EPUK Editorial Photographers United Kingdom and Ireland. The private mailing list and public resource for editorial photographers

The 12 Step Course To Cash Free Pictures

We’re sometimes accused of being a hard-hearted bunch at EPUK Towers, but occasionally we see a plea that truly melts our collective heart. One recent such was this on the UK Press list:
‘My name is James Watson and I am a first time editor on a Yorkshire newspaper. I was wondering if anyone could advise me on how to get my hands on free images for general news stories? It is increasingly difficult to have a high impact front and back page with limited options for quality up-to-date pictures!’

We’re sometimes accused of being a hard-hearted bunch at EPUK Towers, but occasionally we see a plea that truly melts our collective heart. One recent such was this on the UK Press list:

‘My name is James Watson and I am a first time editor on a Yorkshire newspaper. I was wondering if anyone could advise me on how to get my hands on free images for general news stories? It is increasingly difficult to have a high impact front and back page with limited options for quality up-to-date pictures!’

You can see James’ point. What with the all the costs involved in newspaper publishing there often simply isn’t any money available for pictures. After all, office equipment has to be bought; offices and phones have to be rented; writers and printers have to be paid; and there’s James’ own salary as well. Plus his publisher is entitled to make a profit. So how on earth can he reasonably be expected to find money for photographers?

Fortunately there are lots of solutions at hand for indigents like James, so we’re happy to present the EPUK 12 Step Guide To Photography For The Budget Challenged.

1. Just help yourself to ‘em. Yes, we know you’re a law abiding person and you’d never dream of shoplifting or burglary. But these are just pictures, and if it’s good enough for Virgin, it’s good enough for you. Flickr is the thieves’ bazaar of choice, but there are lots of others. It’s best to choose pictures marked with the Lessig Mug Punters License, since even if you’re caught the owner won’t have a clue what to do.

2. Hang around your local school/college with a bag of sweets/dope/a publishing contract. Some 10,000 students qualify as photographers every year in the UK, and they’re desperate for publication. So desperate that they won’t just offer stock images for free: you’ll doubtless find plenty happy to shoot assignments for the, ahem, work experience. Don’t forget to make sure you claim copyright on all their work: after all, you’re doing them a favour and teaching the ways of the world. And always remember to run their work without a credit: then apologise graciously to the grief stricken young tog and promise you’ll give him a credit on the next (free) picture. With very little effort you should be able to keep the images coming for a couple of months before you need to find another young hopeful. Don’t feel bad; you’re giving them a vital part of their education that was neglected at college – and for free too.

3. Run a daily/weekly readers’ pictures contest, depending on your publishing cycle. Readers love these, and it’s a great way to build up a library of stock images. Make sure the contest terms and conditions give you copyright to all the entries, so you can not only use them yourself, but also sell them to all and sundry. You don’t have to offer a prize of any real value: a year’s free subscription to your rag will do if you’re feeling generous, but publication in itself could be the prize.

4. Canvas citizen journalists. Hey, journalism is glamorous, and citizen journalism is kewl! Just be like the BBC and every other formerly reliable news organisation and encourage your readers to send in their pictures of newsworthy events. As usual make sure to grab as many rights to their work as possible: but also constantly remind your new unpaid staff that the more newsworthy the picture, the better its chance of publication. Then if they get a little carried away and get arrested/beaten up/shot they become newsworthy themselves: and you’ve got another story.

5. Spam photographers’ websites and photo forums.- You might think that the people here would be more reluctant to part with their work for less than its worth, but believe us you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Many will be happy to work for a rusty can of beans, or less. Remember, when you see a photographer with a sign reading ‘will work for food’, that really means ‘will work for the promise of scraps sometime in the future’. Never offer money, and if you come across the odd difficult photographer who raises this tawdry subject, stress how prestigious your company is and how beneficial it will be for the photographer for their work to appear. You are actually doing the photographer an immense and career-building favour by offering this opportunity for ‘no budget’, so you should say so. More advanced techniques include special pleading that the work is for non-profit use (e.g. your marketing) or charity use (e.g. fundraising). The BBC, arguing that as a national institution accountable to the taxpayer they have a public duty to cut costs by not paying for photos, has elevated this to an art form.

6. Find a picture you like, and then get your nephew with a nice camera to re-shoot it for a by-line. Stress that it will be good for his/her portfolio. Make sure you get them to indemnify you against any legal costs arising; then if you get caught it’s their problem, not yours.

7. Open an account with Alamy. Remember that they don’t report sales to photographers with enough precision to check, so if you ‘forget’ to notify Alamy of usage, nobody is likely to be any the wiser. Just keep schtum and download as many as possible. The more you take the better customer Alamy’s automated systems believe you to be, meaning they’re less likely to call their lawyers. They wouldn’t want to lose a good client, would they?

8. Insist on self-billing. This means you can do what you like, and you only need pay for what you can be arsed to notify to yourself. Customs and Excise will tell you self-billing cannot be compulsory, but simply tell your contributors otherwise. Widely popularised by national newspapers.

9. Screw some orphans. This powerful technique allows you to use virtually any image free of charge, as the law only requires you to make a reasonable effort to try and trace the rights owner. Remember to erase the metadata immediately on any photo you obtain, so you can claim you tried but couldn’t trace the owner. Wildly popular on national newspapers, who blame their picture desk software for inserting © Big Newspapers Ltd over the original owner’s metadata. Align yourself with calls for Orphan Rights legislation, claiming that the difficulty of tracing copyright owners is ruining your business.

10. Hire a professional photographer. Yes, you read right: we said HIRE a photographer, not PAY a photographer. Commercial and art photographers view publication as their ticket to high end advertising accounts or a personal show at the Tate Modern. Call a few and stress the ‘fantastic opportunity’ that ‘exposure’ in your fashionable rag can offer. Don’t bother to mention money: they won’t. Of course this works better if your publication is called Vogue or Vanity Fair, rather than the Bradford And District Whippet Fanciers’ Weekly, so you may have to be vague about your title. If the photographer describes himself as an artist it doesn’t matter what you say, since artists like to be poor and are most comfortable residing in cardbox at bottom of lake.

11. Charge photographers to publish their work. Well, why not? You charge advertisers for exposure, don’t you? Photographers have plenty of money to spend on fancy gear and web sites; they call themselves professionals, so they should be happy to pay for the advertising you’re giving them. After all, you’re helping them become the next Mario Testino.

12. When all else fails, just take ‘em yourself. Like many so-called professions [see below], photography is very over-rated. There’s lots of information on the internet about how to become a photographer, and really it’s very easy if you follow a few simple rules. First you’ll need a high-end cameraphone, one that takes interchangeable lenses. Secondly, always shoot in sRGB: it’s fully automatic, and there’s a reason it’s the world’s most popular colour space. And finally, always shoot JPGs with maximum sharpening: you want your pictures in focus, don’t you?

Next week on EPUK: enjoy playing FlightSim? Why not do it for real and earn extra money? Take the EPUK Professional Airline Pilot course and earn money in your free time. No peaked cap or Biggles moustache required.

And coming soon:

Ever thought of captaining an ocean liner? Take the EPUK Captain Pugwash course, sail the high seas at weekends and get paid for it. No navigational skills required.

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Copyright infringements abroad and how to manage themCOVID-19 and photographyEPUK Members Lockdown ShowcasePhotographing in public places - where/when/is it allowed?

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