This post is more of a rant than anything else and it’s something I’ve had on my mind for a few months now. What put me over the edge and made me write this is a news story I’ve been reading this morning about the failure of an AirFrance Airbus A380 engine on a flight from Paris to Los Angeles. At first, you might be thinking “What does any of this have to do with photography?”. Well if you go through this Twitter feed about the incident, you’ll notice no less than 3 major news networks (might be more by the time I finish writing this) jumping at the occasion of trying to use the images the passengers are sharing for free on their news broadcasts. Not only that, but all of them specifically ask about being allowed to use the photos in all of their channels (online, on air etc.). Of course, the usual “we’ll give you credit” is quickly added.
This links up to a wider problem in photography nowadays – it’s not just news networks that think it’s ok to ask for free images. Many corporations believe sharing an image on their social media channels is something they shouldn’t pay for and usually their justification is that they will give credit. Now, if you’re a photographer starting up, this might be tempting, but I would suggest to think long and hard about this. Content is not free and images are valuable content – most of the time, images are much more effective for these brands than any copy they might come up with – as the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words”. When you feel tempted to allow free usage of your images, think back to how much did you pay for your camera and lenses or how much time you’ve invested in learning how to make that photograph. Do you think the brand asking for images for free will give their services for free?
Unfortunately, in many creative fields, there is a race to the bottom happening where content (whether it’s photographs or design or copy) is sold for less and less. There are many reasons for that, some more valid than others, but in the long run I don’t think this trend is sustainable. The business models are changing and unless major changes are done to how that economy works (think basic universal income), there are a whole bunch of people who are lured into interesting and exciting professions by Instagram, Twitter and various blogs, only to find themselves not being able to make ends meet. Don’t be fooled by “quit your job to follow your dreams” preachers – it takes a lot of work, effort and dedication to make it into any field and giving your work for free is usually not a very sustainable way.
As a way of not making this just a rant, following the example of these photographers, all the images I post on social media will have a #NoFreePhotosME. If you’re a photographer based in this part of the world, I would love to see more of this hashtag!Technical details | Camera: NIKON D800 | Focal length: 19mm | Shutter speed: 1/160s | Aperture: ƒ/8 | ISO: 400