A few days ago I was contacted by an author who was interested in one of my photos for a book he is self-publishing. I got the sense there probably was not much budget when he mentioned in his email that the book would be available for free download. Regardless, I let him know what I typically charge for private-run book use. This was his response this morning:
This particular picture is very appropriate to its context in the book, but I have found one just as appropriate among Wikimedia commons pictures, so I suppose I’ll go with that. I guess if I was a media-seller I would hate the wikis, but for an author like me they are a godsend.
Sorry we can’t do business
I considered pointing out to him that it would not have been “business” if I, or any other photographer, provided the image for free. Some photographers see a need to “educate” their clients in a situation like this. It’s a nice thought but I just don’t have the time so I generally just move on.
I have had good luck maintaining my fees over the years — even as stock photo prices in general have plummeted — probably because most of my saleable images do not have quality counterparts in the “commons” world. Yet. It is an uncertain time for stock photography. I think stock photographers (including myself) who wish to do well must further separate their images from the norm, otherwise they end up competing with the “crowd” and may lose sales to photographers who give their work away.
Postscript: five hours later I received a stronger-than-usual stock agency check in the mail (3Qtr2009). Hope remains.