Letting it Fly | Stock Photography and Creative Commons

It’s funny how the inter-connectivity of social media marketing can foster discussions and trains of thought that can have a direct impact on how you do business. For photography and photographers social media has been the game-changer when it comes to marketing and promoting work and services. It’s a powerful tool, no doubt, but if not careful the tool can begin to manage the craftsman rather than the other way around. Case-in-point: piracy and image licensing. This is why David Esrati’s (Dayton Ohio “websisteologist” who helped me discover the power of business blogging with WordPress) latest tip on a new WordPress plug-in caught my attention. It’s called Compfight and what it does is allow WordPress bloggers to search Flickr for stock photography based on keywords, however, the images selected are all listed as “creative commons” usage rights. Basically, instead of managed rights with licensing through the photographer the images can be legally posted on other sites and blogs with often the only requirement being a credit listing and link back to the originating photographer. To see it in use I’ve posted several of my own images within this blog entry using the Compfight plug-in. It works pretty well and the back links are included seamlessly.

The use of this plug-in immediately brings-up the argument for, or against, allowing creative commons for images posted by professional photographers. The argument against goes along the lines of “anyone who copies and re-posts images should be paying stock licensing fees” and that photographers who allow creative commons with attribution are “giving away their work for free.” However, I’m beginning to see the merits of the argument for creative commons, especially since Pro Photographer Trey Ratcliff lit a wildfire with his Google+ article on why he allows  such widespread usage. Not only that, but he also advocates against the use of watermarking logos or copyrights on posted photographs. Another pro shooter who admire and follow, Scott Bourne with photofocus, soon picked-up on what Trey was getting at and followed suit.

Basically online images are going to be “pirated” and copied no matter what types of precautionary tactics are employed by the photographer. The reasoning behind of “just let them go” is that those individuals who copy and post to their Tumblr and Pinterest pages will never be worth tracking down and fighting in the legal arena and the usage is more often than not non-commercial and innocent. If the photographer is smart in how he or she prepares web-ready images, the photographs will be low-resolution JPEGs sized for looking nice onscreen and but when sent to a desktop printer quickly reveal the difference between web-ready and print quality. Custom export settings in image file management programs such as Lightroom and Aperture make it easy to manage appropriate versions, whether going up on Flickr and a blog or to a printer for a 30″x40″ on canvas. The additional argument is that the casual “lifter” is often not part of the photographer’s target market to begin with.

The paying clients are going to be the heavy-hitters who have it as their standard practice and policy to pay for stock photography that’s destined for editorial and/or advertising use. Granted there have been a few glaring exceptions but the vast majority go into the stock photography game knowing full well the rules and penalties. Sure they’ll often search Flickr but when they find what they are looking for they know best to contact the photographer directly and begin the negotiating process.

This is why I recently re-set the permission on my nearly 1,200 images posted to my Flickr page as “Creative Commons – Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works.” In a way I’m “letting them go” but with a “light line.” I’ve dramatically increased the potential for commercial/editorial reach and visibility with what in actuality is minimum risk. The one thing that I still do though is include my watermarked logo. For one thing I like my logo, thanks to the pro talent of April Sadowski @ AIBrean Studios. It conveys the message that these images are indeed the work of a professional and helps advertise my brand. When it comes down to it, isn’t that the primary purpose of social media MARKETING ?

Are my images on Tumblr and Pinterest ? Sure. All over, including my own Tumblr page “It’s All About the Light.” Heck, one of my images – a street scene I captured in midtown Manhattan back on June 2010 – has been re-blogged and “liked” on Tumblr over 4,000 times. Has there been advertising or editorial usage without my knowledge ? Nope. If there is I will find out, but almost all of those re-postings are from teenagers who’ve visited Times Square. Fun. No biggee. Let it go, because something much bigger may come back my way down the road.

Does this mean I can give away my photography for free ? Absolutely not. It’s merely a more evolved approach toward social media when it comes to professional photography and understanding the target customer, whether that be for fine art prints, stock licensing, workshops or assignment work. In fact I still link to my policy via my Flickr about page regarding requests for donations. Re-post one of my images to your personal blog or Pinterest page? No problem. But ask me to donate usage to promote your organization, product or service, when you are paying for other support services, and then I will be happy to negotiate fair and reasonable usage terms that we can all be happy with.

Choose your battles and practice good karma. Eventually it’s all good. You just need to be careful not to make it TOO good for the other guy.

Water Dance
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

The Last Sunflower by Jim Crotty
Photo Credit:
Jim Crotty via Compfight

Lighthouse Interior by Jim Crotty
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

Patient Hunter by Jim Crotty
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

Surf at Sunrise on Hunting Island by Jim Crotty
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

Halloween Pumpkins by Jim Crotty
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight



Gift of the Good Light | Spring Nature Photography on Hilton Head Island

Spring came early to Hilton Head Island. What normally would be considered May weather conditions has settled-in here in the Low Country of South Carolina, and with it has come some incredible light, particularly at sunrise and sunset. The gift of the good light awaits the photographer who gets up early and stays out late. The following are images I captured during the weekend of March 17 – 18, 2012 with locations that include Broad Creek, Broad Creek Marina and Burke’s Beach Park.

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety”. ~Ansel Adams

In the Light of New Mexico | Enchanted Indeed

I was blessed with an incredible week photographing the nature, landscape and history of north central New Mexico. The locations I visited and photographed the week of March 4 – 9 included Corrales, the Sandia Mountains, Santa Fe, Bandelier National Monument, the Jemez Mountains and the Cabezon Peak Wilderness Area.

Thank you Roch Hart of New Mexico Jeep Tours. A great friend and inspiration. I met Roch three years ago during my first visit to New Mexico, when attending the annual summit in 2009 for NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) in Albuquerque. I will be working with Roch and his touring company in preparing and presenting a photography tour and workshop planned for the last week of October 2012. I can guarantee and unforgettable experience with access to scenic areas that most of the public do not know about and in some cases has not been photographed before, including amazing Pueblo rock art and ruins, ghost towns and landscapes that easily rival those of the National Parks in southern Utah.

During the coming weeks I will be working on the program agenda and outline as well as pricing. We’re going to limit the group to nine participants due to number of Jeeps available (be prepared for fun but bumpy rides) but this will also allow for more in the way of one-on-one personal coaching and instruction on topics such as composing for the landscape, macro and close-ups, isolating elements, abstracts in nature, skyscapes and much more. Also, most meals will be included and I know from personal experience the dedication and commitment to outstanding customer service of New Mexico Jeep Tours. Details coming soon. If you’d like to be added to an early notify list for when the details on the New Mexico Photo Tour and Workshop are announced, please email me and I will be happy to do so.

Me in the Cabezon Wilderness Area of New Mexico. Photograph by Roch Hart of New Mexico Jeep Tours.

Sunrise at the Chocolate Turtle B&B in Coralles, New Mexico.


What Keeps Us Away From Beauty | The True Sin

Often the hardest part is just making the time to go out and explore with camera and a free mind. What I mean by that is just being able to let all else fall away, if only for a moment, and allow all the scenes to come to you. So much beauty right outside our doors but we are literally pummeled today with so much noise and pressure that keeps us away from it.

That’s not right. That’s the true sin.

No matter what may be or what may come, find the time to return to the simple gifts of grace found in the blessed light of your sacred place.

And then the REAL photographer – and the photographs that speak of the spirit – emerge.

Incoming Tide by Jim Crotty

The Power of the Self-Portrait | Marketing the Photographer and Photography on the Web

I’ve always been more of the introverted, shy type. That’s a big reason why I became so involved with photography and nature at a very early age. I’ve never was known as gregarious and outgoing, preferring instead more “quiet” pursuits. The benefit is that I have an insight to my subject matter and a passion for the art of image making that provides just as much excitement today, at age 47, as it did when I was wandering the woods at age 12 with a Pentax Spotmatic F 35mm camera and a couple rolls of Kodak Tri-X film.

The downfall is that I didn’t develop what I would call “aggressive selling skills.” At least not initially. This is a big reason why most fine art photographers – nature, landscapes, wildlife – are rarely comfortable in the fine art of self-promotion. They put themselves through a bit of a beat-down and withdraw from what may appear to others as self-inflating behavior and bragging. But the truth of the matter is, in this age of the digital, independent artisan, there is still the need to compete in the open market. The photographic artist adapts, overcomes and pushes onward with the realization that half the process of selling art – whether it be prints, services or instruction – is the selling of self.

Human beings are visual and so much is determined within those few seconds of the first impression. With professional photography they want to see the photographer behind the photographs. They want to see the face of who will be teaching the photography workshop. They want to know more about who will be photographing their portrait. Although we go to great lengths to pretend that we don’t judge by appearances the cold, hard fact is that we do, all the time, whether it be through online connections at home or when out and about in our workplaces and neighborhoods.

Case in point – what page on a photographer’s web site or blog is visited the most following the home page and gallery of images ? The “about” or “bio” page. Always. We’re naturally nosy and we want to see the face behind the work.

Recently I had a profile article published in a local tourism magazine here on Hilton Head Island (note – print version included more images). They published almost all of the sample images from my portfolio that I sent to them except one – my own head shot. Even though it was well-written and the sample images looked impressive, the number one response I received from those who saw the article was “where was your picture?” When I kept hearing that question and comment it finally solidified what I had long suspected about how people react to my marketing efforts – for prints, workshops and commercial photography services. A well captured and presented self-portrait can make a big difference.

So, rather than react negatively I saw the omission as an opportunity to reconsider the appearance of the quarter page ad that I had been running in that same publication. I made some adjustments and decided yes, time to stick my neck out and be a bit more “aggressive.” Below is the result –

And then I thought “well, while I’m at it might as well update my Twitter background too –

The photographs. The photographer. What at first looks like a mistake becomes an opportunity – to learn, adapt and move forward. The age of digital is almost entirely visual-based. Welcome to the new “social hour” of business networking and self-promotion. Does this make me look “conceited, self-centered ?” No. For one thing I never considered myself exactly model material (although losing 50+ lbs in 2009 made me more comfortable with my self-portraits). The reality is that in order to successfully market online – whether static site, blog or social media – some confidence is required to “put yourself out there.” This is my work. This is me. I’m happy with my work. I’m happy with me. Sure there’s always going to be a negative judgement or two from the peanut gallery but nine out ten impressions are going to be positive. Those positive impressions may not result in an immediate sale of a print or workshop registration, but if people like what they initially see, they return.

And here’s more good news for professional photographers. The power of a well-captured and presented head shot extends far beyond the online marketing of photographs and photography services. It applies to just about everyone else presenting a business, profession or art online as well. The camera phone capture may be okay for Facebook but  . . . there’s just something about a professionally photographed portrait.

From Capture to Edit to Print | February Photo Workshops

I’m pleased to announce a two-session workshop for February 2012 on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. My SHOOT – EDIT – POST – PRINT workshop will include a field instruction and photo walk session on February 18 at Burke’s Beach from 5 to 7PM. The emphasis will be on optimal camera settings and effective use of the DSLR camera for capturing skyscapes at sunset as well as close-up details of dunes and beach.

The second session, The Digital Photographer, will be on February 23 from 6 to 8:30PM at my studio location on Hilton Head. Here I will guide participants through my process for digital image file editing and management, step-by-step, using my favorite tools and techniques for optimal results when making fine art prints and posting to web sites. I will be utilizing the images captured by participants during session one at Burke’s Beach.

This is a complete workflow program that goes over tips and techniques for artistic composition and capture as well as the technical skills for beset use of both DSLR camera and image editing software. The sessions are limited to eight participants. The cost of each session is $45 or both for $80. Attendance at session one is not required for session two.

Call 843-842-9200 or jim@jimcrotty.com for more details or to register for the workshop.

Fine Art – Stock – Commercial – Portrait – Workshops