Dear Appy: Should We Trade Images for Access?

Dear Appy: Should We Trade Images for Access?

Ask APALMANAC Business

An APA reader asks: I was hired by a development company to photograph a handful of specific angles of a project that is completed. The images were delivered to the original developer client, and they are happy with them. I’ve already been paid for the job and figured it had been put to rest with everyone involved being happy.

A few weeks ago, the interior designer of the same project contacted me to see if I could shoot the same space for them, but as they also have a specific shot list, they’d need different images. I contacted my original client to ask for access and their ‘okay’ to photograph the building’s interior for the interior designer. The original client is allowing me to photograph the project under the condition that I sign a contract stating that I will send them the complete set of new photographs that I made for the interior designer, too. I can only assume that the client wants them for free and thinks he’s doing me a favor to let me in (which he is, but is it really worth giving them ALL the images in return?!) How would you suggest I diffuse this?

This is a great question. Unfortunately, there is no end-all-be-all answer. In my mind, there are 4 different scenarios that our reader will have to choose from:


1. It may seem like the easiest “answer” is to ignore the whole licensing thing and just give the pictures to the original client, that way, everyone is happy — but not exactly. You shouldn’t be happy about this outcome at all. This route is not a good choice for your business. Yes, giving away the images would help you and your new client out with the access, however, it’s by no means a fair trade. While this outcome helps out the designer, and really benefits your original client, you end up losing out on licensing money, and in a way, cheapening your own work. The only situation where I would say yes to a question like this is if this was one of my long-term clients who I work with on many projects each year and have a great relationship with. On the flip side though, a long-term client would appreciate your work much more than to make an awkward demand like this.

2. Your second option is to send the original client a set of proofs they can choose from, along with the prices for licensing them. While this would be the most beneficial to you, it’s not what the client asked for. You jeopardize gaining access for the designer, and may leave a bad taste in the mouth of the developer.

3. Your third option — the one that I would personally choose — is to offer the original client a couple (2-3) of images of their choice from the new shoot in exchange for letting you and the designer in. If they decided that they want more of the images, they have the opportunity to buy them. This way, you show them that they are important to you, but emphasizes that your work has value.

4. Your last option is a hands-off approach. To keep you out of the (already) awkward situation, you could turn things over to the interior designer and have them figure out how to get access to the project. The ball is in their court, although, I assume he/she will be asked to make the same deal in return.

This is a situation you will run into from time to time, especially if you want to help your newer client gain access through your contacts. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to these situations, but make sure you strive for an agreement that makes everyone feel like they’ve got something, while not letting your work be devalued either. In the future, if you know that multiple parties may be interested in photographs of the project, you could suggest a cost-sharing agreement beforehand. Cost-sharing is a truly great way to make sure everybody wins!

About György Palkó
Hello! I'm György (or George) an architectural and interiors photographer based in Hungary, father of a beautiful little girl and a happy husband.
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