Not giving my work away

Started Oct 28, 2008 | Discussions thread
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deuxcent
deuxcent Senior Member • Posts: 1,327
Not giving my work away

The art director of a high-end regional magazine (the man has worked on a couple of world-famous titles in Europe and New York) called yesterday to say my wedding pictures are "exquisite." He wanted me to pick one or two weddings I'd shot this year and (alongside the work of a couple of other photographers) these photos would then be featured in a special wedding section that he's helping put together.

I'd met him before, like him, good guy.

I asked about rates and he responded he'd have to get back to me. Half an hour later he left a message: no fee. "Exposure" only.

So I sent him a friendly e-mail:

-- hide signature --

Dear Dave [not his real name]:

I understand the value of "exposure" but am never tempted. As a colleague of mine once said, "People DIE of exposure."

I work hard to make beautiful images and have just never gotten in the habit of giving them away. My proposition is simple market economics: If something has value, people should pay for it. If it has NO value to them, they are free to ignore it. What DOESN'T work is people deciding they really value what I have to offer and then declining to pay for it...

For professionals who share our background in the New York business world and international publishing, [your magazine]'s regular rates are nothing to write home about, though I accept that outside of NYC and Los Angeles, that's often just the way it is. I'd be proud to see my images in your magazine regardless of the rate, but like almost everyone else who's not just a hobbyist, (a) I have to get paid for services rendered, all the more because (b) I have a family with young kids, a mortgage, tens of thousands of dollars' worth of photography equipment, and many other simple economic realities to deal with. Recognition is nice but it doesn't fill my oil tank or put food in my kids' mouths.

Hey, maybe you can get the printing plant to donate its services for the wedding issue. Or maybe the paper reseller will give you lots of paper for nothing. Have you asked?

I'd love to make it work, but it will depend on whether [your magazine] chooses to free up a modest-enough budget for my images.

Feel free to call.

Warm wishes,

dc

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He called back this morning saying "Don't shoot the messenger!", and agreed to pay his publication's regular rates for my photos, explaining that his publisher requires him to first offer ... nothing.

In any case, looks like I'll get both the exposure AND a decent fee. It could have easily gone the other way, I guess, but so what. You win some, you lose some, but you can't lose TOO badly if you remember that your work has value. Standing up for yourself (and for the profession) pays off frequently enough that I'll keep doing it. I hope you'll all join me.

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