Images Are Too Expensive: Free Is Better

Posted on 8/28/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (8)

As prices for stock photo uses drop, the joke has been that pretty soon, publishers will start asking photographers to pay for publication of pictures. That idea may not be as ludicrous as it sounds. The time may not be too far off. In the last few weeks, photographers and stock agents have been receiving the following letter from India.

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing to you on behalf of Pearson Education, one of the world's leading educational and professional publishers. We publish books across a wide spectrum of subjects, including business, technology, engineering, sciences, law, humanities, current affairs, politics, and lifestyle.

We have a book called Business Communication Today, written by Courtland L Bovee and John V. Thill. The book is now in its 9th edition and we are working on the adaptation of the book for the benefit of the students of the Indian subcontinent.

The adaptor is Mr. Mukesh Chaturvedi, Professor of Business Communication and ECE Chair at Birla Institute of Management Technology at Greater Noida, India.
You had provided us permission to use image (attached to this email) in the U.S. edition of this book. We would now request you to grant us permission to publish it in this as well as the future edition of the Indian Adaptation of the book.

As the adapted edition is meant for students in the Indian Subcontinent, we would be thankful if you could provide us gratis permission so that we can keep the book affordable for students in the Indian subcontinent.

Should you require further details on the project, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Ms. Sonu Manola
Permissions Coordinator

At least one photographer wrote back:

Dear Ms. Manola:

Thank you for contacting me. I am very happy to assist you with the adaptation of the book Business Communication Today 9th Edition. Your request for “gratis permission” to publish my photograph is quite an interesting business communication itself. I will be happy to provide such “gratis permission” if, and only if, the following criteria are met:

    1) Mr. Mukesh Chaturvedi donates his adaptation fee to the Indian students;
    2) Mr. Bovee and Mr. Thill also give up their royalty fees to the Indian students;
    3) Pearson Education, one of the world’s leading publishers, gives up all of their profit on this publication to the benefit of Indian business students;
    4) The models I paid and the location to which I paid a location fee also return the significant amount of money I invested in the photo shoot; and lastly
    5) The Universities to which I send my children provide gratis education to my offspring.

Until these things occur, surely you will understand that I am in business to make a profit also, and that my well being is as important as that of all of the other parties above.

Please advise how many copies of the books are to be published, so that a proper price can be determined. I look forward to your early response.


We assume that what is being taught in Business Communication Today is that everything, or at least all information, should be free. It is interesting that American and European photographers are being asked to pay for the education of Indian students, so that more Western jobs can be exported to India. Oh those poor, starving Indian students, about to take over all our businesses! And, on top of this, Americans are asked to use some of their valuable time to authorize such a donation but do not even get to deduct such a charitable gift off of their tax returns.

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 301-461-7627, 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:  


  • Tibor Bognar Posted Aug 28, 2009
    I'd very much like to shake the hand of the photographer who wrote this reply to the publisher. We should all do the same. In fact I've also been in similar situations and responded in the same spirit: how will I pay for my groceries if I give away the only thing I have to sell?

  • Danita Delimont Posted Aug 28, 2009
    Dear Jim,

    I too rec'd a letter like this and responded with a reasonable reuse fee once they told me what the press run was. Who's coming up with these strategies? They always seem to be coming from the Indian arms of western publishers. DK is another one that offers peanuts for rates, although the books are sold all over the U.S. and Europe. For some reason they think we'll act as a charity because they're people are disadvantaged. The person above got it right in that it's the poor Indian students that will eventually take away many western jobs. This whole publishing in India scenario drives me crazy! Western publishers hire Indian researchers or go "offshore" because it's so much cheaper. The editors don't even know how to properly do keyword searches in English because it's not their native language. Further, because they're from a bartering culture, they are fierce pricing negotiators, very aggressive and very unpleasant to work with in many cases. I just hope that whoever is making these decisions loses their jobs to Indian graduates, educated with the books they published!

  • Katharine Andriotis Posted Aug 28, 2009
    Bravo to our colleague for that very spot on letter!

  • David Sanger Posted Aug 28, 2009
    Business Communications Rules

    1. Do not assume your suppliers are stupid

    2. Do not assume your suppliers do not know to use Google

    3. Do not assume your suppliers will not find out that you have been selling the previous edition in India for $169 per copy

    4. Do your homework

    Business Communication Today - Court Bovee, John V. Thill, HB, 9th edition
    8211 Rupees from

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Aug 28, 2009
    We MUST educate those who are NOT photographers somehow! The latest example is the amateur who sold the picture to TIME magazine for their cover and was thrilled, even tho his fee was $30. That is ALMOST free.... but that guy actually probably sells shoes, so he cares not how he handles the sale.

    Al photographers need to take pricing seriously... or at least if they expect to make a profit and be working in the photo biz in three- five-ten years.

    Bill Bachmann
    Orlando, FL

  • Jagdish Agarwal Posted Aug 31, 2009
    Since we, Dinodia Photos , are based in India, we are regularly approached by them for cheap pictures, and we try for a reasonable fee, but guess what, they are always able to get cheaper photos from somewhere! Now we learn that they are trying to get free pictures. And they make a decent profit.

  • Jim Pickerell Posted Aug 31, 2009
    Jagdish Agarwal of Dinodia tells me that for use in India he normally gets between US$25 and US$100 per picture depending on size, print run, distribution, credit line, etc. The use of the words "Indian Subcontinent" means that these books will be distributed in many countries and in that case Dinodia would normally get between US$50 and US$200. These prices may not be as good as U.S. prices, but they are a lot better than zero.

    Jagdish makes the point above that "they are always able to get cheaper photos" (via microstock) but I think in this case they don't want to go to the trouble of re-editing the book and getting new separations. That is costly also. I believe the best strategy will be to send an invoice for your normal fee (probably the top of what Dinodia would charge)and see what happens. My guess is that they will pay the fee rather than going through the hassle of re-editing.

  • Jim Reed Posted Sep 1, 2009
    I also received the same request and after getting a bit more info on the usage, replied with the appropriate fee as indicated by our vendor agreement. I have not heard back. I will take your suggestion Jim, as to issuing an invoice, if for nothing else than to leave a paper trail (albeit a digital one) in case infringement does rear it's ugly head.

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