Selling Editorial Photography? Demand a Credit Line!
I’ve been thinking about writing this piece for over a year. What finally inspired me to get this off my chest was the image I’ve included below. The issue I want to discus is photographers not demanding proper credit lines from their agents and the magazines they market to. I’m completely fed up with virtually all photo agencies that no longer consider the relationship with their photographers important enough to demand publishers give proper credit lines on editorial images. Case in point below. This amazing image was used in a recent edition of an airline magazine I was reading on my way to Kenya. Amazingly, for this stunning picture, the only credit line they gave was the agent who sent it to them. Nowhere is there a credit to the photographer.
A little history is in order to understand why this is so blatantly wrong. Since the beginning of photography, photographers have always been given a credit line in editorial publications. It was like a tradition and typically that credit is placed next to the image. That tradition was inspired by another age old tradition – publishers constantly whining they don’t have enough money to pay the photographer what it truly costs to make these types of pictures. So, long ago, the two sides decided to come up with a win/win situation that was mutually beneficial. Since the publishers were always squawking they were broke, photographers decided to subsidize them by giving them quality images at a price that was typically less than what it would cost to produce those images. In exchange, the photographer was given a credit line to help build his/her reputation and drive more business. The credit line was a reasonable tradeoff that allowed photographers to make a name for themselves and eventually have enough business to make a reasonable living. The downside is the building of a reputation that followed took forever and many phenomenal photos were sold for substantially less than they were worth. But at least the photographer got a credit line.
Unfortunately, like the Dodo bird, the photographers part of the credit line seems to be going extinct as well. In the last five years, the markets that used to pay so poorly are now paying virtually nothing AND not giving proper credit. Take for example IStock Photo, the biggest of what is known as the Microstock agents, where you can license the use of an image for as little as $3.00 USD for usage rights that used to command 100 times that amount. Yes, I said One Hundred Times! Microstock agents have been the main offenders for not requiring credit lines. That has in turn set precedent and is now being accepted by even the traditional Rights Managed stock agents such as the Nature Picture Library as we see from the image above. You would think with such a tremendous drop in photo prices, the credit line would be even more valuable to the photographer. So I ask you, are you a photographer that’s not demanding your agent share the credit? If so, is it worth it?
In the end it’s all about pride in yourself and your work. As I tell our workshop guests, anyone can give a photo away. Take pride in your photography and yourself, stand up for what is right and fair. At the very least you should be worth a credit line.