What Value Exposure?

Posted on 4/11/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Publishers are asking for free pictures more frequently. Usually they argue that the recognition a photographer receives from having his or her pictures appear in their publication is all the compensation the photographer should expect. Often they don’t even publish a byline.Thus readers have no way of knowing who took the picture.

Consider the request Wolfgang Kaehler received recently. He was contacted by the editor of South Florida Opulence magazine.  (Does the name give you any indication of how prestigious they think they are?)   

The editor wanted to use Wolfgang’s photos of the German island of Sylt. Wolfgang says, “I was excited when they contacted me and asked if I could send the high res files. I looked at the online version of the magazine. It was beautiful. I asked them how much they pay for the usage and the editor mentioned that they don't pay for photos; photographers are getting exposure to the richest people in Florida. Here is an excerpt from her reply:

    'Thanks Wolfgang, I certainly understand. I appreciate your point. Please keep in mind there is a high value to the publicity for your business. Because we print on 100# silk stock throughout the book, our out-of-pocket per-page hard cost is $2,000. Our advertisers pay from $2,500 to $7,000 per page for the exposure to our exclusive audience in which the average net worth is $57 million.'”
“I looked at the magazine again and saw how much advertising they have.  Page after page of ads of luxurious items such as fancy cars, boats, watches, jewelry, etc. -- ads which should bring lots of income to the magazine. I contacted the editor again thinking that they might have created a budget for photography. Here was the reply:
    "Wolfgang, with all due respect, the exposure in our magazine is quite revered. I have photographers sending me high res images all the time, pitching story ideas so that I'll consider using their material because they want the exposure in our very exclusive magazine. I have national photographers who are on a waiting list to do complimentary photo shoots because they want the exposure - they provide the models, makeup artists, stylists, everything. Our invitation-only readership with an average net worth of $57 million has extreme cache. I am sorry you don't see the value in the exposure."
(Be sure to take a look at the online version of this magazine. There are no photo credits. The magazine did do a feature story on photographer Glo Alma who the magazine declared was “Miami’s premier photographer.”  He might have seen some benefit from this exposure of his work.)

So who are these photographers? Does such “exposure” really pay off?

Wolfgang posted details of this experience on the Stockphoto blog on Yahoo
and asked? “Can anyone tell me how this type of exposure and initial expenses can pay the bills?

There were a number of comments and no one thought this was a wise business decision. Among those who commented Canadian photographer David Barr reported that a publication called “Sideroads of Waterloo Wellington” regularly does feature stories on photographers. “The over riding requirement to be included is that the pictures be free.” At least the publication does give good exposure to the photographer with a cover and an inside story about the photographer’s work.

Barr has talked to several local pro shooters that have taken advantage of the publication’s wonderful offer, but it hasn’t lead to great success for any of them.
    One of these photographers just got her license to sell real estate.

    Another does a little commercial shooting and tells Barr the demand for wedding photography and family portraits is dead. She is now spending most of her time and energy teaching amateur photographers.

    The third is back at college taking a film editing course and moving away from still photography.
Here are links to a couple videos on the subject that may provide a few laughs.



Another observation. If South Florida Opulence really has costs (including staff, production and general overhead) of about $2,000 per page maybe they really can’t afford to pay anything for the photographs they use. Their most recent edition has 124 pages. I count 66 pages of ads. If they can get an average of $4,000 per page for their advertising, that works out to $264,000. But $2,000 per page in costs is $248,000.

This is not the photographer’s problem. The publication has a bad business plan. They should either be charging more for ads or cutting operating costs. It is not the photographer’s job to support bad management.

Copyright © 2012 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.  


  • Larry Minden Posted Apr 11, 2012
    I recently heard of a similar experience:

    "Google Chrome was just after 20 high res images for world wide royalty free rights, with no time limitations.... for free.

    Only guessing that some buy the "exposure" line and say yes. I simply respond that I'm not interested as long as my bank is unwilling to accept "exposure" as payment against my mortgage.

  • Bob Daemmrich Posted Apr 12, 2012
    What I do is include a clip of my photo in with my mortgage payment stub and I get $580.61 credit every time. Amazing!

    Bob Daemmrich, Austin

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