Ontario Journalist, Writer, Photography & Filmmaker

Beware the Credit

The vaunted ‘photo credit’ is tossed out often as a reason why photographers should give up their work for no compensation. ‘The exposure will be good for you,’ the argument goes. Except, it really won’t.

Everyone wants something for nothing. Even large organisations with budgets and ample resources will try to wrangle something for free if they can get it.

The problem is, a photo credit doesn’t help pay the bills. It’s meaningless.

If a photo is good enough to be used as part of a marketing campaign, it’s worthy of compensation; whether the person who took the picture is a working photographer, or a hobbyist.

Recently (March 2021) a contest came to my attention being run by the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport. It’s a transit authority in Scotland. The contest is called Give us your best shot! (emphasis added) And they truly mean “give.”

Beware the Credit, RF-Photography

They’re encouraging transit riders to submit photos to be used in promotional activities of the transit authority; specifically the subway. “You may only be a click away from enjoying the credit…” (emphasis added) the website posting states. The terms and conditions of the contest include the following:

  • Photography credit (name and social media handle) will appear on all material including potentially TV and print media
  •  Copyright to the entries will remain with the entrant but the entrant licenses SPT to use their photographs to promote the brand and share across websites and social media, TV and print media. (emphasis added)
  • Winners and entries will be used for publicity purposes across all marketing channels including potentially TV and print media.

The transit authority will use the photos free of charge in promoting the transit system. This is unacceptable. There’s no mention of how long this license will last, or what other terms are attached to it.

It even uses negative option response, which is a very unethical, and in some jurisdictions illegal, practice: “Failure to respond will assume granted permission to use the image.”

Fully ten years ago, an online petition went up explaining why photographers can’t work for free (and that is still getting comments and sign-ons as of Feb 2021). The title of the petition is why “Professional” photographers can’t work for free, but the idea applies to non-working photographers too. Your work has value. Ensure you get value for it if it’s going to be used for commercial purposes. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Simply giving the winner(s) transit passes for a year would be good.

An email was sent to the SPT seeking comment and no reply was received prior to publishing.

EDIT 3/8/21: As of this date, the page promoting the competition has been removed from the SPT website.

EDIT 3/8/21: After publishing the above article, a response was received from the SPT and it is provided below.

Hi Mr Fisher

Thank you for your email of 6 March.

The ‘Give us your best shot’ campaign has now been withdrawn.  The original objective of the campaign has obviously missed the mark and we apologise for any distress caused.



This is the right result and the right thing for the SPT to have done.