This is a repost of an online article that I first heard about through
the Online Photographer Weblog,
and was originally posted on
The article was removed from that site as
the editor wanted to make sure that it
was understood that Wise Bread did not condone Carrie Kirby's actions
didn't want there to be any association between her article
(and the actions it describes)
and Wise Bread.
You can click
on the Wise Bread link above to see where the original article was and to
read people's comments, or click on The Online Photographer link to read the
There has also been discussion
on Flickr about it, you can check that out
Wise Bread has now relinquished its
rights to the article. Carrie Kirby now holds the copyright and she has given me
permission to repost it here.
Once again, Will Chen (the Wise
Bread editor) wants to make sure that it is clear that the site does not condone
her activities relating to this article, and wants no association between the
article and Wisebread.com.
Are You Stealing From
by Carrie Kirby
We're having a children's photographer
work our daughter's first birthday party, so we can give each set of guest
parents a photo to remind them of this wonderful first year.
Luckily, the photographer has agreed to relinquish the rights to the images, so
our guests won't have to go back to her and buy pictures of their own kids.
That's not how it usually works, though. Despite the ease of image duplication
in the modern world, most photographers still sell their work by the print.
As a customer, I feel like photographers are obscuring the value of their
service when they charge this way. When I can buy a decent-looking print for
under a buck, buying copies of my child's portrait from the photographer at $25
or more seems outrageous.
I understand what the photographer is charging for -- the value of her time, her
talent, her training, and the editing she's done on the photos -- not to mention
the studio space and equipment she used creating them. Our photographer also
said she wants to retain control of her images to make sure they are only
reproduced as high-quality prints. Still, it's puzzling to me why more
photographers don't charge a larger sitting fee -- thereby charging for the
work, which is their actual product -- and then provide digital images of the
photos taken. After all, the right to reproduce pictures of my kids isn't worth
much to the photographer once I'm done buying my prints.
Confession time: The last time we had portraits taken of our daughters, we did
what I believe many, many consumers do these days. We bought what we felt was a
decent amount of prints, in this case, a package that, combined with the sitting
fee, cost $600. After spending that much money, we felt that we had rewarded the
photographer enough for the service she'd provided us.
So... we scanned our photos, tried our best to correct for the image quality
loss, and shared them digitally, made additional copies for friends and family,
and even uploaded them into calendars as gifts for family members.
Did I feel guilty about this? Sort of. I also felt frustrated that, despite our
best efforts, the prints did not look as nice as they would have if we'd printed
from the original digital files. Since my photographer seemd happy with the $600
she received for photographing my kids, why couldn't she just give me what I
And of course, there was the anxiety about getting busted. Last year, we went
through the same routine, and we were confronted by a Walgreen staff member who
told us they woudln't reproduce the prints because they were obviously
professionally done. This year, to our relief, no one called us on our
There are limits to how far I'm willing to go in my crimes against photography.
I bought nearly a dozen prints from the photographer, most of them 8 by 10s. I
would not, for instance, have walked out of her studio having purchased only one
or two 8 by 10s and then fired up the printing press.
Next time, I may play by the photographer's rules and spend the same amount of
money for a larger number of prints, just in smaller formats, and forgo the
jury-rigged duplication efforts. Or better yet, I'll finally find a photographer
whose work I love and who charges the way I want to pay.
What about you? Have you scanned and duplicated those professional photo shots?
Do you feel like you did anything wrong? Or do you feel that, since you already
paid the photographer, the crime was a victimless one? Would you be willing to
pay more for photo sittings if you could get digital files of the edited shots?