We have been fighting the wrong fight for copyright registration. That is my opinion.
For most of my career we have told everyone that when you click your shutter you own your copyright. If you are on the payroll of a company they own that photo unless there is some written agreement giving you the copyright.
We know that is where the work-for-hire agreement came from when dealing with usage rights and copyright.
While the ownership of the copyright hasn’t been up for debate other than the who owns it based on who is paying for the creation the issue has been about the courts.
I was informed that you needed to register your copyright with copyright office to be able to collect legal fees. Those are all the fees that you can be awarded if you win a case. The judge reviews all the legal fees and does a separate ruling on how much the other side must pay for you taking this to court.
I learned early on that the going rate for copyright infringement cases was about $100,000 and took at least a year or more in the courts.
For the past 30 years ASMP and NPPA that I am a member, have spent lots of money lobbying congress to protect that process of registration.
I believe there is a better solution today. Do away with copyright registration. Get congress to change the law that if you can show copyright infringement then you can collect legal fees.
As far as the proving your images are yours there is Blockchain technology already on the market.
The idea of a blockchain — protecting data through a large network of computers — and applies the concept to managing photo rights. It is an “encrypted digital ledger of rights ownership for photographers.” Photographers can add new images as well as archive images to the system. Because of the blockchain structure, the data is stored on a large network of computers that helps create a public ledger, adds a layer of protection, and prevents data loss.
There are centralized and decentralized solutions right now available for Blockchain.
The point I make is that the current registration of your images with copyright office is out of date. With blockchain these servers can also police the web and find anyone using your images without rights.
Because Blockchain works so well with the digital photograph it will let you sell and track any usage of your images and keeps them from being used illegally since it codes images and makes them no longer easily copied and shared.
Blockchain can help us not just prove we shot an image it serves as an agency and collector.
We need to change the copyright laws and not continue to use a system that is outdated and not serving the artist community well at all.
I have talked about shooting enough photos of a subject to allow our imagination and creativity kick-in. Now that we are all doing just that (making plenty of pictures every time we approach a subject) we can see for ourselves how even just a millimeter’s change in angle can make the difference between a good and a great photograph. Or, for that matter, it doesn’t take much to make the difference between a good shot and a crummy one.
If we print all the digital images from a shoot as large thumbnails we’ll have a several pages of images we can study side-by-side. This should give us some insight about our work that looking at our photos one at a time will never give us.
Editing software, such as PhotoShop, gives us the opportunity to rate photos from zero to five stars. Here are some guides to use as we look to see if we have any FIVE STAR photos in that shoot.
Exposure. Not just the technically correct one, but the proper exposure for the effect we wish to convey. We can under expose a little to emphasize graphics or over exposed (this is done a lot in fashion photography to diminish skin tones or to emphasize eyes and lips).
Focus. I love selective focus where the depth of field is very shallow. This lets me direct the viewer’s attention to where I want it to go. It makes the subject pop out. We see this used in fashion and sports photography a lot. Just the opposite (a deep depth of field) may be just what is needed in landscape photos and certainly it is necessity in macro photography.
Anytime we can make someone feel as if they can see into our photography we have truly accomplished something. After all, it is only a two dimensional object.
Composition. Medical students are told, “First, do no harm.” Photographers should take the same advice and leave out all unnecessary elements. All composition is the selection of what should be in and what should be out of the frame when we release the shutter. Speaking of framing… to add depth to a picture frame it as you take it. Shoot under the branch of a tree or through a door or window. A frame is only one of many visual elements that can draw a viewer into our photo. Elements like leading lines will give it a three-dimensional feel.
Anytime we can make someone feel as if they can see into our photography we have truly accomplished something. After all, it is only a two dimensional object.
See how the feet are cut off.
Just barely moving the camera we can include the feet and anchor the photo.
Lighting. Light can draw one into the photo, too. Light is probably, next to expression and body language, the most dramatic, mood-setting tool we have as photographers. The color temperature can be powerful. The warm late evening light, the cool early morning colors or the green cast of florescent office light each carries a mood of its own.
Expression. Realtors like to say what matters is location, location, location. Portrait photographers KNOW that the composition may be beautiful, the lighting creative, the clothing and background perfect, but if the EXPRESSION isn’t what it needs to be…. No sale! Is a smile what is needed? (By the way, NEVER tell ANYONE to smile.) Most adults can’t turn it on an off and kids will come up with some rather unusual expression, but generally NOT a real smile. If, as a photographer we need the to smile – naturally – then it is up to us to elicit one from them. We owe them that. After all, we ARE the photographers. Usually pictures of people should show their faces. Sounds obvious, but if our subjects are watching something happening, say a ball game or a birthday party, we must be sure we are not so distracted by the event that we forget what is important… our main subject, the faces of our subjects.
Body Language. We can photograph someone several feet away (and not even show their face) and still communicate a great deal about them if we watch their body language. Watch their arms. It’s amazing what we say just by the position of our arms. Do our subject’s arms communicate what we want? Are they open or closed? Is the person in our photo leaning forward or backward? Does their position engage or pull back? Do they appear to be sensitive or cold? Are they reaching out to another or pushing them away?
The Eyes. An eye doctor may tell us that the eyes really don’t change. Perhaps that is true in a technical sense. Be that as it may, watch the eyes. They tell it all! However it happens the eyes are the essence of a portrait.
The Head. A millimeter’s turn of the head, a slight tilt is all it takes to make the difference between a zero and a five star photography.
This is in no way a comprehensive list, it is only a sampling of many things we need consider when “grading” our photos.
By moving the camera merely a millimeter you can include their feet rather than chopping them off, leave out or include another person and change the mood.
Just a millimeter or so can keep the tree from growing out of your spouse’s head. Moving an inch to the left may let the camera see a person’s face a little better or distinguish the main subject from their surroundings.
When we shoot enough photos we get to see the difference just a millimeter’s change can make. It is then we will begin to see the why one photo is bad and another is good.
In the Olympics it can be the difference in millimeters that determines who wins and looses a race. In photography it can be what determines the great photo from the others.
Robin Rayne says, “Make your emotion work for you and not against you, remember, God gave you tears.”
Robin spends most of her time photographing today in the disabilities community. She is a photojournalist and documentary producer for the University of Georgia’s Institute on Human Development and Disability. Her compelling images illustrating human rights, disability and gender diversity issues are distributed internationally by Zuma Press.
When I was traveling and could not photograph my daughter’s senior prom Robin helped out for our family getting the photos of the important event in our family.
I can always count on Robin to capture those moments. The minute I knew I was away for that all too important Prom I called Robin.
Robin sees moments and captures the emotions we feel. When asked how she does it with such emotional moments she says, “I am thankful for auto focus when covering some stories, because of all the tears.”
Great photojournalists embrace their emotions.
“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.” – Don McCullin
After Robin spoke this past weekend at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar she commented that after talking with people about their portfolios she was always asking why for the photos.
Why does this story need to be told? Why should the public care?
What is surprising to myself and Robin is how when you ask this question so many have a deer in the headlights look on their face.
Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.
Robin is a photojournalist and not just a photographer. Robin is not interested in just entertaining the public, she is interested in informing the public. She is most concerned in telling the stories of people who cannot tell their own stories.
Robin is the voice for the voiceless who is also calling others to take up the call of photojournalism. She knows she alone cannot tell all the stories needing to be told.
When I asked Robin to speak to my Intro to Photojournalism class at Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication she challenged the class.
If we want to feel an undying passion for our work, if we want to feel we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves, we all need to know our WHY.
Robin explained how her why probably came about having a son with disabilities.
You have to find your niche. The combination of your WHY and HOWs is as exclusively yours as your fingerprint.
Covering events requires you to think as a photographer. This event was to honor Mohammad Ali and to do so they had his daughter Maryum Ali as the keynote address.
On the stage off to the sides were banners with Mohammad Ali’s photo on them. I worked to the side to get that behind Maryum so it was helping to tell the story using primarily the visuals.
Now another issue in covering a dinner is the lighting.
To be sure the people’s faces look good I had to use a flash, but the problem is then the background would go black.
I used a higher ISO 16000 to keep the background visible.
I arrived really early and had the guys running the sound and lighting board turn the lights on as they would be during the event. I then walked onto the stage and did a custom white balance using the ExpoDisc.
Using the ExpoDisc I put this over the front of the lens and did a incident light reading and custom white balance.
When you have the perfect color space from doing a custom white balance the dynamic range is increased to the fullest potential with that light source.
Tips for covering events
Arrive Early and Leave Late
Adjust your ISO to work with your flash to show context
Look for angles to help capture visually what you need words to say about the event
Get custom white balance
Shoot RAW – Because no information is compressed with RAW you’re able to produce higher quality images, as well as correct problem images that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format.
Well there are many “WHY?” questions when it comes to communication. One that I am discovering is not asked enough is, “Why should the audience care?”
Most organizations want to communicate with an audience in order to get that audience to help them. But the most obvious questions they are missing is the WIIFM question. What’s In It For Me?
WIIFM is the stuff that shows how or why what you have to sell or say matters to those who you are trying to sell or say it too. It’s the value proposition, the thing that makes them realize that what you’re offering is worth their money or their time.
I think most people think they have something important and that everyone will want to know.
The latest group of missionaries I worked with thought that churches should see their role as supporting them.
Now in consulting missionaries trying to connect with their supporters back home I had to remind them about WIIFM.
So, never forget that relationship building comes BEFORE favor asking. And there has to be a much bigger and better WIIFM when you approach people cold, without a solid relationship.
That said, sometimes people will offer favors if they are charmed by you, or like you, or are just in a good mood. But given how overwhelmed most people are these days, they usually appreciate and respond well to clear propositions with a straightforward action attached—and a benefit. Otherwise, you just become part of the noise.
For the journalist WIIFM is the stuff that shows how or why what you have to say matters to those who you are trying to say it to.
This week spending time in Lima, Peru has proven to be quite helpful. We were able to answer all the people’s questions that are hosting us later when we come back with 12 students and all the instructors.
We covered what we are doing each day and how the team is helping us interview the people that they recommended for stories.
We went to the presidential palace to see about this being a place we will bring the group for an outing.
Jon Stone is a professor at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Lima, Peru and also one of those hosting the Storytellers Abroad team in January.
This is a must visit for those who have an interest in the early culture and how Christianity made its way to Peru. The Cathedral is beautifully designed, both exterior and interior with natural skylights, and has a nice garden within its compound, and one of the largest library in Peru – a 2 tier balconied library, with spiral staircases, that looks very much from the movies of Harry Potter.
The highlight of the visit is to the underground catacombs – up to 3 different basement tiers and you would need a guide to bring your through. The catacombs served as a burial place to all in that era, i.e. the rich, the poor and the priests and the bones and esp skulls are arranged in neat rows of up to some 70,000 dead.
Larcomar is located on Avenida Jose Larco, and it is along the cliff next to the ocean (mar means ‘sea’ in Spanish) thus the name Larcomar.
Just one block from the big roundabout in Miraflores you find Av. Petit Thouars. On block 52 to 55 are many artisan markets selling nearly everything what Peruvian craftsmanship has to offer. You get the typical souvenirs, nice artisan craftworks, beautiful silver jewelry and other silverware, clothes made of Peru’s famous alpaca, funny T-Shirts, pottery, paintings, wooden pieces, and much more from all over Peru.
Traditional Peruvian clothing and products ranging from shoes to tote bags are made out of bright, bold textiles.
The traditional Peruvian art form known also as ‘mates burilados’, dates back 3,500 years. The gourds tell a story of the customs, culture, people, history, and animals. Hang them from a Christmas tree or use them as a decorative piece around your home.
Editor note: we still have 2 slots available for this trip in January. Go to Storytellers Abroad to see how to register and come with us to Peru.
Lima, Peru is a desert. The weather patterns for South American generally move East to West. Most of the moisture gets help up in the Andes Mountains. The Andes are the longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of South America.
There is a haze over the city due to so much dust from the desert.
People find places all over the area to build. Some areas have some building which is similar to squatters in the United States. They build housing without plumbing and electricity.
During this trip we are talking to the locals and our hosts for our Storytellers Abroad trip this January. We are visiting some of the possible locations that our students will be doing stories. We are doing this to see any potential issues that we may need to plan around.
We have visited the location we will use as the classroom part of the workshop.
Simple things like planning for power strips, projectors, sound, food and where we are staying is all being looked at and planned for in this trip.
We are asking security questions about is it safe to walk with cameras from where we are staying to the classroom each day?
John’s credit card company sent him a promotion to eat at his favorite steak restaurant for 50% off. Well this place would most likely be too expensive later for the class, but we love steak and a good deal.
The food was outstanding.
Today we will meet with their team and visit the prenatal clinic they started here to help pregnant mothers.
Anyone doing a story must plan. You need to know how you will get places and if the people are available and willing to participate in the story process.
Today we will talk to those helping us identify stories to be sure those subjects will be available when we return for us to follow them for three to five days solid.
We are also planning for the transportation of how we will get all 12 students to each of their stories and who will help them also with the translation during their interviews. We have four people coming on the trip who speak Spanish, but the rest will need translators.
Today we have to help get everyone to see these stories as the stories “WE” want to tell together. The subject, the translator, the transportation, the storyteller, the caterer and more are all helping make these stories come alive.
We are still exploring today and tomorrow. The more we do to prepare to do a story the better the story will be for the audience.
Every once in a while I am reviewing images I have taken to see if I can update my website. I have found that when you are just pulling from assignment work I have less “Portfolio” images.
What do I want to put on my website?
Often I shoot things that are just important to me. They are really photos you would put in your personal journal.
People are not always hiring photographers to document everything, but I see the value for if for no one else for me. I love to look back and remember the things I have done and seen.
For example I was able to take a helicopter ride this year over the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. This is so different than what I shoot most of the time.
I do a good number of head shots each year like these actors studying at Columbus State University.
As every parent I love doing things with our children. Here making my daughter’s head shot for her to use in her career as an actress brings me great joy.
While this isn’t a soccer game photo, I do find myself making interesting sports photos. So who will hire you to shoot this? Should this be on my website?
How about a group photo? Well many people do hire me to do team photos of their co-workers and yes sports teams as well.
Clients also hire me to photograph new things their company is doing. For example Chick-fil-A started using canopies to help protect their team members that help speed up the drive thru by being outside taking orders.
Do you put things into your website that are more of a trend? For example many offices are renovating to the open office space design.
The biggest issue now facing corporate America is the lack of employees. The industry refers to this as attracting talent.
Companies are also trying to be sure they communicate their culture.
So this year I captured some fun things as well for clients. Do they belong in a portfolio?
While fireworks are fun to see would anyone hire me to shoot any for them?
I got a lot of likes for this photo on my Instagram account, but does this go into my website to help me get jobs?
I took an afternoon to go and explore the Old Car City in White, GA this year. I got some really cool shots. Again many people liked them on Instagram, so does this mean they go into my website portfolio?
I can see companies hiring me to shoot photos of their properties. They do want to remind people how to find them.
Now speakers at podiums lit by stage lighting are not that difficult to do, but should they be part of my portfolio? Can people figure out that if I can do one type of photography that those skills often transfer to something else?
I find that people are often more interested in the photos themselves and if I have enough compelling images I might get a call to shoot their event.
So how many images is enough? How many images of events should I post?
What will draw people to my website?
I can tell you this is the thoughts of not just me, but every photographer working today in this profession.
What do you think? Do any of these photos need to be on my website as part of my portfolio? Should some never be in my portfolio?