"Bird" learning piano


These days, the statement I hear most often from new clients is “I have to own these images”.  But I always wonder, what does that really mean?   If you’ve said that to a photographer, what does it mean to you?

Do you want to

  • prevent others from “stealing” them for use on the web?
  • prevent them from going into the public domain?
  • protect your images so that competitors don’t use them?
  • protect the representations of your products and services?
  • protect your company’s image and reputation?
  • protect your employees’ and executives’ image & reputation?
  • have unlimited use of  the images?
  • have exclusive use of the images?

In the olden days of analog photography when the image was on film and we photographers were dinosaurs roaming the land, you had to have the original [the slide, the transparency or the negative] to make any quality reproductions of the image.  If you didn’t have the original acetate version, each copy would be an exponential degeneration of the quality of the original image.

In that bygone era of photography, long, long ago and far away, we photographers were selling our creativity and our visions or perceptions of the world around us.  We were not selling widgets or a commodity.

But in these days of everything digital, it’s absolutely impossible to “own” something merely by “possessing” it [I mean, how do you hold something as ethereal as 1’s & 0’s?].  Every copy you make of “it” is exactly the same quality as the original, so having the product in your hands really means nothing.  And as a result of not being able to “hold” anything there really is no way to consider photography [or most things digital!] as a commodity;  that’s purely an illusion of the folks who tend to think in a more linear fashion say, the accountants and the manufacturers who deal in numbers and things.

Nowadays with the sophistication and ubiquity of digital cameras and all of the automatic features the manufacturers have given us, many more people are practicing “professional” photography.  Personally, I don’t believe that many of them understand what they are selling.  To them it’s a business model of quantity [widgets and the bottom line] not quality [creativity and service for the client].

A close friend sent me an unattributed quote she found on the internet the other day.  “Buy an expensive camera and you become a photographer.  Buy a piano and you own a piano.”

The photography industry, at most levels other than the very top has been “Walmart-ized”, you can always get it for less!  But do you, the clients, really understand what you’re buying?  Have your photographers ever explained in any detail how they can help you protect your company’s image and reputation?  How to protect your investment in your visual representations?  How to protect your employees and executives from ridicule on the internet?

That’s where we “dinosaurs” come in.  We partner with our clients and provide full service and education so that you can be making better decisions.

I’ll explain more in the next email [unless you’d like to call before … 😉 ]


Somewhere in rural New Jersey

4 comments so far

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  1. Nat: Your comments always open my lens a bit wider. Thank you for that! And just want to mention that your “mask” blog — and subsequent, in-person comments have made looking at the wedding/engagement photos in the New York Times a whole lot more fun.

    :>) Kate

  2. What a spectacular image with which to make your point! (
    Someday over a Nehi root beer I’ll tell you a funny story from a colleague still in the Navy in motion media and his video, aired on ESPN, of the time lapse build out of a deck of a USN aircraft carrier to a college basketball court (over 450K views BEFORE the game) and how a low-rent weasel tried to slime him out of the joy of creative ownership. The difference between taking pictures and creating photographs is so starkly demarcated it must be hard at times speaking with (potential) clients who don’t grasp it. I never attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance, but sometimes, Alice, to the moon!

  3. Nat, what a great and creative way to “educate” about the details and evolving changes in your industry! You gently point out that people often do not know what they “need/want” in the photography world today. They need you to help. Because you “play” the piano….

  4. Preach it, bro!

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