Should Photographs Have A Monetary Value?

Posted on 10/15/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Does anyone other than photographers think that photographers should be compensated with more than a credit for the use of their images?

The response photographer Kristen Pierson received from the publisher of the Warwick, RI Beacon displays a common attitude, not just of the average consumer, but of many professionals and commercial users who should be licensing rights to the images they use.

After Kristen contacted the publisher by email about the unauthorized use of one of her pictures in his paper, he left the following message on her answering machine.
    Hi, uh, Kristen, This is John Howell from the Warwick Beacon, uh, quite obviously I’ve gotten your email uh regarding this photograph and, uh, I would like to talk to you about that.

    I’m a little mystified since that photograph was emailed to us (not by Kristen!), uh, we’ve got that email if you care to see it. Uh, so, we’re not taking it from somebody it was given to us.

    In addition, the watermark that is on the photograph, uh, appears on the photograph so it is credited to you.  

    Uh. So, and also the photograph is in the public domain in the sense that it’s on Facebook so I don’t know.

    Maybe you ought to charge Facebook. Anyway my number here is, (edited out). Thanks.
If this is the common attitude of most non-photographers - even professional users of photography - does stock photography have any future as a business? There will always be people who need pictures of things that have not been previously photographed. If they don’t want to take the pictures themselves then assignment photography has a future.

But once an image can be found on the Internet, or found in a printed product and scanned and uploaded to the Internet by anyone, too many potential users think that photograph is in the public domain and free to use.

We, who are trying to earn part of our living taking pictures, can complain that it is not right, not fair, not reasonable. But it is like standing in the middle of a tornado and holding up your hand to say Stop. You may receive a “credit” in the next edition of the newspaper for holding up your hand, but realistically isn’ it time to get out of the way of the tornado?

Copyright © 2013 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:  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Oct 15, 2013
    Send them an invoice. I do it all the time and if you mention "copyright infringement" the check comes quickly!

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