Saturday, July 19, 2008

Growing Pains: Say No to the Freebie Photo!

I was so busy last month trying to finish up the wedding photos that I forgot to share yet another experience that should be chalked up to more photography business growing pains.

I received an email from a representative from a nonprofit pregnancy crisis center in California requesting usage of the above photo for an ad campaign. Of course, I was overjoyed, and the fact that she found the image while surfing on Flickr was amazing and equally of note too. Apparently the center was doing a fundraiser with a local motorcycle club, and the photo of the infant on the bike was exactly what they needed. I did some thinking and consulted with all of my photography colleagues, including the virtual ones, to see what would be a fair price. I settled on a price of $150 for short term usage of the photo. I even threw in a couple of other images taken from the same set and offered a discounted rate for them to use those photos in their campaign as well.

I talked to the representative on the phone to further flesh out the deal, but I could tell in her voice when she told me that the organization was a nonprofit that she was hoping I would hand over the image for free. I stuck to my price, but several days later, I received another email explaining that my price didn't fit in with their budget, but that they would consider planning for usage of the photo next year.

Of course, my heart ached at losing this opportunity to have one of my images be used in an ad campaign. The representative said the nonprofit had several other affiliates throughout the country, and that my business information would be passed to them as well. Did I miss a chance to secure new clients? I stressed about this for days, but in the end it all came down to this: I truly felt that purchasing a photo for $150 for use in their ad campaign for their own monetary gain was extremely fair. Of course I believed this was a worthy nonprofit, or I wouldn't have wanted my image to be associated with them. But I'm at a point in my business now where I simply can not do deals for free any longer. I have thousands of dollars in photography equipment to pay back. And while it took some time for me to get to this realization internally, I see worth in my photography and my growing talent...something I deserve to be paid for.

I think this blog called "Digital Dilemmas" I discovered says it all. Check out the post here. "It seems that the worst offenders are the clients with the most money and resources, the bigger the name, the more likely that the client wants it for free," says blog author Edwin Morgan. Here, here Ed! Say No to the Freebie Photo!


Anonymous said...

I just have to comment.

I truly enjoy reading your blog and thank you for all the valuable info you provide.

Anonymous said...

Trust me - most non profits still have budgets and can license images. While the purely volunteer organizations exist - they seem few and far between.

There's a Harlan Ellison interview where he talks about writers but works equally well for photographers in this day. There are so many people out there taking pictures that think being published is the be all - end all - that they give their work away. Then when you try to act the professional and expect to get paid for your labors - they are shocked and think you're the greedy one.

Sheba Wheeler said...

Thank you Anonymous No 1 for commenting on my blog. I am happy it provides useful information. I definitely wanted this to be a resource as well as a docu-journal of my own experiences.

Sheba Wheeler said...

Thank you too Anonymous No. 2. Hey, why don't you guys introduce yourselves instead of being all mysterious! :)
I will check out that Harlan Ellison interview. My work relationship with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was much better and it was clear this organization understood why it's important to pay people for their work. At first I was afraid I was about to be duped, but everything worked out very well.

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