Flickr User Becomes Pro for Microsoft

Flickr user Hamad Darwish is one of a small group of flickr users who were approached by Microsoft for either use of their photos or commissioned to to create new images for the desktop backgrounds that are included in the new Windows Vista operating system. Read an interview with him here.

This is an interesting example of the line blurring between professional photographers and amateurs/enthusiasts. Hamad, whose photos are indeed lovely, is not a pro nor does he intend to become one. Photo sharing sites like flickr make visible the photographs of amateurs in an unprecedented way. It is no longer only professionals whose work is exposed to photo buyers.

I count myself among flickr’s users, (but my modest photostream cries out that I neglect it), and I too have been approached through flickr for the use of one of my photos. This client didn’t have a photo budget for this project and was hoping to get the image for free, so I had to decline this time, but there may be a point in the future (when they actually have a proper photo budget) where we work together.

Too bad it wasn’t Microsoft that came knocking! While I don’t know what Microsoft paid the amateurs that they commissioned, I gather from Hamad’s interview that it was a fair fee. It’s good to know that they didn’t take advantage of enthusiast’s zeal to merely be published with low or no pay.

EDIT: It has come to my attention (see the comments) that the photographer may have shot the images on a work-for-hire basis and surrendered all the rights to Microsoft. In no way do I support this practice and if that’s true, then it’s a shame that Microsoft has taken advantage of an eager amateur while also devaluing the work of professionals in general.

Sorry if I mislead anyone into believing that I support that kind of practice.

EDIT #2: It’s looking less likely that the images were bought on a work-for-hire basis. Long Zheng, the author of the interview has been kind enough to post and it seems that Hamad got a fair deal.

Hopefully I don’t need to edit again!

13 Responses to “Flickr User Becomes Pro for Microsoft”

  1. Stinger Smith says:

    Shame on you for support practices like this

  2. dsawchuk says:

    As far as I can tell, my post expressed neither support nor reproach. I simply stated that it was an interesting example.

    As a professional, I am inevitably biased and I would prefer it if photo buyers stuck with purchasing images from professionals. But that’s not the reality of today. The image library of each pro now has to compete with more photos than ever and to stay in business, pros have to work harder than ever.

    So, in that sense, I suppose I don’t support what Microsoft did. But at the same time, I don’t blame them. They can choose to license images from whomever they want. As a pro, my job is to take the best images I can and get them in front of the eyes of buyers that might need them. If Microsoft happens to want to license any images of mine, I certainly won’t turn them away if they offer a fair price. Why would I?

  3. Charles says:

    I guarantee the amateur gave away his work for below fair market pricing. Microsoft commissioned the amateur to do a special photo shoot, so this was work-for-hire, and thus all rights belong to the employer, Microsoft.
    These amateur photographs will, over time, become some of the most widely distributed images in the world, with millions of copies being issued by Microsoft. This is why Microsoft wanted ALL rights, rather than the normal process of licensing publication rights from a professional. A professional would know that these images are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps millions, to Microsoft.
    That is the difference between an amateur and a professional, a pro knows what their work is worth to a client, but an amateur will give away his work for almost nothing, and the Big Corporation wins…. again.

  4. dsawchuk says:

    I didn’t realize he surrendered all rights. In that case, yes, I fully disagree with this practice and it’s a shame that Microsoft took advantage of the photographer.

    (Insert NO!SPEC link and image here.) : )

    You’re right. Microsoft wins here and the photographer loses. At the same time, so do pro photographers.

  5. Long Zheng says:

    @Charles: You should check your facts before you make accusations like that.

    Hamad Darwish did not surrender all his rights to Microsoft. He was commissioned to do a photoshoot, which he did and chosen 5 images to Microsoft for approval. Microsoft then paid a commission for these 5 images as anyone would when purchasing images from anywhere.

    Simply put, Microsoft sourced photos from both professional services and amateurs. If you think there is a hidden agenda here, then you need to conspiracize elsewhere.

  6. dsawchuk says:

    Long, thanks for chiming in with your comments. As you spoke directly to Hamad in that interview, I will trust that your word is good on this. : )

    It’s also good to hear that this likely wasn’t a case of a corporation taking advantage of a photographer.

  7. Jack says:

    Microsoft is really not out of line. They commissioned these guys so they would have an image that no-one else could have on their software. Know that grassy field from XP? You haven’t ever seen it elsewhere because if microsoft didn’t hold exclusive rights to that image then every software vendor would license it and make it look like their software was part of the OS. Photographers give up rights all the time. Most newspaper photos are owned by the publication. Forever. When the photographer leaves, he rarely takes the rights to his photos with him.

  8. dsawchuk says:

    For more discussion on the business side of Microsoft’s decision to work with flickr users, this StockPhotoTalk article has additional information.

  9. Jhon says:

    Money corrupts anything this days, I’ll bet you this guy is going to regret what he did as much as the moron who sold the DOS the first time to M$

  10. I think Long said exactly what needed to be said here. and it is the truth.

    I just wanted to mention that, Microsoft did their homework. Before the approached any of the amateurs they looked around in the industry to know how much an average job like this would cost. They pretty much matched what an agency would pay a pro photographer for an average 10 day shoot. Although I was clearly told by MS that it didn’t have to take 10 days, I could have shot all of those images on one afternoon and that would have been ok.

    bottom line is the pay, in my opinion, was good. But the offer went beyond all of that… it was all about exposure!
    I honestly dont think my images are the best out there… they are simply NOT!
    so if MS comes to me and tells me they want me to go on a photoshoot for them … to have my work displayed in Windows… I wouldn’t think twice about it, and I don’t think a pro photographer would either. MS could have went with anyone they liked… fortunately for me, they offered it to me! why would I turn it down?

    I’m doing my hobby, doing something I like, and having fun doing it. Along side all of that, I’m getting paid well to have fun, and getting massive global exposure on top of it.

    honestly, the offer was fair. and I dont think I would regret anything about it ….. like the DOS guy! – ((once again, I quote Long’s response above)).

  11. dsawchuk says:

    Thanks for your comments Hamad. It’s good to hear it directly from the source.

    One thing some photographers seem to be curious about with this issue is what kind of license was granted to Microsoft for these images. Did you give them all rights or did you grant them some other license?

    I’m not going to hound you into answering, but if you want to share, that would be great and I’m sure a few people would be interested to hear about what kind of arrangement you made with them.

    Thanks again!

  12. well basically, I was not allowed to show the pics to the public anytime b4 vista is launched! … that’s a given.

    I am not allowed to re-sell those pictures to any other party, but i have the right to use them personally and display them however i want.

    MS has the right to do whatever they want with the 5 photos they commissioned (but authors must be credited)

    MS has the right not to use any of the photos commissioned at all, if they wished. (in my case, they only used 2 out of the 5; while they only used 1 photo from each of the other photographers).

    if they wish, they can use the images in other areas, not just as desktop wallpapers, this includes packaging, website, ads, …. .

    the most important was, the whole deal was done for a flat fee…. there is NO compensations for how many times they use the pictures… so no “royalties”? (isn’t that what it’s called?)

    so, in my opinion, it was a fair deal, sure if could have been better!… but still good. so no regrets what so ever.

  13. Mikker says:

    Just as a comparison, a worldwide license for a stock photo for ten years would be between $20.000 – 35.000 (per image).

    I believe that the XP hill and sky image was bought for something like $100.000 – $150.000

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