Help Needed- Licensing and Sales
MoonMan04 Registered Users Posts: 68 Big grins
edited June 5, 2017 in Mind Your Own Business
Although I love wildlife photography and will do it regardless whether it pays out or not, I do not support the idea of giving my photos away for free, especially when my photos are being used for commercial purposes to make money for themselves. I've been contacted a few times now from companies that want to use my photos in their magazines and/or ads, etc, in return for "credit." Every time I mention any kind of financial compensation they seem to turn their heads. How do I get past this hump?
In short, I need advice, preferably with someone that is experienced in this subject and has regularly had sales and/or has complied to licensing agreements.
Kyle C. Moon
Getting requests to use your images for credit will never end. There are simply too many people willing to do it and therefor many commercial entities will try to get it for free. Art photos (wildlife falls into that) are the most common of all photos, so keep in mind that there are more than a billion people who are taking art pics on an hourly basis.
It isn't always wrong to give an image away. Learning to choose when, where and most importantly why is work in an of itself.
Now with that said, 99.99% of the time selling your images will require work on your part. Until you are a known quantity, commercial clients generally won't be contacting you asking to pay. If you want to sell, you'll need to do the contacting.
If you want to put in the work, first you'll need to learn the difference between pretty pictures and commercial ready pictures. Randomly sending commercially bad images to loads of people can actually hurt your chances of selling.
Once you've learned the differences:
Social media it is much easier to get your images in front of commercial clients, but on the other side of that coin it also means that these same commercial clients are being flooded with images making it harder to be noticed. Posting on their page or tagging them offers a slim chance to be noticed. If your work is good (commercially speaking) the goal is to get them to follow you on social media.
Next there is a book called Photographers Market that lists thousands of companies that buy images. That is a good way to get your feet wet when it comes to licensing images. It lists the contact info which is a huge plus. Again, this book is not a secret so don't expect that using it will change your life quickly.
What you need to keep in mind is that most "common" run of the mill images are licensed for very little money. This changes a little once you are a known quantity. It changes again once these commercial entities are coming to you instead of you going to them.
The real money comes with commercial clients hiring you, either directly or through an agency. The licensing fees go up dramatically at that point.
The last thing that you need to remember is that if this were easy, everyone would be doing it.
@Cygnus Studios Thanks for that invaluable information, but what about licensing? I take it they touch up on this in the book you mentioned, but what kind of licensing agreements would you settle on if you chose to give your photo away for free?
Also, do you believe it is strategic to give away photos for free initially to gain more exposure and build credibility? As much as I want to do this and enjoy sharing my photos, I believe this is unethical after reading many photographers viewpoints.
Kyle C. Moon
The book only contains contact information for various books/magazines/greeting cards/etc. Kind of like a who's who.
When we choose to give an image away it is only for a one time use, not an ongoing advertisement. This is done for projects that we believe in or can help with. It is never to gain exposure because exposure is purely a myth. When is the last time that you looked at any magazine/newspaper/etc and cared one bit about who took the pic?
Short answer is no. There are far too many newspapers and magazines that pay (granted a small fee) that no one should be giving away images just for the sake of it. This is where the photographers market comes in very handy.
There is the slim chance that if your images are good enough you might get the attention of the editor of that publication, but I wouldn't do it for that reason alone.
If someone comes to us with a project that is so exciting/intriguing that I want to be a part of it, then if we have time, I will do it for free. These are very far and few in between, but I never rule it out.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and it is up to each photographer as to whether they want to work for free or give an image away for free. In my experience (I've made my living with a camera for more than 25 years) I have never, ever met a single photographer who at some point didn't work for free.
Don't take this the wrong way, but if some random camera owner who plays photographer on the internet wishes to call me/my studio unethical because I choose on occasion to work for free, that is their choice. Until they are my boss or they are paying my bills, their opinion of how I run my studio means nothing.
The myth that the "free" photographer is hurting the industry as a whole is a big lie. If your business relies on the customers who want free images, then you have the wrong business model.
Video and Computer generated images have done far more to kill still photography than all the wannabe photographers on the planet.
Here is my best advice to you. Worry about you. Do what makes you happy and what keeps you in business. If you spend your time worrying about what others are doing, you won't be in business long.
May I please add one thing? There is a photography gear company that has contacted photographers asking to use their image for free. What I would like to caution you, is to read those words, very, very, very carefully. Buried deep inside the contract was not a one time use, and amongst other things, the right to manipulate and do anything to the image they wanted, including using part of the image, forever. So, MoonMan04, if you happen to stop back and read this particular forum, I hope you see this.