The $18,000, Correction, The $27,000 Wedding Photo – Followup

My post on Allen Ayres stock sale of his wedding photograph has gotten a lot more exposure than I ever planned. Not only has it been reposted on a variety of photography blogs, it managed to get picked up by the mother of all photography blogs, Petapixel. In addition to the many thousands who view Petapixel, over 15,000 folks in two days have ambled on over here to the Business Coach blog to read the full article. Knowing that my message of “charge for the value you create” is being seen by so many photographers of all stripes just makes me feel all good inside.

But in the wake of so much traffic, a few issues have come up that are worth responding to so here goes:

Did the bride give her permission?
I followed up with Allen on this question. He did ask for her permission when the agency first came calling. She was actually thrilled that her photo was to be used for the ad and yes, Allen  did pay her as well.

My advice is that whenever this sort of situation arises, always obtain permission specific for the use from the client. If you’re using the Photographer’s Toolkit Wedding Contract, you do have a model release built in to your agreement with the client. The purpose of that release however is to grant you permission to use the images on your website, blog, sample albums and other uses related to your marketing.

Once you start talking about licensing the wedding images to third parties, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. If push came to shove and you do get sued, you’ll have a hard time explaining to a jury that the bride could reasonably expect that her photos would appear in an ad for Bank of America (for example) based upon a one paragraph clause buried in your contract. I like to play it safe and, if I’m going to use a client’s image in a magazine ad even for my own business, obtain permission. It’s much easier to mollify a client unhappy about seeing her image on a blog than one upset at seeing her image in a published magazine. You can easily take an image of your blog; recalling 50,000 magazines is a bit more difficult.

Whether it’s a bride and groom or any other person in a photo for whom you lack a signed model release, my approach is to contact them, let them know that you’d like to publish the image and that you’re happy to pay a reasonable amount in exchange for a model release. Usually $50 to $100 will suffice for most uses.

Not long ago, I photographed a young boy in a cycling uniform at the racing track. A magazine editor saw my image and want to run it. Although the use was editorial and didn’t technically require a release, in the interests of caution, I did some asking around to find out who the kid was. Turned out the mom worked in the accounting department of the same magazine so the use ended up not being a problem. Whether I was in the right or wrong didn’t matter; I slept better knowing that I wasn’t going to have an angry set of parents knocking on my door.

“I Would Have Deleted That Photo!”
More than a few people expressed their criticism over the look of the photo. “Not worth the money” was the sentiment. One blog commentator even accused me of lying about the whole thing because there’s obviously no way any company would pay that amount for this image. (Don’t worry, it’s all true to the best of my knowledge.) Now, I can’t comment on why exactly the pharma company chose this photo. But I can share a story from earlier in my career.

About twenty years ago, when I was younger and out to break into the business, I took a road trip through Utah. When I got back, I received a call from the agency who handles Yakima racks asking if I had any road trip photos. Well yes I did! I sent them off a bunch of pretty pictures sure that something would make the cut. The response was, “we want something more real looking.” Not sure what they meant, I sent them some of my outtakes.

The image they chose was my stinky dirty bare feet propped up on the dash of my ’86 Toyota Celica. It was a throw away to me, but the word from the agency was that my image “saved the campaign.” All the other images they’d looked at were too pretty, too perfect. For the next six months, I’d pick up Rolling Stone or Men’s Fitness and there were my feet.

The point is, we have an image of what an advertising image is supposed to look like. Maybe this agency didn’t want a beautiful image. Maybe they wanted something raw. Something that looked like the groom’s friend from college shot it with his Canon Rebel. Think about it – that image might be tough to find in a world where everyone is showing their perfectly composed images. Sometimes you just never know what’s gonna sell.

One final note on the image composition, the agency did retouch out the large head in the foreground of the image.

Why Would They Pay So Much When They Could Have Shot It for a Lot Less?
Well, that’s a myth. The production costs on this shoot would have probably run into the $10,000 to $20,000 range – not including the photographer’s fees which would have been in the same ballpark. People forget that weddings have budgets that run into the many tens of thousands. That beautiful dress alone is anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. The church, florals and talent has to be paid for not to mention all the casting, location and talent scouting – plus assistants, producer, hair and makeup, wardrobe etc. Then there’s the chance that you might not get the photo you want anyhow.

If an ad agency asked me to bid on the job and specified similar usage as requested for this shot, we’d be looking at something in the $35,000 range if not more.

The Grand Total
Since the original licensing agreement, the agency has come back and requested more usage rights. They’ve added countries in Europe and extended the license term. Obviously, the ad has been effective for the client. The grand total for use fees from this photo comes to about $27,000.

Which brings up another point – just because a client asks for a “buyout” – be it an all rights transfer, copyright transfer or whatever else you want to call it, doesn’t mean that you should give it to them. By negotiating limited rights over a limited duration, you stand to put a lot more cash in your pocket.

John Mireles

About johnmireles

Photographer, writer, thinker, climber, outrigger canoeist, bad guitar player and even worse singer.
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3 Responses to The $18,000, Correction, The $27,000 Wedding Photo – Followup

  1. Pingback: Update to the $18,000 Wedding Photo (Now Worth $27,000) tutorial

  2. Aperture Diva says:

    John you are really talking my language. Ironically, I discovered your site because a few moments ago I got an email from a tourism bureau who is hosting a free Foto Trek. They want to take photographers around the county and have them take specific shots. Your participating means you have to agree to give them copies of all of your shots and sign a non-exclusive license allowing them to use your images for marketing purposes in perpetuity. I found your site to send to some folks to reinforce my feeling that they should not give their work away for free. And in this economy the tourism bureau ought to help out some starving artist in their county and employ a photographer.

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