Take This Photograph, It’s FREE! Free is GOOD!

Take This Photograph, It’s FREE! Free is GOOD!

So I get a tweet ‘alerting’ me to this interesting argument.

This photographer says his photograph is not free:

From PetaPixel:

“As someone mentioned, THIS single photo didn’t cost me $6,612, but if you wanted to create it, from scratch, that is what is involved. So I consider it the replacement value if it’s stolen, or how much my lawyer will send you a bill for if it’s found being used without my permission.

If you give your photo away for “credit” then the best possible scenario for you is someone will see your photo, contact you, and ask if they could borrow one of your photos… for credit. Try this… next time you’re at dinner, tell your waiter you’ll tell all your friends how good the service was if he gives you dinner for free.”

Two things come to mind.

(And understand I am a big fan of Petapixel, so this is tough love, buddy.)

1. I don’t give a shit how much your camera cost. I don’t care where you had to go to get it. I don’t care about investment, or time spent, or education… none of that. The image has value because you made it. It is yours.. and YOURS to do with what you want. It has a value that is NOT measured in what is invested in it.

Would I care how long someone worked on their novel to decide if I wanted to buy it? If the author lived in squalor would it be worth less than an author who lived a lavish lifestyle on the Italian Riviera while writing his tome? Do I care about how much the painter spent on his easel, or brushes?

No. And I have a problem with deciding what the value of a photograph is based on the dollars spent to create it.

It. Just. Doesn’t. Matter.

What matters is that it is the authors work, his photograph, her Polaroid… it is THEIRS.

Petapixel: You Do NOT have to justify your work. You should not even think you should. You don’t owe anyone an ‘explanation’ of why you want to be compensated. Don’t be sucked into their world of “I can’t do it, so I will take from those who can. Cause, I’m, like, entitled, man…” It is your photograph and that is all there is to it.

2. Shooting for free, or credit, seems to be a symantical problem. Being paid doesn’t necessarily mean dollars. It never has.

Access can open doors, and work that is amazing can be created by a photographer with some assets at their disposal.

I once had an offer to travel all over the Southwest in an RV. Two weeks, paid. All meals, all travel/motel/RV hookups and expenses, and anywhere I wanted to go. They let me choose the time and what they wanted was 12 shots for their brochure, exclusive for 2 years. All other images taken were mine to use anyway I wanted.

Oh yeah, they offered credit.

What do you think I did?

Santa Fe, Alamogordo, Denver, the Rockies…

Do I believe in working for free… Hell NO. But that wasn’t for free – that was access, and about $12K to take a 2 week vacation in a top of the line RV.

I do hope you can see the difference. If not, no problem.

Then this guy posts a completely silly article on how lame Petapixels article is.

“I think it’s a fine photo. It has cost me quite a bit of money in order to create it. A Canon SLR camera, a high-end lens, my time to take the picture, edit it, publish it. Not including the cost of the computer. Several thousands of Euros overall. But that’s a silly way of looking at things. I have taken literally thousands of pictures with this camera, so the actual cost is under 1 EUR per photograph…

I took the picture because I like taking pictures. I’ve invested into a lot of money into camera gear over the past 27 years or so and never made a dime from it. On the other hand, it has given me a lot of joy and pride. The joy to take beautiful pictures. The pride of building the reputation of being a decent photographer. The pleasure to give away my work and see people smile. The satisfaction coming from the fact that my work is useful, seeing it’s reused by others[1].”

OK… cool. So what? Who cares.

A nice shot of the Eiffel Tower and -It’s free?


He maintains the value of his image is based on how many actuation’s the shutter has had. The more he shoots, the less value his images have.


That’s your economic plan for – anything?

NOOOO… the value of the image is what YOU say it is. If it has no $ value, but has great sentimental value – COOL.

Then we are told how great it is to take photographs and share them and give them to the world to make the world smile and all sing Kumbaya holding hands buying the world a Coke… or something.

The reason you take a photograph has nothing at all to do with the value of the photograph.



(Now we get the guy in the back waving his hand… “but if no one will buy it at that price, is it really worth that price?”)

Yes. Of course.

Maybe it never sells. Maybe people laugh. Maybe it is not worth a thing to the rest of the world.

Does the rest of the world get to put a price on OUR ART? Our work. Our photographs?

Of course not.

If it is overpriced, it simply doesn’t sell.

It does NOT become FREE. It is not now on the block of ‘take my ass, cause I was overpriced…’

Where the hell do these people live? In what skool did they learn economics (wait… LOL, what was I thinking… strike that question.)


Every image has a value that is both intrinsic and external. When I create it, I can choose what to do with it. Not the gubmunt, not the interwebs, and certainly not someone who wants it, but has no funds for which to purchase it.

What was it the bank robber said… “that’s where the money is…?”

Do what you want with your images.

I. Don’t. Care.

Just don’t tell me what I CAN DO with MY photographs.

So here’s the FREE Pic from Me.

It is free, and it is awesome… just ask me and I will confirm.


Yeah… awesome.


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  1. 1) Nothing is ever ‘free’. Everything costs someone something. Whether they insulate that cost from the person down stream is their prerogative.

    2) I can always tell when someone is grasping for straws in an argument. When they make analogies, they always mess them up. If I wanted to barter or make an in kind trade for a meal at a restaurant – the only thing I would involve the waiter in would be to get the manager or owner – a figure that has authority to approve such an in kind trade.

    I know that is nit picky, but it sounds like an impassioned, emotional argument and not a calm, well analyzed one.

  2. I agree with you Don, because you are wise. And besides that, I’m on board–your image is what you value it as.

    I really liked what PetaPixel posted though, and linked to it on my Facebook photo page. I do think it is easier for non-photogs to understand the value of a photo when you talk about gear–and let’s not forget time which wasn’t really mentioned. Time is money and it takes time to shoot something like this, time to find it, time to get there, time to learn your camera and gear well enough to make it happen.

    I guess there are two arguments here, the value of a photo, and the cost of making a photo.

  3. Great rant! I completely agree. It stinks when I’m in the situation of knowing what my work is worth and realizing, if I don’t sell it then I don’t eat. But setting a standard of what my work is worth is something I hope to work on this year, as I gain skills and confidence. Thanks for writing this! Well done!!!


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