Monday, August 10, 2009

The Small-Time Scam That Can Kill Photography

A note especially for models, but also for photographers: The vast majority of serious, working professional photographers do not make their money by taking pictures; they make their money by selling the finished photo, by either (1) selling prints of the photo for use or display, or by (2) selling a license to usage rights which allow the photo to be used by another party -- magazines, ad agencies, book publishers, etc. Very little money is ever made from the act of taking photos; it's the sale of the finished product that makes it possible for people to make a living at photography. Without copyright laws to protect the rights of photographers to profit from their work, there would be no such thing as a professional photographer. Here's how a lot of people make it impossible for photographers to make their living, and essentially rip the photographer off: A photographer is hired to do some work -- senior portraits, wedding photos, whatever. The photographer shoots the photos for cheap (shooting rates for most photographers are far too low to make a living just by taking the photos). The photographer works with the client to select the final photos, and then he presents them with proofs. The photographer is at this point counting on the client to buy a bunch of prints so that he can stay in business, feed his family, pay bills, and just make his living. The photographer knows that many people who know the client will want prints, and the sale of those prints is where the money is made... But the client purchases only one print of each photo they like from the photographer. The photographer winds up making no profit on it, or even losing money depending on his investment and how his rates are distributed. The client takes those single prints to Costo and has Costco make a bunch of copies for less than a dollar each. This is how professional photography gets killed. Fortunately, all of the reputable, quality places that make prints of photos will tag any photos that look professional and will insist that the person making prints show a signed "permission to print" form. This way the printer not only makes sure that photography remains a career option, but -- more to their own interest -- makes sure that photographers don't sue the living fuck out of the printer for engaging in obvious copyright infringement. So, to all models doing TF* shoots, if you want prints then you have to insist that you get the signed "permission to print" form from any photographer whose photos are worth printing. It's for their own protection that such forms are required, and any photographer who isn't a scumbag trying to trick you will be happy that you ask, because it shows you know how professional photography works, and you respect the rights of photographers to make a living.

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