Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Wake Up Call to ALL Photographers and Artists

I want to share a email that I received recently:

Hi :)

I work for an Advertising Agency in London and were looking to do a fun “happy” campaign in and around the UK – It will be to launch a range of DVD`s and could be used on posters, in store and press ads.We really love your “The whole story” image – how would you feel about us possibly using this image to inject ‘happiness’ to the public! I completely understand if you don’t want to and I hope you don’t mind me asking,

Kind Regards, (Their name)

And here was my response:

Hi (Their name),

Thank you so much for contacting me. I am very flattered you would like to use my "The Whole Story" image. I would love to sell the rights to your advertising agency for print campaign usage. I rely on my photography to earn a living and I hope you understand why I can't give the image away for free. If you would like to negotiate a usage fee, I would love to move forward with this project!!

Hope to hear back from you,


Now here's the lesson: Yes, I am flattered and yes, I would LOVE to see my work used in an international campaign where it will potentially be seen by millions of people but let's get real. If you haven't already, you NEED to stop giving your work away for free. Not only does undermine your work, but it undermines ALL artists' works if ad agencies and companies can find photography and artwork for free. I know this ad agency may never respond to my email (they haven't yet and it's been four days since I sent it), but it's a matter of self-worth and principle. The sad part is I already know what they're going to do next: get back on flickr and search for someone who is willing to give their photography/artwork away for free in exchange for the excitement of seeing their work in print. Don't let this person be you. Start charging for ALL usage of your work (and if it's really creative/unique/one-of-a-kind, charge A LOT). If all photographers/artists do this, then more people will be able to earn a living as photographers/artists. By helping yourself, you will be helping an entire industry of struggling creatives. As for the ad agency, they should know better.


Sarah said...

This is such a good point. I could totally see how many would fall for this trap because it is flattering. I agree no one should give their stuff away for free! The worse is when people just take your work and you find it on some website down the road.

Jan's camera said...

Hi, thanks for that post. This has already happened to me. I was contacted by a non-proft organization, Arbor Day Foundation. I gave them the rights to a photo and after I thought about it, I wished I hadn't. I figured it was for a cause that I cared about, but still you are entirely right. They will probably never use my photo but I won't let that happen again.

Matt Wardle said...

I wish you had posted the Agencies name, they should know better. You are totally right, giving work away is the last thing that you should be doing, it will eventually label you as a cheap easy target, and the agencies first call, meaning that all other photographers suffer. It would be a good idea to ask the agency for some free campaign work as you need some promotion and your an ace photographer, they would be really lucky and get international exposure ;-)

Steve Frenkel said...

I thoroughly agree with you on this, Jena. I must confess, though, that I've given permission to a few organizations to use an image of mine, gratis. My criteria is that they are either a small (local) non-profit, a small creative group, a band, an art organization or possibly a very small publisher.

Some of these requests are for images of antique postcards or other ephemera I've collected. In these cases I don't have a sense of ownership. Recently I sent the high-res scan of a postcard to a small book publisher. I asked for a credit line and a couple copies of the book.

All this having been said, your article has given me pause and I will probably be much more circumspect going forward. Thanks Jena!