The War on Photographers Continues. This is an article we ran on another blog, but it’s such a great lead-in to the blog article that we’re posting tomorrow, we thought we’d run it here again.

There is a famous story of Picasso, who was sitting in a Paris café, when a fan came up to him and asked if he would draw a quick sketch for them. Picasso surprisingly agreed and quickly drew something on his napkin. But before giving it to his admirer, Picasso asked for a significant amount of money for the napkin. The admirer was in shock and said: “How can you ask me for so much? It took you only a minute to draw it!” Picasso replied, “No, it took me 40 years.”

A student recently reminded us of that story (us being Ed and Jack) because we are collecting stories of fantastic offers to photographers, all over the world, where instead of paying money, the big companies will give photographers a “chance to have their work seen.” Companies seem to think that they no longer need to follow the time-honored tradition of paying photographers for their work. Work that, like Picasso, took a while to nurture and develop.

So they offer no payment to photographers, the companies, syndicators, and media moguls keep all the money. The photographers get to feed themselves, their families, and feed themselves with “glory” knowing their images are seen by thousands or even millions. Charlie Sheen just started a Twitter account and got a million followers. They say, that many eyeballs seeing what he Tweets, is worth a million dollars a year to Sheen.

So eyeballs equal money. And if a million people see your image, what does Big Media do for you? They say: “Hey, thanks for the content. Send more. And leave us alone. Paying you is just, oh, too much trouble.”

Think this is unique? Not only do photographers suffer through this, there are many other creatives like writers, who face the same issues. All we have to say is “The Huffington Post” and think of all those $315 million dollars that Arianna Huffington collected for selling it to AOL. OK, $300 million we understand. A nice round number. But the $15 million is maybe to pay her contributors?  For all the writers that created all that content for the Huffington Post? Nope. Not a penny to contributors.

While Arianna is driving her expensive car to buy a tank of high priced gas, contributors hope they can get enough money together to buy a bike. And pay their phone bill so it doesn’t get cut off while they wait for Arianna to call them with their cut.  They got a long wait.

In light of that, we just got this note, below, from a friend. Could it be another newspaper wanting free photographs from professional photographers? Oh, yeah.

It is heavily edited but the point is crystal clear.  If you are a photographer you are expected to work for free and donate your images, not to a charity, but to for-profit corporations. Could it be that the press wants all the money?  Could it be that what Jack and Ed have been saying and writing for over a decade is actually correct?

Free photos? Well, it depends on your point of view as either a photographer or a media giant.



Hi _______,

Just to let you know that now, the photographers being screwed in the USA are not alone. Out here in Hong Kong the South China Morning Post used to be the most profitable paper per reader in the world, circa 1997. In 2006 the group posted a net profit of US$42,000,000 with a readership of just over 100,000. They have just released a revised contract for freelancers with this covering note:


Dear Colleague,

Thank you for contributing to the South China Morning Post.  We would like to let you know that we are introducing a new, updated, contract for our contributors.   This follows a thorough review.

Amendments have been made to bring our contracts into line with developments in the media industry, especially the introduction of new technology.

The new contract, therefore, is broader in scope when dealing with the form in which your works may be published.   This will enable them to reach a wider readership.

It also expressly provides for your Works to be published unlimited times and for the South China Morning Post to license its customers to access them in our archives.

We have decided to end the practice of splitting royalty payments from third parties between the SCMP and our contributors.  It was just getting too hard for us to manage all these contracts and royalties.  In future, any royalties collected will belong to SCMP.

We value your contributions and ask you to enter into the new contract so that we can continue to receive and publish your Works.

Yours faithfully,

Cliff Buddle

Deputy Editor