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Your REALTOR® Would Like Some Free Photography, Please

Please pardon the detour today. I need to rant. I'd like to share with you the ballsiest request for free picture use that I have ever gotten…

Ever feel like you are being taken advantage of as a photographer? Or that people in other professions think so little of us that they assume we would gladly work for free?

Of course you do. It happens all of the time. But if you haven't had the pleasure, this is what it looks like when it happens (annotations mine):

Image Permission Request

Hi David,

I am writing on behalf of the visual editor for to request your permission to use one of your photos on the site.1 The photo nicely illustrates a topic we’re writing about.2 HouseLogic, published by the National Association of Realtors®, covers home ownership-related topics.3

Specifically, we'd like your permission to use the photo "CARDINALS IN SNOW"4 in connection with the slideshow about "BRIGHTEN WINTER CURB APPEAL".5 The image may also appear as a link back to that slideshow in such places as our email newsletter; social media, including Pinterest; marketing; companion site for REALTORS®; and website home page.6 The use may require that we resize the image to fit the size constraints of our website.7

Also, we would appreciate if you could provide a high resolution version of this image, at least 1200 x 800 pixels.8

We are asking you to grant the National Association of REALTORS® the non-exclusive, royalty-free right to use the image as described above for as long as the topic is included on the HouseLogic site.9 We would include a credit to you in the caption accompanying the image in its primary location on HouseLogic.10 If you would like we could also link that credit to your website.11

If you approve, please respond to this email confirming that you own the image rights, have the authority to grant to the National Association permission to use the image as described, and grant that permission.12 Please also let us know how you would prefer to be named in the credit.13 My deadline is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2013, and I would appreciate a response from you before then, if possible.14

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you.


[name redacted]
[address redacted]

National Association of REALTORS®
430 N Michigan Ave 

Chicago, IL 60611


1. Sounds great. No problems so far. I'm a photographer, you need photos. Let's talk!

2. Even better!

3. My day is turning up. The National Association of Realtors® is a big organization. Even I know THAT.

4. The photo, cropped, is seen at top of this post. Speech bubble by moi.

5. I can make that happen!

6. Wow. That is a pretty broad usage. No problem. I have FotoQuote and it is great for figuring out stuff like that. It is the industry standard matchmaker between photo buyers and photographers.

7. Lady, you're writing the checks. Crop it as you please.

8. Of course. And I post full-res, copyrighted images on Flickr largely so people can see exactly what they are getting. (I have actually sold a fair number of images through Flickr, and this "bird-in-the-hand" full-res visibility is a big help, IMO.)

9. The National Association of Realtors® clearly knows its way around a picture purchase.

10. Nice thought, but that won't turn this into an editorial sale. This is CLEARLY a commercial usage. But credits are always appreciated.

11. And this is where the Spidey Sense starts going off. Could it be that they want this usage just for effing photo credit?

12. Oh, so you clearly have a legal staff, what with all of the cover-your-ass language. Do they work for free? Do you?

13. Here's a thought: how about you lose the "photo by" wording, and replace it with "pay to the order of"?

14. Of course. Since we're all professionals here. Oh wait, almost forgot -- you're a professional and I'm a chump.

A Little Bit About the National Association of Realtors®

That's their building. Not even their headquarters, which is in Chicago, but rather their DC satellite office. From where they heavily lobby your lawmakers.

Did I say "heavily lobby?" That's needlessly vague. Try $100,000,000.00 worth in recent years, according to their Wikipedia page, which Wikipedia says basically reads like an ad. (Over $22,000,000.00 of gubmint palm-greasing in 2011 alone.)

They lobby congress hard to keep a stranglehold on their hugely profitable business model that by all rights should have been eaten by the internet years ago. Money talks, people.

And yet photography should be free.

Over a million members. And these are the same people who charge you a healthy five-figure fee to sell your house. I know, I've paid it. But when we bought, we did it over a dining room table, and without a REALTOR® in the room. My wife and I got a better price, and the sellers took home more money. Needless to say, neither party missed the REALTOR® one bit.

So on a lark, I wrote back to them and offered the photo for 1% of the fee I paid my last REALTOR®. Which was, to be honest, a low fee for the usage. This was just a ping to see if they had any respect at all for our profession.

Answer: (Cue sound of crickets chirping...)

Then I tweeted to them and asked if there was a way to find a free REALTOR® in my area. (You know, since that's what they were trying to do to me.)

They were helpful, until they realized I wanted the REALTOR® for free. Then, more crickets.


Dear incredibly flush National Association of Realtors®,

You can afford nine digit sums to try to buy our lawmakers? You can probably afford to pay a photographer to use a photo of birds in your web slideshow. So please don't insult us with your legalese-filled requests for the timely delivery of our work for free.




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