Last week, an editor for a travel and honeymoon magazine emailed me asking whether I knew of a photographer who had a photo of Christ the Redeemer from Rio, Brazil. It was going to be used as an opening 2-page spread. Photo credit was the only thing going to be provided.

I posted it on my Facebook Wall. To my initial surprise, many were against sharing photos for print credit only; money was the issue. It got me thinking. People shared some great points. I wanted to present both sides.

Are all payments only in the form of money?

no to byline

Let’s try to examine the issue from both sides. I’d love to hear your responses later.

Pro: Money

A byline does not directly pay the bills. There are costs involved with a photo shoot … most importantly, time and skills.

Speaking of skills, below is a reminder from a wonderful Picasso fable.

Picasso was in a park when a woman approached him and asked him to draw a portrait of her. Picasso agreed and quickly sketches her. After handing the sketch to her, she is pleased with the likeness and asks how much she owed to him. Picasso replied $5,000.

The woman screamed, “but it took you only five minutes”.

“No, madam, it took me all my life,” replied Picasso.

Relating to this scenario, Lester Rosebrock might have said it best, which I love!

Is the person writing the article doing it for free? What about other submissions – are they for credit line also?

Does the editor of the magazine work for free?

Just checking.

Lastly, Scott Lightner shared a humorous video about client-vendor relationships regarding fees due.

Pro: Byline Credit

Photographers commonly use an exchange system called TFP (Time for Print) or TFCD (Time for CD) whereas time is traded for something.

In the case of magazines or television shows, people trade time for exposure. But it all boils down to one question – “where’s the ROI?” asked Lightner.

Let’s examine Kim Kardashian’s famous wedding with Kris Humphries. She spent nothing and received $17.9 million in gifts and money per Hindustan Times. To name a few services —

  • three $20,000 Vera Wang gowns
  • $400,000 of Perrier Jouet Champagne
  • $10,000 of Lehr & Black invitation services
  • $50,000 bachelorette party in Tao Las Vegas

Were the companies silly to offer said services for free?

Pro: Balance

We can go back and forth as to what’s worth what … But isn’t that the question?

  • If UK’s Royal Court asked you to photograph Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding [for free], would you oblige?
  • If Sir Richard Branson or the deceased Steve Jobs personally asked you to photograph their portraits [for free], would you oblige?
  • If Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt asked you to photograph their family [for free], would you oblige?

Is it worth it to lend your services now and hope for a better future? Does money directly dictate value?

I posed this question in another blog post, “If prices denoted value, does that mean that my blog posts are worthless since I don’t charge a penny?”

If you said yes to any of the three questions earlier about photographing for free, why? Is it because it’s potential exposure? So, in the case of this magazine dilemma, is it important to ask which publisher it is for before potentially throwing away a possible opportunity?

By the same token, these opportunities could yield nothing monetarily. In fact, it could even cost you more than you gain. Overall, while certain opportunities may not be worth it for some [photographers], it may be for others.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’d like to share the article with friends or peers, use the social media buttons below.


Lawrence Chan

P.S. Kim Kardashian’s wedding went south. A divorce was filed yesterday (I think), which made my photo shoot of her tabletop worthless lol.

P.P.S. I’ve given my share of photo services for free. Some yielded nothing, while others paved way to shoot some cool events.

Here’s one of Piers Morgan’s private inaugural dinner with close friends (replacing Larry King) —

piers morgan larry king