Where Have Photo Assignments Gone?

Posted on 1/29/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

It used to be when a major corporation like British Petroleum (BP) went looking new images their art department would come up with a rather specific concept for what they needed. Then they would review photographer portfolios and hire a photographer to do the job. They would pay $1,500 per day, plus expenses for the shoot. Leading, experienced photographers often received significantly higher day rates.

Often such shoots were for certain specific, limited uses. Some photographers will tell you that It was not unusual for a major corporation to pay $10,000 to $25,000 for a “perpetual, worldwide exclusive license” to a specific image from such a shoot.

But the major corporations have decided that getting photos this way is too expensive. They don’t want to take any the risk of agreeing to pay a photographer to do work if that photographer doesn’t come back and deliver exactly what they want – even if they don’t know how to define what they want.

Custom Content

So Getty tells its best corporate customers, “We’ve got a deal for you.” (Any quotes in this article are not Getty’s exact words, but my interpretation of what I think Getty might be saying.)

“Give us a general idea of what your interested in seeing and we’ll challenge all our photographers to shoot and deliver that subject matter. Then, we’ll send everything they submit to you. If you find an image you like, you can have it for $400. If you happen to find several images (maybe 3 or 4) we’ll give them to you for $200 each. There is no obligation to purchase anything. You get a perpetual, worldwide exclusive license to use any image you purchase. No one else will ever get rights to use that image.”

In BP’s case the Custom Content brief is as follow:
    BP is looking for exciting new ways of depicting natural gas in use. Imagery can be with or without people. Please remember that scenarios should look authentic and believable. Gas must be the hero in the image. Avoiding staged imagery will increase the chances of it being licensed. Given BP’s worldwide presence they would like to see diversity of locations, ethnicity, and age.
The following are some general subject ideas that might be worth considering but your coverage should not be limited to these ideas. The examples include: Boiler (1,132), Welding (4,300), Outdoor heaters (24), BBQ (30,520), Hot air ballon (10,252), Camping stoves (989) and Gas, indoor fires (408 – 57 gas fireplaces).

The numbers in parenthesis indicate the number of images of these subjects currently in the Getty collection. Presumably, BP has already checked out all of these images and none of them fit what they are looking for. In any event, none of the images currently on file with Getty can be submitted as part of this Custom Content request.

It is possible that the reason BP doesn’t want to consider any of the images in the current Getty collection is because they want exclusive rights to anything they purchase. Some of the images in the current collection may have been used by other customers. On the the other hand, a significant percentage of the images of the subjects listed above have never been used by anyone. Getty should be able to tell BP which ones they are. Nevertheless, for whatever reason those already in the files cannot be considered for this project.  

What Happens To The Images BP Does Not Accept?

It is unclear what happens to the images that BP does not accept. Does BP hold them in case at some later date they decide to use and pay for one of them? Or, are they returned to Getty and integrated into the Getty collection with the possibility that some other customer might one to use one of them sometime in the future? Photographers submitting images to this brief agree that they will never “use Brief Content (images) for any purpose except to make them available under the terms of the Brief.” Presumably, this includes similar images shot at the same time as Brief images, even if they were not submitted with the brief.

Evidently, Getty feels that since in more than 70% of the cases of images they license photographers received less that $10 per image, and often only pennies, they will be more than happy to receive something between $70 (35% of $200) and $140 (35% of $400) for their efforts. If the photographer has RF contract they get even less. Of course, the odds of getting anything at all are very slim.
Some photographer, I’ve talked to think that if briefs like this happen to fit with anything the photographer is inclined to shoot anyway it is probably better for the photographer to submit the images non-exclusively to a number of sites rather than to limit their chances of licensing the images to this single customer.

In fairness to Getty, I should point out that their competitor, Shutterstock, offers Shutterstock Custom which is aimed pretty much at the same corporate customers. In Shutterstock’s case the payments per image used tend to range between $15 and $25. Getty’s offer to the photographer is somewhat better, but Shutterstock may put a limit on the number of photographers who can contribute to the same project while Getty doesn’t seem to place any limits.

Note To Parents

If your child comes to you and says, “I want a career as a still photographer” try to encourage them to get into some other line of work such as waiting tables in a restaurant, cleaning houses, doing yard work or picking up trash. They will make more money in any or these activities. Still photography was once a great career. It is no more.

Copyright © 2018 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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