Clients Push for Speculative Design Work

Posted on 7/31/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (4)

Designers are currently upset at the increasing push by customers toward doing spec work. As a photographer, I'd like to offer a little perspective.

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Copyright © 2009 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Fred Voetsch Posted Jul 31, 2009
    Wonderful article!

    The key, as far as I'm concerned, is to understand that this is reality and "educating" buyers will accomplish nothing. Each of us, whether photgrapher or image seller (I am both) need to have some sort of strategy based on reality in order to survive.

    As I love to say and other photographers hate to hear: if you want to avoid competition you should have picked a job that takes a bit more skill than just pushing a button.

  • Dexter Lane Posted Jul 31, 2009
    What was it that Painters said when photography arrived on the scene?

    What was it that Real Photographers said when those upstarts with Leicas started popping-up on every street corner- something about any dimwit now being able to press a button and get an inferior image...?

    What was it that film shooters said when digital started gaining traction?

    Every democratization of technology, by definition, allows the unschooled masses to produce a product in less time, and with less effort and learned skills.

    Everybody loves progress, but nobody likes change.

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Jul 31, 2009

    It seems ironic.... you now sadly state that it is hard to be a full-time photographer in this day of RF and Microstock. And it indeed is much harer to be respected and paid what an image deserves (look at eht Time Magazine cover for $30 and that amateur photographer is proud that he is "published".... as he goes to his shoe saleman job probably!

    But the funny part ios that only YOU and David Walkker of PDN were teh two people telling photographers years ago..."Better get on the RF Bandwagon!!"

    You and I have had arguments over the years about that I will not sell RF and you pushed and pushed so many photographers to sell RF, Microstock, and any way for a few dollars. Now the truth emerges and it "ain't pretty!."

    I guess the theory is be careful what you wish for and what you suggest... it may well come back and bite you on the butt!
    Orlando, Florida

  • Don Farrall Posted Aug 1, 2009
    All of my designer friends work for advertising agencies or marketing firms. These companies offer a lot more than just "design work"; they offer strategic marketing, research, distribution, interactive production, film/video production, and on and on. A single designer producing work on a moon-lighting basis is no competition for a full service agency. I'm not sure I understand what segment of the marketplace is at risk here. I do follow most of the rest of the article, though I think the description about the birth of microstock is a bit simplified. Microstock started with a much heavier emphasis on illustration and a general distain for photography. It grew because there wasn't a hill to climb for entry. In my opinion, exclusive entry to Getty and Corbis was a big contributor to the birth of microstock.

    I don't shoot work for clients on spec, but I have some agency clients that are very aggressive about seeking new business, and I will almost always produce anything they need for a pitch for no fee. This policy has always proven to be worth it. I suppose some would consider that spec work.

    Don Farrall

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