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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Required reading for all SS members
Bill Mitchell, Photographer
Tempe | AZ | USA | Posted: 10:40 PM on 02.16.10
->> This article was on SportsShooter nearly two years ago, but we ALL should read it again:

http://www.sportsshooter.com/news/1989

It's getting worse, folks. I've had professional sports teams, major market newspapers and large universities asking for free photos --- about ten requests in just the last couple of months alone. After I quote them a price, they go away and I never hear from them again. It gets easier to just say "No" the more you have to do it. It's the right thing to do.

Maybe someday these large entities will include a more generous allowance for photos in their budgets ... maybe ... maybe ....
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Rob Shook, Student/Intern, Photographer
Rochester | NY | USA | Posted: 12:27 AM on 02.17.10
->> "You can't eat photo credits."

-Professor William Snyder
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Mike Janes, Photographer
Attica | NY | USA | Posted: 1:40 AM on 02.17.10
->> I wonder if it's going to get better and have no problem telling someone no when they ask for free! Try to be diplomatic and nice about it as have had several come back who are willing to pay, they just seem to ask for free at first hoping I'll have a memory lapse or something and hand it over. Though this past year have noticed a lot more disappear than they did in the previous year. 2008 I'd guess 60-70% ended up paying for the usage while in 2009 more like 10%.

What gets me is when small colleges, small magazines, those without big budgets come asking for images and more than willing to pay while two days later a major team, or university, or magazine comes asking for free because of "no budget". Makes no sense whatsoever!
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Bill Mitchell, Photographer
Tempe | AZ | USA | Posted: 5:16 AM on 02.17.10
->> Mike is right in that it seems the larger schools and organizations are the ones less likely to want to pay for photos. Baseball America, which was mentioned in the article, is a smaller publication, but really has been good to those of us that shoot for them, and I have no problem with the way they take care of the photographers.

Maybe it's karma, but since my original posting of this thread I've had a pro sports team contact me about purchasing photos. That organization has just gone up in my eyes and I will now bend over backwards to make sure they are satisfied.
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Chuck Steenburgh, Photographer
Lexington | VA | USA | Posted: 6:15 AM on 02.17.10
->> "I wonder if it's going to get better"

No way!

Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Technology is making the "free" content better every day, and if the free content is "good enough" then fewer and fewer potential clients will be willing to pay for professional photos.

It has nothing to do with whether we, as professional photographers, take a stand, refuse to cave, etc. It's completely beyond our control. Unless we pool our resources and buy all the camera manufacturers and clamp down on this proliferation of pesky technology.
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Jason Heffran, Photographer
Natrona Heights | PA | USA | Posted: 1:56 PM on 02.17.10
->> In my limited experience (less than 5 years), it has been easier to avoid the WFF question when you immediately sell yourself as a professional and NOT a GWC. I tend to tell a few horror stories about poor quality - basically unusable imagery and point out the difference in the equipment used and knowledge of post-processing. I make the job sound so difficult that they start to realize that there is NO WAY that a GWC could pull it off.

When it HAS happened to me, it usually only happens once. In almost every case, I get called back after they "try" the GWC and WFF model. They get images that are not "good enough" and then realize that it is probably worth it to pay and be sure to get something they can actually use.

The main difference may be that my rate still has to be fair and probably less than it used to be. At least less than some seasoned photographers used to get on a regular basis. But the industry is heading to a charge less, work more model. Do I fight this change? No. I embrace it and do my best to work it to my advantage.

Im my mind, the industry IS changing. I guess we have to find new niches, work smarter and faster, find a better way to sell our service and to adapt or die.

Just my two cents.
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Butch Miller, Photographer
Lock Haven | PA | USA | Posted: 2:20 PM on 02.17.10
->> As long as there are GWC's that are willing to hand out free images for the glory of a byline ... or pennies on the dollar for publication ... the expectations of free or lowball fees for image use will prevail.

It's the old supply and demand factor of the free enterprise system ... as long as the end user can get the job done with little or no expenditure to do so, they will not seek to increase the budget for such expenditures ....

With so many publications struggling to survive, web sites with shoe string budgets and a glut of adequate images available for use, the trend is likely to get worse long before it ever gets better.
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Michael Ip, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 3:15 PM on 02.17.10
->> Jason, the problem is there are lots of GWC with great gear. They have well paying jobs that can afford all that. A GWC with two D3s and great glass willing to work for free is a compelling sell to anyone worried about their bottom line.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 3:32 PM on 02.17.10
->> @Michael,

I couldn't agree more.

I was shooting golf this past week at Pebble Beach and as I and a handful of other photogs where awaiting a tee shot, a nice spectator commented with, "Those are some nice toys."

I responded with a very serious, "They actually tools."

He replied with, "Riiight."


We're just lucky guys with cameras to some people...

Oh well. I just keep shooting and enjoying my job.
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Mike Janes, Photographer
Attica | NY | USA | Posted: 3:57 PM on 02.17.10
->> Chuck, that comment was rhetorical in if it's going to get better. I know it's not and why I have a masters in Athletic Administration, back up plan! Maybe someday I'll be the SID asking all you guys for free photos (OK, promise I won't!) You just hope some clients learn that quality images matter, like a certain minor league team I cover every so often did.

Years ago they ditched their regular photographer for a free guy (multi-millionaire I may ad who did it for "fun" in retirement). Nice guy, horrible photographer! A few images in the card set you couldn't tell it was a person, let alone who it was, they were THAT bad! Well card set sales declined big time and I heard them complaining about it in the press box, they didn't understand why. Few years after they got another photographer, cheap but not free, and card set sales started going back up because the photos were better. You just hope they realize at some point that images matter! If not, oh well, they're not a client.

Jason - I wish it was that easy and think I come off as a professional in how I present myself and my images through my site and in person. Sometimes that just does not matter one bit to those looking for the images. It says all over my site "No Free Usage" and I still get emails asking, some even saying "I know it says no free usage but can we get five images for our program? All we can give is credit" or something like that. Drives me up a wall! Some clients just think you already took the photo (stock), so it's just sitting there, why charge? They don't think that it actually cost to go do that image in the first place for some reason.
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David Manning, Photographer
Athens | GA | | Posted: 4:45 PM on 02.17.10
->> I think it was a very famous photographer who said a few months back that there is no money in sports photography anymore.

I agree with his assessment.
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Jason Heffran, Photographer
Natrona Heights | PA | USA | Posted: 8:14 PM on 02.17.10
->> @Michael... good point. I've had that problem recently. I was hired to shoot prom candids by a very wealthy couple. The funny thing was the guy had a 1d MkIII and L series glass. I asked him why he needed me and was willing to pay what he was paying me.

His response was that he wanted to have someone who "knew" how to use it and was aware that he was a complete amateur. He didn't even have an external flash.

I know this is NOT normal. But, it happened. I still laugh about that today. If I've been lucky... I hope it doesn't run out.

Now, another example was just last week. I had a swim team call me awhile back and ask if I would shoot their meet.

They mentioned that they had a parent that was willing to do it for free (trying to see if I would WFF). I said, "no thank you" but offered to come prove why they should pay for their images if I had the time.

I spent 30 mins of my time that day (attributed it to marketing investment) and went to the meet. Shot about 20 images, stopped on the way out and showed the Athletic Director what I captured.

Last week, I was called back saying that they saw the huge difference between the GWC with good gear and my shots. And now, I shoot their meets for a decent rate.

I am not arguing that the industry is headed in a direction we would all rather it not. But, I am just offering up what I have run into and the tactics I have employed to get around it. Am I 100% successful? No, of course not... but a lot of the time I am.

And, I only have recent experience to go by, so I do what I can to get around the obstacles. If I was around before the GWC crisis, I would probably think differently.

And, in the end, I put another GWC in their "place". Ha!
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Thread Title: Required reading for all SS members
Thread Started By: Bill Mitchell
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