Any photographer who has been in any way remotely successful at their craft will, at some point, get an email from someone wanting to use their work for free because the person wanting use it “hasn’t got a budget”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying never work for free, there are times when choosing to do so is the right thing. I will happily work for reduced fees or even nothing for charities I wish to support. As a small business myself I know just how tight funds can be and I’m always prepared to negotiate with businesses who are also in that position.
However, when it comes to large organisations with big reputations and similar bank balances it is a different story. They DO have budgets, it’s just that they are choosing not to spend it on things like photography. The BBC for example sources a lot of it’s images via vanity means. “If you submit your photograph we might show it on air”. Manchester Airport not so long ago wanted local images to be displayed in the arrival areas. How did they do it. They ran a competition what was the prize? To actually have the image displayed in the arrivals area! Both of those companies have large budgets for publicity and display. It is just that they choose not spend money on things like photography because they think they can get away with it.
We as photographers need to take a stand against this. There is a temptation for amateurs and hobbyists to not worry about the money, but just to enjoy the thrill of seeing their images used. This is flawed logic. Every time a hobbyist does that it confirms the belief that photography in general is not worth paying for. That makes it harder for those of us who make our living in that in industry to charge. Should we be worried if a few pros go out of business? It probably wouldn’t change the world much if the likes of “Ian’s Studio” went out of business (don’t panic that’s not going to happen anyhow). But the world would be a much poorer place if photographers like Steve McCurry hadn’t created his iconic image of an Afghan girl for National Geographic. If Nick Ut hadn’t taken his icon image of napalm girl how long would it have been before public opinion about the Vietnam war changed?
This morning a friend shared a post on Facebook. It is a letter written by musician Whitey. It is about musicians who are facing the same issues that we as photographers are facing. Exchange the word ‘musician’ for ‘photographer’ or for that matter any other business – my friend runs an app development business and he sees the same attitudes in that industry as we face in the photography business and Whitey see in the music industry.
I will finish this post with the link to Whitey’s letter please take the time to read it: http://m.imgur.com/r/MusicNews/sOsHnbf