Major Publication Wants Free Photos Yet Charges $155,000.00 For One Ad
I just received an email from a good friend, who has requested to remain anonymous. He’s an enthusiastic photographer with a day job as an attorney and his email highlighted a situation he recently ran into with Travel and Leisure magazine. We’ll call my friend and fellow photographer Igor, only because he’s a fun and funny guy and I know when he reads this it will make him laugh. So Igor it is. Admittedly he’s only semi-anonymous since I insisted he put some sort of © credit line on his image.
Igor has spent a lot of money on his passion for photography. He’s a great person and a good husband who has included his wife in on the photographic adventures he takes, and she too has caught the photographic bug. Together they spend many weeks a year going to faraway places to photograph the beautiful images they collect of wild animals and beautiful wilderness settings. They’re both very passionate about their hobby, and because Igor is successful in his business, he applies the same tenacity and pride to the photographic hobby he so enjoys.
Not only do they spend a lot of money on travel but they make sure they’re equipped properly as well. That means all the best cameras such as the top end Nikon bodies, a 200-400mm telephoto and also a well-stocked camera bag of lenses from the 24-70 and virtually everything in between. As I said, Igor takes everything he does seriously and photography is no exception.
Like all aspiring photographers, Igor enjoys sharing his work and like many has an account with Flickr. One of the images on his Flickr site caught the eye of Travel and Leisure magazine, something they thought was good enough to publish. They were interested in using it in an online article titled America’s Best Lake Vacations. The only problem was the image they wanted to use needed to have been shot at Lake Clark in Alaska. Igor’s image on Flickr mentions that it was taken at Lake Clark National Park, but not specifically at THE Lake Clark they planned to highlight. The image of Igor’s they were looking at was actually shot along the coast of Cook Inlet that lies within Lake Clark National Park. It was an image of a bear on tidal flats searching for clams and it was shot a long way from the lodge Travel and Leisure planned to feature. They contacted my buddy Igor and told him the story’s theme and wanted to know if he would allow them to use the photo. They stipulated that there would be no payment but they would give a credit line.
He proceeded to inform them that although he was flattered, the photo was actually on the beach IN Lake Clark National Park, but not THE Lake Clark they were intending to write about. They thanked him and moved on to find another image, finding one represented by Alamy. It was was a very similar picture to the one Igor warned them wasn’t where they were writing about. Long story short, the image of two brown bears walking on the beach in Lake Clark National Park was run as an example of what you would see at Island Lodge, the destination Travel and Leisure was writing about ON Lake Clark.
So Igor emailed me inquiring how I would have handled this situation. He wondered what I thought of them picking an image he already told them was not taken in the area they planned to feature, and then used an image that was basically from the same location as his. Below in italics is the response I sent him.
Wow, very interesting Igor. The first and foremost interesting thing is these people not offering any payment. As far as your honesty I personally feel you did the right thing. I can’t tell you how many sales I’ve lost due to less than accurate information or photographers claiming an animal to be wild when it was really captive. It hurts but it’s life when you have a conscience. If I were you I would write the editor who contacted you and make sure she/he knows the image was not from Lake Clark. That being the case, this misrepresentation is certainly not new in the magazine market. The most agressious part of this story is they had the guts to not offer anything more than a credit line.
Just so you know, take a look at this page from the Travel and Leisure Media Kit and notice that for a back cover AD, Travel and Leisure charges $155,000.00. That’s One hundred and fifty-five thousand dollars for one ad, in one issue. This is always an eye-opening lesson for photographers who get offered very little or nothing for their work and then see what these publications require buyers to pay for the magazine’s advertising.
Some photographers might argue that getting a credit line would be worthwhile, but I can tell you from 30 years of experience, that this is not the case. In my entire 30-year career, I can think of only one situation where an editor saw a published image of mine and tracked me down to offer me almost nothing for the picture for HIS publication. In this situation I passed because the rate was so low. Not even National Geographic created enough interest in the stories I did for them to make additional sales happen.
In the situation I write about above I’m willing to bet that Alamy didn’t give the image to Travel and Leisure for nothing more than a credit line. Alamy’s in business to make money for themselves and their photographers. Travel and Leisure most likely paid the price because Igor wouldn’t send the one he had for free. At least that’s my guess.
So the moral of this story is to do your homework, take pride in your photography and stick to your guns when it comes to getting at least some compensation for your hard earned work. I don’t have to tell any of you how expensive cameras are, how much it costs to go to Alaska or Africa, the Galapagos or even a long weekend at a local national park. It all costs money and often times a lot of it. As I tell my students, “Anyone can give their work away. Take pride in yourself and charge a fair and reasonable fee. If they go for it, you really do know that your photography is better than most and worth money”. In conclusion, make sure you follow the link to the Travel and Leisure Media Price List I mentioned above in my response to Igor. I promise it will open your eyes.
Finally, I should mention that our offer to help Igor is just one of the many benefits the people who travel with us on Natural Exposures Invitational Photo Tours receive. Igor has actually become a good friend but even if that weren’t the case, we still offer to help our students to sort these things out when they arise. Even if you haven’t traveled with us we won’t turn you down if you call with questions about photography. I offer this as a goodwill gesture to help encourage you all to earn more money to benefit your hobby.