Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm Still Not Giving It Away

The Torch Bearers, Anna Hyatt Huntington, 2003

I’m still not giving it away. And I don’t feel one bit bad about it.

Months ago I wrote about a request from a magazine for use of one of my photographs. The young photo editor was very earnest and polite about it, but nevertheless determined to save her for-profit magazine a few bucks by having me donate the photograph. I allowed as how this wasn’t possible, especially since the photograph she was interested in had been sold twice for commercial purposes. She understood my position and we parted as friends.

Well, it’s happened again, and this time without the politeness.

I got an e-mail from someone the other day asking—and there really was nothing more to the note than this—whether I have a high-resolution file of a photograph the writer had seen on my web site. (It's the above photo.)

I don’t mind sharing pictures with non-profits, and in this case would have been happy to support the rather famous regional art league of which the man writing to me was representing himself as president.

But I do expect people to at least offer the courtesy of asking whether they can use the image. If the man had asked if he could have a high resolution copy of the photo file, he’d have had it in minutes.

But he didn’t, nor did he say why he was interested in the photo. So I wrote a polite note back asking for him to describe the intended use.

He wrote back to say that it would be used in an annual art show booklet. It seems the artist whose work was the focal point of my photograph had once been a member of the guy’s art league.

But he still didn’t ask if he could use the photo. Apparently he was of the impression that mentioning the name of his prestigious art league and merely asking if I had a high-res file was enough for me to know exactly what he wanted and that this was Hudson Valley—oops, did I saw that out loud?—code for “May I please borrow your photo?”

So I wrote back again, advising him that he wasn’t making this any easier, and suggested that I’d be more than agreeable to lend the photo for a single non-commercial use if he’d just ask if he could use it. I also required that there be a credit line mentioning the name of the museum where the work is located and me as the photographer. Oh, and that he send me two copies of the booklet, one for the museum and one for me.

That was the last I heard from him.


  1. It is quite incredible, isn't it? I've gotten some weird requests as well, always with the initial attitude that photos have no commercial value. This is a really lovely image.

  2. Wow! What is it about people that they think that's ok?! It'd be curious to see what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot.

  3. Its happened to me 2 or 3 times too. Most recently once for a CD cover and once for a business report. In both cases, my fee for use would have been minimal in the context of total costs but once I mentioned money, they vanished into the ether.