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.

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Previous comments

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.

You're right. Anyone can ask for anything for free and the holder of that item or service can say no. The issue is: these photographers chose a field they loved, trusting the money would follow. Well, it doesn't always work that way.

Jeff Walsh's picture

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.

Eric Mazzone's picture

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

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

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.

"...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 understand your anger but why are you insulting people you don't know and know nothing about their motives?

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.

Actually I enjoy disagreeing with people when they're wrong. :-)
So, saying people are "either stupid" or characterizing their careers as "so-called" isn't insulting? Anyway, I only resort to insults when I'm angry which is why I mistook your state of mind. Sorry.

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

I didn't disagree with Jason or Lenzy. Do you always ignore data that doesn't agree with your theories? That's interesting but not "very".

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.

So, Matthew Teetshorn and Fred Teifeld, I replied to your remarks, honestly and respectfully and, not being able to come up with a coherent response, you down-voted me. Sounds about right. No wonder nobody wants to hire you guys. smh

Benoit Pigeon's picture

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.

That's a tempting offer but has nothing to do with ANYTHING in the article. You, of course, are free to make such a generous offer and I, after careful consideration, decline, as is my right. As for offending others, I would think you'd realize that doesn't bother me at all. ;-)

So, Roanoke, Virginia. I spent a week there one day! ;-)

Benoit Pigeon's picture

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

It was okay. I'm more of a small town kind of guy. I'm not hiding, I'm right here. As for contact information, you don't need to contact me, beyond this site, and I don't need to contact you, but thanks for your concern. I assure you, those who need to find me, can and, too often, do. ;-)

Benoit Pigeon's picture

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

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

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.

And I completely understand. I don't feel like I'm taking the side of a multi-million dollar organization; I feel like I'm taking the side of civility. Ironic, huh!? :-)

As an aside, just out of curiosity, and I don't know the answer, I wonder how many people who frequent Fstoppers (not just commenters) are professionals. I'm guessing the minority.

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

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"...

I'm working on being civil. Sisyphus had an easier task. ;-)

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

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

Now that there is funny, I don't care who you are! :-)

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

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?

Leigh Miller's picture

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?

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