This will be a little rant. I haven’t posted one in a long time, so it’s time for one again.

As probably every photographer, I get a lot of requests from different people, asking if I would provide my photos for free. In the past, I did so from time to time, but looking back, I think it was only because of my beginners naivety. You know how it is. When you start taking photos, it’s just such a great feeling to see you photos used somewhere. Anywhere is great. But over time, I learned that doing so is never good. It just makes someone else profit from my work, and I get nothing from it.

If you think about it. If I let someone use a photo for free, who payed for the photo? I did. I payed for something so some company can use it and profit from it. I payed with my time, with money for the equipment, sometimes even with my health. And not only that. If I provide a photo to someone, the photo lowers in value. It happens over and over that potential customers first question is: Is someone already using this photo? And if yes, their interest is gone.

WatermarkSo some time ago, I decide to stop this practice completely. But I still get the requests, and so many times I’m just shocked. You would not believe the excuses why they can’t afford the photos, why they should not pay for the photos, or what is commercial use and what isn’t. It takes so much to stay civil while replying to such emails. Would you believe someone who told you that they want to make a brochure and they made no budget for the photos? That they think that promotional material is not commercial use? That non-profit organizations have no budget at all? I don’t think so.

Sometimes this just reads as an insult. Insult to me and my work. It’s funny, to read from companies like this, how great my work is, how great my photos are, how much they want to use them, and right after that, how worthless it is. Yes, they gave a value to all my work. And the value they gave was a big fat zero. It’s even funnier, if you take into account, that the person writing to me, get’s even payed for the time spend writing the email. So even that is more valuable than my work.

One interesting thing I noticed is, especially by non-profit organizations, is, that mostly the bigger ones think they should get the photos for free. The smaller ones, usually ones that promote arts, approach me about buying the photos, even if they have a limited budget. I usually agree to provide photos for them at a big discount, as I also like to support those causes. But bigger companies, boosting on their web-pages how much money they have to work with, don’t even ask for the price. They either get it for free, or they don’t care.

You would think that this is all about money, and you are right. I would love to just take photos for fun. To just do what I like to do. But until I can go to a shop, and say, I have no budget this week, I take it for free, this is just not possible. And I hope one day, people like this will understand that. One good thing is, that there are also good companies. The ones that value the work and also pay fairly for it. It’s such a pleasure to work with those.

And to every photographer out there. Never work for free. It’s never worth it.