I have been meaning to write this blog for some time but two things happened in recent weeks which have motivated me to put my thoughts down in writing. You could say that these two things were “both sides of the same coin” which is a bit ironic as this blog is all about that sensitive subject of money. Yes I know, how common, discussing such a subject in public. Unfortunately it’s a topic which can’t be avoided and I am pretty sure that the content of this post will ring true with fellow creatives.
As many of you will be aware, I am one of those lucky people where my hobbies are also my full-time job. And painting and photography have been my only source of income since I left the RAF Regiment in 1988. There was no pension or big hand-out when I left but I knew that, it was part of the contract. In fact a small service pension only came into play in January last year when I turned 60. As you will notice the pension hasn’t allowed me to put my feet up and swan off on cruises, far from it. But look, I’m not complaining, it’s how it is and I love my lifestyle.
My income has to come from different streams, selling paintings or prints, copies of The Wainwrights in Colour book, or prints or images of my photographs. Much of the interest in my photographs comes from my postings on social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Flickr.
On occasions I am contacted by editors of magazines or websites to use my images. This is both humbling and rewarding. Humbling because I am not one of those photographers that goes out to stand for ages behind a tripod mounted camera waiting for the right light, I am just a walker who happens to be at the right place at the right time. By going out on a regular basis I am bound to get lucky every now and then, bring back an image worthy of printing.
Images published in such a way are good not only for the ego but also because editors of such publications understand the rules and realise that good images sell copies. Consequently they are prepared to pay for usage. This is what happened for the new issue of Lakeland Walker which landed on my doormat over the weekend. The editor emailed me for a certain images, I had a look through my archives, edited a couple of options for him, he chose the best one for his needs, used it and then shortly I will get paid. My work has a value to him and he rewards me for my time and effort. This allows me to maintain and improve my business, including my valuable camera kit.
Now, for the other side of the coin.
I was messaged last week on Flickr (I have edited the message to save any embarrassment):
I hope you are well.
I’ve come across an image of yours of ********** ********* in Teesdale. I wondered if we may use the image in some of our publications about the *********? We would add your credit whenever it’s used and I could arrange to send you any printed material.
Look forward to hearing from you soon.
****** ******** *****
Thank you for the message. I am more than happy for you to use any of my images in your publications. Just let me know what sort of size and usage and I will work out some prices for you.
Thanks so much for your quick reply. I’m really sorry but the charity doesn’t budget for spending money on content, all of our submissions are done in kind and we’re just not in a position to pay for images, although we of course appreciate your time and skill, it is a lovely picture of ********.
Sadly I cannot afford to work for free, it is my only income.
This sort of message isn’t an uncommon request and I use this one as an example.
Someone has seen my image, recognised that it would be suitable to use for their publicity but are not prepared to pay for it. They didnt even ask how much I was asking to be paid. The truth is that I don’t charge a huge fee for usage of my work, it hardly covers the time cost of dealing with images requests, certainly less that using an image from a stock library. In this case it was a charity. Of course that being the case you could say that I should have supplied the work for free- it’s a charity after all. There are two points that I would make here. Isn’t up to us as creatives which charities we “support”? The offer of payment should come first, then if I felt that it was a good cause I could donate my payment back to them (they could even claim back Gift Aid or I could donate it to a charity of my choosing if I wished. Secondly, as this image was being used in publicity material I would guess that the designer, printer and distributor of the leaflet would require paying so why not me? After all, a picture paints a thousand words. I appreciate that some charities struggle and evey penny counts (as it does for businesses like mine). However, it took the touble to do a little research into the charity in question. Their finances were easy enough to see online.
Nearly £1 million expenditure, with nearly £35k allocated to magazine and support costs. And yet according to the message, “the charity doesn’t budget for spending money on content”.
I appreciate that there are many excellent amateur photographers out there who are willing to offer up images for free as they have other forms of income such as a good job or pension. But I am not in that position.
Offering to send copies of the printed material of “giving me credit” is of no monetary value (editors of magazines do both as well as paying).
I don’t see it as being particularly fair to sell images to one whilst donating for free to another.
I realise that this is a subject which is a bugbear to many fellow creatives, I am not alone.
There is one good reason for writing this blog. It is time consuming and a little embarrassing getting into a converstion regarding why I need paying for my work. Now I can just forward this blog post in a link.
If you are one of those who have received this link then I would ask that you consider making a payment for my (or others) work instead of asking for it for free. If you have asked for it then it is probably worth something to you…..and me.