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Should You Let the Million Dollar Listing TV Show Use Your Images for Free?

October 14th, 2018

Cameron in California asks:

I’ve been contacted by the production company for Million Dollar Listing (World of Wonder Productions). They want permission to use my still photos of a listing on the show. Of course, the release they attached asks me to give them a free perpetual license. Have you heard of any photographers getting paid for the use of their images on the show?

My reaction is why would you let them use your images for free? They are making money off the TV show. Charge them for use! Andy Hutchinson just had a recent article over at Petapixel.com. His argument is that when professionals give their photos away, they diminish other photographers’ work.

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11 Responses to “Should You Let the Million Dollar Listing TV Show Use Your Images for Free?”

  • Congratulations for having a big client love your photos enough to use them on a national TV show. Wow!

    I don’t know what the rate is for using photos like this is, but there is no way they’re gonna get them for free (if it was me!) My guess is a minimum of four figures.

  • Cameron,

    You bet you should be paid!

    I’ve licensed images to TV shows in the past and have gotten paid quite well, ranging from $600-$1400 an image.

  • Cameron, get paid AND get a credit. I’d strike out a perpetual license but give them permission to use the images in that one episode and trailers/teasers for the episode and use on their web page when the images are used in conjunction with that episode. Consider pricing according to how many images they’d like to use and don’t be shy to charge what George is suggesting. A few grand is not likely to be an issue and it may be less than what it could cost them with a full crew on hand to create footage in place of the time your images would be shown. They could hire another photographer to make images, but that means more time and they already know that they like your images. You also want to impress them enough as a business person that you have the chance to get your foot in the door to photograph other properties they are doing a show on. In the mean time, consider the sale as a one off and don’t get lulled into charging less with “maybe we’ll use you on other stuff” vague statements. Counter with, “If you were to bring me in on the next one, I could do it for $X,XXX” with the price lower but still substantially more than your normal rates (the usage is more valuable).

    I think it’s one of the NCIS shows or one similar where they have a full time photographer that just makes the photos that they use as props on the show. I remember an article on him. He isn’t working for free and TV/Movie rates are very nice which is why it’s dang hard to get work without being a legacy of somebody already doing it/in the union.

    Good luck.

  • Cameron, if you haven’t already, register your Copyright for those images. You want to protect yourself and you look good if you can reference an official registration number.

  • Of course you are screwing everyone over when you give your stuff away for free. This is why we never see airlines, for example, giving away free flights etc, because it would be stupid to do that.

    Giving stuff away for free hurts everyone. It even hurts the consumer. If you don’t believe me, think about going to Disneyland on a day where tickets are free. Sounds great, but in the end, the consumer suffers, Disneyland suffers, and so do Disneyland’s competitors!

    Big hints are going out to all photographers who give away things for free. And I probably do it too so I am certainly not immune, but just pointing out we all need to try and stop.

  • Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment, one other question comes to mind. Assuming you get a photo cred, what value does that have to your business? Can you use their name, “Million Dollar Listing” in your own advertising? It seems that would have some real value, unless they ask you to pay for use of their name, which seems unlikely as they probably enjoy free advertising that brings people to view their product… So I would suggest mmmaybe you’re not giving it away for free, you’re bartering for some darn good advertising that you’ll use for years to come.

  • Great job, Cameron. As others have mentioned, register your copyright immediately. It’s cumbersome but worth it. Yes, absolutely charge your worth for that license. Perpetuity come at a higher rate, as others have stated. George’s range is a good one to use. Your images are oftentimes MORE valuable to 3rd parties than the original client.

  • Without question, they SHOULD PAY!
    After all, it’s not like they can’t afford it! They budget for stuff like this, but obviously any money they save is better for them (not so much for you)
    Kudos for them even wanting to use them!

  • Yes, get paid a fair licensing fee for the use. Research it like any other stock image licensing (not RF crap) Blinkbid, Getty, Corbis, Photoshelter. George’s numbers are a great starting point. Another thing; credit and bylines are standard for usage in the real world (like this ) and should not be a point of bartering ever. You get paid and you get credit. No reason to compromise the fundamentals of a successful photography business to have your name in lights for a minute. Especially these days when you can publish yourself in a variety of ways. You can’t pay a mortgage with a byline.

    Production companies have a budget and a deadline for these things. Get paid and good luck.

  • I’d charge them. Not sure about the price, but not free definitely. It’s unlikely the “exposure” is of any value rather than bragging rights.

  • Early on when the show was first starting World Of Wonder reached out to us because we did the photography for Josh Flagg. The best they offered was photo credit on Bravo’s website. At the time it was worth it for us to bring exposure to our brand and keep the relationship with the client going since we saw the team regularly on photo shoots. If I had no connection to the show or agent then I would have asked for a licensing fee.

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