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08/09/2009 06:36:26 AM · #1
The End of the Pro Photographer? Or perhaps a New Business Model?

Someone on another photography forum , stated that a photographer sold their image for a cover of TIME Magazine for $30. It was sold through a stock photography agency called iStockPhoto. That is sadly unfortunate. It also represents the present state of affairs for many photographers attempting to make a living by their craft.

It is for this reason, that I am glad that I am a fashion photographer. It is impossible to sell stock of fashion shoots after more than three months as the next collections are already being prepared to be shot for the next season of fashion magazines.

Every editor knows which designers have come out with which collection and images must always be current. There are instances where fashion photography is sold as stock. If there is a fashion retrospective or a special article on a specific designer. Several of my older images from a magazine in France called Madame Figaro were used in a book about the Italian Designer Emanuel Ungaro, but that was a book and not a magazine.

Like in the music business, photographers outside of fashion are getting royally screwed in terms of fee's. However, they are still in a good position to negotiate royalties. Most image bank agencies take between 40-60 percent and that IS the norm. In my venue the standard across the board fee taken by a photographer agents is 25%.

It is up to you to not sell your images at bargain based prices. It is up to you to set the precedent. Once the barometer goes too low, you will have to find a more creative means of generating an income from your images.

Unfortunately, there is a line of photographers prepared to take your place for that $30, if you decide to say no to the proposition. A new business model must eventually surface for photographer's to be able to survive. Perhaps the new pro-photographers of the future will be all of you.

//www.benjaminkanarekblog.com/?p=1181

Message edited by author 2009-08-09 07:17:19.
08/09/2009 07:11:15 AM · #2
Point well taken from the standpoint of business acumen.

Sometimes though, it ain't about the money.......8>)

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08/09/2009 11:06:19 AM · #3
I will be the first to admit that if Time magazine came to me, and asked for one of my photos to be on the cover of their mag, I would jump at the opportunity, regardless of fees.

But then... I am not a pro photographer, and I do not rely on photography to pay the bills.
08/09/2009 11:50:36 AM · #4
VitaminB- Yes, that would be probably the most common reaction from most, but even if your not a pro, put some value into your photos! Besides, you may not rely on it to pay the bills, but when you give it away free, your taking potential business away from people who do rely on it. At least get some green outta the deal.

Anyway, back to the subject- this happened several weeks ago. If I recall correctly, the ironic part is that the cover was about being a penny pincher. I guess they demonstrated that correctly. The worst part (someone correct me if I am wrong) is that I heard that they actually broke the usage agreement on it, as they ran too many copies as per allowed by the license agreement.

I dont know if iStockPhoto, or the photographer are persuing Time for that. However, they should if it is true.

Anyway, good post. It will be interesting to hear what others think.
08/09/2009 12:37:48 PM · #5
Let me be the devil's advocate here for a moment. Don't we all do exactly the same thing when we shop around for the best deal on a piece of equipment or a service? Do you automatically take all your business to the local camera shop, or do you check around a bit on Amazon, B&H, EBay, etc? I thought so. This is capitalism in action, folks. May not make you happy when it happens to you, but we all do it.
08/09/2009 12:48:00 PM · #6
Yo_Spiff, your right, it is capitalism. Your example of "just going to the local camera shop vs. B&H, etc", may not be the best example with me, as I do pretty much exclusively shop the local store. I have developed a good business relationship with them and they treat me better than anyone else would, by a LONG shot. But, I guess I am happy to pay for that in the end.

Anyway, yes, capitalism. I don't blame Time Magazine for this (except if they really did break the license agreement). And I know that this is how the market works, but it bugs me to see people put so little value into the work that they have. Equipment is expensive, time is invalueable. This is a pricey business to be in. Why sell your work for pennies?

I am sure that I will be bombarded by people here in microstock. Know that I am not attacking you. I am telling you that you are to good for it.
08/09/2009 12:54:35 PM · #7
Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

VitaminB- Yes, that would be probably the most common reaction from most, but even if your not a pro, put some value into your photos! Besides, you may not rely on it to pay the bills, but when you give it away free, your taking potential business away from people who do rely on it. At least get some green outta the deal.

Anyway, back to the subject- this happened several weeks ago. If I recall correctly, the ironic part is that the cover was about being a penny pincher. I guess they demonstrated that correctly. The worst part (someone correct me if I am wrong) is that I heard that they actually broke the usage agreement on it, as they ran too many copies as per allowed by the license agreement.

I dont know if iStockPhoto, or the photographer are persuing Time for that. However, they should if it is true.

Anyway, good post. It will be interesting to hear what others think.


I'm a proponent of Creative Commons myself. This means that I have no problem making money with my work if someone offers it to me, but I have no problem with people using my work for whatever means they wish, for free, as long as I get credit for each use.

This idea that 'you're taking potential business away from people that do rely on it.' is just utter ridiculousness.
08/09/2009 12:57:15 PM · #8
I suppose the only way of fixing that problem (only a problem from the seller's POV) of good work being sold at discount prices would be for the photographers to all decide they are no longer doing it that way and demanding fair price for the work. Of course that isn't going to happen, but if for argument's sake, it did, that would then count as illegal price fixing.
08/09/2009 01:04:06 PM · #9
Or minimum wage. Isn't there a photog's union?
08/09/2009 01:38:49 PM · #10
Originally posted by K10DGuy:

Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

VitaminB- Yes, that would be probably the most common reaction from most, but even if your not a pro, put some value into your photos! Besides, you may not rely on it to pay the bills, but when you give it away free, your taking potential business away from people who do rely on it. At least get some green outta the deal.

Anyway, back to the subject- this happened several weeks ago. If I recall correctly, the ironic part is that the cover was about being a penny pincher. I guess they demonstrated that correctly. The worst part (someone correct me if I am wrong) is that I heard that they actually broke the usage agreement on it, as they ran too many copies as per allowed by the license agreement.

I dont know if iStockPhoto, or the photographer are persuing Time for that. However, they should if it is true.

Anyway, good post. It will be interesting to hear what others think.


I'm a proponent of Creative Commons myself. This means that I have no problem making money with my work if someone offers it to me, but I have no problem with people using my work for whatever means they wish, for free, as long as I get credit for each use.

I refuse to submit my work under Creative Commons for just this reason. I DO have a problem with people using my work for whatever they wish - there are any number of people or projects that I do not want my work - and thus myself - to be associated with. Being associated with certain people/projects can easily drive away real clients, or trash your reputation.

As for the original point of this thread, I think we have to remember that all work is not created equal. There are some photos I shoot where I'm happy to collect my $.25 per usage from a micro-stock site. They're photos that didn't require expense or huge amounts of work to capture. Sometimes they were just for fun, sometimes they were practice - either way, they'd be collecting dust on a CD in my closet otherwise.

Then there's "real" work, which required a lot of effort & passion to create. These are the pieces we should still be demanding big bucks for - assuming that a client can be found. If the client doesn't want to pay what the work is worth, let them find someone else.
08/09/2009 01:43:44 PM · #11
Originally posted by OdysseyF22:

Originally posted by K10DGuy:

Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

VitaminB- Yes, that would be probably the most common reaction from most, but even if your not a pro, put some value into your photos! Besides, you may not rely on it to pay the bills, but when you give it away free, your taking potential business away from people who do rely on it. At least get some green outta the deal.

Anyway, back to the subject- this happened several weeks ago. If I recall correctly, the ironic part is that the cover was about being a penny pincher. I guess they demonstrated that correctly. The worst part (someone correct me if I am wrong) is that I heard that they actually broke the usage agreement on it, as they ran too many copies as per allowed by the license agreement.

I dont know if iStockPhoto, or the photographer are persuing Time for that. However, they should if it is true.

Anyway, good post. It will be interesting to hear what others think.


I'm a proponent of Creative Commons myself. This means that I have no problem making money with my work if someone offers it to me, but I have no problem with people using my work for whatever means they wish, for free, as long as I get credit for each use.

I refuse to submit my work under Creative Commons for just this reason. I DO have a problem with people using my work for whatever they wish - there are any number of people or projects that I do not want my work - and thus myself - to be associated with. Being associated with certain people/projects can easily drive away real clients, or trash your reputation.

As for the original point of this thread, I think we have to remember that all work is not created equal. There are some photos I shoot where I'm happy to collect my $.25 per usage from a micro-stock site. They're photos that didn't require expense or huge amounts of work to capture. Sometimes they were just for fun, sometimes they were practice - either way, they'd be collecting dust on a CD in my closet otherwise.

Then there's "real" work, which required a lot of effort & passion to create. These are the pieces we should still be demanding big bucks for - assuming that a client can be found. If the client doesn't want to pay what the work is worth, let them find someone else.


Um, you still have the right, under Creative Commons, to deny the use of your work with things you don't wish to be associated with.

Also, I'm not a person that believes effort & passion = big bucks. I'm creating because I love to create, not because I think it's going to make me rich. I make my living doing other things. As far as the client not wanting to pay what the work is 'worth' (which is entirely subjective to begin with), then I'm that person they come to when everyone else is being a small time extortionist :P heh.
08/09/2009 02:16:43 PM · #12
With my marketing background, I would ask how many photographers have had their work on the cover of Time? To be able to hold up a Time magazine and say "that's an example of my work" is worth a whole lot more than whatever "pro price" it should be going for. If a business calls and says "hey, come in for a shoot and I'll pay you minimum wage", then by all means be insulted and refuse the work. I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of professional photographers would jump at the chance for such exposure - even if they had to give the work away. But that is the humble opinion of someone who doesn't make a living from photography.
08/09/2009 03:32:54 PM · #13
Originally posted by Sioux:

With my marketing background, I would ask how many photographers have had their work on the cover of Time? To be able to hold up a Time magazine and say "that's an example of my work" is worth a whole lot more than whatever "pro price" it should be going for. If a business calls and says "hey, come in for a shoot and I'll pay you minimum wage", then by all means be insulted and refuse the work. I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of professional photographers would jump at the chance for such exposure - even if they had to give the work away. But that is the humble opinion of someone who doesn't make a living from photography.


From my experience, an incredible number of photographers are egotistical, sense of entitlement, don't step on my toes, I'm better than anyone else bastards.

Of course, that's being generalistic, and there are really nice ones too, but that's my experience :D
08/09/2009 03:33:16 PM · #14
Originally posted by Yo_Spiff:

Let me be the devil's advocate here for a moment. Don't we all do exactly the same thing when we shop around for the best deal on a piece of equipment or a service? Do you automatically take all your business to the local camera shop, or do you check around a bit on Amazon, B&H, EBay, etc? I thought so. This is capitalism in action, folks. May not make you happy when it happens to you, but we all do it.


This destroyed many a local camera store. But it's not like the net stores are selling D3's at 25 bucks a pop.
Doesn't affect me as I'm a professional bum. But it's gonna separate the wheat from the chaff in pro photography in fairly short order.

As far as the devil's advocate.......

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08/09/2009 03:41:25 PM · #15
Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

VitaminB- Yes, that would be probably the most common reaction from most, but even if your not a pro, put some value into your photos! Besides, you may not rely on it to pay the bills, but when you give it away free, your taking potential business away from people who do rely on it. At least get some green outta the deal.

That is the worst rationale for the justification of being annoyed at people who don't meet yourt expectations.

What does money have to do with the value you place on an image?

I took a shot at a friend's wedding that was of her and her father right before he walked her down the aisle to give her away. I was the only one there besides them, and that's a shot they'll both cherish forever.

Yeah, I got paid what I wanted to be there, but by your logic, that one image in and of itself should have eclipsed what I got for ALL the others, right?

And that whole line about taking potential business doesn't fly, either. I have done work for people that had I not done it, they would NOT have gone elsewhere. No potential there.

I get pretty tired of hearing one photog telling another what to do, or not do, because they don't agree with the intent. If you don't get the job on your own merits, too bad, if you lose a job to a hack that butchers it, it is what it is. But I surely get tired of hearing people get kicked in the teeth because someone else says they whored themselves out.

Some of the most gratifying images that I've done for people have sometimes been for no cash outlay whatsoever.......but the richness of spirit and soul that were returned are irreplaceable.

There are some of us out here who have no wish, have no interest in making the investment of time and mony, or simply don't have what it takes to be a full time professional photographer.

That doesn't mean that we won't capture a one of a kind, lifetime memorable, perfect image for someone here and there. And the value that's placed on it need not be monetary.
08/09/2009 03:50:48 PM · #16
Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

Your example of "just going to the local camera shop vs. B&H, etc", may not be the best example with me, as I do pretty much exclusively shop the local store. I have developed a good business relationship with them and they treat me better than anyone else would, by a LONG shot. But, I guess I am happy to pay for that in the end.

I know this is the exception rather than the rule, but the two local shops here are staffed by the most snotty and arrogant people I've ever run into. Having always been a proponent of spending my money with a little guy to keep my money in the area, but once again, my idealism bit me on the ass with some parts I needed, and when the first sign of a problem came up, they basically acted like it was a nuisance and a bother to try and sort it out.

It's the place where I bought my 18-200, the same person even, but I won't trouble them with my business any more. If you want to keep your store open, you really shouldn't act like it's an inconvenience to help.

They made a pretty glaring error with me as well by indicating that they thought I was ignorant of the ways of how parts & accessories are ordered, the time frame involved in their acquisition, and the availability of same.

Since I have about four decades of doing exactly that, they ran me off for good by their incompetence and piss-poor attitude. I can get what I need at B&H or Adorama.
08/09/2009 04:32:47 PM · #17
Originally posted by Sioux:

With my marketing background, I would ask how many photographers have had their work on the cover of Time? To be able to hold up a Time magazine and say "that's an example of my work" is worth a whole lot more than whatever "pro price" it should be going for. If a business calls and says "hey, come in for a shoot and I'll pay you minimum wage", then by all means be insulted and refuse the work. I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of professional photographers would jump at the chance for such exposure - even if they had to give the work away. But that is the humble opinion of someone who doesn't make a living from photography.


It really depends. That exposure may help for certain things like selling more stock at similar prices or give you 15 minutes of fame, but if you're an aspiring photographer that wants to land commissioned work and actually get paid for it then it's probably not going to help you all that much. Now if the photo on the cover is exceptional and the rest of your portfolio as well then that's certainly going to get some additional looks but someone like an art director who sees exceptional portfolios all the time is going to be expecting that already. So it comes down to experience. How well you work with clients. Can you be trusted and deliver on the spot? Selling a stock photo doesn't communicate any of that. Personally, I'd much rather work for free for a lesser magazine just to get the experience then to receive immediate exposure from a big magazine that tells the entire world that I'm willing to work for peanuts. It screams of desperation. That said, every situation is different but you have to consider your goals and where you want to be before you jump at something like that. Just my opinion of course.
08/09/2009 04:49:24 PM · #18
NikonJeb, I have to thank you for giving me a good example of how my origional post wasnt clear enough. I have shot for little to free for some people. I volunteered for a year for the NILMDTS organization, I do give prints that I sell for 300-400 dollars to charity, I have shot a free or dirt cheap wedding or two because I know of somebodys circumstances. I am 25 and have more debt than I know what to do with, and still give away as much as possible. HOWEVER, $30 for a sale for a cover to TIME WARNER? A 5.3 billion dollar company? A company that profited $519 MILLION dollars last year? HOW MUCH DID THEY MAKE OFF THAT COVER? Furthermore, its also a concern that NOBODY has addressed the fact that THEY BROKE THE LICENCE AGREEMENT OF THE DOWNLOAD.

I am more than all for charity and helping the little guy. And I am not saying that you need to nail someone with a huge bill because they are rich, but this is CRAZY.

You all talk about my arguement being insanely based. Sit back and think about it a bit though. What happens when somebody finds a way to give away the service you have a job in. Your hours start to fall, then your company dives. You are not going to be thrilled about it either. Its convenient for you to make the arguement against me- until it starts affecting your wallet as well.
08/09/2009 05:37:36 PM · #19
Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

NikonJeb, I have to thank you for giving me a good example of how my origional post wasnt clear enough. I have shot for little to free for some people. I volunteered for a year for the NILMDTS organization, I do give prints that I sell for 300-400 dollars to charity, I have shot a free or dirt cheap wedding or two because I know of somebodys circumstances. I am 25 and have more debt than I know what to do with, and still give away as much as possible.

Okay.....that was kind of my point to the OP.....it's definitely not always about the money.

Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

HOWEVER, $30 for a sale for a cover to TIME WARNER? A 5.3 billion dollar company? A company that profited $519 MILLION dollars last year? HOW MUCH DID THEY MAKE OFF THAT COVER? Furthermore, its also a concern that NOBODY has addressed the fact that THEY BROKE THE LICENCE AGREEMENT OF THE DOWNLOAD.

Someone else did mention the noteworthiness of the application. I love that I am finally starting to sell some pieces in my area, and I'll take all the money I can get.

BUT......if this one image in particular that I've been selling at $500 a pop was suddenly noticed and Time wanted to put it on their cover? In a HEARTBEAT......and then I'd run out and buy 100 copies of it. That would DEFINITELY be my 15 minutes! LOL!!!

As far as the licensing thing.....I don't know what the deal is, but I think it's probably not the cover that necessarily sells the mag......Time has a reputation of being a good news source and people buy it as such. Something tells me the whole story of that licensing agreement isn't known to us.......Time-Warner has too much money and is by and large too careful to make blatant errors.

Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

I am more than all for charity and helping the little guy. And I am not saying that you need to nail someone with a huge bill because they are rich, but this is CRAZY.

I dunno......like I said, Time wants two images of mine a year for the next five years at $30 a pop, I'm there!

How could you possibly get any better exposure?

Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

You all talk about my arguement being insanely based.

That wasn't me.....I merely posit that one man's views on the business aspect of a field where there are a lot of amateurs involved isn't going to govern all others.

Originally posted by amathiasphoto:

Sit back and think about it a bit though. What happens when somebody finds a way to give away the service you have a job in. Your hours start to fall, then your company dives. You are not going to be thrilled about it either. Its convenient for you to make the arguement against me- until it starts affecting your wallet as well.

You kind of have the wrong fellow here to use that analogy.....I *LOVED* it when people would try and fix their own MG, Triumph, Jag, or Healey, because when they brought me something like a transmission, or the whole car on a rollback because they couldn't fix it themselves, half of my job explaining why it was expensive to have me work on their car was already done.With my British car shop, I was in a niche market where the demand for my skillset far exceeded the supply.

The problem is that the ratio is skewed. There are a bazillion photogs out there, and there are plenty of really good low level pros, and serious amateurs who are quite capable of doing a good job as a photographer. If you don't know that, and accept it, you have no business going into the field as a professional because like it or not, no matter how much it pisses you off, some people are going to be perfectly happy with cousin Bob shooting their wedding with his Kodak Easy-Share which in the hands of a competent person, with a good eye, and some experience who knows composition & lighting basics, will actually get some decent shots.Those people you're never going to sell a $3500 wedding package to in the first place, so that's a no-brainer.

So if you decide you want to be a professional photog, you have many more issues to worry about than Cousin Bob.....you need equipment, a business plan, possibly a studio, and you better have one heck of a nest egg or a partner that can support you until you can get your business going to where people call you for jobs rather than having to go out and hunt them down.

Oh.....and you better be damn good, or you won't make it.......8>)


08/09/2009 05:40:21 PM · #20
Thought people might like these links:

Model Mayhem Post by the photographer, who was quite happy about the $30

An online article about the cover and the photographer

Article about Time violating iStock licensing agreement
08/09/2009 05:47:57 PM · #21
Originally posted by amathiasphoto:


What happens when somebody finds a way to give away the service you have a job in. Your hours start to fall, then your company dives. You are not going to be thrilled about it either. Its convenient for you to make the arguement against me- until it starts affecting your wallet as well.


I dont feel sorry for typewriter manufactures, VHS salesmen, Kodak's and Fuji's film sales, or anything else that is obsolete.

Now, I am not saying the photograhers are obsolete... not at all. But just because one person is willing to practically give away a photo for free, doesnt mean he shouldn't just to protect someones business. I think there will alsways be a place for professional photographers. I dont think TIME will pay $30 for all of their remaining covers, because this was a piece on frugality, which they were demonstrating with their cover.

In the end, the photographer that shot the photo was happy. I would be too. I would buy $30 worth of TIME magazines with my photo on it to keep for the rest of my life to show everyone I know.
08/09/2009 07:45:51 PM · #22
Originally posted by VitaminB:

Thought people might like these links:

Model Mayhem Post by the photographer, who was quite happy about the $30


Harlan Ellison's Rant - link found from that thread. LOL

Message edited by author 2009-08-09 19:46:44.
08/09/2009 08:30:37 PM · #23
Has anybody commented on the irony that the photo in question is being used to illustrate a cover story on "the New Frugality"? I have to believe that was intentional on Time's part, that they deliberately went the frugal, microstock route to be consistent with the message of the story...

R.
08/09/2009 10:11:55 PM · #24
Originally posted by OdysseyF22:

These are the pieces we should still be demanding big bucks for - assuming that a client can be found.

You want me to leave this alone, right?..........8>)
08/09/2009 11:50:27 PM · #25
I have seen this same issue raised on various photography forums recently. There are always strong proponents on both sides.

I think that all this situation is clearly showing is that the industry is changing and will continue to change. Professional photographers are up in arms about this type of thing and about how the internet is changing their profession, but this is only going to continue. The industry isn't the same as it was 5 years ago and it never will be again. With the onset of digital photography, amateurs everywhere now have the tools to gain exposure and compete with professionals to sell their images.

I am not saying that the need for great professional photographers has gone away. I think it will always remain. But with this internet explosion there are many alternatives to high dollar shoots and I think you will see more and more advertisers and magazines gravitating to these resources in the coming years.
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