they want my negatives...... : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have been contacted by a rock band and asked to take pictures for magazines and promos and possibly an album cover...

Everything would be allright if it wasn't for the fact that they want to be the sole proprietors of the negatives.

I do mostly fine art (how they call it) i have dealt with clients before but this is the first time i have been asked such a request, which i do not like . I need a feedback from somebody.......Thank you.

-- domenico (, May 11, 2002


I think your answer should be: "You gotta pay to play". Only after they pay a huge sum for the images, they can have them. Otherwise, the images should be on a 'per use' basis.


-- Andy Biggs (, May 11, 2002.

You are certainly not the first to be pressured into situations like that. These days, it is a buyers market with so many starving photographers clammering for a shrinking market. The matter is entirely up to you. If you bend to their demands, you risk loosing self respect plus damage the industry as a hole. If you say no, they very well could go find someone who will do what they want. If they won't bend, you have to decide whether you really need the work or not. You could charge as much as 5 times your normal rate. But to encompass all scenerios and possible future sales is difficult.

Money may not be the issue. They may be trying to protect their own image by controlling the pictures, so to keep them from being published where that image could be hurt, especially if they are already famous. If they are up and coming stars, then keeping control of the negatives could provide you with lucrative future revenues.

Just some things to consider.

-- Rob Pietri (, May 11, 2002.

A buy out of all rights is not a good idea without healthy compensation. Most pros would negotiate this away and still have the deal, otherwise refuse the job. THis is a common tactic to get photogs to hand over rights for far less than they are worth. Just imagine if you shot a 13 year old Britney Spears and handed over the rights to your film. Seven years later, you'd be kicking yourself.

Check out the wealth of inforamtion at A search should turn up something on a rights buy out. My opinion is that you talk with them and let them know why giving all rights and the film away for cheap is a really bad buisness practice on your end (and on theirs too) and get an agreement that gives you a fair rate and satisfies the proper buisness practices of a photographer. If not, walk away, you have skills that are worth compensating, and an industry that is worth upholding a minimun of value.

-- Chris Gillis (, May 11, 2002.

Unless they are throwing major money (like 10-20x your shooting fee) at you , the answer is: no. And also no to exclusive usage or copyright transfer. Big shots in the entertainment industry like KISS or madonna or The roolingStones can get away with such deals because; a. theyy hire the best in the business and they pay very large amount s of money for that exclusive usage. And that is what anybody who hires you as a photographer for is paying your for; the usage. not the factthat you own a camera and maybe some lights, not for your creativity, they are paying for how they will use the images you create.

They can ask, and you can be flattered by their asking but you don't have to screw yourself (or your client, really) in the process.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, May 11, 2002.

Hi Domenico,

Like that general in Bastogne, surounded by the germans and asked to surrender, say (and it's a very polite way) : NUTS !

Why would you give away of your property ! Author's right is a Wall you don't cross, that's all we have. Some agencies and magazines try to impose that and I strongly think we have to resist.

Anyway after that brilliant sentence...ask that band to sell his songs just one for all. A package...A good price...It's only a couple of songs, come on ! I don't think they would apprieciate. Guillaume.

-- Guillaume Zuili (, May 11, 2002.

Even the established rock bands know better. If magazines want images, deal directly with the magazine. If the band wants promo images, let them buy limited rights. You can also negotiate for limited time rights: Let them do as they wish for a year or so, then have the rights revert back to you.

-- John Flavell (, May 11, 2002.

Ask them if a recording company gets all rights to their music when they make a CD. It might help to talk to them as if it's their work that's at stake. If you can get them to be upfront about their needs and fears, you may be able to negotiate an agreement. If not, double your fee and consider yourself well-paid enough to forgo any future income. However, you should ALWAYS reserve the right to use the images for your own self-promotion, regardless of any other circumstance (just shoot enough film for both parties).

-- Steve Singleton (, May 11, 2002.

Remember Napster and the music...? why they don't let us do what ever we want with the cds we bought and then they want to do what ever they want with the negs. we make....> think about that....

-- dan n. (, May 11, 2002.

You could ask them why they want the negs, then you're in a better position to negotiate. You say magazines, promos and album cover, all those will be final digital products ... perhaps they are simply trying to have your creative input on the shoot, and remove you from the output production.

There are no good reasons to give a client the negs, and many good reasons for you to hold them, both for the client and yourself. You need to talk again with your client to see whats going on.

-- Michael Mahoney (, May 12, 2002.

I dealt with a photographer for years that had three generations working in the business, they went back over 50 years and owned their own building.

They had a climate controled fireproof vault, and a file system that never failed. If you gave them a catalogue number going back 20 years, you could have a same day print. I never knew them to lose or damage a negative. My negatives were way safer with them then they would have been with me.

I also knew that if I needed a print 10 years later the price of that print would be the same for me as anyone else, no mater what the subject mater, or reason for the need.

They were also scrupulously honest about rights. Essentially, they owned the physical negative, and you owned the rights the photograph.

I tried time after time to encourage them to publish a book of historical photographs of our city. They would not, because they said that the images belonged to their customers.

Several years ago they went out of business. In their case they arranged with a local university to take over the collection of negatives, and customers can still get a print. However, in most cases where photo business disappears, I suspect that the chances of getting a print from a customerís negative is remote.

How many photographers that insist on keeping control of the negative, are not exercising due diligence in terms of their care and preservation? How many are not even financially capable of insuring that that negative will be available 10, 20 or 30 years from now?

How many young photographers realize how much responsibility that they take on when they keep a negative?

In todayís modern world where you can leave your shirts at the cleaners on Wednesday, and go back on Saturday to pick them up, and the cleaners is gone, there may not be one standard formula for photographer, customer relationships.

-- Neal Shields (, May 12, 2002.

Hello, The image is all that you really ever have. It does not matter what the image is on, if you give away or sell all rights to the image, then all you have is what you got for it. When a song or novel is composed, it is not the material that the stuff was originally written on that is copyrighted, it is the actual song or novel that is copyrighted. If you sell or give away all rights to your intellectual property make sure that it is of significant benefit to you (and the industry that you are in)to do so. I would like to suggest that Mr. Shields does not know what he is talking about except to the extend that we should take good care of the media that our copyrighted property exists on.

-- David Vickery (, May 12, 2002.

I think that Mr Shields talked about archiving vs.copyright... whichi is not the same....

In my opinion, if for some reason the negs. are lost... then the interested party just hire a photographer again a redo the shot, if not then re-use the old one and pay accordingly...I can't imagine some one will give up the neg for cd cover and then see the same image on a nation-wide advertsising campaign...

-- dan n. (, May 12, 2002.

"Essentially, they owned the physical negative, and you owned the rights the photograph."

-- David Vickery (, May 12, 2002.

The customer is always right, but you do not have to accept their terms.

My client insists on keeping the negatives, for security reasons, as what I photograph is valuable, and they need very permanent records.

But they are not insisting on keeping all the negatives, and they are allowing me to scan the negs and use the picture for self-publicity, as long as I do not tell anybody where the treasure is.

If a museum wants to publish pictures of works of art, you would not expect to acquire the copyright to sell images of millions of pounds worth of art for half a day's work, would you?

-- Dick Roadnight (, May 13, 2002.

Domenico, Get a copy of "The Legal Guide for the Visual Artist" by Tad Crawford. If my memory serves me, he also has written a book for photographers as well. It contains model contracts, negotiating points and case law. His book has helped me earn a fair price for my work. Andy

-- Andy Eads (, May 13, 2002.


Another book that may help you is ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography, by the American Society of Media Photographers.

Also, if you are going to keep the copyright but let them take care of the actual negatives, you may want to register the images with the copyright office where you are (if there is one). I don't have experience with this, but it's what I would check out.

-- Matthew Runde (, May 13, 2002.

THANK YOU, EVERYBODY i appreciate your help . You just confirmed what i was feeling about the all situation.

-- domenico (, May 14, 2002.

The first rule of working with rock bands is to get the money up front. It's also the last rule. NO CREDIT!

As for giving them the negatives, why not? Would you refuse to shoot colour transparency film? They'd have the "negs" then wouldn't they? I just feel that you have to explore what the market would bear and then charge that. It's no good to make 2000% of nothing.

-- David Grandy (, May 14, 2002.

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