As online information is now the primary way women get pregnancy news and education, there are many people out there trying to make money selling it to pregnant women. In order to maximize profits, many web sites, online magazines and social media groups simply do not budget for artwork and visuals, instead offering simple “photo credit” or “exposure” as compensation. Unfortunately, neither photo credit or exposure pays the bills! The practice has become common, so common that most established photographers get numerous inquiries a month.
My friend and Miami area birth photographer extraordinaire Emily Robinson recently wrote this letter in response to the editor of an online birth magazine that expected to be able to use her work for free in their for-profit business. I found it very eloquent and a great explanation for why photographers deserve to be paid for the use of their artwork. After all, artwork is still *work* and worthy of compensation. She gave me permission to share her response with you here. Please don’t fall prey to this tactic, no matter how flattering the editor is about your work. They rely on a stream of talented new photographers who have not yet been taken advantage of to keep their profits up. Thank you, Emily!
I can only accept real payment in return for my art.
I hope as you move forward you realize that content for your magazine is not free for me, or any other artist.
We have invested thousands of dollars into our gear, our training, our business expenses, etc.
After years of practice and hard work, sometimes we make incredible images. It’s not luck.
It’s hard work and actual money spent to arrive at that place.
Realize also, more specifically, that incredible images of birth photography are especially difficult to come by.
For just one client, I am on call for up to 5 weeks at a time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sometimes I stay with them through labor and delivery for up to 24 hours.
I need to use my camera in tight spaces, with variable outcomes, low light or bright spotlights, all while not being intrusive.
Then, the expectation is to deliver a focused, well-composed, artfully edited image to reveal the beauty and excitement of that birth.
After all that, publishers come to me and say “Wow, that’s incredible. Can I have it? No, I don’t give you money, but you can get some web links and I’ll toss in a free subscription or two.”
Imagine walking up to a jeweler at an art fair and finding an amazing necklace and then saying “Could I have that? I promise to tell everyone I know how amazing your work is, and here are some coupons to the bead store, too.”
I’m not telling you all this to be a jerk.
Sometimes I give people the benefit of a doubt. Often I reach deep and consider that people think pixels are not an actual product, so they shouldn’t cost anything.
But surely you are more savvy than that. You sell pixels, too.
I want you to understand the hypocrisy of asking me, and mostly other female photographers, to give away our art for free so you can spread a message of “empowering women,” in their birth.
While you might be interested in promoting amazing birth experiences for women, the very artists who are providing all the content for your publication, which you CHARGE MONEY FOR, are being devalued.
Please reconsider how you work with photographers and artists in the future.
Please remember that I value women, and birth, too.
But I wouldn’t ask anyone to give me something for free.