One photographer’s response for a $12,000,000 renovation asking for free prints

Oct 7, 2019

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

One photographer’s response for a $12,000,000 renovation asking for free prints

Oct 7, 2019

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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We love Tim Wallace. We love him for his stellar, high-end photography (check it out). We also love him for his wit, and for fighting the war-of-value fo the photography industry.

Take this email for example. Tim got an email from a  ‘high-end interior designer’ based in California asking, not only for free prints but actually asking for the high-res source files.  Tim’s response is nothing but priceless, and should be rewad by all photographers that are promised “exposure for work”.

Here is the email, followed by Tim’s wonderful response.

Hi I have a very important client that I am currently working with to remodel their $12m coastal retreat home, they love your classic car work and would like to have **** print for their hallway as you enter their home. They unfortunately don’t really have any budget for this however so I was wondering if you’d be interested in sending us the high resolution files if we did the printing so that there is no cost to yourself?

As I said, Tim’s response has a very strong sense of value. I believe that it is a well-deserved response. I also believe that while asking for freebies is not a wrong thing in this day and age, asking for a freebie while flaunting a $12,000,000 budget is inherently sassy:

Hi, oh wow that’s so cool and thank you so much for the kind feedback regarding my work. It’s such a tempting offer to supply them with my work for absolutely no benefit to my business what so ever and it’s hard to know what to say.

I think the fact that they have the revenue to purchase a $12m second ‘coastal retreat’ home would suggest that they are the type of people who feel that they deserve the very best but shouldn’t have to pay for it. Unfortunately I don’t really do business with cheap people and your offer clearly shows me that whilst they love my work they do not respect the hard work that goes in to creating that. Therefore I will have to respectfully suggest that you stick some of that overpriced drift wood art that you interior designers are always so good at knocking out on the wall instead. I’m assuming that you are getting paid or do ‘they love your work too’ ?
Lucky you, it’s such a fabulous project and your so lucky to be in their presence.
Good luck with it all”

Tim Wallace

Have you ever been offered to give your work for free? I would love to hear your stories.

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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61 responses to “One photographer’s response for a $12,000,000 renovation asking for free prints”

  1. Alexandre Ayoubi Avatar
    Alexandre Ayoubi

    Would love to hear the person’s response after that if there is one

    1. Alex Danes Avatar
      Alex Danes

      “You should be grateful that…”

  2. Freelance cameraman China/HK Avatar
    Freelance cameraman China/HK

    I would have still sent an offer to this request and see before this email,.. but that’s just me.

  3. Avatar


    1. Chuck Diesel Avatar
      Chuck Diesel

      That makes me cringe every time I see it.

    2. Alexandre Inacio Avatar
      Alexandre Inacio

      I think it was intentional in this case…

  4. Arthur_P_Dent Avatar

    I love the way he put the freetards in their place.

    1. Kristen Beck Avatar
      Kristen Beck

      FREETARDS, my new favorite word!

  5. Anna Moritz Avatar
    Anna Moritz

    Brilliant! ??

  6. Marius Budu Avatar
    Marius Budu

    I don’t know that this is the best way to approach the situation.

    I would have offered them a price for the printed/framed works and told them that I do not offer my work at no cost as it costs me time and money to produce (which should be obvious but it’s important to remind people in these types of situations).

    But that’s just me. Stay professional out there kids… and eat your greens ;)

    1. Bill Avatar

      Meh… I don’t know. I have mixed feelings. I understand your point. And the professional route could have (maybe) had a small percentage chance that the designer was just lowballing/bluffing, and would have ultimately paid for the piece. But ultimately, if Mr. Wallace wasn’t hurting for income at the time, this is a way to actually let them know that what they are asking for is incredibly rude and unprofessional, so that maybe in the future they will think twice before they try to get someone’s hard work for free. If he were to go along with it without without calling them out, it’s essentially encouraging that behavior.

    2. Andrés Miraglia Avatar
      Andrés Miraglia

      It depends, of course, on how desperate you are for the gig. I, personally, would prefer to cut the BS and instantly not engage with a problematic client. Saves time. How to reply, after someone who is supposed to know the ways in which this market is managed asks for such a thing, is, of course, personal, but i surely would have called the abusive/immoral request as Tim did. If you are contacted by someone who does not know, you can take the time to explain. But the designer did clearly know, and not care.

  7. Paula Gemin Bell Avatar
    Paula Gemin Bell

    Nice response! The balls of some people though! Would have loved to have heard the response! Lol

  8. Lance Evans Avatar
    Lance Evans

    I would have replied with a thank you, and an invoice for a print. Which they could pay if they were interested in purchasing.

    Remember, this is business, not personal.

    1. BrooklynPhotoGuy Avatar

      Well said!

    2. bickle2 Avatar

      The arrogance of the request deserved the response it got and then some.

      So jerk overspent his budget, and doesn’t want to have to lay out hundreds or thousands for these prints out of pocket. Now a smart person would have done this: “hey I don’t have the budget in this job for your pictures, but if you do me a solid this time, I will sign a contract to purchase X number of prints for other jobs in the next 12 months”

      A delay of game might have gotten a very different response

  9. Jason Artiga Avatar
    Jason Artiga

    I got called by a producer one time, who claimed to be the next Puff Daddy, his client paid for pictures, only for the photographer never to show up. They wanted me in good nature and good faith to take pictures of their talent with no pay, I turn around I said my man I got to pay my rent, he says “I got to pay my rent too, “so I responded so why the f*** are you calling me ? Go pay your rent and I hung up

    1. Bast Hotep Avatar
      Bast Hotep

      They were willing to pay a con artist but not a photographer whose work they presumably liked? /r/ChoosingBeggars

      1. Mike Avatar
        Mike is leaking

  10. Jim Robson Photography Avatar
    Jim Robson Photography

    Been shooting live music fo 8 years now and almost everyone expects free images. I’ve shot many of biggest artists including Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Hank William’s Jr., Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert and could go on and on and on. It’s seems like an impossible battle to get any kind of compensation to do something I’ve been in love with since the 70’s and my Dad bought me my first 35mm. I keep telling myself one day it’ll happen big and my dream will become a reality but the time and investment really adds up after a while and is hard to keep justifying. Smh

  11. Jeoncs Avatar

    Good! Fuck people like that.

  12. Angel Nieves Avatar
    Angel Nieves

    Sounds to me like the home owners probably had nothing to do with that request. Sounds like the designer was the one with the fantastic idea and gave it a shot; she/he would have saved money from the reno budget which she/he could pocket. IDK just speculating, I would have approached it differently than Tim.

    1. brian valente Avatar
      brian valente

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they charged the client and pocketed the $

    2. Full Name Avatar
      Full Name

      Totally agree, sounds like a ruthless home-decorator that best case wanted to impress the owners by cutting some cost, worst case, print it, and apply a healthy percentage on top for extra money in their pocket. Bastards.

    3. Anton Gorlin Avatar
      Anton Gorlin

      what would you reply?

  13. F1SpeedPhoto Avatar

    On the one hand that is the dream response – admittedly a knee-jerk one. It’s one that I often type out and leave unsent only to revisit it with a clear mindset, and an actual proposal in hopes to earn their business, which has ultimately served me well. Remember people, this is a business (albeit a personal one) some people just need to reminded of it.

  14. James B Avatar
    James B

    I am in a totally different trade…I am a lawn maintainer (just fancy words for I cut grass & trim hedges).
    It is not uncommon for me to be asked to “give” something as well.
    But the reason I am commenting is I feel this guy’s pain. Nowadays, it seems everybody wants something for nothing, & although I have nothing against the rich, THEY are WORST freeloaders of all of us.
    A friend told me once when I was lamenting this fact to him. He said…”How do you think they STAY rich? They ask for freebies, & stupid people give them freebies, in hopes of the rich will grace them with their money.” And it made perfect sense.

  15. Paultee Avatar

    When I’m asked to either do work or licence something for no remuneration I always respond with a fee quote. A couple of times, when I know I didn’t want the business I quote the fee and add a “free work surcharge” usually in the 100% range to ensure it’s not personal and “just business”.

  16. Jason Llewellyn Avatar
    Jason Llewellyn

    Tim, Would, Be, Wise, To, Use, Some, Sort, Of, Punctuation. No, Commas, Where, They, Should, Be!

    1. KCWang Avatar

      “what so ever” caught my bleary eye

    2. Isarcat Avatar

      Both letters are a grammatical cringeworthy mess. Ugh.

  17. Matthew Nehrling Avatar
    Matthew Nehrling

    I understand his frustration but he probably would have gotten a lot further along if he had a polite response that included his licensing prices. “… Yadda yadda, thank you, yadda, here is my price list….”. I work with many designers and real estate agents, and they often throw this type of feeler out just as a point to start a negotiation- the old ‘it can’t hurt to ask’ line. But it almost always ends with their paying your rate- if you are nice.

    1. Chaos Avatar

      The photographer has had a spike in new orders arising from the publicity. It won’t last long but he comes out ahead and with dignity.

  18. Charlotte Fiorito Avatar
    Charlotte Fiorito

    Everyday. “Can you “share” this photo with us? It’s *just* for social.” N O P E

  19. Melania Strumpet Avatar
    Melania Strumpet

    While nobody should give away their work for free, I personally wouldn’t have burned the bridge on this as he did.

    A better reply would have been a thank you and a quote, if/when the poor homeowners can afford his work.

    Responding as he did may have felt good at the time, and may well earn him meaningless internet points, it’s always best to take the high road and perhaps reap some business down the road.

    Kill ’em with kindness but also let them know your work has real value and that you’re a real professional, not an obnoxious prat.


  20. Paul M Avatar
    Paul M

    I would say yes, I can give you a copy of the hi-res file so you can print it yourself, but I will charge US$2000 admin fee for the service of writing up a licence for using it, and require a $500 fee each year to renew that licence, with the next four years up front, so that’s US$4000 please.

  21. Krav Maga Avatar
    Krav Maga

    Yes, the request was ridiculous, but the response was absolutely cringe inducing. The request was at least presented in a professional and polite manner while Wallace’s response was anything but professional and polite; the demeanor, lack of even rudimentary grammar and punctuation skills, etc. It was the pithy rant of a teenager.

    Personally, my response would have been something along the lines of: I’m sorry but I’m not able to provide work without compensation. Since monetary compensation is not within your client’s budget perhaps we can come up with some other arrangement. I’d be interested in hearing any ideas you may have.

    It’s called knowing at least where the bridge goes before you burn it.

    I don’t understand why snark has to be the default go-to reaction so often these days

  22. Dale Daily Avatar
    Dale Daily

    Arrogance on both sides of the equation here. Not only did the photog burn bridges with the designer, he burned them with the homeowner, everyone they know, and everyone reading this article that sees him as arrogant as well.

  23. Drew Peacock Avatar
    Drew Peacock

    Good god, is this really how professionals communicate? They both really put the “mess” in message.

  24. Dariusz Boron Avatar
    Dariusz Boron

    Uhm, the budget for the remodeling isnt 12m by the way…

    1. Dave Avatar

      Ya, but if you have 12 million to spend on ANYTHING, you can kick in a few bucks for some photography too if you really wanted to. I think that’s a pretty safe bet. :)

      1. Dariusz Boron Avatar
        Dariusz Boron

        True true :)

  25. Stephen T Avatar
    Stephen T

    A perfectly reasonable response, in my opinion. I am sure this wasn’t the first time he’s been approached for free work and this time he gave both barrels in response. I suspect also that experience has taught him that he wasn’t burning any bridges and that a more ‘constructive’ approach wouldn’t have yielded anything. Sometimes you’ve got to go with your instincts

  26. Marko Avatar

    “….very important client that I am… to remodel their $12m coastal retreat (second…or third?) home….They unfortunately don’t really have any budget (???) for this (few prints for the wall).”

    who is this imbecile?

    1. Roger Avatar

      Exactly !

  27. Andy P Avatar
    Andy P

    I really struggle with people saying that the photographer is carelessly burning bridges. If the Interior designer had tried to get some discounted prints that would be different, but to request one for free, and ask for the high res image (which he would then be able to reproduce prints at will) is disgraceful and deserved either no response or one like what was given. There’s a culture of don’t ask don’t get, but that wasn’t a starting gambit, it was a complete insult.

  28. minivini_1275 Avatar

    I wonder if the owner happens to be a Nigerian prince? That guy owes me money…

  29. Walter Lowe Avatar
    Walter Lowe

    I’m working on a television show right now, covering a wealthy celebrity who is renovating a massive waterfront home. The designers and builders are being very handsomely compensated for the renovation, but they’re getting suppliers to give everything from windows to furniture to artwork at cost, just so the vendors can say their stuff is in a celebrity home. Its funny how that works. The celebrity homeowner is completely aware of all the freebie requests. I think Wallace’s response here is pretty douchey though and a douchey response to a douchey request doesn’t make the world a better place, it just begets more douchiness. Had he tempered his response and explained his position in a less contemptuous manner, he may have even sold a very expensive print if they really loved his work.

  30. ZZ Avatar

    Deserved response ….. I would have name dropped the interior designer/firm’s name in the correspondence …. cheap bastards ….

  31. Henry Wilkie Avatar
    Henry Wilkie

    I would of sent a print to them free of charge and covered it with watermarks all over. Advise that the photo was copyrighted and to have a copyright print comes with a cost.

  32. nukunukoo Avatar

    That has got to be the most beautiful F*** Y** I have ever read! I am moved and humbled by the overflowing of love and I am in tears right now. Bless you!

  33. JimDomke Avatar

    All the amateurs happy to give photos away are killing professional photography. Being a professional means earning a living from photography, not just on weekends.

    1. Dagwood Bumstead Avatar
      Dagwood Bumstead

      So prostitutes should be very upset with wives in your world.

  34. Jim the Photographer Avatar
    Jim the Photographer

    Yes. I donated 2 photographs I took locally to be exhibited in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CT. My local legislator saw my photographic work and asked if it would be possible. I haven’t gotten any business from it (after all, I am an amateur), but I have bragging rights that two of my works are on display in the LOB in Hartford (CT)!

    My situation is very different from that of Tim Wallace. If I were in his situation I would have done the same thing (but without his cutting humor!).

  35. Anton Gorlin Avatar
    Anton Gorlin

    on a bright side of things I offered a discount for a print to a person I know and they were like “woah what the hell, you shouldn’t do that”.

  36. Almos Lataan Avatar
    Almos Lataan

    You know, it would be good publicity to invent a story like this.

  37. Christian Santiago Avatar
    Christian Santiago

    I also believe that while asking for freebies is not a wrong thing in this day and age, asking for a freebie while flaunting a $12,000,000 budget is inherently sassy”

    Ummm what ? Please explain yourself. It’s never ok to ask for free work.

  38. bluemachine Avatar

    The balls on some people.

  39. Wayne Quilliam Avatar
    Wayne Quilliam

    As one of the few Aboriginal photographers in Australia, I received weekly requests to provide images to a variety of corporate, NGO and private institutions for free. The common theme is we want to help the Aboriginal people to become more accepted and show the positives instead of the negatives?…. Wayne

  40. Andrea4578 Avatar

    Giving your work away for free never results in paying work. It just means you got stiffed. The more wealthy people seem to feel more entitled to get something for nothing which is ironic since they can well afford to pay. They just think they shouldn’t have to.

  41. Sean Davey Avatar
    Sean Davey

    On a slightly different but altogether relevant note, I once discovered that a web design company had somehow accessed and used a bunch of my photographs as big leading images on several pages of their website without any permission at all. First I screengrabbed the pages, then sent them a polite email, pointing out that I had caught them with their pants down, so to speak and that not only were they stealing the use of my images but also putting me in legal jeopardy because some of those images were not available for licensing, nor were they model released for such usage. Then I told them that they would have pay for the usage, then remove the images, however that I would be able to to license them some alternative imagess. They happily agreed on all points, no doubt because they knew I could leagaly mess with them big time and that they needed imagery anyway and so this was a good way to show good faith.