Photography is in a rough place right now. If you’re not in a specific market or already set with a good list of clients, “breaking in” to the industry can be daunting and incredibly challenging. It’s because of this that working as a stock shooter can be so enticing, but it’s unfortunate how it has led to the commoditization of the art form. Clients are looking for more and more ways to get good or “passable” photography for next to nothing, and they’re doing so by using stock or stock-like websites. Last week, a commercial photographer reached out to me and let me know of a particularly disgusting situation happening on the popular stock/agency site ImageBrief. Therein, Reebok (the giant shoe company) is undermining the whole industry and taking advantage of photographers who simply don’t know better (that’s not their fault either).

So, what is ImageBrief? Below is a brief video that explains what they do for an art buyer, and it’s not a bad concept.

Basically, ImageBrief is an on-demand stock photo site. Photographers join and look through briefs posted by clients looking to buy specific photos. Instead of them having to search through hundreds of thousands of images on a traditional stock site, the photographers submit images they believe fit the bill of what the client is looking for, and the client gets to pick his or her favorite. The client has no obligation to buy, and the photographers know that their images might not be selected, in which case they wouldn’t make any money. From a “stock photo market” perspective, this is pretty good. And since the photographer already has the image in his or her portfolio, it costs them nothing to attempt to sell the license. If ImageBrief is used in this manner—the manner originally intended by the creators of ImageBrief—then there is really nothing wrong with the system.

But Reebok isn’t using ImageBrief like it was supposed to be used.

Let’s take a look at an example brief (one of many) that was put into the ImageBrief system by Reebok last week:

 

Reebok is Using Image Brief to Exploit and Undermine Photographers copy

 

Here is the plain text, for easy reading:

We are looking for a photographer to capture product photography of our Reebok ZPump shoes (3 different styles, 2 Men’s + 1 Women’s).

 

***PLEASE NOTE: The budget of this project is all-inclusive. It’s to cover all expenses, travel and otherwise. Please do not put yourself forward unless you are in agreement of doing this job for exactly the rate briefed. Thank you!

 

The description of the project:

 

Reebok needs 8 different photographs (3 images each for two separate shoes, two images for the remaining shoe).

 

Shoe #1 (Men’s):

  • – 1 “Fitness” Image: of person running with the shoe
  • – 1 “Lifestyle” Image: of person standing with shoe (has jeans or joggers on)
  • – 1 Product Shot: off-foot, image of shoe in the environment

Shoe #2 (Men’s):

  • – 1 “Fitness” Image: of person running with the shoe
  • – 1 “Lifestyle” Image: of person standing with shoe (has jeans or joggers on)
  • – 1 Product Shot: off-foot, image of shoe in the environment

Shoe #3 (Women’s):

  • – 1 “Fitness” Image: of person running with the shoe
  • – 1 Product Shot: off-foot, image of shoe in the environment

Due Dates: I need the images by Thursday, September 10th.
Rights: Images will be used for social campaigns/activations, PR, and potentially in-store
Delivery: 8 Final Images in Total

For those eight clearly commercial-level images, Reebok will compensate the photographer for a total of $1500. A total, which includes the cost of a model, the shoes, the travel and various expenses that come with doing a shoot like this. If these were images I had on my hard drive, already shot and ready to go, this wouldn’t be quite as bad (but based on where the images would be used and the intended audience, the royalties for this kind of usage actually well exceed the $1500). The problem here is that no one is going to have these images just kicking around on a hard drive. Reebok is looking for specific shoes, in specific positions and settings. This is absolutely a styled shoot, and one that does not qualify for what ImageBrief as a company says they stand for.

When I asked two commercial photographers to bid on this job (blind to where I found the brief materials), one responded that he would bid somewhere around $90,000, the other $50,000. Here is a breakdown of the $50,000:

  • Assistant- 1 prep/scout, 1 shoot, 1 post.  3 days x $400
  • Second assistant- 1 shoot at $350
  • Digital Tech- 1 shoot at $600
  • Digital Tech Rentals- $500
  • Hair and Makeup- $1K
  • Stylist- 3 shop/return, 1 shoot at $1K ($4K total)
  • Stylist Assistant- 4 days at $350
  • Producer- 4 days at $1K
  • RV- $1,250
  • Casting- $2K (minimum)
  • Talent- 2 x $3K ($6K total)
  • Agency Fee- $1,200
  • Catering- $1,000
  • Location scout/pull- $1K
  • Location Fees/Ppermits- $1K (minimum for city permits; private property can be much more)
  • Digital Charges- $2K
  • Equipment Rentals- $3K
  • Wardrobe/Props- $2,500
  • Insurance- $500
  • Expendables- $100
  • Photographer Creative Fee- $10K
  • Usage for In-Store Placement- $10K

As you can see, even the $50,000 bid is a highly conservative estimate: Much of the costs listed have a high possibility of running above the estimate. This is the kind of process that goes into making the kind of commercial advertising images Reebok is looking for, and the worst part is that Reebok is completely aware that this is how much shoots like this generally cost. This is not news to them. Take a look at this behind the scenes video from a shoot they did featuring cross fit athletes:

 

 

If you watch the video, you can see the grip equipment, the number of models on set, the digital tech, art directors, assistants and huge amount of gear. They’ve done shoots before, and that fact makes what they’re doing via ImageBrief even worse. Here is another one:

 

 

It’s one thing to get a brief from a small business client at a startup who actually has no idea how much shoots cost. It’s easy to forgive that kind of thing and chalk it up to ignorance. But Reebok understands how much shoots like this cost, has made a conscious decision to find a way to cut down those costs, and is using ImageBrief as a way to find photographers who don’t have an understanding of the way commercial advertising works and take advantage of their lack of knowledge. It’s disgusting, and frankly incredibly insulting to the many high-end commercial advertising shooters who exist.

ImageBrief was woefully unhelpful when we brought this to their attention. Here is their word-for-word response when we pointed out that Reebok is undermining everything ImageBrief supposedly stands for. We approached them as an every day photographer, not as a media outlet, to see how they would treat a complaint that came from one of their users.

We completely respect and understand your issues with the prices, however our business is about providing a platform that matches photographers and buyers, and we have a range of budgets for photos from $30,000 – $250 and it is up to the photographer whether they would like to submit to the brief. The photography landscape is changing and we are trying to provide a platform which photographers can sell images. $1000 is the budget that these agencies have for social media campaigns, and we work with the agencies to increase their budgets where possible, but sometimes that is all they have to work with. We have chosen to put those briefs out there and those who feel it is not in their budget do not have to respond. There might be some other up-and-coming photographers who want the experience.

 

We understand that this type of shoot might not be for you, and it’s quite a ways away from that $40,000 shoot that you’re talking about, seeing that this is a much smaller scale, social media-only type shoot, not a major print campaign for the brand. Again, your feedback is hugely appreciated and we honestly and sincerely take comments like these into account when forced with major decisions. We understand that the photography landscape is changing and strive to be part of the solution with the industry’s highest commission paid to photographers, a very human, very hard-working team that takes your comments and feedback to heart.

 

With that said, is this particular shoot for a photographer like yourself? Maybe not. Will we have higher-paying, larger scale shoots to offer in the future? Absolutely, and we hope you’ll stick around for those reasons, but should you decide not to keep your account with us, that is your prerogative and we respect your decision either way. Just let me know how you’d like me to proceed with your account.

 

Thank you again for the feedback.

The thing is… Reebok expressly states that they would use it for social and likely in-store. In fact, the “permitted use” section of the brief expressly states “Social Media, Press Ad – Magazine and Newspaper, Website.” That’s absolutely not just social media. And that aside, it’s still a styled, completely custom shoot, the sheer costs of which are way above the $1500 price they’re willing to pay. Reebok attempting to exploit shooters is one thing, but perhaps what hurts even more is how ImageBrief, a company whose CEO expounds on the virtues of his company and laments the fall of the value of photography, doesn’t seem to care that it’s happening. You can read ImageBrief’s CEO Simon Moss talk on the whole issue here, but here is a small excerpt that tells you how he says he feels:

With the rise of microstock and millions of images flooding the system and increased competition amongst photographers it’s never been more difficult to make a living from photography.

 

Of course, if you are a photographer you already know this. After all, the average microstock photographer can only expect to earn around $4,000 per year. That’s just over $10 a day, or maybe just enough to buy a sandwich and a coffee. The modern human needs much more than that to survive in this world unless maybe you live in a remote part of Cambodia or The Cook Islands (in which case I salute you).

 

Today, photographers need to have their irons in lots of different fires. The world has changed and the modern photographer now has to develop into an entrepreneur or face possible extinction.

That’s great and all… except his company isn’t actually doing that it if they allow Reebok to exploit their members like this, especially after being alerted to its happening. If you read all of Simon Moss’s piece, you can see that he has a very firm grasp on the problem with the photographic market today and says he has a solution: his company. That would be awesome, except the deals and briefs they promote aren’t even remotely fair considering the usages the clients are asking for. ImageBrief sounds good on their happy-go-lucky “About Us” video and Simon’s blog, but when they allow companies like Reebok to blatantly take advantage of photographers like this, they are no better than the stock photo competitors he complains about.

Honestly, they might be worse.

ImageBrief’s response to the complaint and their solution was to just tell the complaining photographer to leave. They did this because they know that some other photographer, who is much less schooled on how this market works and the costs of such a production, will undoubtedly take the job as a chance to make what they think sounds like a good amount of money (and be able to throw Reebok on their “Clients” page of their website). Woop-dee-doo—we can send you a nice thank you card from the deck of the sinking ship that is the photographic market.

Reebok puts tons of these briefs online, and this is only one of the many. Take a look:
Reebok is Using Image Brief to Exploit and Undermine Photographers

 

Note how many of those have been “awarded.” Reebok has already saved hundreds of thousands of dollars through ImageBrief, and it only cost the soul of photography.

For me, it’s more upsetting that ImageBrief is allowing this to happen, and they’re defending their actions by playing the innocent middle-man. They’re stating they don’t have control over how big or small a client’s budget is, and while this is true, at what point does the middle-man in this scenario (ImageBrief), have to protect their assets (the photographers)? I understand why Reebok would try to circumvent the normal channels, as who doesn’t love the idea of getting something valuable for practically nothing? Of course, Reebok knows that this is worth far more than they’re saying they’re willing to pay, which is why their trying to get it cheaper via ImageBrief. However, ImageBrief also knows what this is worth, and instead of protecting their photographers and the industry as a whole, they’re grabbing up whatever horrible offer a potential customer comes up with, just to make a few bucks.

ImageBrief is representing photography and, as such, they should be looking for ways to keep photographers happy and working and to keep rates up (which benefits them!). They’re doing a huge disservice to the photography industry by creating a means to drive rates down and take advantage of new/young photographers who get stars in their eyes when they hear about an opportunity to shoot for Reebok.

  • Gross. Won’t be using that service, or buying any Reeboks.

    • GlueFactoryBJJ

      Reebok appears to be run by a bunch of, shall we say, less than ethical people. Look at the recent deal they signed with the UFC. One former UFC fighter has gone on record saying the guaranteed purses they are paying to ALL of the fighters per event are frequently less than some of those fighters used to make off their other sponsors by themselves.

      On top of that, as the author noted, ImageBrief apparently is being complicit with Reebok’s attempt to undermine the commercial photo shoot pricing structures. This can be seen by the number of “briefs” that Reebok is listing along with their ambivalent stance on the issue. If they knew very little about the commercial photo shoot industry, you could excuse it as being ignorance, but from statements made in the article, it is apparent that they actually may be a front for the companies like Reebok to actually make the situation WORSE for photographers.

  • Bo Dez

    I saw this yesterday and I was excited about the idea of the image brief site until I saw this very brief from Reebok and the exploitation and ripping off that was occurring. Shameful, shameful, shameful. I deleted the book mark straight away and refuse to buy Reeboks. Stay away from this rip off exploitation from companies that have real money to pay people with and who know better.

    • Ottmar

      And yur cellphone brand is probably Apple. Do your homework about that product before you rant about Reebok.

      • Bo Dez

        You are a sponge; a wet mouldy sponge sitting in a puddle of your own excretion; saturated, yet still, like a slug from the darkness, you maintain your vice like grip, reabsorbing your own own waste, sucking it up and gulping it down. Congratulations, you are the first known perpetual motion machine living off your own self absorbed, self loathing, entitled assumption.

        • Ottmar

          Bi-polar narcissist does not answer the question.

  • Steve Beaudet

    For me, it’s more upsetting that ImageBrief is willing to post this crap! They’re defending their actions by playing innocent middle man… stating they don’t have control over how big or small a client’s budget is. And while this is true, at what point does the middle-man in this scenario (ImageBrief), have to protect their assets (the photographers)? I understand why Reebok would want to circumvent the normal channels… who doesn’t love the idea of getting something valuable for practically nothing?! Of course Reebok knows what this assignment should be worth… that’s why they’re trying to get it cheaper via ImageBrief. And based on this article, their attempts have been successful multiple times. However, ImageBrief also knows what this is assignment should be worth, but instead of protecting their photographers and the industry as a whole, they’re grabbing up whatever petty offer a potential customer comes up with, just to make a few bucks.

    ImageBrief is representing photography… as such, they should be looking for ways to keep photographers happy and working… and to keep rates up (which benefits them as well as the photographers!).

    Face is, most clients will always look for the most cost effective way to satisfy their needs. And good photography is expensive, so expect clients to try and save a buck. My biggest issue isn’t with clients, it’s with ImageBrief. They’re doing a HUGE disservice to the photography industry by creating a means to drive rates down and take advantage of new/young photographers who get “stars in their eyes” when they hear about an opportunity to shoot for Reebok. ImageBrief is hurting the very people who supply them with the product they sell! They are literally killing the goose that lays the golden egg. ImageBrief needs to step up it’s game and become a lot more ethical.

    • Looks like this article worked. No more Reebok briefs. Somehow, even for 8 images, they didn’t reach the minimum $250/per fee.

  • Staying far far far away from ImageBrief now.

  • Hey Jaron. I’m Simon Moss, CEO of ImageBrief. I took the time to read your expressed concerns about the assignment requests posted by Reebok on our platform. I think we are actually in agreement on some of the macro trends going on in the industry. However, I think you may have missed the evolution of some brands shifting from high-production photo shoots towards lower-production shoots geared more towards social media channels.

    Your opening comment about photography being in a bad place right now is spot on. It’s never been more difficult to earn a living from photography. “Being in a specific market with good repeat clients” is a luxury for the few but this is definitely not the reality for hundreds of thousands of photographers.

    The harsh reality the commercial photography industry faces is not that the overwhelming majority of the world’s photo buyers are happy to sacrifice “good or passable” photography for next to nothing, it’s that the entire dynamic of the way brands (and their agencies) use imagery to engage with their audience is changing very, very quickly.

    The alternative up till now has been stock libraries that have dropped significantly in price over the years. At ImageBrief, we’ve actually been championing on behalf of photographers to build and grow their businesses beyond just stock photography. As we’ve worked closely with our buyers we’ve also evolved to suit their needs – and in the last year have actually enabled buyers to easily find and hire photographers through what we call ‘Assignment Briefs’ (which is what Reebok used on our platform) and also our ‘Find A Pro’ search engine.

    ImageBrief has and continues to evolve as we do our best to balance the needs of buyers with the requirement that photographers be able to build their business and support their livelihood. To this end, we’ve moved beyond only basic briefing for pre-shot images and now give photographers a whole bunch of different ways to put themselves forward directly to buyers for a steady stream of assignment work.

    As the volume of images spinning around the world on social media and the web continues to explode, the volume of fresh branded images buyers need grows too. Short, straight-forward brief’s like the Reebok assignment allow brands to cut through the noise.

    This means that not every shot needs to be a studio-produced, retouched, high-value image. Buyers’ requests steadily show the need for authentic, candid, relatable images that are not overly-produced. For some projects budgets are also shifting from one big campaign to micro campaigns and micro shoots. And these more frequent lower production shoots (often ongoing through the life of a campaign) won’t completely replace the high production value shoots for global media campaigns (those will still continue to exist), rather they are designed to be complementary.

    The shoot breakdown you provided is typical for a large shoot (and possibly even hiring named models for the shoot), but it’s also the reason these large shoots aren’t done every day. Few brands will go to the trouble of organising a complicated project like that for a short lived image. By simplifying the process of hiring a photographer we demonstrate to buyers that they can be hiring photographers all the time instead of settling for a compromised stock image.

    In the case of Reebok, referencing their global campaign shoot by Gilles Bensimon featuring Miranda Kerr to the assignments featured on http://www.imagebrief.com is clearly comparing apples and oranges. They are two very different projects with different scope of work, intent, and usage. The first case is a single high production global campaign shoot in rather than a high number of smaller low production shoots across multiple locations.

    • David Robin

      Hello Simon,

      I’m David Robin, a lead on the Advocacy Committee with APA (American Photographic Arts).

      As you no doubt are aware APA is the foremost photography trade and advocacy association in the United States. And as such we review many, if not all, business models, contracts, image licenses, terms of use, user agreements etc. that affect our members and the industry at large.

      While this article focuses on a particular anecdotal event, it serves to shed light on much larger, over-arching concerns our organization and other industry trade organizations have long had with ImageBrief’s business model in general and the terms of your contracts specifically.

      Your on-going claim that ImageBrief is simply a passive player in the “trend” towards devaluing the work of photographers, seems disingenuous on its face. In fact ImageBrief’s business model perpetuates this “trend” and serves as an enabler in the process.

      ImageBrief’s stated business and brand’s mission centers on providing inexpensive imagery to companies large and small. As this article clearly demonstrates, your business proactively drives down these costs to buyers on the backs of photographers – undermining the value of the photographers’ hard work while commodifying their talent. We feel this is a short-sighted unsustainable way of doing business and, if allowed to persist, can only lead to the inability of photographers to make a living and in turn destroy the very businesses you rely on to create your product.

      Nevertheless we at APA understand that without the participation of photographers, you would not be able to offer your services. This participation requires photographers to agree to the terms of your Terms of Use and License Agreements. In order to codify our concerns with these documents, APA legal counsel has reviewed your agreements and found much of the stipulations contained within them to be, at least, opaque and one-sided and at worst, purposely exploitive and deceptive.

      As a service to our members and the industry at large, APA is in the process of educating concerned parties to the very real issues we have with your agreements. However, we feel the best way to create an amicable environment that benefits all parties, would be to work with you directly in arriving at equitable contracts and agreements that serve your needs while supporting the photographers you rely on to conduct and sustain your business.

      With that in mind, if you will commit to working with us towards a more equitable relationship with the photography industry in the United States, I would like to suggest we set up a meeting to find a way towards a resolution that benefits all parties, both ethically and financially.

      Please feel free to contact me at david@davidrobin.com

      Thank you Simon.

      Best Regards,
      David Robin
      APA Advocacy Committee

      • David, The equitable relationship we are all working hard to build is between the image buyers and the photographers. Instead of the intermediary model of the big libraries, we are bringing buyers and photographers together. We’d love your thoughts, input and ideas on where you see opportunities for this to improve. You have an open invite to come visit our offices in NY to discuss. I’ll send you an email direct.

        • David Robin

          Simon, Thank you for the invitation and your openness to exploring more equitable ways of supporting photographers. By your words, I’m assuming you are not intending to participate nor enable the continued exploitation of artists and creators.

          However, while your on-going portrayal of ImageBrief’s role in our industry as the benign facilitator that is selflessly putting photographers together with buyers, seems quite quaint, the fact is your Terms of Use and License Agreements tell a radically different story.

          That is surely an area you have full control over and we at APA are looking forward to meeting with you to discuss our concerns in this regard. I’ll be back in New York next month and look forward to our meeting.

          Best,
          David

          • Steve Beaudet

            David (standing and applauding!)… truly awesome response. And I’m committed to policing ImageBrief, and any other startups as well. Someone needs to be an advocate for the professional photographer… glad you’re taking a stand. Please let everyone in the community know how your conversations with Simon turn out.

            Best,

            Steve

          • David Robin

            Steve, Thank you for your support. This kind of advocacy is a principal tenet of APA’s mission and what we do everyday. We will be working for a way forward with ImageBrief that benefits all parties while appropriately supporting and compensating the hard work of all professional photographers.

            And yes, I will most certainly keep everyone posted on our on-going discussions with Simon and all other companies we engage with on photographers’ behalf. The best place to catch updates on this and all advocacy issues we’re working on is on our website in the Advocacy section:

            apanational.org/advocacy

            apanational.org

            You can also follow me on Twitter @eyetide where I often shed light in real time on challenges facing the photo community / industry. BTW if you are not already a member of APA, please join us, we are fighting hard for photographers and can use your support.

            Thanks.
            Best,
            David

          • Hey Steve, please let’s just have some calm here and clear thinking. The world is moving quickly and the way brands and agencies source content will change over time whether we like it or not. Here’s an article you might find interesting on brands using branded images from Instagram direct nyti.ms/1WfO75f

            The word ‘policing’ is unnecessarily aggressive. No brand or photographer are breaking the law here and I am sure you don’t have 300 million pairs of hand cuffs to run around and arrest everyone with a cell phone on Instagram. Take for example, our friend here Liza Day Penney – does she deserve a sentence?

            “I’m always really excited,” said Liza Day Penney, a 23-year-old from Dayton, Tenn., whose photo appears on American Eagle Outfitter’s website. She estimated that the company has used more than half-a-dozen of her photos, and even once sent her a $25 gift card.

            “That was one of the things, too, that really encouraged me to continue to post and continue to tag and hashtag them as I wear the clothes,”

            David and I are meeting to discuss his concerns in NY next month. We’ll do this very calmly and we’ll both be delighted to update you and the community on the outcomes.

          • Steve Beaudet

            Hi Simon,

            I’m not sure how Crocs stealing images off Instagram justifies the platform you provide for large companies to take advantage of new talent. Also, I Googled, “Liza Day Penney Photography” and found nothing but a Pinterest page and an Instagram account. She’s not a professional photographer, so she shouldn’t be expected to know anything about rights, usage or proper fees. She’s just flattered to see her photos in print. Her payments are bragging rights at her book club. However, if ImageBrief can get a hold of her, perhaps you can get her a check for $100 and a cookie, while making a couple bucks for yourself at the same time. The world is moving quickly!… and how brands and agencies source content may change over time… but only if there’s a benefit to that change. And you’re providing that benefit. As a photography provider, you should be supporting the community and offering education and assistance to photographers, instead of profiting from their desperation or ignorance. Last time I checked, I couldn’t pay my mortgage with an American Eagle gift card… but then again, I wouldn’t be able to pay my mortgage shooting an 8 shots assignment with 2 models for Reebok for $1,500 either. I’m glad both you and Liza Day Penney are happy, but I’ll continue to watch ImageBrief and any other companies attempting to profit from unwitting photographers, while destroying the equity commercial photographers have spent their lives to develop. And when I see large corporations posting briefs like the Reebok brief… I will sound the alarm again. I’m glad you and David are meeting… please assist him and the entire photographic community in making sure rates stay fair. Ultimately, it will benefit you as well… as your talent pool will grow when rates rise, and your cut will come off of a fatter check. Regards, Steve Beaudet

          • Jon

            David,
            Well said ! ..think I’d better join APA even though not US based. IB would have had a choice here to influence Reebok, in this instance, by taking a position to somewhat similar to Jaron’s post on this, but choose instead to roll over to whatever is submitted in their briefs, albeit with the knowledge that someone may go out to try filling it, and lose heavily in the bargain.

          • This is not first corporation to use ImageBrief and I complained last year to the reps at ImagesBrief about this very thing. The response was, “If you don’t like it, leave.” Which by the way I have done.

          • koolbreez55

            Sure it would be nice to maintain that $10k creative fee, and all the assistants allegedly needed for this shoot, but as is stated repeatedly, this is a changing world, with many more creative people with cheaply priced studio quality cameras, and lenses, that could do their own makeup, and staging, and still make a decent day rate that would pay the bills off that $1500 budget, and supply the 8 shots Reebok requested. With as many avenues as social media now provides, Reebok would not have to look very far to find a replacement for what ImageBrief is providing them, and that is the reality in this day and age. Also the brief comment about real world situations in brand recognition is the growing trend in brand advertising, with everyday people identified by the consumer as more believable when they endorse or use the brand. There is a big trend moving away from the use of professional models to present the brand. With the internet, and its instantaneous worldwide reach in finding what Reebok wants, $1500 is very doable for some very qualified professionals not based in North America, or Europe, after-all Reebok is an international brand. There are a number of countries that $1500 is very high wages, even after all the shoot expenses are taken out. In the country I am based in a make-up stylist costs me $15 a full day, and my 1st assistant gets $22 a day, and is very happy getting that much. It is wrong to think every photographer is being exploited that would agree to take one of those Reebok assignments. Scales of economy dictates whether there is exploitation, not a Western way of thinking.

          • Mike

            I will have to join APA apparently. Well done sir.

    • Richard Terryson

      Simon, Image brief is nothing more than a cancer that slowly erodes it’s host. Its an extractive business model designed to vacuum profits away from local, independent business people by creating a market for large corporations to exploit desperate or unsophisticated creators. I know your business model very well and we both know that you’re trying to sugar coat what ImageBrief is doing in the hopes that the people with the torches and pitchforks all go home. Momentum however is building, not waning. Its been a while since you’ve waded into one of these discussions. The last time I saw was on A Photo Editor a couple of years ago where you were rightly called out for this business model and after trying vainly to calm the aggrieved parties, you gave up and vanished before things got really ugly. I suspect you’ll do the same this time.

      I see every brief that comes out of ImageBrief and what Jaron describes above is barely the tip of the iceberg, $250 for an image for some “BIG US Agency” is a regular thing and I suspect theres a lot of illusion going on around ImageBrief’s marketing to photographers (what was that pay to play/listed as a preferred photographer thing you were trying?). I think we’re almost done with the days of portals pretending to be able to find you work/sell your images, find you a huge ad campaign, etc. etc. all for a monthly fee, only to imply that maybe you’re not good enough when the promised riches fails to materialize. You’re selling a drug to junkies hooked on the dream that they will make a sustainable career at photography. Your argument is essentially “hey, not my fault they’re addicted, I just make the drugs available to those in need, I’m doing the community a service”. The truth is, this is crowdsourcing of the worst kind.

      In fact, you’re profiting (though I suspect thats on shaky ground too) by making a market for people to take advantage of those who either don’t know better or are desperate to try and make any money from photography. Many art buyers I know in advertising think Image Brief is a joke. They regularly post briefs to get images for pitches or to comp into presentations that they never use or intend to. Submitters are doing all the work for nothing. I recently shot a job for a “BIG US Agency” whose brief to me was inspired by the imagery used in the pitch, which came from a request to ImageBrief that the agency had no intention of actually buying (a story I hear often).

      Another issue I have with your model is “customers” telling suppliers how much they’ll pay for a product and how backwards that is. Picture buyers have become trained to tell their suppliers what they are willing to pay and picture sellers have become so desperate that they say yes to any amount of money offered up, like beggars and the destitute, grateful for any handout offered. That’s the market Image Brief has helped create. That a multi billion dollar corporation (Reebok) is able to ask for $100,000 photoshoots for $1500 proves the point entirely. Image buyers have been offering unsustainable money for imagery now for a while thanks to micro stock and the supply side being so crowded, the result is, they’re now hooked on the cheap stuff and have no desire to change the “that’s good enough” paradigm they’re trapped in.

      ImageBrief is not the first company to try monetizing the spec or on demand model. Every other one in the “content creation” category failed and the failure of ImageBrief can’t come fast enough for me or the business of photography.

      In the meantime, keep shilling that Kool-Aid.

      • Terry, I just read your comments, and looked at some of your other negative posts including PDN and PetaPixel. Actually there are plenty of photographers thriving and adapting to the new world. So maybe rather than complain about the new tools that are available to help connect buyers and photographers you could add some value. Why not share some of your success stories with the photography community? Let us know about some of your wins, give us some insights into your sales and commissions and how you do it. James Dimmock is a professional photographer who recently told us about how he generates big sales from big clients. We’d love to do a similar post on you if you have something of value to share. http://blog.imagebrief.com/speculate-to-accumulate-just-do-it/

        • Richard Terryson

          Thanks Simon,

          Just because my commentary is negative does not make me wrong. You’re implying that my posts are negative and thus my comments should be discounted which is very disingenuous of you.

          I have lots of success stories and lots of failure stories but, would gain nothing by sharing them with you or giving Image Brief free content to use to turn into another illusionary sales pitch to try and convince others to play the spec game. I know there are plenty of photographers “thriving and adapting” but there are even more who are going out of business, downsizing, closing studios, teaching etc. Make no mistake, the business of photography from the photographers standpoint is much diminished in the last 10 years.

          Turning my comments into another self promotion post complete with links was also in poor taste.

  • Kent

    It seems to me that those knitting before the guillotine and shouting ‘Ditch ImageBrief’ are really just shooting the messenger. ImageBrief is a market, if there are no buyers for the seller’s product (the Reebok shoot) then Reebok will have to raise the price. If the only buyer is a poor photographer then Reebok will suffer and change its ways. It is in ImageBriefs interest to maximise the prices paid and up to the photographers to stay away from briefs that are loss leaders. Mr Moss has an original answer to a serious problem. Give him a fair go.

    • Steve Beaudet

      Kent, what ImageBrief if doing, is bad for the business as a whole. Imagine a street outside a ballpark, lined on either side with hot dog vendors. Each is selling their version of a hot dog for $5.00, give or take. If someone wants to save a buck, they can buy one for $4.00… if they want to get fancy, they buy the venison dog for $6.00. Now, along comes a vendor selling a similar hot dog for 50 cents. Can he do this? Sure, it’s a free market place! But can he make enough money to live on? Once he pays for the hot dog, bun, condiments, napkins, cart maintenance, propane, etc., he breaks even. So, he’s not making a living, but he’s put all of the other vendors out of business. So now you say, “Yeah, but if he’s not making any money, then he’ll be gone the following week… so there’s no problem”. Except along comes HotDogBrief. They give all new hot dog vendors the opportunity to sell hot dogs at a big venue! WOW! And they establish the price to be 60 cents (of which they take 10). So instead of the one guy selling dogs at 50 cents and going out of business immediately, there’s a line of guys behind him ready to take his place… all for the opportunity to sell hot dogs at the big game! Who wins here? The customers do. While having been trained up until this point to understand a ball park hot dog costs $5.00, now they know they can get one for 60 cents… so why ever pay $5.00 again? And HotDogBrief, who provides an endless supply of cheap hot dog vendors looking for opportunity, while still making money on each of them. Who loses? Photographers who have worked hard to establish fair rates and usage for quality photography. ImageBrief is in no way an innocent party. They are an active participant in devaluing photography.

      • Tom

        I don’t think many people will dispute the usage aspect of this debate and that the fee should have been higher to reflect the usage requested. Fair rates should of course be established for social media use, but it’s early days in this process. ImageBrief are at least trying to develop some solutions and this piece on Resource Magazine sheds light on the subject some more. But an industry grappling in general with pricing for social media usage isn’t ImageBrief’s fault. With social media usage being difficult to compare to traditional models, do you have a suggestion as to how such usage should be calculated?

        – Promotional posts on social media have only a brief moment with their [albeit large] target audience before getting buried.
        – Yet these posts do live on, buried away and visible to those few who scroll back through a brand’s feed.
        – Images are seen at a smaller size though, often on devices.

        What do you think the fee should have been for the usage in this Reebok assignment brief? Forget about shoot costs – just the usage they were requesting, without the unknowns [possible print & possible in store use].

      • Kent

        Steve
        Much of what you say is correct save that as in any market buyers buy based not just on price but on quality of product. And sellers sell for a price that rewards them (either now or possibly in the future from increased sales). You don’t expect the NYSE to tell you the price of Reebok shares is too high or too low. If ImageBrief moderated prices on its site then what will happen is that someone will open up SupaCheap Images and undercut them. It is not easy is it?

  • Tom

    Jaron
    Although you definitely make some great points in your article, I think you might be missing the point of what Reebok were after here.

    Firstly, a bit of nit-picking. Nowhere in the brief is it suggested that the photographer has to buy the shoes themselves. That would be ridiculous, and surely no photographer would agree to that if it was the case.

    You then wrote that “the problem here is that no one is going to have these images just kicking around on a hard drive. Reebok is looking for specific shoes, in specific positions and settings. This is absolutely a styled shoot…” You’re exactly right – because this was an assignment brief from the outset, not a typical brief that you’d submit images to if you had them in your archives [because with specific shoes mentioned, who would?]. That much was very clear. I wouldn’t describe it as a styled shoot though. Did you see the reference images in the brief? These reference images, and the lack of art direction in the brief suggest Reebok wanted something pretty low-key and ‘real’ rather than something overly styled.

    To be honest, the breakdown of costs that your two commercial photographers provided sums this all up quite nicely – the costs they outlined illustrate how those photographers work and what they do, but unfortunately they didn’t notice or even consider that maybe Reebok weren’t after that type of commercial approach.

    We don’t all shoot like those commercial photographers though, or even want to. Some of us don’t have those resources and produce perfectly acceptable work by taking a more low-budget approach. What Reebok requested could very easily be done at almost no expense by the right photographer with access to a good location – it could probably be shot on a iPhone, judging by what they were asking for.

    This is where ImageBrief come in – they can connect a buyer to a photographer in whatever form, whether it’s a brand wanting to do a commercial shoot for $50k, or a shoot with a lower budget that targets the average person scrolling through their Facebook news feed. It’s different strokes for different folks.

    By embedding those videos of the Reebok shoots alongside the Reebok brief you’re misleading your readers by suggesting that Reebok wanted that same type of shoot with similar results – yet nowhere in the brief is that suggested. This is actually one area where ImageBrief can improve the service, by forcing buyers and brands to give as much detail and direction as possible. Much more information needs to be extracted from them, on the whole.

    Those Crossfit and Miranda Kerr shoots are not my cup of tea at all. I’m not interested in shooting those kinds of jobs myself – I’m happy for other photographers to provide that kind of service to brands who want it, and be well paid accordingly. I would however consider shooting the kind of job that I think Reebok had in mind here. [In the end I didn’t put myself forward for this brief, two reasons being that I couldn’t shoot it in time and I didn’t think the fee was quite high enough.]

    You said that “ImageBrief was woefully unhelpful”. Personally I thought their reply was quite well-considered and acknowledges the situation. I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill when you say they “told the complaining photographer to leave” – they simply didn’t say that. They acknowledged that the photographer might want to leave the platform, probably because the photographer threatened to do so in the original complaint email that you didn’t show us.

    The one element of this debate that has some merit is the scope of the permitted use. It’s quite broad for such a low fee and maybe ImageBrief could have reigned that in. It’s also confusing that the rights requested in Reebok’s text differ from the ‘Permitted uses’ at the foot of the brief. This is another area that could be improved upon. But I think that’s the only aspect of this brief that targets photographers out there who might not be aware of the value of their work and how important it is not to give that work away.

    • Steve Beaudet

      While these aren’t “styled” shots based on the sample shots. However, who’s wearing the shoes? Are the models doing it for free? What are they wearing (2 changes of wardrobe, each)? Are the models bringing their own wardrobe… also for free? No hair and makeup? No assistant? No digital tech? OK… now we’re talking really low production values… they might as well be snapshots. By the time you throw the models a couple bucks, buy them lunch, spend a few hours looking for a location, a few hours shooting and a few hours in post, you’re lucky to put $1K in your pocket. For a company that is worth $1.2B and is in Forbes Fab 40?!! In the meantime, they talk of these being used for social media, but make sure to state in a lot of the briefs, “possible print” or “possible in store use”. These uses carry large fees… and both ImageBrief and Reebok know it. And if you don’t, ImageBrief should be making you aware of it.

      • Mike

        Even a sandwich has a baseline bottom price. Photography also has a baseline bottom price, and the prices from stock, imagebrief, etc,..etc,…??? They are not it, they are below cost for above the license and rights needed. They perpetuate and accelerate the race to an end to photography.

      • JACQUELYN CRADY

        When you sell an image on ImageBrief, they are very specific with terms of use (payment, length of time the image is to be used, where the image will be used, etc.) In an initial brief, the company may not know specifically the extend of usage until it is finalized… and the terms can change once an image is selected depending upon the photographers negotiation with the company. Any company can submit a brief with an amount but that doesn’t mean the photographer can’t negotiate. I personally think this all blown way out of proportion. If Reebok wants to pay a photographer $1500 and the photographer is willing to do it, then by all means, let them do it. Reebok obviously knows what they will get for that amount of money. I’m not sure why it bothers you? If that’s not what you would charge for a few “snapshots” then good for you…but don’t put down other photographers that would be willing to do this and don’t try to take away or minimize opportunities like this for other photographers of different skill level just because this isn’t how it was done 30 years ago. I personally have never done an assignment for IB but I’d be pretty upset if I had and then came across this article as it appears to criticize the photographer more than anything else.

        • Steve Beaudet

          So Jacquelyn, you seem to be of the “let the free market dictate the price” mindset. I’m not sure what you do, but what if a company decided to offer your particular skill set to your employer at cost significantly less than what you are currently being paid? Would you be OK with this? You might say, “Yeah, but a person working for less than me, would not be nearly as good”… but this isn’t necessarily true. Perhaps they are hungrier, newer/younger, more desperate. And maybe your employer doesn’t replace you… maybe your employer puts you on notice that there is a company out there, supplying people willing to do your job for far less than you. As such, you will be taking a decrease in pay and will never be eligible for a raise. Also fair? Is it fair if your employer has plenty of money to pay you a fair wage, but decides not to? Is it still fair if your employer is aware of what a person of your skills and experience is worth, but would rather put the money in their own pocket? Perhaps you are unaware of the hundreds and thousands of people (photographers) who have traveled a difficult road before you, fighting hard battles to define what is fair and right when it comes to photography fees and usage… and that Image Brief is offering a way for large companies to source cheap photography by taking advantage of people who don’t know any better or are desperate for a job. And for the record, I am well within my rights to “put down” any photographer who knows this business, but takes an assignment like this. Those people are bad for this business. I also feel it’s my responsibility to educate people who are unaware that the compensation of $1,500 and a thank you is not compensation enough for an assignment such as this… a responsibility I feel should be shared by Image Brief.

  • Steve Beaudet

    Simon seems to be saying, “If you can’t beat em, join em”. But I don’t feel this industry is dead or dying. There are still great photographers, making a great living, shooting great assignments for great clients. It is, however, more competitive. And yes, there are social media needs that don’t require big budget shoots. But if the clients ImageBrief service don’t need heavily produced, expensive shoots… and are OK with “passable” photography… let them shoot the stuff themselves on their iPhones. But they won’t do that… because ImageBrief makes it easier and cheaper for large companies to take advantage of photographers and the industry as a whole. Why would someone in the PR department at Reebok take the time out of their day to source models, scout locations, purchase wardrobe, arrange for crew, pay to feed everyone, source cameras, lighting and computers, etc… and then hope for great weather and shoot the assignment… when instead, they can spend 5 minutes typing up a brief, knowing ImageBrief will post it? Simon Moss bemoans the state of the industry, yet does nothing to better it. Simon… if your company can only make money by being the cheapest way for large companies to save money on photography, please do us all a favor and open a bar or buy a town car and become an Uber driver. Or, help this industry out and tell companies like Reebok to raise their prices or lower the usage requirements. If they want a shot or two for a Facebook post for $1,500.00… sure. If they want it for “possible in store use”… a big fat NO!

    • Tom

      “Simon Moss bemoans the state of the industry, yet does nothing to better it.”

      The lowest price I’ve sold an image for on ImageBrief is $250, whilst the lowest I’ve received on another stock site I use is $8. In fact, even the minimum price for a royalty free photograph on ImageBrief is $250 – compare that to the likes of Getty, Alamy, Stocksy etc. You can probably guess where I’m focussing my licensing efforts now [thanks Simon!]…

  • George Dolgikh

    The breakdown on the $50,000 shoot looks insane to me. As insane as the “$4 000 per year” income from microstock. Microstock photographers who take it even slightly seriously will make 5 to 50 times more. As for Reebok being the bad guys – they just know (unlike others who don’t) that the world is a big place, with different people, different countries and different economies. And while folks at one side of the planet want $1k for catering, others have to feed their whole family for $100 a month – and somewhere in between, there will be lots of people absolutely happy to shoot for Reebok for $1.5k.

    • Steve Beaudet

      George… that estimate is conservative for a global client looking for in-store and/or print use. I’m not sure who you shoot for, but that estimate would be a very small job for me. I’m not saying photographers shouldn’t shoot $1,500 jobs… even if they’re for Reebok. But 8 shots, with models and a certain level of production values, for a global company who won’t restrict usage to social media, is ridiculous.

      • Alex Geana

        Steve, you are so right. If this was only a social media carve out, it would still be very low. Because $1,500 would just be photographer time, then you ad the model and an assistant. You can get it done for under $4k in one day. But only for social media. There is no other usage assigned to it and it’s done in a very specific way. Gear for that usage. Once you start shooting for everything else. You need different styles, support and just plain old time to get it done. I’m excited about this article and all the comments. Or this could also be done as base usage for social media plus additional usage can be purchased. The ImageBrief would actually be helping the emerging photographer grow instead of barely making rent and eating production costs.

      • Mike

        at a minimum it would be 1500 times 8 for baseline snapshots from an iphone,..so 12,000 plus some minor expenses for just one social media outlet with limited exclusivity.

  • Terre Tulsiak

    Hey Simon and Jared- I am Terre mother of Theresa ninth-grader at AHN and amateur photographer who posts pictures of herself wearing shoes,(running and jumping) her glasses, eating a salad, etc. with surprisingly good quality. Reebok may even be interested in some of her pictures but she is really busy with school right now. I hope that all this correcting of the market means that the days of location scouting,craft services, and someone carrying a teenager’s shoes around may be coming to an end. I guess the cost of shoes will be coming down too.

    • Mike

      They will be 1.00 each, or 1.50 a pair

  • Jan

    While a good discussion, I think the argument got a bit carried away.

    Much of the cost factor hinges on the small note that the images may be used in-store in addition to social media, where some considerable usage may apply for a national brand. When it comes to social media images, most of the time lower production cost shoots are appropriate. If they had left it at social media, I don’t nearly as many people would be upset.

    What the brands do get at a high-production cost shoot at the $50K level is a tremendous amount of input to make sure every minute detail is on brand and tied in with the marketing campaign or production positioning of this image. That makes sense if a serious media buy hinges on the image being spot on. When it comes to a much simpler and cheaper social media campaign and activation, much less is at risk and they can let go of control.

    In this case Rebook is clearly forgoing on-site art direction of the shoot in favor of selecting images from a loser brief, with the option to bail and still do the high production cost shoot if they needed to.

    My guess is that they wanted to leave themselves the option open that on the off chance that the image come out really nice and met all the notes of an in-store use, they would be able to do that. And that is all fair.

    The one point where they deserve to get dinged for is that for having that option, they should have said that if that additional use were to happen they would be paying industry rate usage on top of the Image Brief fees. That would have left a $1,500 shoot for a non-art directed social media campaign, and an option for appropriately licensed in-store images. Everybody would be happy. A smart photographer could have done a shoot that was in line with the budget and social media standards, and everyone would be good.

    And yes, the comments on the general market trends are spot on. But we move forward better if we don’t want the old days back but make the present realistic for both sides of the equation.

    I’m sure Rebook is still doing the full rate shoots for the projects where they do need this level of control and that type of expertise from the photographers. It’s just not the case for all of the imaging needs.

    • Mike

      When did international web based advertising become cheaper? How did we allow that? The internet showed up and we basically left the gate open,…now all the livestock is running rampant and it is time to get them back inside the fence. even a cost per pair of eyeballs would dwarf print.

  • Kevin Mclaughlin

    Does the quality match the price? is the 1500/shoot photographer putting out the quality the 50,000/shoot photographer is? If they are you have something to worry about ,if they are not you don’t

  • Michael Weaver

    I just quit Imagebrief. I had been one of the “founding” member or whatever they call you.

    My thoughts are that after seeing most of the briefs are wanting high production value/cost images for less than what they cost to create. It also appears that creatives are using the system to get ideas. There isn’t a comp or layout, just some random thoughts that need everything released. Really?!

    It’s a great business model for the entity that is the middleman, they get paid by wishful thinkers and the image buyers get the image they want from time to time for way less than it would cost them otherwise.

    When I saw that there is some woman that they say is successful at shooting the briefs on spec and she really didn’t have much revenue, it got me thinking and as time went on, I got to the point that it’s the disrespect of what we as photographers bring to the table that enable entities like Imagebrief to assist in making photography an unsustainable business model. You really want great looking people in a setting where everyone is released and exactly done as you need with lighting and huge file sizes? Hire a team to produce it for you. Why should photographers be the one that take it in the shorts because they need to spend more on online/social media placement? Let them find alternatives to Google/Facebook/Twitter/Vine or whatever the platform of the week is that is more cost effective at reaching the audience.

    The people making the requests expect to be paid well, why should photographers be any different?

  • Hey guys, you might find this perspective interesting from a very successful professional photographer. This is his experience when working for another major brand (Nike) http://blog.imagebrief.com/speculate-to-accumulate-just-do-it/

  • Sheila Smart

    Seemingly, Jaron, you have not checked in with IB lately. As of February 2016, Reebok has now changed the fee for several assignments… they are now offering between $250.00 to $900.00 per assignment as the TOTAL budget to shoot for billboards, web, advertising, the whole kit and caboodle! I have now cancelled my subscription to the Premium photography section more or less in protest. What is of concern is that there are several photographers who think its worthwhile to shoot for such a ridiculous amount, possibly in the vain hope that Reebok will employ them in the future. Yeah right!