I must get at least one email a week asking for free use of my images and as a rule don’t give my images away free for a few reasons but mostly as wildlife photography is my full time profession so its just not economical to give images for free. I should say this is only my opinion and not looking for a keyboard bashing session with people. Now that’s not to say I don’t do any for free for example one thing I do is give images for free to non profit presentations like university lectures and wildlife seminars as there’s little risk of the images being stolen unlike if they were online and its helping educate a large group of people.
I know a lot of wildlife photographers give away free images to charities such as the wildlife trust which is fine if your financially stable to do this but its something I simply can’t afford to do. To be fair most of the trusts I’ve worked with have been fantastic and normally go on the basis if they have a budget they will pay and if not they can’t so I normally take each request on board. I offer discounts to charities but that’s as far as I can go normally.
Its quite surprising also that quite big companies will ask for free images for example a well known 4x4 car company asked to use several of my images and for me to write a blog. Normally I wouldn’t expect to get paid for a blog but as its such a big company assumed they had a budget, I assumed wrong. Often these companies are just being cheeky and don’t expect you to say no and some will just leave it at that but on a few occasions I’ve then had them ask how much my work and pay so I’ve gained money rather then loosing it.
Here’s an email I received recently
While I’m sure her intentions are good giving 10% of profits to charity that presumably means 90% to her which leaves me wondering why she can’t afford my images? I don’t charge outrageous rates and often do bulk deals, the slightly insulting thing is asking for me ‘not so good images’ as if they hold no value. They represent my work so why would I want my crap images being published in a nationwide book! Not great advertising for me!
When people come at you for freebies they often mention charities, children, plenty of flattery and the dreaded ‘we have no budget’. Another favourite is ‘it will get your name out’ or ‘it will be great exposure for you’ making it sound like they are doing you a favour. Remember that exposure doesn’t pay the bills and once an organisation gets images from you for free they are unlikely to pay if they can get away with it. This isn't always a case of them being tight or not wanting to pay it may be they just don't have the funds.
© The Oatmeal
So when is ok to give images away for free? Well there’s no right or wrong answer its really up to the individual photographer, you may feel particularly passionate about a cause or charity and feel your work is helping them in which case that’s your decision. When I first started out just finishing university I did do the odd freebie but honestly can say they didn’t overly help me get where I am now.
It boils down to how much you value your work, can you afford to give images away for free, is giving it away for free really going to help you in any financial sense and is the exposure really worth it for nothing?
For more topics in the wildlife photography industry stay tuned!