While reading through the foot high stack of magazines in an attempt to whittle it down, I found myself re-reading a Photoshop User magazine from a few months back. I often re-read magazines and find hidden “nuggets” (as I call ’em). These are fodder for blog posts right here, and last night, I came across an oldie but a goodie. It was the April/May issue of this year so not too long ago. Ed Greenburg and Jack Reznicki were talking about this idea that companies will often lowball or no-ball a photographer in an effort to get their pictures.
It reminded me of an eerily similar experience that happened to me a while back. I was contacted by a fairly reputable magazine (Charleston Magazine) by an intern, saying they were doing a piece on the well-known Bull Island, and saw some photos I had posted on the site. They’d like to use them and were willing to offer me a byline in their article. Even before I knew about Jack and Ed, something smelled funny to me. I responded with a letter saying that while I was honored they liked my work – a great deal of time and research as well as resources were spent in capturing those images.
Further, while I appreciated their concern for fiscal caution, I could not just simply give the images away. I conservatively estimated their distribution at under 10,000 and using the online stock photo calculator looked for what the average going rate was for a 1/4 page editorial use. The rate? $150/image. I quoted them this information and said that in the interests of amicability, and because I am not at the top of the photography food chain, I would be happy to give them one-time use rights for that issue at $50 per image and I had some great ideas for which ones they could choose from.
After a few emails back and forth, they thanked and informed me that they were going to go with some contributed images from other local photographers, unless of course I still wanted to contribute my own images. Again, a red flag went off in the back of my head and I politely declined. Then the person I was emailing with said something interesting…”Well, maybe we won’t run the story at all then!” It spoke of exasperation, and my knee-jerk response was – “Why should I care?” I didn’t say that of course, but let them know it was entirely their decision.
The article did run with some okay images (nothing like what I had even if I do say so myself), but the experience showed me that often the corporate world will always try to get you to relinquish your copyright for less than what its worth. This same sentiment was echoed almost verbatim in Photoshop User Magazine years later! I felt somewhat vindicated in reading this from two highly qualified attorneys long after my experience.
The lesson I learned – and the one being shared here today is to never be afraid of walking away from a deal. If you are in negotiations and a proverbial “line in the sand” is drawn, consider why that line is even there – do they really want to walk away? is it in their best interests to do so? Is it in yours? While aspiring photographers should always consider the value of contributing to charitable causes (and yes, this means sometimes giving your work away for free), a for-profit venture should never ask you to donate images to their cause. If and when that ever happens, it never hurts to ask “why”? Sure, in the end I did not have a photo published, but they also did not have the benefit of my images for their article.
Here’s a few images from what I sent them, for the curious in the house (click on each for a larger view):
So, should I have given them away for “credit”? Would you have? Share your own thoughts on what you would have done in the comments or with me via email – I’d love to hear what others perspectives are. (For the full back story on capturing these images, read that blog post here. Have a great weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday!