There are many problems in concert photography today. One is the ubiquitous photo contracts, specially the right grabbers. Another problem is all the editors, web sites and bands who expect photographers to just give away their photos for free. Why is photos supposed to be free, while the same people expect us to pay for music and magazines? (Above: Rafael Saadiq at the SXSW – are there too many concert photographers?)
There are two parts to the ”free problem”. Both the ones who expect to get free photos, but equally the photogs who give away their photos. This has become a major problem for those who want to make a business of concert photography. There are too many people with cameras and camera phones around. The prevailing feeling seems to be that if you own a camera, you can also take pictures. But to become a good concert photographer, you have to practice, you have to have some feel for the music you are shooting, you have to have knowledge about light and composition, and you also have to have some sharp equipment.
I don’t know how many emails I have got like: ”your pictures of this or that band is awsome, and we’d like to use it in our magazine/on our website. Could you please send us high resolution files at 300 dpi? You will get credits.” I usually answer something like ”Thank you for liking my pictures. Of course I can send you high resolution pictures, but what kind of payment are you offering me? Credits is a given, so that is no compensation.”
The usual answer goes this way: ”I am sorry, but we don’t have any budget for photography, so we can’t pay you.” This often comes from an editor who is paid for his job in a magazine or for a website with advertising and which makes money. And they use the phots to sell the magazine. Since I personally have a day job, I am not dependent on my photography for a living. But I feel wrong for giving away my photos and undermining other photog’s business.
Another side of this problem is that both the photogs and editors devaluate the photography as art. The worst is when managers or record companies present photo contracts that literally takes away the photogs copyright and lets them use the photos as they like without paying and often also without crediting the photog. They seem to have forgotten the way they just recently sued high school kids for downloading and sharing music without paying.
Of course, when friends of mine who play in a band ask to use a picture on their FB page, I say yes. But I think it is important to be conscious about not to make this for everyone. I can understand photogs who start out and want to build up a portfolio who let websites and magazines use their photos. It looks good on their CV. But the sad thing is that often when they start to ask for money, the editor just goes to the next one who does it for free.
Do you have any thoughts on this?
All pictures are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used or shared without written permission.