Tom Buchanan Photographics: Blog en-us (C) Tom Buchanan Photographics (Tom Buchanan Photographics) Mon, 30 Dec 2013 22:35:00 GMT Mon, 30 Dec 2013 22:35:00 GMT Tom Buchanan Photographics: Blog 120 112 Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work for Free  

Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work for Free

Dear potential photo buyer,

If you have been directed to this page, it is likely that you have requested the use of an image or images for free or minimal compensation.

As professional photographers, we receive requests for free images on a regular basis. In a perfect world, each of us would love to be able to respond in a positive manner and assist, especially with projects or efforts related to areas such as education, social issues, and conservation of natural resources. It is fair to say that in many cases, we wish we had the time and resources to do more to assist than just send photographs.

Unfortunately, such are the practicalities of life that we are often unable to respond, or that when we do, our replies are brief and do not convey an adequate sense of the reasons underlying our response.

Circumstances vary for each situation, but we have found that there are a number of recurring themes, which we have set out below with the objective of communicating more clearly with you, and hopefully avoiding misunderstandings or unintentionally engendering ill will.

Please take the following points in the constructive manner in which they are intended. We certainly hope that after you have had a chance to read this, we will be able to talk again and establish a mutually beneficial working relationship.

Photographs Are Our Livelihood
Creating compelling images is the way we make our living. If we give away our images for free, or spend too much time responding to requests for free images, we cannot make a living.

We Do Support Worthy Causes With Images
Most of us do contribute photographs, sometimes more, to support certain causes. In many cases, we may have participated directly in projects that we support with images, or we may have a pre-existing personal relationship with key people involved with the efforts concerned. In other words, each of us can and does provide images without compensation on a selective basis.

We Have Time Constraints
Making a leap from such selective support to responding positively to every request we get for free photographs, however, is impractical, if for no other reason than the substantial amount of time required to respond to requests, exchange correspondence, prepare and send files, and then follow-up to find out how our images were used and what objectives, if any, were achieved. It takes a lot of time to respond to requests, and time is always in short supply.

Pleas of “We Have No Money” Are Often Difficult to Fathom
The primary rationale provided in nearly all requests for free photographs is budgetary constraint, meaning that the requestor pleads a lack of funds.

Such requests frequently originate from organisations with a lot of cash on hand, whether they be publicly listed companies, government or quasi-government agencies, or even NGOs. Often, it is a simple matter of taking a look at a public filing or other similar disclosure document to see that the entity concerned has access to significant funding, certainly more than enough to pay photographers a reasonable fee should they choose to do so.

To make matters worse, it is apparent that all too often, of all the parties involved in a project or particular effort, photographers are the only ones being asked to work for free. Everyone else gets paid.

Given considerations like this, you can perhaps understand why we frequently feel slighted when we are told that: “We have no money.” Such claims can come across as a cynical ploy intended to take advantage of gullible individuals.

We Have Real Budget Constraints
With some exceptions, photography is not a highly remunerative profession. We have chosen this path in large part due to the passion we have for visual communication, visual art, and the subject matters in which we specialise.

The substantial increase in photographs available via the internet in recent years, coupled with reduced budgets of many photo buyers, means that our already meager incomes have come under additional strain.

Moreover, being a professional photographer involves significant monetary investment.

Our profession is by nature equipment-intensive. We need to buy cameras, lenses, computers, software, storage devices, and more on a regular basis. Things break and need to be repaired. We need back-ups of all our data, as one ill-placed cup of coffee could literally erase years of work. For all of us, investment in essential hardware and software entails thousands of dollars a year, as we need to stay current with new technology and best practices.

In addition, travel is a big part of many of our businesses. We must spend a lot of money on transportation, lodging and other travel-related costs.

And of course, perhaps most importantly, there is a substantial sum associated with the time and experience we have invested to become proficient at what we do, as well as the personal risks we often take. Taking snapshots may only involve pressing the camera shutter release, but creating images requires skill, experience and judgement.

So the bottom line is that although we certainly understand and can sympathise with budget constraints, from a practical point of view, we simply cannot afford to subsidise everyone who asks.

Getting “Credit” Doesn’t Mean Much
Part and parcel with requests for free images premised on budgetary constraints is often the promise of providing “credit” and “exposure”, in the form or a watermark, link, or perhaps even a specific mention, as a form of compensation in lieu of commercial remuneration.

There are two major problems with this.

First, getting credit isn’t compensation. We did, after all, create the images concerned, so credit is automatic. It is not something that we hope a third party will be kind enough to grant us.

Second, credit doesn’t pay bills. As we hopefully made clear above, we work hard to make the money required to reinvest in our photographic equipment and to cover related business expenses. On top of that, we need to make enough to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, transportation, etc.

In short, receiving credit for an image we created is a given, not compensation, and credit is not a substitute for payment.

“You Are The Only Photographer Being Unreasonable”
When we do have time to engage in correspondence with people and entities who request free photos, the dialogue sometimes degenerates into an agitated statement directed toward us, asserting in essence that all other photographers the person or entity has contacted are more than delighted to provide photos for free, and that somehow, we are “the only photographer being unreasonable”.

We know that is not true.

We also know that no reasonable and competent photographer would agree to unreasonable conditions. We do allow for the fact that some inexperienced photographers or people who happen to own cameras may indeed agree to work for free, but as the folk wisdom goes: “You get what you pay for.”

Please Follow-Up
One other experience we have in common is that when we do provide photographs for free, we often do not receive updates, feedback or any other form of follow-up letting us know how the event or project unfolded, what goals (if any) were achieved, and what good (if any) our photos did.

All too often, we don’t even get responses to emails we send to follow-up, until, of course, the next time that someone wants free photographs.

In instances where we do agree to work for free, please have the courtesy to follow-up and let us know how things went. A little consideration will go a long way in making us feel more inclined to take time to provide additional images in the future.

Wrap Up
We hope that the above points help elucidate why the relevant photographer listed below has sent you to this link. All of us are dedicated professionals, and we would be happy to work with you to move forward in a mutually beneficial manner.


If you are a photographer, have a look at this page to acknowledge what others are saying about this issue.

Text by Tony Wu.


]]> (Tom Buchanan Photographics) budget charities charity competent equipment experience free freebies money need paid photographer poor professional weekend warriors Thu, 11 Oct 2012 03:34:20 GMT
A New Site Well hello there.  Welcome to my new photo site using Zenfolio as a portal to all the things I do photographically.  It's been a struggle to decide which direction I was going to go in terms of social media and website marketing and this provider was decided on after looking and trying out many others.  The seem to offer more for the professional photographer than anyone else and because there are only so many hours in the day, I needed something that would be intuitively easy to use and could integrate with the post production software I use, i.e. Lightroom , Photoshop and ACDSee Pro.  Two of the pprograms allow me to directly connect to my Zenfolio account and upload easily.  I will be testing that shortly with some of the projects that I have been working on.

Speaking of projects... Lately I have been doing some extensive work for Chinook Country Tourist Association and the results have been great.  Here's a list...

1. I've worked on the CTC Conference held at the Coast Hotel & Convention Centre in Lethbridge and amassed a large number of images of attendees and taught at short workshop on authentic image taking and techniques.  The first night we all went to Lethbridge College to participate in a culinary experience I would recommend to any organization and was busy running from one area of the extensive kitchen complex to the other snapping images of all the people making our supper.  What a riot that was.  Not one to forget.  

2. I was officially photographing the Broxburn Pumpkin Fest and had a great time at this wonderful place run by Paul DeJong with one of the highest rated cafe's in Lethbridge.  

3. On the same day as the Pumpkin Fest I displayed some of my work at the Gem of the West Museum for the opening of the Scotia Gallery. What a wonderful day it was with lots of contribution by some of the best artists in the Coaldale area.

4. I was onhand to photograph the cultural events at Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump on Buffalo Days celebrating 25 years of this popular place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The dancing was amazing and colourful and the food was good with hundreds of people participating in the event and everyone had a buffalo burger and some cake.  It was fun for everyone in the family.

5.  I have been completing a photo project on the colours of autumn in the river bottom lately too.  They are just so amazingly beautiful at this time of the year and the window of opportunity before winter sets in is short so I have to hurry to get everything I want.

6.  And finally for this post I'm still working on an ambitious project to create a series of portraits of all types of people that I'm eventually going to turn into a wonderful travelling show and book.  If you're interested in becoming involved, just give me a call at 403 634 8801 or write to me at and I'll be happy to explain further.  If you want more information have a look at and click on Main Site.  

Of course there are lots of other shoots going on in my life as well  and as soon as the renovations are completed in the studio and I have it back from being a storage place for rooms that are being renovated I will get back to several more projects as well.  And yes I do eat and sleep regularly too, so don't worry I'm still happy and healthy.

Talk to you soon and Oh! by the way, don't hesitate to send me comments.  I love to hear from everyone.

]]> (Tom Buchanan Photographics) Alberta Broxburn Chinook Coaldale Lethbridge new Fri, 05 Oct 2012 14:27:25 GMT