Be offended. Why “free for photo credit” does not benefit the photographer.


Never… okay, maybe I shouldn’t say never, but 99.9 percent of the time, do not give your work away for print credit.  Let’s talk about this for a second.

I receive countless requests for images every week.  Here’s one that just came to me yesterday.


“Hi Jodie, I hope this note finds you well! I work for an Outer Banks vacation rental company and am currently designing our 2015 rental brochure. One of the articles we are writing is about taking a day trip to Ocracoke Island. When doing a search for Ocracoke Island online, I stumbled across your photos — they are just stunning! Would you be willing to let us use some of your Ocracoke photos for our article? We’d be happy to give you photo credit, website links, etc. Thanks so much.”


Question #1  How would this transaction benefit me?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself.  Let’s see.  People who are looking for real estate in the Outer Banks would see my images and find them lovely.  Are they so spectacular that someone is going to go “Wow!  I MUST know who this photographer is!!!”  So they take their pen out, write it down, and promise to look it up later online.  Come home, forget about dinner, forget about the kids, work, etc., and then they state, “I MUST go see this photographer’s website!  And more importantly, I will then drive out of state to go book a photo session with her or fly her here.”

REALLY?  You really think they will do that?  Of course they won’t.  If this sparks them to get a photographer, they will simply find one right in their backyard.

Well then I can have bragging rights – I can tell everyone I am a published photographer.   Who the heck cares?   Do you really think people sought out my work when they saw it in US Weekly, Parents Magazine, InStyle, and People Magazine with Similac Infant Formula?  Of course not.  They didn’t seek me out because I had images in People.  No… instead, they ripped the pages out and took them to their local photographer and asked their photographer to “Do these baby poses!!!”   That’s why you get PAID for commercial photography.

Consumers don’t care if you are published.  Let me ask  – what photographer ISN’T published today?  All they have to do is submit their images to online magazines for FREE, and they can say they are published.  Whoop-tee-do…..  It’s nothing special.   I’m nothing special, and you are nothing special.   That is reality.

So to answer the question as to how that “Print Credit” transaction would benefit me?   It won’t.  It has no benefit whatsoever.  And the company will then get free photos from another photographer.  Should I be jealous and snatch up this opportunity?  Why?  What would be the purpose.  Let someone else be known as the free photographer —– that ain’t me.

I don’t know about you but *I* can’t pay my bills on print credit.

Next time you go into the grocery store, ask the cashier if you can pay for it with all the print credits you have in magazines.   😉

Question #2 — How will this transaction help the Real Estate Agency?

It will allow them not to have to spend any money on beautiful photography.   They will have a completed brochure that shows everyone how beautiful Ocracoke Island is and what wondrous scenery people will see when they visit.   My images would draw people to want to book a rental property for vacation next year.  Therefore, the rental agency will increase their bottom line with more houses filled.

“But maybe someone will see the images and ask who the photographer is and want to book me for a commercial shoot.”  Or…. if we go back into reality…. maybe they will just ask the real estate agency who will say, “Oh, she is great, she gave these images to us for free!  I’m sure you can get some free too, just in exchange for a little print credit….”

Never discount the value of great photography.  Humans are visual.  There is more power in a beautiful picture than words.  There is an instantaneous attraction that a person feels for a place that is visually represented in a beautiful way.  No amount of “You need to rent this property, it is beautiful down here!” will truly have the power that a beautiful image has.

Next time someone asks you for images in return for print credit.  Think about this.   They pay the designer of the brochure, and they pay for the brochure, and they pay themselves…… but they won’t pay for the beautiful images which is one of the most , if not THE powerful marketing tools they can have.

And consider being offended.  They value the person who designs the brochure.  They value the brochures.  They value themselves.  Yet, they don’t value you or your talent.


and since you will all ask how I responded.  Here it is….

“Hello, we absolutely love it down there and I’m glad you love the images.  They definitely can help book rental properties easily.
I do not give my work away for free.  I need to actually buy groceries for my family, pay a mortgage, and put gas in my car with the income I receive from my photography work.  Print credit does not pay for my bills, and it absolutely does not bring clients to me.
If you wish to purchase images for the brochure, please let me know.
Jodie Otte”

About Jodie Otte

Maryland Newborn Photographer and Child Portrait Artist, Jodie Holstein-Otte, specializes in unique photography of newborn babies, kids, and families. She works on location in Harford, Howard, Cecil, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and other areas throughout Maryland. She uses both both natural lighting and soft studio lighting techniques.

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