I recently received yet another request for complimentary copies of my high-resolution digital images for use in a particular industry for advertising. Here is my response:
"As you know, I do occasionally provide complimentary images for personal friends or for good causes that I support. However, that certainly does not cover my costs, which are considerable: thousands of miles of travel expenses and time, hundreds hours in the field, hours of computer processing time, continuing education, and tens of thousands of dollars in rapidly depreciating high-level equipment and materials. Truth is, there are few career photographers today that can keep their heads above water solely by marketing or publishing their images. They usually must present workshops, tours, lectures, shoot weddings, contract with agencies and maybe have a day job to stay in the black.
"Particularly since the advent of digital imagery, for-profit publishers and other industries have adopted the notion that if they can hit up photographers for free, why pay? Some don’t even bother with that; they simply steal images, since copyright laws are time-consuming and expensive to enforce, and digital images are an easy target for such abuse.
"My experience over years of honoring requests for “freebies” in exchange for “exposure to potential ‘real’ customers” has only resulted in more requests for freebies, and has not yielded a single paying client or inquiry. That is a losing proposition. If members of your industry had to give away 90% of their product simply to 'gain exposure', your industry would disappear. The same is equally true for career photographers and practically any other creatives, with the exception of a handful of "superstars".
Even for works that an artist donates to a charitable organization, the IRS only allows a deduction of the costs only of materials (framing, matting, ink and paper) -- NOT for the actual value of the print. A person can bid on an artist's print at a charity auction for garage sale prices, then turn around and sell it at a tidy profit -- and probably not report his gain to the IRS. (That's why I now always specify a minimum bid for such events -- so that at least the charity will benefit, and not release my print to a low-ball bidder)
"I hope this helps you understand why I must decline your request.