This weekend, I received two emails from an individual interested in purchasing rights to one of my images. The first read as follows:
I’m a photographer, too. I had an idea to use an image of a hissing goose on a T-shirt. Instead of shooting it myself, I did the lazy thing . . . a Google search for the image and found yours. It would be perfect.
Would you sell royalty free rights to use it? Price?
Then, just thirteen minutes later, another email from the same photographer.
Apologies. Please disregard the previous email. I found one for $19 on Shutterstock.com.
When as photographers, we don’t value the work of one another, how can we expect anyone who doesn’t spend thousands of dollars on equipment and travel expenses and countless hours in the field to get it? I don’t blame the guy for purchasing a $19 royalty free image – my price would have been significantly higher, and as a consumer I’m often tempted by lower prices too. I blame people who don’t value their own work and sell it for pennies, making it nearly impossible for professional photographers who make a living off of their craft to command a fair and reasonable price for the images they create. I also blame society for creating a culture where quality photography isn’t valued and respected. This photographer wasn’t an idiot – he knew that $19 was a dirt cheap bargain and there was no way I was going to offer my image for so little, otherwise he would have waited for my response back to him. And, after looking at his website, I’d be willing to bet that there is no way that he’d give away any of HIS images for the royalty free price of $19!
If you are a photographer – amateur or pro – do all of us a favor and don’t give away your images for nothing. By doing so, you devalue the work of photographers as a whole and make it nearly impossible for full time professionals to make a living, those photographers who depend on selling images to put food on the table and a roof overhead. I’m not saying you should charge your daughter to photograph her new baby, or that you shouldn’t donate your services to an animal rescue group or grassroots conservation project in your hometown if the cause means something to you. I’m just asking you to THINK! If a client can afford to pay, they should, and if a client stands to make ANY money off of the image you are providing, such as the Anonymous Photographer above wanting to sell t-shirts, they you should be getting a fair price for your work. Don’t be fooled into handing over an image for exposure or the honor of being published. Being a victim and allowing someone to steal your work is not honorable, and by selling your photographs at minuscule prices, you are only reinforcing that our work isn’t worth much and making it easier for companies whose pockets are much deeper than ours to continue taking advantage of us.