There're so many stories about big brands and companies approaching photographers in the hope of getting free images to use in exchange for the popular currency that is exposure, but what happens when they exclude the photographer from the equation completely and instead head straight to your client asking for free images?
First of all, let me tell you that I am by no means an experienced commercial photographer, as my work primarily lies within the social sphere, such as weddings and portraits. But even with my relatively small experience in the commercial world, I still am aware that successful brands have enough money to use on their marketing department, whether it is to hire a designer to create a brochure of their products or to pay a photographer a fee for licensing an image, which will aid in their quest to attract more clients.
A couple years ago, I did a lifestyle photoshoot for a friend of mine who has her own artisan business. At the time, it was a great learning experience in working closely with a small business owner and combining lifestyle and commercial photography. I did not think much of our shoot until the past few weeks, when my client was approached by a known packaging company, which had noticed a photograph I had taken of my friend and her branding.
They approached my friend via email by saying they really liked the photograph and wanted to include it in their information leaflet, which they send out to prospective and existing clients, and all they required was the high-resolution file. There was not a single mention of pay at that point. My friend contacted me and asked my opinion of their request because. First of all, she didn't have a high-resolution file. Furthermore, to make their request more appealing, they noted that they would include a credit to the company name. It still remains a mystery whether they meant my friend's business name or that of the photographer.
Needless to say, I drafted up a response email outlining I am happy to grant them a licensing permission for my photograph, but I would need to know the exact ways they intend to use it, for example, whether strictly online or also in print and so forth to allow me to give them a reasonable price. Neither of us heard back for a while, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I went on their website and started the online customer service chat, explained who exactly contacted my friend with the request, and that we never heard back. We found out that the person of contact was on a sick leave for a couple weeks so nobody could give a straight answer as to whether the company wanted to use the image or not.
Not just that, I also got a response that they do not know what the reason for this person (who held the title of Executive Assistant and Product Development) contacting my client was, because all their information goes through their marketing and design department. After they returned back from their sick leave, I finally received a brief email stating that the company did not intend to use my image.
I understand if my clients get confused with various ways photographs can and cannot be used, because this can be a minefield not just for them but also for photographers themselves at times. However, it saddens me that there are still companies that want to profit from acquiring free artwork that they subtly avoid paying for, which hits you even harder when you're a loyal paying customer of said company yourself.
Have you got a similar story to tell? Let us know in the comments below!