The offending email ( from an internationally renowned, India-based design school no less ) :

    Dear Naina,
    Thanks for your response and Greetings from India!
    India is coming up with its first book on <redacted> trends for 2017-18, and I am closely associated with it as the Lead Researcher for the project. We would like to seek official permission from you for publishing the attached image/s in the book. Here is the official note from the <redacted> Export Promotion Council of India and <redacted> Institute of Design seeking permission:
    Greetings from the <redacted>, India! This mail is to seek permission for the use of the attached image/s of your company/website for a <redacted> Trend Book which <redacted> will be commercially publishing for the Indian <redacted> sector. We would like to assure you that due credit will be given to your company/web site in the Trend Book for the use of image/s. We would appreciate if you could kindly grant us the requisite permission. If you agree, we would like to receive high resolution image/s with caption (company/individual name) for the same as soon as possible.
    Thanks in advance,
      Best regards,
    Principal Designer
      Activity Chairperson, Outreach Programmes
      Faculty, Lifestyle Accessory Design
    <redacted> Institute of Design

You’re producing a book that will be sold – for money – and you want me to give you permission to use a photograph I shot for free? Nope.

This is symptomatic of the typical Indian attitude of, “What’s the harm in asking?!”

This person might have a boss, who has given his/her employees a directive that costs to produce must be kept to a minimum. The boss doesn’t care, neither do the employees – they’re all drawing a salary. Screw over all the photographers though because no sweat off my back eh!

I responded to the above email saying, “No thank you, I don’t work in exchange for credit. Images are available for purchase.” I wanted to write so much more but then I’m not in the business of educating people about professionalism. They asked me a question, I answered that question. That is how I keep myself sane.

The Indian Government has commissioned you to work on a book project. You’ve hired book designers, writers and printers to produce this book and you’re paying them. How dare you expect a professional photographer to deliver anything to your commercial project for free? Are you prepared to give away copies of your book away in bulk in exchange for “credit” so that I can then sell them and keep all the money? Because that’s similar to what you’re asking me to do. Give you my photos for free so that you can use them in a book that you will then sell and you’ll keep all the money.

Makes sense? Good. Now don’t ever do it again.

And to you, photographers, Don’t give away your work for free yes? Even if you’re not a “professional” photographer, you’ve made an image that someone wants because it will provide some VALUE to them. How are you planning to receive recompense for that value? Does your landlord accept “credit” instead of rent in the form of money? Till the time the answer to that question is “No”, don’t give away your photos for free. If you do, guess who’s the idiot…

They did respond to my email asking me how to procure the image. I sent them pricing and they then got back to me saying:

Hi Neha,
Is this negotiable? We are on tight budget. We can assure you that you will get lot of visibility if featured in the book.
Let me know.

It’s not “Neha”.

It is not negotiable.

Visibility? What visibility? A caption to the image in tiny-lettering saying “Photo by”? Or maybe not even that – some books have image credits listed right at the end in a page-wise appendix. Some visibility. How do I know what visibility you’re talking about? Are you putting the image on the cover? In which case, pricing would double – at the very least – because on the cover means helps sell the book even more.

Ok. Bye.


More anecdotes and stories in the #WTFNaina series. ( These are all inspired by true stories. Some written emails, some from face-to-face meetings. They have all been piling up for years now and I’ve decided to put them to use! )

Photo is one of mine photographed at the Grand Finale Runway show from Amazon India Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2015. Purely for representational purposes.