Why can't I give my photo away for free?

Loyal Faithful King Country

Loyal Faithful King Country

This morning in my mailbox (email, that is) was another request from someone wanting to use one of my photos in a publication. With no payment, but with a photo credit.

Oh the nerve.

But then (as these requests often do) it got me thinking about the topic de'jour of photographers the world over, and the desire, if not demand, that photographs have to be paid for.

But why can't I give a photo away, if I want?

Yes, it took me time, effort skill, training, equipment etc to take the photo, and a bit of time polishing it into shape on the computer, and the effort to post it up onto a website where it has been seen.  But that was years ago.  I had forgotten about the image a long time ago; I remember the morning I took it and the fun I had wandering around looking for angles and shots, but when the request to use the image came through, I literally had no idea what the image was that they were after.  It was sitting buried deep in my archives, nearly forgotten about. (it is the photo at the top of this blog if you were unsure...)

We often get reminded on social media when the topic of selling images / prints come up that "you need to value your work" and "you are undercutting the photographic industry by giving you work away for free". These are normally the 2 arguments for not giving images away.

My 2 simple thoughts:

  • I value my work immensely, it is like my collection of children. Each image marks a place I have been and time I have spent there.  And they also reflect me in some way; the things I like to do and the things I like to see. If someone else likes the work, but doesn't see a $$$ value attached to it, then that is ok, I understand that point of view.  I don't see my work purely in $$$ terms either.
  • I don't believe that I owe the 'photography industry' anything (this is different to the 'photographic community' to which I owe huge debts).  They never helped me when I was trying to figure out what I was doing with my camera, never offered to sell some of my photos through their connections to help me get on my way.  In fact I never knew there was a photographic industry until the day I tried to give some images away and it was pointed out that people like me were ruining the industry for everyone else (yes, that is almost a direct quote of the message I received)

So in short I reserve MY right, if I want, to give away MY images to anyone I choose.

Because that is the reason I started taking photos; so that other people could share the enjoyment I have looking at these scenes, not to have them forgotten in a dusty corner (of the internet) because the price was too high.