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Free Photographs

Nikon D600, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC  @  98mm 1/800 f/5.6 ISO 100

Giving away photographs is a tough subject. I don't claim to be authorative or know everything. I'm also not a great writer, I wish I could lay down prose with the flowing read-ability of Chuck Palahniuk or the sparse style of Hemmingway, but it's just not so, please bear with me. Recently a post of mine whining about people asking free images brought up a few interesting comments.

"One thing that I may suggest, however, is that from a business perspective it may be more valuable to help build bridges and personal bonds with athletes by offering free photos for personal use. That way, when for instance a Red Bull athlete like Aniol requires a professional photographer your name would be the first that pops into his head." I wish it worked like this. I've given images to two Red Bull atheletes in the past. I also know two friends who have done the same. Who did Red Bull hire when they are paying for a photographer with these athletes? Lucas Gilman or a local photographer.

There are a few problems with giving away photographs for free. The first is that value as a photographer is perceived. Once a photograph is given to a company, your work is worth $0. Photography as a business is about perception, and giving away work is not professional. It's also fact that people have a hard time transitioning from getting something for free to paying for the same thing. That's exactly what newspapers are struggling with today regarding subscription online content. On top of demeaning your own value, other people in the media industry get dragged down too.

Then there are companies that want images for free. They'll use yours for free, then the next guys, and the next. Many companies in the kayaking industry will take mediocre for free rather than pay for a great image. Giving an image away won't get your foot in the door. If it's a deserible image it has value.

Olympus E-M5, Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 @ 100mm 1/125 f/4 ISO 400

Rok Sribar, Rio Baker, Chile.

Nikon D600, Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 @ 42mm 1/640 f/5.6 ISO 400

Jonas Grunwald, Metlako Falls, Eagle Creek, Oregon.

Nikon D600, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 36mm 1/800 f/3.5 ISO 1600

French paddlers, Upper Golo, Corsica.

Olympus E-M5, Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8  @  12mm 1/1000 f/4 ISO 200

Daniel Brasuell, Rodgers Creek, British Columbia.

Nikon D600, Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR @ 24mm 1/1000 f/5.6 ISO 1600

Big Horn sheep near Dease Lake, British Columbia.

Nikon D600, Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR @ 45mm 1/125 f/8 ISO 200

"it seems to me that the paddlers you photograph deserve some kind of special dispensation, perhaps free pictures, since their appearance in the shot is what makes the photo marketable. people who photograph and film extreme kayaking seldom give anything back to the paddlers they photo-document despite the wear and tear on a paddler's body induced by running big drops and hard rapids. although gear attrition does suck, i'd pay twice the value of the gear you listed above to have a 100 percent healthy pair of rotator cuffs"

I have never asked someone to run a drop for the photograph. If I had called someone, asked them to run something on a certain day at just the right time for good light, then I'd be paying them. As it is, I don't think anyone recently (or previously) ran the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River so that I could take a picture of them. Being a random paddler in a seperate group on the same river merits no "special dispensation."  There are people I share a relationship with outside of kayaking. These are real friends, and they do get pictures for free. That's how real relationships work, there is a constant cycle of sharing. When that cycle of sharing is not there, I ask for $50. Most whitewater enthuasts will blow way more than this on a bar tab without blinking an eye. If it's not worth $50 to you, it's certainly not worth my time to find, edit an deliver the image.

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