Not so GREAT for Photographers

The UK Government’s GREAT Project Cons Photographers

Campaign Pleads Poverty Even Though

It Has £55M To Get Free Pictures

Three prominent UK press photographers were contacted by the marketing assistant of the government’s UK Trade and Investment office to supply photographs for the GREAT Campaign. In her email to one of the photographers, Isabel Bustillos goes on to say “The GREAT campaign showcases UK excellence in a variety of sectors”. The photographers contacted, Glenn Copus, Shaun Curry and John D McHugh, have with their work shown excellence and as a result were contacted for the photograph needed by the GREAT campaign.

So far, so good. Sadly, the GREAT campaign and the UK Trade and Investment office, showed absolute unprofessionalism and utter disrespect towards the photographers and the value of photography, by initially saying they had very tight budgets so were after a collaboration, asking for the pictures for free. When Shaun Curry reminded Isabel Bustillos (marketing assistant of the GREAT campaign) that photographers do not work for free, as after all it is their profession, she offered a sum of £100. The license asked for was for two years with multiple territory usage and with above and below the line advertising rights. A very quick internet search shows that the GREAT Campaign’s budget is £55 million for 2013 to 2015 (£25M for 2013 and a further £30M for 2014-15). In essence, this governmental initiative with £55 million budget is trying to con photographers into handing over pictures for free. As the initiative’s aim is to boost investment and tourism into the UK, it’s also insulting for UK citizens when it’s realised the penny pinching and amateur attitude will result in not securing the best photographic work and therefore not showing us in our best light, even though there is a tremendous budget set aside for this 120 countries initiative.

The photograph in question. The GREAT campaign tried to get this picture for free, stating that they had a tight budget and could not pay. The budget for the campaign is £55M. Photo: ©Shaun Curry

The photograph in question. The GREAT campaign tried to get this picture for free, stating that they had a tight budget and could not pay. The budget for the campaign is £55M. Photo: ©Shaun Curry

Keeping in mind that a two year advertising license for English speaking countries only, for display use only (100 displays/stands) is £6,615.00 (source: Photoshelter’s image license calculator) and that the license the GREAT campaign requires easily brings the amount to much more. If the image was to be priced fully, including brochure, web and print use, for all territories needed, then the price will easily reach the £15-20,000 mark for two years usage. The level of this insult becomes clear. It is one thing for an individual or small company who have never dealt with media not to realise the value of photography. However for someone from the marketing department of a governmental campaign with a £55 million budget to be instructed to secure photography for free and if not pay hundredths of the price, it is truly disgraceful and completely amateur.

As a reminder, the minister for the GREAT campaign is the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP who claimed £90,000 in her expenses for 2005 to 2009 and was reported for it.

To illustrate the correspondence had, I shall reproduce the emails and quotes from the photographers involved in this insulting encounter with the GREAT campaign.

The initial email to Shaun Curry (who was the only person emailed; the others were contacted by phone):


We would like to use your image below as part of the Government’s international GREAT campaign.

The GREAT campaign showcases UK excellence in a variety of sectors with collateral available for consulates and embassies around the globe to use at trade shows, events and publications.

We usually secure images for 2 years, with above and below the line advertising rights. Usually we secure images (signed of visuals attached below for ease of reference) free of charge due to our limited budget and the fact that the campaign features in over 120 countries with credits shown, is this something you would consider? Grateful for your assistance


Isabel Bustillos | Marketing Assistant | Marketing |UK Trade & Investment”

After Shaun Curry refused the offer of supplying his work for free, an offer of £100 was made.

Shaun Curry writes to Photo This & That:

“The UKTi liked my picture so much (judge’s parade), they asked to use it in their new ”GREAT Britain campaign’ “the biggest ever integrated Government international marketing campaign” with funding of £30 million. with the promise that it would be seen in “120 countries”.

Now…being a seasoned professional I was of course happy to receive such a picture request, but also careful to listen for the caveat, and as is sadly the norm for photographers and many other creatives these days, along it came…again.

“We usually secure images for 2 years, with above and below the line advertising rights. Usually we secure images (signed of (sic) visuals attached below for ease of reference) free of charge due to our limited budget and the fact that the campaign features in over 120 countries with credits shown, is this something you would consider? Grateful for your assistance”

Im sure I am not alone when I say that this ‘limited or no budget’ excuse has worn a bit thin, but even so, every time I hear it my heart sinks a little lower.

I am not particularly militant, but this time I decided to call them up personally, I politely warned the person who sent me this email, that this whole ‘work for free’ must stop and for their own sake, to re-think with their superiors how they populate their websites and brochures with content.

They were very apologetic and offered me £100.

For anyone who understands or has any knowledge of advertising photography and its rates, “Above the line” means a lot more then £100, multiply this by hundreds and you’ll be getting warm.

Needless to say out of principle I refused this money.

This morning a good friend and colleague John D McHugh called me to share his story about the UKTI and their quest for a free picture….of the same judges parade!

We laughed at this, then decided it wasn’t funny.

John D needless to say refused their offer even quicker than I, and also wanted them of their impending publicity disaster within the photographic community, quoting me as an example, to which they seemed somewhat surprised that we knew each other!

We both posted our experiences on a great Facebook group called “Stop Working for Free” to share and educate any others whom maybe approached by the UKTi looking for a free handout.

Im writing this here today, because I’m annoyed and fed up with this work for a byline, it’s going to have to stop.

Shaun Curry 

After having failed to get a free or near free photograph from Shaun Curry, John D McHugh was approached:

“I’ve just had a phone call from the GREAT campaign, telling me how much they loved my image. I immediately interrupted the girl and asked what her budget was, at which point she started talking about a “collaboration” and when I pushed her on what her budget was, she tried to turn it around on me and ask what I would charge. I then told her I had some bad news for her, and went on to say that the GREAT campaign had already insulted one of my colleagues with an extremely unprofessional request for a byline only remuneration offer. I also told her that the GREAT campaign was actively being discussed amongst the UK photographic community, and that some pretty disparaging things were being said about the GREAT project and those running it. In fact, I told her, it was one small step away from being blacklisted, and so in good conscience and out of consideration for my peers, I wouldn’t allow then to use my image.”

The photograph in question. The GREAT campaign tried to get this picture for free, stating that they had a tight budget and could not pay. The budget for the campaign is £55M. Photo: ©Glen Copus

The photograph in question. The GREAT campaign tried to get this picture for free, stating that they had a tight budget and could not pay. The budget for the campaign is £55M. Photo: ©Glenn Copus

After this failed attempt at securing free photography, Glenn Copus was contacted:

“I got the same call and mail for one of my pics, told them that after making a career out of photography for 44 years by being paid they could buy at a discounted price of £250. Of course I never heard back, but how I laughed at the silence over the phone”.

As it turns out, Glenn’s offer didn’t take into account the full extent of the license required, but even his extremely low offer was met with silence.

I contacted Isabel Bustillos who mentioned that she had told the photographers that they had a low budget, but then said that she had offered one of the photographers £1000. After having checked with all three photographers, they deny being offered this amount.

I then contacted the press office for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to find why photographers were being treated in this appalling manor:

“Dear Mr Hamilton and Mr Gibbs,

I have been in touch with Oliver Jackson from the GREAT campaign press office and he has suggested I contact yourselves.

I’m writing a piece on the Great campaign and it’s treatment of photographers whilst trying to secure imagery to use in the 120 countries the campaign is targeting. The article is for Photo This & That and for The Huffington Post blog section.

Three press photographers have been in touch expressing their disbelief at being approached for their work and being asked for it for free. Offers of a byline and also an insulting £100 were also made as the photographers made it clear that working for free is unacceptable. Surely it is recognised that professional work is paid for? Considering a two year license, including advertising was asked for, this is absolutely unbelievable. Considering the campaign has had it’s budget increased to £30 million, it’s somewhat surprising that individuals are trying to be conned by this governmental campaign by telling them the budget is tight. The campaign talks about UK excellence in various sectors, yet it’s treatment of the photographers in question is nothing short of an absolute and utter disrespect for the excellence of their work. Photojournalists go out of their way to bring news to the eyes of the world, often risking life and limb. I myself have lost two photographer colleagues in Libya and another close friend lost both his legs in Afghanistan. However, as a group, we persevere as the work that is done is a great responsibility and of tremendous importance. Looking at the world’s magazines, newspapers, competitions and exhibitions, it’s clear that part of the UK excellence your campaign talks of is indeed also in photojournalism. Why is there such disrespect and unprofessionalism shown? Why were they told there was a tight budget when the campaign has £30 million to spend?

I would like an on the record response which I can publish please. This entire unprofessional and disrespectful approach has the entire press photography community rather upset and this is the campaign’s opportunity to have a right of reply before the article is published. 

The approach to the three press photographers (John D McHugh, Glenn Copus and Shaun Curry) was made by:

Isabel Bustillos | Marketing Assistant | Marketing |UK Trade & Investment

I would really like a reply by the end of play today as it’s important for the campaign to explain why there’s such a lack of respect towards photographers and why photography is so devalued. It would be interesting to know how much of the £30 million has been earmarked for photography if at all possible.

I look forward to your speedy reply as this approach has enraged most of the press photographers in the UK.



I received the following reply around 50 minutes later:

A UKTI spokesperson said:

“The UK has one of the largest creative industries sectors in the world and the quality of UK photography plays a key part in its success. The GREAT Campaign is a worldwide marketing campaign driving inward investment and tourism to the UK. Many UK photographers partner with UKTI to showcase excellence in UK photography and to provide them with a global showcase for their work. UKTI does not publish photographers’ work without their explicit permission and ensures that all images used are properly accredited to help UK’s photographers enjoy international acclaim.”

Not only were the issues raised not addressed, but the reply is in itself insulting as it acknowledges the part played by quality photography, yet the government’s GREAT campaign is quite happy to abuse and con photographers.

I responded to this:

“There are several points raised in my email and by the photographers contacted. Non of these have been addressed in your comment. Before writing this up, I just wanted to double check if this is really all that you have as a reply to the issue of absolute disrespect shown towards the photographers in question and their work.”

The reply:

“The photographers in questions were asked if they would like to participate in the campaign and I can assure you that no disrespect was intended towards them or their professional work.”

My final email to the press office has so far gone unanswered (even though it’s now a day later):

“The offer of asking for free pictures, then eventually escalating the offer to £100 (only for one of the photographers’ as no sums were mentioned to the others) for a two year, multiple territory with advertising use license, has been seen by all three involved and the majority of the press photographers in the UK (on several forums) as disgraceful. 

With £30M as a budget, pleading poverty by saying there is a tight budget is a straightforward lie.

The comment provided by your office is sadly just PR and doesn’t address my points (based on what has been told to me by the three) in my initial email. I just want to make sure that this is really all there is to be said by your office. 

The actions, although you say that wasn’t intended, are absolutely unprofessional and disrespectful. Photographers should not be expected to work for free. 

I do hope that there is a deeper response that actually addresses the issues raised.”

Having shown the official response to the grievance expressed by all photographers concerned, John D McHugh writes:

“GREAT’s reply to Edmond’s queries utilises typical PR double speak, insulting the intelligence of anyone who reads it, and at the same time blatantly ignores the original accusation of eliciting photography in exchange for “exposure” rather than payment. The fact that I was told GREAT had a “very small” budget is insulting and infuriating in equal parts, especially when it has in fact secured £30million in Government funding. Despite the UKTI claiming “to showcase excellence in UK photography and to provide them with a global showcase for their work”. The simple fact is that by attempting to license photography for free the UKTI is displaying a contemptuous disregard for the creative industries it is supposed to champion. And just to be clear, the GREAT Campaign contacted me, not the other way around, so I obviously have quite enough exposure. Why they think I need more exposure instead of actual payment is beyond me.”

It’s a very sad state of affairs when a campaign called GREAT, created by the UK government, conceived to showcase how great the UK is, does it’s best to con and cheat UK photographers into handing over work for free or best case scenario for hundredths of what the true value is. Quite ironic that the campaign is called GREAT.


Monday, April 21, 2014 – It’s interesting to note that although the GREAT Campaign was pleading poverty and lying to photographers to secure free photographs, it has hired David Bailey (who is sure to be one of the country’s most expensive photographers) to shoot a photograph of Her Majesty for the campaign.

70 responses to “Not so GREAT for Photographers

  1. Great work Edmund, very nicely done. I am in full support. However I worry more generally for the GREAT campaign if those responsible for sourcing photographs think these two images are the best we (as an industry) have to offer.

    • Thanks for the kind words. However I think you’re misunderstanding the criteria for them choosing these images. It’s not a case of the best in UK photography. They were after pictures of judges and this specific event, so it’s an illustration of the British legal system, not the best in photography. As you know all three photographers have extremely powerful and award winning images in their repertoire.

    • This isn’t a case of showcasing the “best we have to offer”. These images represented their brief best and were the best images to fulfill their vision.

      Anyways, great article and this is unfortunately becoming more and more the norm. The other unfortunate thing here is that GREAT will continue to look for lower quality images that meet their requirements and eventually will come across someone who is willing to take the £100…thus destroying everything we are working for in the industry.

  2. Alyosha Verzhbinsky

    It’s a very interesting and well thought out and researched blog. Thank you. The problem you write about is created and perpetuated by the general public, of which I am a member, who have been refusing to pay for content since the mid 90ies, when online publication took off. Information wants to be free, right? You guys, who create this content, pay for this attitude out of your pockets. I am reading your blog online, via Facebook, from Cambridge, MA, for free. I hope you’ve made some money writing it, but I see no evidence of that on the page. Perhaps Huffington Post paid?

    • It’s one thing to choose to write a blog for free. This is how I share issues I’m concerned about as well as sharing projects I am working on. It is in part a marketing tool. It’s quite another thing for a governmental campaign with £55M to plead poverty by saying they have a very tight budget and try to con photographers out of their work for free or an extremely small percentage of the image’s true worth. The Huffington Post sadly do not pay, but I do not write for them; I use the blog platform to share what I choose as it’s an important means of getting the message out.

      • Yes, it’s a tough balance. The line between marketing tools and giving away content for free is a very fine one. My only point is that it’s us, the consumers that are the main problem. You, the content providers, must educate us to change our attitude toward free stuff, and then the editors will follow.

  3. Good post,a depressing read but thanks for sharing.

  4. This is very depressing and a complete disgrace by UKTI.

  5. Excellent. I wonder what a big budget would be if 55M is a tight one?

    • 120 countries share the cash it’s circa 0.23 million each year per country. In the UK that would get you about a week of intensive TV and billboard advertising (along the lines of the government’s think campaign to stop drink driving before Christmas). But TV adverts probably won’t be the “go to” option for promoting business and education in the UK (or at least I doubt it’s the most effective way). Overall, 0.23 million will not buy you high impact but it will give you a hell of a lot of leaflets, posters and trips for representatives to talk to people in schools etc.

  6. Part of the problem is that picture sourcers can get away with it because someone somewhere down the line will say yes. It might be a new up and coming pro who thinks the publicity will actually help; it might be an amateur who is over the moon that someone wants to use their picture even for free. But usually *someone* says yes, which is why they try to get it for free or for a negligible sum, because they or their higher-uppers knows that it’s all they need to offer.

    They “try it on” because they know at some point someone will bite.

  7. It sad that this type of excuse of having “little”, “tight” or “no” budget for photographers is seemlingly becoming more common these days, and now the government is wanting to back them up just sucks. It will be the end of photographers in the UK if the government wants to continue backing stingy organisations/companies, after all, cameras are not free from retailers.

  8. My agency was also contacted about this by a different contact at the Great campaign. they wanted to use one of our photographers’s picture that had been seen in a competition. In the first place they tried to suggest under the terms of the competition they could use it for free. Once I told them this wasn’t the case they then said they weren’t interested in using it. They then came back to me and offered us £1000 for this usage ( the same terms as all the other photographers) We agreed this but pointed out it was at a very reduced rate and they emphasised again and again how little their budget was. At the final hurdle it was rejected by number 10, but the whole thing left quite an unpleasant taste in our mouths. Interesting to hear the other stories about this.

    • It really is amateur hour by the GREAt campaign. I’m glad that your image was rejected as £1000 is well below it’s worth considering the license of usage which is required. I do hope they do come back to you, in which case at least now it’s known what the license fee should be and that a £55M budget exists.

  9. Great piece of work, although it comes as no surprise, it’s the same all over.
    However I will be getting in touch with the “GREAT” people and let them now that I will gladly offer them a picture for £100 as long as they realise that I will also be putting my expense claim of £90k for creating it in the first place! Seems legit!

  10. I was going to say ‘great article’ as an opening line but I think they’ve soured me on the word. I agree with you that it is insulting. They obviously think they’re fishing in a big pool and that someone will bite eventually. I’m just an enthusiast when it comes to photography, shooting gigs, Americana, landscapes and what-not but I’ve been contacted by a couple of magazines who’ve used the ‘we’m so poor!’ approach. Sadly, all excited about getting stuff in print and not stopping to think how this encourages such shoddy practice, I accepted. When I received the magazine in question I was surprised to find it a chunky, glossy affair packed with high-profile adverts and a huge readership figure.

    It’s very disheartening to find that a government department supposed to help trade opts instead to denigrate and rip off the very people it should be helping. Thanks for the article!

  11. Well done to all the photographers contacted. I’m so happy that you stood your ground. Unfortunately many others would have handed over their images, and driven another nail in the coffin of our industry.
    The ‘Great Campaign’, should be ashamed of itself.
    Their PR response just reiterates their utter mis understanding of the aims of the campaign they are suppose to championing.
    I’m so happy that you’ve made their behaviour public, perhaps others will learn from this organisations mistakes. It’s time more more and photographers stood together to stamp out the undermining of our profession.

  12. Comes as little surprise and sounds very much like the BBC’s usual ‘Mother Hubbard’ approach to photographers.

  13. I think it is worth sharing, from the official website (, a couple of their lines about what the GREAT campaign is all about: “The British Council is involved in the GREAT campaign to help the world discover why Britain is such a great place to visit, study, work, invest and do business in. The campaign demonstrates the value of our work in arts, education and English language.”
    Really… if the campaign can’t really respect photography as an art and value’s it accordingly, then it is also failing to show it as a Britain as great place to work or do business as an artist.
    If they don’t intend to spend the ~£55million on paying their contributors… where will the money go? Sound like just a government slush fund for ambassadors to use to entertain dignitaries dinners etc etc….

  14. It’s been happening all over the World since the beginning of digital photography…

  15. This is what has happened since Digital Photography has come of age. The camera manufacturers have made better quality cameras that the average “Photo Bug” has picked up and given them the opportunity to create almost professional quality photos. Thats what working Professional Photographers are competing with. Then the advent of everything being online doesn’t help either. These amateurs are excited to get $100 for a photo and they know nothing of licensing. Once the Ad and Creative industry saw this they took full advantage. Gone are the days where the Photographer had full control of their images. Its diluted the professional photography industry.

    • That is definitely part of the problem; amateur photographers not valuing their own photography and realising they are being ripped off and taken advantage off. The bigger problem though is that aesthetic decisions are being taken by accountants, not those literate in good taste and artistic sensibilities. The cheaper the better and free is the best, regardless of the true quality of the image.

      • Aptly stated and this is also an approach in the USA. Bean counters approach and buyers demanding options for all rights are part of the
        the offers now.

  16. I wish I could say I was surprised

  17. As a tax paying citizen I would never condone paying £6000 or even £1000 for that matter for the pictures, especially when benefits are being cut and local services are closing down. £1000 is the average persons salary, it seems to me the writer clearly needs to get some perspective.

    The images are poor quality and secondly they show a judge outside of a court it is neither beautiful nor a work of art. How much did you pay to use the images on your blog?

    • I would suggest that firstly your objections should be aimed at the billions spent on the wars we have been fighting overseas based on the lies that took us there. It is indeed terrible that local services are being cut. However, you’re missing the point. The images chosen by the GREAT campaign were used to illustrate the legal system; they fitted their brief. They are trying to showcase the UK at it’s best. Unfortunately, the penny pinching and lying attitude will not secure them the best imagery, as high end professionals do not work for free; this is our job. I will also add that not even a seasoned professional would be able to judge the quality of imagery from small, low res, highly compressed images; they are being used here as an illustration. The second point you’ve missed is that with correct marketing and proper investment, a much larger amount of investment will come back into the country. I assure you, the writer, myself, has absolute perspective. As a photojournalist who covers a variety of stories, I am in a privileged position to see a very wide-ranging slice of life, both here and abroad.

  18. Yes, it’s appalling that UK Government lackies don’t place any value on photography.

    It’s even more disturbing that a pro photographer with 44 years of experience offered to sell them his image “at a discounted price of £250”.

    WTF was Glen Copus thinking?!

    I constantly hear senior pro photographers moaning about how the “newbies” are destoying the industry with their lowballing and undercutting tactics – but here we have a classic example of a highly experienced pro dropping his pants for a few hundred quid. And this is happening all the time.

    Pro photographers are their own worst enemy. How can we seriously expect our clients to value what we do when we have senior members of our own photographic community (who should know better) handing over images for international advertising campaigns for a pitiful £250. Disgusting!

    • I would just add that the negotiations were done on the phone and Glenn was most probably on assignment and didn’t get the entire picture as far as the complex, multi territory, multi use licensing which was asked for. I think that a point can be made, yet respect shown, so perhaps might I suggest you turn down the tone? 🙂

      • coldshoulder

        The girl you refer to was quite naive in her dealings with photographers. However does it really warrant this over the top expose. We all have to make a living and if everyone I had ever spoken to and had dealings with thought I would humiliate them in an open forum like you have done including publishing details of the conversation, well then frankly I would never get any business. Yes I would politely give them a piece of my mind and raise it with their superiors but I certainly wouldn’t do what you have done which is quite unprofessional.

      • Being the marketing assistant, in a governmental campaign, firstly she would have to have some experience, qualifications and skill to have been hired (one hopes) and being an assistant, she would have been following instructions. This post is not about her, but the GREAT campaign and the government’s attitude towards the creative sector. All you need to read is the official response which is both infuriating and insulting in equal measure. Had I had no morals, I would have grilled the young lady in question on the phone and published all she said. Firstly, I have only published a very short part of the conversation. Secondly, when I realised that she was well out of her depth and I made the suggestion we cut the call short and suggest she talk to her boss and press office and get back to me. Again, let’s not lose sight of what’s happening here; a governmental campaign is out conning photographers by telling them they have a very tight budget and need pictures for free – in fact, they have been allocated £55M to spend, part of which would have been allocated to photography. It’s disgraceful.

  19. Pingback: Stop Working For Free | It's All Lies and Bullshit

  20. hmmmm Just incase anybody was interested, this is the GREAT campaign’s Facebook page…
    I’ll just leave this here:

  21. Wow £20,000 for a picture I’m clearly in the wrong job

    Ed It seems you want a big piece of that £50 million pie.

    • I couldn’t comment about if you’re in the wrong job or not. Just like a sandwich in M&S has it’s cost, a Skoda has it’s cost and a Bentley has it’s, so does photography, art, sculpture, music and so on. The creative industry is a professional one and people should not be expected to work for free, nor conned by their government into handing over free pictures. The two year license with the rights that have been asked for costs this much. It’s calculated using a formula. It’s simple really. I have yet to see someone walk into a shop and want something and say I don’t have the money so can I have it for free. For the record, I haven’t been approached for any photographs, just the colleagues mentioned. The behaviour of the GREAT campaign is just disgraceful, petty and amateur.

    • I’m not a photographer either but I can understand why a picture can be valued that highly. The rights they have asked for are through the line i.e. covering all media in 120 countries, that’s potentially a massive amount of use for the image. Although they may only use the picture for a couple of brochures and some internet galleries, they’ve asked for free reign to use the image as and when they see fit for 2 years. It’s a bit like asking a model to be the face of you brand for two years, and if something is the core of your advertising campaign then it’s essential and therefore valuable. If they knew how they were going to use the photo e.g. a 6″ by 4″ print on page 10 of a 30 page brochure you’d see the price fall dramatically

      • On a slightly different note to the insulting procurement process they have implemented:
        One disturbing thing I find about the fact they have been approaching photographers in this way is what it says about the GREAT project as a whole. They seem to be trying to build a library of images (along, presumably, with articles) that can be used as and when required. Is this really the best tactic they came up with?! This is, so far (2012-2014), a 55M project government project: if you were in dragon’s den asked about how you would spend 55M to market your product internationally and you said this I’m sure you’d be laughed out the room. The GREAT project was launched last year and is set to run until 2015 (at the moment, may run longer). The first thing you do in any advertising campaign is research. Surely last year they did their research and worked out who they were targeting-> how to target them-> what materials they need-> where to get them-> when they need them etc. Speculative emails to photographers mid project does not suggest they have the first clue on structuring and strategy for a marketing campaign.

      • The way you have handled it seems to be quite crass and very amateur, contracting your premise. Where there no formal channels you could have gone through or are you trying to get publicity? Displaying someones details on the internet seems worse than someone asking for a free picture.

      • The channels used were by the photographers explaining to the marketing lady that being asked for free pictures was firstly insulting and secondly no way to run a business and survive. The second channel was me contacting both the marketing person trying to con photographers by saying they have a tight budget and secondly going to the press office. You can see their reply in the piece; infuriating in the way it didn’t answer a single one of the issues raised and insulting in the way the press office assumed their comment was in any way adequate.
        The post raises public awareness to what is going on. The campaign has been allocated £55M and part of this money would be for marketing, which naturally includes photography.
        As far as the silly attack on me, no sir, I assure you I don’t need any publicity, nor is bringing awareness to what’s going on crass or amateur. Lastly, part of the email signature which contained their email address, phone and office address wasn’t published. Working for a governmental campaign, all of this information is firstly in the public domain anyway and secondly, they are accountable on how they manage their finances. More so, on how they represent the UK to the world. This penny pinching, amateur, lying attitude is not a good start.

  22. Reblogged this on Eremophila's Musings and commented:
    Speaking up, not letting them get away with it, that’s the name of the game!

  23. I’m not surprised at this, as the British Council is very much a jobs-for-the-boys exercise. I spent a week in the company of a British Council ‘assessor’ (?) assigned to Turkey to help them improve the regime within their prisons, he happened to be stuck there because of the Icelandic volcano incident and so were we. As a journalist, publisher, technical innovator and business owner of 35 years standing I enquired how the Council appointed individuals to carry out their assignments (it was clearly not underpaid – four figures a week plus a very good hotel and all the support, translator, driver and expenses covered). That was the point at which this previously very chatty guy clammed up. Since then I’ve found out why – it’s a closed community, you don’t apply, and they don’t talk about how their funding is used.

    What makes me sad is that when I set out in photography, people in government and local government positions handling such campaigns actually wanted to meet photographers and took pride in being able to offer fees or commissions which were fairly rewarded. The budget they had at their disposal was a matter of personal pride to those spending it – they were privileged to be able to choose who to work with, to be actively involved in the creation of documentary or creative content.

  24. Yes another sad story of how professional photographers are getting shafted, at least this isn’t another Getty Images shafting us story, although I’m sure they are still at it. Great Britain, Great Bulls..t.

  25. Dear sir. I read your article and due to my knowledge I wanted to share something with you. I am in no way affiliated with any party in this discussion.

    It relates to EU COMPETITION LAW and the UK competition act 1998.

    Please see OFT1389 on the office of fair trading here:

    I just wished to comment that you appear to be taking personally the offer made to you by UKTI. However you are failing to see they are legally obliged to try to acquire services at the best rate to tax payers and consumers. That their interactions with you and your competitors are regulated in law.

    Separately I want to highlight that discussion of fees for licencing rights. Your colleagues in photographic community should not be discussing fees or payments or anything that could lead to coordinated commercial behaviour. This is prohibited in competition law. “Agreements and concerted practices”. Please see OFT401.

    If you do not like an offer refuse. However please be aware of the above discussing services/licensing arrangements or potential contracts with competitors.

    Now if you are also part of a UK photographers association that is self regulated please also make them aware of the above during meetings. See OFT408.

    This is advice to both parties and to not ignore potential breaches of competition law.

    • Thanks for your interesting comment. I’m not taking it personally in as much as I wasn’t approached for pictures and conned by my government; my colleagues were. This industry is one I am very passionate about and it irks me when I see this behaviour. For some reason, some have it in their heads that photographers should work for free. How anybody thinks this is ethically or morally correct, or how such a business model can survive when nothing else in society is free, is beyond me.
      As far as the rates, these rate formulas exist for a reason; to help calculate licensing fees. It’s not a case of willy nilly coming up with figures plucked out of thin air, but formulas created and set by the industry over time. So it’s not a case of rate fixing.
      Lastly, trying to strike a deal is one thing, but for the governments GREAT campaign to straight out lie and try to con photographers by saying the nonsense they did about tight budgets and wanting things for free is straightforward disgraceful. The budget of £55M was allocated for a reason.

      • I think you really need to read some of the free legal guidance on competition law on the OFT website.

        The law applies to you as an individual and your “undertakings” (which can be sharing information) in as much as large companies, industry associations and governments.

        You’ve stated that these formulas have been set “by industry”; these would have to be compliant with article 81 of the treaty of rome ; competition act 1998.

        What you should of done is simply refused the UKTI request and when pressed quote those published figures.

        Otherwise you personally and those you communicate with run the risk of noncompliance with competition law. You should be very reluctant to discuss fees and pricing with competitors.

  26. I work in the private sector for a large corporation and ask for free things including images all the time. If you don’t ask you don’t get.

    Funny how you were asking for RF song’s on your facebook page.

    • I think before making comments in public on subjects you clearly are lacking knowledge in, you really should do some research. Royalty Free (RF) does not mean free. The music is still licensed and paid for. RF merely means that you pay for one license and can use the music over several projects (but not commercially). Again, I bring light to the attention that the music is not free.
      Comparing a really small NGO who is paying for the project I’m editing into a video, but has a tight budget (which is one of the reasons I was looking for RF music) to a governmental campaign with £55M budget who as a matter of course lies to it’s own electorate and tries to con them into handing over images for free is definitely a different kettle of fish. So, no; I don’t see it as funny at all.
      As far as the large corporation you work for being so amateur as to ask for pictures for free, then that is purely a reflection on them and you. It is shameful, not something to be proud of. I would also add that instead of sourcing the best imagery, your act of cheapness does your employer, the large corporation, out of the best imagery they can use and narrows it down to freebies. I’m guessing you don’t work for free, so why do you think others should?

  27. Dear Sir,

    Following earlier comments and research on where “industry pricing originates” such as (a professional association) and (another association) and their apparent developed “usage calculator” ; Quote:

    “the calculator was produced as a result of discussions between photographers and photographer’s agents, and overseen by art buyers. They are not recommendations but are provided as guidelines for negotiation based on current trade practice (sic)”.

    The question is are they entirely legal with EU law and if so who judged that to be so. Since in most sectors such discussions are prohibited.

    Additionally as you’re on about multiple jurisdictions you need to cover US Anti-trust also. Also remember that EU competition law has no limit of jurisdiction. It is the end effect that is important.

    If those are being used and you are a member it would be extremely advisable to get with them and from them proper legal advice on competition law compliance.

    This is given that “agreed” pricing could be considered as something raising interest from a competition perspective. Additionally could be vulnerable to cartel-like behaviour as previously described legislation.

    If you are discussing this within associations then the above should be considered carefully and possibly more advice sought.

  28. Well said that man.

    And you have dealt with the critical comments equally well.

  29. I agree that your dealing with all the comments is excellent and well reasoned. I am not as eloquent as you, but here are a few of my thoughts I published on my facebook page after picking up on this from a fellow photographer:

    Yet another sad story of how photographers are nearly always treated like shit!
    This time from an organisation that should be totally ashamed to behave in such a way – a British Government department – especially when the aim of their project is to tell the world how wonderful UK is and how we have such wonderful skills, but”WE DON’T PAY FOR THEM” should be in their blurb. The only thing we seem to be really good at is ripping off our fellow countrymen.
    In the discussions and correspondance no one seems to have mentioned the fact that the citing of an authors name is a legal obligation for the publisher of an image, so to offer “worldwide exposure” in this manner is in fact to offer nothing at all and an indication that they are perhaps quite happy to flout this law if they so feel – as so many others do anyway (Oh the printer must have forgot! – Familier phrase to one or two photographers?)
    Ours is the ony profession I know of where potential clients expect to have our work for nothing. Try telling a mechanic that you will tell all your friends that he is very good, as payment for fixing your car for free!
    DO they intend to operate in the same way with their webdesigner, their printers etc? – I doubt it!
    Of course the saddest thing of all in all this, is that we all know that in the end they will probably find acceptable images taken by people, possibly with well paid other work, that WILL be happy to see thier name in lights for the chance good photo they have taken who can’t care less about photographers who dedicate their lives and enormous amounts of money, to getting the best images with regular consistancy.
    OK I’ll stop, but it does make me very angry.

  30. Great article and response to the offending party. We in Canada have the same issues in all aspects of commercial photography for print or ad work. The typical will look great for your portfolio, great way to advertise your work, credit line given the same old bullshit over and over again. I am not sure who is worst people in the magazine business who charge thousands of dollars for advert space but have not budget for photography or the charities that are funded and have board members that are paid thousands of dollars but again employ all kinds of volunteers because they have no budgets. Myself I refuse to work for these types of slugs who appreciate my art but are not willing to pay for it. The last time I checked free does not pay the bills and feed my kids.

  31. This is one of the many reasons I have recently left the industry. Quite shocking….

  32. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I’ve had similar experience of the ‘we really, really love your work, but we only have a low budget…we’ll give you lots of publicity, and so can you do the job for peanuts or free?’ b***s**t! Well NO I can’t! I’ve since scrubbed the word MUG off my forehead.

  33. does anyone know how much the campaign spent for this racing-car painted “GREAT”?

  34. Hi,
    Ok, I’m a little disappointed!
    I just called my local professional plumber regarding replacing my kitchen tap. Of course i wanted him to undertake this work for free as I’m on a bit of a tight budget. Imagine my horror when he said no, i offered him a tenner, to mention him online and even put a pic of my new tap and his name and number up at the local Tesco. But nope, he was having none of it….how can this be??
    Ridiculous, we would never consider asking a professional to undertake work for free. We’re all on a tight budget, maybe the MPs would consider offering their services for free as we’re all a bit financially limited lately.
    Btw what amount would you have agreed too?

    • Astonished to hear your plumber didn’t want to increase his exposure in the marketplace by taking you up on your offer! 🙂
      As far as what price I would have agreed to, for the comprehensive usage rights and duration requested, the charge should be in the £15,000 mark at least.

  35. Just try asking an electrician, a builder or a roofer to do work on your house for free but will in return credit them and/or recommend them to your friends! We all know what the response would be – so why do people think it is any different to ask this of photographers and other media professionals? So pleased these guys said no to the GREAT campaign, if only more people in media roles did the same!

    • Absolutely agree and absolute praise for photographers who stand up for their rights. Part of the problem is amateur photographers who fall for the flattery and not realise the worth of their photography. As a consequence, this naturally leads on to professional photographers whose livelihood is photography, losing income.

  36. Reblogged this on GCSE Photography and commented:
    Another side of the same story. I can’t believe that David Bailey was asked to work for free on this campaign,

    • I didn’t say nor think David Bailey worked for free; three Fleet Street photographers were lied to, saying the campaign had no money and their work was attempted to secure for free (and in one case for many times less than the licensing cost). The fact that Bailey was commissioned for the shoot, clearly shows that the campaign indeed has the money, but is in effect unprofessional and cheap.

  37. Great article, if not a little depressing! Thank you for outing them though. Agree with what others have said, at one point someone will say yes, so they just keep asking until someone caves in. Amateurs need educated about the value of their work too I think. :-/

  38. It really is a sorry state of affairs, it is so laughable how people genuinely believe they are doing you a favour by using your image and just giving you a credit.

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