A few weeks ago I wrote this blog post LINK about doing publicity photos for a local community theater I am involved with. I was ecstatic because two of the characters were mobsters and I’d been trying to do a series with them as my subject for the past couple of years. The publicity photos as a whole came out great, but the mobster photos were easily the best and my favorite.
Its been almost two months NOW since I handed the final images over to the theater’s marketing person, who happens to be the lady with annoyingly low expectations; for example, she requested that the images were “clear, crisp, [and] sharp (why yes, I’m a semi-professional photographer who delivers blurry photos to his clients. NOT).” To better understand this article, I highly recommend following the original POST. Since that time, my images, specifically the ones of Mugsy and Babs, have appeared in over six local newspapers in addition to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, as means to promote the show. In short, my images are doing what they’re supposed to. Hardly any other shows in the listings have images accompanying them, and it’s been a huge boost to see mine on cover pages and grabbing major notice.
I wish I could end this post here about how excited I am that my images are circulating all around the greater Atlanta and Alpharetta areas…, but alas this too was a learning experience. I’d love to have a simply chipper post, but I want to help other photographers so they don’t run into the same troubles as myself.
To start, I did this shoot for free. As a working photographer, you have to learn when to charge for your services and when to do some freebie work. My reasons for doing this job pro bono were:
- I was in the show and it seemed a bit rude to charge.
- Knowing these images would be used for publicity, I saw the opportunity to build my clientele.
Weighing the worth of not charging went something like this:
- Take photos of the show for free.
- Request that I am credited every single instance the images are used.
- Images get shown around in a local paper or two (that was the original expectation), and the ads and posters that theater throws up everywhere.
- People see great images and read my name as the credited photographer.
- They get online, look at my webpage and potentially hire me for future services.
- I make more money from clients seeing the images being advertised than asking a community theater, with a really small budget, to fork over money they can potentially spare for professional services.
This seemed like a solid plan and the logic was confirmed by several business savvy peers of mine. The key to all of this was that I had to get photo credit for the images. Before, during, and after the pictures were taken I specifically mentioned and confirmed this stipulation with the director, producer, and PR lady. Well, as it happened……
I was credited in the AJC (I nearly fell out of the chair when I saw my name in print and the reality hit me) and half of the papers. Naturally, I was pretty curious as to why I wasn’t credited in the remainders. I began talking to the producer about the issue and she was very helpful and apologetic, stating that she would confirm that I was supposed to be credited in all the papers. The publications I was credited in showed confirmation that I was to be credited. I have since found out why the others did not mention my name. 1) They were ads, not articles and you can’t credit a photographer for an ad (What?) and 2) That PR lady with annoyingly low expectations FORGOT TO ASK THE PAPERS TO CREDIT ME.
For previous shows, this theater has always used a parent with a basic camera to take their publicity photos. It’s been a big difference in expectations and procedure for them to work with a semi-professional photographer who is very picky about details and wants to actually receive income for their efforts. If the images were just decent, I wouldn’t be so adamant about this opportunity. However I take great pride in my work and the pictures they’ve been using are some of my best. It’s rather unfortunate that I cannot go back and fix this and neither can the papers. Sure they can say in their next copy, “We misprinted our last article and want to give credit to this photographer,” but no one reads that little tiny section in the back of the paper. The situation has since been addressed and the importance of being credited has been reiterated. Hopefully any and all future publications contain my information, otherwise I’ll have to face the decision of letting it go or asking people for money.
I’m absolutely blown away that my images are getting such circulation. I’m really and truly thrilled. It’s discouraging though that this opportunity wasn’t fully realized, to my expectations. The lesson I got out of this: great images do wonders but you have to be extremely diligent when making sure they remain your property and the weight of your wishes are communicated.