Sunday, May 31, 2009

Selling Yourself Short

The refrain I hear from photographers often, when it comes to images they transfer copyright to is "what are the photos work anyway? They're just {insert justification here}...."

Often, photographers get assigned to cover a party of some sort or another. Then, the excuse is "they're just party pics, who would want them anyway?" Well, let's take a look:

(Continued after the Jump)

So, at about $20 an 8x10, after about 10 prints from a single event, the magazine has recouped the cost of the photographer, and the use of the photos in the magazine is now, essentially, free. And since the magazine - in this case Washington Life - owns the copyright to the photos as per their contract, the photographer is not entitled to a dime of that revenue.

"But it's just a few prints..." you say. Who cares, what does that matter? Well, aside from it being work you created and are entitled to income from (that is until you sold your copyright for a c-note or two), it's just plain wrong, and, it's not limited to prints.

Enter Niche Media. Niche Media publishes a number of magazines: Capitol File, Gotham, and Los Angeles Confidential, among many others. Clicking on those links doesn't take you to the magazine's website, they take you to search results where images from their assignments are being sold/relicensed by Wire Image, again, without the photographer getting paid for those resales. How many sales do you think it will take before the assignment becomes a profit center? One? Two?

NIche Media in their press releases often writes:
"About Niche Media Holdings: Niche Media, a subsidiary of Greenspun Media Group, was founded in 1992 and is the country’s preeminent regional magazine company with the largest network of city-specific luxury publications in the United States. Niche Media consistently delivers the finest editorial content and advertising to a controlled group of influencers with the highest disposable incomes in each city. Niche Media reaches readers who maintain annual household incomes of at least $200,000 and have liquid assets in excess of $1 million, making the pages of these glossies some of the most valuable real estate in Publishing."
Valuable, of course, except to the photographers who don't earn anything from the resale/relicensing of their works. You're a creator of some of "the finest editorial content" yet you don't participate in the fruits of that labor?

When people take your copyright, or require you to transfer all rights in your images to them, they're almost always doing it because those images have value. Just because you can't imagine what the resale/relicensing value is to an image doesn't mean that it doesn't have any.

Think twice before selling yourself short.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Roddy Hamish said...

and how do you know they are not getting anything? maybe they do get a % of the sale..Or where paid a hefty buy out rate? Never Assume, it makes an ASS of U and ME ( ASS U ME) Get it ?

photographer italy said...

often the pay you for the service and market the prints and future sellings by themselves..
marketing your own prints can be tricky (I use photoshelter and that makes it easy) but is really something you should do..
just if the let you do it by contract, anyway.
Usually even for rights managed contract you do with agencies, you can still sell your prints, but not files.

virginia photographer said...

Robby - We know this is the case because we live, work and deal with this sort of growing trend every day in WDC.
Washington Life and other magazines essentially prey on photographers who either have nothing better to do or have spent so little time via relationships or word of mouth to learn the business.
Washington Spaces a glossy architectural magazine demands WFH form assigned photographers which would be fine if it was dealt routinely buy photographers as a "buy-out" and fully compensated - but they aren't.
Recently "Spaces" wanted to pick up a photo for a story about a client of mine. I would gladly to have comp'ed the photo for the benefit of my long time client, but not only did they want the image for free but they wanted a transfer of all rights! What!!!
This would have enabled them to reuse the photo at will in any of their sister publications but profit in anyway they saw fit.
That is completely unacceptable not only to me but should be to the client and her reputation as all control is lost.
Washington Life is only paying $75 for a photographer so recouping any and all costs off the backs of photographers is genius.

OnTap magazine (local bar mag) also just recently demanded not just the image it ran as it's own copyright but the whole take for the princely sum of $250. (The work OnTap is getting for it's covers is far too good for photographers to be encouraging these terms.-

The trend is growing - fight back or things will only get worse.

Roddy Hamish said...

It would be impossible for a magazine like this to survive without the help of photographers. apparently, it does. so the problem is not the magazine, but the photographers who contribute. The question is : what are you going to do about it ? Give some more money to the ASMP ? or just write more blog comments and hope someone sees the light?
There is no other profession in the world that get so much screwed by everyone and doesn't do anything about it.
I say Bravo !!!

John Harrington said...

Roddy --

I can tell you that they are not getting anything, and there is NO buyout at all - you get paid (last I checked) $150 for all night, plus all captioning of every photo and all post production, and you turn over your copyright.

You are assuming that I did not do my research (or any research) and just went off half-cocked.

This isn't a post encouraging people to sell their own prints - this is a post which illustrates just one aspect of the revenue that the client gets when they own your copyright, and I know for a fact that when there has been atleast one political scandal in the past, and they owned a portrait that a photographer had shot for them, they re-licensed that image for a considerable sum of money. I am all but certain that they are generating re-licensing revenue from other images as well.

Further, when you say "It would be impossible for a magazine like this to survive without the help of photographers", then IF that is the case, they should not survive. This is not a magazine that is doing altruistic good deeds, it is covering the social life and high-society people and politicians in Washington. Their advertisers include the most expensive businesses in Washington - Chanel, Hermes, Millers Furs, Neiman Marcus, Saks, BMW, Lexus, 1789, Blugari, Carier, Rolex, Tiffany, and the list goes on and on and on. Their circulation is 60k a month 10x a year with an audited readership of 200,000. Their media kit cites "Washington Life maintains the largest-controlled circulation and subscription-
based delivery to private homes in the greater metropolitan area. 40,000 are hand delivered to homes valued over $2 million in the most affluent residential communities throughout Washington D.C., Northern Virginia, and Maryland. Per census, two of four wealthiest communities in the country are in the Washington area.
There is no shortage of money coming into this magazine, so why should the photographers subsidize its' existence?

I agree that the problem is with the photographers - but it's with them not realizing the value of what they are giving away for a pittance. For the photographers who don't realize that, what I am doing is trying to enlighten them to their value by the things I do - and that begins with bringing it to light on this blog. Yes, I hope that someone does see the light. Then there are those that just don't care, and encouraging them to actually care is much harder, and in some cases, a lost cause.

Celebrating the fact that photographers are getting screwed by saying to that situation "I say bravo" is very bad karma. What goes around comes around, so celebrating someone elses' demise means others will celebrate (and thus not help) when you face your own challenges.

You can choose to be a part of the problem, or a part of (or facilitator of) the solution. Right now, I see what side of the equation you are standing on.

-- John

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am speechless. Heaven help this industry. I for one just lost all hope.

Anonymous said...

Correction, I will say this. There has been plenty of celebrating on the one hand as experienced and respected photographers ganged up on folks that weren't part of the click or blazed their own trail.

Now that the tides have turned against the professional, why would you not expect the same treatment in return? I mean, after all, you guys perfected it.

It's dispicable behavior no matter who induldges in it.

You guys have no idea what your losing as you chase people away. It's very sad and I feel bad for all of you. Truely. Be well John.

Lenn Long said...

Niche Media recently said " You're Fired " to Donald Trump and his nameplate publication "Trump" magazine. Many of Niche's "Ocean Drive" publications are said to be on the chopping block as well. Perhaps the quality of imagery (or lack of) within the pages of their high-end magazines has something to do with that.

I heard a great statement on ESPN Radio today in regards to how to increase your value. They were talking about LeBron and his upcoming negotiations with Cleveland, but it applies to any business.

The advice: Don't always say YES. And even if you're gonna say it, don't always say it quickly. In any business and/or negotiation, the power to say NO and to walk away is the most valuable piece of leverage you have. And as a professional photographer you would be amazed at how saying "NO" on occasion can increase your value and profile in the market.

Javier Freytes said...

Funny, cuz where I live, there are many photographers covering social events for newspapers, magazines and websites for only $75.00 for assignment. And then those companies resale the pics for not less than $150.00. Sadly, they don't understand the problem here.

The Pumpkin Man said...

It is simple. There are 2 types of photographers, Professionals, and non professionals.

If you are a profesional you are fine.
If you are not a professional you are one of two things.

1. You are either trying to become a professional or you are not.

if you are trying to become a professional, you are taking the 75 dollar crapjobs to build your portfolio and you are screwing your profession.

if you are not trying to become a professional you are a hobbiest, and are treated like crap by the professionals.


Fotografo matrimonio cuneo said...

It seems more difficult being payed for taking pictures and the sad thing is that a lot of photographer sell the images without keeping any rights.

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