One of the delights of having your photographic work ‘out there’, is having it seen.
Unfortunately most of the time other people see it too. I say ‘unfortunately’ because sometimes ‘interesting’ things can happen as a consequence of it’s visibility. Such as the deluded “do you realise that little smudge in the bottom corner of your calendar image is my house and I’m not happy with it” (well sell the house if you’re not happy with it) and the “I’m in your picture, so you owe me some compensation” gambit. And so on.
I’ve had this sort of thing happen several times, but a professional photog friend had never in 40 years of photography experienced anything like it and was really worried when he was contacted by letter with a thinly veiled threat of legal action.
The letter he received went roughly as follows:
I noticed in the xxxxx Ski supplement to the xxxxx News, an image showing the piste in xxxxxx Ski Area with various skiers coming down and in the middle a very noticeable skier wearing a bright red ski suit.
On closer inspection I noted this individual is me, and no permission was sought nor given for this. I have consulted my solicitor and he has advised me to keep the matter informal initially, and simply write to you to ask for some response and to discuss payment.
I will presume that as a professional photographer you will be receiving payment for your work and as you have considered my skiing ability and colourful clothing suitable to be included in your image, it is only fair that I too should be compensated.
I have been skiing for 20 years and it has cost me a considerable amount of money in travel, lift passes, instruction and other expenses to get to the level of ability that I might be considered as suitably skilled to be your model. Bearing this fact in mind, I therefore request that you submit a reasonable proposal for settlement which I will discuss with my solicitor.
Failing a response from you I will instruct my solicitor to pursue this matter immediately.
I told him to relax and that I would compose a response on his behalf which he could sign and send. It went something like this (I don’t have the original to hand to copy, and apologies also for any dodgy maths that may have slipped through my hasty calculator session, error-spotting is welcomed!):
Dear xxxx xxxxx
Thank you for your letter which I read with interest, and although under no obligation to respond, nor seek your permission for publication, I have decided I will avail myself of your offer to discuss the matter “informally”. Having considered your request, and although under no obligation to pay you, I have decided to offer you a payment as a gesture of goodwill. This should not be taken to infer any acceptance of ‘liability’ in any form.
Based on your supplied information, I have made the following calculations, and you will note, overestimating costs in several areas.
You clearly state you have been skiing for 20 years. From experience a skiing day is approx. 6 hours. So on this basis I calculate as follows:
Time spent skiing over 20 years:
Assuming 1 ski holiday of two weeks each year for 20 years (12 days skiing x 6 hours = 72 hours x 20 years) = 1440 hours
UK skiing 2 weekends/month x 6 months (Nov – Apr) = 24 days x 6 hours = 144 hours x 20 years = 2880 hours
Total hours actually skiing 4320 hours
CostsTwo week ski holidays @ average £1000 x 20 years = £20,000Lift passes abroad – 20 years @ £200 = £4000UK skiing travel – 12 weekends x 20 years = 240 weekends @ £50 fuel = £12,000UK skiing accommodation 240 weekends x 3 nights @ £25 = £18,000Lift passes 240 weekends x 2 days = 480 days x £20 = £9600Ski gear – salopettes every 3 years = 7 sets @ £300 = £2100Boots every 4 years = 5 pairs @ £200 = £1000Skis every 4 years = 5 pairs @ £250 = £1250Ski instruction abroad for first 10 years (generously assuming you might be a slow learner) 10 holidays x 12 days = 120 days @ £50 day =£6000Ski instruction UK (because you may be a slow learner 10 years x 12 weekends = 120 weekends x 2 days = 240 days @ £40 day = £9600Total skiing costs = £83,550Total hours spent skiing = 4320cost per hour £19.34 which I will round up to £20
On the basis that 1 hour is 3600 seconds, I calculate that each second of your time (cost per hour divided by 3600) is worth 0.5555555 of a penny.
Based on my normal shutter speed of 1/1000 sec (that is ‘one thousandth of a second’) which I use for capturing ski action:
I estimate that you are due the sum of 0.0005555 pence (0.5555555 divided by 1/1000).
As I’m generous I will round it up to a full 1p which I think you will agree offers you excellent reward for sharing your “hard won skills”.
Please submit either:
A) your invoice for this sum for immediate payment (including VAT if appropriate); or
B) your own calculations for a different amount, including details of ALL expenses incurred over your twenty year career, and copies of all receipts (tickets, lift passes, accommodation, fuel receipts etc). These should be accompanied by a signed declaration from your solicitor that they have been scrutinised by him/her and deemed to be appropriate and accurate. Once I have received these I will gladly recalculate your remuneration based on your own wholly accurate figures and issue your payment forthwith.
It has been a pleasure working with you.
We were extremely surprised that the individual did not communicate further, not even to offer thanks for the remarkably generous settlement offered.
Some people are just so ungrateful.