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Photographer Outs Shutterfly for Trying to Obtain Free Photos, Begins #NoBudgetNoPhotos Movement Backed by Industry Peers

Photographer Outs Shutterfly for Trying to Obtain Free Photos, Begins #NoBudgetNoPhotos Movement Backed by Industry Peers

Photographers are using social media to unite and prevent their peers from allowing global companies to use their images for free, via the hashtag #NoBudgetNoPhotos. The movement was started after one photographer revealed an international billion-dollar company refused to pay for the usage of her images.

Writing for PetaPixel, Nafa Ribeiro, owner of Judah Avenue Photography, said:

As much as I appreciate whenever someone compliments or expresses admiration for my photography, there’s no shying away from the fact that in order for this to work as a business, I have to sweat the details, the dollars, and all of the cents. Because my staff, my clients, and my family depend on this.

Ribeiro is now making public her experience with Shutterfly, who she says reached out to her expressing interest in using some of her imagery for their marketing. She did not bow to the pressure of flattery, her reply containing her license fee quote of $150 per image. Time for the eyeroll moment: the company’s reply informed Ribeiro that they currently had no allocated budget for image licensing.

She then hit back with the classic "exposure doesn’t pay the bills," also making the incredibly valid point that production costs of arranging their own shoot would run significantly higher than the fee she was seeking for her photos. She also says MGM sent a form asking her to sign away all rights to her images.

They are saving on all of these costs by crowdsourcing their marketing assets on nothing more than the promise of a photo credit and a link.

As a means of venting her frustrations, she took to a number of Facebook photography groups to examine the scale of just how often large corporations were trying to take advantage of photographers.

Emma Thurgood, a photographer based in Connecticut, said:

This isn’t unique to major brands and photographers. I’ve worked in the arts my entire life, and creatives and artists of all kinds are continually asked by businesses, municipalities, and NPOs to work for starvation wages or for free just because ‘it’s an honor to be chosen.’ It’s time for that to stop. The simple truth is that you cannot turn around without laying your hand or eyes on something that is the product of an artist’s mind and skill. Our entire way of life is influenced by the work of artists, and we need to start recognizing their value with proper compensation for their creative assets.

 Meanwhile, Cassie Clayshulte, a photographer based in South Carolina, said:

What’s important to remember is that all of these companies like Shutterfly used to have huge photography budgets. HUGE. But since they have realized that photographers are willing to give away their photos for free just because they’re honored to be asked, or because they believe that ‘exposure’ will result in clients, they have all cut their photography budgets completely.

Ribeiro concludes her piece for PetaPixel by adding that she is writing to Ellen, who frequently gives out checks on her show to people in need, courtesy of Shutterfly:

But I think charity should begin at home, and a company that gives out $2 million in charity for promotion on a nationally syndicated daytime talk show should also allot a budget to license photographs properly instead of begging for hand-outs from small business photographers who may be struggling themselves.

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

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We'll give you "exposure" so you can get more "clients" who also want to only pay you in "exposure" to get even more "clients"...........

It's commentary on a common idea in the world that creatives should be happy to work for free to get "known" not a quote from the article. But thanks for joining a photography community to be the champion of the megacorps who are trying to devalue photography as a business.

No offence, but how dense can you possibly be? I AM commenting on the article. The larger societal impact that the entire movement mentioned "in the article" is attempting to address such that our entire profession isn't devalued into oblivion. I didn't realize that I had to restrict all comments to direct quotes and no commentary.

There's also no evidence to suggest that this "isn't" part of a larger movement, and yet you're attempting to defend the people involved. A full-time, paid employee of a giant corporation believes that it is a sufficiently valid use of their and their company's time to approach photographers asking for free work. I can at the very least 'infer' that this isn't the first nor last time this has happened. And it does speak to a larger problem which is that many (from my own personal experience) people attempt to ask for free photography services.

I had a professional organization just 2 weeks ago, when quoted a very low-mid half day rate respond with "we don't have that much budgeted for photography" and then suggest that the "$125 value" of the fundraiser ticket they were "donating" to me would somehow be compensation for my time. Selling plates at $125 a head for hundreds and hundreds of people and they couldn't budget a few hundred for photography. If I had offered any less I would have been doing a disservice to all professional photographers in my area by devaluing our services to below commodity levels.

This article "sparks a conversation" that absolutely needs to be had in 2019. And the movement IS large and problematic, the existence of the @NoBudgetNoPhotos movement tells you that we're not the only photographers dealing with this.

Doesn't have to go into details. Pretty clear that she was contacted for free service that is not part of her business model.


So, if you walked into a store and said "give me free stuff, so I'll tell all my friends how great your store is" that that's "totally ok" and that no one else should be allowed to share their opinion or commentary on the issue of people attempting to devalue their time, expertise and livelihood just because "Done.". Gotcha.

I'm not "demonizing" anyone. I'm merely stating, through a satirical and sarcastic comment that there exists a problem in this industry.

"Why do you people -- always have to demonize people you disagree with"
Hilarious when this comes from someone who has to go track details on people who don't agree with him. Pathetic really!

Go troll locally where ever your secret place is dude, may be you'll get free work there. Enjoy!

I do like dogs and anything that go fetch and comes back under my control. See you in in a minute with your next troll post.

You're the one in here crying about other peoples opinions acting as if yours is the only one which matters. You are the overly sensitive one. And looking at your history of histrionics​ about whining that people aren't nice to trump, I wish I could block you.

We should all ask Shutterfly to use their products like cards and photo books for free. After all we would all be sending those cards and photo books to other people thus giving them free exposure. Wonder how that would work?

Email sent! ;) "I don't have a budget for this photobook right now..."

I'm may be confused, but where did they say anything about giving only credit in the email from Shutterfly? Her only response was no budget. They may be looking for a free photo to use, or they just responded with a reply of no budget, or out of budget. Unless they are flat out saying they are looking to only give "exposure," this whole article seems like a witch hunt.

They reached out to use the photograph, the photographer said, okay, I charge $150 for commercial use. They said, never mind, we won't use your photograph. How the hell aren't you seeing the issue? The problem is they want a free photo to use for commercial purposes. Commercial purposes mean, they will use it to make money either directly or indirectly.

Right, cause let's be kind to the person calling it a witch hunt. Let's let them be a dick and not get treated the same in turn.

It was called for, and frankly that's subjective so there's speaking definitively on what is, and is not, called for. It is NOT a witch hunt, because the company in question wanted to profit, for free (read it again, they offered nothing, not even exposure), off of someone's work. They want to make money, and in turn not pay the people who help them do so, and last time I checked, that is immoral (and in many lines of work, illegal to do, but we can skip the legalities here). By calling it a witch hunt, it implies the company did nothing wrong, which is incorrect, and also implies that the poster has no clue what the actual point is, yet they felt the need to defend the company by calling it a witch hunt.

However, all of this is very simple, you don't like how I responded, great, but it shouldn't be surprising that I don't care. You respond to things how you will, and I'll do the same. If I want to get scolded for how I speak, I have a mother, don't need a second.

Wow, that went south fast. As I said, there was no mention of using the photo for "free". The photog came back with a very reasonable price. But the response from Shutterfly was simply, "Sorry, no budget, thank you for your time." No one knows anything that happened on Shutterfly's end. Maybe the project had a budget, then it was removed between the conversations. Anything could have happened. And yes, they may have been looking for a free photo. My point is that "Give us your photo and we will give you credit" was never stated [in this article]. The first email from Shutterfly is not posted here. If it says in that first email from Shutterfly to the photog that we are looking to use your photo for marketing and will give you credit with no payment, then the photog has a podium to stand on and to be heard. There are no facts to check on this article other than email correspondence with scribbled out emails and names. A lot is not said or posted in this article to jump to any conclusion.

A response to Shutterfly could have been, "Sorry that we can't work anything out. Please let me know if we can work something out in the future when a budget comes available." Leaving possibilities for future work. Instead, the photog went right to shaming the company.

So since you weren't there at the inception of #nobudgetnophotos and I was, I can tell you there was a conversation with over 400 comments where multiple people validated that Shutterfly approaches photographers regularly asking for free photos. Nafa is pretty awesome but she's not a unicorn.

Ohhhhh, after reading more comments I see you're either a lame ass troll or a self appointed moral police. You can keep replying to my shit, but I'm for sure done with you.

Nah, Pat is a corporate bootlicker​, who believes corporations are people and deserve all the rights he'd deny us.

The problem with your comment is that you're right, but don't know it. You're right, the email didn't even offer exposure. It offered absolutely NOTHING in return for the use of her photo. That makes this even worse. They wanted her work for free, for corporate use, and we don't have any proof that they even wanted to credit her.

An excellent article. Another aspect of the no budget and exposure crowd is that they know there are all kinds of amateurs out there who are either stupid enough to think that giving away their imagery will somehow advance their so-called career or those who just don't care and give things away because they feel like it.

I've always been more than happy to out those who do that, such as a local dentist/hobbyist who came at me about 6-7 years ago after knowing my feelings about it all and actually laughed about giving away his images and how it messes with "real photographers" (His words). I kept my cool and eventually asked him for a business card. He handed me one and asked me what kind off dental work I needed and I told him that unless he would work for free I had no interest in dealing with him but now that I knew his name and business that I would make sure the local photographic community knew how much it entertained him to give his work away for free.

That wiped the smile off his face and I never saw him again at the events we mutually attended.

Actually not angry but thanks for the analysis. I was not generalizing amateurs and/or hobbyists by any means but I have had direct experience with enough of the ones I referred to so I'm not quite sure where you're coming from.

Its much like if I inferred from your all your contrary responses on this thread one might assume that you just plain enjoy disagreeing with people, but I'm not coming to that conclusion.

So everybody is wrong? Thats very interesting. Have a nice day.

Just making assumptions like you do. Again, have a nice day. If if makes you feel better to get the last word, by all means let 'er rip.

Pat, I will expose your name at no charge for "exposure" if you give your camera to Fred. I hope you do, I would otherwise conclude you are offended by my offer. It's really a great deal and you would offend everyone here if you didn't take this free offer today.

Nice, did you like Roanoke? How come I can't find your contact info? Hiding behind your shadow?

Thanks, but Shutterfly won't find you that way to offer you free work. What a missed opportunity! LOL

I did have a coherent response. I downvoted you because you are in a photography community with professionals attempting to make a living from a profession that is constantly being devalued in the modern era and you're taking the side of a multi-million dollar organization that is attempting to exacerbate the problem. But thanks for your well thought out response.

You might be right on the number of people who are professionals. No way to know really. I'll admit I've been "more civil" but I wouldn't say I'm being particularly "un-civil". Just "emotionally invested".

Edit: I've been "more civil" at other times in my life, not "more civil" "than you in this current converation"...

From now on, just always agree with me and civility won't be an issue. ;)

A couple of years ago, the marketing manager at the local Six Flags who I met through my chamber of commerce asked me to photograph the newly installed Wonder Woman ride, as well as some other new installations at the park, and their July 4th celebration.

Would have been several days of work, in the heat of summer, and she actually expected to pay me with "exposure" and some tickets. I'm a grown man, what the hell am I going to do with some Six Flags tickets? I can just buy some damn tickets.

She said she had no budget. I looked up Six Flags revenue and the company had made a billion dollars in the first six months of the year prior. The had money to license Wonder Woman from DC Comics, but no money to pay a photographer? Whatever.

She actually thought it would be a big deal for me to be able to say that I did work for Six Flags, like that was going to magically attract paying clients. I should have asked her if she goes to the grocery store and tells them she works for Six Flags or does she need to go in there with money?

I understand the frustration but I wouldn't have replied except to ask for confirmation that the image in question was in fact removed from whatever project they are working on.

The one thing I've learned in the business world is that if you are on the defensive like that, you're losing.

I turn down exposure/charity/free jobs all the time except for those projects that I'm interested in. Stay brief, stay firm and stay classy.


Ignore those outlets and go make some money with paying clients. That is where the rubber meets the road. Extremely unlikely that giving it away free to them will net you one dollar or euro. Anyone have a different experience? Made it big sucking up to those outfits?

I'd like an electrician to re-wire my house. It doesn't pay anything, but it's good exposure.

Here's the deal with that: no one calls themselves an electrician who isn't one. No one is trying to gain popularity by being an electrician. No one wants to take a risk of electrocuting themselves, or getting sued, because they don't know what they are doing. Because of these things, people inherently understand the value of an electrician. With photography, there's a level of "good enough," that can be used as "professional."

Also, with the amount of people taking photos and posting them for everyone to see, companies aren't forced to use only professional photographers. If you have 7 million people taking photos every day, a handful of those people are going to get lucky and take good shots. Because they aren't professional, the concept of a company wanting a lucky photo is exciting, and exposure is more than enough because they have zero ideas of becoming a professional. It's just a moment that's cool, that they can tell their friends about. In turn, the company gets free marketing material to use, makes money, and compensates in no way the person who provided that.

At this point in time, it has nothing to do with exposure, but everything to do with value, along with supply and demand. The amount of photos being distributed into the world is at an all time high. So with that, photographers must figure out a way to give more than good pictures. There are not an influx of electricians, thus, while agree with the sentiment, its not a good analogy

Everyone please remember that Shutterfly is a for profit company so they believe in making money just like any professional photographer is interested in doing. For Shutterfly's 2018 fiscal year Shutterfly made a net profit of $50M and they have made a net profit for 3 years in a row which totals $95M. So they can't afford $150 for an image?

Yeah, and that's the problem. They are making money, while simultaneously they don't want to pay for things. Photography is in a weird spot with all these people who call themselves "photographers," but are instead people just taking snap shots hoping strike popularity instead of actually working for things. I'm really curious where this "free for exposure" will lead both the industry and these companies over the next 10 years.

There's a lot more to pricing the licensing of images than just having a flat fee for "commercial use". On top of that, $150 is never the correct fee for any licensing of commercial use.

I find it funny, both petapixel and fstoppers have been accused of doing the same. Including outright theft until the photographer objects

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