A byline won’t pay for my groceries!

Note: Update to this blog post at the bottom…

A funny email exchange yesterday between a rural Australian newspaper and myself that I thought I’d share with anyone who may care to read.  If you’re a keen amateur photographer or a professional with no business sense be wary of newspapers offering a byline as payment on their belief that it will act as ‘publicity’ for you.

Hi Cameron 

Thanks again for your help. This is the url that I found the pic – http://www.cameronlaird.com/keyword/20060901%200764#92346091_28iMp

Like I mentioned it was taken in 2006 so if you happen to have a more updated one of him that we could use, that’d be great. If not this image where he’s playing for the East Tigers in Townsville Qld will be fine. And of course we will attribute the image to you.


Hi ———, 

Thanks for your email.  I didn’t realise that ————- was a Rural Press newspaper, a wholly owned part of Fairfax.  As of yesterday Fairfax (FXJ) had a market capitalisation of 1,790 million dollars.  That is a LOT, LOT, LOT more than mine and the only way I will ever get closer to that valuation is if I get paid for my photos. 

How about I give you a discount and sell you the photo for 1/10,000,000 of the value of Fairfax?  $179.00 (+GST).  My normal price is $250.00 (+GST) 

Thanks in advance, I’ll wait to hear back from you. 


Hi Cameron 

I totally understand your reasons and need to charge for the publication of your photos and I will put forward your request to my manager, however the problem is we need to photo today (for tomorrow’s paper) and the whole process of going through management may take too long. And I can’t promise anything – we don’t usually pay for photos but rather we give the photographer publicity. 

I’ll let you know if my manager gets back to me in time.

No problem ———, I’ve been working in the media industry for 15 years – I understand how slow the pencil pushers are.  ‘Publicity’ might be handy for budding amateur photographers in the —– area but as I’m a professional and about 3000km from you I can’t see what good ‘publicity’ in — —– ——- is for me. 

Here’s a tip that is always fun – Wander in to your COS or editor and say “I need to run a photo of Luke Branighan and a professional photographer from Townsville has a great one that he is willing to sell me for only $179 which is actually a good discount”.  I’m willing to bet his response will be something along the lines of “F*ck him, we don’t pay for photos” or “Tell him the most we’ll pay is $50”.  You can then respond with this – “He is willing to give us the photo for free if we give him a byline but it has to read – “We shafted Cameron Laird for this free photo” 

Let me know the response.



I didn’t hear back from her.


It appears that the newspaper didn’t use my photo which is both good and bad.  Good because they didn’t use a photo without permission and bad because it also means they didn’t use my suggested byline of  “We shafted Cameron Laird for this free photo”.  That would have been a real shining beacon in my career if they had! :-)

Whilst they didn’t use my photo without permission they have found another photo of Luke Branighan.  Interestingly though – it seems to have proof or copyright markings on the image.  I’m not accusing them of anything, just surprised that they would run a watermarked image when they have should have the rights to the unwatermarked image.

Here’s a screengrab from their site, no idea what ran in the actual hardcopy.. (click on the image for a fullsize version)


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  1. #1 by mazza at January 6th, 2012

    Haha, thanks for sharing Cam

  2. #2 by pp at January 6th, 2012

    that’s just awesome

  3. #3 by Lynelle at January 7th, 2012

    really? wow…. that’s what happens to me in several papers & it’s really difficult even getting them to discuss the possibility of any payment! good on you Cameron!
    I noticed in this week’s Qld Country Life that there’s an article about wheat sales illustrated by a photo of silk sorghum (captioned as wheat) so maybe we should use small, easy for Year 1s to read & understand words when dealing with paper staff who actually get paid!!!!!

  4. #4 by kath at January 7th, 2012

    HI cameron,
    this is so unprofessional and cheap, taking advantage of you, and using deadliens as an excuse. Bet if the shoe was on the other foot it’d be a different story. That’s your intellectual property. What would ahppen if we started using their content all over the place??

  5. #5 by Wayne at January 7th, 2012


    Excellent approach, and just what they need to hear. Sounds like the FX publication in Mount Isa and your ‘client’ went to the same school of business.

  6. #6 by Mark Greenmantle at January 7th, 2012

    Well put Cammo, glad you haven’t lost your way with words. It was always a joy to catch you via the Courier-Mail when I was screening calls for the COS and Pic Ed.
    I’ll give you a call later next week about some similar BS a client has pulled with my photos down here.
    That, and next time you are down here stop in for a beer!!

  7. #7 by ewen at January 8th, 2012

    Nice one. Some editorial staff would LOVE to believe that paying for photos is old fashioned and isn’t so common anymore. They’re kidding themselves. Publications do pay for photos. Funny how there are a few people out there who get paid for their job yet seem to think a photographer shouldn’t.

  8. #8 by Tracey Grady at January 8th, 2012

    Excellent response! They will not waste your time again. This is a common ruse that unscrupulous types try on with graphic designers too: ‘I don’t have the money to pay you, but you’ll be able to use it in your portfolio to get more work elsewhere.’

  9. #9 by Tim Anger at January 8th, 2012

    Beautiful work Cammo. Of course the journo and her managers regularly contribute copy and services for free, so what are you whining about 😉

  10. #10 by Lem at January 10th, 2012

    Your second response was spot on.

    The problem is that so many photogs are totally satisfied with a by-line instead of payment. These people are why publications don’t feel like they have to pay us.

  11. #11 by Danny Tucker at January 11th, 2012

  12. #12 by John Alwyn-Jones at January 14th, 2012

    Nice one Cameron – so true though – most publishers want everything for nothing now!


  13. #13 by Bronwen Healy at February 5th, 2012

    I have a fellow photographer friend who forwarded this on to me. I’ve just had a similar experience with a Fairfax owned paper. The Age published an image I took, of Black Caviar at the beach, on Wed 25 January, and they were lovely and happy to pay for its use. A journalist from the Fin Review then phoned me, asking to use it for a piece they were writing on Black Caviar in their Lifestyle section. I said of course, it would cost them $220. Silence, and then an “oh, we don’t have a budget for photographs, happy to give you a credit”, and he undertook to speak with his editor and get back to me. They didn’t get back to me, and didn’t run the image. At least the SMH have run the image (albeit without checking with me) in today’s print and online edition, but given I know now, courtesy of the chap at the Fin Review, that it is in the Fairfax picture system with instructions that I have to be contacted prior to publication, I am confident in billing them for the use of the image. Regards, Bronwen.

  14. #14 by Jen at February 22nd, 2012

    Love it! Might just use that myself next time! Loving your blog Cameron, keep up the good work :)

  15. #15 by Doug Palme Photography at March 21st, 2012

    Great suggestion, I might have to come up with something like that the next time I get one of those requests. Btw, that image you showed with the watermark looks like they grabbed it from istock, they used to use that type of watermark.

    Anyway Cheers!

  16. #16 by David Martinelli at April 30th, 2012

    Well handled Cameron. Although I would have loved to have seen that on a by line. It may have been made Media Watch.

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