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How to Respond to Requests for Free Photos

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For a lot of amateur photographers, it’s usually only a matter of time before someone approaches them with requests for free photos.
But how do you respond to someone looking to use your photos for free?
Getting their attention is great. But there’s something inherently wrong about allowing someone to use your photos without paying you.
I don’t need to explain to you why you shouldn’t be giving your photos away for free.
This post is all about how to respond to these requests.
First, let’s have a look at some common reasons why people will ask to use your photos for free.

“We will offer you photo credit, and link to your website.”

This is something you will see a lot, and the truth is, it’s basically worthless.
Photo credit is never going to pay the bills, and it’s something you should receive if they pay for your photos any way.

“Hundreds of thousands of people will see your photo.”

Again, exposure is great, but it’s not going to pay the bills. Basically all of the photos on this website are my own, and millions of people see them, but the photos alone don’t make me any money.

“It’s for charity.”

If there is a charity requesting use of your photos, and it’s one in particular that you wish to support, then I see no problem in allowing them to use your photos.
This is one of the few times that I will allow my photos to go out for free. It’s a way in which I can give back, that others can’t, so I’m happy to do it.

“There’s no budget for photography.”

Although this is sometimes true, I often find it to be false. You shouldn’t be the only person not getting paid.
Publications have a budget for photography, and if they don’t, then they’re not going to be providing you with the level of exposure that would make it worth your while to give up a photo for free.

Two tunnel leading into each other.
I once charged £80 for this photo so a small production company could use it on their website.

So these are some common pleas of people looking to use your photos for free. Now, how do you respond?

How to Respond to Requests for Free Photos

I can tell you the first thing you don’t want to do, and that’s launch into a rant. It’s really not worth your time, or theirs.
I’ve seen articles like this, which people link to when they’re approached for free photography, and I have to say, I wouldn’t read it.
If someone sent me to that page, I think I’d find them to be a little bit bitter, and I would maybe read about three sentences before seeing that their answer is ‘no’.
Whether the point is valid or not, this is not the approach to take, because if they’re not going to read it, you’re not going to educate them. And it basically ends any possible negotiation over the price they would be willing to pay.
Before we move any further, it’s important to understand the mindset of someone asking to use your photos for free. The majority of the time, they are not willing to pay for your photo.
That’s why they’ve not tried licensing a similar photo from Getty, or a stock photography website.
So knowing this, and knowing that you don’t want to give your photo away for nothing, what do you say, without wasting your time?
Well, I get straight to the point. Here is what a typical response will look like:

Dear Sir/Madam
Thank you for your interest in my photo.
I regret to inform you that I do not allow my photos to be used without receiving payment. I appreciate that you may be able to provide me with exposure, but I hope you can understand that this is simply not a good business model for me, as the costs associated with taking photos can be considerably high.
However, I do allow my photos to be licensed at a very reasonable rate of $X per photo, for a one-time, non-exclusive use. If you are still interested in using my photos, please let me know which ones you wish to use so that I can prepare a licensing agreement for you.
Regards,
Josh Dunlop

This way I don’t simply ignore their request. I conduct myself professionally, allowing them to see how much they would have to pay if they still want to use my photos.

How to Price Your Photos

The price per photo is dependant on who’s asking, and the size of photo they want to use.
If it’s a large national publisher, and they want to the photo to cover the front page of a magazine, I’m going to charge a lot more than I would for a blog who’s looking for a small photo to use as a featured image.
If you’re unsure on how much to charge, these pricing guides are very useful: PriceSize.
The price I charge comes down to these factors:

  • Print vs. digital.
  • Commercial vs. editorial.
  • Circulation of the publication.
  • The size of the image.
  • The amount of time they’ll use it for.
  • Whether they want exclusive rights or not.
  • The number of photos they want to use (price per image comes down when they want multiples).

So you can see, there’s a lot to take into account, which is why I’ve simply listed it as $X in my example.

Conclusion on How to Respond to Requests for Free Photos

The fact of the matter is that the majority of people who are looking for free photos, aren’t looking to pay for a photo. That’s why it’s best not to waste too much time with them.
But on a rare occasion, you will find someone who is trying their luck first, before they offer payment. That’s why it’s always worth replying to them, detailing your pricing for their publication.
Don’t get lost in a rant of how it’s important to get paid for every photo, because as much as it’s important to you, they likely don’t care.

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1 comment
  1. Good article Josh. The only caveat I would suggest is when something like a wedding venue contacts you asking for some images for their brochure/website, etc. This can often be a worthwhile investment, as it is likely to lead to more wedding bookings. Just try to get something in return – a free stand at their next wedding show, an album in their lounge, etc

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