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What to do when asked to sell a picture on Flickr

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One of our readers, Christopher Honiball (see his Flickr stream here) sent in this set of tips on what to do when you’re approached on Flickr to sell an image. The image to the right is one he was recently asked to sell.

Several members on the DPS forum have been approached by an official asking for permission to use their picture on their website/catalog/book/etc.

The first thing you will want to decide is whether or not you will charge for the use of your photo. Opinions on this WILL differ. Some people don’t mind giving away the use of their pictures to individuals doing personal projects or nonprofits (remember that nonprofits generally do pay employees, however). Many times, though, a large for-profit company will ask you for your picture, and in that case, they should be paying.

When deciding whether or not to charge, you should also think about your future goals with photography. Especially if you are producing work that has the quality to be requested for publication, you are probably looking to make some money from your hobby at some point in the future. If you give away the rights to your pictures now, you are effectively undervaluing yourself, and this same customer may come back again in the future expecting more free pictures. Obviously, you don’t want to put yourself in that situation.

Many people will ask for permission to use your pictures in exchange for “credit”. Here’s the thing – credit in most cases means nothing. When is the last time you went on a website (not related to photography) and saw an interesting background picture, immediately thought, “I wonder who took that!” and went and searched out their website? If you’re a photographer you may have actually done that (strange), but most people never even think of the photographer when they see a picture – they just think about the picture itself. Of course, if National Geographic or a photography magazine wants to publish your picture then that would get you some interest, but in most cases the benefits of “credit” are negligible.

Also keep the following in mind:

  1. You took the picture, and only you own the copyright to your picture. Do not give away or sell the copyright to your picture, only limited rights. Use a contract (Thank you forum member SusanH for reinforcing this with me).
  2. These people are probably not trying to scam you, since they actually cared enough to ask you for permission. Be careful though.
  3. Even if you are an amateur, your work has value if someone is asking for it. Don’t be afraid to ask for compensation.
  4. Find out what they intend to use your picture for. If they are serious about using your picture, use a contract!

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what to ask for your picture. If you are approached, ask what the individual was looking to pay, and negotiate from there. It doesn’t have to be a huge sum – enough, however, to recognize that there is value in your work. Keep in mind that each photo given to a company in exchange for “credit” helps to undermine the value of creative or skilled photography -something which definitely has value.

What would you add to Christopher’s tips?

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