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I received an email a few weeks ago, forwarded from Paul Hudson at Lawrence Photo, from Ken Vandruff, director of communications for Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The email reads, in part, “Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau is working to update and improve the photo library that we use to promote Wichita as a convention and tourism destination. I am trying to make contact with photographers who would be willing to participate in this project….

“I want to set up a meeting with interested photographers who like to shoot editorially as well and commercial-style to determine who is interested in assisting with this project. I have a limited budget available, so I would hope to work out a co-operative arrangement offering courtesy credit for each use of the images they are willing to share.”

In a followup email I asked Ken about his “limited budget.”

He replied, “To be honest, ‘limited budget’ means I'd like to work out pro-bono agreements if at all possible.” He further explained, “Currently, Go Wichita works with several photographers in this manner. They give us permission to use their photos for the noncommercial promotion of Wichita as a destination for tourists and conventions. In exchange, we give the photographer credit each time his or her photo is used.”

There are two very basic principles of Economics 101 at work here, the first being, the value of something is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it.

The other is about scarcity: as the availability of something increases, it’s inherent value decreases. It follows that, people will not pay for something freely available.

Many people assume that if they provide a few free images it will somehow help them sell pictures later. That may work for street drugs, but that’s not how it works for photography.

Gary Crabbe says as much in his blog, Enlightened Images when asked about working for free in exchange for a courtesy credit line: “That kind of exposure will very very very rarely ever get you any additional work. Plus, once a magazine gets you to work for free, you will most likely never be able to stand up and say, "Now please pay me for the next job." There won't be a next job. They'll move on to find the next photographer who wants to work for the lure of credit and exposure.”

However, if people want to give away their work, that’s fine by me. Ken is meeting with interested photographers October 29, 2009 8:00 AM-9:30 AM at the Go Wichita office at 515 S Main, Suite 115. He asks for RSVPs no later than Tuesday, Oct. 27 to Danika Swoyer at dswoyer@gowichita.com

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