How many times have people wanted to use your images for free?

So You Want to Use My Images For Free?

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It’s quite a poetic note isn’t it? How many times has this happened to you? Once, twice, yearly, monthly even…….? What do you do?
Well firstly, take it as a compliment – like someone requesting your ID at a nightclub (if you’re 53 that is). But seriously, someone thinks your work is high enough quality to represent their company – that’s a real accomplishment! Representing their livelihood with your photography. Kudos to you.
But using your images for free? Well, we’ll see about that.

Bay of Fire - Destin Sparks
Photo by Destin Sparks
So you want to hit them up for cash first and foremost, you’ll likely get the typical “we don’t have that in our budget” B.S. response. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t bargain with them. How do I go about getting cash for shots after they’ve tried the ‘budget’ response? I like to make the enquirer aware of my costs, while mine will differ substantially from yours keep in mind you DO have costs and expenses.
My costs to produce a single photo:

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  • Film: $15 Per Roll (4 shots per roll)
  • Film Postage: $70 US to Australia
  • Developing: $12 Per Roll
  • Developing Postage: $40 Return
  • Drum Scanning: $1500 (Each transparency is scanned in thirds – 3 x $500)

 …….yes it costs me well over a thousand dollars to produce a single image, this is not inclusive of:

  • Camera & Lenses: $20,000
  • Tripod & Accessories: $5,000
  • Car: $6,000 (I don't drive a Merc)
  • Fuel/Return Visits?
  • Computers/Software?
  • Training?

It took me 7 visits to get this shot.

Rise - Destin Sparks
Photo by
Destin Sparks
The harsh reality is; often if you start asking for cash they’ll move onto the next photographer until they find someone naïve enough to ‘give in’. Ultimately the choice is yours but I believe any opportunity is a good opportunity; but you should be able to agree on a mutually beneficial outcome and without giving away your hard work or talent for free, nor passing up an opportunity.
If they’re not willing to part with the dosh, what are they willing to offer you? Keep in mind this can be something as simple as products, gear or a link to your website for SEO benefits – which is very different from “your photo will be seen by tens of thousands” – cough, cough.
Similarly, whatever you do, don’t fall for the following: “our company is x large, you will get x exposure for the foreseeable future” this is a bogus claim and one that holds no value.
As to what to charge. I like to take into consideration what the image will be used for, how many copies, for how long the image will be used (set a limit), who will it be distributed to and most importantly ARE they making a profit? As an example, I recently charged a company $500 to include an image in their calendar. Keep in mind this calendar was a courtesy gift to their clients – they weren’t selling them.

Transcendence - Destin Sparks
Photo by
Destin Sparks
Have they even asked for your permission? My images are often stolen from the web and sometimes I’ll let it slide, other times I’ll slap the offender with a licensing invoice and on some occasions it has ended up in court.
If everyone makes a stand and photographers don’t get so giddy when someone wants to use their images that they start handing them out willy-nilly; maybe we will all start to benefit. Most importantly put value to your work – people appreciate it more.
You can find me at all the usual online places, come say hello.

About the author

    Destin Sparks

    Destin Sparks is a self-taught photographer who harnesses the power of digital & film medium format cameras to capture rare and beautiful landscapes from around the world. Destin shares his knowledge of photography via Photography Tours and Workshops and is a frequent contributor to various blogs, websites and competitions such as the Proify Photography Awards. Follow Destin on: Instagram | | Facebook | 500px


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