Brands asking photographers to use their work for free – not all is black and white

Laura GordonOver the weekend, a photographer took to social media to complain about AIA Singapore (via their social media agency DSTNCT) asking to use his work for free. In this guest post, Laura Gordon suggests that since Zexun Tan is using a free platform to use promote his work he has little reason to complain, and may have missed a commercial opportunity.

I read with great interest the debate over user generated content being featured in client campaigns. The Zexun Tan vs. AIA/DSTNCT affair.

As an amateur photographer, I too was recently approached by a retail client, Asia Malls, to feature one of my images in a campaign. I was super flattered, and the ‘humble bragger’ in me would probably repost to all my followers when I saw the photo in-situ.

Shopping Mall Tiong Bahru Plaza asked Gordon to use her work for free

Shopping Mall Tiong Bahru Plaza asked Gordon to use her work for free

I thought it was quite awesome to be asked, and validated my efforts as a creator and publisher, that someone appreciated my work.

So the lens I would like to add (or should that be filter) is should a professional photographer be using Instagram to promote his work, which in essence is a consumer based social-platform, and not a business platform or website. And therefore should all users be treated, respectfully, the same.

Zexun Tan is happy to use Instagram – a ‘free’ platform – to promote his work, and is not having to pay for his audience/reach. So isn’t he also taking advantage of a system which he clearly exploits for financial gain? I assume that’s why he has an email contact address and is cross promoting via Facebook. So should @pandawithacam really be so pissed off? Perhaps he should pay some money to Instagram.

A smart way for brands to reward photographers (amateur or otherwise), would be to offer compensation, but not necessarily financial compensation: this could be in the form of loyalty points, entry into a lucky draw, free samples or product, discount codes etc… this would enable clients also to capture customer data, and provide a more engaged experience through rewards.

Anyway, it’s just an opposing thought.

Sometimes not everything, particularly photographs, are plain black and white.

Laura Gordon worked as APAC head of online sales and content for multichannel network Commercialize TV, and prior to that was regional integration director for Omnicom Media Group.


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