Thursday 10 October 2019

The Mail Fail and the Whale

I learned a few things about the press this week that I had not previously known. I knew they would pick up on the Humpback Whale story, but I was a little surprised to find them all over my Twitter feed and this blog. Could they use the photo please? Initially I naively said yes of course, and, it being Monday, got on with my work. A few hours a later as I was having lunch I found that there were a few more enquiries, and I started to pay a little bit more attention. One of the requests was from a press agency who made photos available for the press, and said that my photos could get picked up by any newspaper but I would not get paid. Hmm, that's interesting isn't it? I send my photo to them, the newspaper buys it from them, and they pass the money to.... ah, I see. They keep it. Great business model when you think about it, I applaud the enterprise. Whatever. However when I also learned that any newspaper could pick it up I realised I'd been had and rescinded my permission. There are some things that are more important than money. What if The Sun had used my photo? Or some other racist fear-mongering hate-merchant? What if, heaven forbid, it had been the Daily Mail?

The Daily Mail did in fact ask me directly if they could use my video footage (this was before any decent footage had been obtained of course, I was very quick off the mark apparently). You can imagine the response that got, and also how pleased I was to have been handed that opportunity! What I found interesting was that after I replied - politely I might add, albeit making my feelings quite clear - The Mail decided to delete their request from YouTube, which also deleted my response. Cunning. Not cunning enough though.

Various other requests followed, including from The Times, which put my crappy photo in their online edition. Possibly also the print version but I don't buy it so I have no idea. This one I followed up on, and remarkably I might actually earn a few quid and I've sent them an invoice. I took it though my scope with my knackered old phone, which given I earn precisely zero from all the bird photos I take with my extremely expensive SLR equipment does rather make me laugh. A cursory search also found my photo on the online version of the Evening Standard, who had never been in contact at all. Unfortunately It's a screenprint from Twitter and I'm told that the small print suggests that they can do this with impunity. 

My conclusion is that trying to make a living as a press photographer, or indeed any photographer, is a non-starter. People either steal your photos or want them for free. About the best you can get is a copy of the book, or in the case of the Standard, a screenprint of your screenprint....

Unfortunately the story does not have a happy ending. The Whale was found dead during the week, and a post-mortem suggests that a ship strike was the cause. Whether it was fully healthy in the first place I suppose we'll never know - certainly swimming up the river was abnormal, and whilst it wasn't certain that it wouldn't make it out, I guess it was overwhelmingly unlikely. That the Beluga made it out last year was perhaps a miracle.


  1. Turns out that not only am I a fan of your carefully worded blog, but I'm an even bigger fan of your shoot-from-the-hip responses to dickwads from the Fail. Who knew, top marks!

    1. Amazing to be given the opportunity, very pleased. Way better than a general boycott.