No, Ravishly, You Have Not Earned My Patience
I understand that some really great media outlets can’t afford to pay for photographs, and I sympathize. Where my sympathies end is when a media outlet has the expectation that I will make photographs for them for free.
As most of you know, my partner and I drove to Charlottesville, VA to photograph the white supremacist rally and its opposition. I created a photo essay project here and also posted live updates when I was able so that people who weren’t present could understand what was happening.
On Friday, September 1, I went through the photo essay and did reverse image searches of the photographs. That was when I discovered the website ravishly.com and, in particular, the following article and tweet:
I’m very particular about how my photographs are used. If Ravishly contacted me and asked me to use this photograph in an article recommending using angels to counter the agenda of Nazis, I’d have declined. However, since the photograph was already attached to the article for two weeks (with a misspelled attribution) and since it was already used as an advertisement for the site for the same time (with no attribution), I decided to just send an invoice for its use and call it a day. Value was already extracted from my work, both in terms of advertisement for Ravishly and ad revenue from those clicking through. As the article states: “If you like this article, please share it! Your clicks keep us alive!”
As I couldn’t find a contact email to send my invoice to on the ravishly.com site, I used their contact form to request the address:
After a week without a response, I checked in via Twitter where I was provided with the email for the Editor In Chief, Joni Edelman. On September 7, I wrote the following email directly to Joni Edelman:
This is in reference to your article at: http://www.ravishly.com/charlottesville-horror-reminder-americas-racist-past-never-really-left
Thank you for featuring an article about the horrors of Charlottesville. I'm glad you thought my photograph would be a fitting image for this article and your social media platforms.
Please let me know where I should send the invoice for your non-exclusive use of my photograph as soon as possible. My invoices are generally due 30 days after a photograph is used. Also, please feel free to contact me in case you need any photography work done in the future.
Less than an two hours later, my photograph was removed from the article and another put in its place. I sent another email along with the screenshots of the original article and tweet:
I see that the image for the article below has been changed to a different image I do not control the rights to. That's fine, of course, but understand that my image was already used without permission both on the site and to advertise and draw viewers to the site through social media as you can see from the screenshots below.
I would be delighted for you to continue using the image, and for a publication like yours I'd only invoice $50 for non-exclusive use on your site and social media. But regardless of whether you choose to continue using the photograph or not, value has already been extracted from my work and it has been done without my permission. I'd really like to remedy that in a mutually agreeable, respectful manner.
This time, I received a response from Joni within ten minutes. Here it is:
We regularly pull photos from Instagram for use on the site. I've reached out to my legal department to discuss this matter. The copyright issues aren't totally clear to me.
Thanks for your patience.
At this point, I’m confused. Am I supposed to believe that ravishly.com can afford to pay for a legal team to read Instagram’s TOS for them, but not pay photographers a shockingly small amount for hard-won photographs used without permission? Or am I supposed to believe that concealing the wrongful use of my photographs, ignoring my extraordinarily reasonable communications until I showed that I have evidence of wrongdoing, and then responding like this is worth my patience?
This isn’t complicated. Ask a photographer before using their work to make money. Pay them if you can afford to or use a different photograph if you can’t. If you make a mistake, be a decent human being about it.