Like most of us in derby, I've gotten used to working for free. We all contribute our time and money — not to mention our blood, sweat, and tears — and we get paid in attention. I get that. My photos help bring attention to the skaters, and I get some attention in return. For years, that seemed like a fair trade to me, and I happily signed agreements that required me to give leagues free promotional use of my photos.
Recently, however, I've noticed that the leagues who agree to compensate me for my photos are much more appreciative than the ones who expect to get photos for free. These leagues realize that their marketing relies on great photos to help sell tickets, so they have significant monetary value. When other leagues require free use of my photos, they imply that the photos have no value, and they seem more likely to take my work for granted. And with many photographers agreeing to that valuation, it's easy to see why those leagues maintain that requirement.
|Oly Rollers vs. Naptown Roller Girls (1/400 sec, f/3.5, ISO 3200, three remote flashes)|
Last year, WFTDA created a very reasonable photo agreement for their Big 5 tournaments, thanks to the efforts of tournament director Janis Kelley (aka Skullateral Damage) and many photographers who provided their input. The most notable section of the agreement says: "The photos you take at an Event are your property. WFTDA claims no right to use those photographs without your prior consent. WFTDA has a right to view the photos taken at an Event and may request a license agreement with you for use of a photo. Terms of the usage agreement are at the discretion of the photographer and/or media organization."
Given this precedent set by WFTDA, I've decided to shoot only the leagues with a similar agreement, or who agree to compensate me for using my photos. In other words, I've stopped shooting the leagues that require free use of my photos. My compensation is flexible, and in some cases I may still donate my photos for free, but only to leagues that don't demand it. In the case of leagues that are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, I pledge to donate any payment back to the league. My goal here isn't to make money, but to educate leagues about the value of derby photos, and to convince them to recognize that value.
Leagues can compensate photographers in various ways, and direct payment is only one option. Another is to treat photographers as sponsors, giving them the perks associated with a particular contribution level. A third option is to give merchandise of comparable value. In each case, the key point is to agree upon a specific monetary value for the photos. For example, my agreements with the Oly Rollers and Rodeo City Rollergirls have valued my photos at $200 per bout for unlimited promotional use, but excluding merchandise use.
|Rodeo City Rollergirls (1/400 sec, f/3.5, ISO 3200, two remote flashes)|
I think the fairest method of compensation, especially for leagues with multiple photographers, is to pay on a per-photo basis, with the value determined by the size or prominence of each photo. For instance, a photo used on a billboard should pay more than the same photo used on a flyer, since it's likely to make more money for the league. Ideally, the league's marketing budget should include photo licensing fees. A good rule of thumb is to pay photographers a percentage (e.g., 25%) of the total cost of any advertising or merchandise that uses their photos.
In addition to my league agreements, I typically allow free use of my photos for personal, non-commercial use. For instance, skaters are welcome to use my photos on their Facebook pages, except to make money or promote a business. If you want to use my photos for commercial, promotional, or editorial use, please contact me at joe@JoeRollerfan.com to discuss licensing. In most cases, permission from the skaters in each photo is also necessary.
In writing this, I hope I've given you something to think about. Look at the marketing value you're getting from your league's photographers, and try to put a dollar figure on it. How much are those photos really worth to you, how much extra revenue do they bring in, and how much would you pay to replace them? To the other photographers out there, I ask you to consider the value that you're providing, and to make sure your league appreciates it. If you support a league that requires free use of your photos, you're reinforcing the notion that they have no value.
As always, comments are welcome. Thanks for reading!