Are You Stealing From Your Photographer?

by Carrie Kirby on 24 January 2008 114 comments

Dear readers,

We've removed this article from our archives. We have great respect for photographers and their work. We believe people should not reprint copyrighted photographs, even if it is only for personal use. If you would like the freedom to make unlimited reprints of your wedding photos taken by a professional photographer, negotiate with your photographer and ask for unlimited reproduction rights upfront.

Wise Bread is a community blog created by many talented writers. The views of each writer does not necessarily represent that of the entire blog.

Yours truly,

Will Chen

Editor 

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Guest's picture
Trisha

You're breaking the law. How far do you need to go to save some money? This shouldn't be it. You're stealing from the photographer. This is their copyright. It's like passing off some published Stephen King book as your own. Sure, you may not be selling the pictures, but it's still against the law.

You SHOULD feel guilty.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

I feel like it's sort of wrong if you agreed not to copy the photos.  What my hubby and I did for our wedding photos was to order the digital disk and made sure that we can print as many as we can.  Then we printed our album and prints at Snapfish which is cheaper than the photographer's fee.  Our photographer is happy with the fee we paid him for being at the wedding and we did all the printing and album arrangement on our own and saved a bundle.

Guest's picture

i'm not really an expert, nor can I say i've ever stolen from a photographer, but this article is interesting to me because there does seem to be so many different business models and policies for different types of products.

Imagine if I got to bill like a photographer even though I am a web designer? Charging for each visit to the page, instead of as a one time fee and giving up the rights to the original "art" of the site.

Or, imagine if I charged like a cell phone provider for my web hosting services, by the minute.

The only thing I have learned is that it's good to be in charge, and to be the one making the rules. Create your own platform, and have people play your game instead of the other way around.

Thanks for the thought provoking article!

Guest's picture
Keith

Ben-
The photographer doesn't charge a fee for each time the photo is viewed, they charge for prints/reproductions, each of which could be viewed thousands of times, or never.

If you created a wonderful website and people started copying the design exactly, but using their own content, wouldn't you consider that to be theft of your design? What if you had a contract and were paid to create a site for a company, and then they used your exact design for their subsidiary companies, even though that was expressly forbidden by the contract?

As far as "charging by the minute" for web hosting, don't you have a limit for bandwidth usage and disc space allowed? And if a hosted site goes over the bandwidth limit don't you essentially "charge by the minute" for overages? So how is the flat rate that you charge all that different, especially when averages (probably in minutes) are certainly factored in to the fee? And isn't it you who is setting those rules for your service? I know that it sure isn't me setting the rules for you or for my web host provider! So how is that really so different?

There are tons of photographers out there (just go to Craigslist and do a search), competition can be fierce. Most photographers just want to ensure that they can earn a living doing what they do, and they create contracts to "protect" themselves and their investment.

There are enough photographers out there that you can find one that will accomodate what you want/need if you really look and are upfront about it.

Guest's picture
Gil

Lots of photographers will sell you their negatives or digital prints (after a certain amount of time) for a price. If you want pictures galore off of your sitting, just ask your photographer how much it would cost to buy their "originals" (or digital copy). Most photographers will make some kind of deal for a price.

Even though the pictures are of your family (and/or kids), the photographer also is protecting their work by not having/letting you take their work (your pictures) and posting them elsewhere or selling them to someone else. And mostly likely, you're not selling your own family's photos... BUT you could be (to a stock photography site or something). That's just a photographer's POV.

Guest's picture
Marisa

Our wedding photos are irretrievably lost.

Our wedding photographer, like most, held the negatives to his photos. As poor college students, we couldn't afford to buy them (at the time, it was barely within our reach to have a professional photographer in the first place), and by the time we were better established and able to buy the negatives (which would have cost 2x more than what we'd originally paid him), his studio had moved, or closed, or SOMETHING, taking our photos with it.

I don't for a minute think that this is a fair situation. We paid him hundreds of dollars for one hour of his time (we were only able to afford two 12-shot rolls). Isn't that fee his compensation?

I haven't thought about this for a long time, but it made me very mad when we discovered that there was no way for us to purchase our photos (and even if we found him now, we're long past the "deadline" for how long he said he'd hold the negatives).

Guest's picture
Kim

Our wedding photographer made it so all of our photos were OURS. I wouldn't work with one that didn't. He kept nothing and we got a copy of every shot he took--whether it was our fave or not. Then we ordered copies of those we wanted. We also got all negatives. It was part of a package deal. He always worked like that and, frankly, I can't see why others don't. They don't own my image. I paid him for his time and for the professional printing of what I wanted, and everything is mine. Fair is fair. He obviously agreed.

Guest's picture
Biz owner

As a small business owner that has to constantly adapt to changing markets, I think the key here is photographers trying to hang on to an old business model. My wife and I hired a photographer with a photo journalism background, and paid quite a lot for it. But we paid for talent, and got amazing pictures that captured the moment of the day that we could digitally use in a variety of formats. Who cares about their photo printing abilities anyway. The results we got were fantastic. We never intended to print very many pictures in this new digital age anyway. In the new digital age of cheap production, a photographer who wants to charge $600 for an hour of sticking a kid on a velvet sheet and squeaking a rubber ducky, and then charge 20 or times what it costs for prints, will probably be out of business in a few years. Adapt and prosper, or go under. Just like any other business.

Philip Brewer's picture

Copyright law doesn't go back to the dawn of mankind, the way laws about theft, rape, and murder do. It was invented just a few hundred years ago--after the printing press made it possible for writers to serve a mass market, and they started to become popular and to make money. That gave them enough political power to go to the government and ask for special rights--a monopoly on the right to make certain kinds of copies.

Copyright law is supposed to be a bargain--creative people get a temporary monopoly on their creations for the purpose of giving them an incentive to create new stuff. The public temporarily gives up the right to make copies, but in return gets more cool, new stuff.

Even laws about basic stuff like murder shift over time, as society's opinions change about what's justifiable and what isn't. (Is it murder if you kill in self-defense? To stop a thief? In a duel? By accident? What if the accident occurred while you were committing some other crime? How about when the executioner kills someone sentenced to death?) If we don't have fixed notions about these things, it's no surprise that we change our mind about what is and isn't a copyright violation all the time.

The most common reason that copyright law has changed is when technology made it easy to make a particular kind of copy. (For example, all kinds of special rules were written when player pianos made it possible to "record" a performance and play it back over and over again.)

I'm sure that the laws will catch up sooner or later with scanners and printers. In the meantime, I think it's pretty stupid for photographers to expect their customers not to make use of perfectly ordinary technology. It made a certain kind of sense when the photographer could keep the negative and be able to make superior copies, but now the only lever they have is making the customer feel guilty. (The law is on their side, but not in any useful way--the FBI isn't going to investigate a mom for including professional pictures of the kids on a Christmas card.)

In the fairly short term the whole model will fail, as more and more customers simply decide that it's dumb to pay big bucks for copies that are no better than they can make for themselves. Everybody will be better off once photographers start charging for the photo shoot, provide high-res digital images, and sell the prints at cost.

Guest's picture
Guest

The heading reflects today's standard answer with regard to paying for photographic services. Sadly, in this ever increasing digital world the only ones making more money from it all is the manufacturers. "I can buy one of those Canon DSLR things with a zoom lens and all I have to do is point and shoot and I don't need to pay a photographer" - the usual story, isn't it? They spend a thousand bucks and set out to beat that expensive photographer at his own game only to find that what they shot at their best friend's wedding is total rubbish, so the new toy is shoved into a drawer and life goes on.
It's not the gear, stupid, it's the creative guy behind the shutter. Meanwhile those of us who have been in this business for so long see it dwindling away; all because of one thing: IGNORANCE

Guest's picture
Aryn

Our photographer gave us a high-res DVD of all our corrected wedding photos. She even told us where to get high-quality photos printed and which settings to ask for.

We had the option to order an album from her, but we received the DVD and proofs with a month of the wedding.

Her theory is that she could let our friends and relatives buy photos from her, but her time is worth more than she'd make dealing with the hassle.

Guest's picture
erin

I have managed a photo lab and we had a very strict policy on copyrighted photos- if the paper the shot is printed on says "Professional" it is copy righted. The photo labs are the ones who are liable if they print the copyrighted material.
I also dropped thousands on my wedding photography (this did not include any prints or albums) only to drop hundreds more to get a written release for digital prints so I can make copies for whomever wants them. Don't get me wrong, I love my photographer and it was our choice to spend what we did, but I can see where someone would try and cheat the system.

Guest's picture
IO

I really liked this post. This raised a great question about being frugal vs. being honest.

I too understand both sides on this issue. I used to be a photographer, though really only freelance, and no weddings or family photos. I have to say that I agree with the idea that you should be able to buy the originals for a reasonable price which really factors in the photographer's time. It's a hard business to be in to make any kind of money.

On the other hand, I have to say that the kind of money you have to hand over for a few prints of already touched up photos is ridiculous. I personally think it should be a sitting fee which includes a small package and then a reasonable price per photo after that. Being able to capture the exact moment and softening the edges is what you're paying for. Just because you want more copies of the exact same photo as you've already paid for, doesn't mean you should keep paying for the skill. At that point it should just be a little profit on top of the printing costs.

This is just my opinion. I'll have to think about these options when I get married. That's one I hadn't expected to have to ask before. Thanks.

Guest's picture
Kayla

I am an amateur photographer who mainly got into photography to save myself expensive photo fees. With five kids it makes sense...

However, that said, I don't feel good about copying other photographer's work.

I recommend joining a camera club or finding a student photographer. My most favorite images came from a student photographer who shot them for $150 and gave me the negatives...

Personally I charge $150 for a sitting and then give the customer the digital negatives reworked for the sizes they choose to print. I also tell them where to go to get quality prints.

Just like istock photo has changed the way stock photography goes, the photography industry will change - in time...

http://thelegacylady.typepad.com/lamoreaux_originals/2007/11/fall-photos...

Guest's picture
Emily

Hi Kayla,
I am just starting out in photography. I am taking pictures for free for friends to build up experience and a portfolio. Do you have any suggestions?

Guest's picture
Kayla

The first thing is education...get a good education - the sooner you learn the science of Photography and combine it with the art side - the more successful you will be.

Take the time to immerse yourself in Photoshop - because the results you can work in PS really pop the images and make them look professional.

I also highly recommend following these blogs...they are great for inspiration and ideas and the writers are friendly and fun to read.
http://www.theblogisfound.com/
http://www.beckersblog.com/
http://www.thebschoolblog.com/

all the best to you...

Guest's picture
Michael Martin-Morgan

Any suggestions?
Sure, think of others or else if and when you've invested time and money in your future photography business don't moan at the fact that behind you you'll have more "I am taking pictures for free for friends to build up experience and a portfolio" types ruining your chances of earning an honest day's work.

Guest's picture
Becky S

If you want photographers to change their business model, then the first step is to do what you're doing for your upcoming party -- hire a photographer who will give you the rights to the pictures. This way you are entering the digital age without stealing from your photographer.

Your photographer who wanted to retain control of her images, to insure that only high-quality prints were made from them, has a good point. Your lower-quality reproductions of her work are bad advertising for her. When people see those, they don't know if it's because the Walgreens scanner is off, or because the original photographic work was of low quality.

Does anyone have a feel for if photographers have raised prices for the sittings, as a response to people ordering fewer prints (and making their own copies)?

Guest's picture
Guest

I say: find a different photographer next-time. There are many photographers that ONLY give out CDs. Although; being a photographer myself; it feels good to see which images the costumer liked the best. That way you know whether you did a good or a so-so job. Also you don't get the same quality from a 1-hour photo lab.

Guest's picture

As a professional photographer, I thought I'd chime in. I live in Southern California where there is definitely no shortage of photographers trying to make some money (part-time or full time). Almost all of my clients are referrals, so I don't get many people coming to me as price shoppers. As someone who came into this profession primarily because of the digital era, I know that there are so many out there that charge so little just to get a job. For me, I charge what I feel my work is worth compared to what others are charging in my market. I currently charge $450 for a sitting fee which includes one 11x14 print and a disc of 600px low resolution jpegs. Large print orders must come from me. I still retain all copyright of my images and so far it's been ok. Of course, if the market dictates that I change my practices, of course, I will re-evaluate. We'll see what happens.

But it is interesting to hear all of the different point of views on this topic.

Guest's picture
RyanE

I am a photographer who loves this craft. I work hard at it to put food on my family's table. And while I sympathize with some of the stories told above (photographer losing negatives, etc.), I can tell you that scanning and printing is illegal, it's wrong, and it hurts people like me.

Guest's picture
Lucille

The photographer that did our wedding photos printed them on professional paper and charged for each print on top of his fee for doing the wedding. This was also before digital photos were common. We got our photos and then relatives ordered what they wanted. Our photographer never followed through on printing and sending those paid orders. Then he disappeared never to be found again.

My MIL really wanted at least one picture from our wedding. She is big into photos and extremely sentimental. We tried copying one of ours for her at Walgreens in the photo machine and got the photo police treatment. I find our situation far worse than anyone making their own copies.

For this very reason our son's senior picture will only be done by someone willing to give us the digital files and ownership of the finished work.

The ownership of prints is an old business model and needs to go away. This is vastly different than a photographer owning a photo they did themselves of something like a landscape and selling copies.

Guest's picture
Gretchen

I am a professional photographer. No matter what, scanning the images is stealing. There is no gray area. If you really feel the cost is too high for the prints talk with your photographer and see if you can strike a deal, I have been known to exchange yard work and other such favors in exchange for a session fee or a discount on prints. Other alternatives exist too, you can have the photos taken in one of those discount studios or do them yourself. You wouldn't go to a bakery and purchase a cake then just take 2 more because you paid what you thought was a good price. It is the same thing.

This should be a familiar sentiment for regular readers: If you can't afford it, then don't buy it. Photographs are a luxury item, they are not a necessity. Hiring a professional photographer, even more so. If you really want photos and you want to be frugal there are other avenues that don't involve stealing.

Guest's picture
Julie

I have photos of me that were taken when I was 3 years old from my daycare. They were professional photos done over 20 years ago, and the photographer who did them has since passed away. I didn't feel guilty trying to get a copy of them to keep since my parents still want to hold on to them. The Wal-mart employee refused to copy them and tried to make me feel guilty. But, it's obviously a farce when the photographs are so old and there is no way to get a copy of the negatives anymore. I'm just going to scan them in so I do have a copy of them for myself.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hi. Glad to hear someone finally talking sense about this sort of issue.

Since I pay nothing to read the contents of Wise Bread, I copied the entire site and owe nothing. What a great deal!

I will be editing the content to give it my own slant, then reposting it under my own brand on my own site. But it will obviously be read only by those who actually visit my site, so no harm done. The world at large will never see it, so I'm not violating anyone's rights, or laws or anything.

Since the site design is pretty good I may use that too, but I'll probably touch up the colors a bit.

I'm sure you will be glad to hear that others are picking up your ideas and running with them. In the internet era, it all wants to be free, right? Things are so cool these days.

Thanks so much.

Guest's picture
Guest

20 years ago means nothing. Copyright is in place for 50 years past the persons death. I am glad they refused you and anyone else that gets refused!

Guest's picture
Matthew Robertson

"Since my photographer seemd happy with the $600 she received for photographing my kids, why couldn't she just give me what I really wanted?"

Since you seemed happy with the package you purchased, why couldn't you just stay within the rights you paid for?

Guest's picture
blumagus

As anyone reading the comments can attest, this is a particularly thought provoking article, as evidenced by the wide range of replies on both sides of the issue. The best advice, I can think of, is to remember that when you hire a photographer you are creating a contract. If you would like to have more rights than the photographer includes in their boilerplate, just ask. Either the photographer will be willing to work with you (increased rights on your part will most likely come with an increase in cost) or you take your business to someone who is willing to come to an agreement about what rights you will get and what rights they will retain.

I am including the following link just for information regarding what types of questions would be good to think about. The info was originally designed with the photographer in mind but it should help consumers also.
NPAA: Copyright Questions & Answers

Guest's picture
Andrew

This is exactly why you should discuss the contract with the photographer and be exactly clear on what they are offering in their packages. Photographers will offer anywhere from full rights and copyright transfer of the photos, to retaining all rights to the photos. Some photographers offer a full range of options at different pricing rates. If you're not happy with what the photographer is offering then DON'T HIRE THEM AND FIND SOMEONE ELSE TO TAKE THE JOB!!! Hiring the photographer and then ripping them off is illegal and unethical! Always remember that when you're buying a print you're not paying for the printing costs. You're paying for the talent that went into producing that photograph.

Guest's picture
MJB

As I see it, the thing about photography is that it tends to be a place where 'art' and 'service' overlap. A photographer has all of the experience in the craft, and some of them also do photographs to display in galleries, sell to stock photo groups, etc. But they are also providing a service, doing something in place of and at the behest of the consumer, just like a plumber or a lawyer.

In the 'art' model you expect that only the artist can license (permit) reproductions of the work. The consumer buys one or more of the reproductions. The fact that many different consumers might be interested in the piece will cause the artist to make sure the originals are protected for the very long length of the copyright. The artist also needs to guard against derivative imitators that will make his reproductions useless.

In the 'service' model you expect that the customer is buying the time of the contractor and the materials needed, so the customer walks away owning the product. (I think there is a similar concept of work-for-hire for certain things patented in the course of doing your job. The patent rights can go to the company, not to the employee, so the employees can't extort things from the company just because their names are on the patent.) The consumer is responsible for maintaining the product, since it belongs to the consumer.

I think a lot of consumers think of their photographers as contractors, and a lot of photographers think of themselves as artists. Also, it seems like some photographers (not all, just enough that most people have at least one nasty experience) try to charge like *both*--really high sitting and touchup fees (service) and really high fees for running off prints (artist). This means that people need to talk to their photographers and work out a balance they both can live with. There are a lot of really good people out there who are willing to work with your goals, you just have to ask around.

Guest's picture
HughofBardfield

I hope the photographer reads your blog and sues you.

If you didn't like the contract between you and the photographer, you shouldn't have agreed to it. The photographer is trying to make a living, as, no doubt, are you. The "Guest" comment above is quite right: how would you like it if someone stole your intellectual property?

Guest's picture
tomK

WIth virtually no certification or regulation, Wedding/Portrait photography is the ultimate expression of Free Market. Don't like the copyright conditions of a photographer? Find another. All the good ones have websites and all it takes is some time behind Google to find the perfect fit for you.

For better or worse, photographers charge what they do to maintain a profit margin that allows them to pay rent, eat, put their kids into college, and save for retirement. Great photographers can be like ballplayers ... show me the money now as the talent will evaporate.

Guest's picture
alex66

Just as movie studios software companies etc try to stop people copying and steeling their work, This is what happens when a photographers work is copied. Yet there are many who will give you a disk of full res files ad I cant see why when you hire you dont just find one. $600 is not a lot of money to pay for a professional that may get you a couple of hours with a solicitor/lawyer, You can more than double the time spent with you for the time spent working by the photographer, ay pro will not be using a place like Walgreens they will go to a proper lab whos charges are a lot higher. But at the end of the day you are doing just the same as a software pirater.

Guest's picture
KT

I agree with everyone who says to shop around for the photographer who will sell you the digital images to print yourself. The hard spot I found myself in when choosing a wedding photographer was a specific photographer who told us that no one who was attending our wedding was going to be allowed to take pictures of us while they were. I am glad we were told up front, because I was not prepared to tell anyone on our wedding day that they would not be able to take our pictures! Review the contracts, as the right questions, and you will all be happy with the outcome.

Guest's picture
grs

I am a photographer.

I very rarely give all the digital files to a client.

Why? Despite the propaganda that the camera manufactures put out, the files that come straight out of cameras need to be worked on to have them print properly.

On average, I spend 30 to 40 minutes on each 8x10 to pull it into printable shape. This is what I charge for, my time and expertise to push and prod the file into shape.

You are not just paying for a sheet of paper.

Guest's picture

I walked into the software store, and bought a copy of Microsoft Office 2008. I paid a LOT for it, frankly, but the store was happy to take my money. Got it home, and some people said, wow, that's nice, can I get a copy?

So I burnt them a disk of it, got a serial number off the internet, and even though it's not 100 percent kosher, all my friends have pretty nice copies of Office on their computers.

Do I feel bad? A little, sure. But Microsoft seemed happy with the money they got from me. I mean, why would they charge so much for those extra licenses anyway? Why not just charge up front however much it would take to cover me for as many copies as I need?

I mean, in the end, it might be 'stealing' in some small sense, but it's Microsoft, for gosh sakes--it's not like I'm stealing from some small business where I know, and have a personal agreement with the owner or something!

Guest's picture
Guest

just because 'lots of people do it' doesn't excuse what you did. it is dishonest and you really should feel bad about it.

regarding some of the comparisons which crop up: i think there are some differences between what you did and pirating software, for instance. assuming you didn't commission the company to make custom software just for you, and also assuming that you couldn't afford to buy the software outright, then, you haven't cost the company a dime of lost revenue by copying the program. you may even have helped the company by contributing to the user base, ubiquity, and hence sustainable ecosystem of that program (this pretty much describes microsoft word's initial growth strategy). this doesn't make it legal, and may not even make it right--but it is a different case than commissioning a person for specific work and then stealing product from them.

and finally, it is hard to see the link between a site touting 'frugality' and paying $600 for a child's portrait session. how on earth is that 'frugal'? many pro photogs do great work and it is worth that much or more (very few people seem to have a clue about the expenses that go into providing such a service)--but it is obviously a luxury, not a necessity. i think this is compounding my own, and possibly others', reaction against your actions. it's not like you're stealing bread so your child can eat, here. yet you seem to feel entitled to this luxury, and frustrated when it isn't handed to you.

Guest's picture
Frugal

I found a suit that I really liked; way better than the cheap ones I could afford. But I figured it was only a few dollars worth of fabric, and the the designer only had to design it once, so I just stole it. That's being frugal for you!

I am being facetious, of course. If you don't like the deal a photographer offers you, don't hire them. Don't sign a document saying you'll honor their copyright and then turn around and steal their work. Not worth the money to you? Fine, take the pics yourself... But stealing is stealing, and is taking bread off the table of someone who spent years learning their craft.

You're not frugal. You're a thief.

Guest's picture
Guest

The problem here is that there's this attitude that people feel they are entitled to things that they don't want to pay for.

If a print costs $25 on top of the sitting fee, that is the price. If you cannot afford it, you can't have it. It amazes me how people think that they are entitled to something they won't pay for.

A few things in the original post bother me most.

"After all, the right to reproduce pictures of my kids isn't worth much to the photographer once I'm done buying my prints. "

If you are truly done buying prints, then the rights to the photos shouldn't be worth anything to you either. The fact that you want the files, tells me that you more than likely want to do something with them, like make more prints that you don't want to pay the photographer for.

"We bought what we felt was a decent amount of prints, in this case, a package that, combined with the sitting fee, cost $600. After spending that much money, we felt that we had rewarded the photographer enough for the service she'd provided us."

You may have "rewarded" the photographer what you thought was fair or enough, but it's really not up to you to decide what you think is fair once you've already agreed to the photographer's terms. And it's not a case of rewarding the her. It's compensation for work that you requested and she performed. If you want $600 worth of product, then you need to pay for $600 worth of product. If you want $1200 worth of product, then you should pay that as well.

"I also felt frustrated that, despite our best efforts, the prints did not look as nice as they would have if we'd printed from the original digital files. Since my photographer seemd happy with the $600 she received for photographing my kids, why couldn't she just give me what I really wanted?"

My guess would be that the photographer seemed happy with the $600, because she gave you $600 worth of product. If you end up with $1200 worth of product, I would guess she would NOT be so happy. Maybe she didn't give you what you really wanted because you didn't give her what SHE really wanted for it.

You get what you pay for. You just have to know how much you value photos.

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes. It's stealing. Yes. There are photographers who will sell or include digital files for you to print on your own, within the terms of a limited license. The latter would be the way to go if you want to print your own files legally (and ethically, with a clear conscience).

It's definitely a dilemma for professional photographers such as myself. As much as we hate to accept it, the reality is that the average Joe is far less discerning artistically than we would like to believe. I market myself to and strive to work with clients with more refined tastes in photography, and those folks do not need an explanation of "quality control" because, well, they "get" it. They'd be just as appalled at the idea of paying good money for high quality artistic photography only to have it printed by some subpar consumer-grade printer as any self-respecting, competent photographer would be to have such crap traveling around with their name on it.

It's not a character flaw not to have an artistic eye, by the way. I don't think people who can't discern such things are bad people or worthy of my disdain. I just don't care to work with them, because we're not a good match as far as the photographer-client relationship goes.

That said, there's no fool-proof way of "qualifying" clients, and occasionally I end up getting by screwed by someone I never would have guessed had it in them.

Guest's picture
Jeremiah

Well stated by many before me, but I have to chime in because this is usually such a solid site. The question has such an easy answer: Yes, you are stealing from your photographer. If you don't like the terms of business, don't agree to them. What you would discover if you honestly negotiated with candidates for your photo work is that they would have to charge you much more for their time if there was no potential for residual income from print orders. Instead, you pretend to agree to their terms and then break the contract behind their back.

If they're yours, why scan them? Just break into the studio and take the negatives yourself.

Guest's picture
Charise

My old roommate was a professional photographer. She mostly did weddings and senior portraits.

One thing you may not realize is that if they have a studio the overhead is enormous! My roommate was very fair in her pricing and gave people really good deals, but guess what? She had to close her doors because she wasn't making enough money. She was always booked and although her prices were fair they weren't that cheap.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you want the services of a professionals photographer to be available to you in the future (the business is changing so it may not be there in the same incarnation in the future) then you should expect to pay for it.

Of course I agree with what has been said about negotiation. Photographers will usually negotiate with you. If you want a disk of the photos taken then talk to them about paying a higher sitting fee and doing it that way. Talk to them before the pictures are taken, you'll have more leverage that way. I bet you most wouldn't say no.

Guest's picture
Andrew

Thank you for removing this article.

Guest's picture
Joe

Discerning clients look for quality above pricing when choosing a photographer to capture life's special moments. And professional photographers must price their skill sets and output in accordance with competitors in their markets in order to remain in business and support their own families' needs.

A professional photographer's charges take into account years of education, training, experience, and the high overhead costs of running a small business in a very difficult economy. These costs include business insurance, health insurance, advertising, salaries, employee benefits, office/studio rent, utilities, commercial phone lines, high-speed internet, software upgrades, digital gear, and much more.

Extremely expensive camera bodies and digital backs, computers, hard drives, and printers will need to be replaced every 3 years to remain competitive in the marketplace. This is because digital capture technology is still in its infancy, and its professional-grade hardware becomes obsolete much sooner than did the necessary 'film' capture equipment of the past.

And the current ease of scanning and copying photos (© stealing) from a small business owner (the photographer) only makes this industry a more fragile and risky venture when clients choose to flagrantly disregard the terms of the contract they've entered into with their selected photographer.

Just because there's already a Mercedes plant built in South Carolina doesn't mean that they should give you a car for free just because you want one... or that they should have given you all the E-Class options you "really wanted" since they "seemed happy" when you paid for them their base model.

Choose the most skilled photographer you can afford based upon the quality of their work and the terms of their contract. Then honor your end of the deal.

Because stealing, as always, is a crime.

Guest's picture

You can argue back and forth about whether you do or don't like the Standard Operating Procedure in the photography industry, but it really doesn't matter, the law is the law. You broke it, and you are a criminal. If that photographer reads this post, they could sue you, and make thousands. Not only did you break the law, you broke it willingly and happily.

Let's say that your bank has a "withdrawal fee" that they charge you every time you take a large sum out of your account. Well, you don't want to pay that fee. You have already paid them other fees, given them your business.. Why should you pay a fee to get what is already yours? So you break into the bank and steal the money that is in your account. Are you going to get arrested and go to jail? Of course. It's the same thing with photos. When you signed a contract with them (assuming there was a contract), you entered into a legally binding agreement that you would abide by the law and the policies of that photographer. If you didn't want to do that, you shouldn't have signed the contract.

This is art we're talking about. Would you pay $1 million for a Van Gogh, then take it to Walgreens and ask them to make a 4x6 of it for you?

Frankly, you should be ashamed of yourself for glamorizing this practice and suggesting that it is somehow justifiable.

I am a full time wedding photographer, so I know this situation well. Here is a little reality check on the photography business:
-Most photographers only get to keep about one-third of what they charge. One-third goes to cost and overhead, and one-third goes to taxes. So if you paid $600 for your sitting fee and package, that photographer will be lucky if they take home $200, at most.
-For every one hour we shoot, that typically means 5-6 hours on the back end that you never see.
-This is skilled labor. Contrary to popular belief, we don't just show up and press a button. We must be constantly taking classes, attending seminars, buying new equipment, and doing lots of industry research to be able to provide you with the best photos possible, and all of this is not cheap.

Most photographers shoot between 20-30 weddings a year, and the average package is around $3000, which comes out to $20,000 to $30,000 take-home income. Every photographer has to have at least two professional grade cameras, sometimes three, which can range from $3k-$8k and only last about two years max, plus various new lenses, flashes, strobes, etc. That's about $6k per year. Education (seminars, workshops, industry research) runs about $1k per year. Health insurance is around $300/month, $3600 a year, and that's for a single, healthy person. Equipment and malpractice insurance is usually $1000 a year or so. So a single, healthy photographer who shoots 25 weddings (the average) at $3,000 (the average) will end up taking home, after all those costs, $13,400. That's about $1116 per month to pay rent, car payment and car insurance, food, bills, and any other cost of living.

It's really easy for a person who knows nothing about photography to sit back and say, "$3,000 for a day's work? That's absurd!" But that's just it, they DON'T know anything. They only see the finished product. It's sort of like the old adage, "Don't judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes." We, as photographers, don't sit around and scheme and say "How can we scam more money from our clients this month?" To be honest, it's a lot more like, "My print sales have plummeted because everyone is just scanning their photos or copying them from the website, and there's nothing I can do about it. How am I going to pay my rent this month?"

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Guest

thank you stacy! that was excellently said.

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Scitt

Let me start by saying you have stolen from your photographer, and I hope she sues you to the fullest extent of the law. If I can find a way to find out who she is, I will bring this post to her attention, and encourage her to do so. Even though it's been pulled, I have a cached copy of what you wrote thanks to Google.

You think the two hours she spent at your party is all that went into your photos? Think again...

For starters, she probably arrived at your party with $10,000 worth of camera gear to do the job right -- this would be an average cost of the gear an event photographer will carry. Her camera bag probably costs more that your little point and shoot.

Her workstation, where she probably spent 5-10 hours editing your photos consisting of a high end personal computer, a high end display, a color calibration system, Adobe Photoshop software along with numerous third party add-ons, and backup storage system where she protects your precious digital negatives probably ran in the $3,000-$6,000 range.

She probably spent at least two hours preparing her gear for the day, and an hour of travel time to and from the party.

She has probably logged several hundred, if not thousands of hours working with her images in post-production over the years perfecting her techniques and developing her own style, which is why you hired her in the first place.

She has probably spent several hundred, if not thousands of dollars on test prints at her lab to nail the color and sharpness of her images with that particular lab. Printing the same image at any other lab (or sadly at Wal-Mart or Walgreen's) will produce results that are both different and inferior to what she produces with her own lab which she has an invested relationship with.

She probably has a website (and possibly a website developer) and hosting fees, a studio she pays rent on, and may have adminstrative staff.

Last, but not least, she had a contract with you. You have broken it, and have blatantly admitted to it on the web for all the world to see. If you believed her pricing was unfair, you should have said something before you signed a legally binding contract. You have stolen from this photographer in what you believe is a victimless crime, but I can assure you that in this digital age of rampant copyright infringement, it doesn't get any more personal -- you have stolen from, and victimized a single person. Not a record label or a book publisher, a single human being who probably has a family she takes care of with the money she earns taking photographs. Shame on you.

As a professional photographer myself, my contract clearly states what your rights are for reproductions. I also make it a point to verbally discuss these parts of the contract, which sometimes ends in a negotiation for limited rights to the originals. In the future you should seek out a photographer who only charges a creative fee, since this, you believe, is all that you should pay for. I can almost guarantee you the photographer you hired would have negotiated the deal you desired, but you probably wouldn't have been able to mentally justify her asking price because you clearly don't have an appreciation for what it takes to produce professional images. Hopefully my comment, along with many of the other comments above, will convince you to reverse what you have done, and not steal from another photographer in the future.

Regards,

Scott

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There's lots of brand new stuff in Photoshop CS2 and the following tips and tricks are just for this version of Photoshop. We'll concentrate in this batch of tips on some changes that are making some people happy, and some people not so happy — and that's the brand new way that Photoshop layers work.The one thing that will impact migrating users the most is the way that Photoshop now selects content on a layer, as well as how Photoshop links your layers. Believe me, if you're not prepared for this and are working on deadline and just can't handle searching the help files, you will scream long and hard. Well, I know I certainly did.How To Select Content In A Layer In Photoshop CS2In previous versions, to select the content of a layer you would use the Control key (MAC: Command) and click on the name of the layer. In CS2 this no longer works. I repeat — this no longer works! In CS2 you still hold down the Control key (MAC: Command) but now you have to click on the layer's thumbnail (next to the eyeball icon) to select the content. You'll get used to it quickly, but it's a little counter-intuitive and frustrating at first — as most Photoshop brains will resist any attempts at being re-wired!How To Select Multiple Layers In Photoshop CS2This is a new improvement that will make selecting multiple layers a whole lot easier. Simply hold down the Shift Key and click on a layer in the layers palette, then while you continue holding the Shift Key just click on another layer. All the layers that are inbetween the two will now be selected, either from top to bottom, or from bottom to top.How To Add Or Remove Layers From A Multiple SelectionTo add or remove layers from a multiple selection, hold down the Control Key (MAC: Command) and click on the layers you want to add or remove. This is a very simple and very efficient new way of doing things.No More Link ColumnThe link column in the Layers palette is gone. To link layers together in CS2 you select each layer and then press the Link Layers icon (the little chain) at the bottom of the Layers palette.Activating All Layers Or Similar LayersTo activate all the layers in your document go Select> All Layers. Or you can also just select layers that are of a similar kind, such as shape layers or adjustment layers. To do this simply Right Click (MAC: Control Click) on a layer and from the contextual menu choose Select Similar Layers.Locking Multiple LayersThe lock icon at the bottom of the layers palette dims when multiple layers are selected, so if you want to lock a group of selected layers you must use the menu and choose Layer> Lock Layers. This is also available from the layers palette flyout menu.Unlocking Multiple LayersIf you have multiple layers that are locked and you wish to unlock all of them at once, first target each layer, then choose Layer> Lock Layers. A dialog will appear. Uncheck the "all" checkbox and all the targeted layers that were currently locked will become unlocked.New Layer Thumbnail Options - Small, Medium, Large, or NoneIn CS2 if you Right-click (MAC: Control-click) on a layer thumbnail you'll get a contextual menu with an option to make your thumbnails bigger or smaller. You can also access these options by choosing Palette Options from the layers palette flyout menu.Layer Sets Are Now Called Layer GroupsIn Photoshop CS2 Layers Sets are now called Layer Groups. Layer Groups are great for managing and organizing your layers, and you can also nest one Layer Group inside another Layer Group.How To Create Layer GroupsTo create a Layer Group you first select the layers you want to include, then choose Layer> Group Layers, and the selected layers will automatically be placed in a newly created folder. For a new Layer Group folder with no selected layers, click the New Group Button (the folder icon) at the bottom of the Layers Palette.

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Rex

And to sum it all up:
The bottom line is you get what you pay for and a contract is a contract.

Simple as that.

If your contract says you pay for prints, then you pay for prints.
If your contract says you have rights to the digital photos, so it goes.

I was married a year and a half ago and decided that I would not hire anyone who would not give me the rights to the pictures they were taking of me. And so it went and it was wonderful.

It all really comes down to the market. Decide what you want, find someone who offers it at a price you like and strike a deal.

Don't sign something, then break the deal behind the other parties back. That's low and pretty much makes swiss cheese of one of the most important things you have, your integrity.

For the record I am a for profit photographer, but if I was I would sell my services by the hour, not by the print. Just my .02 cents.

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Rex

the last post, last line should have read:

"For the record I am NOT a for profit photographer, but if I was I would sell my services by the hour, not by the print. Just my .02 cents."

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KellyT

"living large on a small budget"

I believe that tagline says it all.

I believe it's already quite clear that you did indeed steal from your photographer. You broke the law plain and simple.

Perhaps next time, instead of maybe playing by the photographer's rules, you should just take the photos yourself. You obviously do not place any kind of value on this profession or the people who make a living by it. Or rather, you do...but you don't want to pay for it as others have already stated.

If you or your friends could take the same amazing, high-quality photos that the professional photographer took you would not have a need for her services. But she was recording a milestone event for you...one you obviously wanted in the hands of a professional. Not one you wanted left to chance with friends and family members and their point & shoot cameras.

I am so incredibly frustrated by some of the opinions expressed in not only the blog post but the following comments that I don't even know how to respond. Thankfully others have been able to clearly articulate my feelings on the matter.

Shame on you.

Guest's picture

I'd say just don't hire a photographer who won't sell you the negatives. It's something important to be aware of to begin with...something that not enough people have learned to ask about. And if they won't quote you a price, find one who will. Or even find one who includes the negatives as part of their package. That way you don't have to worry about ethical issues and you reward photographers who provide good customer service.

We got our wedding negatives, so we can do what we want with them. Actually, they're at my in-laws house, but we can get them from my in-laws and do what we want.

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Guest

"And of course, there was the anxiety about getting busted. Last year, we went through the same routine, and we were confronted by a Walgreen staff member who told us they woudln't reproduce the prints because they were obviously professionally done. This year, to our relief, no one called us on our transgression."

Truly sad........

Guest's picture

I've worked for a newspaper for a number of years and guess what, when I write something for the newspaper or take a photo of something for the paper, regardless of if I used my computer to type it on or my camera to take the picture, the newspaper owns the work I created - because they paid me to create that work.
Yet when I hire a photographer for my wedding - paying her to create a work of me and my bride - they insist that they own the work and any and all prints have to come from them.
Turns out - we weren't super impressed with the work the did.
And they charged out the wazoo to get prints of pictures we didn't really like in the first place - and which we didn't get proofs until 3 months after our wedding.
So while there were a few we ordered we decided to do the next best thing and re-create our wedding day.
I went out and rented the exact same tux i had on our wedding day, my wife put on her wedding dress and we took a friend with us and our Nikon SLR (we bought it as a wedding gift to both of us) and created the pictures we wanted. http://tinyurl.com/2mtrhz
We printed off all the copies we wanted and have them all over our house - and everyone loves them and has no idea (until we tell them) they were taken 3 months after our wedding.
So the moral of the story - just take the pics yourself or get a friend to take them for you - you'll probably be just as happy in the end.

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Guest

Jonathan,

Ironically, it turns out the pricing model you agreed to with your wedding photographer saved you some money. So your photog, who you didn't care for, is getting what he/she deserved: none of your money for prints you don't want.

Everybody got what they deserved: You didn't get the photographer you wanted because you did not research him well enough by say, interviewing past customers or thoroughly reviewing work he produced for other clients. Your photographer didn't make any money off of print sales because you didn't like them.

HOWEVER, if you would have entered into a service-centric contract where you paid the photographer a flat fee to shoot your wedding and get all the originals (probably 3-4 times as much as what you paid), you would have spent more up front and ended up with a bunch of negatives of prints you don't like. Instead you minimized your losses and learned a valuable lesson: research your photographer before you hire them. Any photographer that's worth what they charge will be happy to prove it to you with copious examples of their work.

Oh, and by the way, photographers are hired every day to produce images the client owns, copyright free -- it's all in what you negotiate. Why agree to terms you don't like? Just walk away. Photography is an incredibly competitive profession, and I can assure all of you that you're more likely to hire a photographer for less than they are worth instead of the other way around because of the number of people trying to make it in this business...

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Guest

Where's the apology? Obviously the writer did wrong... her article was pulled because of the outrage... or the legal issues the owner of this blog might face because of her encouragement of illegal practices... but where's the author's apology? There should be one. Really!

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Houston rocks.

I will NOT hire a photographer who won't give me the original files. Why? because I am paying them for their time, not for them to hold an image of me randsom. Who knows what's going to happen to him 5 years, or 10 years from now. people have fires, floods, theft, etc and owe it to themselves, their kids, and future grand kids to keep original digital files. Especially since digital files if kept up will be exactly teh same 200 years from now that they do now.

What other business do you know that could get away with charging for their time and still telling you what you can do with your own image? I think it goes back to the old days where photography was a mysterious and untouchable profession and the cameras the consumers had access to were either very expensive or not good at all. Those days are over. Just look at Flickr.com and see how many amatuers take pictures using prosumer equipment that rivals that of the pros...if not better.

why would someone pay to have extra pictures of aunt sally and uncle wally at the wedding when chances are, 80% of the party brought their own cameras? Taking the pictures of the bride and groom may require alot of talent, but that's where the scale tips towards the consumer's favor.

So instead of being greedy and wanting to sell a bunch of overpriced prints, charge a little more for the originals and cover your cost of doing business and sleep easy. Chances are if you're honest, the couple will come to you for the professional prints.

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Leta

I love the way you refer to photographers as greedy because they have to charge for the work they produce. The nerve of those photographers!! Actually trying to make a living to feed and clothe their families.

I mean really...why can't I just pay for their time the day of the session and then have them handover the results of that time!

So what if they have to spend 2-4 hours after the session color-correcting every image and converting it to a format that consumer computers can read!

So what if they have thousands invested in pro-equipment and a $500 studio payment every month. Not my problem.

I mean, when my boss asks me to work an extra 8 hours a week with no pay, I gladly volunteer! Oh and when my boss tells me that my college degree(s) and past experience dont mean anything to him and he isn't willing to pay me what I'm worth...well, I just figure he's right. I may not be able to pay my bills on what he is willing to pay me, but if I asked to be paid for the overtime...well, then I would be greedy.

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Guest

I mean really...why can't I just pay for their time the day of the session and then have them handover the results of that time!
So what if they have to spend 2-4 hours after the session color-correcting every image and converting it to a format that consumer computers can read!

This is par for the course for computer programmers. Quit your whining.

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Because there would be no point in you hiring a professional photographer in the first place if that's all you want. Get it?

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Houston rocks

When you're already charging $2000 for the job, doesn't that cover your 8 hours plus another 4 hours that you spend in front of photoshop? Compare that to a contractor who has to pay for material, dedicated vans and trucks, and still get the same 2 grand for the week.

And don't give me that "i spent 10 grand on my equipment" because you'd make that up in a month of doing weddings and chances are you don't spend 10 grand every year so most of your equipment has already been paid for.

So why should you get paid double? what makes you special? If you were getting 10 bucks an hour and doing this i'd get why you'd be mad, but you don't. and why not charge the 25 cents a copy that it costs you? why charge 5 bucks a picture that's already been paid for? I know why, GREED.

If you want to be greedy, just charge more and give up the prints. It's someone else's life, not your art. If you want art, go take a picture of a flower, a sunset or a nude girl.

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Leta

I know the general perception of this business is that photographers make $2000 for a day's work. This is simply untrue. Let's say my average wedding is priced at $2500 and that includes a wedding album and an engagement session.

For 12 hours of work? you say- not bad! Now if only that were true! Let me breakdown how many hours actually go into a wedding:

1.5 hour- initial consultation
4 hours- email and phone/ customer service
(the typical relationship with clients last 6 months to a year. Many hours go into customer service)

4 hours engagement shoot- on-location, incl drive time
2 hours- color-correct and convert images, build gallery

7 hours- wedding coverage
1 hour- upload 100s of files from all cards

30 minutes- back up images at least twice

6 hours-color-correct and convert, build gallery
(100s of images require more time than a portrait session)

20 hours- design wedding album pages

15 hours- retouch all album images

1 hour- Put album online for approval. Make specified changes.

30 minutes- with album company to place order

2 hours customer service time for those who email and call every week to inquire on album delivery date.

1 hour- Delivery of album

Let's see how many hours is that total.....

Oh I don't know...about 65 hours? So photographers are making a whopping $30/hour! What a ripoff! I mean most photographers can manage about 20 weddings a year so they are rolling in the dough making about $40,000/year.

Wow, that's less than my mom makes as a teacher. Maybe I should reconsider what I do for a living!

Why charge $5? Because I retouch the images. And because I have $35,000 in equipment. And studio overhead.

If you want images for free the solution is simple- buy your own equipment and take your own pictures. Don't steal from people who are trying to make an honest living.

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Guest

to leta... what do you do for a living. I'll come do it for free and we'll see how you like it. Of course you'll tell me how I don't know anything about your profession, but since you don't have a clue about mine... yet have the audacity to call me "Greedy"... that shouldn't make much of a difference to you ehy?

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Guest

Hey leta,

I'll thank you to NOT hire me to take your pictures. You do not get it and refuse to try. A client who thinks like that isn't worth a pro photographer spending time on. You can stay with Sears and Wal-Mart. If and when you get married (if you aren't already) make sure you take the photos yourself -you wouldn't want anyone who knows what they are doing there because they might want compensation for the work. Do it yourself! (and then when they turn out like crap you can recreate everything again and try again)

If you aren't willing to pay for the work then don't have them come and waste their time!!! Do it yourself and we'll see how well you can do.

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JAG

"Houston rocks" - you should pay the price you want. You aren't obligated to sign a contract with anyone. Photography is a tremendously competitive business.

There are two issues here, both of which you (and the original writer of this article) are clearly completely ignorant of. More precisely we're talking about breaking the law in more than one way, but this is not why so many people are upset - there is nothing wrong with breaking bad laws... We're talking about something different.

First of all, we have contract law. This is the oldest type of law on the planet. It's also something with more meaning than the paper lawyers throw at each other all day long. When you engage the services of a professional photographer, you sign a contract. A contract is a meeting of minds. It's a testament to the agreement of both parties and as such it is a very serious, very important thing. No one made you sign on that line. You did. And when you break that, you break the must fundamental thing that differentiates human beings from animals: the ability to look another person in the eye and make a promise.

I want you to think about that for a second. Your discussion of fairness, of greed, is completely inane. A contract, by definition, is an agreement between _two_ parties... Breaking a law is one thing, breaking an honest trust with a fellow member of the human race is another.

Secondly, we have copyright law, and intellectual property law in general. I think most sensible people are well aware of the fact that copyright law was written for a very different set of economics than exist today. The problems with it are far-reaching and unlikely to be solved in this blog's comment thread. However, while most will agree that the reach of copyright law may be excessive in this age, most will also agree that an individual deserves to be compensated for their efforts -- at least in some small way (if not 50 years after death...). You argue that because you commission the artist, that you direct them to a particular location, or set of subjects, that it is your own intellectual property that is being taken from you. That you have the rights to creations they made at your request. That is, to put it mildly, an arrogant and conceited perspective.

You view a request for compensation as an indication of a greedy disposition. You argue that someone is trying to take your own property from you. It is as easy to argue that it is your own greed, not the photographers that provokes your diatribe.

We aren't just talking about copyright law here - a nebulous and controversial subject on any day - we're talking about fundamental principles of honesty between human beings. It's as simple, and serious, as that.

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Leta

I believe some of you misread my post. I was being sarcastic. Please reread with more attention to the last paragraph. I'm a photographer who specializes primarily in weddings.

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Leta

Not all is profit. I just ordered a wedding album for the studio.
My cost? $884. Subtract that from your 2000 figure. Once you figure in the cost of wedding albums...the yearly salary would be closer to $25 or $30k.

After my costs this year, I made about $25,000. I photographed 20 weddings. I hope it makes you feel really good knowing that you are stealing from people like me, who live a modest lifestyle and who also have children to support at home. Photographers are really not any different from the rest of you.

I love the perception that we are overpaid and greedy. Beautiful.

Guest's picture
guest

So what's going to happen in 5 years when you drop out of the business and your customer needs more pictures? Are their precious memories gone for ever because you wanted to make a few extra bucks?

What about in 10 years? people move around alot. How are they supposed to find you again to pay for those overpriced prints? If you're already not happy doing weddings, you're probably not going to be around in the business in 10 years.

What about 20 years from now when for all we know, paper print is a thing of a past and everything is digital? even now you see people with digital frames?

I don't disagree that it takes time to set up meetings and meet up with customers, but that's in every business. Those other businesses get paid one time to do the job however. You say that you charge an insane amount for a simple 4x6 because it took you a while to touch it up, but you already got paid for it! You're only doing it because you can get away with it...or at least you could. That gravy train is sailing though.

So you can either do what the customer asks you to do and get compensated fairly for it, or you can be greedy (some photographers even require that nobody else take pictures at the wedding or party! yeah that will win customers over), or you can include a 20 cent CD-rom of at least selected pictures if not all of them. Maybe if they buy a certain amount of prints that you'd love to sell they can get it. The point is, after a certain point when you've already made your money, holding on to someone's precious moments is pure greed and it's going to backfire.

I didn't go to art school but know my way around a camera and it's really not brain surgery. Maybe for the photographers who actually had to develop film and go through hell to make a few prints it was like that but it's not that hard to rent a fast lens and a strobe. Now days alot of people have a D80 or a 40D at home or know someone who does. The only hard part is getting everybody together and there is usually someone there to help with that too. Would many people go through the trouble of having a couple of friends shoot their wedding? probably not, but if you get too greedy, people will find other ways. again, it's not brain surgery to go clickedy click and hand out a few point and shoots to the guests and collect the cameras later.

You guys sound like the recording studio who think your profits are going down because a few people copy your work. Give people what they want and they won't feel the need to steal it and the people want digital files to share with their families online. very simple. Do it for a reasonable price and they'll pay.

Guest's picture
Guest

You guys sound like the recording studio who still hasn't figured out that slumping sales is not because a few people steal music but because the value in the product is not high and people WANT digital.

It's very simple. prints are dead. Aside from the frame and 5-10 shots for an album, people can do what you do very easily with point and shoots or various flavor of pro-sumer cameras. The old days of having to stay in the red room developing pictures are gone.

Now you can kick and scream about how much more you want to make after the initial sale and just tempt people to cut you out completely and shoot their own weddings (how hard can it be if you rent a few fast lenses and a strobe? It's not brain surgery to go clickidy click and get the parties together) or you can offer to give them selected originals for each print they order or the whole thing for a fair price. how hard is that?

think about it art school girl, are you going to be around in 10 years when you're already this angry about your line of work? what's going to happen if you move or they move and lose their pictures and want copies? are you that full of yourself to hold a piece of someone's most special days as hostage for ever even if you never sell a single print?

Just get over yourselves. I gave a 5 year old a point and shoot at a party and ended up with 50 really good pictures where everybody was smiling and in focus. hand a couple of 5 year olds a point and shoot and that'll cover all your candids and guest pictures and destroy your business plan....that's probably why you don't wnat others to take pictures at weddings.

Of course if you just give the people what they want, you'll get paid, they'll have "professional" pictures, and everybody is happy.

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Leta

I archive the images. For those who want to purchase all digital files on CD, they may do so.

Give the kids a camera and let them cover your weddings and special events. Makes no difference to me. There is a market for what professional photographers provide. I can't believe the animosity some of you have toward photographers.

And who is angry btw? I love my work.

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Guest

"It's not brain surgery to go clickidy click"

Tell that to the people who come to me after they get their wedding photos back from Uncle Bob or an amateur. Many cry because they are so disappointed with their photos. It's a one-time event that can't be recreated.

Professional photography wouldn't even exist as a career if it was only a matter of pushing a button.

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Guest

If you offer digital copies with or without your prints then kudos. That's my only beef. I've noticed many studios offer copyright free CDs with packages too and that's just good business.

As far as uncle bob goes I meant that if you try to hold a monopoly on all the prints then people will rather just go with uncle bob's guest pictures...bride and groom usually just care about the bride and groom pics. if they have to choose where to cut the budget, that's who is going to lose.

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poporatzi

I think alot of professionals that are on here (who charge by the print and refuse to give out the originals) have the mentality that they can't be replaced and so customers are left with no choice to hire them if they want quality. Thats the famous last words of any business because the fact is if you don't change your business strategy to give customers what they want and need, they will get it.

I see many of you on here chuckling at the thought that an amateur with a camera could possibly take pictures that come out anything close to what you do. You might want to think about that one again because I know some damn good photographers who just do it as a hobby and have a scientific (ie. non artistic) backround so they could probably explain more about focal lengths and depth of field and any of your other buzz words better than most pros could even do. It's not just uncle bob with an ego and a Rebel camera. There are some serious amatuers out there who can do just as well as you.

Don't get me wrong, their time is valuable too so they might not WANT to do it, but if they had to (ie. as a gift to a poor couple who only has a $800 to spend on pictures while starting out) they could. That doesn't stop at weddings either. How much business do you think you're losing in the portraiture market when expirienced amatuers can take great pictures and hold on to them. Would YOU pay someone $600 for a photo session only to get a few copies? It's not like a wedding so if you mess up a shot, just try try again. I took 500 shots at a little family gathering and 30 of them are in frames. I don't have anything to prove so I just deleted the rest.

Even in the high-end market of people who live in $5 million houses, if you don't deliver what people want, they're going to go with another guy. In big cities you can throw a stick and hit dozens quality photographers. Of course each one thinks he's the absolute best but egos really do sink ships.

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photographer guest

Very interesting thread. This is when I wish I could be a car maker instead of an image maker. You see, if I make a damn car, even if it's a knock off Yugo, I could sell it at a price I like (and you buy it if you like the price), and NO ONE IS GOING TO MAKE A COPY OF IT and give it to their relatives or hang it up in their living room. For those who complains they pay too much for pictures, and are "force" to steal, I'd like to point out places where you get what you paid for - JC Pennys, Walmart, etc. They offer very affordable portrait sessions, it's so cheap that it's not even worth your time to go through the trouble scanning the pictures. Or maybe their pictures aren't worth scanning to begin with. OK, back to the car scenario. If you want a Mercedes but can only afford a Ford, you'd probably end up with a Ford. So buying the Mercedes and complaining it's too much is just silly. But if it makes you feel better, go take a picture of the Mercedes and email to all your friends, your coworkers, or what the heck, spam the entire internet. More importantly, don't teach your kids your "tricks".

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Guest

It's not stealing when it's a picture of MY son. This law is so messed up. I have digital backups of all my family pictures whether they were taken last week or in the 40's. Do you think the guy who took those pictures in the 1940's has a to take that copyright to the grave with him too?

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Guest

If you knew anything about the law, the acting of violating copyright is called "stealing".

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Guest

"It's very simple. prints are dead. Aside from the frame and 5-10 shots for an album, people can do what you do very easily with point and shoots or various flavor of pro-sumer cameras. The old days of having to stay in the red room developing pictures are gone."

Heh. The poster who linked to the gallery of "superior" photos they took themselves proved my earlier point that some people just have absolutely no clue or ability to discern between a good photo and a crappy one. There's no accounting for bad taste. I'll continue to market myself to and work with clients who know and appreciate the distinction between mediocre snapshots and high-quality, professional photography.

Guest's picture

"Heh. The poster who linked to the gallery of "superior" photos they took themselves proved my earlier point that some people just have absolutely no clue or ability to discern between a good photo and a crappy one."

---

I'm not saying our photos are superior to anyone's other than our photographers. The photos we got back were dark, and of things we didn't necessarily want and there weren't photos of things we wanted - even photos we know we posed for. We made the mistake of not shopping around enough for a great photographer. And we "fixed" the problem by taking our own.

It's not a solution for everyone - it was a solution for us.

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Guest

It's not brain surgery to sing a song, either, but most people can tell the difference between Mariah Carey and the American Idol wannabes during the audition rounds who *think* they can sing like Mariah Carey but mostly make our ears bleed.

Indeed. Just like some people are tone-deaf, I honestly belief some people are art-blind.

Guest's picture
KellyT

"It's not stealing when it's a picture of MY son. This law is so messed up. I have digital backups of all my family pictures whether they were taken last week or in the 40's. Do you think the guy who took those pictures in the 1940's has a to take that copyright to the grave with him too?"

Whether you agree with copyright law or not, it is stealing when you copy a portrait taken by a professional photographer without his permission. It does not matter if the portrait is of you, your son, or your Aunt Mildred. Unless the photographer transfers ownership of the copyright, he still owns it.

By your logic any photo you ever take of another human being would actually belong to that person. That's a bit ridiculous, don't you think?

And you should brush up on your copyright law. The copyright does "expire" 70 years after the death of the creator for many works. But you should visit this site for more information about copyright:

http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-duration.html

I can sympathize with people who had photographers up and disappear on them. It's a legitimate concern and one that affects both sides of the camera. I do agree with the person who asked where all the animosity towards photographers comes from. It's almost like watching a bunch of little kids throwing fits because they can't have something their way.

Professional photographers obviously DO still hold some value to people otherwise you would just turn over that responsibility to a family member with a camera. It's not just about going clickety click, though. And yes, anyone with any intelligence can understand the technical side of photography. But it goes beyond that...and it's not just about an artistic eye either.

For a wedding it's being able to anticipate those moments so you are able to capture them. It's about being a professional who respects the clients, their guests, and the other wedding vendors. It's about making the day go as smoothly as possible so the bride and groom don't have to worry about anything. And it's about preserving those moments...repeatedly...not leaving them to chance.

I agree that there are plenty of hobbyist photographers out there who do take excellent shots. But do they consistently capture those moments? We wedding photographers get lucky on occasion as well, but as a wise mentor once told me "luck favors the prepared."

I know the industry is changing, and I am willing to adapt to these changes as best I can. But I will do it in such a way that I continue to put a value on my profession and my services. And I will continue to attract clients who put a value on it as well.

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Guest

The business math on this post is horrible! Photographers need to look at this the same way the music industry and countless other industries have. Like the above poster said, PRINTS ARE DEAD. Yea, shure it's stealing. And so is driving 1 mile over the speed limit. And when you go to a coffee shop, I' better never see you reading a newspaper somebody left on another table. Photographers, you can't stop people in the long run. And if you try too hard to stop people, many will begin to go elsewhere. Hey, maybe you guys should start another dying tradition and start a union. As long as you can make a living doing it like you are doing it, brother press on. But keep an ear out for the canary in the coal mine. I applaud your ethics, but get real! The business model is changing. Cameras are getting cheaper and cheaper, people want to manipulate their own photos in Photoshop, print their own photo albums from Shutterfly, etc..... It's about skill, not production. Find a way to charge for your skill. People will be willing to pay for that.

And by the way, $1,300 a month to live on? Come on! What do you do the other 5 or so days of the week? How about deductions for business expenses? If you are going to stand high on your pedestal, be honest about the situation. I teach a class at a gym 2 nights a week, and that only pays me $40 per class! It's a wonder I'm able to eat.

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Guest

This reminds me of a strip club that I used to work at while in college. When it was time to tip out the club, the girls would be "but I had to go spend $100 on my shoes and this cute outfit cost another $150" and play a sad song about how it's changing now and how guys don't tip as well and always try to sneak free peeks instead of getting their own dances etc. Of course they'd always forget to mention that really rich guy that would give them $2000 every week too.

So come on photographers, why aren't you mentioning your go-to customers? You know, the one who lives in a mansion and gives you a couple of grand each time you take a few family pictures or at parties where you barely even break a sweat? I'm sure that guy doesn't care what you give him as long as they look good.

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Guest

Go-to customers. Um yeah. Strip club clients and photography clients are not even in the same ballpark. I wonder how many of my clients I could convince to pay for professional portraits every week or even every month. Not very likely.

The people who hire us don't have the time to make their own photography products. If they do have free time, they don't want to sit and crop prints and design albums with it. They come to us because they have the luxury of being able to afford to pay others to make those products for them.

If you prefer to diy, more power to you. If you don't like the prices of professionals, please diy or go to Sears studios where you can get print prices that make sense to you.

If you don't value photography, it's simple. Don't hire the photographer who charges more than you're willing to pay for their work.

It is unethical to hire an expensive photographer only to steal from them.

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Guest

Go-to customers. Um yeah. Strip club clients and photography clients are not even in the same ballpark. I wonder how many of my clients I could convince to pay for professional portraits every week or even every month. Not very likely.

The people who hire us don't have the time to make their own photography products. If they do have free time, they don't want to sit and crop prints and design albums with it. They come to us because they have the luxury of being able to afford to pay others to make those products for them.

If you prefer to diy, more power to you. If you don't like the prices of professionals, please diy or go to Sears studios where you can get print prices that make sense to you.

If you don't value photography, it's simple. Don't hire the photographer who charges more than you're willing to pay for their work.

It is unethical to hire an expensive photographer only to steal from them.

Guest's picture
Erica

I am so thoroughly disappointed in Wise Bread for pulling this post. Thankfully, I got to read it in my news reader before it was pulled, but others might not be so lucky. Leaving the comments vilifying the author up without the actual text is tacky, for one. The variety of comments illustrates that whether it is in fact right or wrong to do what the author did, there is a dialog between photographers and those who employ their services that is not happening.

I don't think you could call me a professional photographer, but I think you could call me a photographer. I've done a handful of portrait sittings, a wedding, and a smattering of other work for paying clients. I find the nominal-fee-for-sitting plus hugely-inflated-fees-for-prints model to be distasteful, because it feels dishonest: it's like telling my clients that the real value of my work is in the piece of paper, and not in the composition on it. Because of this, when contracted I charge for my time - during consultation, shooting, editing, and any package preparation. If there are concrete products (prints, DVDs, etc.) I charge for materials at a competitive rate. Then, at the end, I provide the finalized digital files. That's what they're buying. The images. And I feel that's honest. I feel that's a business model that's more appropriate, particularly given the low cost of reproduction these days.

Ultimately, though, I'm not upset because I agree with the author. I'm upset because redaction is for newspapers. This is the internet. If you believe that you're wrong, somehow, make a visible edit or addendum. Making the post just disappear is bad net-business.

Bring the post back. Leave the replacement text as an edit. If it's appropriate and genuine on the part of the author, she can apologize; if not, a statement indicating support for her original statements would be appropriate. If she's made any sort of arrangement with the photographer to compensate for the duplicated prints in order to comply with law, that would be appropriate to mention as well.

Let the conversation continue. Please.

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Guest

Here's what you should do if you feel guilty about stealing from a photographer - Get out your camera and take pictures yourself. Then you will be the owner of the digital negatives/files and can print them and share them however you see fit.
Or why not buy a painting from someone and then have it reprinted on canvas and give it away for free to your friends and family so that the artist only makes money off of the canvas they sold to you.
It's stealing.

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Guest

I agree with Erica. People feel cheated if they already thought they've paid for the photographer's time and find out he's really making his money off prints instead. Whether they actually paid for the photographer's time is a different story but this shows how flawed this business model is.

On the other hand, if the photographer charges enough for their time and gives them the digital negatives with the advice that "You can take these to Target to get printed if you want, you've already paid me for my time, but if you let me print them they will cost a little more but be printed on high quality paper/booklet/frame and cropped and adjusted correctly", chances are the customer is going to at least get the more expensive larger prints from you because they know they can't do a good enough job themselves.

You get paid and they get what they want. Why is that so hard? What is this obession with taking negatives to the grave with you?

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Guest

There lies the misconception. In order to be paid for my time, including the consultation, customer service, and day of a portrait session plus the post-processing hours after the session, I would have to charge $500 for a session to eek out a living with zero print sales.

How many people are willing to pay $500 for a portrait session with unedited digital files as the only product included? Not me. That seems a little tacky.

If I pay that much, I expect to have a beautifully retouched portrait to hang on my wall.

High session fees drive people to Walmart where there is no session fee. You have to price your sessions in a range that people are willing to pay or risk having no business.

Setting up a business model is not as easy as many of you make it out to be.

Why do you think photographers shouldnt be compensated for their time and talent? They should offer everything at cost without taking into consideration their overhead.

How many other businesses are able to do that? Photographers don't deserve to make a living wage because their job is perceived as "easy"?

I guess I just don't get it. How many of you work 40-60 hours a week for a paycheck that barely pays the bills? If that was the case, wouldnt you find a new job?

To say that photographers don't deserve to make a living like everyone else is mind-blowing.

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Guest

well the lady in the story admitted she paid $600 with prints...I'm not saying it's going to be easy to have a business model- if it was, everybody would be in business, but one thing i've learned in my line of work, people like to get packages so you could say something like "with this package, If you order this many prints from me at this cost, I'll include a CD that has the originals in it also. If you just want prints, it's $xx per picture ". Offering them the CD at least gives many of the ones who were thinking of scanning the pictures to think twice and want the higher quality originals.

Guest's picture
KellyT

I agree that it's not really fair to delete the original article but leave the comments. While it is definitely stealing when clients scan professional prints only to make their own, I do think there have been very valid points made throughout this discussion from both sides of the argument.

I meant to say the same thing about high session fees and just charging for everything upfront. While that sounds like a great idea in theory, it is not necessarily the most successful business model either. People do not really want to pay us for our time. They want something tangible for their money, and I can absolutely understand this point of view.

But I personally hate preset photo packages. They always contain sizes I don't want in quantities I can't use. So that's why I prefer to bundle a print credit with my session fee. I am not opposed to selling digital files, but it won't be for some of the reasons mentioned in this discussion.

Yes, clients have Photoshop Elements or other photo editing products. But that doesn't mean they actually know how to use them and use them well. I spend a lot of time on my photos, and I would hate to see someone play around with one of my files in Photoshop and then slap it up on MySpace. It's no longer my work, is it? That's why I still love being able to provide my clients with high quality professional prints.

And again, I keep seeing the argument that clients should be able to do whatever they want with photos. Well you can if you take the pictures yourselves, right? Like I said before, there is obviously still a need for professional photographers or this discussion would be moot.

I think most of us would be willing to negotiate things with our clients, but it needs to be a two-way street, folks.

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Ben Prestney

Firstly, I think it's hard to disagree with the argument running through this thread - namely, that there is a large market out there, so you are free to find a photographer that suits your budget and expectations for product. Once engaged in a contract with that professional, you are obliged to honour it; anything else is not merely illegal, but immoral.

I'm posting to talk about a specific issue, though; I'm a semi-pro who shoots about 10-15 weddings a year. I have shot portrait sessions before, but I found the fight against the established model to be too hard to overcome. With weddings, I charge an upfront fee, then am happy to sell the negatives or charge an extremely reasonable fee for reprints - the cost of printing plus a nominal markup to cover the costs of the extra time, but no more than a few percent. As far as I am concerned, the customer has a clear choice - employ me at a reasonable rate to take care of their printing needs (which affords me a small profit commensurate with the effort), or buy the digital files from me, whereby I put a reasonable price on the product, of which the customer is fully aware before engaging my services.

I have attempted to apply this logic, which appears reasonable to me, to portrait photography, i.e. charging a higher fee for my time and expertise for the session, and then providing printing services for a price close to cost. However, I repeatedly found that people balked at my proposed fee; the market has evolved so that the customer, under these circumstances, expected a low cost, or even free, sitting, then for the photographer, or studio, to recover costs and make profits on the prints, the prices of which are frequently opaque before the sitting. As a result, people perceived my prives as being extrotionate, despite the fact the total cost of the package would be many hundreds of pounds less than if they walked into Olan Mills, or any other photo-by-numbers high street chain. I found that I was unwilling to follow the market model, as I have no interest in upselling something after I've promised something else. Therefore, I have dropped out of that particular market to let me concentrate on what I consider to be a more honest way of doing business.

So, in response - the model is there, and consumers are more than free to test it and find a reasonable alternative - photographers will come round to whatever is sustainable according to what the market dictates, or stop if they can't stomach either the change or the existing practice. Do some research, and in a market of so many providers, you're sure to find someone that meets your needs. Just do the right thing and honour the contract that you sign.

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Scoobizier

A photographer copied this entire article on his website, and placed a link to it at the comments section of The Online Photographer.  Some of the other commenters quickly pointed out that this is a copyright violation.  One of them asked: 

 

"did you seriously just copy an entire article verbatim from someone else's web site in an attempt to condemn the theft of intellectual property?"

 

Classic.

 

To his credit, the editor of The Online Photographer removed the link to the infringing website almost immediately.

 

 

 

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Guest

Thief. Thief. Thief. Thief.

Guest's picture
Keith

Scoobizier-
Yes, and this photographer also drove 5 miles over the speed limit yesterday too. The reality is that we choose which laws to observe and which to ignore, and part of that decision is based on our individual prejudices (among other things). And we do this on a regular basis; every civilized one of us.

My reason for copying and posting that story wasn't about money (unlike the motivation of the author of that story), or the condemnation of the author or her actions (despite what that quoted commentor may think). I just thought the article was important and didn't want to see it disappear, especially because of how much reaction it was getting here and at The Online Photographer. In fact, because it is available as a Google cached page (for some limited time), which is where I copied it from (a copy of a copy), and the main purpose of me copying and posting it was for the sake of critique/critcism (which you *can* do with photographs without needing permission), it didn't even occur to me that there would be a problem with this. That's right, it never occurred to me that it would be a copyright issue.

BTW Scoobizier,
did you get permission to use that person's quote? It was copied verbetim, minus just one word (my name). If you think that I'm condemning you, well... I'm not. Just a little tit-for-tat.

Anybody interested in what else I might think about this issue can view the comments using the link Scoobizier provided.

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Keith

If it is decided and agreed upon that my actions were thievery, then so be it.

Although, it certainly wasn't my intention to be a thief; I thought I was doing something that needed to be done. I won't shy away from it though. Only you (each person reading this) can decide if thief is how I should be labeled (along with speeder, j-walker, etc). But now that I understand more of the details about copyright infringement (of written words rather than photographs, which I know a fair amount about), I will need to make a decision about how I think I should respond to my actions.

Guest's picture
Raist3d

then you should get ZERO royalties for any book you publish, books should be sold at *cost* because after all it's "just replicating text" and "the work is already done", right?

Food for thought.

- Raist

Guest's picture
Leta

That's exactly right Raist. Under the theory espoused above (photogs should only get paid for the session time)....writers would only get paid for the time it took to write the book. According to popular opinion, reprint sales are undeserved.

If you want to be paid for what you created - you are greedy.

People will pay $5 for a cup of coffee, but balk at paying $5 for a print from a professional photographer. Because photographers are greedy. uh-huh. Most of my colleagues are living modestly. I drive a 2000 Honda and make $1300/month doing wedding photography for a living.

Yes, I am thrilled when I get a $500 print sale but that's rare and when you average the salary out for the year after costs, it is rather low. Yet, due to common misconceptions people want to steal from people like me.

Above poster said it was preposterous that a photographer could make only 1300/month. Why is that? What do you think we do in the winter months? I specialize in weddings....November- February= 4 months of no pay. Believe it and consider it the next time you think about stealing from a photographer.

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Guest

The other 5 days of the week are spent in consultations, on the phone with clients, designing wedding and engagement albums, retouching images, placing print orders, photographing the engagement and bridal sessions included in the wedding packages, converting images and building galleries. Any other questions?

Guest's picture
Guest

The other 5 days of the week are spent in consultations, on the phone with clients, designing wedding and engagement albums, retouching images, placing print orders, photographing the engagement and bridal sessions included in the wedding packages, converting images and building galleries. Any other questions?