Monday, March 7, 2011

When I Do Give It Away

On the River, 2008

I've written before about instances when a commercial business—typically a magazine or a travel web site—has tried to get me to give them a photo to use without any compensation. In fact, I've become quite thick-skinned about this. If you're trying to make money out of your book or magazine or web site, you're going to pay to use a picture or else you're going to have to find a more gullible photographer.

But just so you won't think I'm a completely arrogant jerk, there are times I'm more than happy to share photographs. There are only a couple of criteria. For one, it has to be a nonprofit enterprise, preferably one for which I have some passion. But even the latter condition isn't a hard and fast rule so long as the user asks if he or she can use it. You wouldn't believe the number of people who contact me with instructions about where to send them a picture or file without ever asking if they can use it. Like this time.

During the last two weeks I've received requests from three people to use photographs of mine in books. One was a travel-related book. The author was so vague about the commercial aspects of the book that when I asked for details about his financial intentions he simply stopped calling back. (This one I’ll have to watch to make sure he doesn’t steal the picture.)

The other two callers are involved in environmental protection endeavors. One is a university professor who asked if she can use one of my photos in a book about coastal ecology or, as I’m taking from the tone of her description of the book, the rape of coastal ecology. The book will be published in 2012 by a university press. She 1) asked if she could use the photo and 2) made it clear that the financial goal of the book is merely to cover its production costs. It’s a well-known university, so I have confidence in what she’s saying. She gets the picture.

The second contact was from a local writer who is working on a book about the river that runs behind my house. I had previously told the director of the nonprofit organization that advocates for the restoration of water quality in this river that she is free to use anything of mine helps her cause. The organization could have gone ahead and used the photo they're interested in without asking. But they got special points for at least asking.

See? I'm not such a bad guy.


  1. Lucky them--that's a gorgeous photo!

  2. Way to go, Chris! Why do people seem to think something is free just because they see it online?
    I used to get the same thing when I was still working as a mechanic. People would see me working on my own car in the driveway, see the huge tool boxes I brought home from work to make the job easier to complete and expect to get free repair work just because they used to date my sister's ex-boyfriend's third cousin's next door neighbor.
    If I pointed out that I was a professional, had years of training and those big boxes and all those fancy tools had set me back over $30K so I expected to get paid and I wasn't cheap they'd get insulted!