Need advice on getting compensated for photos

Jan 13, 2006
Latrine, Cambridge, Mass
Hi folks,
Last Oct I shot a dance dress rehearsal for a local dance company and until this year, it has always been pro bono. During that shoot, there was another company from NYC(big name) which they invited to perform as well and I took a few shots, edited the photos and only showed them this month. Well, turns out the company from NYC loved my pix and wanted to use at least 5 for publicity.
Here's the situation: I was never hired for pay and there was no promise on delivery date. While the local company used to get free photos(starting this year they're paying), I never made such an arrangement with the other group. I have only heard from them twice and neither of us have brought up the issue of money or other form of compensation. I'm beginning to wonder if they knew about the free pix the local company been getting and simply assumed they'll have the same deal. however, I spent way too much time working on their pix and would rather get something. You can see some samples here:
I'm not sure how to bring up the issue of payment politely and still have the opportunity to do more shoots with them in the future. one important factor to consider is that the photos were shot with a D2h around ISO 1000-1600 and I cleaned them as much as I could. They mentioned about needing high rez files(didn't specify how much) so not sure what they'll think once they see them. part of me was thinking maybe I should sacrifice the photos I have and negotiate for more shoots in the future for pay. unfortunately I'm not the best negotiator. I guess my thinking is all over the place right now so I hope I'm making sense.
any advise would be appreciated.
Last edited by a moderator:


Medic's right, they are from out of state so how often are they likely to return ?
Ask politely if they had an idea of how much they thought the photos are worth. Even if low then consider the fact that you have already worked on them for free, so does pride/greed get in the way of even small amounts of cash ?
May 11, 2006
Northern Italy, Piemonte
any advise would be appreciated.

You don't need to hire an attorney to draw up a complex contract, but you MUST get this deal, or any kind of deal, in writing. Email will work for casual situations, but negotiation via telephone is a recipe for real heartburn. Do NOT rely on your memory or theirs. Write it down somehow.

Find out who to email and then simply write them indicating that you understand they're interested in your pictures. Briefly explain that the shots were taken under less than ideal lighting conditions and contain a certain amount of "grain", but don't apologize too much. Or you might not mention the quality at all and just include a 100% crop (with prominent watermark) and let them judge the quality for themselves. Mention that you can provide high resolution files, which is true.

Explain you normally charge so-and-so. Don't even mention the pro bono work, but if it comes up just explain that you don't work for free and pro bono work is a very small part of your photographic efforts.

If you really feel your pictures are not up to normal quality, especially if you can guarantee less noise next time, you could go on to explain that you would reduce your normal fee to such-and-such in this instance ONLY.

Be sure to mention that this price includes certain use rights (be specific) , but mention that rights are negotiable. Try to give the most restrictive use rights that you think they can live with, perhaps with an example of how much you would charge for additional use in other product categories. Check around on the Internet for pricing examples and base your prices for various uses on a percentage of the "real guys" if you don't have a clue, but don't make it too complex to begin with.

Remember, if they turn you down your earnings will be the same as if you give them away.

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