Can I Get a Copy of That?

As I go about my job as a photographer, I am often asked by the people I am photographing if they can “get a copy” of the photograph. When I tell them they can purchase anything I shoot for the newspaper at our SmugMug site, they sometimes seem a little disappointed, as though the images I make should be free for some reason. Others excitedly tell me they will purchase the image, but only a fraction of them follow through.

I dusted off my wonderful 1985-era 400mm f/3.5 Nikkor ED-IF supertelephoto lens yesterday cover a college football game in Durant. I wanted a picture of me using it, so I handed my phone to my friend Meredith and asked her to shoot this. It was the one way I could be certain I would have the image.
I dusted off my wonderful 1985-era 400mm f/3.5 Nikkor ED-IF supertelephoto lens yesterday cover a college football game in Durant. I wanted a picture of me using it, so I handed my phone to my friend Meredith and asked her to shoot this. It was the one way I could be certain I would have the image.

I have often noticed that the reverse is true: if someone makes an image of me and I asked them email it or bring it to me, even if I offer to pay for it, and even if I give them my card with my email address on it, I almost never see it. In fact, I make a point, if I want to possess a picture of myself, of having someone make it with one of my cameras. Even photographers with whom I have travelled …Robert, Jim, Greg… have been reluctant to share images they have of me.

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this, except to say that if I tell someone I will email a photo, I will email that photo.

I expect social media has something to do with it. People think that if they put something on their Facebook wall, somehow between the conspiracy memes and the deep fried cheesecake recipes, we’ll be able to find the photos we want, even though they will be too small and subject to Facebook’s brutal compression algorithms. Or maybe it’s just that most people are so poorly organized that they can’t weed through their tens of thousands of redundant images to send you that one photo you requested.

Forgive me if I sound a bit cynical, but it’s true. “Sure, I’d be glad to sent it!” really means you will never hear from them again.

I made this image yesterday with my 30-year-old manual focus 400mm f/3.5 Nikkor ED-IF. Another photographer asked me about it and could hardly believe what I told him, that it remains one of the sharpest, most powerful tools in my photographic toolbox, as you can see. (Click it to view it bigger.) For you technophiles, this image was made in aperture priority mode at f/3.5 ("wide open"), at ISO 200 with the shutter speed falling at about 1/1500th of a second; the player is near midfield, and I shot it from the south end zone, and, of course, it was focused manually.
I made this image yesterday with my 30-year-old manual focus 400mm f/3.5 Nikkor ED-IF. Another photographer asked me about it and could hardly believe what I told him, that it remains one of the sharpest, most powerful tools in my photographic toolbox, as you can see. (Click it to view it bigger.) For you technophiles, this image was made in aperture priority mode at f/3.5 (“wide open”), at ISO 200 with the shutter speed falling at about 1/1500th of a second; the player is near midfield, and I shot it from the south end zone, and, of course, it was focused manually.
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4 Comments

  1. If I make a photo of you, I’ll be glad to send you a copy. 🙂

    (And, for other readers, Richard knows I already have.)

    But yes, when I was photographing for work, I experienced the same conversations you’re talking about. When I mentioned buying them on SmugMug, one lady visited the site, made a screengrab, blew it up, had it printed at Walmart, and had the nerve to show it to me later…

    I think because most people have cameras now, they don’t think of photography as something a person should be paid to do. Kind of like if they bought a wrench and then asked mechanics to work on their cars for free.

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  2. That might be the clearest, sharpest, most “in-focus” football action shot I’ve ever seen. The “biggened” image is amazing.

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  3. I’ve had the same problems with fixing people’s computers since the early 80’s. While I spent hundreds of dollars on books and hundreds more hours learning how they worked people didn’t think I should be compensated for spending hours fixing their problem. In probably the worst case, I spent two days working on a local business owners computer in the evenings, probably 10-12 hours worth of time. Once fixed he assured me if “I ever needed anything” to call him.

    About a month later I need something looked at on my car. He took 15 minutes to test something, tell me what was wrong, and write me a bill for $40. He took the time to explain to me that since this was “his business” he had to charge me for the time whereas my time wasn’t really a business and, therefore, wasn’t deserving of compensation.

    He’s out of business now.

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