Tuesday, May 18, 2010



Please stop killing our industry. Photographers pose in the dock at Bow Street Magistrates Court, on the day it closed. Photo: Shaun Curry

I have no idea why, but there seems to be an idea that photographs should have no value and be free. This attitude is from both in front and surprisingly, behind the camera. News organisations, PR companies, random strangers at events and so on think that they should get photographs for free, or in best case scenarios, for peanuts. I’ve often wondered if the same person ever tries the same tactic at a clothes shop or a car showroom?

Part of it is that most people have a camera of some sort or another, and feel they can take photographs and therefor photographers shouldn’t charge. I would hazard a guess that even more people can read and write; do these people go into a bookshop and demand free books or go to the newsagent and demand free papers and magazines?

Part of the reason that these image thieves get away with getting photographs for free though is that photography enthusiasts and citizen journalists, some of which are extremely talented, agree to giving away their work for free. It’s the thrill of seeing something in print and maybe even having a credit. It’s the thrill of talking about it at the pub and so on. I can understand the thrill; I’ve been a full time photographer for over 20 years now and every publication still gives me a thrill. However, food for thought might be how would the same individual giving away images for free feel if someone shared their profession, but as a hobby? If someone interested in accounting turned up with a shiny new calculator and a laptop with a spreadsheet and parked themselves outside an accountants’ office and started doing accounts for free, I’m sure those folks inside that office wouldn’t take too kindly. Use exactly this scenario and apply it to any job; van driver, postman, lawyer and so on. It wouldn’t be tolerated and no one would dream of doing it either.

Another point to realise from the enthusiast photographer’s point of view is that if your images are good enough to be published, then they are definitely good enough to be paid for. Simple. Do not give away work for free. By doing this, you are cutting into someone’s income and at the same time devaluing your own worth and the worth of your passion.