My friend and colleague, Chase Jarvis, wrote on his blog, and article titled Free Photos and Artistic Vision, and, it's worth a read. However, where he posits the notion for pondering that, possibly:
The future of earning a living as a photographer lies not in your old pictures, but your next pictures. Sure, one-of-a-kind historical, documentary pictures will always have their earning potential, but the successful professional of the future -- just like the successful professional of today -- will make their money getting hired to deliver their commissioned, artistic vision for the newest product, trend, or photo of the moment, NOT to deliver the ones and zeros from yesterday's digital file.He is promoting the 'sell once and forget it' approach.
In other words, get as much for it now as you can, and don't plan to, or choose the option that allows you to monetize that asset over time. At first blush, that seems fine, however, there's a problem with that idea.
It suggests the conveyance to the client of all rights so as to eliminate your ability to earn more on those images from that client. There are a number of issues with that:
- The clients will seek lower and lower figures for these all rights packages. They already are getting them now, for pennies of what they are reasonably valued at.
- You'll get the client who hires you for a brochure, and then uses the images in a national ad campaign. Happens now all the time by unsuspecting photographers who buy the "we're only going to use it in a small print-run brochure..." line, and then signs away all rights.
- You'll get the client who hires you once for $10k, and then, when they would have had to pay you another, say, $8k the next year to re-use the images, or perhaps another $10k shoot instead, decides they'll re-use the images under the proposed model, and would not have to pay the $8k, nor commission the new $10k. This will have a trickle-down effect.
- These clients may, in turn, re-license them through a stock portal themselves.
I recently had a prospective client (a purported magazine) call me to photograph 60 portraits - individual portraits around DC. They wanted to pay $1k per portrait. At first blush, this seemed like a boon. Upon reading their contract, they took all rights, including reprints. I did a little research, and found that these portraits - of lawyers - were being done and then the lawyers, because they were featured in this "magazine" which was a "special edition" titled "Washington's Best Lawyers" and moreover, each firm could (read, was asked to) advertise in the publication, and then they sold reprints for $3k for an inside piece, and more if the cover was "redone" for the lawyer or firm. In essence, it was a disguised brochure, and I was the $1k guy that would have turned over all that income to the "magazine". Further, the firm could - for a fee - get the digital file for their own uses. There was no movement on the price, or a renegotiation on the reprints issue, and when I noted that they were charging for the reprints of my work and thus, earning a substantial income from essentially reselling my work, and I queried further "is that your business model", they said it was, and they were doing it all over the country.
While I know that Chase has a true and nearly as complete as possible understanding of the value of the images he produces, I submit that, to the vast majority of photographers who don't get signed contracts from clients before beginning work, roll over on rights grabs without additional compensation, and have no idea what their CODB is, letting the levy breach whereby "all rights forever" and WMFH are allowed to roam free and fester in the land of acceptable business models for freelancers, is a recipe for disaster.
Chase does put forth the question "IF (capitalized for emphasis) this is the case," and so, I think he may well disagree with this notion, but he puts it forth, and ends with "Scary to some, exciting to others. You just need to decide on which side of that fence you're going to sit." I submit that that last word has a misspelling. It needs an "h" between the "s" and the "i".
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