Communication Breakdown…

The snowboard industry has just as many hard-nosed, penny-pinching snakes as any money-hungry industry, but when this is combined with the laid-back nature and characters of the sport, you come across some pretty interesting business dealings. 

I recently came across the difficulties faced by a Canadian snowboard photographer, Chris Messervey. As you will see from his blog entry, he emailed a shot of Dustin Craven to him as a preview for his sponsors, which wound up being used on the Grenade Gloves website without Chris’ authorisation. Chris was annoyed as Grenade are a huge international corporation and should have known better  – basically they should have come to some agreement with him first before using his shot. The emails go back and forth between Chris and Grenade with a heap of angry language and without any resolution. Chris has received a fair bit of internet press about this incident, and there seems to even be a bit of a backlash against Grenade.

All this reminded me of some equally angry correspondence I had with a snowboard retailer (I’ll call them “Boardstore”) at the start of the year. I was annoyed to find two of my photos used on their shop’s Facebook page without my authorisation. Yes, I know it is only Facebook, but in this day and age Facebook has become a legitimate promotional tool to promote an enterprise, just like an advertisement on radio, TV or in print. I don’t mind riders using some of my photos (preferably last season ones, because current ones may jeapardise their “exclusivity”, and hence likelihood to be published by magazine editors) for personal things like in their own Facebook photo galleries, or to show as previews to their sponsors. But as soon as someone uses a photo of mine for a business, even if it is a friend of mine starting up a small company, I want to be paid…and paid preferably in money, not product.

So for all those who misunderstand the law of photography, here is a summary: As soon as I press the shutter on my camera, I create an image, and “own” copyright in that said image (up until 70 years after my death). Copyright reserves all my rights to the usage of this image, and in effect, anyone who uses, reproduces, publishes, or prints any image of mine without my authorisation has broken the law under The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), as well as the international treaties that back up this law overseas. I may “licence” you use the photo for free (as mentioned above with my snowboarder mates), however I deserve to be justly rewarded for the use of my photo otherwise. It is my business, and how I make money. Using a photo for free without authorisation is pretty similar to stealing a snowboard from a factory (minus the physical trespass): I created the photo, I own it, and using it for free is depriving me of my rightful payment for it. (For a more in-depth investigation of Australian photographer’s rights, click here and here)

And as for the snowboarders I take photos of, they agree, either implicity or expressly, to authorise the use their image in my photos for “commercial” means, ie for magazines, advertisements or websites. They are not paid for this, but they do so to increase their exposure, their personal “brand”, as well as their sponsor’s logos – that is the reward they get, hoping that their sponsors will in turn pay them in cash (and not just product) for helping to create this exposure with the photographer.

Take a look at the correspondence below with “Boardstore”. I could have probably been a little more explanatory and nice in my first email where I requested the photos be taken down…however I didn’t expect the backlash I received. But in the end, we sorted out our differences, and came to what seems to be an amicable end:


Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 03 January at 20:15

Hi “Boardstore”,

I happened to see that you have 2 of my photos on your Facebook team photo page. Can you please take them down?

The shots are:

“XX” Snowpark step up, and
“XY” Tahoe front board.

Cheers, that’d be great thanks.

Sean Radich


“Boardstore” 03 January at 22:08

For starters mate you gave us permission to use the “XX” shot about 4 years ago in a mag ad plus we got the shots from the riders to use so take it up with them. How about you actually talk to us about it first instead of throwing orders about – are you for real mate get your head out of your ass we could have actually worked together where we would of supported your work & actually worked a deal out with you – so unproffesional radman … We will take the shots down gladly – you’ve come across like a dick now … Good way to do business .


Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 04 January at 11:43

Hi Boardstore,

Sorry, i thought it was a reasonable request? I’m a bit surprised by your reply.

You are right – taking it up with riders is where the problem lies, and it is hard to get a proper and professional outcome between photographer and a company when dealing with a middle man (ie the riders).

Re “XX”’s photo- he made representations to me that there would be payment/compensation for the use of that photo, possibly in the form of gear and/or money. That may have not been your understanding of how permission to use the photo was to be, but it was mine. And as much as you talk about ‘supporting my work and working out a deal’, I never heard any more about it those years ago and chalked it up as lost opportunity for reward. So there didn’t seem to be much intention to work out a deal previously, and so when you say you’re not going to support my work or work out a deal now, I don’t really feel like I’m losing much.

And nevertheless, even if permission to use the photo in an ad was given, that doesn’t give further permission to publish or reproduce the photo – this time on Facebook. If a photo is purchased ‘rights free’ for 12 months, then for that 12 months a company can use it as many times as they like. But any such arrangement is naturally more costly than a ‘single-use’ photo purchase.

Re “XY”’s photo – yes, I would have given him a copy of that shot for his personal files and use, to show to sponsors etc. It was a couple of years ago now too, but I’m sure I would have told him to check with me first before anyone is to use it.

It’s a difficult situation we are in, as riders want to show the fruits of their labour to the ones that hook them up, but in the digital age it is all too easy for those shots to then get passed down the line and published, reproduced or used without the photog’s permission. I can imagine lots of companies think they do have permission to use the shot, via the rider, but really, they should know better; professional photographers deserve reward for their work.

How would you feel if I came unannounced into your shop, took a snowboard from the shelf and walked out the door without paying? That’s how I feel about my photos getting used without my permission, and really the dollar value of a snowboard cost for shop vs a photo ‘single-use’ payment is about the same.

Ultimately a couple of photos on a team page on Facebook is not a huge deal, but honestly, I’m sick of seeing photogs get ripped off in the Oz Snowboard industry, so I’m starting to take a harder-line and not letting anyone, even friends, publish my shots without some sort of deal upfront. I hope you can understand my point of view on this?

I’m more than happy to discuss any of these issues with you further if you would like. And thank you for taking the two shots down.




Boardstore 04 January at 12:49

Mate you’ve never been into Boardstore once if you have you’ve never introduced yourself so how are we supposed to work out a deal , you’ve never even written to us or made any effort in contacting us to make a deal . Its a massive difference in just walking into a store and stealing a board that’s called theft eh, we asked the riders for photos we could use they gave them to us therefore we used them its as simple as that – again you need to have a better relationship with who you shoot.
The photos will be down by this afternoon and I will be telling our whole team not to shoot with you again. It works both ways, do you pay the rider you are shooting ? They are the ones putting themselves at risk so you can get the shot which makes you & only you get paid – kinda selfish eh.. You should be paying them not just giving them a copy of the shot, what good is that if they cant use it. We pay our riders to do the job they are doing you don’t pay them anything until you do you cant tell them what & what not to do with their images that copy of the shot is their income .. In the end without them your doing wedding photos.


Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 04 January at 14:59


Yeah, I’ve never actually been to Boardstore, but have always wanted to check out what your shop is like as I’ve heard good things about it. And I’m glad to hear that you also pay your team riders.

Look, the “XX” photo was water under the bridge – I had written off the loss of reward a couple of years ago, but really it probably would have been best if I chased it up in some manner back when it happened.

And as I said- a couple of photos up on FB is not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but I still don’t want them used without my authorisation. Other photographers might be happy to have their photos all over the web, but I don’t. It came to my attention, and we dealt with it. I’m just trying to protect my interests, and the product of my labour.

And I do agree – theft is theft…and there’s a little thing called Copyright Law and the Copyright Act 1968 which gives photographers complete control and ownership of when and how their photos are reproduced, copied or used from as soon as they have pressed the shutter on their camera. I give my photos to riders as a personal favour only for their portfolios.

I’ve worked with many of your team riders over the years, and had a good shooting relationship with them. You can tell them whatever you like, hopefully they can make their own minds up about who they need to be working with in the media in order to help promote your shop and themselves. I guess there are lots of wedding photographers who have had snowboard photos and articles published internationally for them to choose from…




Boardstore 04 January at 15:23

No probs lets just leave it at that then, I wont tell my riders anything, you just need to follow up on the deals you make . We were under the impression that “XX” gave you a board & bindings plus some cash as weve never met you or had any contact details for you ever. Weve done deals with alot of photographers before with never any problems.
Put it down to miscommunication then.


Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 04 January at 15:35

Yep – no worries.




So my advice for all other up-and-coming photographers:

  1. Stick with your friends. When you find some people you like working with, and that you can trust, try and work with them as much as you can. It just makes life easier, and the work more enjoyable.
  2. Don’t ever give a photo away for free to a company or business. Not only do you cheapen your work by giving it away for free, businesses will begin to expect to get things for free and baulk at paying for photos from other experienced and professional photogs.
  3. Stick to your guns on price/payment. Always have a bottom line that will keep you happy – that may be just a pair of gloves, or a snowboard jacket, or it may be $50…or $43,000. Whatever. The times when I have agreed to a sale of a photo for a price below what I really wanted (just to see the photo blown up big, or to help a rider out) I have always regretted it later. Now I prefer a photo not to get used if I am not happy with the price I have in my mind. It sucks for the rider that put so much effort into getting the shot…and it sucks for me too. But sticking to my guns has made me feel better about it in the long run, and has let me get paid what I want most of the time too.
  4. Always get something in writing regarding the use, and hopefully payment, of your photo. In the past I hadn’t done this enough, naively relying on goodwill and trust, and have been burned too many times as a result. So at a minimum, send the company rep an email confirming the agreement to use the photo, include the agreed payment, and explain their “rights” to use the photo under the licence you have given them. If you can, try and get some sort of contract, but this almost never seems to happen in snowboarding.
  5. Inform the riders of your rights. Make sure all the riders (and company reps, team managers and marketing managers) you send previews of your photos are aware they are not to be published commercially, and not to be put up on Facebook etc if you are hoping to get those brand new shots published by a magazine in the future.
  6. Include some sort of watermark and/or copyright into the photo “preview”…and only email low res versions that can’t be blown up big for a poster, until you have come to an agreement.
  7. And finally, beware the perils of iPhones and Blackberries…and trying to combine work with late-night drinking sessions:


From: “Alex”
Sent: Saturday, 28 November 2009 2:34:10 AM
To: Sean Radich

Hey Sean,

Well hello hello hello… how are you? And more to the point where are you in the world?

We are finalising the 2010 brochure with the last round of changes and after only two days off going to print you have seen the Olympic DPS which aims to highlight those athlese that call “YY” home and this will be a great spread.

THE afore mentioned offer os abot athletes and more so, the single image which align to current market trends and stainless good brands.  




If you can’t even see the tiny phone keys enough in the dark to write “Thanks” and your name correctly (which of course, wasn’t “Alex”), you might want to save your work emails for Monday morning…not 2.30am on a Saturday…And what the hell is “stainless good brands”?


Behind the Scenes of Snowboarder Issue 2…


Issue 2 of Australian-New Zealand Snowboarder has been out for a couple of weeks now, and it was a productive issue for me, including another double-page-spread advertisement for Destyn Via. This time the photo was of Cohen Davies taken on the June Mountain stair rail. Here’s the original shot, which you can see has been cropped a bit, I guess to enlarge Cohen and his DV gear.

It was great that Linton from DV was willing to negotiate to purchase another photo, instead of just re-running the Darragh photo – not only did it give Cohen a big exposure boost, but it advertises some other “colourways” of the gear and shows the breadth of their team…and it was nice to see they spelt my name correctly this time! Check out my previous entry here and Olliepop Films’ video of our trip here.

On that same June Mountain trip two photos I took of Darragh made it into his 7 page interview that I conducted with him. The above shot is a slightly alternate angle of his June rail switch frontside boardslide, but the one published had better style. While discussing the upcoming interview with Darragh and living with him and his constant lolly munching, we came up with the idea to highlight this unusual habit in the text, and top it off with a themed portrait shot.

One rainy night at the end of our season we drove all around trying to find a candy vending machine, and finally spotted one out the back of the Tahoe Inn next to the Tahoe Biltmore Casino in Stateline. We snuck in and set up the shot…and of course got hassled by a few curious residents, but fortunately weren’t stopped by any rent-a-cops.  It’s a shame there’s some shadow across Darragh caused by his arm and hair, but with only about 5 minutes to set up the scene and lighting and shoot a few frames before we felt we would be boosted, we didn’t have time to check every frame. But we did manage to capture the feel for the shot that we wanted, and I liked how the magazine designer ran with our theme and gave the article some candy-cane flair.

I also thought my 8 page interview with Courtney Phillipson and Jess Rich looked good and came together as a good light-hearted read. As I mentioned in my previous post about shooting the girls in Tahoe, as a visual theme for the article I had envisaged it to be all about mirror images, reflections, and like I said in the intro: “Brunette vs blonde, goofy vs regular, experienced pro-rider vs pro-ranks rookie, measured confidence vs all-out fearlessness.”

I had planned to shoot as many features as possible from opposing angles, as I had a photo layout in mind. I even sent through some Photoshopped arrangments of the photos side-by-side, which I was pleased to see the magazine designer applied when putting the pages together. I think it really captures the mirror-image action theme I was going for…however, they failed to follow my suggestion for a slightly saucy/creepy/arty reflection-in-a-mirror portrait shot.

Perhaps the artisitc references for my unusual portrait shot would have been lost on the Aust-NZ Snowboarder reading public? Diego Velazquez’s 17th century painting Las Meninas is the original famous artwork to place the artist eerily within the frame, along with intriguing dark figures and mirror reflections, giving the artwork an overall feeling of unease.

More recently, the revolutionary Aussie-German fashion photographer icon, Helmut Newton, often used mirrors in his work, placing his reflection in the frame as a sort of creepy voyeur in a trench coat, or all in black like here in a hotel room with his wife Alice Springs. This was my true photographic inspiration, and it was fun to try and recreate this sort of image with Jess and CP, and I made reference to the unusual photo shoot in the interview in the hope the shot would make it into the mag. But alas, Evil Editor decided that Snowboarder was not a proper place for some art history education.

But I’m not the only one who has been inspired by Newton and his use of mirrors – TopShop in the UK even set up a “Newton Machine” photo booth to recreate his self-timer and model-in-the-mirror shoots. Check it out here.

A couple of my Vancouver 2010 Olympics photos of Torah Bright made the issue, but I believe the bulk of the action shots will run some time on the magazine website.

But the biggest thrill for me in this issue was my quarter-page self-portrait pow slash from Northstar that ran on page 17! I think this is the second action shot I have featured in among the pages of Snowboarder over the years. Dragon get good exposure with their goggles in this shot, but unfortunately for Nitro, I had split the nose of my board out at Donner the previous day and was riding an old loan board while my Nitro “Team” 159 was being repaired. But maybe I should still try to claim a photo incentive payment from Dragon?

For this shot I was inspired by a couple of Frode Sandbech point-of-view covers I had seen overseas, and I played around a few times with my 15mm fisheye and motor-drive as I followed the girls down through the park while shooting them for their interview. Clearly I’m not the only one who had noticed Frode’s shots – take a look at the cover of issue 2 of Snowboarder if you haven’t seen it on the shelves. This shot from a previous blog entry was another POV experimentation from the same session.

I was able to thank Evil Editor, Ryan Willmott, in person for putting me in his magazine, as he came up to the Gold Coast for a week to finish off issue 3 in the Burleigh Heads HQ of the publishers Morrison Media. He was pretty stoked to show me his new free ride, a stickered-up Toyota Rav 4. It was cool to check out a bit of the behind the scenes of magazine publishing, and get a preview of issue 3, which has our Los Angeles trip in a big, colourful feature article…and also pick up a few free mags. Look out for that issue on the shelves very soon…and take a look at some shots below from my visit to Morrison’s head office.

Get your Surf Shots for Free!

Back in the wintry folds of a cold and cloudy Melbourne it’s easy to reminisce about warmer times, and warmer waters…and so here’s a look back a few months to January when I went out one day to take some surf photos at Duranbah on the Gold Coast. The Jim Beam Surf Tag Queensland trials were on – a novel event where the little local boardrider clubs battled out in hour-long heats to find the overall state winner. Each team could have 5 surfers compete within the hour heat, out alongside 3 other teams, but only one team-member could be in the water at any one time. The surfer would score on 2 waves and then run up the beach to “tag” the next team member who would enter the water to get two more wave scores, and so on, for a combined overall score.

But it wasn’t this unique comp format that had me intrigued, but the fact that the newly crowned World Champion, Mick Fanning, would be competing for his old Kirra Boardriders against World Number 2 Joel Parkinson and his Snapper Rocks Team…not to mention ASP top-tenner, Dingo Morrison, and former champ, Occy, also competing for bragging rights round the bar of the Coolangatta Sands Hotel.

I had never really tried taking any surf photos before, but I thought this might be a good chance to watch the best in the business and see how I would go. I was just using my regular 70-200mm 2.8L lens which was a little under-powered in the zoom department (I wish I had the gear I would be using  just a few weeks later in Vancouver) . So while some pro looking photo dude with bikini girls hanging off his arm was comfortably high up on the sand, I had to wade out knee-deep into the water and then crop the final shots. But overall I was pretty happy with the shots, despite the ordinary waves. Shooting surf photography from the beach is not all that difficult I discovered, except for getting sharp focus (either on auto or manual) in lumpy, choppy waves that disrupt the foreground. And when there is a lull in the action out in the surf, there’s always something to look at on the sand. But it was awesome just being able to see the enormous slashes Mick could throw in small surf, and to see how he interacted like a true champion with all the grommets and fans on the beach. (And over the following months I’ve managed to be out surfing alongside Mick and Parko and seen their wave artistry up even closer). And watching all the action, I was struck by the pure aesthetic beauty of a good bottom turn.

I had met another Gold Coast-based surf photog, Simon Muirhead, a few days previously (see his shots from that day here) – he has a fair bit of stuff published on Swellnet and Coastalwatch – and from what he said, surf photography is even more competitive and under-valued than snowboard photography. I guess it is one of those things where the surf lifestyle is even more appealing than the snowboarding one, and there will always be someone out there willing to take surf photos for free, or a couple of logo t-shirts.

So I was a little surprised to hear from The Sunshine Coast Daily a couple of days later wanting to use one of my photos in their paper. Sticking to my business philosophy of no longer ever giving away a photo for free (which I’ve only done once in four years, and which came back to bite me in the arse recently…but that’s a story for another time) I tried to negotiate hard, even though the paper said they had no budget. I assumed it was some little weekly local rag, like the Moonee Valley Leader, and so was even willing to accept a nominal 50 bucks, equivalent to a web shot payment. But when the paper rep was about to hang up the phone and not run the shot, I relented to its free publication, thinking that at least I’ll have one published surf photo out there.

I was fairly happy just to hear that someone liked my shots…but was a little miffed when I discovered that in fact the Sunshine Coast Daily is in fact a major daily newspaper, much like the Geelong Advertiser or Gold Coast Bulletin. And to make matters worse, my shot was run on the back page as a thumbnail as well as quarter-page in the sport section, and on the website! Take a look at the pages, and check out the article and photo on the website here. Surely they could spring a budget to pay for the shots – it’s a legitimate journalistic story, not some local-scene colour piece like I thought it was going to be.

Oh well, at least it solidifies my resolve to never, ever give away a photo for free again…and at least now I can call myself a bona fide surf photographer!

So take a look at the shots I took that day.

Online Exposure

Nitro and Destyn Via’s Darragh Walsh has been getting some good exposure so far this season, most lately with a “Day in the Life of…” on Transfer Magazine’s website. The attached photos are ones are just a few that we took one sunny Spring day up at Northstar. Take a look at the web entry here and make sure you check out the video, which is pretty cool for a fun web edit, put together by fellow Sawmill Heights resident, Corey Turner. Too bad Transfer spelt my surname incorrectly…again!

This “Day in the Life of Darragh” was ear marked back in early March, and so I was happy to sacrifice a valuable day of riding when I knew the photos would make it online…and more so as I knew Transfer Magazine normally pay for photos used on their website. For a rider, getting exposure online is a great and simple way to maximise their “name”, brand and sponsors’ support, which in turn should hopefully lead to more (potentially financial) support from sponsors. It seems like everyone’s getting on the blog bandwagon, from Robbie Walker, Ryan Tiene…and even snowboard photographers, as a simple way to get some exposure on the world-wide-web.

But for photographers, videographers, and writers (“journalists” sounds too serious for snowboarding) there is very little future financial pay-off for online exposure, unless a site is willing to pay directly for content. This relates partly back to my previous entry about the value of a photo: because snowboarding (and the like) is such a fun lifestyle, there’s always someone willing to give away their hard-worked digital content for free – they are just stoked to see their creation online. This sort of mentality has helped what is known as the “crapification of everything”, including online publishing, whereby the level of visual content seen on websites (from writing, photos and video) is at a much lower level than you would see in print at the newsagent or on your TV. As Robert Capps says in his original article “The Good Enough Revolution”, with the increased use of new technology, rather than focus on the quality of a product or service:

 “Instead, we’re now focused on three things: ease of use, continuous availability, and low price…We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect.”

With snowboarding websites, we want to see news and content immediately  when it starts to provide news too slowly it starts to become irrelevant, we could instead buy a paper or pick up a magazine. So I think we are all willing to trade off a bit of online quality for immediacy and importantly, without having to pay for it.

So for this reason, I applaud websites, like Transfer, that are willing to help out seasoned photographers when publishing their content, as hopefully it raises the quality level of content on the web when there is a financial reward. Of course, we all have to start somewhere, and an online magazine is the logical place (outside a blog) to get some recognition. And there’s nothing wrong with volunteering your work to get it online for free when you are starting out, as honestly, it probably isn’t worth being paid for. I guess it’s like work experience. But at some point as you’re career chugs along, you have to take a stand and demand being paid (in one form or another) for your work.

All this made me think back about some of my work that has been published online, some of which I received payment for, and sometimes not.

This is the first snowboarding article I ever had published online, for just about the oldest-running snowboard website in the world, operating since 1996. I wrote the competition report when I was completing my Articles of Clerkship on the way to becoming a solicitor back in 2003. Of course I didn’t get any payment for this, but when it turned up in print in Australian Snowboarder Magazine in May 2004 I did…and I was hooked! It came out right before I flew off to a German Alps Spring snowboard camp, Gap Camp, where I met lots of pro riders and photogs, and it helped kickstart my desire not to return to law and instead see where a life in snowboarding might lead. I went on to contribute lots of items for BTW over the years, and Bear and Mouse were great to me, and publishing on Boardtheworld helped give me confidence in my work, an idea of how to write and operate more professionally, and it opened lots of doors for me in the snowboard industry.

Read “BTW Riders Dominate Mtn Dew Shredfest” here.

After my first season at Falls Creek in 2004, Australia’s most popular snow website,, offered me the dream position of On-Mountain Representative at Falls for 2005 after I had piqued their interest with some articles I had sent them. I knew it was too good to be true: I basically got paid to snowboard every day, check the conditions, take a photo and write a report for that day, as well as liaise with advertisers, the resort and other parties…oh, and I got paid more each week than I was earning as a lawyer! The dream job couldn’t last after that season, but it gave me the unrealistic hope that more lucrative snow industry job offers would just appear from the ether. I’m still waiting.

It was hard to find any of my old blog entries or articles, but here is another competition report I put up on the site.

Transworld Snowboarding – 2008 Burton Australian Open:

With some persistent hassling I finally made in-roads at the biggest snowboard magazine in the world, Transworld. The Burton Australian Open was on again at Perisher (for the last time we were to discover unfortunately 10 months later) and Transworld wanted some gallery shots for their website,, to go along with the Burton press release and handful of shots by Dan Himbrechts. I think they paid me US$200 for each gallery, slopestyle and halfpipe, which I was happy with for a couple of days work – photos that I would have taken anyway. And fortunately, a couple of the photos also made it into the print magazine during the upcoming Northern Winter. Stoked!

See the halfpipe report here. (The gallery on the slopestyle page has disappeared unfortunately, but above is a photo of winner Torstein Horgmo, which also made it into print.)

Transworld Snowboarding- Oz Regional Report:

This was something I had been thinking about and proposing to the editors of Transworld for a couple of years, so I was really excited when they told me they wanted a regional report in the magazine. I went to all the main Aussie resorts in 2008 to get some Transworld-worthy photos (well, for a Regional Report anyway), but I don’t think many riders actually believed me when I said I was working on a project for Transworld. A shortened article made it into the last issue of Transworld for 2009, giving some lesser-known Aussie riders some epic international exposure, and I was even featured with a headshot as a contributor in the contents page. I sure felt like I had finally made it, getting some international industry recognition, and even better – I was paid for the print version, as well as for the online post.

Take a look at Transworld’s guide to snowboarding in Australia here.

And if you want to see what content of yours might have been put online without your knowledge, it’s always interesting to google yourself…that’s another problem with online content – but I’ll get into that some other time.

UPDATE: Speaking of googling yourself…I just came upon a lo res layout version of the double-page-spread I had in ESPN: The Magazine for their January 2008 Winter X Games issue. This magazine is similar to Sports Illustrated in the USA, althought perhaps not quite as prestigious, and so I was pretty excited to get a DPS…especially when they paid US$1000 for it too! The Senior Editor of the magazine has some of her work available for download. Take a look here.

Is a photo worth 1000 words…or just $43,000?

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words, but in this case is a $43,000 picture worth a 1000 new Navy recuits? The Herald Sun had an article about a new recruiting campaign photo commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy using up to 100 sailors in the shape of a warship. And this is costing you, the taxpayer, $43,000 for the photographer’s services, another $11,000 for the accompanying behind-the-scenes video, and there would be unspecified expenses for updating the website, not to mention the $20,000 or so to pay for the sailors 2 days of wages that the shoot occupied.

Here’s the article, and the video and website.

I actually think it’s a novel campaign and a pretty cool photo. But what I found most interesting is that we get to find out how much the “top fashion and advertising photographer” Andreas Smetana charges for a shoot. I wish snowboard photographers made 40 grand a shoot!

But really, why don’t we? Obviously market forces come into play, and the Australian Government has millions to spend on Defence Force recruiting. But from a technical point of view, snowboard photographers work probably harder than anyone else in the world to get a shot. Yep, big call, but think about it. To get a photo to be used in a snowboard ad, we have to fly to either North America or Europe (Aussie photos don’t really cut it anymore, plus the new gear isn’t ready the previous Aussie season), get to a location (either deep in the backcountry via sled, or hike, or some sketchy urban location in the middle of the night, dodging potential trespassing convictions), set up lighting, compose the scene, get the shot (which you might just get one attempt at before the landing is bombed), check that the rider’s style is acceptable and that the gear is visible, then photoshop the end result if needed (for colour correction or dust on the camera sensor). 

Take for example this shot I took of Darragh Walsh, which was bought by Destyn Via for their advertising campaign. We had shot on this chimney feature already, and showed Destyn Via a preview, but partly because Darragh had forgotten to wear his jacket, we had to go back and shoot it (and also so that I could try to get the dark glow of dusk sky to show the distant trees, instead of a big bob of black in the original). As Destyn Via wanted us to reshoot the image to be expressly used in an advertising campaign, it’s not alot different to a commercial photographer’s assignment…except in what we get paid.

By comparison, Smetana has come up with the unique concept, probably hired the cool white warhouse (or perhaps it is a Defence Force loaner?), executed the shots and Photoshopped the end result. And as far as I can gather, fashion photogs organise the whole shoot, paying for models, makeup artists, assistants and have to get to the location (usually some overseas exotic beach), and they charge an all-encompassing fee to proved Armani (or whoever) a series of finished photos. I wish I knew how much they charged! (Check my previous post about Terry Richardson and his Pirelli 2010 Calendar shoot to get an idea of how it works in fashion).

Unfortunately, in Australia, the market rate for a 12 month unlimited licence for a photo to be used in snowboarding advertising, posters, point-of-sale etc seems to be in the range ot $1000 to $1500. And it’s about half that if the image is bought for just a “once off” use. The situation is even more dire with magazines, who pay $130 for a full page shot! Yep, think of how few shots actually get run full page, and you can start to imagine the level of work you all have to undertake (photog and rider) to get a shot worthy of full, or double-page-spread. And it’s not much better overseas. I was sent the payment rates for Transworld Snowboarding a couple of years ago: Cover – US$900, Double page spread – $250, Full page – $200, and a sequence – 1.5x the listed (size) rate. And of course, you get proportionally less if the shots are smaller than full page.

So if you are an up-and-coming snow photographer, and you’ve sold a photo to a company for less than $1000 you are undervaluing yourself. But worse, you are also undervaluing the whole photographic industry – companies will expect that they can pay a couple hundred bucks for a photo, plus some free gear- you might be stoked to see you shot in print or on a poster, but by underselling yourself you are costing the rest of us who want to do this as a real career and charge higher prices accordingly.

While I inderstand that companies like Destyn Via can’t afford to pay $43,000 for a photo (but Billabong probably could), I’d like to see all the rates (for both private advertising sales and magazine publication) be at least double. Then maybe more photographers could justify the travelling expenses for a season overseas again. This year unfortunately I was just about the only Australian snowboard photographer who spent any length of time overseas to take photos of riders. As far as I can gather, it just got too expensive without the right level of financial return for all the other core photogs. And when companies can fork out $2 G’s  for a piece of paper (ie just a bit of blank space in a magazine to put their logo and photo – it costs on average around $2000 for a advertising spot in a snowboard mag), they should be able to pay more to the guys (and girls) that actually go out and get the shots for them: the rider who risks injury just to wear/use their gear, and the photog who gives them a commercial-grade advertising photo.

I guess all the Aussie snow companies will cry poor (we’re such a small industry, last year was so bad for us, blah blah blah) – but until things start to change, the quality of ads and photos in print will drop away as photographers stop bothering to travel and make the effort to get shots.

Please drop some comments if you have anything to say on this topic. Oh, in case you haven’t seen it yet – here’s the finished advertisement for DV. It came out pretty cool, I reckon.