Major Publication Wants Free Photos Yet Charges $155,000.00 For One Ad

Posted Aug. 24th, 2012 by Daniel J. Cox

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.

Brown bear clamming on the tidal flats along the coast of of Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.

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.

This is the shot that was used on Travel and Leisure’s website highlighting the Island Lodge location in Lake Clark National Park but nowhere near the coast where this was taken.

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.

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There are 18 comments on this post…
  1. Myer BornsteinOn Nov. 9th, 2012

    I got the same query,My reply was thanks but what is the payment. And the kicker was if you allowed THEM to use your photo you gave unlimited rights to AMERICAN EXPRESS to use that photo anywhere and anytime WITHOUT Compensation.
    OF course after my e-mail back I did not receive any futher correspondence. I also wrote about this on Facebook

  2. David NeesleyOn Sep. 1st, 2012

    Since the advent of the digital domain and accessibility to high end pro-level gear to anyone who can afford it, photography is no longer a spectator sport for those owning the “Instamatic” . Buy a 6K camera on Monday and hang your shingle as a “wedding photographer” on Tuesday only because those pictures you shot with your little Cannon Sure Shot at her sisters wedding last weekend,while you were drunk are so good. The clients who want to hire beginners or people who want to build their portfolio basically want it for free. Thanks to Adobe, photoshop has made the art of tray developing obsolete, and now every high school kid can photoshop pictures. Computers have made cameras effortless and shooting with a Nikon D4 in full auto and doing the whole wedding for $300, which is beer money to most of these hacks, puts those of us who understand the beauty of depth of field, the drama of a long exposure shot, or the composition of shooting a hummingbird in flight out of business. That once in a life time shot could easily sell for $500 but most will spend that $500 on beer and cigarettes and offer you $25 for your work and complain about how expensive it is.

  3. Craig BrandtOn Aug. 30th, 2012


    Great article here… As you are probably aware, Igor and I are also friends and he is one of the most honest guys you’ll ever meet. It’s unfortunate, but Igor’s experience is typical. You get the same thing from prospective clients at times, they just can’t seem to believe what the cost is and try to get you to shoot images for their brochure for next to nothing. As in the magazine example you mentioned, I think “let’s see, you want to pay next to nothing for 20 images that you will use in all of your print advertising to generate thousands in income and you want to pay next to nothing for them…” As I politely suggest to those folks, the only picture that’s free is the only one that you take with your own camera… If you know your delivering a quality product you have to stand fast and insist on fair compensation for it.

    Thanks and you take care,

    Craig Brandt

  4. RobOn Aug. 29th, 2012

    Well, as you say, you can bet that Alamy did not give their image away AND they got a credit too.

    A problem I am facing more and more is my online images being copied and shared and re-copied and re-posted etc, so even if the original had a credit, the copies don’t. It almost makes copyright irrelevant, because its not really worth going after offenders (in most cases they just don’t seem to understand what a photo credit is anyway). I’d like to price any images to be used online as if the copyright and right of paternity was being “sold” too rather than the image being licensed, but I doubt clients would accept such a cost, especially with people so eager to get published they will give images away.

  5. Dale MeadOn Aug. 28th, 2012

    As a journalist who also takes pictures, I find this analogous to the CEO of starting a system of small-city online newspapers called (Our city, for example, can be found at The system started out with a budget for free-lance coverage, including images with the articles. But now the budget has been cut to almost nothing, according to the local Patch editor. When I ask the editor (who used to hire me) if he needs writers, His routine answer: “Yes, but we don’t have budget for it.” Implication: This multi-millionnaire for a commercial company wants their product created for free nationwide. Lord knows our city desperately needs coverage, but I just can’t bring myself to give away what I used to be paid (a pittance) for.

    National magazines misrepresenting facts is a separate breech of ethics; but for free content, as in all free-market commerce, it all comes down to supply and demand. Digital photography – both taking and distributing – has put supply way ahead of demand.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Aug. 29th, 2012

      Dale, Thanks so much for sharing this. We’re all guilty for wanting more of everything and wanting to pay less for what we get. It’s human nature but I do see people starting to think about the fact that when none of us are making any money, how do we buy things? Simple as that. We do our best to support our local camera shop, F11 Photo, even though Amazon often times can have better prices. They in turn help promote our Blog, our workshops etc. We do our best to scratch each others back and hopefully we both succeed.

  6. CraigOn Aug. 28th, 2012

    All, when I first started I too was giving away my creations for free just to gain exposure. Then realized years later that I could not live my dream to shoot for a living, because people like me were giving it away. Like diamonds it is controlled on the market cause if they “Released it all”, the shiny stones would go for dollars instead of thousands. If everyone valued their creations we could all live our dream. In the mean time, I have to keep my day job because we are all giving it away. I for one have taken a stance. If you want it, pay for it!

  7. johnOn Aug. 27th, 2012

    I long ago stopped letting any publication or potential client use my image for “photo credit”. I tell them that the only “Credit” I want is the credit accepted by my bank.

    There is a program I use for helping to figure out licensing fees. It’s called “photoquote”. They list Travel & Leisure in there vast list of publications. They claim Travel & Leisure has a circulation of 993,000 issues and that they charge $87,530 per 1 page color ad. The baseline photo/creative fee is $450

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Aug. 27th, 2012

      John, great info. I’m glad you mentioned PhotoQuote. We also use this program in our office.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Aug. 27th, 2012

      I shouldhave given info on how to get a copy of fotoQuote. You can review their products at

  8. Jon FullerOn Aug. 26th, 2012

    There is an old adage that states, “If you don’t charge what you are worth, pretty soon, you will become worth what you charge.”

    Those photographers willing to give their work away for free because they don’t have to make a living at it may find that some time in the future, when they decide they want to “live their dream” and be a professional photographer, they can’t make a living at it because photography, as an art form, has become worth too little, and they’ve helped make it that way.

    Just my dos centavos worth.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Aug. 26th, 2012

      John and Daryl, Well said!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Aug. 26th, 2012

      Can’t wait to see you Joel. One salmon in the freezer and three bears on the hard drive already.

  9. Daryl HunterOn Aug. 25th, 2012

    Great post, I am often asked especially by non-profits for free use of photos. I thank them for liking the photo but then state:

    “If I give away my photography I prove my photography has no value!”

    More often than not they come back and pay my rate.

    What I state is true, if we give away our work, our actions prove our work has no value. If we don’t value it, who will!

  10. Roelof van der SchaafOn Aug. 25th, 2012

    This happens worldwide, a photographer never wants to get paid for his work and is happy to find his name mentioned with the picture to support these silly people who do want to get paid for their work by publishing a magazine.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Aug. 25th, 2012

      Roelof, thanks for your input. You mention that one of the reasons photographers are willing to take little or no pay is to see their name associated with the photo. That used to be a guarantee for some payment or notoriety but if you take a look at one of my earlier blog posts titled Selling Editorial Photography- Demand a Credit Line. you’ll see that in many cases photographers no longer even get their name mentioned. Often times it’s now just the agencies such as Getty or Corbis or IStock that get credit. All the while prices continue to spiral downward. Seems to be a disconnect with photographers.

  11. JohnOn Aug. 24th, 2012

    It’s so insulting (and increasingly common) to hear this phrase from a publication: “Sorry but we don’t have a budget for photography.” Really, is that how it works? Well maybe I’ll try walking into a camera shop and say I’ll take that f/2.8 prime but, hey, I don’t have any budget for lenses so don’t expect me to pay you money for it.”

  12. Rick MorrisOn Aug. 24th, 2012

    Well put and yes, I have a conscience as well…

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