If you’ve read some of my past posts on licensing and copyright, you know I try to spread the gospel on why copyright is so important. You might remember my debacle with a contractor working for Applebee’s who wanted my images for free. So you can imagine my chagrin when I come across photographers who are giving their work away. It not only hurts them but it hurts other photographers.
Take a look at the screen grab above. Notice the line that reads “we will provide copyright free photos”. I really don’t think they understand the concept. Let’s review. When anyone takes a picture, be they a professional or not, they have created a unique work of art and the copyright remains with them. Copyright means just what it says: the right to copy. You decide who has what right to your work. By giving away your work, you are leaving money on the table and allowing someone to do whatever they want with your work.
Wedding photographers have long made a living by up-selling. Let’s say they charge $2,500 for a wedding which includes a few prints and maybe an album. If the couple or their families want prints or additional albums, that’s an extra charge. This is a form of licensing. The photographer is saying, you have the right to the prints and album I promised you, but if you want more products you may not print them yourself which would deny me income. You must pay more for more copies of my work.
The classic example I give is of the Harry Potter books. When Hollywood made the movies based on the books, do you think they did so without asking J.K. Rowling? I live in Orlando, home of theme parks like Universal which has a section dedicated to the boy wizard. In 2011, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter boosted the theme park’s revenue by 8.2% to $393 million. There are plans to expand the park next year. Do you think Ms. Rowling just gave away the rights to her work? Every toy wand, Halloween costume, DVD sale, etc. means more money in her pockets. That is the power of licensing and copyright. Imagine if she had given away her copyright and companies made millions of dollars from her work and did not have to give her a single dime!
Notice also, in the example above, how they are willing to undercut another photographer who might charge less. This is another sign of unprofessionalism. Only you can know what your business costs are. How much does it cost to keep the lights on and feed your family? That varies from person to person. If you charge less than normal, you are in essence making less than what it takes to pay your bills. How can you expect your business to survive? Read my post on figuring out what to charge.
Here is another photographer who is giving away his copyright. Let’s take the last example of “Shoot the Band”. OK, I’m in a band and hire him to take our photograph for some promotional items. It goes on our website and flyers we post around town. The marketing attracts people to our concerts which means more money for us. We release a CD and use the images on the cover. That’s more revenue for us and none for him. Let’s say we make it big and sign a big record contract. We use the images on the new CD. The pictures are used in Rolling Stone magazine (which makes money from subscriptions and news stands). Again, money for us, money for the magazine and NOTHING for the photographer.
Are you familiar with the album cover of Maroon 5′s “Hands All Over”? Here’s the story: a 19-year old took that picture. The band’s management found it on Flickr and contacted her. They did a reshoot based on the photo and viola! She’s gone on to do major shoots for clients like Elle. But let’s say it had worked out a little differently. Let’s pretend she took that photo for a little-known band called Maroon 5. The band makes it big and uses the photo on an album cover that sells millions of copies. If she had given away her copyright, she would not be entitled to any further compensation.
Remember, when you download a song, buy a DVD or book you don’t own that work. You are purchasing a license for personal use. If you want to profit from it; like using a song in a YouTube video, charging people to watch a movie or making a film based on a book, you have to pay the artist.
Look, it comes down to getting paid for your work. You go to work Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 and you get a paycheck. That’s fair, right? So why would a photographer not want to get paid for their work? The more money someone makes from your work, the more you can charge. You are not only leaving money on the table but you are degrading the industry. Clients like Applebee’s will expect “free” photos. Perhaps you heard about how the National Association of Realtors asked renowned blogger and educator David Hobby for free photos. It cheapens photos and trains the general public to devalue the work. I can’t tell you how many times a client has asked or argued over why they can’t use my photos for whatever purpose they want. They say “well the other photographer just gave me all the images on a disk and let me do whatever I want with them”. That is the difference between a pro and an amateur. A pro knows that being a professional photographer isn’t just about taking pictures. It’s a business and you have to know about pricing, licensing, copyright, insurance, taxes, marketing, etc.
When you shoot for a client you have to specify how they can use the images. Can they post it on social media? Can they take it to Walgreens to make prints? Is it personal use or will they profit from the work?
Protect your copyright. It’s worth something.
It had been more than a year since I was at Bella Vida resort in Kissimmee, FL when I got a call from a new client asking to photograph a house there.
The property manager is also a decorator and I thought she did a nice job with a beach vibe in the dining area. From the color palette to the decor, it made me feel like sinking my toes into the sand.
I was originally just going to post that picture, but I went back a few nights later for some twilight shots.
I always check the forecast before a twilight shoot because while some clouds can make a sky interesting as it changes color; too many clouds can ruin the shot.
Just my luck, the direction I was shooting in had a dark, ominous cloud. Across the street was clear and beautiful, but this is what I had to deal with:
Well, when life gives you lemons…use a sky replacement!
The home also has a cool color wheel on the pool light. Check it out:
There’s this guy; hard to please. You know the type. Every once in a while, he’ll like one of my images, but he’s never really satisfied with my work. That guy is me. I think I am producing some of the best work of my career right now. Not every single image is a winner, but I have more hits than misses and the hits are pretty good. But I’m still not where I want to be. I am, at least, reassured by looking at my past work. I can look at my work from a year ago and wince a little. It was the same the year before that. It’s a sign of personal growth.
I’ve done “before and after” comparisons before (links at the end of this post). This time, I am comparing my own work. I recently had the opportunity to photograph a property that I shot in 2010.
This first one isn’t terrible, but the color seems a bit off and it would be nice to see what’s outside that window.
That’s better. A slightly different composition but the room seems a bit brighter. Here’s the reverse angle:
Next is the master bedroom:
I think I was trying too hard to show the TV in the shot (clients ask for it). So I decided to take a different approach.
Again, you can see out the window and the color and lighting is a bit more pleasing. How about the master bath?
Ouch. Enough said.
That last one is pretty much the same story. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years, mostly through trial and error. I develop new techniques and refine them. When you do something over and over again, it begins to take shape. I hope I can look back at my work next year and see improvement.
Can’t get enough of the before and after stuff? Check out these past posts:
In a recent post, I showed how a UV filter in low light can produce ghosting and flare. You can also get some unwanted results if dust and lint is on your lens. Most dust is not a problem; even small scratches may not appear in your image. But in a high contrast situation, that dust can have a big impact. Take a look at this photo:
You can see on the right side of the image a large white spot. This is, of course, an area of high contrast between the bright window and dark curtain. Operating with a narrow aperture (I’m typically at f/10) can also reveal imperfections. If you have dust on your sensor, for example, it will be more noticeable at f/22 than at f/4. When I saw this, I immediately checked the front of my lens and noticed some dust and lint. I blew it off with an air blower then used the brush on the LensPen. Then I took another shot:
Just like that, it’s gone. I did not use Photoshop to alter the “after” image; I simply cleaned out the dust and lint on my lens. The image still needs work and is not the final version I delivered to the client. But if you ever spot the same problem on your images, it wouldn’t hurt to check your lens for dust. Oh, a couple of tips: do not use your breath to blow on the lens and do not use compressed air.
This is a quick update to my last post. If you didn’t read it, go get caught up. I’ll wait.
[insert Jeopardy music]
…and we’re back. After a sternly worded email to Gate 3 Design and copied to Applebee’s marketing department, they came back and offered me $100 for 3 images. That amounts to about $33 for an indefinite use of my images. Paltry when you consider commercial photography licenses go for thousands of dollars. Don’t believe me? Photographers billed NBC’s Syfy channel $3,500 for each of 9 images the network allegedly used without permission. Article here: http://petapixel.com/2013/08/28/syfys-heroes-of-cosplay-show-accused-of-serious-copyright-infringement/
Or check out this sample invoice for a commercial shoot: http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2013/08/13/pricing-negotiating-portraits-of-real-customers-for-advertising-shoot/. Here’s the short version:
Considering the use, size/prominence of the client… I set the fee at 8000.00 for each of the four portraits and 4000.00 for each of the candids. I bundled it all together as an overall licensing/creative fee of 48000.00. Blinkbid’s bid consultant provided a range of 9450.00-13,500.00 per image, or 226,800.00-324,000.00 for all eight. Corbis quoted 17,500.00 per image for the first year. Fotoquote suggested 30,976.00 per image for the use.
Yeah, that’s how commercial photographers make a living, They charge for the work and they charge license fees for usage. So the next time you see a billboard, think about how much the image(s) cost.
Anyway, I’m torn about what to do. On the one hand, I am inclined to accept the offer because it was never about the money for me, but rather the principle. I took those images for personal use and never intended to sell them. If my professional work, which is interior and real estate, was in question there would be no debate and I would refuse. Honestly, if they had offered me a gift certificate for a free appetizer it would at least have been a gesture acknowledging that photography has value.
On the other hand, I am inclined to refuse because I want to know that they are also compensating everyone else. Am I the only person who objected and therefore the only person being offered the money?
It boggles my mind that this company sat around a table and came up with this idea and set a budget of exactly ZERO dollars. They just assumed people would be flattered to have their pictures displayed in a restaurant and hand them over. Sadly, I suspect many people did just that.
So what do you think I should do? Leave a comment and let me know what you would do.
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?
There are two schools of thoughts when it comes to using UV filters on your lens and I’ve gone back and forth between the two. The first school of thought says you should use a UV filter to protect your lens. You paid a lot of money for it, wouldn’t it be a shame if something poked or shattered the glass? It’s better to lose a $30 filter than a $1000 lens.
The second school of thought asks why put a cheap piece of glass in front of an expensive one? What are the chances of something hitting the front part of your lens anyway? If you’re careful and use a lens hood chances are, you’ll be OK.
I used to belong to the first camp. Then I moved to the second camp with the belief that any filter is a tool which should only be used when needed.
Recently, I noticed some spots on my lens that I could not wipe off. I think it may be areas where the coating has rubbed off. Alarmed, I decided to put the UV filter on and leave it on to protect the lens. Silly me. Take a look at this picture and notice the area above the painting on the wall.
You see those yellow spots? That’s ghosting or flare from the overhead light. Different light sources are hitting the glass of the filter which bounce off before reaching the lens and sensor. Here’s a closer look with the flare spots circled in red. The other two spots are not that noticeable until you zoom in.
I had heard that UV filters can cause that effect in low light situations. In fact, I experienced it once shooting a night-time parade; it was awful. That is another reason why I moved to the no-filter camp. But as I mentioned, I foolishly defected for a short period.
Just to confirm my thoughts, I removed the filter and took another shot…
Is that Photoshop at work? Did I clone it out? Nope. The second shot is just taken without the UV filter. (It’s much easier and faster to get it right in camera than to spend time in post.) Interiors are dark enough and the long exposure times means light has more time to refract from the filter.
Look, you don’t walk around with a hammer or a screwdriver in your pocket all day. When you need a tool, you get it, use it and put it back. That’s how I feel about filters. You don’t leave a polarizing or neutral density filter on your lens all the time. So why leave a UV filter on? Filters are tools to accomplish specific tasks. If you are shooting in hazy conditions or bright sun, sure, why not break out the UV filter. Otherwise, why give up image quality for the perception of increased protection? Ask yourself, in all the time I’ve owed my lens, how many filters have been smashed? If the answer is zero, you can do without it.