• 05-12-2004, 04:25 PM
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    Local News picks up my photo...
    This morning I was watching the local news when they ran a story about a Knoxville police officer who was critically injured when he laid down his motorcycle on a local highway. They were saying that he was in critical condition at UT hospital when they flashed his KPD photo on the screen. Right then a bell went off in my head. I knew I had seen that face before.

    Well, I was right. I looked at the photos I shot of the Dogwood Arts Festival parade and I found the pics I shot of the "blue hawks" (Knoxville's motorcycle police). The only closeup shot I took just happened to be of Officer Billy Cook who is now in critical condition. I immediately set up a web page and made the photo available to the local media. Because of the nature of the subject, I did not charge for the photo, but made it clear that photo credit was necesaary for publication.

    As of tonight, WATE TV6 is using the photograph on air and the Knoxville News-Sentinel has downloaded the photo. I'm betting I'll see it in the paper tomorrow or the next day - AND, depending on whether this officer pulls through or not, I'd say it will show up on all the news channels.

    Here's the photo:
  • 05-12-2004, 10:18 PM
    I just don't know how to respond to this.

    At the surface it's good for you, but once you think about it, bad for you, and bad for anyone out there that could have made money off of selling them an image, and bad for the industry because you are part of a growing trend fo people that are making editors and management think that images are worth less and less, while a photog's cost of doing business is skyrocketing.

    For some reason people tend to think that news and freelancer photogs are rolling in though. They aren't, and every time one of us hobbyists with a day job gives away freebies just to see their name in print it takes money away from those that work in this field, it devalues the profession and is breeding a sort of "free is better than good" mentality among editors.

    Spend some time on boards where pros discuss business, and you'll start to see what sort of an effect your actions have on those that do this as their only source of income. If this was some small community event somewhere that wasn't being covered by anyone, it'd be one thing, you wouldn't be undercutting anyone. But for such a highly publicized story you took money away from some people that probably could have used it. Depending on viewership, something like this on TV might have brought in a couple hundred bucks for someone. It's no small change.

    Freelancing in particular is becoming harder and harder to make a living at because photo editors are swamped with free images from people that just want to see their name in print, and if you can get a mediocre image for free, it looks a lot better to an editor than a great image that costs them. It's sad but true. Maybe not in really high-profile papers, but those are greatly outnumbered by the ones with lower standards.

    Listen, I don't want to rain on your parade, but think about it. Your short-lived thrill cost somebody out there money. How would you feel if someone with a good paying day job that's into web design as a hobby started hunting down your clients and doing web sites for free just so they could say they did it?

    Next time, charge them. It doesn't have to be astronomical, but at least compete on a level playing field with those that do this as a living. There are several calculators on the web that take into account your cost for gear, travel, and other related business costs, and calculate the estimated charges based on the average cost of doing business. I can post some links for you if you're interested. At least that way whether or not they used your image would be based solely on the quality of the image, not on price. And knowing they used it because it was good instead of because it was free, is a much more satisfying way to do this.

    Stuff like this gets you nothing in the long run. From what I've seen, it tends to breed disdain towards people that do that for the above stated reasons. Working photogs and ethical editors look down on this sort of thing. It dillutes the quality of the work, and ultimately devalues it.

    Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now. But please, think about it.
  • 05-13-2004, 03:00 AM
    Okay, let me climb on my soapbox for a minute...

    I understand your argument, but I didn't just fall of the turnip truck yesterday. I've been a product designer for 5 years and a web designer for 3, professionally. Every dime I make comes from work that is undervalued by amateur wannabes who think they can do the same thing. I've been an artist my entire life - I know how hard it is to succeed in a world where people don't value the effort that goes into the end product, and many times aren't willing to pay for it. So, you're preaching to the choir here, Seb. I get it.

    Having said that, I've also learned the meaning of the phrase "You have to spend money to make money." When I started my own web design firm, I did a lot of it. The point, in the beginning, wasn't to make bank on every job, it was to establish a reputation and to build a network that would allow me to make bank on every job. Let me tell you, it sucked in the beginning. I was doing $6-8K sites for next to nothing. I was working all the time. I was kissing ass and doing favors that first year, but you know what? It paid off. My network is huge, and I don't have to advertise. Word of mouth pays the bills like nobody's business. And guess what, Seb? I charge and am paid very, very well for the work that I do, because I spent the time and money that it took to establish the reputation that I know have as a product designer and web designer. Had I not took it on the chin in the first year or so, I would not have the business or the reputation that I have now.

    This photo was about building a reputation as a local source for photographs. It introduced me, my work, and the ability to deliver a product to almost every major media source in this area. In fact, it lead to a 45 minute phone conversation with the editor of the 3rd largest paper in the state. A billboard or phone book ad wouldn't have done that, but taking it on the chin certainly did. IMNSHO, it was money well spent. See, Seb, the next time I offer a photo (for a fee) to the local media, I have an established relationship with individuals who make the decisions. I know who to call and who to send email to, and I will make money off that next photo because of that.

    So, while I'm on my soapbox, let me say this. I don't care about what I did to other photograpers in the area yesterday, because my intent was to establish relationships that allow me to compete with them. Business isn't communism. We all don't get a slice of the pie. If you want to get ahead, you learn to do the things that get you ahead of your competition.

    So, I say to those folks out there that are whining about free photos and amateur photogs, wah, wah, wah. Do it better. Establish the right relationships. Prove your value. Editors aren't idiots. It's the heighth of laziness to believe that amateurs are stealing your money and your jobs. Don't let them. What you shoot IS better. Prove it, and make sure that the people who buy photos from you know it and respect it. But, for cripe's sake, do something about it. Don't just cry about it.

    Now, I'm climbing off my soapbox, Seb. And, I want to say - no hard feelings. Your post just caught me at the wrong time, and I had to share my opinion.
  • 05-13-2004, 08:11 AM
    "Seb. And, I want to say - no hard feelings."


    Absolutely no hard feelings. My post was my opinion just as much as your, it's only fair.

    I knew I'd be taking a risk with posting this, but I think people need to think about this sort of thing when they do these things. Sorry if I pooled you in with the others that do this with no regard for the business end of it, for themselves and others. I knew there was a chance I'd be "preaching to the choir" but I hope that it at least made someone reading this think about it.

    This is a contentious issue, but it should be on the minds of anyone that tries to make money at freelancing. I felt it needed to be said even if it ruffled a few feathers.

    Once more, no hard feelings. :)

    Take care.
  • 05-13-2004, 08:34 AM
    BTW, I'm hoping this guy pulls through - and a correction, his name is Officer Billy Kirk (not Cook) - I was too quick with the fingers.
  • 05-13-2004, 08:47 AM

    One more thing. I am very much in agreement with you, a lot of people complaigning about it have no talent and can't compete, or are too set in their ways to change their way of thinking. They are essentially whining because things are changing and they don't want them to. Such anti-competitive practices, on a larger scale, do hurt us in the long run, but if you're good you still have a decent chance against it. However, sometimes it gets so bad that even the good photogs, the ones that deliver great images, get robbed entirely of even the CHANCE to offer their work. And thats not at all fair.

    I too hope he pulls through. Keep us updated.
  • 05-13-2004, 09:21 AM
    I have nothing to add to this conversation, but I'm interested in one of those links, Sebastian.
  • 05-13-2004, 09:30 AM

    Originally Posted by Pose
    I have nothing to add to this conversation, but I'm interested in one of those links, Sebastian.

    NPPA Cost of Doing Business Calculator

    NPPA Related links, including Editorial Pricing

    Editorial Photographer's Digital Manifesto

    That last link is very interesting. The following quote had the most impact on me:

    " In twenty years the creative fee at most magazines has increased approximately 14%. Consider two important facts: during that same period inflation has totaled 80%; and, during that same period our average equipment overhead has risen 1000%. One thousand percent!"

    Mind you this is all food for thought. I don't agree 100% with everything that's said by everyone, but there are enough resources and discussions out there to help oone decide for themselves.