Times are tough for photographers

I am posting this story from one of the professional photographer pages that I belong to.  I think it is important for everyone to read, especially the many friends I have who are trying to become professionals (seems like there is one a month.)

Times are tough for photographers, as we all know. I think we really have to work to educate our non-professional photographer friends to not give away images to for-profit businesses (or any businesses for that matter) just for the thrill of seeing them in print. 

Here’s a true and all too-familiar story:

A major Boulder publisher with two high-end magazines and several regional ones, all with very expensive ad rate cards–many full-page and half-page glossy ads including ones for Audi and Rolex–contacts me.

“Hi Ken: I’m looking for some dramatic flood photos from Lyons for an article we’re doing in the upcoming issue. [Deleted] said I should check with you. Do you have anything we might be able to use?”

Wherein I send links to several galleries of photos to show what I have available, and asked what their usage rates are.

“Hi Ken: Nice photos! The story focuses on businesses rebuilding after the flood, so the ones of the St. Vrain Market, the Car Wash and any others that show businesses. In the story she mentions Planet Bluegrass (I’d love a shot of that one showing the submerged stage); Loukonen Bros. Stone; the RocknRiver Resort; the St. Vrain Market; the Dairy Bar; volunteers pitching in (like the ones in yellow T-shirts depicted in your photos); Julie’s Thai Kitchen; GearSPOT; Valley Bank & Trust; Mama’s Cafe; and Bohn and Meadow parks. Unfortunately, we don’t have a photo budget, but I think I could wrangle with the publisher for $20 per shot.”

Wherein I explain as a working professional, I would need to be compensated professional rates. (How do you run a magazine without a photography budget? Is the writer working for free? The editor?) I suggest perhaps we could trade for advertising space. They offer space in their home/garden publication, where this story will run, but which wouldn’t work so well for my business, so I ask for space in their other publication. Then I don’t hear back. Finally, I ask if my reply was received.
“Hi Ken: I did. Unfortunately, we don’t have a photo budget except for house features. I was able to procure flood photos from other sources.”

Wherein I realize it’s a sorry state of affairs when publishers of articles, consisting of text and photographs, don’t have photography budgets for the photographs they request. This isn’t some unfortunate situation that has befallen them–they have made a conscious choice to solicit photographs without a photography budget. 

When was the last time anyone else went to another business and asked for something without expecting to pay? It would be like selling ads on TV shows without paying for the show–the content that draws the audience.

We have to be professional and stand behind our need to get paid professional rates for professional work. And let the businesses that can’t pay photographers publish without photographs.

We need to ask our friends to please, not undermine our livelihood by giving away their photographs, either. Is that something we can do, to spread the word to our friends? To make that request of them?
I wish this publisher well, and hope they can succeed and grow their business. I just want them to support ours as well, so we can also succeed.

TL;DR – We need to get paid for our work and ask our friends to not give away photos to businesses.

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