How much does a photographer make for photos of its products? The simple answer is that the company can’t say. The complicated answer, however, is that companies use photos in different ways. Some use them just for advertising, and others for promotions and promotions. If you are in the latter camp and are the subject of one of Shutterstock’s advertisements, beware. But if you are not, and have not bought something yet, then please understand that you will be getting something for a short time.
We asked two photographers how they get paid—they declined to make their names public—and neither spoke with me about the actual process. However, they both said they had some kind of arrangement. In one case, a photographer sent photos to an advertiser via email, while in the other case, a client sent photos but not the money. I talked to one of those photographers, whose work typically consists of selling photographs online, and the second photographer, whose work is mostly commissioned. It is likely that each is the beneficiary of something different: the photographer’s client may pay for photos, the advertiser may pay them for their photos, and the client’s client might be the company that pays them for their work.
Some of those two photographers (as identified by me in an attempt to verify these identities) got paid directly from the advertiser; others said that the clients pay them to write and promote the ads they are paid to write or promote. And of course, there are many, many more ways an advertiser can influence what kind of work goes out to the public. (I asked them which ads they have written; it would be hard to make that number work for more then a handful.) But the fact that none of them spoke with me about what they get paid makes it difficult to assess whether or not they are receiving a fair return.
When I asked one of these three photographers if they worked with an agency or an agency represented by someone else (which one might be a mistake, as one of the three said in an email that they work independently), all the three said that yes. And in fact, the agencies that work with them, even the ones that get paid directly from the advertiser they’re writing for, are all independent. The agency that does work on their photographs, Creative Eye, is also completely independent, since it is not affiliated with Shutterstock. But as these photos do not have an agency attached, each of them was able to use Creative Eye’s name and logo to market
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