A reader sent me the following question:
I work with a local magazine to get into the best concerts in exchange for them using my images on their blog for free. My goal was to build my portfolio and market the pictures to the artists publicists in hopes of getting paid. I recently found out that one of the artist took some of my images off the mag’s site and placed it on their website and Facebook. Credit was given but no money. They have since taken the images down from their sites.
I recently photographed a well known artist and used the fact that I was working with the mag to get a photo pass. The publicist is now wanting the link to the pictures on the mag’s site. I have final edit of what I send into the mag and was thinking of keeping the best images for myself and my marketing to publicists and record companies. My question is: Do you think that would rub the publicist the wrong way? (Sending two links 1) the mag link with decent images 2) a protected link with the best images that are watermarked and are only accessible with payment) I am new to concert photography and don’t know how this works. Is it a common practice for publicists to use the photographers images for free?
I appreciate any help you can give. I want to be smart about protecting my work and keeping my music contacts- because I do not have that many.
There are a lot of issues in here. But to answer the first question directly, I would assume if the publicist wants to see images that they potentially need them for something, usually an image request from another publication. Just because they want to see them doesn’t mean you have any obligation to provide anything for free. As long as you shot for the website and followed through by sending them, you have fulfilled your obligations. The idea of ‘holding back’ the best images may be a mistake, you should always represent yourself publicly with your best work. If you are sending the publication mediocre images, that might hurt your relationship with them. But if you have alternates or do any interesting work backstage or behind the scenes, I think it is fine to hold on to those if it is not needed for the assignment.
Publicists will frequently ask for free images, they work for the bands and labels and their only concern is exposure for their clients, the priority is not making sure the photographer gets paid. The photographer can frequently be put in a tough spot where the publicist needs an image to send to a publication, the publication expects it for free, and then the photographer is pressured to give away the photo to keep everyone happy. This isn’t a great business model for the photographer. The best thing to do in general is to reach out and show the work to the publicist and labels and artists but be clear that if they need use of the images for publicity then there will be a licensing fee involved. Publicists, while good contacts and gatekeepers to the artists, don’t have independent budgets to pay photographers, it’s not their call.
As a general note, I’m not sure who pays for concert photography anymore. There are very few paid assignments for shooting concerts, and the market for current music stock is so saturated that a photographer is lucky to get something picked up for a fee here and there. Getting the photo pass is easy, getting paid anything afterward is hard.