I had no idea that pictures of astronaut underpants were in such demand.
This week, I’ve had three websites pick up on my blog post and story about Koichi Wakata’s experiments on the International Space Station. One was a large Finish website who linked to my blog and sent several thousand visitors.
Welcome Finns, I have always wanted to visit your country!
The other two sites have set me pondering the economics of the Internet. I received two emails asking to use my photos for free. I turned one down from a Czech website without thinking too much.
Here’s the second in full. It came from a VERY well known commercial IT blog, and it had the provocative subject line, “photo licensing”.
I’m writing a blog entry for [website name removed] about the japanese space undies. I was wondering if we could use your photo of the young lady holding them up? We can’t offer money, but attribution and a link back from a major blog we can do.
Let me know if it’s ok!
So what to do? Is this email an insult? I’m sure the person sending me the email wouldn’t do his job for free. A less interesting photo I took minutes before re-sold for 100 dollars. But it was basically a reporting assignment and I just grabbed a few pictures for this blog.
Do I send an outraged email saying “if you were a major website, you would pay”? Do I ask for money? Do I send the photos?
The thing about photographs, as everyone who looks at them as a businessperson rather than a photographers knows, is that they have no fixed value. They could be worth 50 cents or 5000 dollars. It all depends who is selling them, who is buying them, and for what.
If you are just starting maybe you’ll be delighted to see your photos anywhere. If you are Annie Lebovitz, your photos probably won’t get out of bed for less than a wodge of $$$。. That was always the case, and is especially so today when the cost of distributing data is virtually zero.
So what is the commerical value of one of my (perhaps, any photographer who isn’t a household name’s) photos used at 250 pixels longest side on the Internet? It depends on the website of course, but I’m guessing very little.
In the recession, even newspapers are turning to cheap subscription services and refusing to buy from individual photographers. Private blogs just copy and paste photos, and larger sites – apparently – try to convince photographers to provide their work for links.
I heard a story recently about a photographer who phoned his agency, irate, to find out why one of his photos had sold for a measly 60 cents. He was told that it had gone to a blog. And it wasn’t 60 cents — his cut was 30 cents.
But back to the question, is it worth my while providing the photos, or should I ignore the email? Am I damaging the profession by providing my work “for free”. I made the following calculation:
I would never let my photos be printed for free, I never write for less than a certain per word rate, and up to now I’ve always said no, but . . .
The photo’s value on a website, say bought from a stock site, is probably a matter of cents. If there is significant potential to raise my profile or sell photos through my archive, why not? It was a pretty big site. I sent them the data in the hope of getting a surge of traffic to this blog.
And what happened?
Nothing at all. I am still waiting for the photos to be used . . . . . .