Forums > General Industry > Is this really "Industry Standard"?

Photographer

Francisco Castro

Posts: 1734

Cincinnati, Ohio, US

I was approached by an unknown/new llamaing agency who said that they were interested in contracting me as their official photographer. However, they said they wanted to test me out first to see if I can really deliver the in the style they're looking for to build their talents' ports/books.

I said sure, and gave them my rates.

They said that this was only a test for me, so it would be unpaid.

I replied that I was fine with that, on the condition that if they did end up using the photos taken during the test shoot, my rates would apply. If they decide it wasn't in the style they were looking for, or if the quality was lower than they expected, or just don't like the images for any reason, they don't use the images, I don't get paid, and we just walk away, no hurt feelings.

That's when I got a message from them that it was "industry standard" that any photos taken during an unpaid test become the property of the agency to use or not use.

I just replied, "Thank you for your interest. However, I am not comfortable with that arrangement.".

They got a little pithy, insisting that's how the industry is.

I just said, "No thank you.".

I don't think what I was asking for was unreasonable; we shoot, you like it enough to use it, you pay for my services. If you don't like it, I eat my time/labor investment, and you don't pay a dime to me.

Was I wrong?

Oct 11 12 11:23 am Link

Model

Aaliyah Love

Posts: 113

Los Angeles, California, US

You have to laugh when a company always insists their way of doing something, especially when it's something you're questioning or doesn't seem right, to be "the industry standard." "This is how EVERYONE does it!"
I had a company flake on me for the THIRD TIME this year recently and when I politely asked for a $200 kill fee, they snickered at me "this happens all of the time in this industry, it's not a big deal, you need to learn to roll with the punches" (aka accept I lost $900 for that day and not complain about it? LOL! and for the record, I've had models flake, sure. I've had companies reschedule, but NEVER flake on me last minute, and THREE TIMES IN A ROW?! this def is NOT "happening all of the time.")

The fact that they gave you attitude and acted in a not so professional manner after you told them your rates and how you usually handle these situations isn't a good sign either. I don't think it's unreasonable for you to ask for a paid test. Maybe not your full rate, but a couple hundred dollars, at least!

They sound unprofessional and a pain in the butt to work with. You probably dodged a bullet here, sorry to say:/

Oct 11 12 11:29 am Link

Photographer

Neil Snape

Posts: 9473

Paris, Île-de-France, France

There are no right and wrong when it comes to your relationship with an agency.

It is however surprising but not unheard of , for an agency to ask a photographer to see about shooting their models. Usually there are more than enough fish in the sea.

I would think that if you do a test or two for an agency the first are not paid. And yes they can use the images if they like what you did or not.

Yet something tells me they just do this over and over again with lots of people.

Oct 11 12 11:32 am Link

Photographer

Good Egg Productions

Posts: 15704

Orlando, Florida, US

An unknown/new agency.

Looking for you to become their official photographer.  (wtf is that, anyway)

Want to test you but not pay you.

Ok, fine.  Then suggest that they give you a model with no makeup or hair done and wearing a Tickle Me Elmo shirt and overalls.  You can demonstrate that you can do a fashion shoot, but who would want to use those images?

You were right to pass.  If they can get you to do a test for free (not unheard of) then they can get 20 photographers to do it for free and meanwhile getting 20 of their models a free portfolio shoot and getting their little enterprise off the ground.

I'm sure they'll get someone to do it.  And I'm sure they'll be nowhere to be found in 18 months.

Oct 11 12 11:37 am Link

Photographer

J O H N A L L A N

Posts: 10310

Santa Ana, California, US

I think you handled it well.
Although as Neil says, unpaid tests before paid tests is normal (and they would generally be able to use a few images from them).

The whole "Official Photographer" pretext, would make me very suspicious.
I think based on that, you handled it well.

Oct 11 12 11:38 am Link

Model

Jules NYC

Posts: 16229

New York, New York, US

What if a company, agency or freelance photographer uses good test shots from shoots as a way to never pay models/photographers/stylists/etc.?

I'm noticing more and more a client will pay a photographer to shoot *insert whatever here* and the photographer can choose or not choose to pay his/her models.

Kind of bullshit all the way around, but people line up to work for free and I'm not even talking about an even trade.

OP, I'd feel the same way.
Depends how much you want to work with that agency and see if it's worth risking giving up some free work.

Oct 11 12 11:44 am Link

Photographer

SoCo n Lime

Posts: 3283

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Francisco Castro wrote:
Was I wrong?

no you were not wrong and congrats on having the balls to say NO .. and also not falling for the seemingly 'industry standard' BS that many more businesses are trying to tap into..

not giving these chancers the market or option in the first place wether your a newbie or not will bring back paid gigs even at the lowest level of the market.

know what your value is .. learn to say no and stick to your guns cause work will come your way

Oct 11 12 11:46 am Link

Photographer

M Pandolfo Photography

Posts: 12116

Tampa, Florida, US

Jules NYC wrote:
What if a company, agency or freelance photographer uses good test shots from shoots as a way to never pay models/photographers/stylists/etc.?

I get the feeling this was indeed the case here. I don't know why. Maybe it's their use of the term "Official Photographer", or that they're new but acting like they're established and known, and the fact that they were so taken aback hearing the OP's terms.

Surely, if they were as entrenched in "the industry" as they claim they would have heard photographers say much the same thing (even if it's not an accepted practice).

I just get the feeling they were more interested in using any possible shots they could and they do this with multiple photographers. It doesn't pass the smell test for me.

Oct 11 12 11:50 am Link

Photographer

M Pandolfo Photography

Posts: 12116

Tampa, Florida, US

SoCo n Lime wrote:

no you were not wrong and congrats on having the balls to say NO .. and also not falling for the seemingly 'industry standard' BS that many more businesses are trying to tap into..

not giving these chancers the market or option in the first place wether your a newbie or not will bring back paid gigs even at the lowest level of the market.

know what your value is .. learn to say no and stick to your guns cause work will come your way

"Well, that's just industry standard" in response to a photographer's objection is the equivalent of my parent's reason for not letting me go out when I was a teenager..."Because. That's why."

Oct 11 12 11:52 am Link

Photographer

Looknsee Photography

Posts: 21641

Portland, Oregon, US

John Allan wrote:
I think you handled it well.

+1

The only thing I would add is that this "industry standard" arrangement is remarkably unclear about the ownership of the copyright.  You may (rightly?) assume that you own the copyrights, but they might claim that if you test for them, you are performing a "work for hire".  Somewhere along the line, that should be clarified if both parties were going forward on an agreement.

Somewhere along the line, there should be a signed contract which either grants them usage rights or the copyright if they expect to use the resulting images.

(Of course, there's a real possibility that they were looking for free photography).

Oct 11 12 11:54 am Link

Photographer

SoCo n Lime

Posts: 3283

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Jules NYC wrote:
see if it's worth risking giving up some free work.

lots of risk takers have fed and created this bullshit trend for enough years

its about time they all said NO like the OP has

work with your creative friends with the same aspirations and goals and leave businesses no option but to pay you (the freelance business) what your worth.

paid jobs gets you = paid referrals

something for nothing jobs gets you = something for nothing referrals

Oct 11 12 11:56 am Link

Model

Jules NYC

Posts: 16229

New York, New York, US

SoCo n Lime wrote:

lots of risk takers have fed and created this bullshit trend for enough years

its about time they all said NO like the OP has

work with your creative friends with the same aspirations and goals and leave businesses no option but to pay you (the freelance business) what your worth.

paid jobs gets you = paid referrals

something for nothing jobs gets you = something for nothing referrals

Yes indeed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

Oct 11 12 11:58 am Link

Photographer

Don Garrett

Posts: 4442

Escondido, California, US

I think you were WAY too polite. I would have told them to go fuck themselves after the first response they gave. (My statements are really not that brusque usually, but that would have been an appropriate answer to them).
-Don

Oct 11 12 12:07 pm Link

Photographer

SoCo n Lime

Posts: 3283

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Jules NYC wrote:

Yes indeed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

great video smile

this guys cracks me up lol.. "sure I'll sell my soul but at the highest rates" lol..

so many great one liners.. thanks for posting smile allot more folk should be listening to this guy lol

Oct 11 12 12:10 pm Link

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Photographer

Giacomo Cirrincioni

Posts: 21375

New York, New York, US

SoCo n Lime wrote:

lots of risk takers have fed and created this bullshit trend for enough years

its about time they all said NO like the OP has

work with your creative friends with the same aspirations and goals and leave businesses no option but to pay you (the freelance business) what your worth.

paid jobs gets you = paid referrals

something for nothing jobs gets you = something for nothing referrals

There are editorial teams shooting for major magazines (at the top of the game) spending $50K per shoot, of their own money for editorials they are not getting paid for, and doing that three times a year because it nets them advertising work worth much, much more than that.

I agree with you in general terms, but in both the art and fashion worlds, it doesn't necessarily work that way.

Oct 11 12 12:11 pm Link

Photographer

Barry Druxman

Posts: 127

Los Angeles, California, US

Francisco Castro wrote:
I was approached by an unknown/new modeling agency who said that they were interested in contracting me as their official photographer. However, they said they wanted to test me out first to see if I can really deliver the in the style they're looking for to build their talents' ports/books.

I said sure, and gave them my rates.

They said that this was only a test for me, so it would be unpaid.

I replied that I was fine with that, on the condition that if they did end up using the photos taken during the test shoot, my rates would apply. If they decide it wasn't in the style they were looking for, or if the quality was lower than they expected, or just don't like the images for any reason, they don't use the images, I don't get paid, and we just walk away, no hurt feelings.

That's when I got a message from them that it was "industry standard" that any photos taken during an unpaid test become the property of the agency to use or not use.

I just replied, "Thank you for your interest. However, I am not comfortable with that arrangement.".

They got a little pithy, insisting that's how the industry is.

I just said, "No thank you.".

I don't think what I was asking for was unreasonable; we shoot, you like it enough to use it, you pay for my services. If you don't like it, I eat my time/labor investment, and you don't pay a dime to me.

Was I wrong?

Oct 11 12 12:11 pm Link

Model

Jules NYC

Posts: 16229

New York, New York, US

SoCo n Lime wrote:

great video smile

this guys cracks me up lol.. "sure I'll sell my soul but at the highest rates" lol..

so many great one liners.. thanks for posting smile allot more folk should be listening to this guy lol

Indeed smile
I just downloaded the movie in which it came from.
I've been wanting to check it out for a while now:)

Oct 11 12 12:17 pm Link

Photographer

Darryl Varner

Posts: 725

San Jacinto, California, US

It's my opinion you were being scammed. While I've had associations with several legitimate (i.e. licensed/bonded) agencies over the years, there was never a situation where I was the 'official' photographer for any of them. My experience has been that agencies consider that a conflict of interest.

Oct 11 12 12:18 pm Link

Photographer

Francisco Castro

Posts: 1734

Cincinnati, Ohio, US

It's not that I thought I was all high and mighty by giving them rates. However, if they saw value enough in my work to use it, they should also see the value in it to pay me for my work.

The thought that they could be scamming photographers all over the area for free shoots to build their roster's portfolio's for free did occur to me. The thought that they are one of these fly-by-night operations were they would charge their models a fee to shoot with their "official photographer" (while not compensating the photog) also did occur to me.

Oct 11 12 12:32 pm Link

Photographer

SoCo n Lime

Posts: 3283

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Paramour Productions wrote:
There are editorial teams shooting for major magazines (at the top of the game) spending $50K per shoot, of their own money for editorials they are not getting paid for, and doing that three times a year because it nets them advertising work worth much, much more than that.

I agree with you in general terms, but in both the art and fashion worlds, it doesn't necessarily work that way.

at the very top advertising clients and companies are well versed at buying space in good magazines (they jockey for position) it makes up almost all your content. the space that is left are for the people that will keep the kudos and grow the magazines sales.. it works both ways so yes it is worth dropping such a budget on a gig but who's actually using who? well theyre both equal as they are at the top league and making money in the process . you cant apply it to the other 95% of the less known profiles and brands / companies / businesses out there although these companies like the op has dealt with think they can apply this model to them selves..

a online zine called start up monthly will still pay their bills somehow but they wont pay you.

*re-edit* im stopping my rant before i get carried away smile

Oct 11 12 12:43 pm Link

Photographer

SoCo n Lime

Posts: 3283

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Francisco Castro wrote:
It's not that I thought I was all high and mighty by giving them rates. However, if they saw value enough in my work to use it, they should also see the value in it to pay me for my work.

yep it is quite simple when you boil it down to this

Oct 11 12 12:45 pm Link

Model

Aaliyah Love

Posts: 113

Los Angeles, California, US

Jules NYC wrote:
What if a company, agency or freelance photographer uses good test shots from shoots as a way to never pay models/photographers/stylists/etc.?

I've seen this happen many times actually:(

Oct 11 12 12:57 pm Link

Photographer

John Edward

Posts: 2462

Dallas, Texas, US

"Industry Standard."

It's like when you go in the Dollar Store, and the grill has "List Price," of $19.95 on it, and then "Printed," below it $9.95, and then the sticker says $4.95.

It's also what newb models are told by their "Manager," to say, to justify their rates.

Think of what the top ten newd models on MM charge.

Well that's "Industry Standard," so the girl who's been modeling for two weeks in Oklahoma, should get what a pro in LA, or NY, who's built up a brand over a few years, should get.

Hey, they both got nekkid, right?

Sigh....

Oct 11 12 01:21 pm Link

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Photographer

studio36uk

Posts: 21894

Tavai, Sigave, Wallis and Futuna

Francisco Castro wrote:
That's when I got a message from them that it was "industry standard" that any photos taken during an unpaid test become the property of the agency to use or not use.

You were far too polite. Why be so nice when a simple "FUCK OFF " will do.

Studio36

Oct 11 12 01:47 pm Link

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Photographer

studio36uk

Posts: 21894

Tavai, Sigave, Wallis and Futuna

Neil Snape wrote:
Yet something tells me they just do this over and over again with lots of people.

This ^^^^

Studio36

Oct 11 12 01:50 pm Link

Model

MoRina

Posts: 5814

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US

It's not unlike photographers asking models to trade with them and then producing a model release granting full commercial rights.

Some people are willing to give their time away for free and some don't.  They probably find enough people willing to do it to make it worth cycling in new photographers all the time.

Oct 11 12 02:28 pm Link

Photographer

Fotopia

Posts: 1101

Atlanta, Georgia, US

Opinions abound online about what is "industry standard", often proclaimed by those who have never been a part of said "industry."

You are right in passing on such pretenders.

Oct 11 12 02:40 pm Link

Photographer

Loki Studio

Posts: 3017

Royal Oak, Michigan, US

Nope-that was just industry standard bullshit.

Oct 11 12 02:52 pm Link

Photographer

Stanley L Moore

Posts: 1679

Houston, Texas, US

SoCo n Lime wrote:

great video smile

this guys cracks me up lol.. "sure I'll sell my soul but at the highest rates" lol..

so many great one liners.. thanks for posting smile allot more folk should be listening to this guy lol

Harlan Ellison is a fine writer. He did have many great lines. My favorite is "I don't take a piss unless I get paid." At my age and with my prostate it would be a great deal for me. LOL.

Oct 11 12 02:58 pm Link

Photographer

Mark in MTL

Posts: 1046

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

in terms of tons of people trying to scam you to get your talent for free, sadly it is "industry standard".

Oct 11 12 03:54 pm Link

Photographer

Looknsee Photography

Posts: 21641

Portland, Oregon, US

studio36uk wrote:
You were far too polite. Why be so nice when a simple "FUCK OFF " will do.

Studio36

studio36uk will think me too polite.

But I like to act as if everyone in the industry that I talk with will in turn talk with everyone else in the industry.  For example, if you are exceedingly rude to a model, suddenly every other model in the world hears about it (and hears only one side of the story).  Another example, the potential client in the OP could turn around and say how the OP told them to "FUCK OFF" when all they did was ask whether the OP was willing to do a test shoot for them.

Being polite doesn't cost me anything, and it does not prevent me from being clear & firm.  Being rude can cost me in the long term.

I just believe that it is exceedingly easy to escalate hostilities and exceedingly difficult to de-escalate hostilities.

Oct 12 12 07:49 am Link

Photographer

B R U N E S C I

Posts: 25319

Bath, England, United Kingdom

Francisco Castro wrote:
I was approached by an unknown/new modeling agency

If they approached you then they should expect to pay you.

That's very different from a photographer approaching a top agency and asking to test with some of their models. I'm guessing the 'models' this outfit wanted you to shoot would not have enhanced your portfolio in any way, therefore it would be pointless to shoot them unless you were being paid.

I have myself turned down such 'opportunities' in the past.



Just my $0.02

Ciao
Stefano
www.stefanobrunesci.com

Oct 12 12 08:04 am Link

Photographer

Barry Kidd Photography

Posts: 2521

Red Lion, Pennsylvania, US

Agencies suck. 

I did portfolio a set for a young child actress a few months back.  About a week ago the mother called and said she couldn't find the disk of photos and asked if I'd send them to an agency. A decent agency at that.

I said sure.  The next day I get an email form the agency and I replied with a link to where I had already uploaded the files to my server for them to download.

(No, I didn't charge to pull the photos from archive and re upload them.  I chose not to.  Simple as that.)

The next day the agency writes back saying they LOVED the photos asking if I have more could I send them.

I was polite but told them:
1) I'd need to clear it with the child's parents.
2) The license agreement I have with the parents was for three shots. One head shot, one three quarter body and one full body which I'd already sent. 

I haven't heard back from them.

Yep, agencies suck.

Oct 12 12 09:40 am Link

Photographer

Farenell Photography

Posts: 18126

Albany, New York, US

Aaliyah Love wrote:
The fact that they gave you attitude and acted in a not so professional manner after you told them your rates and how you usually handle these situations isn't a good sign either. I don't think it's unreasonable for you to ask for a paid test. Maybe not your full rate, but a couple hundred dollars, at least!

Agreed!

I'd just reiterate what you're comfortable doing & the terms you're willing to operate under where they then are welcome to take it or leave it. The company may just be trying to play hardball in order to get your services under the best terms favorable to them (not you).

Oct 12 12 10:01 am Link

Photographer

D0127H

Posts: 1135

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Francisco Castro wrote:
Was I wrong?

Not in the least...

Oct 12 12 10:14 am Link

Photographer

SAND DIAL

Posts: 5965

Santa Monica, California, US

Agreed, you were not 'wrong'.
But in yr situation, theres no [outside]right or wrong, only what is right for you.

They got 'pithy', what more do you need 2 know?

Oct 12 12 10:18 am Link

Photographer

149

Posts: 4192

San Diego, California, US

You did the right thing. Fuck 'em, move on. Test = Free photos. You were wise enough to know where it was going... just another freeloader looking for free work.

You handled it better than I would've.

Oct 12 12 12:47 pm Link

Photographer

Art of the nude

Posts: 11892

Olivet, Michigan, US

Francisco Castro wrote:
I was approached by an unknown/new modeling agency who said that they were interested in contracting me as their official photographer. However, they said they wanted to test me out first to see if I can really deliver the in the style they're looking for to build their talents' ports/books.

I said sure, and gave them my rates.

They said that this was only a test for me, so it would be unpaid.

I replied that I was fine with that, on the condition that if they did end up using the photos taken during the test shoot, my rates would apply. If they decide it wasn't in the style they were looking for, or if the quality was lower than they expected, or just don't like the images for any reason, they don't use the images, I don't get paid, and we just walk away, no hurt feelings.

That's when I got a message from them that it was "industry standard" that any photos taken during an unpaid test become the property of the agency to use or not use.

I just replied, "Thank you for your interest. However, I am not comfortable with that arrangement.".

They got a little pithy, insisting that's how the industry is.

I just said, "No thank you.".

I don't think what I was asking for was unreasonable; we shoot, you like it enough to use it, you pay for my services. If you don't like it, I eat my time/labor investment, and you don't pay a dime to me.

Was I wrong?

If I was legitimately contacted by the likes of "Next" or "Storm", I'd do any reasonable thing they asked.  Including a "free test."  For an unknown agency in Cincinnati, not so much.

Oct 12 12 12:54 pm Link

Photographer

Art of the nude

Posts: 11892

Olivet, Michigan, US

MoRina wrote:
It's not unlike photographers asking models to trade with them and then producing a model release granting full commercial rights.

Some people are willing to give their time away for free and some don't.  They probably find enough people willing to do it to make it worth cycling in new photographers all the time.

Except that in many cases, the model in such a case gets much more revenue indirectly from the images than the photographer does.  That said, if the images are already sold to a commercial client, then the model should be paid.

Oct 12 12 12:59 pm Link

Photographer

Bill Sylvester

Posts: 1463

Cincinnati, Ohio, US

Francisco Castro wrote:
I was approached by an unknown/new modeling agency who said that they were interested in contracting me as their official photographer. However, they said they wanted to test me out first to see if I can really deliver the in the style they're looking for to build their talents' ports/books.

New agency? In Cincinnati? Who is it? (You can PM me if you don't want to post it).

Oct 12 12 11:13 pm Link