Okay, folks. If I’m making this public, you know it’s something that infuriated me.
More than once, at a show, I’m asked to send my pictures to someone. I don’t mind that. What I take a severe umbrage with is the fact that these people expect my pictures with absolutely nothing in return.
I. Don’t. Think so.
Listen up, people, and listen well. You do not, under any circumstances, ask someone who is in the creative world to work for free, for any reason. Your entitlement does not justify someone working for free. You’re simply not that special for someone to forgo paying their bills to work for you at no charge. That’s not the way it works in the world.
I have seen a rash of ads for musicians where they could “play for exposure” – and that’s a damned travesty. Because what all of those restaurant and club owners fail to wrap their brains around is that their sudden influx of revenue comes from the people who follow the artist. Once the artist leaves, so do the crowds, and they’re back at square one. And why should an artist play for free when he’s shelling out money for merchandise to sell at the gig, gas, backup band, sound guy? What makes that club or that club owner so absolutely overweeningly special that the musician would take a loss – because this is his JOB – in order to play at that establishment? Why should he do that, when at a place a couple of miles away, he’d get all of that paid for?
The same is with photography. I’m very much _done_ with the idea that someone has to shoot “for exposure” or shoot for free, period. Folks, let me break this down for you: over the seven years that I’ve been in the jazz scene, of which I’ve designed for one year and been shooting for three on top of that, I know most of the artists already. If I don’t know them directly, I know them through someone. So please don’t give me the old song-and-dance about “shooting for exposure”. People die from exposure. And the only time I want to concern myself with exposure is when I’m in the Shop and I’m correcting my shots.
And considering that I’m 1. 28 years old 2. in a scene that’s mostly filled with people twice my age, 3. look reasonably cute in a black dress, I’ve had to fight to be taken seriously first. It’s a continuous ongoing battle, to boot. I have no illusions about that being part and parcel of the deal if I’m going to work in the music industry. That’s how it is. I get it. But at this point, my photos and my ability speak for themselves, and I am more than justified in getting paid for my labors. For all the love I have for this genre and the people in it, love doesn’t pay the electric bill, and my photography is not a hobby. It’s a _business_ and it’s a business that I fully intend to cut a profit from. And though I can get creative with my tax returns, I am done taking a business loss just because someone thinks that they shouldn’t have to pay the cute girl with the camera for the usage rights.
Let me break this down for you. This is what an average gig day looks like:
- Admission: $30
- Transit (if it’s an out of town gig)- $25 (on average, depends on location)
- Hotel, if it’s far enough: $125
- Meal: $30
Total spent for me to shoot one out-of-town gig: $210.
I’m taking a $210 loss de facto with an out of town gig, and again: why the hell are you thinking you’re entitled to my photos for free?
This is exactly why I copyright my images. That logo that you see on the bottom isn’t there by accident.
Remember this, people: I own the master rights to every single photo I take, no matter how old it may be, no matter where it’s posted, and no matter who views it. I own these shots. If you want to use them, you require a licensing agreement and a fee for the rights of use. This is how it works. This is how it has always worked. My fault lies in not enforcing this as egregiously as I ought to. I don’t stiff on rights, but don’t think or believe for a second that you’ll ever get an image out of me for free. You want to do a marketing campaign with my shots? Great! You want to put them on the artist’s website? Fabulous! You want to submit them to a magazine! Awesome! – AS LONG AS YOU SIGN THE AGREEMENT. And pay the bill. I can negotiate on the price, but there’s no way it will be zero. I shell out enough money in order to build my brand and expand my product. It’s more than high time for me to get a return on my investment.
After all, I don’t come into your place of business and expect a free cleaning or free medical services, right? So what makes you think you can treat the photographers and the musicians that way?
And while yes, I will freely admit that I’ll do someone a favor and do a freebie then, believe you me: it is not the majority. There are only two, maybe three people in the world who will get free services out of me. And if you’re amazed that I refuse to work for free, then chances are you ain’t one of them.