Even Digital Camera World Doesn’t Give Photographers Credit
I first wrote about magazines not giving photographers credit for their images in a blog post titled Selling Editorial Photography, Demand a Credit Line way back on January 17, 2012. Unfortunately, things have not gotten any better. And, in fact, they’re getting worse. Astonishingly, even Digital Camera World often doesn’t credit photographers properly. On the DCW website, under Why Trust Us, they state, “The Digital Camera World team is made up of professional journalists, lifelong camera enthusiasts, and former and current professional photographers. It sounds trite, but DCW is written by photographers for photographers – our passion is to share our knowledge and experience with you and to give you the benefit of our industry contacts and insights.” Sounds good but not very convincing when it comes to their knowledge of the business side of photography.
Digital Camera World Magazine Discounts Photographers
It’s hard to comprehend how a magazine dedicated to educating its readers about photography doesn’t give the photographers credit who are supplying their images. A case in point is the article “How to Photograph Lightning Like a Pro,” written by Jamie Carter and published on July 15, 2023. Amazingly all photos were credited to Getty Images. No actual photographer listed, just Getty Images. I checked other articles on their website; many have the photographer’s credit done properly. But I found another story where some of the photos were done correctly and others were credited simply Getty Photos. I suppose they may try to get it right and sometimes fail. But whatever their policy they need to get it right all the time.
I find it equally interesting how the writer received his credit line front and center, right below the image with the date this story was published. Nobody would stop to even glance at the text without the amazing lightning image. It’s the image that sells the story. I doubt the writer has any say on how the attribution of photos is handled. But I can’t imagine a guy writing about photography not knowing this would be a bad idea.
But then again, if photographers don’t care, why should anyone else care for them? This story is proof positive that photographers are typically clueless when it comes to treating their work as though it has value. Like a business, for goodness’ sake. When are photographers going to stand up and say enough is enough?
Getty Images Equally at Fault
I was a contributor to Getty Images for over two decades. But I pulled out once they went to a completely Royalty Free model. Getty was at one time an agent for photographers. An Agent typically means somebody who negotiates on your behalf, keeping the photographer’s interests in mind but also monetizing their work. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case in the world of Stock Photography. I complained to Getty about publications using my pictures and only crediting Getty, exactly like the article that lit my fire from DCW. Getty’s response was that they have no power to require publishers to give proper credit. Amazing how they somehow make sure Getty Images is credited as if THEY took the picture.
This lack of interest on their part in doing what is fair and right for the photographer and their move to a completely Royalty Free sales model forced me to sever my ties with Getty. I had no interest in allowing them to use my work with little compensation AND no commitment to helping me continue to build my brand.
Why Agencies Thrive While Photographers Make Virtually Nothing
What photographers don’t seem to understand about stock agents is this; We photographers have to make money on just the images we can produce. We have finite time, resources, and energy. A stock agency has the ability to make money on hundreds, possibly thousands of photographers who contribute to them. Therefore, prices being paid for photography can continue to drop and be almost nonexistent, and the Agency will still make money. Even though individual sales are not very large, they have thousands of them and thus make money based on volume. That volume adds up for the agents. But as an individual photographer, it’s not enough. There’s simply no way for individuals to produce enough volume at the prices pictures are being sold for to make it a viable business. In short, the Agent makes money, but the photographer goes broke unless you’re a Trust Fund Kid.
No Money, No Credit Equates to a Horrible Business Model
I worked with magazines, book publishers, calendar companies, card companies, poster publishers, etc., for over 45 years. It made a good living in those days. I never got rich, but I paid for my photo shoots to places like Africa, Antarctica, Alaska, and other exotic locations. I also paid for my own college, health insurance, a house payment, a truck payment, and put some aside for retirement. No, I didn’t have children, so that was a huge expense I didn’t have that normal adults would have to consider. The average photograph sold as stock in the 80s and 90s was between $250-$400, depending on the market. Today the same stock photo rate would be fractions of a penny on the dollar. There’s simply not enough money left in stock photography to actually make a living.
Other Offending Agents
Getty isn’t the only offender. I’ve seen the same issue with iStock (A Getty-owned company), Alamy. And the worst offender by far is Unsplash. Unsplash allows the use of the photographer’s pictures for absolutely NO CHARGE. You read that right. Anybody, including Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Chevy, Tesla, or ANY corporation that wants to use your image, can do so in virtually any manner for FREE! These would be sales that would have been tens of thousands of dollars at one time. I have one image that sold for $80,000 in 1996. Yea, that’s a lot of money! Today that client might have found an image for absolutely zero cost on Unsplash. Can somebody tell me in the comments what Unsplash does for the photographer? I’m open to being educated, but from where I sit, I can’t see any benefit.
In their Licensing Agreement, they state, “No permission needed (to use the photograph in any way) though attribution is appreciated! No need for attribution! What in the name of Joseph does the photographer get out of this deal? First, they give Unsplash total freedom to use the image in any way possible and then don’t even demand the photographer gets the credit. It’s going to be a Merry Christmas, after all! Who in their right mind would sign up for a deal like this? It makes absolutely no sense in any way.
So You Better Damn Well Demand a Credit Line
Between 2005 and 2010, it became obvious that making a living as a stock photographer was coming to an end. Believe me, at 45 years old, seeing your occupation dry up is incredibly scary. Thankfully, I had many years of constant, ongoing credit lines. Credit lines were common because magazines knew their editorial rates didn’t fully compensate the photographers they depended on. Especially the ones they were not shooting on assignment. So as a bonus, the editorial publishers would give you a small advertisement/credit line to help build your career.
I have no idea where I would be today had I not demanded a credit line for my Editorial work. Those decades of receiving a credit line have paid off handsomely. Today I travel the world with my wife, making a decent living, teaching others about their cameras and how to take quality pictures. None of that would be possible without 45 years of a credit line that read: © Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com
I’m not backing off but I need your help
I’ve committed to changing this policy but I can’t do it alone. I need others to help. If you’re a photographer and you’ve experienced this unacceptable practice from your agent, you need to start speaking up. Nobody shooting stock today is doing so as their only way of making a living. What do you have to lose? With such paltry sales in stock photography, the only way you can be rewarded is to get a proper credit line. If you do, you too may find that brand building allows you to leverage your work in ways you would never have thought possible. I did it. You can do the same. Please comment in the section below if you’ve experienced a lack of support from your agents. It’s the only way we can get this changed.