Images Are Not Free, People!

Over the years, I have received numerous requests to use my images in publications.

This morning I received another.

As usual, the person wanted the image for zero cost, offering only to provide credit if I waived my fee.

Naturally, I declined.

I really wish the general public would divorce itself of the notion that photographic images should be provided at no cost to anyone who asks.

I also wish the general public would understand that providing merely a credit in some obscure publication is not even slightly commensurate with what goes into my images.

A few years ago, an architectural firm, which had contracts with major, well-known sites, was interested in licensing up to six of my architectural images for use on its Web site and in printed media.

I provided a per-image price, with a bulk discount if the firm purchased a licence for all six images; and granted a non-exclusive, perpetual licence to use the image(s) in the company's advertising/promotional material and other literature.

The only conditions were that copyright was to remain with me; that the images could not be modified beyond resizing, cropping and text/graphical overlays (eg, Web site); and that I was to be credited.

The rep responded as follows:

"That is ridiculous.  Earlier this year I had a photo shoot with an reputable architectural photographer and received 15 photos for the price of one of your photos.  Not to mention half of the restrictions."

I responded as follows:

"I am sorry you feel that way, but like quality architecture, quality imagery is not cheap, especially when the licence allows you to use it forever in your company's materials.

If you can find a photographer who is willing to give you everything for next to nothing, then my advice is to do that."

If I had contacted this architectural firm and asked it to redesign the interior of our home for a few hundred dollars, I would have been told to go and jump into a lake.

Another person who contacted me wanted to use one of my images on the cover of his book.  I was offered a two-digit sum.

Really?  Come on!

People and companies are so willing to under-value photography, offering only these dangling apples:

  1. "you will receive credit";
  2. "it is a great opportunity to establish yourself in this field of photography"; and
  3. "you will have the opportunity to make a name for yourself".

And yes, the architectural firm did dangle these apples.

Unfortunately for people who want free images:

  1. credit is an unequivocally insufficient form of currency;
  2. I am not trying to establish myself in this field of photography; and
  3. I do not want to make a name for myself.

If content publishers or large commercial organisations want to use my images to generate revenue and publicity, then I want my slice.  The only form of acceptable currency is proper money.

Some of the people who have contacted me are from non-profit organisations, or otherwise by their admission do not have budgets for photography.  Sorry, but even NPOs have running costs, and using images as revenue-generation devices is an operational cost.

It incenses me that photography has become so de-valued these days.

While there are photographers out there who will bite the cheap dangling apples, I will not.

I place value on my work, and I will not give it away to anyone who asks.

People asking for free images should consider their own responses if the tables were turned.  How would they respond if someone asked them to provide their products and services for zero cost, or the promise to tell the world what nice people/companies they were?

Published on Sunday, 8 December, 2013.