Clarification: This blog was intended toward one offending party that I contacted directly about it. It was not meant as an act of passive aggression – so if you didn’t hear from me and have some of my photos up, by all means, keep them up. I rectified the matter with the one particular band, and it’s all cool between us. I just thought I’d air out my thoughts on the matter, so that there is no further confusion. The gist of it is just give credit where credit is due.
In the few months that I have been doing this concert photography thing, I have come across a great number of people that have been extremely helpful, and a great number of bands that have been extremely appreciative of the work I’ve done for them. I don’t mean to belittle these folks with the following rant, as it only applies to a very small number of people. What I’m about to say should be obvious – I feel poorly that I even have to spell it out – but unfortunately some folks have alerted me to the fact that it apparently is necessary.
I take photos of bands because I enjoy doing it. I enjoy the music, and I enjoy the photography aspect of it. I spend a lot of time at my job, which doesn’t leave much time for one hobby, let alone two, so I’m glad that I can “multitask” my hobbies by taking photos of bands.
I also take photos of bands because I see it as doing my own small part to support the local music scene. In this age of the internet and Myspace, it is absolutely imperative for bands to look professional as well as sound professional. This includes having professional-looking photos up on their website – photos that you just can’t get with any old point-and-shoot camera, or even with an SLR camera if you don’t have the proper experience.
Usually I am happy to give a few of the photos I take to a band in exchange for only photo credit in the caption, so that if other people like my work and want to get in touch with me, they know how to. This is especially true if I take photos at a venue with not-so-great lighting or if the band had no idea I was going to be there.
Occasionally, though, I will charge a band for photos. This is usually the case when a band specifically requests that I take the photos, but on occasion I have taken photos of a band at a decent venue and gotten enough good shots that I felt justified to ask for money for the photos. And in all these cases, the bands have been happy to comply.
I understand that most local bands have little money. I sympathize, because I too am somewhat lacking in the funding department. I’m a graduate student. I’m lucky enough to be in a field where graduate students are awarded a stipend, but at $26,000 a year (before taxes), it’s not much, especially considering I work long hours (10+ on any given day). But I work cheap, when I do charge.
I wish I could do what I do for free. I wish I had enough money to afford my equipment and not have to pass the cost onto the bands. But that simply isn’t the case. Camera equipment is expensive ($300 and upwards for each lens), and it’s simply not a hobby I can pour money into from other sources. It has to be somewhat self-sustaining for me to continue doing it.
The point of this rant, I suppose, is to ask people to be considerate enough to at least give out photo credit when using photos on your website that someone else took. This goes for all photos. It’s a common courtesy. I wouldn’t post an mp3 of a band on my site and not identify whose song it was. Give credit where credit is due. If someone put time, money, and effort into producing something you enjoy/appreciate, don’t be a dick by just taking it as your own. At least ask first.
PS – I’m changinng my Flickr settings so that people can’t download my photos off the site. I know this makes things inconvenient for bands that do ask to use my photos, but from now on, just send me a real, non-myspace email address and I will happily email you the files. I’m sorry it has to be this way, but I have to protect my shit somehow.