Monday, December 28, 2009

The Photography 401 Scam

From an email I received a while back:


I'm Eric and I'm an art director in an independent agency here in Dubai, U.A.E.

I have seen some of your works here in devianart and I think they're great!

You see, we are currently working on a calendar for 2010 and we're featuring MACRO PHOTOGRAPHS with interesting colors and unexpected details of ordinary everyday objects ( or animals and humans maybe ).

I'm just wondering if you would like to be featured in this 2010 calendar.

I'll be honest with you though, We are on a very strict budget, which is basically none.

If you decide to agree, All we can offer you is your work being seen throughout the whole year in a lot of desks all over the world.

I cannot tell you which company we are doing this for at the moment because it's confidential at this point.
But we will give you a copy of the finished calendar design in pdf format before we send it out so you could see it first.

If you can reply to this asap, like now....that would be great!!

I'll be waiting for your favorable reply

Thanks and have a great day!"

So the art director gets paid, and the folks who print and distribute the calendar get paid, but the guy who took the photos (the poor SOB who's the reason why people are buying the calendar in the first place) doesn't get paid?! I sent the email to Tom Stack and Associates (Tom handles my portfolio) and I never heard from Eric again. There are so many people out there who are willing to fall for this "I can't afford to pay you even though I'm making out like a bandit" scam that they'll keep trying until they find someone who is willing to trade their work for a photo credit, and it's the reason why there's no money in photography anymore...

Footnote: The reason why the scam works is that people get all excited when someone contacts them for images. They think that because someone is asking for their work then that must mean that their photos are really good, and getting them published is a form of validation. What the photographer doesn't realize is that the publisher is phishing for people who will agree to give away their images for nothing but a photo credit -Eric's email is a prime example. He didn't know what direction he was going to take the calendar because he didn't know who would agree to give away their work. He'd just keep trying until someone said yes and then he'd use their images to develop the theme of the calendar. Target enough people and eventually you'll find someone who's willing to say yes -it's the same reason why the Nigerian 401 scams work. If the technique wasn't successful then it wouldn't be used.

Trust me when I tell you that if someone wants to use your specific images then they will pay you for them...
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