PR Photography Paul David Drabble

Licensing images to a client is like selling beans in a shop

Have you ever wondered why professional freelance photographers keep their copyright and talk in terms of intellectual property and licensing? After all the whole idea of hiring a professional photographer is so that you can use the pictures you paid them to take for you right? Yes it is and during the snows of 2010 I received a call asking if I would be free to photograph Deana Sampson a past UK National lottery winner for use on the winter cover of the Lottery winners own Magazine and to accompany an article about her in a national newspaper. The trouble was snow and ice was causing traffic chaos, the sky’s were generally grey and cloudy resulting a flat uninteresting light and a to make matters worse the photography was to be out of Sheffield so the roads I would be travelling on were very likely to be untreated. This looked like it may well be a job destined for disaster, but I have always loved a challenge and hate letting any client down. With that in mind I said yes to the job and pointed out the potential pitfalls, checked the weather and between myself the client and Deana we put in place a plan ‘A’ and plan ‘B’ One of those two two plans was a good one and resulted in some really nice wintry Christmas images images that fulfilled the clients brief.

So what does this have to do with photographers keeping copyright?
Well when Woman magazine got in touch with Deana asking to do a story about her during that process she very kindly pointed out to them that I already held some nice images of her and gave them my contact details. The result was a call from their picture editor who looked through the images and chose two to accompany their double page spread. I could do this because I keep the copyright of the images I shoot.

Tear Sheet Deana Lottery Winner Woman Magazine.22 February 2011.Images © Paul David Drabble

This all probably seems very unfair to the original client who paid for the images to be shot but in actual fact its the opposite. The original client only paid to use the images as they needed to. The magazine did exactly the same they paid for the use they required.

Still not making sense? Try thinking of it this way. A small tin of baked beans might costs 35p and realistically it will feed one person one meal once. If you want to feed two people you have to buy two small tins or one large tin. Either way the manufacturer and retailer of the beans get paid every time you want baked beans. If you want all the beans you can eat for the rest of your life you have to pay even more money, either to buy enough tins in bulk or weekly or if it works out cheaper to buy a baked bean factory which produces cooks and cans your baked beans. Any which way its a lot more than 35p. So the original for the original client and the magazine it was really a little like them paying for the “beans” they required. OK this isn’t an exact analogy but it does go some way towards explaining the situation.

How does that help anyone thinking of hiring a PR photographer? It shows there is no need to be afraid of licensing embrace it, its good. You only pay for what you need. If you are commissioning a photographer think about why you want the photographs, how and where you want to use them. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, call a photographer and ask, all the photographers I know are flexible when it come to licensing agreements. You tell them what uses you do and don’t need and they can tailor a license fit your needs. Photographers are just like any other small business they trying to make a living in difficult times.