Cop-Outs, Contracts and Commissions, Part Two

This follows on from my post Cop-Outs, Contracts and Commissions Part One . It consolidates some of the discussions I’ve had in the past and suggests when and  how it’s appropriate for you to ask for free images.

Filming at the Argentine stand in Regents Street, (c) Carole Edrich 2013

Filming at the Argentine stand in Regents Street, (c) Carole Edrich 2013

I’ve given you access, why won’t you give me the free images I want in return?

For the same reason you’d not get them from another professional journalist or photographer. You’ve got me there because you or someone associated with you want the publicity, because you’d like to see details of the event published, broadcast or otherwise disseminated. I’ve given up my time because I see an opportunity to get a photo feature or other article published and to do more than this would damage my business.
But I gave you access to take photographs!
I’m a professional, did you pay me to take photos? Did you set up another way for me to earn money commensurate with my skills and the time I spent on them? If you did we’d not be having this conversation!
Do this for free and I’ll put work your way/pay you next time
That doesn’t pay the bills.
If I had a penny for every time someone had said this to me I’d be able to retire!

But I only want one image, why is it so expensive?
The first image is always the most expensive to produce. If you read my post on What’s Involved you’ll have a rough idea of what’s involved. If I’m giving you a choice, a ‘best of 10 shots’ for example, I have to select the ten shots from which you make that choice which also takes time. There is no way on Earth that I’m going to show you all my unprocessed shots (the reasons I won’t would make a whole other post). If I’m doing the work speculatively I’ll select and process all those images I think might work (which – you’ve got it – takes time). If I’ve been commissioned by an editor I’ll process a sufficient selection that the editor will be able to tell the story through the images or add depth or another perspective by including my images.

In summary, the fact that you only choose one image has little bearing on the work I’ve done and no bearing on the level of skill, something that has been built up over years and requires regular considered practice to keep.

Give me your images and I’ll give you exposure
Exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

I’m a specialist dance photographer and journalist with a combined online following that has generated over 895,000 unique visits since mid 2008. The people who follow me on facebook love photography and dance and my images are viewed thousands of times so while there are exceptions – even in social dance – most of the time it will be me getting you the exposure, not the other way around.

If you think you have a really good way of getting me exposure by all means suggest it but don’t insult me or my work. Be realistic. Remember that I’m a professional photographer who earns a living through photography. That means I need the kind of exposure that will one way or another help me make my photography pay my bills.

But you can make money from the people you’re shooting/other people there

If you really believe that you can set it up, sell the images and pay me a fixed fee commensurate with my skills, experience and the time it’s going to take me to take and process them. You can even keep the difference.

I can’t afford to pay for an image I particularly like. I’m not a company or a commercial organisation, just a dancer trying to make ends meet. Will you give it to me?
Possibly. Make me an offer that reflects the value of what I’ve produced (you’ve started well, read all of this post, What’s Involved and Help Me Get You Coverage and you’ll probably get some ideas). Consider the that these photographs are mine in the same way that a painter’s completed canvasses belong to him or her. Think of the value of the photograph itself. You’ve come here and are reading this because you like my image and know that I’m one of the best. I’m not a hobbyist whose shots sometimes turn out OK, but a professional who has chosen dance photography as a career. Bear this in mind, think of the time it has taken me to get here, the time it takes to set up a shoot and create an image, the time needed to select and process a batch of images, the cost and duration of travel, the cost of equipment and its maintenance. Then think of any opportunity cost involved.

But I gave you the idea!

Thank you! Maybe you did and if you did I appreciate it. However there are far more ideas than space to print them, time to get them together or interested eyes to see them. It’s not ideas that count but the ability to get the ideas into the mainstream and specialist media and then carry the project through that gets the commission. If it worked any other way you’d probably be doing the project yourself.

by and (c) Carole Edrich