Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Profit Margin

In the last few days I've heard a lot of people lamenting the existence of low price (or even free) stock imagery. Clearly, this contributes to the de-valuation of our work. I want to relate the following story that shows what photographers may be up against in some cases.

Earlier this year I photographed the namesake of a non-profit for a magazine. I liked the image, and after it ran in the magazine, I put it up on my website.

Several months later the non-profit contacted me about using the image in some of their collateral and marketing materials. I responded that I could give them a quote if they could give me the specific usage they needed.

They came back saying "We're non-profit and don't pay for photography. Other photographers in the past have just let us use their pictures for no charge." Of course, I'm not non-profit. I explained that, despite what the "other photographers" do, my business is set-up to earn a living from the licensing of my photographs. Perhaps a discount could be negotiated, but nothing would be given away free of charge.

They were so offended that I wouldn't give it to them that they called the magazine, which had my back. About two weeks after that, I received an e-mail from the attorney for the subject, requesting that I immediately take down the image from my website. I wanted to let them sweat it out because I thought it was vindictive and pathetic, but my attorney wife disagreed. I did the right thing and took it down.

I'm not sure if they found another photo of this person that sufficed, and I don't care. But apparently they're so confident that they can get stuff for free that paying for it genuinely upsets them. Clearly, I would not consider this non-profit to be representative of a sophisticated photo buyer. However, "good enough" imagery is proliferating the web, and usually at no- to low-cost.

This example just gives me motivation to hone my own vision, so those that hire me do it for a unique type of imagery that's not available elsewhere. And to pay fair market value for it.

There's a great example of sticking to your guns on Photo Business News here.


Jeff Singer said...

I wonder if the attorney they hired to write your letter did it for free and if he would have still worked for free if this went in front of a judge.

People seem to think that photographers should give them something for free while they have no problem paying other businesses.

Michael Sugrue said...

Absolutely. My cynical response would have been "People donate to you so you can afford people like me." But that wouldn't have gone over so well.

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