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Like many other sites have reviewed and the countless 500px subscribers who have received the “Hey we want to work with you…” email, I too received such an email this week and after giving this considerable thought, I need to get some thoughts off of my chest.

Image decided to start offering “licensing” to their subscribers images.  In return for a guaranteed minimum of $250 for the image, the photographer would receive $75.


Okay, so yes the photographer can continue to sell fine-art prints, self-promotion, portfolio, etc., etc., but that figure, in its pure form is really a serious slap in the face to the photographer.  You can read through all of the 500px Prime FAQ’s and there are a lot of words regarding Exclusive licensing which could mean “thousands” of dollar to the photographer through other licensing or content options.

$75.00…that just sits in my gut and stews.  So, what does this really mean and why should I even give this story a fleeting thought?

Perhaps I am not like most landscape photographers, but I am fairly sure that all of my fellow compatriots have their own process similar to me, and I must say that for 90% of my photo shoots and perhaps more, I invest a minimum of 40 hours researching, planning and preparing for the photo shoot.

Even if I were to use the current Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that would equal $70.00.  Personally, I know my time is worth a heck of a lot more than $7.25 an hour!!!  Now let’s take into account the means by which to get to the location and the amount of effort required to hike or snowshoe to the photo-shoot location.  While some of my shoots are very easy walks or treks a couple hundred yards to a 1/2 mile in length, the vast majority are four miles or longer in length just to get to the location.

Now, let’s talk about getting there.  Often, I will have to get to bed around 5 or 6pm the day before, so that I can be up at 1 or 2am to drive to the location, just so I can be there for magic hour!  Oh, but wait…maybe this is an evening photo-shoot, so I can just stay up longer and shoot the images I need, then drive home.

While I could get into all of the expense of a photographer’s gear, it is pretty simple to just give a round figure of $15,000 in gear for what is contained in my photography pack.  Throw in the expenses for web-hosting, professional memberships, software for processing images (includes software maintenance), etc. and you can add in another $1000/year for expenses.

Do you see a trend? You should!

Now, I will say that a lot of photographers truly love what they do and the money, while a means to support their family, is not why they do what they do.  But, face it folks, supporting yourself or your family is not cheap and the photography industry is not inexpensive!!

So what! Who cares? Why am I even wasting time writing this blog?

Quite simple actually: if 500px had been just a little less greedy (IMO) and offered a proper split, 500px could have had a major winning formula.  Instead of offering something like a 70% cut to the photographer, giving 500px a minimum 30% cut for each license which could have been very lucrative!

So this is probably more of a rant, but I am growing very tired of hearing stories of customers, clients or businesses who give the photographer the short end.  We are indeed very passionate about what we do, but it is not cheap; our gear, our expenses, our time, our sacrifices to get those magical images that ignite the sense of passion in someone else to buy that magic image!

One last tidbit regarding 500px, that has me concerned they really have no clue what a solid business model is: a twitter conversation between a couple of us photographers and a response from 500px on their twitter account pertaining to a new feature to upload pictures from smartphones to a subscribers 500px account.  Now before you go nuts and say “yeah, so…lots of business’ do that”, let’s put this in context of this blog.

Say I am a customer who wants to purchase a licensed image.  Do you really think that an image from a smartphone is of sufficient quality to consider it professional in quality and want to license?  Personally, I think it is absurd and that 500px believes that smartphone images are sufficient quality to be considered professional…

…oh yeah, because 500px believes that creativity does not stop at the DSLR. 

As a current 500px subscriber, I am pretty certain I won’t be the only one who will not be renewing my subscription!!!  The business model makes no sense and it is glaringly obvious to me that 500px does not really understand who is doing the heavy lifting in the business equation (hint: it is not 500px!!!!!!!).