Your REALTOR® Would Like Some Free Photography, Please

Please pardon the detour today. I need to rant. I'd like to share with you the ballsiest request for free picture use that I have ever gotten…

Ever feel like you are being taken advantage of as a photographer? Or that people in other professions think so little of us that they assume we would gladly work for free?

Of course you do. It happens all of the time. But if you haven't had the pleasure, this is what it looks like when it happens (annotations mine):

Image Permission Request

Hi David,

I am writing on behalf of the visual editor for to request your permission to use one of your photos on the site.1 The photo nicely illustrates a topic we’re writing about.2 HouseLogic, published by the National Association of Realtors®, covers home ownership-related topics.3

Specifically, we'd like your permission to use the photo "CARDINALS IN SNOW"4 in connection with the slideshow about "BRIGHTEN WINTER CURB APPEAL".5 The image may also appear as a link back to that slideshow in such places as our email newsletter; social media, including Pinterest; marketing; companion site for REALTORS®; and website home page.6 The use may require that we resize the image to fit the size constraints of our website.7

Also, we would appreciate if you could provide a high resolution version of this image, at least 1200 x 800 pixels.8

We are asking you to grant the National Association of REALTORS® the non-exclusive, royalty-free right to use the image as described above for as long as the topic is included on the HouseLogic site.9 We would include a credit to you in the caption accompanying the image in its primary location on HouseLogic.10 If you would like we could also link that credit to your website.11

If you approve, please respond to this email confirming that you own the image rights, have the authority to grant to the National Association permission to use the image as described, and grant that permission.12 Please also let us know how you would prefer to be named in the credit.13 My deadline is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2013, and I would appreciate a response from you before then, if possible.14

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you.


[name redacted]
[address redacted]

National Association of REALTORS®
430 N Michigan Ave 

Chicago, IL 60611


1. Sounds great. No problems so far. I'm a photographer, you need photos. Let's talk!

2. Even better!

3. My day is turning up. The National Association of Realtors® is a big organization. Even I know THAT.

4. The photo, cropped, is seen at top of this post. Speech bubble by moi.

5. I can make that happen!

6. Wow. That is a pretty broad usage. No problem. I have FotoQuote and it is great for figuring out stuff like that. It is the industry standard matchmaker between photo buyers and photographers.

7. Lady, you're writing the checks. Crop it as you please.

8. Of course. And I post full-res, copyrighted images on Flickr largely so people can see exactly what they are getting. (I have actually sold a fair number of images through Flickr, and this "bird-in-the-hand" full-res visibility is a big help, IMO.)

9. The National Association of Realtors® clearly knows its way around a picture purchase.

10. Nice thought, but that won't turn this into an editorial sale. This is CLEARLY a commercial usage. But credits are always appreciated.

11. And this is where the Spidey Sense starts going off. Could it be that they want this usage just for effing photo credit?

12. Oh, so you clearly have a legal staff, what with all of the cover-your-ass language. Do they work for free? Do you?

13. Here's a thought: how about you lose the "photo by" wording, and replace it with "pay to the order of"?

14. Of course. Since we're all professionals here. Oh wait, almost forgot -- you're a professional and I'm a chump.

A Little Bit About the National Association of Realtors®

That's their building. Not even their headquarters, which is in Chicago, but rather their DC satellite office. From where they heavily lobby your lawmakers.

Did I say "heavily lobby?" That's needlessly vague. Try $100,000,000.00 worth in recent years, according to their Wikipedia page, which Wikipedia says basically reads like an ad. (Over $22,000,000.00 of gubmint palm-greasing in 2011 alone.)

They lobby congress hard to keep a stranglehold on their hugely profitable business model that by all rights should have been eaten by the internet years ago. Money talks, people.

And yet photography should be free.

Over a million members. And these are the same people who charge you a healthy five-figure fee to sell your house. I know, I've paid it. But when we bought, we did it over a dining room table, and without a REALTOR® in the room. My wife and I got a better price, and the sellers took home more money. Needless to say, neither party missed the REALTOR® one bit.

So on a lark, I wrote back to them and offered the photo for 1% of the fee I paid my last REALTOR®. Which was, to be honest, a low fee for the usage. This was just a ping to see if they had any respect at all for our profession.

Answer: (Cue sound of crickets chirping...)

Then I tweeted to them and asked if there was a way to find a free REALTOR® in my area. (You know, since that's what they were trying to do to me.)

They were helpful, until they realized I wanted the REALTOR® for free. Then, more crickets.


Dear incredibly flush National Association of Realtors®,

You can afford nine digit sums to try to buy our lawmakers? You can probably afford to pay a photographer to use a photo of birds in your web slideshow. So please don't insult us with your legalese-filled requests for the timely delivery of our work for free.




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Blogger Rueben said...

bravo..... bravo... love the reply to them as well... :)

October 18, 2013 1:43 AM  
Blogger Graham Lane said...

Just think of the exposure you'll get! (roll eyes)

October 18, 2013 2:10 AM  
Blogger Sirod Doris said...

Yes. From amateur to professional, photos should not be free! If they want to use your photos, ESPECIALLY for corporate usage, they should pay! They may offer low price for slightly amateur photo and high price for professional, but never free!

October 18, 2013 3:17 AM  
Blogger David Eichler said...

We are taught to swallow our pride and respond in a professional manner to such inconsiderate requests, but it is so hard....

October 18, 2013 3:37 AM  
OpenID calvinphoto said...

very deep pockets and very short arms

October 18, 2013 3:54 AM  
Blogger Christopher Prins said...

Love the response.

October 18, 2013 4:56 AM  
Blogger Cédric Hauteville said...

Thanks for making me discover fotoQuote :)

October 18, 2013 5:02 AM  
Blogger marcus said...

Good on you!!!! I'd do the same.

October 18, 2013 5:36 AM  
Blogger bobfoto said...

Great post David, even greater reply to them.

Did you give them a link to this blog post to show them all the great publicity they just received?

October 18, 2013 6:15 AM  
Blogger imagetico said...

That happens in Brazil all the time.

October 18, 2013 6:48 AM  
Blogger Siddharth Sirohi said...

At least they asked, in India they just use the images. They don't ask and they don't inform. If you bump into the image being used you shoot a mail and you don't even get a response back. At best your image will be removed.

October 18, 2013 6:51 AM  
Blogger Phil Romans said...

I followed and even commented on your initial Flickr post regarding this. Love the follow-up/full circle of this.

Good luck David, and thanks for pointing out fotoQuote. It will help me in the future!

October 18, 2013 7:18 AM  
Blogger Dominique Pelletier said...


October 18, 2013 7:58 AM  
Blogger Chris Brink said...

Agreed David. Well said!! I am buying a house right now and it sure is not even close to FREE!!!

October 18, 2013 8:06 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

NIce rant David, love it!

October 18, 2013 8:08 AM  
Blogger Mark n Manna said...

At least they didn't rob you and just steal the image.....But I'd keep an eye on them, because they might just do exactly that.

October 18, 2013 8:19 AM  
Blogger Dashney said...

Realtors are literally using iphone shots (outdoor window scene exposed properly, room a good 3-4 stops under) where I live in Regina, Canada to try and sell 7 figure homes. I dealt with an agency here until I realized they have no clue. I did shots for a buddy, including 360 pano, because we're pals. The realtor loved it and asked for more places. They wanted to pay $75. I explained the time/lighting equip/expertise/gear that goes into it (especially the pano) and why $75 just isn't feasible, so they declined flat out. What got me, was after I really nicely explained to them all that goes into it, I got that "my brother has one of those camera thingies and he could do it in 12 minutes so stop exaggerating. He has a flash right on his camera" look. I quit doing photography professionally a few years ago because this wasn't nearly an isolated incident. Now I just shoot for fun, and it's way more fun.

October 18, 2013 8:29 AM  
Blogger Chris Aldridge said...

Well, you know, they already spent so much on a lawyer to come up with the solicitation they couldn't afford to pay for the picture. Probably have interns sending out the emails too! Bwahaha

October 18, 2013 8:30 AM  
Blogger frankmv said...

Absolutely spot on! If I had a nickel for every time somebody asked to use my images in exchange for "exposure and attribution"...well, you get the idea. I no longer give away images. Exposure and attribution simply don't pay the bills...

October 18, 2013 9:04 AM  
Blogger glenn kaupert said...

they may have already placed your image in their campaign..., might be worth keeping your eyes open for that.

October 18, 2013 9:07 AM  
Blogger Peter Steeper said...

I've had one realtor steal the same image twice for their Facebook page. I got Facebook to send them a take down notice the second time.
They weren't willing to offer me free services either!

October 18, 2013 9:14 AM  
Blogger Marc Weisberg said...

David, Thank You for having the balls to post this publicly instead of keeping it in your head.

October 18, 2013 9:20 AM  
Blogger MikeScottPhoto said...

I love you, man (in a strictly professional way of course). Well done.

October 18, 2013 9:32 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

A very correct response to an obvious fleece request but they'll quickly move on to the next cardinal picture without skipping a beat. There's just to many good photogs out there that haven't reached a level of success where payment trumps name exposure.

October 18, 2013 9:37 AM  
Blogger David Helms said...

And the crowd goes W I L D !!!!!
Thanks for posting this. It is time for people to realize that photography is NOT FREE..... I appreciate your candid response to this!!! I am sure that mine would have had a lot of bleeps and bleepbleeps within the text.

October 18, 2013 9:40 AM  
Blogger Chris in South Korea said...

Bravo - though I'm surprised you didn't respond with an invoice with said one percent. I'd have loved to be a fly in the wall then...

October 18, 2013 9:57 AM  
Blogger Active Rain said...

You missed the mark David on assuming the local real estate agent was asking for free photos. It was the association asking for freebies. That's like saying you are responsible for all of your political party's actions including bribery. Oh by the way, you do get to hire a Realtor for free when you buy since the seller's pays the fees.

October 18, 2013 10:07 AM  
Blogger Noel Chenier said...

This is about writers, but it applies to photography...

October 18, 2013 10:27 AM  
Blogger Connie Anderson said...

That pretty much sums up how I've been treated too, thanks for taking that stand. I no longer market to realtors.

October 18, 2013 10:34 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


On the distinction between Realtors® and The National Association of Realtors®: Uh huh.

And wait, you mean as a buyer, MY REALTOR® is free? WOW. But wait, don't they get paid? So that would mean they are actually working for the seller. Which would make them, quite literally, a double agent.

I am gonna take a shot in the dark and assume you are a Realtor®. Fine, whatever.

But please do ask your gazillion dollar association not to spend $100,000,000.00 to try to buy lawmakers with one hand, and troll Flickr for free commercial photo uses with the other.

It's like Bill Gates couch surfing in a third-world country.

October 18, 2013 10:41 AM  
Blogger Darrell Noakes said...

These kinds of posts are so worthwhile. First of all, they let you rant so that you don't have to bottle it up inside. But more importantly, they really validate the ways that photographers (and other professionals) can respond to requests to work for free. These requests are so pervasive, that at times you just feel like giving up. But then you find out that even the big names in the business get the same kind of treatment. Seeing examples of other photographers not rolling over and playing dead makes it that much easier for everyone else to stand up to these requests as well.

I can really sympathize with Dashney in Regina. I'm just up the road, in Saskatoon. We live in the midst of the most vibrant economic boom in North America at the moment, yet we seem to be surrounded by such miserly cheapskates in some industries. Ah, well, when it comes to real estate agents, if they want to ignore all the data that shows how much more they could make if they would spend a reasonable amount on good photography, let 'em. Or maybe they do know, but hope to pocket the extra profits themselves by convincing hungry photographers to work for cheap or free. Either way, there are better markets here willing to pay for what they want.

October 18, 2013 10:45 AM  
Blogger Paul Jasso said...

Bravo! My first experience with the freebie request was ten years ago shooting youth sports. I had a parent asked me if they could get ALL of the pictures of their son for free and they were peeved when I said "No". And yet I saw them later with a poorly shot 8x10 from another company that they paid $25 for.

BTW, keep this in mind the next time you're tempted to use self-checkout at the store. You're working for free and, in effect, taking someone else's job.

Also BTW, excellent response to @active. Another example of the arrogance of that industry.

October 18, 2013 11:09 AM  
Blogger FM said...

@active rain

You are misrepresenting the relationship of a sellers agent to the buyer. The sellers agent (which is the typical arrangement) never works for the buyer. The sellers agent works exclusively for, and promotes only the best interests of the seller. And the seller can take legal action against you if you don't.

October 18, 2013 11:22 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

What is it with people and "free"?

Awesome response. I wonder if they'll respond now that their request is more public :D

October 18, 2013 11:24 AM  
Blogger Erik Knudsen said...

Oh man! But the email was so slick amd convincing... I once photographed an event for $200 of my own money for no pay. When it was used in a local online publication without any photo credit, I asked to be credited. Instead, they just removed the photo all together. I don't know where the integrity is.

October 18, 2013 11:33 AM  
Blogger JS said...

Thank you so much for this Rant-Porn™. I would like to believe that it will make a difference or garner a response (prolly not) ... but I love that it shines a big octabank on greedy a$$holes.

October 18, 2013 11:38 AM  
Blogger nicola said...


At least they asked - that actually puts them one small step above pond scum in my book.

Presumably you come across your pictures being used without your knowledge from time to time?

In which case I'd be really interested to hear how you deal with copyright infringers and what success you might have had in recovering fees?

October 18, 2013 11:46 AM  
Blogger rcp said...

Hi David,

Not to get too deep into the weeds on this one but your statement that the person who sold you your house "took home more money" because they didn't pay a realtor commission, is unverifiable. All you can really say is that you were happy with the sale. Fine. But perhaps if the house were listed with a good realtor who hires (and pays) a great photographer, invests real dollars in creating compelling marketing materials like an interactive online photo floor plan and generally has her finger on the pulse of the potential buyers in your market as well as broad social media reach, the seller could have gotten multiple offers over the asking price and netted more money than you were willing to pay, even after paying the commission.

Granted, comparing two different housing markets is almost always apples to oranges but what I have described is my wife's real estate business in New Jersey/suburban NYC (and the photographer is me). She often contends with those who at first think realtors are no better than used car salesmen but later enthusiastically recommend her and refer her and sometimes become long-term friends.

Also, on the buyer side, a realtor's services are effectively free to the buyer even though the realtor often shells out serious bucks in terms of time, effort, advice, experience, contractor/plumber/electrician/lawyer/bank/mortgage recommendations and on and on, and doesn't get paid until a buyer finds a house and the seller pays a commission. Too often, realtors will work with buyers for months and get paid nothing when the buyers decide not to move or to rent or move somewhere else.

So while I agree that NAR's request for use of your photo for "credit" is absurd and insulting, your generalizations about realtors is bordering on the same.

PS: I still love you and Strobist.

October 18, 2013 12:06 PM  
Blogger John Freeman said...

That was an awful cheap request from an organization with money. And inappropriate. But please don't bash all Realtors. My wife is one. When she finally closes on a sale, it might have involved showing a couple 25 houses over the course of multiple evenings and weekends. And for the customers who walk away, there's no commission check, just lost $ from driving, many hours of online look-ups plus the viewings themselves. A Realtor can help folks wade through the complicated process of financing, inspections, appraisals, etc. -- Many homeowners don't realize the agent is not getting 6% on a house sale. Her company gets 3% and the listing company the other 3%, and of that, the company gets 1/2 of the 3% and the agent gets the other. So basically an agent gets about 1.5% of the sale price. BTW, I put a lovely cardinal-in-the-birdbath photo on FaceBook last year, but no one has asked to use it for free yet.

October 18, 2013 12:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have to say... That was Awesome!

October 18, 2013 12:15 PM  
Blogger Martin Del Vecchio said...

@nicola, this forum is chock full of discussions about copyright infringement, and how to respond to it:

October 18, 2013 12:34 PM  
Blogger nomecanso said...

I just gave few of my photos for free to guys, who were starting, like web magazines, or language webpage, I knew those guys *or girls, were doing a big effort to become someone, big effort to show the people their interest without aim of earning money... but for a big company? no way!! great job david

October 18, 2013 12:48 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


1. It does not require your verification. It is what it is. But FYI, we got the home looked at by three appraisers -- they chose one, we chose one and we chose one together. The appraisers knew we were having the house priced for a sale. The numbers were very similar. We averaged out the appraised values and it sold for that price. LESS one-half of what would have been a $30,000(!) REALTOR® commish.

2. Um, there were not a lot of buyer bidding wars happening in mid 2009, if you will recall.

3. Empirically, the idea that every house sale should automatically generate a lofty and arbitrary commish of SIX PERCENT is absolute bullshit in the data-fluid age of 2013. And the National Association of REALTORS® spends a lot of money propping that idea up, and throwing legal barriers to any free-market forces which would seek to change it.

And all of that is completely beside the point that they have the chutzpah to ask for free commercial photos.

4. I still love you, too. :)


I am sure your wife is a lovely person and works very hard for her income. And I do know about the split, which FWIW is kind of academic to the person who paid the entire 6%. That said, see #3, above for the way I feel about the gated-community, propped-up 6% idea.

p.s. Don't forget the ®. :)

Lastly, I am far too crunched today to argue about whether or not Realtors® deserve 6%. If they deserve it, break down the walls propped up with millions of dollars of lobby money and lawyers let the market decide.

And that is the last "give Realtors® a break" discussion I will respond to here.

That said, I do know this much. Don't ask me for free commercial photo uses, National Association of REALTOR$®.

It's like Bill Gates panhandling on the sidewalk in NYC.

October 18, 2013 1:15 PM  
Blogger Alfred said...

Hey David,
Yesterday I got a very similar request for one of my pictures by a relatively large publisher of books, I sent them a formal invoice and for some reason I have not heard back from them. Strange huh?
It's getting out of hand, but unfortunately there are many photographers who drool over a chance to give their pictures away.

October 18, 2013 1:18 PM  
Blogger George Gutenberg Architectural Photography said...

Timing is everything!

I had a request from them too a few days.

I "respectfully" declined as well.

This is a problem that has become more common in the last few years, as some "photographers" are fine with just a photo credit in liu of an actual payment.

October 18, 2013 1:28 PM  
Blogger Shari said...

Oh man, it just completely bums me out that you feel this way. Most of us Realtors are really hard working, honest, decent people who put a ton of money out of pocket for the promise (and guarantee!) to sell your home. See, you don't pay, unless your home is sold under terms that YOU set. And you pay a premium for that guarantee. I bet you didn't think twice about the $2,000 plus that your Realtor fronted to get your home listed and marketed.

It doesn't work for everyone, I get that. But to tear down an entire profession? What a bummer.

October 18, 2013 1:38 PM  
Blogger James said...

Sounds like they think they should sell houses for no commission if you let them put their sign in the yard.

October 18, 2013 1:41 PM  
Blogger fonsico said...

Bravo. That is a way of helping the rest of us understanding the value of our work. no more freebies for any one.

October 18, 2013 1:43 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

Hilariously awesome of you to call them on their BS.

October 18, 2013 2:14 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

Hilariously awesome of you to call them on their BS.

October 18, 2013 2:16 PM  
Blogger matthew stott said...

Excellent post, but now I keep checking in to see if there are any new Bill Gates analogies.

October 18, 2013 2:32 PM  
Blogger Aaron Humphreys said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 18, 2013 2:42 PM  
Blogger Mario Gozum said...

The requester probably was given a budget AND an incentive to keep the money as a bonus if he gets a photo for free.

October 18, 2013 2:45 PM  
Blogger Want to help said...

Welcome to the world of consulting - where everyone wants to pick your brain on areas you generally get paid for! I'm an amateur photog for years and sometimes do shoots for a fee. It's amazing to me that people who have asked me to photograph for them have asked me how much do I charge and pay for the work - these are people who certainly don't have the $$$/resources as this organization. I'm certain they think that the advertising is worth something, and it certainly might be - but it is arrogant to say the least that their opening position is we'll give you the opportunity to give away what you do for a living for the potential opportunity that someone will look at the credit for a photo and like it so much that they will call you....another approach might be to say to them that you'd be happy to give them a 1% commission on any work that comes your way as a result of the "free advertising" on their website. Oh, and if they won't agree to your T's and C's, you'd be happy to review theirs if they agree to pay for your legal fees associated with negotiating their no doubt very one sided contract....if they think they can do better, by all means go ahead. It is a free country....

On a personal note David, really appreciate your blog and work on Strobist - you and McNally have really helped me think about and improve my photography over the past few years (and have also helped B&H, Adorama, Hunt's Photo and Video, and Midwest Photo Exchange, along with their suppliers via all the purchases I've felt compelled to make - :-). Keep up the good fight!

October 18, 2013 2:55 PM  
Blogger Terry Firma said...

In my experience, realtors, as a group, are the cheapest frickin' people on the planet.

Background: I do a lot of architectural photography, and I live in an upscale area where nice homes sell for upwards of two, three million dollars. When the realtors who represent those sellers call me, they've often been shocked to hear what I charge (about $800-$1,000 for most homes ... and I should be charging more). Some act almost insulted. Their idea of what a photographer should cost is a few hundred bucks at most.

Even THEN, if they find a guy with a camera who will do it for that, half of them end up saving even HIS fee and decide to just shoot some pics with their cell phone. I'm not kidding. I've seen 5-million-dollar properties marketed with point-and-shoot images that will make you weep.

I'm still in business because a lot of the plentiful high-end inns and hotels around here hire me, and some private sellers do too. Realtors? Nah. Cheap cheap indeed.

Not to mention dumb; in the price bracket I'm talking about, professional exterior and interior photography typically yields a 20- to 50-fold ROI.

October 18, 2013 3:21 PM  
Blogger Sigdrifa said...

*Sigh*. Don't I know it. My line of work is portrait studio work: In general people come to me to get their picture taken, so they somewhat expect to have to pay me. But I still met lots of people who look at the price of prints at, say, the local drugstore and then ask me why my prints are so expensive. Or, also a good one, why they can't just get the image file for free along with the prints. "It's there, right? And it doesn't cost you anything if you e-mail it to me, after all."

October 18, 2013 3:34 PM  
Blogger Martin Del Vecchio said...

@Aaron Humphries said, "Your industry is going through changes and I'm sure the real estate industry will go through radical changes in the next 10 years."

Realtors have avoided these changes by spending $100,000,000 on lobbying. Thanks to that money, it is a protected industry.

Eventually, the internet will erode even those protections, and realtors will be subject to the forces of a free market.

October 18, 2013 3:49 PM  
Blogger Creative19 said...

In the UK, estate agents (what people in the US call realtors) have a fairly poor reputation.

They're well known for sharp business practices (which sometimes - read: quite often - sails very close to the line between ethical and non-ethical).

In some ways it's slightly reassuring that this is not unique to the UK.

What's more reassuring however is that a photographer has the guts to tell them to simply bugger off.

Your reply is utterly brilliant. Short, sharp, succinct and to the point. Well done! You rock!

October 18, 2013 3:50 PM  
Blogger VED UPADHYAY said...

excellent post David! I'm glad you named the names instead of just saying BIG realtors..they should know it's Them who're being cheap.

October 18, 2013 4:07 PM  
Blogger Michael Holtby said...

This is one of the main reasons I'm no longer a commercial photographer. And people get so offended when you want to be compensated! Then there is the art director who wants the job yesterday, for half of what its worth but, "Oh, it'll look so good in your portfolio!"

October 18, 2013 4:11 PM  
Blogger Michael Holtby said...

Despite spending much time and money at the Art Institute, and years of experience this is why I'm no longer a commercial photographer. Especially with people being so offended you won't give them your photos.

Another variation on this is the art director who wants it yesterday, for half of what you are bidding, but "Oh, it'll look soooo good in your portfolio!"

October 18, 2013 4:14 PM  
Blogger ric woods photography blog said...

In Australia, real estate agents( they are called that here)were voted the most untrustworthy profession in the place, that's pretty impressive.I have experience with them we are a full time commercial studio. I see them chew up and spit out wide eyed and eager new photographers*(*another story) by the handful...shame shame
P.S. The most trusted profession was firemen...
good blog 10/10

ric woods photography

October 18, 2013 4:33 PM  
Blogger Tina M. Harris said...

Good for you! I have been getting all kinds of requests lately for free photography, and I am nearly at my wits end. Your response was great because it got your point across without resulting to name calling or using four-letter words that cannot be printed on family sites.

October 18, 2013 4:36 PM  
Blogger Jeff Knox said...

David, you totally missed an opportunity to sell your services and the work you do. I could write a novel leading up to the final advice. But, my first response would have been to thank them for their interest in your work. "I would like the opportunity to discuss this with you in more detail. Please respond with a date and time that we might either get together in person or via phone to discuss this matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon".

October 18, 2013 4:38 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


1. I never promised this was a family blog.

2. The original version included an invitation for them to do something to themselves that is anatomically impossible.

3. I thought the better of it.

4. But they should still go do it.

October 18, 2013 4:39 PM  
Blogger Douglas Gottlieb said...

Great response, David.

But now can we please get to talking about the XE-2 and the XQ1? :)

October 18, 2013 5:37 PM  
OpenID crackleflash said...

Family and friends can be forgiven for the free photo attempt. Even the occasional, very occasional, wedding. A big lobbying organization, apparently so used to comping and being comped, probably didn't even realize how cheap their 'request' sounded. Your reply was well reasoned and articulated, much better than they deserved or would have got from me.

I did see a realtor pay for some photo work several years ago. Back in the '90s a couple of friends asked my opinion on adding an in ground pool and a nice shingled overhang to an innocent backyard. The house had a potential buyer and the realtors were aware of Photoshop. It needed to be 'tuned up' before the bank got a look at its picture to determine its loanworthiness.

October 18, 2013 5:44 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

David, great rant!! I have often made that same point at our local photo club, always wanting to not see our newbies not making the mistake of "giving away the photo" for just a photo credit with that infamous line "think of the free advertising / exposure" but alas it falls on deaf ears mostly. The ego is being stroked and it often takes control of their brain-cell. I rarely make a sale anymore as the market does not wish to acknowledge the work that goes into the photo (I shoot wildlife so I invest large sums of time in getting that one shot), High 5, great blog as always, keep spreading the word. Long time follower of your blog.

October 18, 2013 5:48 PM  
Blogger Anthony Collins said...

Preach Brotha Preach!!!

October 18, 2013 6:27 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Perfect Response! The last person who asked me if I would work for free in exchange for photo credit I kindly asked him if he works for free. And, he said no, I get paid. And, I said and why wouldn't you expect the same for me? He was speechless.

October 18, 2013 6:45 PM  
OpenID jeffsinonphotography said...

I've been though this far too many times, from companies large and small alike. And it's always the same, "we don't have the budget for artwork."

So when I received an email from the photo editor from a magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation my first thought was "here we go again." Much to my pleasant surprise they actually offered to pony up some cash.

Loved your reply to the realtors!

October 18, 2013 7:11 PM  
Blogger Kevin Rabito said...

Ah, don't you love the lines you get.

NameNotUsed Magazine - We don't pay for pictures, but you'll get credit in the mag and we'll let you sell the photos back to the featured home's owner if they want to purchase them.

We would like you to photograph our events at the "Blah Blah" Theater. We don't have a budget but you'll get to take photos in this historic theater and we'll give you credit.

They get taken back when I ask for free stuff from them....... Give me a break....

October 18, 2013 7:22 PM  
Blogger Audrey Cramer said...

Thank you for your post. There is a similar trend out there with computer support. I have seen it in both fields. People too cheap to pay for the services of those who bothered to become properly educated and trained on the subject. Those tight wads wouldn't dream of giving their professional services away for free. I clearly have my feelings on the subject. Kudos for turning them down.

October 18, 2013 10:12 PM  
Blogger Rob Ashcroft said...


I'm just surprised that YOU are surprised.

October 18, 2013 11:38 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Short and to the point in four words to the Realtors--F-U pay me!

October 19, 2013 1:37 AM  
Blogger RA.Sullivan = Sully said...

I have had several people try this on me.
Oh you can use the work in your portfolio, it will be great for you, it will show how great you are.
Really I am allowed to use my own image in my own portfolio?
Thank you so much for clarifying that one!
I am so glad to have that permission.
What do you get out of my hard work free work at a rate you would not work for?
needless to say I nor do the majority of people on earth work for free.- sorry but this struck a nerve thank you for a well formulated response to the crazy people out there.

October 19, 2013 8:12 AM  
Blogger Shaq Photography said...

Well, at least they said "please"...

I usually disregard the "free usage" request and get back to them with a quote. 3 out of 5 they get back to negotiate, 1 out of 5 ends up buying the usage. Not an amazing conversion rate, I agree, but at least I don't get emotional over uneducated customers :). Oh, and as for the "my brother has one of those camera thingies..." comment, by comeback is usually "I understand, I also moonshine selling houses on the weekends, I'm sure my results are industry average" (always with a smile!).

October 19, 2013 9:31 AM  
Blogger radan v said...

I wonder what's the thought process before writing a letter like this.

Why don't they make on offer?
Surely they can AT LEAST offer a discount, a service, whatever.

No, instead someone spends their well paid time saying: Hi, we want your stuff AND TIME for free. tick [yes]. oh and there's a deadline. "please".

October 19, 2013 9:46 AM  
Blogger Eric Vaughan said...

Not surprising they would try to do this. So many people seem to think giving you credit is more than reasonable compensation for commercial rights to an image. Funny thing is usually the wealthiest business are the cheapest in this respect except when it comes to their CEO's and upper management. Let them go to iStock or some site like that, they can pick something up for $1. To many micro stock agencies have ruined the stock photography business.

October 19, 2013 10:32 AM  
Blogger chase said...

Love this read. Kudos be to you.

But in the read I did notice something... that raised a question.

And I think on topic as this is a rant about permissions, use etc etc.

That photo of (I'm presuming now) their office building.

Did you get permission to take a photo of their building.

I only ask to further probe you into writing about some of the ridiculous permissions required. Such as taking a picture of a building and the requirement ( as far as I know) of having a release signed.

They are using that same soap box to stand on when it comes to Aerial Photography via RC Drones.

Just look up the case in Texas and many other states where a drone taking video while flying caught big business doing some really nasty stuff. In Texas - Dumping pig blood into the river passing through town. And instantly passed a law stating one needs permision to film/video.

Another law was proposed to state you must have your hands on the shutter release. IE no remote photography. I do believe that law/amendment was passed in one or two states.

They say right after these laws were passed many arrests have been made of photographers. One such case involved a woman while at Dunkin' Donuts in full view of several Cops, that was arguing on her iPhone got angry - yelled watch this as she pushed the record button for the video recorder, tossed the iPhone in the trash and they arrested her for possessing and sending into flight an unmanned Aerial photography device.

So... considering the great leagal team you menitoned they may have... did you have permission to take a picture of their builiding?

Not that I'd get it either if I wanted to take the shot, but, I was wondering.

October 19, 2013 2:13 PM  
Blogger Mike McClelland said...

imagine my surprise that fotoquote is not a free service/product. what is with this insistence on people in the photo industry wanting money?

seriously, thanks for the article, and the mention of fotoquote is something i can use (and will purchase)

October 19, 2013 2:19 PM  
Blogger MortonPhotographic said...

Go get'em David! I am so tired of stuff like this I have given up on editorial work--specifically shooting motorcycles for magazines that are actually doing well. One editor pressed me, giving me attitude for wanting to get paid for pics that had run in another magazine. I asked if he got a paycheck... of course. The writer and art director too? Well, yeah. HOW ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SCRUBS YOUR TOILETS?!? He said, of course. I replied, "But my work isn't worth paying for?"

October 19, 2013 2:40 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Did you click on the photo? If you did, you would have seen the original Wikipedia page from whence it came, which includes:

"This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Information from its description page there is shown below.
Commons is a freely licensed media file repository."

You have to make it open license to upload it to Wikipedia.

October 19, 2013 4:38 PM  
Blogger Michael Einreinhof said...

Anyone who has shot Real Estate Photography will not AT ALL be surprised by this post. I've been asked if I can get the whole $2 million home in the standard 5 room package I offer because $5/room extra was too much out of their $40k commission.

Looks like the Realtors don't fall far from the cheap-ass tree.

October 19, 2013 5:33 PM  
Blogger Reza Gorji said...

Well done David. They obviously have NO shame.

October 19, 2013 5:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks, David. Best column I've seen in some time. Out of curiosity has the National Association of Realtors responded yet?

October 19, 2013 6:59 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

But David, think of the exposure and publicity you would get... ;-)

October 19, 2013 11:43 PM  
Blogger Anthony C said...

Left to their own devices, most real estate agents do a decent job when they take their own pictures.

Well, not really.

October 20, 2013 12:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Davidson said...

I have had several letters from editors of magazines similar to the one you received. I am astonished at the tone of some who use ALL CAPS to emphasize their deadline and their demand that you get the image to them ASAP.
The only solace I have is that their perusal of my site persuaded them of my professional abilities. Sadly it did not convince them to offer me money.

October 20, 2013 1:05 AM  
Blogger Mhphotographs said...

I took the time to write the national association of realtors and let them know I found their member's conduct appalling. I kept it civil, but still it is important to show solidarity.

October 20, 2013 5:21 AM  
Blogger Forrest Briggs Photography said...

@Michael Einreinhof - Stand your ground. One of the largest realty franchises in the US offered to pay me $10 - $12 / hour to shoot and edit photos of their listings (current market rate is $125 / house)... I thought it best that they hire a college intern or a high school kid looking for a summer job.

October 20, 2013 10:57 AM  
Blogger Tim McIntyre said...

"People too cheap to pay for the services of those who bothered to become properly educated and trained on the subject."

What an interesting comment, thought the professionally educated, experienced, trained Realtor.

October 20, 2013 11:15 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Confidential to Scott Campbell, re: Your Unmoderated Comment:

I wish you luck, pal, but that's not my fight and I do not have anywhere near the time to get involved. Mired in several large projects and protecting what precious little family time I have left. But fight the good fight.

October 20, 2013 11:18 AM  
Blogger HC said...


Someone else did steal your image. Look here (right side of page):

They may have permision but just wanted to make you aware of it. I used SCR-IMG to do a reverse image search to find it. Works very well for me.

October 20, 2013 12:23 PM  
Blogger John Goddin said...


You are certainly entitled to your opinions and have worked hard to create a platform in which to broadcast them. Your characterization of NAR is fairly accurate, in my opinion. They really do not offer anything of value to their members and seem to put more emphasis on becoming a political party than functioning as a trade association for the benefit of its members. After spending over $2 million dollars in a Senate race in my state and then settling with the FEC for campaign law violations related to that, I tried to find out what other campaign law violations and settlements they may have funded with my dues money. The leadership very skillfully delayed acting on my request until they were able to have the board of directors pass a directive that specifically denied members that information. The executive director then sent their legal counsel an email asking if she had enough ammunition to shut me down and mistakenly copied me on the email. His trying to explain that away would have been funny if not so pathetic and related to such an important issue.

Real estate and photography are similar in that everyone has some experience with them and think they are experts in the field. Like many things, they are not quite as simple as they seem and the deeper you get into them, the more you realize that. Your characterization of all NAR members as being complicit in a 6% conspiracy is disappointing and ignorant. There are many alternate business models offered in most markets today including, I suspect, yours. In my market, sellers can list their houses on our MLS for $300 or less. Buyers who are willing to pay their buyer's agent by the hour can have the entire buyer agent commission rebated to them. Even on a straight commission basis, listing fees of 1% or less are available and buyer agent commission rebates are available. In order for agents to offer these programs and give their clients the benefits the MLS offers, we must belong to a local board and thus also a state board and NAR. That is wrong in my opinion and the opinion of many other agents and we have fought and continue to fight to change it, but it is the current reality. While it is easy to look at stock brokers and travel agents and think the same sort of changes should have happened in real estate long ago, again it is not quite that simple. Organized real estate has certainly played a part in trying to maintain a status quo for out dated business models, but fundamental factors such as the uniqueness of each piece of property, need for buyers to actually visit a property, local nature of real estate markets and lack of demand on the part of consumers play a part as well. Alternate property data bases such as Zillow and Trulia have gained a lot of traction and in some ways now function as an alternative to an MLS

Your rant comes across to me as someone bitter over a past experience and looking for an excuse to vent. Raking NAR over the coals for their request is one thing, using that as excuse to trash an entire industry and group of people you obviously know little about is completely different and not very becoming.

October 20, 2013 1:16 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

I'm not offended. They asked, and asked properly. That's how it's supposed to happen and it doesn't in far too many instances. I give them credit for asking. The answer is simple: not for free, but for this much. They agree or they don't agree. You have a business deal or you don't.

October 20, 2013 3:04 PM  
Blogger chase said...

@ David Hobby,

A Wiki photo, I see, I wonder if they got a release signed..?

Does anyone get a release signed for buildings? (as I've heard is required.)

In either case I do applaud you for the sheer fact I really despise real estate agents - over developers, the city commissioners they have paid off and the like.

But then - The President never came asking me if I wanted the country to be lead by Attorneys or if I minded if womens rights were considered escalated by the act of male castration.

Well - on a positive note, at least they asked for permission to use the photo, many wouldn't.

Come to think of it... Google's new policy states they have the right to use it for Advertising now simply because you posted it to Blogger - which they own. With out asking or telling you that they are using it.

... food for thought.

October 20, 2013 7:24 PM  
Blogger Tom Hohl said...

OMG I LOVE THIS POST!!! Its is so true in every way. Glad you did what I would have done. Tell them to kiss my ass!
I just cant quite figure out for the life of me why greed takes over these people and they assume that THEY are the only people on the earth who need a paycheck. Not to mention the thousands of dollars we have to spend on equipment etc.
I have never been a fan of "Realtors" or "Brokers". The terms seem to imply "Snake in the Grass"
The poster above is right, this is blog porn!!! Great job as always!!!!!

October 20, 2013 10:08 PM  
Blogger Jamie Ennis said...

rfthe last time someone claimed that "the publicity will more than cover the cost" I calmly proposed the following,

every week in the next 3 months, in which I don't get a client who cites this work as the reason they found me, you pay me €50, that way you'll never have to pay anything, because think of all the publicity I'll be getting from this otherwise unpaid, and frankly uninteresting job,

strangely they declined

October 20, 2013 10:30 PM  
Blogger Robeaver said...

John G doesn't know how to read, shame, that.

October 20, 2013 11:19 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

@David, I do appreciate your work and your site tremendously, but I disagree with you on this one. I don't feel your response was appropriate. My thoughts:

1. Some photographers may accept to post their photo for credit so it's not an unreasonable request.

2. I'm not sure it's good business practice to insult someone who came to you to use your images. And even worse to then publicize it.

3. How much money they have is irrelevant.

4. They are guilty, at worse, of not understanding the effort it takes to produce the high quality photos that you do. If that's the case, surely some education is in order rather than a stern rebuke. Why not have a basic email prepared that you can send in situations like this as it seems these come up quite often in your line of work.

Just my 2 cents.

October 21, 2013 4:05 AM  
OpenID crackleflash said...

1) Those photographers, the ones so focused on seeing their work used that they allow themselves to be abused as serfs, will undoubtedly work for free. The quality of their work will reflect in its pricing. Free is often the proper price point. I feel an unmistakable (and public if you have the forum) rebuke is in order when insulted, it is not incumbent on anyone to pretend to like it.

2) Anyone so disrespectful that they'd ask you to work for free, especially when they clearly do not, has indeed made an unreasonable request.

3) The amount of money any organization has is irrelevant to a potential contractor until they try to get the work for free. I have done pro bono work for charitable groups that deserve it. Realtors, no matter how nice, do not fall into that category.

4) These folks deal with pictures all the time. They know a good one (and its cost) from a bad one. They'd like to get some of those good ones for nothing and are shameless enough to couch their 'request' in the language of a done deal.
As an aside, a lawyer friend of mine offered his defense of divorce by asking where else would we get waitresses and realtors.

October 21, 2013 10:26 AM  
Blogger GNapp Studios said...

This is nothing to be upset about. You are lucky they asked rather than just take your image and use it without your permisssion.

I would have responded in kind, "no".

October 21, 2013 11:14 AM  
Blogger Tamerathon said...

I've seen a lot of real estate photo openings on Craigslist in the Pittsburgh area. Frankly, they don't offer enough money to cover the cost of gas. My time is precious.

October 21, 2013 12:14 PM  
Blogger Mike Padua said...


1)Just because "some photographers" might jump at the chance doesn't make it right that The National Association of Realtors has their hand out looking for freebies (also please see my response to your point #3).

2)Maybe it isn't a good business practice for David to "insult" the NAR, but I think it's for the betterment of BOTH the photography industry and the NAR that it's publicized. Lots of lessons are being learned here.

3)How much money they have is absolutely relevant. They're asking for usage to further their interests. If Coca Cola licenses one of your images for a year's worth of use, that's worth more money (to you AND to Coca Cola) than if the local dentist in your small town licenses one of your images for a year's worth of use. That's part of the very basis of licensing.

4) I agree with you here, except on one point. This is not the "worst" thing they're guilty of. Again referencing point #3, they're guilty of taking advantage of a certain ignorance in communities such as Flickr to grab at free content while they make, and use, millions of dollars to further the interests of their organization.

They couldn't have picked a worse person to ask for a free image.

What we have to recognize here is that by standing up for himself, he also stands up for us.

I'm really grateful.

October 21, 2013 1:02 PM  
Blogger Ed from Ohio said...

@Sam - While I can understand your wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt, it is clear that they knew exactly what they were asking.

This request came from someone who knows how photography works based on the legal verbiage of their request. They asked multiple photographers for the same request. They did it in such a way to be legally allowed to use these pictures in any way they see fit, forever.

October 21, 2013 1:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've yet to meet a Realtors® who doesn't look at people through what I call "money glasses," i.e., "how much money will you make me." Whenever I see a knob in his Allen-Edmonds talking about his six-figure deals, I want to tell him that he's pretty much a space waiter. (Sorry for the gender bias, but as the commercial industry is so predictably sexist and racist about 80% of commercial Realtors® are male)

October 21, 2013 4:04 PM  
Blogger base said...

Reply with your rates. Nowhere in their request did they ask for the image for free, nor did they offer you a price. Standard reply is what you would charge them for the image with the conditions they described. If you hear nothing back, so be it.

Snarky replies make us smile, but it is a terrible price to pay for the next photographer that receives a request from them. It'll read like lawyers wrote it, and no one will know WTF it really means.

October 21, 2013 10:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Hohl said...

Whats with these people taking up for the "Realtor" crowd? Mr. Hobby makes his living i.e. FEEDS HIS FAMILY from his images and teaching. Because he is a photographer is he just supposed to give free stuff away? Like David said, he asked the Realtor to forgo their commission on a house sale, and they declined. DUHH. How would said Realtor pay for his Range Rover, or those $400 shoes?

While it is certainly worth while to do free work for charity and the poor, Realtors certainly do not fit into either of those categories.

Keep up the great work David Hobby!! You did the right thing here.

October 21, 2013 11:12 PM  
OpenID fullframefotography said...

An absolutely great rant Dave! So true about the state of the photography industry in general.
I've been shooting for the real estate industry for a couple of years now and the one common thing I've found amongst realtors is they are a group cheap individuals. Now I know that they front money for listings and brochures and things like that. I also know that they don't always get their 6%. But the biggest thing I've realized is that images of properties for realtors are disposable. They are not architectural images. They are a sales tool. I've been asked to cut my rate by two-thirds on a couple of occasions with promises of additional work, blah, blah, bleh. I shoot some of the most expensive properties in my area and on more than one occasion been asked to do it for $75. Not because somebody else quoted them that price but that's all they want to pay. (Let me get this straight. You're going to make a 5 figure commission and you only want to pay $75?) The saddest part to that is somebody it for that price.

October 21, 2013 11:44 PM  
Blogger Joseph Isip said...


I have a newfound respect for you. Thank you for standing up for the rest of us.

October 22, 2013 12:12 AM  
Blogger Jackie Funk Krech said...

I'm a REALTOR and cannot imagine my business without partnering with professional photographers. Let's face it, some of us are not so great at capturing angles, light, focus, etc.

Professional photographers make my clients homes look good and in turn, I look professional and get the chance to negotiate on behalf of my clients! I'm happy to PAY my photographers their fee! THANK YOU!

I would have responded by naming your price for the photo, but looks like you're getting plenty of free press anyway! We all prefer FREE, but as professionals, we need to stand up for our service and some times that means educating the public why it's worth paying the fee.

October 22, 2013 5:02 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I'm curious to what would be a good price for real estate photos of a listing? It should be a percentage since everybody on the deal is working off of percentages. I would also think it should be a percentage of the commission not the entire listing price. What do most people here think is a fair percentage? Remember as fullframefotography said that the pictures are disposable after the sale so usage terms in the amount of time is small. Also, the print use is limited to brochures (200-300) and post card mailings. Of course there are website usage, too. Lets here some numbers.

October 23, 2013 2:21 AM  
Blogger Tallahassee Board of REALTORS said...

I understand your first reaction, but once you counted to 10, why not just send them a nice reply with a fair price for the license? You may get even more work and exposure. If NAR does not want to pay your price, just politely decline.

Seems you may have burned a potentially big bridge.

BTW, great pictures.

October 23, 2013 10:44 AM  
OpenID said...

Hi David,
This is a great post, especially seeing that someone of your stature and skill tries to get swindled by a national mega-corporation that was integral in creating a despicable housing crisis that also is known for swindling the poor and less privileged. We all get manipulative requests - I got one from an international shipping giant that didn't want to pay a penny for a great photo they found on Flickr. It was tempting since I was "going to get credit". Wow, like a gold star.

Notably, I'm charmed that the Tallahassee Board of Realtors is kindly letting you know that you may have burned a bridge - with someone who doesn't give a rats rump about your profession. Teachable moment? Maybe, but probably not, it appalls me that a recognized, successful company doesn't start with a "Hi, we love some of your images, and would like to consider them for a media campaign - Can we talk?" Instead of laying out the legalese and restrictions. Maybe if they would have treated you like a person and not a contract the outcome could have been better.
Bummer that Realtors(R) are such a bottom of the barrel outfit.

October 23, 2013 12:16 PM  
OpenID said...

Okay one more response to "We all prefer free" from the nicer sounding realtor.

I think you could go off on this for hours, but the mentality of "I prefer not to pay for creativity and someones skill" should really get the heck out of town. Come on people - if you love something, you need to support it so it remains strong and vital. If you love a museum that's free you donate to it.

Life is not better free. It's better when we properly value it.


October 23, 2013 12:28 PM  
Blogger Shelly Choo said...

Thank goodness for your response. We need to make a stand against this.

October 23, 2013 12:55 PM  
Blogger Will Alan said...

I have a roughly 8 year old version of Fotoquote and those prices are like some kind of perfect dream world price. I have never been able to negotiate anything that high. Of course you are world famous... so you can probably get those prices... you know... when someone doesn't want it for free.

October 23, 2013 5:34 PM  
Blogger Chris Saunders said...

Many of you may also find this Facebook group interesting. A bunch of creatives, 4000 and growing by the day swapping tales of woe and one day hoping to find a way of changing the mindset that asking people to work for free is cool. Join up..

Stop Working For Free.

October 24, 2013 9:04 PM  
Blogger Ami Siano said...

well put, sir Hobby !
I allowed myself to repost it in several fB and G+ forums.
I hope a name credit will suffice ?

October 25, 2013 7:09 AM  
Blogger Marsha said...

I'm a Realtor and I'm glad you called out NAR (and others who don't value professional creative work). I'm learning how much goes into photographing ( video taping) because I work with a trained professional. He gives me tips and explains things I was clueless about. I so appreciate photographers and graphic designers!

October 25, 2013 9:00 AM  
Blogger kaziutek said...

The url says it all:

October 25, 2013 10:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I had a similar encounter with Public Imagery of Tampa FL, a marketing firm that handles Applebee's, etc. I shut them down, as follows:

October 26, 2013 8:36 PM  
Blogger NAYAN KHANOLKAR said...

What Siddharth has said is absolutely true! Here in India they don't even have a courtesy to ask. This has happened with me on few occasions. On one occasion a leading news paper took an image of mine, cropped it so as to avoid my copyright and published it as a key visual for a major article! I was shocked when I saw it in morning. After corresponding with them they published an apology for missing my name, forget about compensation!

October 26, 2013 11:42 PM  
Blogger J Philip Faranda said...

Imagine that. Someone from one field of endeavor not appreciating the value of the other. And no, I don't mean some grunt at Houselogic sending you a form letter. I mean a photographer bashing NAR and its members.
Don't put all Realtors in one basket. I use professional photographers on my listings frequently and happily pay for their expertise. And I have consumers asking me for free service all the time (what's my house worth? Can you stop what you are doing with your family tonight and come over to talk? and on it goes). Rather than bash them and their industry publicly, I educate them and explain why I cannot do that or why I have to charge them.

I know- I am overpaid for the 80 hour week, dinners and bedtimes I miss, free psychotherapy, access to my 20 year accumulated professional rolodex, 500 miles a week on my car and the thousand other things I do to keep my clients happy.

Did you even respond professionally or did you pull the temperamental artist card and blast them publicly as a first response?

October 27, 2013 11:56 AM  
Blogger Brian Smokler said...

The NY Times weighs in:

October 27, 2013 12:16 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@J Phillip-

FWIW, I bashed them publicly to make other photographers aware of what they are doing. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, IMO.

October 27, 2013 5:23 PM  
Blogger jason grow said...

When approached by non-profits for discounts or "free" use, make sure to take a moment and preview them at - this organization publishes non-profit tax filings. For instance one can see that the Nat'l Assoc. of Realtors is a $170M company that pays its directors/principle employees in the neighborhood of $300k-$1.4M/year.

October 28, 2013 9:26 AM  
Blogger DJEB said...

I can just imagine viewing the slideshow...

"Wait! Go back to that slide of the cardinals! That's amazing! Who shot this? We need to hire them right away!"

October 28, 2013 12:55 PM  
Blogger boggled&discombobulated said...

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

They really do admire your work, just not enough to pay one cent for it.

Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser:

October 28, 2013 6:07 PM  
Blogger Sharna Lee said...

Wow. And I thought they just did that stuff to Amateurs. I ROFL at your request for a free Realtor in your area. That must have made them gasp. Good! They deserved it. lol

Bravo good sir. Thank You for standing up for ALL photographers.


October 29, 2013 8:56 AM  
Blogger James Gilbert said...

Great job David. Thank you for the hard work you do on your blog, its free for me and even those realty agencies.

Some people, mostly realtors are upset because you called out their industry, actually a giant, probably real name Goliath! rsrsr...

Obviously there a decent hard working realtors, but your rant was against a large powerful organization being cheap, and greedy. But that is where a lot of our culture is, sad but true.

Thanks again for your hard work and courage! We need more Davids, cause theres a lot of Goliaths out there.

October 29, 2013 6:13 PM  
Blogger B Max said...

I had a similar experience where a major record label wanted to use my photo for the inside of a CD for a very mainstream band. They wanted the image to appear under the disk as the listener took it out. Probably the second or third most visible image in the album art. I was just getting started so I agreed, but looking back I am very annoyed that I did. It didn't get me anywhere, and now every time I see that album, rather than being proud of my art I feel used and badly swindled. It was a hard lesson. Thanks for posting this so maybe other artists won't be so eager to agree to ridiculous requests like this.

November 01, 2013 9:42 PM  
Blogger Glenn Springer said...

Last year, the inn across the road was bought by a new owner and they hired a band for their grand opening. I agreed to come shoot some pix for the event gratis, because he's my neighbour. When I went over, the band manager said their photographer didn't show up, could I shoot for them? I agreed, didn't price the job on the spot, we agreed we'd work it out and it would be reasonable. I told my neighbour I wouldn't shoot for the inn, because the band were paying me. Bottom line: they loved the proofs, I emailed them an invoice for a VERY reasonable $200 (entire evening, including fighting off swarming mosquitos when I climbed up on the tower at the back of the stage for a different POV). "You mean you want us to PAY you? You got to attend the concert (which was free, BTW) and it was fun for you anyway!". I said, "you got to play your music and you were obviously having fun, but you got paid!" Fortunately, I never sent them the pictures. Never again without a signed agreement!

November 06, 2013 3:28 PM  
Blogger Miz Donna said...

Been there!

In re: Aaron Humphrey's 10/18 comment: "The internet can replace realtors as much as a digital camera can replace photographers."


It almost didn't make sense, but then I realized an agent made the it made TOTAL sense!

Uh....last time I checked, ALL cameras require a photographer, but not everyone with a camera IS a photographer.

ps: to agents everywhere: Digital is many things, but "cheaper" ISN'T in the dialog.

November 18, 2013 9:32 PM  
Blogger Aaron Humphreys said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 18, 2013 10:23 PM  
Blogger chuckleboodie said...

I have the same problem with people booking my band. e.g., "It is SO hard to find a good band, that is why we would like to book you. We are having a benefit for ________ and would like you to play for 4 hours out in the sun with you providing all the equipment, etc. We will advise our music selection the day before, and you need to learn my sister-in-law's songs because she will be sitting in."

Simple economics says if I sell our services for free, there will be unlimited demand for our services .... so the "exposure" come-on is moot if I use all of my inventory of open dates to do free gigs.

Everyone has a sense of entitlement, so we limit our freebies to 3 a year, so book early.

By the way, as you allude to in your story, the band seems to be the only group that does not make money on these gigs. At least everyone else gets to cover their costs, even though they are usually much better heeled than we are!

November 22, 2013 11:11 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


You should accept, with the caveat that if a paying offer is received at any time in the interim, the band will have to back out. Then an hour before the gig, offer yourself a penny to stay home.

November 22, 2013 11:51 AM  
Blogger reggie jones said...

EXCELLENT article. I am a retired photographer and just bought a house. I have been through the real estate ringer and I think I won. It took two years of searching for an honest agent to represent me until I discovered comments like the response from FM at "activerain" Real estate news from above. Quoting-
"You are misrepresenting the relationship of a sellers agent to the buyer. The sellers agent (which is the typical arrangement) never works for the buyer. The sellers agent works exclusively for, and promotes only the best interests of the seller. And the seller can take legal action against you if you don't..."

Okay, so I (the "dumb" buyer) bought directly from the listing agent at 30% below asking for a quick sale. Who did the listing agent represent? HIMSELF as always. The property was a new listing listing but the listing agent "forgot" to mention some extremely important facts: The house was a short sale and was scheduled for auction in less than a week. NEVER disclosed...the property had been vacated by the seller for 2 years and they tried to rent out the rooms, but the tenants were not paying rent. The so-called "owner-seller" was living out of a car in another city and needed "cash for keys" so she could pay rent for an apartment to get off the streets. The listing agent did NOT represent the seller, since SHE HAD NO MONEY. Instead they worked for me, so they could get "both sides" of the commission. Is the "seller" upset? NO...they needed the "cash for keys" from me at ANY sales price. The listing agent gave away the house. In one week the listing agent would have gotten ZERO commission. Who cares? The bank writes off the debt to Uncle Sam and we are all happy happy. BTW in one year this property has increased in value by over 125% from the latest Realtor promoted bubble. It was worth the time and over 20 buyers agents over the past two years to find the most "honest" person. The listing agent was only HONEST to em AFTER I SHOWED THEM THE MONEY. It was a zero contingency transaction. My wife submitted a $500 LOWER offer with lots of contingencies so the "honest" listing agent would not feel guilty about screwing the seller. I had the "highest" offer. Thanks you active rain and assorted cohorts. If any of you were honest I would have purchased years ago AT A HIGHER PRICE. So thank you NAR for being deceptive. You saved me lots of money.

November 22, 2013 12:12 PM  
Blogger Arun Ilangovan said...

Great article... Loved the comments more :).

Both photographers and realtors offer a service and the market should decide the fair price to pay for the services, except in the latter case, all realtors, good, bad and ugly get paid the same... not so much a meritocracy as advertised.

Ultimately the power to to separate the wheat from the chaff is still largely at the hands of the consumers, be it for realtors or photographers...

November 25, 2013 7:00 PM  
Blogger g5creativegroup said...

Professional commercial photographers are able to conjure with different types of objects. Whether it is a corporate brochure or a firm marketing report, they are proficient enough to come up with high-quality images so that the viewers are left spellbound. One of the most common fields in which these photographers can outshine is architectural Photography as it requires an artful portrayal of interiors and exteriors. In contrast to as effortless as it sounds, it demands a lot of expertise to get the preferred results. Commercial photography can depict anything-right from buildings, products, and office parks to new construction sites in an imaginative way.

November 26, 2013 1:17 PM  
Blogger Steve Schultz said...

I was contacted by Clear Channel Communications last month to use a Flickr photo of mine. You guessed it. I would get to keep my watermark and they would mention my name as pay. This is a $6 Billion (that's Billion with B)company. when I tried to engage them in good a faith discussion on rates, they did not return my my calls or email. I'm a struggling artist. They know the rules as they supposedly pay musical recording artists for their song that put on air. Something is very wrong here.

January 02, 2014 10:11 AM  
Blogger Ariene said...

It happens often in Poland and I thought something is wrong with my country and people here ;) I see it's pretty normal move all ever there... So sad :( Thanks for posting that "accident". Had great time reading ;) Best!

January 21, 2014 11:10 AM  

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