Making money with aviation photos: mission impossible?

I was deleting some emails to clear my Inbox when I came across emails from people who were interested in ‘buying’ my photos. Ever since I’m posting my photo’s on the internet, people mail me and ask for my pictures. 95% of them have one thing in common: they don’t want to pay for it cause they don’t have any money. While searching for some more emails to write this post, I managed to divide them in 3 different categories.

The first category are the office people. Somehow most of them contact me via and they all want to have a picture to print so they can hang it in their office. As soon as I start to talk about buying prints they tell me they can’t give me money because it’s only for their office. No one will see the print. Actually, to me, that doesn’t matter at all. I can’t get me a television for less money because only I will watch it and not the rest of my family. It’s not how things work… Some of them do ask the price but stop mailing as soon as they hear how much it is.

The second category is the ‘big business, no money’ category. These are the companies who wish to have your photos for their calendars, brochures, ect. They earn loads of money, yet they can’t give you any in exchange for the picture. Their favorite reason is that they give the calendar away for free so they can’t buy the photos. Just as with the office people: that’s not my problem!

The third category is the worst. These are the aviation magazines. They are the only ones I expect to know how expensive it is to take these pictures, yet they don’t want to pay. Most of them earn money by selling the mag, others don’t earn any because they give it away for free. I won’t name any magazines because I don’t want to offend anyone but for me, this category is the worst. It should be stated though that most magazines work very correctly and pay a very fair price for your work.

Schermafbeelding 2013-04-14 om 17.16.38
An example of a magazine requesting free use of one of my photo’s. I actually gave in on this one. Fortunately the result looked good.

Of course it’s not always bad. Sometimes people ask for a picture and are willing to pay a fair price for it. The best example that I had, was Viking Air. Their graphic designer contacted me asking for a picture and made clear immediately that they would pay for it. Further communication went smoothly and the end result was a very nice looking calendar.

Schermafbeelding 2013-04-14 om 16.59.35

Now you could ask me why they should pay for my pictures. After all I’m not a ‘full-time’ photographer. The answer is very simple. I’m studying at university and can go working in a local restaurant 1 day a week. That earns me about 72 euros a day. Depending on how much hours I work it can get up to 100 euros, sometimes its only about 36 euros. During the holidays I go 5  days a week. If you’d only know how much I spent a year, making these pictures, you’d wonder (just like me) where I actually keep getting all that money from… With that money I also need to buy my camera, lenses, laptop and of course I need to live too. And that’s why I expect to get something back when people use my photos. From now on I’ll simply send this post to anyone who tells me they can’t pay me. I guess they’ll figure it out.

Now, what’s your experience with getting paid? Let me know in the comments or on our Facebook or Twitter page.

To end I’d like to note that the above doesn’t count for those people, events or magazines who have given me nice opportunities in exchange for the pictures. After all ‘quid pro quo’… They’ll know who they are!

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6 thoughts on “Making money with aviation photos: mission impossible?

  1. Many of the reasons I left the graphic design field are summed up quite well in your post.

    So many people want something for nothing and treat you like you have a “Will work for food” sign out.


    1. Exactly. I don’t give in anymore. If they don’t want to pay me, they don’t get any pictures. Thanks for your comment 😉 The discussion is also on our Facebook Page. Good to see many people with the same thoughts.


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