I have a book on my bookshelf. A real book, not a Kindle book. It’s a tome on American architecture. I’m too lazy to go dig it out and find it’s name. It’s on my shelf for one reason and one reason only. Somewhere inside is a photograph of the Milwaukee Art Museum. And at the back of the book in the list of credits is my name, telling the reader that I took that photo. It is this photo, in case you’re really interested. It’s my third most viewed photo on Flickr, but alas I only have a 640 pixel wide copy of the original left. What was I paid for allowing my photo to be featured in the book? I didn’t ask for a penny. I just asked for a copy of the book. And it sits on my bookshelf.
I was overjoyed at having a photo published, in a real book. That was the first photo I ever had published. Since then, hundreds of my photos have been used by other websites across the web. A few dozen have been purchased for use by publishers. They can be seen in in-flight magazines, Wall Street Journal web edition, a few other magazines here and there. Getty Images have bought a couple. Getty wanted the picture of the Milwaukee Art Museum once, but I couldn’t get a release form from the museum. Truth be told, I didn’t try. I get paid for photos that are used by commercial publishers these days. The novelty of ‘being published’ wore off quick. I prefer cash.
Getting photos published isn’t an art form. Take thousands of photos, label/tag them accurately and in detail and upload them where they can be seen. No ifs or buts, the best place is Flickr, for a variety of reasons. When I do receive an email from a publisher, it’s 50/50 whether they will offer to pay for it. Some will try the ‘…and we’ll even credit you with your name!…’ approach in the hope that having your photo published is all the reward you could ever ask for. Some take a more professional and formal approach. None have ever opened dialog by naming the price they are willing to pay. How much is a photo worth? Most offers, when they come, range from $100 to $250, depending on the publisher, the size of the printed image and the quality of the photo.
I was recently contacted by Forbes, who wanted to use a photo from my Mercado Abelardo Rodriguez set. They didn’t ever specify which one. They tried the ‘…and we’ll even credit you with your name!…’ approach. I agreed that they could use my image, for the price of $125. They haggled me down to $100. Alas, they selected another image in the end. They didn’t say why. Maybe it was a better image. Maybe it was just more fitting with their article. Maybe they had more success with the ‘…and we’ll even credit you with your name!…’ line and got it for free. I guess I will never know. Nevermind. It was Forbes Russia anyway, so it’s not like I’d have ever seen a copy of it in the shops.