Will Applebee’s Let Me Eat for Free?


Bobby Blackmon

In 2011 I attended an outdoor concert and took a few pictures of the band.

The other day I was contacted by a company called Gate 3 Design. They are designing the interior of a new Applebee’s restaurant. The contact person wants to use three of my images, including the one above, she found on Flickr for a digitally printed mural. Here’s a quote from the email:

The murals are compiled of digital images that represent the community from festivals, landmarks, events, sports, etc.

When I asked which images and what size/resolution so I could determine a license fee, she said:

We are not asking to license the image (you may retain all licensing/rights to your photos). We are requesting a one-time use. We are happy to display a photo credit with your name and website alongside any images that are selected for the final design. If you agree, please sign and return the attached photo release form granting us permission.

Uh, let me get this straight: Applebee’s wants to use my images for commercial use but is not willing to pay for them? How about I go to Applebee’s and instead of paying for the food I give them “credit” by telling my friends how great they are or maybe wearing an Applebee’s T-Shirt?

Look, I get it. It seems nice on the face of it. “Hey, let’s get pictures of the community taken by members of the community! When they come hang out at the local Applebee’s they can see pictures taken by their friends and neighbors! Cool, right?”

It’s this kind of behavior that has degraded the photography profession. People think pictures are free. Anyone with a cellphone can snap a picture. But if that picture has value to someone or a company, shouldn’t you be paid for it? It’s no different than an art buyer buying a painting for their home. Or if you go to Target or Wal Mart and buy a poster to hang on your wall. If you want the art, you have to pay for it. It has value.

The “one-time” use is a permanent or semi-permanent display of my work no matter how many times it is used. That release form, by the way, states that my photo may be used “incidentally” if a picture of the interior of the restaurant happens to show my images in the shot. Great, so my images could be used to market the ambiance of the business, which is a factor in drawing in patrons; but Applebee’s cannot afford to pay a dime.

I’m not sure if Applebee’s is to blame here or the company they hired to do the design. But that’s no excuse for a corporation not to ask where the images are coming from and it is certainly deplorable that Gate 3 wants to use images without paying for them. They “favorited” my images they want to use so I assume the other images in their “favorites” are also ones they want to use. You can see them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23746554@N04/favorites/. It’s clear they didn’t choose crappy cell phone pictures but rather quality images taken by people with skill.

Credit is nice, but it doesn’t pay my bills. Even if you are not a professional photographer, if you have something of value that someone wants, wouldn’t you expect something in return?

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Most Viewed Photo on Harry Lim Photography’s Flickr Page


So I’m a little obsessed. On an almost daily basis I check the stats and analytics on my Web site, Flickr page and blog. You know, just seeing if anyone’s out there. 

And sometimes, I’ll even google myself to see how high my site is ranking…or if it ranks at all! (it does, by the way. First page. Right behind a cardiologist and jazz musician by the same name). 

Actually, that’s a good segue ’cause the most popular picture on my Flickr Pro Page is of a saxophone. Well, not just any saxophone; a “Julius Keilwerth Tenor, aka the SR90 Shadow”.  

Julius Keilwerth Tenor Saxophone SX 90 R “Shadow”

click for larger image

I took a picture of it last June when I did a photo shoot for my friend and jazz musician Derek Hudson. That picture has been viewed 150 times. That’s 3 times more than any other I have posted. [UPDATE 10/29/10: The count is now up to 324]

I even found a link to it on a search engine. I’ve tried to find the link again, but I can’t. I do remember that I was given credit for it. 

So I keep asking myself: why that picture? Of all the ones I have posted, what is it about that one that makes it the most popular? Let me know what you think. Take a look at my Flickr Pro Page and let me know there or here or on Facebook which one is your favorite.

Tango in Toronto


You know the expression “it’s a small world”. And we all know how the World Wide Web makes it even smaller. Well a funny thing happened not too long ago. But the story starts in 2007. That’s when I took a trip to NYC, Toronto and Niagara Falls. Step by step…inch by inch…sorry, obscure reference for some. 

Aaannnyway…While in Toronto I spotted a couple dancing the tango in an open air market called St. Lawrence Market. I snapped a few pics with my point and shoot Canon 800IS. 

A couple dancing the tango

click for larger image

Almost two years later, I uploaded the photo to Flickr and about a month after that I get an email: 

Hello Harry,  

I came across your picture during a search, and it was a VERY nice surprise. It nicely captured the essence of Argentine Tango – living in the moment; a dialogue without words. 

That’s my back facing your camera in this pic. 🙂 

No other dancer showed up that day, so I had all afternoon to dance with that girl and got to know her better. She was in Toronto for some studies and has since gone home. 

I am wondering if you can send me a hi-res version of the picture just for my personal use.
Thank you in advance.
Peter” 

I was blown away! The picture was captured in a brief moment, in passing, two years prior…in another country! And the guy in the picture finds it and contacts me! 

I exchanged a couple of emails with him just to make sure he was who he said he was and gladly sent him the images. 

I took this experience to reinforce something I had just learned and I would like to pass it along to my photographer friends using Flickr. The possibility exists that a publisher or editor is looking for a particular image. They could search through stock agencies, but some also search Flickr. Your image stands a better chance of being found if it is properly titled and filled in with a description. Afterall, who searches for “IMG_1003” or “DSC_009”? Because I titled and labeled my picture, it was found. No, it didn’t lead to a client or a financial payoff….yet!