24 responses to “Pictures For Free

  1. Lets get this trending on Twitter!

  2. And don’t forget how much we invest in paying for equipment let alone actually the time taken researching a story to be able to document it…

  3. BTW: Looks like Gyumri. Was it?

  4. I know people who shoot editorials for magazines in their spare time for free, hoping one day it’ll lead to a paid career. Surprise surprise, they are still doing this years later. No closer to a pro career and they can’t understand why. I hold these people similarly responsible for the death of professional photography. Such idiots.

  5. Well said. You notice how none of these “not for profit” publications have printers who print for free or electric for free or insurance for free. Do the picture editors at these publications all work for free? I suspect not. If infrastructure needed to publish their publications is deemed worth paying for why is the content that fills it expected for free? Perhaps because to them a picture is not a tangible thing you can hold in your hand these days. They have to remember that someone has to go out and take it, exercise judgement, have talent and an eye for what makes the iconic picture, along with a mastery of the technology involved. This comes at a cost both in money, time and effort. The sooner people stop looking at images just as transient things that pass before our eyes and look deeper into them, how they came about and what they tell us, the sooner the true value of them will be appreciated and rewarded.

  6. And here’s an example I got recently…

    Onnik,
    Happy New Year!
    I hope it will be a good one for you.
    I’m pulling together photos for my revised edition of [deleted[

    I have hard copies of the three we used last time: [deleted].

    The [deleted] one is a bit worn so I wonder if you have an electronic copy you can send (and of the others, if that’s easy)?

    Also , if you have interesting pictures you think could go in the book, let me know. Ie ones of [deleted] could be interesting. Like last time, I’d pay you a friendly one-off fee out of my own pocket as I still have no budget for photos.

    All bests

    [Name Deleted]

    Right. No budget because you thought you could get away for budgeting it. Your own costs yes, your publishing yes, everything else, yes. But photographs?

    Hey, you want good images but why pay more than $100 [the ‘friendly one-off fee offered]?

    Sure as hell won’t be a good year if this is what people who are FUNDED think they can get away with…

  7. Maybe it’s time to ‘name and shame’ all those who think they can get away with it?

    • Ordinarily I would, but the picture editor wanting free iconic pictures was from a closed forum and alas I’m not sure who she was working for and the other was from a colleague who shared the email exchange as he was approached by this publication. For these reasons, for now, they will remain anonymous.

  8. Well, let me put it this way even the greatest photographers had to start somewhere and if you are not known or are just starting out you must get images published. One way of building up a resume is to work cheaply or even for nothing, the emphasis is to get your name published. Even the greatest photographers had to start, publish, somewhere, even the owner of this forum had to start somewhere.

    This isn’t only pertaining to photography but, to any profession.The greatest English movie actors started with walk-on parts no talking, till they got that one small part and from there their parts got bigger, till they were top stars. Even you Edmond Terakopian started taking images for small fee’s till you became well known.

    • Working for free isn’t the answer though. When I first started out at my local paper (which I absolutely loved), there were no positions, but I managed to get in there after months of trying. The trade was that I could go out with the photographers on assignment (a great learning experience) and watch them work. I was also allowed a few rolls of film a week and could shoot these assignments with the pros. Occasionally I could pick up a rejected assignment and go and see it. I began to get stuff published. There was an exchange though – I could use the darkroom, got film and hung out with the pros. I would never have worked for free in a one sided deal. The second one does, it spells doom.
      After several weeks and through hard work, I landed my first paid for day shift and it just went on from there. A few months later I found a three days a week position at a different local paper and moved there.
      One has to be professional about things – by professional, I don’t mean just in the production of good imagery but also have a good business sense. A byline will not buy food let alone pay for a roof over ones head.

  9. Stan, I understand that, but it also supposes that people respect you for your work and don;t try to do the same again. In the case of the email I posted above, for example, I supplied photos out of just courtesy and I also provided lots of contacts. In fact, I was better than his paid fixer who when I did meet her gave him false information. The problem, as Edmond points out, is once you do this, everyone expects it in the future.

    Yes, in a perfect world I would hope that people respect the work of others, but experience shows us by and large it’s not like that. Once WE devalue our work, others will too…

  10. Interesting points about an issue that has become endemic within the industry especially in regard to web content but increasingly for print. I teach photography at HE level and the graduating students feel this pressure as they are just starting out. I recently received an email from the editor of a specialist illustration magazine asking if I could suggest any recent graduates who could work for his magazine for free. He couched the request with a well aimed ‘you can tell me where to go’ caveat, but again, he scrapes the money and gets grants to produce a fabulously fettled design magazine but this money doesn’t extend to paying for editorial content. The ‘showcase’ argument is a grey area and it would provide some new, motivated photographers with experience, tear sheets, a presence. In other words, they would get something out of it in the way that you, Edmond, got something from your initial exposure to the world of press photography. But it is also a slippery slope to potential poverty or career change if they are not careful. In other words photographers, certainly new photographers have to be aware of, and weigh up the balance between getting something (other than remuneration) out of the deal or getting exploited. All the arguments made against photography for free in the responses to your piece are valid – I drum the same arguments into them as students, but not every instance of photography for free is wrong either. It’s about having the knowledge and awareness to navigate the minefield that counts.

    • On a side note, another point I find most damaging to the career young photographers is there complete lack of knowledge of copyright. “Fleet Street” is now full of newer photographers who happily sign away their copyright. When I spoke to the head of photographic courses at a certain University in London, he boldly stated it wasn’t their job to teach copyright to their photography degree students!

      Back onto the working for free; you do make some good points as there is something to be gained by working in a professional environment. However, the solitary photographer being taken advantage of and being sent to photograph something or coming up with pictures to give out, isn’t it. From my own experience, the best teaching I got was from my self imposed work experience period. Being able to hang out on the picture desk, seeing other’s pictures coming in and being judged before making it on a page, and most importantly, going out with these pros, taught me about the trade. Just going out and taking pictures to be stolen by a publication, would not teach me a thing.

      Perhaps this is what needs to be promoted? If one is serious about a career in photography, start as an assistant / work experience placement type person. This is how one learns. Not by being taken advantage of by publications (which all have money, but want to make more profit).

      Alas another part of this entire equation are the hobby photographers with jobs outside of photography who appear to purely want the joy of being published and having their name in a paper to magazine. The industry they got attracted to by seeing great photography, which made them pick up photography as a hobby, is the exact same thing they are destroying by their actions. I do wonder how they would feel if someone offered their services for free in the industries they work in?

  11. I think photographers starting out also need to be careful about assisting/work experience too, as this is just as rife with exploitation.

    I assisted a top photographer on a job with “no budget” that turned out to be a global print advertising campaign for a multinational pharmaceutical company (!) I’ve also seen photographers approach students to work 12 hour shifts for free “taking large payments in a very busy environment” for pet portraits at one of the UK’s biggest dog shows.

    For me, key to all of this is the exploration of whether “no budget” means just that or if it means “we don’t think we’ll have to pay for this so we won’t.” You have to take each case on its merits and turn down anything that feels like exploitation. There are a lot of great assisting experiences out there but you must make sure that you only work for free when there is a real benefit to you.

    I think colleges have to take some responsibility in all of this too, preventing opportunities that are clearly exploitative being advertised on college job boards and insisting that advertisers clearly define the non-cash benefits being offered in exchange for work.

  12. Some points about education (and after).

    I consider it ridiculous that a tutor, even on the most fruity, art-based, ‘it’s all about self-expression man’ HE course would suggest that it’s not their responsibility to explain copyright – as if IP has nothing to do with any job in the creative industries, even to a graduate with no intention of working as a photographer.

    On the course I run, we talk about copyright, explain contracts, licence agreements, releases etc., the usual forms of paperwork and processes necessary in the industry. They have to work with external clients appropriate to their practice and ambitions. They complete a marketing module and are interviewed by industry figures (a director from a high-level stock agency or a curator from a major UK gallery, depending on which is most relevant to their practice). They show their portfolio, present a package of marketing materials and discuss who and how they are going to approach upon graduation (many of these contacts will have been made already through their external projects). They will have detailed a funding application that they also present to the interviewer. We consider it vital that students do these thing alongside that part of education to degree level that is about the sheer benefits of education for its own sake (this is vital and separates degree education from more purely vocational courses). I think it is important that vocational courses are available and that potential photographers have the option of NCTJ courses for example.

    Back to ‘Pictures-for-free’. About three years ago I was approached by an organisation that provided help to local small to medium businesses. They had many clients that needed photography, primarily for web use but potentially for published marketing materials too. It all sounded fine and I explained that if I placed students with companies that approached the university, I would leave it to the student to negotiate appropriate fees for work undertaken. A few of these jobs came and went but I then got a call from a company – given my details by the initial contact – enquiring about the ‘free photography’. I explained that there was no ‘free photography’ and terminated the relationship with this enterprise consultant that had been spreading the word but couldn’t understand that photographers have to be business minded too.

    Sorry this is so long but it’s one of those topics that so many photographers must identify with and it is one of the most important subjects in relation to the professional status of photography today.

    Finally, when I graduated from my university in 1997, I saw an advert for the Independent newspaper’s photographer internship and considered applying. The opportunity to vie for that role, get experience on the desk and in the field seemed a good option for someone just out of college looking to work as an editorial photographer. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine (and mentor), a very well established freelance photographer, he simply said, ‘don’t think about’. He suggested that I would become known as the photographer willing to work for free and said that other enthusiastic and naive photographers had had their fingers burnt by the Independent’s scheme. I took his advice.

    I’m sure that such opportunities are about what you make of them with a lot of luck attached too. I doubt if such an internship could be a career killer but I bowed to his knowledge and experience. Another photographer who graduated alongside me worked as an intern at Magnum and has struggled but is now reasonably successful as a freelance photographer, part-time photography tutor; he exhibits and recently had his first book published. He’s doing okay nearly fifteen years after graduating and I’m sure his experience as an intern at Magnum was of use. The other Magnum intern at the same time as my fellow graduate was a guy called Jonas Bendiksen: I wonder what happened to him?

    • Many thanks for your reply and comments. I too was speechless when the head of photography said copyright didn’t come under his responsibilities to teach! He was in fact very proud that his University got the biggest number of job placements for his students! I’m not surprised as they all probably signed their copyright away.
      I met Jonas in Oslo a few years ago; wonderful chap and a fantastic photographer.

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