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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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.

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"...

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

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

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?

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

Jeff Walsh's picture

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

Douglas Turney's picture

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?

Jeff Walsh's picture

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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