In this high-tech, fast-paced world, we all "snap pics." I'm going to go ahead and venture a guess that the majority of us tend to do so from our phones, since we now have these amazing portable devices that can provide a decent exposure for us. What has come out of these great technological advances is a larger-than-ever movement of aspiring photographers... which is great! The internet is now more saturated than ever with some pretty decent amateur work. So my big question for you today is, does this in-fact hurt the Professional Photographer?
I'm talking about the Professional Photographer who has worked so hard to learn their camera, who has saved up for their arsenal of lenses and who has shot so many neighborhood kids for nothing until, finally, their portfolio was worthy of a legit paid booking. I stumbled upon a collection of stock photography websites where you can sign up as a photographer and literally give away your images with no strings attached. Most of these sites do provide a link back to the photographer where you can view, follow or contact them for future work. However, is this business model harmful to those of us who make a living off of our knowledge and skill-set that makes our photography business go round? Or perhaps I am looking at it all wrong. Does this create new opportunities? Additional backlinks to our websites, driving additional traffic to our portfolios and helping folks find us, whether they meant to or not?
Out of the gate, as a professional photographer, this totally bums me out. I don't need any more photographers offering up their services for FREE! I think it's universally understood that too many are already underbidding and offering up their services beneath a fair value. It seems as though this method is affecting our perceived value to the consumer, driving down the expected cost of the pro photographer who has accrued the expertise, knowledge and top-notch gear it takes to do what we do.
Another astounding fact is that most of the sites do not require that you even credit the image; they simply suggest that you do. So I'm going to do just that (obviously). A lot of the work I'm seeing throughout these sites is pretty good, too good to just be throwing them out there for whomever to use in whatever media they choose. I'm not kidding! See the excerpt from FREE stock photo site Unsplash below.
The Unsplash license allows for photographs to be used for any purpose — both commercial and personal. Blogs, art, book covers, t-shirts, and more — paid or unpaid — they’re all allowed under the license.
Huh? So I can grab a high-res download of any of the images on this website and throw my logo on it and the artist doesn't care? The image means that little to them? Just for fun, I adjusted the below free image so we can all have a little giggle.
Maybe there is a flip side. As a newer or intermediate photographer, this represents a great way to build some credibility. It sure doesn't feel right to me. However, I'm old school in my values and feel artists should absolutely be compensated for their talents and passion. There is a handful of other sites featuring some pretty decent images (again for free) but I'm not sharing those here because these folks deserve more than free downloads! I would be thrilled to hear the insights of other readers and photographers from all levels. Please enlighten me if you have attempted to or would partake in this approach. I'd love to hear from the other side of the table.
Lead Image by Joshua Earle