“We’ll Give You Full Credit”

mule deer buck, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Mule Deer Buck in Rut : Prints Available

A massive mule deer buck tastes the air to test a doe's readiness for mating, or estrus level during rut. The behavior is called "flehmen". This image was made in the last light of day as the sun dropped behind the Rockies.  
Odocoileus hemionus

“We have a really big project and a tight deadline, love your work, and want to use several of your images. We’ll give you full credit, which will give you good exposure.” So, I ask “what’s your budget.” The voice says “we don’t have a budget for photography. Usually people just give us photos to use.” This actual conversation happens way too frequently and is remarkable in its sameness from one person to another. The person on the other end of the line gets paid a salary, health benefits, and travel expenses, has a 401K, yet expects me to work for free. So, I hit the reset button and educate another soul about professional photography.
The image in this post is unique, an event in nature that I’ve witnessed once and captured in a single image, one frame in the last waning seconds before sunset. The curved grass was a split second conscious decision while hanging a 600mm lens from a mount on my truck window. The lens, camera, truck, additional lenses, insurance, Apple computers, software, carbon fiber tripods, accessories (including the window mount), and know how to use all this stuff and make the image must be worth something. Imagine telling your doctor, lawyer, plumber, or mechanic with more than 20 years experience and a bunch of equipment and overhead that you don’t have the budget to pay, but you’ll give them full credit, maybe a nice post on Facebook with a happy face 🙂

There are far too many talented photographers willing to give away their work and just as many photo users willing to take advantage. Oftentimes after explaining what it means to be a full-time pro, including being compensated, and that everyone who touches my image is getting paid, we have a successful negotiation. Can we just agree that we’re all in this together and enjoy a little mutual respect? Fellow photographers: know what your images are worth and charge a fair price, even if it means walking away from a few opportunities. Use Fotoquote software and take time to research the real value before quoting, or giving away your work for pity’s sake. Consider it your contribution as part of the pro photography community. And buyer’s: I’ll make you a deal – be fair with me and I won’t tell you that you’re making way too much. Are you cool with that?

6 thoughts on ““We’ll Give You Full Credit”

  1. Yes, one of the most annoying aspects of photography. ANY photo usage should include photo credits… that is a basic requirement, not PAYMENT in and of itself! Oftentimes small publications really do not have a photo budget, and in this case sometimes (if it makes sense) a decent barter is to trade for ad space in the publication. Not just a credit or website link, but an actual quarter-page to full-page advertisement space for you. Even then the chances are still low of any kind of payback but at least it shows a willingness on the publisher’s part to offer a fair trade.

    1. Good idea to barter, Jack. My issue is with those folks that simply feel they’re entitled to free images for whatever reasons and certainly photographers are part of the problem. There are lots of “guy with a camera” types who are decent photographers that just want to see their name with a © next to it. I accept that it’s a tough business – just give us a fair shake.

  2. Thanks for posting that — as a humanitarian photographer I am frequently asked for images for free from NGO’s who are doing wonderful work and probably on limited budgets. I was certainly driven to pursue this career to shed light onto inequities and suffering in the world and want my photos to be used as widely as possible. However, I certainly couldn’t afford to continue doing this important work if I wasn’t compensated and I bet the person who is asking for the photo is paid a salary!

    Here is one of my favorite ways of explaining the issue:


    1. That’s a great comment, Evelyn and thank you for your contribution to humankind! I remember seeing John’s “This Photograph Is Not Free” article somewhere and it’s such a clever explanation. You and I both know that almost everyone in the NGO world is working on a limited budget and it’s unfortunate that only 2% of charitable donations go to environmental work. Yet we’re providing something valuable that brings the stories and the mission to life.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly that good photographers should be appreciated and compensated fairly. One problem with your doctors and lawyers analogy though is that they can buy the latest 800mm f4 8-stop IS lens without noticing the impact on their bank account and assuming they’re fairly dedicated (as I know at least some are)produce some nice images they may gladly give away “for credit.” OTOH not too many pro photographers are doctoring or lawyering in their spare time and driving down the earnings of those professionals. But the bigger question is why are so many pro photographers expressing sentiments like yours these days, and what’s to be done about it, if anything? I can’t answer that question but I do know digital technology has brought some great benefits and at the same time the world is a better place with a healthy community of full-time photographers out their documenting and interpreting the world.

    1. Thanks EP. The reason so many pros are expressing frustration is we’ve reached critical mass, where enough capable photographers are willing to give their work away to editors/photo buyers who either expect free photography to support their work, or have no clue of the real value of quality imagery (or both). It’s not a new problem. We’re in this together – photographers and buyers – so let’s act like partners.

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