Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Is it August already? Where does the time go? And where does the money go?

Greg Lumley's $35,000 photograph

Greg Lumley’s $35,000 photograph

In a week where Greg Lumley, a South African photographer, made the news by offering a unique ultra-hi res print of his gorgeous photograph of Cape Town for $35,000, an influential photo magazine despondently commented that “Photography as a business is competing in a race to the bottom. Photographs are regularly devalued by people who steal them, agencies that sell them for a pittance, and photographers who are willing to work for free.”

It is very true that it’s a rough time to be in the picture sales business. Clients have lost interest in the quality of the image; their sole concern is price. National newspapers are a closed shop — management won’t allow picture desks to use anyone other than their contracted agency, unless the paper’s readers give them up for free, an acquisitions policy energetically pursued by the BBC among many others. And the agency’s photographers are up in arms because their images are being traded for pence.

Meanwhile photographers spend more and more on kit which makes their already great images even better, and still no one is buying. Tiny publishers who 20 years ago would come cap in hand for permission to buy from the lordly picture libraries now want to pay prices for RM images that you’d expect to see on a £50,000 a month contract. Mind you, they don’t get them; not from us at any rate. It’s like being bullied at school. Once they start picking on you, even the weediest gurly will fancy his chances chiz chiz.

Yesterday I came across this eye-opener of a website, Who Pays Photographers?

It’s a crowd-sourced spreadsheet of publishers around the world who pay — or don’t pay — for photography. It makes riveting, if clunky, reading. Everyone who’s ever sold a picture, or tried to, should have a look at this. And contribute, if you can.

It's not all good news

Part of a very large spreadsheet


The site owner writes: “[This is] a space to list how much — and how little — magazines, newspapers, websites, NGOs and corporations pay photographers. Editorial, commercial, advertising, entertainment — any and all presented. Listing based on anonymous submissions. This is intended as an exercise in sharing, rather than shaming — but feel free to warn your fellow photogs about deadbeats.”

The creator of this fascinating site prefers to remain anonymous, but gives credit for the idea to Manjula Martin, who devised the ‘Who Pays Writers?‘ website. I’d remain anonymous too if I came up with the bowel-tinged background colour of the site. Maybe it looks OK in Windows. It certainly doesn’t on a Mac.

I remember reading last year on several photographic forums that more than one American photographer was claiming recent $10,000 sales for book front cover image usage. But to a man they were too bashful to reveal the names of the books, the publishers, or even to show off their expensively purchased images.

Oddly, those sort of claims don’t appear on the Who Pays Photographers? site. But reports of offers of “picture credits” abound.

DON’T give your pictures away for a credit. You know what a credit is worth. As my friend Mike Shatzkin used to say, “That, and 10¢, will get you a subway token.” I’ll update him — “That, and £4.70, will buy you a tube ticket to travel the 260 metres between Covent Garden and Leicester Square.”

Shatzkin’s is pithier. Mine is scarier. But they’re both true.


Add your comment


17 Responses to “Money For Photographs”

  1. Maybe the bowel-tinged background colour is influenced by the conscious or unconscious suggestion that the photography business (for those of us still determined, and/or stupid, enough to try a make a living from it) has turned to s___e (a substance the colour of the background).

  2. Dennis says:

    May be we should all withhold some of our images from the market and wait for the market to improve. Clients should get no less and no more what they are willing to pay.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      A nice though, but impossible to enforce unless there was a photographers’global trade union. And by their nature photographers are individuals. You might as well try herding cats.

  3. Nicolas says:

    It seems that times are changing fast.

    Everyone around us is addicted to mobile devices, and want instant results and answers in a matter of seconds.

    Yet, these addicted users have no clue what is going on around them, like urban zombies.

    Same is true for aviation and Pro Photography……companies want the best but are unwilling to pay us anymore for our skill and knowledge and training.

    There are plenty of pilots and photographers that will sell their soul to get their shot.

    O.k…….my depressing sermon is over, now back to your mobile device…..sigh….

  4. Simon says:

    You had me at ‘chiz chiz’

    Currently I feel photography is only useful for pushing my writing or for jobs I do on personal terms.

  5. Lois Bryan says:

    Fascinating info. Behind the scenes dirt … love it.

  6. Mervyn Benford says:

    Not a very active Fotolibra member but I respond to relevant photo-calls. I also respond to news in the Freelance Photographers Journal of magazines looking for particular material. The failure even to acknowedge receipt- even if I have spoken to the named contact and sent the right sort of images, definitely speaks of the arrogant, selfish attitude of the media and others these days. I have an enormous collection of images taken worldwide over the last 50 years-some 50 000+ and at least 10% are world-beating quality but I now feel I simply dare not send them out. I have had images stolen by rogues using tempting ads. It becomes a matter of losing trust in the modern commercial world. They will go to my grandchildren and perhaps in their lifetimes the demand for historic images and nostalgia will outstrip supply and help build them a pension as they are predicted to live to 100 now, probably in the urban acylic domes of 70s science fiction! Grateful to Fotolibra for their understanding and commitment to us.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      What can I say, Mervyn? fotoLibra won’t steal your pictures. And we will sue any UK company on your behalf who uses a watermarked Preview off the fotoLibra site. They can’t steal the original photographs because they can’t download them without paying. In order to sell, you have to show your wares.

  7. Mark says:

    Some of the big agencies have a lot to answer for. For example Alamy have licence agreements which are easily abused. For example any buyer can receive a high resolution file of any image even if the licence states web use only. What’s stopping a buyer making a hugh canvas and displaying it or worse still selling it. Today I passed a retail shop and saw an image of mine on a large canvas displayed in the window. On enquiry I discovered the shop had paid Alamy for a web use only copy. Alamy paid me £6 for this sale – sad days!
    Well done Fotolibra for resisting the drive to the bottom.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Mark, I think you should get in touch with Alamy and tell them. They should act on your behalf. If someone in the UK uses a fotoLibra image out of licence we will not hesitate to go to court on our and our contributing member’s behalf, at no cost to the member. I wish we could extend this across the EU and the USA, but that’s pie in the sky (unless you’re a local council enforcing parking restrictions).

      • Mark says:

        Don’t worry Gwyn I will approach the shop and I am hopefull that it was maybe their naivety that led to this ( it is a pharmacist ) or am i being too generous. Come what may it’s just extra hassle for us photographers who just want to take pictures.

  8. charroo says:

    I assume Fotolibra is included on that spreadsheet also, because if one want to display any significant amount of their work they have to pay for a Premium or Platinum account.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Yes, and for many good reasons. Here’s one: We set up fotoLibra for people to upload images found in their attics, shoeboxes and family albums — images that can never be taken again. And that remains true — you have limitless free storage available to you for all images taken before the year 2000. As there are now a trillion digital photographs taken every day, we restrict those uploads to photographers who are professional and competent enough to make proper use of an upgraded account.