Or ‘Fotos are Free’ As you wish. Here is my periodical rant about why I use a very generous license for my photos on Flickr, and why (maybe) you should to. I photograph for fun. It’s my hobby. I don’t expect to earn any money from it, nor am I likely to. Not any amount worth writing home about anyway.
It’s a really competitive field, and the chaps and chapettes at the top of the pile, save the lucky few who are the top of the top, are finding it harder and harder to earn good money. I’m not saying it’s impossible to earn cash. Nor am I saying that profesional photography is about to go the way of the Dodo. I’m just saying that for 99% of the world’s photographers, there’s no point getting too excited about the prospect of any huge amounts of cash coming your way.
And yet….the number of photos I see on Flickr with the licenses set to All Rights Reserved, or even worse, scarred and uglified with watermarks, is pretty saddening. Share your photos! If you’ve put them on Flickr or a similar site in the first place, you obviously want them seen. So set a license that allows people to use them. The more places they’re posted, the more people that see them, the more point there was in putting it on Flickr in the first place.
I personally use the Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike license offered by Creative Commons on Flickr. This means that anyone can come along and use one of my photos, even altering it if they wish, so long as it’s not for commercial gain, and providing they credit me.
I also, despite all that I’ve mentioned above, added the Getty Licensing option too, which was recently made available to all Flickr users. I like to give new things and features a go. There’s no conflict with my ethos as detailed above. My CC license doesn’t allow commercial use. For that they have to go through Getty. I have low expectations of any success though.
The Creative Commons license has been a great success. Scores, perhaps hundreds, of my 7,000+ photo collection, have appeared all over the net, in all sorts of locations, with commentary in all sorts of languages. I like this variant on a photo I took of a guillotine in the Torture Museum in Mexico City – the guy overlaid a US flag. This photo seems to be particularly popular, and has been used is loads of blog posts. Even over at the Wall Street Journal.
Quite a few of my photos are used on Wikipedia and Wikimedia, which is cool. It’s nice to contribute to something I believe is very worthwhile. The Examiner has used one of my photos too, and a couple of years ago one of my photos was found online by a researcher who got in touch with me, and it was subsequently published in a book. A real, paper book. With an ISBN number. One that you can buy. Chuffed, I was. They even sent me a copy of the book, which is the closest I’ve ever come to receiving payment.
Even dear old Bob the turtle has had his moment of fame. Bless his cotton socks. But anyway, before I waffle on about the turtles. All I’m suggesting is that, as a photographer, you be realistic about your prospects of earning a significant financial income through your daily photographic adventures.
If your snaps are not going to change your financial status by any meaningful amount, put your photos to good use. It’s nice seeing how they are used on the web. You get a bit of extra publicity too. A few more visitors. The collage below is a collection of screenshots I’ve taken of my photos that have been put to good use.