Oh, The Places You Won’t Go (as a photographer)


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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.

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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.

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Photographing Megan and Eric’s Wedding


If any of you have seen the profile picture on my “Harry Lim Photography” fan page on Facebook, then you know I shot a wedding recently. Oh, and thanks to my assistant for the day, Todd Salter for taking that picture and all his help on that day. 

It was Megan and Eric’s wedding in Sorrento, FL. It was a small but elegant affair in the backyard of their beautiful home. Below are a few composites I made from the images of that day. 

Megan and Eric's Wedding

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Megan and Eric's Wedding

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Megan and Eric's Wedding

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Megan and Eric's Wedding

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Death, Life and Everything In Between


Friday, January 22nd got off to a bad start. My cat, Paxton, had been at the vet since Tuesday. This was the day I had to decide whether to put him down. I made the call. Hardest thing I’ve had to do in 32 years. 

Cat Yawning

Paxton Lim. 06/01/02 - 01/22/10

I could go on about him. I want to. I want you to know how much I hurt. But that would be selfish; because this day is about more than my buddy, Paxton. This day, Friday, January 22nd is my father’s birthday. The big 6-OH. And except for a brief visit with him right after Paxton’s death, I couldn’t be with him that day. Because this day, Friday, January 22nd is also about Lisa and Ryan. 

Lisa and Ryan

I shot Lisa and Ryan’s engagement pictures in Baldwin Park, FL a few months earlier. And today was their wedding reception at Casa Feliz in Winter Park, FL. “Casa Feliz” means “happy house” in Spanish.  The Spanish-style estate was built during the Great Depression at a cost of $28,000. The elegant brick house was actually moved and now sits on a golf course in upscale Winter Park. 

Casa Feliz

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I arrived just as Lisa and her family pulled up. After the traditional family photos, I had just a few minutes of daylight left to take some photographs of Lisa and Ryan by themselves.    

Lisa and Ryan at Casa Feliz

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Then I was in photojournalist mode. I am most comfortable here. Spending the early part of my career in broadcast journalism as a news videographer, I enjoy melting into the background. Being a fly on the wall. Observe and report.  

There was a moment or two during the night when I thought of Paxton. But I pushed it back. Had to. Had to focus on the task at hand. I can’t screw this up. Lisa and Ryan are relying on me to document their night. It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having. This is their night. 

I did make myself laugh once. As a kid playing football in the backyard with my brother, I remember him telling me to cover my guy like “white on rice”. So I reminded myself to stick with the bride like “white on her dress”.  Afterall, the bride is the focal point of the night. To paraphrase Scott Kelby, no one cares about pictures of the uncle. 

Lisa and Ryan's wedding reception

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Most of the night was spent just roaming, looking for those special moments. Not much use for off-camera flash in these fire-and-forget scenarios. I first tried my Lumiquest Bouncer on my 580EXII flash; but I found the results too harsh. So I switched to my Sto-fen Omni Bounce with more pleasing results. There was one area of the house, a porch, that gave me great color and saturation. I was bouncing my flash off the ceiling of the overhang. Maybe it was the weathered paint, but I loved the rich colors on my LCD screen. Whenever I stepped out there, I just dialed in the same settings (ISO 500, f/4.0, 1/45th)  and I knew I’d get the same results. 

Lisa and friends

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There was dancing. 

Friends Dancing

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There was cake. 

Lisa and Ryan cutting the wedding cake

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And then I was done. As I packed up my gear I looked back at the house and I saw one more irresistible shot. The interplay of blues and greens and orange under a full moon…well see for yourself. 

Casa Feliz

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 Then I came home and cried for my dear friend Paxton. Friday, January 22nd; helluva day.