometimes saying no to photo credit as sole payment can lead to actual payment. A recent shot I licensed was initially requested for free, then they said they had a photo budget of 50 dollars. They ended up paying 300 after some negotiation.

  67. This really spells it out:


  68. Hi folks.
    I just had to share this email with you, after I received it yesterday. It sums up the way some people done even seem to consider that photography is our profession and how we try to put bread on the table. I really am still laughing at this one. Also note I paid this model for 2 hours work myself and they were not taken for any salon but for my own website 2 years ago.
    Here is the actual email as I received it:

    "Hi Cormac,
    My friend would love to use 1picture of me which you took for his tanning studio,but there is one problem, there is your logo in the middle of the picture..would you be PLEASE so nice and send me that picture without your logo and as well could you please change my skin little bit darker and change the colour of swimsuit to orange??

    I'm sorry for bothering you with this, but i would love to have that picture in his tanning studio :o)
    Thank you VERY MUCH for your time
    Kind regards,
    *** *****.

  69. Ok as I am on here I said I would share another one with you all which also really happened.

    Last week after just finishing a wedding, I was sitting in the hotel near the lobby, downloading all the images and preparing a slide show for after the wedding meal for the couple. I had my lights still set up just beside me turned off, but put in out of the way in case someone might fall over them and try claim :-)
    A young couple came over to me and this is what the girl said to me.
    "Hi i just noticed your lights there in the corner and I hope I am not being to bold in asking if my friend here could use them for a little while as I have an interview with an airline on Monday and I need a good photograph of myself. We already took some photographs upstairs in the hallway but I would like better ones. Can we use the your lights?"
    I was in disbelief and replied, I am going to be bold also in saying that I can take a portrait of you and I will charge you for it.

    "oh right well I need them straight away and you wouldn't be able to do that so"
    after a few whispers to the lad that was with her, she turned and yet again asked " So can we borrow them or ......? "

    I said "That would we be a no"

    I can only laugh at it now......

  70. Ahhh Cormac ye should have offered them your camera as well and a few posing tips along with a little airbrushing on your laptop, I mean it's not like it would have cost you any money!!!!

    PS. Did you ask them if they owned a Tanning Studio?

  71. Thanks Dominic. I suppose I really should have done that. God I feel bad now... I hope she got the job. If I ever meet her in the airport I might ask her if she could let me have some duty free good ever free-er :-)

    On a serious note I think it is a good point we spoke about, how the magazines and some wedding websites are putting the "make sure you ask for the disk of images" idea into the brides heads and these same mags and websites will still ask us for to advertise with them, without even blinking and eye :-)
    Think I might go and get a spray tan done, surely they won't charge me. :-)

  72. Once a producer called me to work for a couple of days. I was driving. She asked for the price of a half-day job and I told her. I said, "well, price gets lower in case you hire me for a week, 2 weeks... kinda of a discount" I said. Then she called me again. Still driving. "We don't have that money for you but we really want to work with you" and I said that for 2 weeks I would give a 15% discount plus that I didn't need to go with the crew for that amount of price, only for some selected scenes (movie stills).She called me again. I was effing driving again and she was effing driving me crazy. She said "Andre, we have XX/day plus you'll get a photo credit"... did I mention she was driving me crazy? I'm a very polite, patient person but not that day. She really pissed me off... I had to ask and I did it "Dear, do you want me to shoot with my mobile phone or my snapshot?"

  73. I recently shot press images for a local artist.I was payed by the artist and gave the images to be used as she saw fit and asked that photo credits be assigned each time an image was used.Her press page on the web has full credit applied to my images.To date any media entity who has lifted and used any of those images has assigned my photo credit.
    This week our local news paper ran an article about an upcoming concert for that musician and lifted one of my images from her press page.They did not assign the photo credit even though it is clearly given beneath the image on the web page.
    I don't need to pay my bills with my photography however I do believe one should receive credit for their work.Had this been a small image I wouldn't be so upset however this is not the case..it is a 4x6 color print.I will be contacting the editor on Monday.
    Does anyone have any suggestions.Whether or not there is a law regarding this is not that important.It should be the right thing to do.I intend to ask for the photo to be re run with credit applied and a paragraph about my work.

  74. Chris: No difinitive law in volved here. But you’re in luck. Here’s a way that you can get special attention to your freelance photography business plus a good plug for your artist friend.

    On email or your postal mail stationery, write this letter. (You can find the address of the right person on the newspaper’s masthead, or Google it.)
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Dear Editor: (This one is to you personally and not to the public)
    I’m a freelancer and live by word of mouth. Also by credit line.
    Friends showed me my photo by the artist [ ] recently.
    Since I’m assuming your art director must’ve borrowed the photo from [ ‘s] website, he/she probably mistakenly omitted my credit line. (PHOTO: CHRIS BUTCHER).
    The problem I see is that the general public assumes one of your staff members took the photo. As I say, I live by word of moth.
    In your Omissions and Corrections” column, kindly make reference to this. For example.

    Omission: The photo on page __, date: _____, of the artist ______, was provided by Chris Butcher.

    Thank you.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Other notes:
    1. Some studies have shown that the “Corrections” column is the most read section of magazines and newspapers.
    2. If you don’t get a response within 10 days, send the editor a statement for $250.
    I know this might be high for the average newspaper, but it’ll get your ‘correction’ published. (Attorneys fee for them are munch higher.) BTW Send your invoice (statement) not by email, but on professional-looking stationery.

    PS It might be asking too much to ask them to re-run the photo with proper credit line.

    Rohn sellphotos.com

  75. Before you get so sweet & polite, bear in mind that you are dealing with a Newspaper not the Sisters of Charity.
    The sad reality is that they omitted your name not by mistake but quite deliberately in an attempt to avoid having to pay you for it, that’s how they operate; it takes the odd lawsuit to get them to change their policy, anything less will only serve to amuse them for a brief moment as they add your email to the junk mail folder.

  76. Thank you Dominic & Rohn for your input .Dominic you are right I am not dealing with the Sisters of Charity but then again I could never be mistaken for St Theresa.If a principle is important to you it's worth standing up for.

    So I did get to speak to the editor,who did not answer his phone til after I spoke to the next in command.I was told it is not their policy to give photo credit to handouts.When I asked for the re print the response was they don't want to set a precedent.My response to that was..If you had decent minded policies and did the right thing you wouldn't have to worry about setting precedents.This was after he realized which photo we were discussing and informing me it was one of the better ones he had seen of this musician.They have previously sent their own photographers out to her.
    We had a lengthy discussion about the importance of recognizing people for their work either in payment or other form of credit.The statement was made several times that he had to see...how this had happened...and is supposed to call me back today.

    Oh I nearly forgot...He said he had never had anyone call him with this kind of complaint !!!!!

    Have I achieved anything yet ?

    Most definitely..I have learned a lot about copyright though most of it does not appear to apply to this situation.I have taken steps to ensure everyone knows..there are restrictions to the use of the images and just as important I messed up someones morning for a brief period of time.Rohn is probably right that I'll get into that little correction box and I have also asked that all web files they have be corrected to show the credit..he apparently agrees to that...I'll be checking later.

  77. Hi all. I totally agree with Dominic.
    Also I feel that a photo credit does not pay the bills. It is nice when starting out to see ones name under a photograph in a newspaper or mag, but in my view for professional images, that is not a good return for us if the newspapers or magazines getting to use images for free. They might even be happy to print a photographer's name under an image, if they don't have to pay for it, sounds like a good deal for them.
    Until they realise that our bread and butter is getting paid for images, which is unfortunately unlikely, then I don't see things changing much :-(

  78. Hell YES! Preach it!

    I had a rough experience recently where a I had taken a great image of a building in my city and the company wanted to use it. They are a non-profit and I was very nice to let them use the image online with credit.

    Then the image appeared in a local paper soon after. They claimed it was an interns mistake when sending images for the article but it seems a little odd. Mistake or not, the image stands out a lot and the paper was clearly going to grab that one first.

    I then said it's time to pay. After back and forth emailing of them trying to get a lower price due to non-profit, I finally got a cheque in the mail. I'm glad I stood my ground though.

    I'll also not look at non-profits as anything massively special. I know they run close to budgets all the time or have small budgets but it doesn't mean photography is free or cheap. I did a nice thing for the venue and then I almost got burned. I bet the image will actually help them raise much more money over the long term because of it's quality. Now that venue needs a new website! LOL

    Thanks for this because it helps to reinforce my stance. It's like they could have gone and tried to recreate the photo but it would have been so tough. I can now take pride in my work because of it.

  79. Scott, glad you stood your ground as well. We all like to help charities that is for sure. We might even need them ourself sometime, but hopefully not :-) However think of it like this: Selling photographs is how we make our living.
    Take any other profession or business and it is not so easy to ask them for free stuff. You can't go into any shop and take something without paying and say you will credit them or tell everyone where you got the item. The shopkeeper would call the police. So we have to think the same way. It is so easy for mags and local papers to take our images and use them and not pay for them.
    So the more they are made to think twice, the better :-)
    Happy shooting.

  80. Great post. It seems like no one wants to pay for creative goods be it music (play at my party...it'll be great exposure), literature (woohoo...99 cents on Amazon), healing work (you can't be spiritual if you take my money), or apparently photography. I'm reading Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein, and I love what he say: We'd be happy to give it away...if only we didn't have to pay the rent and eat! It's true. I love what I do. I wish I lived in a world where I could give it away to anyone who wanted it and still have the things I need in life.

  81. I agree with this post in earnest and hoped that as we take photos, industries using them will be able to recognize us pass the "credit" phase. It takes more than just a skill to take one great photo and that one has to be paid.

    "Credits indeed do not pay the rent"

  82. Great write up. I have been screwed before in the past...most recently with a band. I gave them a handful of prints, which they loved. They wanted them immediately for their website. This was a referral from a friend. Long story short, they said a check would be in the mail and I'm still waiting....5 months now. They don't return calls or emails. I'm getting legal involved. It's not so much the money, as it's the principal at this point. From now on, no matter who it is, nothing is released without payment. This is incredibly upsetting.

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