Your Digital Photos Aren’t Worth ANYTHING

I had a weird experience the last couple days and it got weirder today.

I wrote a small company on a very small island and told them I liked one of their photos they use on their site. I also told them I was writing an article about the island and would mention their small business favorably and put a link in the article linking to their site AND another link on the photo with credit to them and a link back to their site if they would allow me to feature the photo in the article.

This was not for ThaiPulse incidentally, but no matter – could have been for any site.

The girl co-owner, a Brit, writes back that she couldn’t let the photo be used without charging for it.

I thought she didn’t understand so I wrote again to clarify everything. It’s in the best interests of her business to be mentioned – didn’t she “get it”?

She got it, at least she thought she did – but, in the next email back she wrote again – that the article is worth more with a photo and she’d need to charge for it.

Let me explain further. The shot has nice color. That’s about it. It is only about 400pixels by 250 and not high resolution by any means. Anyone or a monkey could have taken the photo – it’s just that the perspective seen is from high above the ground.

I have access to Getty images for free. I have credits at Dreamstime.com enough for hundreds of photos – basically free. Or, if you equate credit to dollars – I have the $3 it would take to get a photo of the island from the same or much better perspective.

I like to help small Thai businesses that I like, that I believe in. For free. I don’t make any extra money writing this article, I’m paid a salary at the place I was writing for. It’s not freelance… anyway…

Your digital photos (and mine) are not worth squat in today’s market. Everyone and their kids has a digital camera and are capable of turning out remarkable photos. Gone are the days when I worked in New York City as a photographer and spent hours prepping a scene or a model to take photos that were worth something more than $3 at Dreamstime. Those days are WAY gone.

Apparently someone is still telling the world they can make money with their digital photos. It’s a novice way to enter into online sales of some sort. Something everyone can do to have a business online. Everyone wants the easy money online.

There isn’t any easy money in digital photos. Not even if you put together 100 photos that make people fall down semi-comatose and suck wind for 10 minutes because they can’t wrap their minds around what they just saw.

I have 700+ photos online at stock photo agencies. I know how to shoot a photo. I have some good photos. I was a professional at one time. I make about a dollar a sale on my photos – high resolution shot with amazing care and precision.

A dollar.

The best photographers in the entire world are putting billions of photos online at stock agencies because that’s where the buyers are. Not NYC, not Chicago and L.A. They are online and they want a photo for about 3 dollars.

The best chance anyone has for making money on digital photography these days is to make all of your photos “Creative Commons” licensed (see flickr’s CC info) and put your credit in the form of a URL directly on your photos so that some people will come back to your site.

That’s about it. There’s too many calendars. There’s too many coffee mugs with photos. You’re aren’t anything special unless they’re naked people doing weird stuff. Even then, there is such a glut of por—-n online that those photos too are dropping down to the couple dollars a shot rate.

Digital video is another story. Creating something unique digitally is another story. Writing stories – is another story.

Digital image money making is dead.

If someone writes you to say they are writing an article about your town and they are mentioning your business in the article – favorably, and with a link back to your site from the article, and the writer would like to use one of YOUR photos in the article WITH a link back to your site. Count them – that’s 2 links.

You should: (multiple choice)

A.) Tell the writer your photos are not free and you will charge him for them.

B.) Understand that you are getting free advertising and offer the writer 25 more photos you have that you haven’t posted online yet.

C.) Tell the writer you have enough people coming to your small business, but thanks for the thought.

D.) Write back as fast as you can, “YES, USE MY PHOTOS, THANK YOU FOR THE LINK AND MENTION!” and quickly invite the writer to use your service gratis for a 2-day stay if he’ll write 2 more articles about your business over the next couple weeks.

E.) Go back to watching Thai soap operas and thinking about how to make your skin whiter.

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

6 thoughts on “Your Digital Photos Aren’t Worth ANYTHING”

  1. I wonder if you would have the courage to come and debate these points at the Foreign Correspondents Club? Or any other venue of your choice in Bangkok. You name it, myself and a lot of other professional photographers I know will be there.

    Regards,
    Fong

  2. The title of your piece should be “I won’t pay anything for your images” because you are making the mistake of assuming that the value of an image is what YOU are prepared to pay.

    A photographer has the right (called copyright) to choose whether to allow publication of his/her images and also to choose whether to charge and how much to charge. If you think it is acceptable to charge $3 for your images then that is your right. They might be worth and they might be worth less but that is irrelevant. I do not, and will not, allow my images to be published for $3.

    If you believe that your own images are worth that little, why do you expect anyone to believe that your opinion and recommendation of a business will persuade an audience to use their services? Your article and the premises in it are laughable, yet I am worried that you might persuade someone to part with genuinely good images for nothing and that won’t do.

    Allow me to comment on some of your arguments.

    “Anyone or a monkey could have taken the photo – it’s just that the perspective seen is from high above the ground.” If the first half of your statement is true then send anyone or a monkey to go and take it for nothing. However, the second part of your statement tells us the shot is taken from an unusual perspective – so it is not such a simple shot after all is it?

    “I have access to Getty images for free.” Is Getty aware of this? If you genuinely have access to the Getty library for free then use one of their images. Why hound someone who doesn’t want to give away an image that “anyone or a monkey could have taken” when you have free access to a high-quality picture library. In the modern vernacular, it is a no-brainer.

    “I don’t make any extra money writing this article, I’m paid a salary at the place I was writing for.” The point is that you get paid to write the article; yet you expect the owner of the photograph to get nothing.

    “Everyone wants the easy money online.” And you want photographs for nothing. Wanting and getting are two different things. Furthermore, taking photographs for a brief (as opposed to taking a snap because you happen to be there anyway) is not an easy option. It costs time, skill and expenses.

    “I make about a dollar a sale on my photos – high resolution shot with amazing care and precision.” You make a dollar a shot because that is the price you sell them for; your choice.

    “The best photographers in the entire world are putting billions of photos online at stock agencies.” This may be true but they are not giving them away, and they are not selling them for $3 each.

    “The best chance anyone has for making money on digital photography these days is to make all of your photos “Creative Commons” licensed (see flickr’s CC info) and put your credit in the form of a URL directly on your photos so that some people will come back to your site.” Incorrect; this is the best way of giving your photographs away. A credit inflates the ego, not the bank balance.

    “Writing stories – is another story.” No it is not. It is the same. The written word is intellectual property, just like photography. Some of it is drivel and some of it is excellent. Some people give it away for nothing and some people charge for it. As a general rule the people who give it away are not as good as the ones who charge for it. I would not insult writers by telling them that ALL written work is of equal value; and it is simply not true. As in photography, some written work is excellent and some is poor; see below.

    “There’s too many calendars”. There ARE too many calendars.
    “There’s too many coffee mugs with photos.” There ARE too many coffe mugs etc.
    “You’re aren’t anything special unless they’re naked people doing weird stuff.” Structure? Logic? Language?

    One piece of your advice that I choose to follow. “Tell the writer your photos are not free and you will charge him for them.” My copyright; my choice. In the words of Mr T, “Quit your jibber-jabbing.”

  3. The admin of this blog is obviously of a very low mentality claiming that digital photos are worth between nothing and $3. I usually get upwards of $500 for each my images used in magazines or UK newspapers.

    It is people like him who are bringing the profession into disrepute by offering their photos for such ludicrously low amounts. Mind you, if that is what he is getting then I can only presume that that is all his wonderful photographs are worth.

  4. Some one had a photo that was perfect for your article and exactly what you wanted so why shouldn’t you pay for it ?

    I am a pro photographer and get many requests from small fry like you every day. I can’t pay the mortgage and other bills with referrals and my own marketing is effective enough to get enough work without giving it away. Creating good imagery isn’t free either, I have my equipment to pay for, studio rent, utility bills, model fees and many other overheads.

    Many decent clients pay good money for the right image. I would rather protect my intellectual property than give it away to someone who shows such disrespect for my work and talent.

    Sarah

  5. Everyone is so preoccupied with making that dollar that they don’t think anymore. What you laid out was very generous and could have brought them more than the few dollars they may have wanted for the picture.

    Then there is the reverse. The person that hot links or out right steals a digital picture. They think it’s no big deal because everyone does it.

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