Question from a reader:
Is there an “industry standard” for compensating photographers when their photographs of contributor writers (journalists) are printed in a magazine?
The writer is a friend, whom I cheerfully and with pleasure photographed a few years ago, seeking to provide him with publicity photographs, etc. At the time, I worked pro bono for him–my choice–with the understanding that, as far as he knew, I should be compensated each time my photograph gets used in a publication. Sure enough, a few months later, I received an e-mail out of the blue from a large and very well regarded publishing house with a request for payment delivery details, etc. for a single use in a monthly magazine. Very nice.
Soon after, though, a different large publishing house sent a request for the writer’s photo. I submitted the file digitally, and then when I had heard nothing more (received no compensation) a few weeks later, I sent a polite inquiry, which was rebuffed with the explanation that the magazine understood I had submitted the photograph as a courtesy. A subsequent, more forceful request was similarly denied, and I let the matter drop.
I was e-mailed yesterday by another magazine in that same (latter) publishing house, this time with a form attached for me to return “at [my] convenience, within a week”. The form granted the publisher my permission to use my photograph of one of their contributors (my writer-friend) without cost to the publisher. I have not responded.
Apart from the detail that the writer is a friend with whom I’m keen to maintain good relations, and whom I happy to promote in any way I can, I’m sure the general situation is fairly common, although I have searched in vain for anything online that addresses general standards with an industry-wide viewpoint. I guess that magazines have independent policies on whether and how much they compensate photographers in all situations, but I would also guess that any self-respecting publisher should at least put a coin in the tip jar.
It’s actually quite simple. Some publications will pay for contributor photos some will not. Why the difference? Some publications place zero value on that image. You will see them publishing crappy snapshots of a writer taken on a fishing trip where everyone else had to be cut out of the image. I would argue that every image in the magazine deserves careful consideration if you are serious about the photography and design of your magazine but, convincing them that professionally created contributor images, a laVanity Fair, add value, can be impossible.
So, how do you deal with giving your buddy publicity images? All but the very densest individuals will understand that when the writer says “contact this photographer for an image,” they will be paying for the use. When they contact you be proactive about the price and ask what their rate is for contributor photos. Be prepared to counter with your minimum, because there’s a good chance it will be below that. Finally, set it up with your buddy what he can use the image for and when he should send them calling for the high res. Lastly, understand that some people will place no value on this image, walk away from it, they’ll be calling him for fishing trip photos no matter what the price.