So You Want to Use My Images For Free?

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It’s quite a poetic note isn’t it? How many times has this happened to you? Once, twice, yearly, monthly even…….? What do you do?

Well firstly, take it as a compliment – like someone requesting your ID at a nightclub (if you’re 53 that is). But seriously, someone thinks your work is high enough quality to represent their company – that’s a real accomplishment! Representing their livelihood with your photography. Kudos to you.

But using your images for free? Well, we’ll see about that.

Bay of Fire - Destin SparksPhoto by Destin Sparks

So you want to hit them up for cash first and foremost, you’ll likely get the typical “we don’t have that in our budget” B.S. response. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t bargain with them. How do I go about getting cash for shots after they’ve tried the ‘budget’ response? I like to make the enquirer aware of my costs, while mine will differ substantially from yours keep in mind you DO have costs and expenses.

My costs to produce a single photo:

  • Film: $15 Per Roll (4 shots per roll)
  • Film Postage: $70 US to Australia
  • Developing: $12 Per Roll
  • Developing Postage: $40 Return
  • Drum Scanning: $1500 (Each transparency is scanned in thirds – 3 x $500)

 …….yes it costs me well over a thousand dollars to produce a single image, this is not inclusive of:

  • Camera & Lenses: $20,000
  • Tripod & Accessories: $5,000
  • Car: $6,000 (I don't drive a Merc)
  • Fuel/Return Visits?
  • Computers/Software?
  • Training?

It took me 7 visits to get this shot.

Rise - Destin Sparks
Photo by
Destin Sparks

The harsh reality is; often if you start asking for cash they’ll move onto the next photographer until they find someone naïve enough to ‘give in’. Ultimately the choice is yours but I believe any opportunity is a good opportunity; but you should be able to agree on a mutually beneficial outcome and without giving away your hard work or talent for free, nor passing up an opportunity.

If they’re not willing to part with the dosh, what are they willing to offer you? Keep in mind this can be something as simple as products, gear or a link to your website for SEO benefits – which is very different from “your photo will be seen by tens of thousands” – cough, cough.

Similarly, whatever you do, don’t fall for the following: “our company is x large, you will get x exposure for the foreseeable future” this is a bogus claim and one that holds no value.

As to what to charge. I like to take into consideration what the image will be used for, how many copies, for how long the image will be used (set a limit), who will it be distributed to and most importantly ARE they making a profit? As an example, I recently charged a company $500 to include an image in their calendar. Keep in mind this calendar was a courtesy gift to their clients – they weren’t selling them.

Transcendence - Destin Sparks
Photo by
Destin Sparks

Have they even asked for your permission? My images are often stolen from the web and sometimes I’ll let it slide, other times I’ll slap the offender with a licensing invoice and on some occasions it has ended up in court.

If everyone makes a stand and photographers don’t get so giddy when someone wants to use their images that they start handing them out willy-nilly; maybe we will all start to benefit. Most importantly put value to your work – people appreciate it more.

You can find me at all the usual online places, come say hello.

 

About Author

Destin Sparks is a self-taught photographer who harnesses the power of digital & film medium format cameras to capture rare and beautiful landscapes from around the world.

Destin shares his knowledge of photography via Photography Tours and Workshops and is a frequent contributor to various blogs, websites and competitions such as the Proify Photography Awards.

Follow Destin on:

Instagram | www.DestinSparks.com | Facebook | 500px

Good point to talk about, people usually don`t think about the real costs behind a photo (well.. actually they think about it, but they believe that the costs are minimal).
But the phrase “It took me 7 visits to get this shot” great! barely I read about the real work that there is behind a photo, am I the only one?, from my point of view (amateur point of view whom at most stay some hours waiting to take a photo) a few words and a lot of content.
I think it is really interesting how professional photographers work, moreover technical or artistic factors there is a field work (why it took you 7 visits, how do you know you don´t need 4 or 8 or 10?) which photographers never talk about maybe for good reasons (perhaps professional photographers don´t want to talk about the 6 visits before the good one).
Perhaps it isn´t interesting for most of the people or not the matter of this blog, maybe the topic of other post! (but sorry if you already did it, I didn`t check older posts before write this)

$1,000 per image? I am all for getting paid, and agree that no photographer should give away their work. However, at $1500 per scan, you could buy a digital back for a 4×5 and end up saving cash without a sacrifice in quality. I just don’t get shooting film for the sake of shooting film. It’s just not good business. That being said, stunning work.

Photography is only my hobby but I had several cooperation requests and I was always following the point if the clients are making profit on my work. All of the requests were from lesser-known authors, so I tried to make a compromise: since I was really happy that they chose me but also knew the value of my work, I suggested them a price and added that if they can’t afford to pay the full amount we can arrange it. Yes, this might sound unprofessional, but the point was that these were really not those big companies you are writing about so it worked perfectly: for example, my photos were used as an album cover for a smaller band from the USA (the price was totally okay for them) or as a book cover for a writer living in South Africa who wrote me that he is currently working as a volunteer, so it would be great if we could make the price a bit lower. I think it was fair. Fortunately no one tried to convince me with this “you will get x exposure” phrase, I find it very offensive.

Photography is about the only activity I can still enjoy due to health issues. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has a smart phone. Most think their horrible average images are the best in the West. Most professionals in my area just do not stand tall with the professionals from urban cities. I make no effort to make my activities into a business. Therefore I post my images in Facebook where the worst get likes right along with the worst smart phone images. The so called professional sites with critique that I have checked are negative based and offer no help enabling growth through helpful suggestions. I have had images lifted from every place I have ever posted noted ably by those not knowing the value of that they heisted. I think the pros and cons are of little value except to photographers who are undeniably of professional quality. If my sharing of my work freely hurts anyone calling themselves a professional they are really misinformed concerning the quality levels of their work and the true meaning of the word professional.

I am a diabetic in a wheelchair living alone, my only interest in my life at my age 75 years old is painting. I cant run around like you photographers all over the world , up mountains, down rivers whatever you guys do to get the most beautiful pictures . I can only load your pics down in my tablet. Study them contact the guy who’s pic I like. Ask permission if I can paint it. If I get a yes I thank them and promise to mention that my painting was done by the picture of so an so. I only have the use of one hand my sight is very bad, had two lazer opps not too good results. So you guys if you think I use your photos to make money, I wish. I have given most of my paintings away. I can paint any photo without asking you. You would not even know. It takes you one split second to click a beautiful picture. It takes me up to 3-4 weeks and thousands of brush strokes. I thank you guys for doing agreat job.

Hi Bob.
I would be delighted if you painted any of my pictures.
Look me up on Facebook (look for my name) and if you find anything you like, just tell me.
A dugital copy of your painting of my picture is payment enough for me. ????????
Vr Rune Overas

I am a diabetic in a wheelchair living alone, my only interest in my life at my age 75 years old is painting. I cant run around like you photographers all over the world , up mountains, down rivers whatever you guys do to get the most beautiful pictures . I can only load your pics down in my tablet. Study theom contact the guy who’s pic I like. Ask permission if I can paint it. If I get a yes I thank them and promise to mention that my painting was done by the picture of so an so. I only have the use of one hand my sight is very bad, had two lazer opps not too good results. So you guys if you think I use your photos to make money, I wish. I have given most of my paintings away. I can paint any photo without asking you. You would not even know. It takes you one split second to click a beautiful picture. It takes me up to 3-4 weeks and thousands of brush strokes. I thank you guys for doing agreat job.

I agree. Free only to non profits sometimes. It takes years to learn and produce quality. In this age of everyone has a phone or tablet with a camera in it. Quality gets lost beyond 8 inches. Few understand how much is needed for great background clarity in a photo. Those in business know what it costs and if they are using the Wimpy quote I will gladly pay you next Tuesday for a burger, can go elsewhere.

Great work. I will post this and keep telling my photo students to get paid. Maybe not as much in the beginning, but get paid.

The Real Estate market is flooded by stay at home moms who think they are qualified by an eight week class to facilitate your largest family purchase. Stop ranting about all the give away photographers and just prove your worth. Good photos will still pay if you are in the margin, get better or go into real estate.

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