Photos Are Phree

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.


11 thoughts on “Photos Are Phree

  1. I went to the zoo on Sunday and tried to capture some turtle photographs for you. For various reasons, they were all disasters. The photographs, not the turtles. So much for my photography career.


  2. mexicomystic says:

    Gary, Your right, I see blogs where they offer photos for sale that they would have to pay ME to take them, but they’re all bent out of shape about copyrights, etc., If I really wanted them I’d paint out the watermarks with “paint” or photoshop or some such program…I mean this is Mexico the land of pirates… they can steal all mine that they want. And I make a little money with photos, nothing avante garde slick magazine… I get more at 15th birthday parties, weddings & baptisms.
    Mexicans love to have their pictures taken and sometimes I do a little retouching of old photos. Good idea to have a camera in case somebody shoots a big wig …look at the Zapruder film…I hear he got a million for that.

    Have a nice day…keep your bumbershoot handy… now thats a nice English expression for umbrella.


    • I dream of having a camera handy for some one in a million event that will bring me fame and riches! Nothing so far…

      As for piracy…I’m about to comment on another post below which fits in with what you say.


  3. “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”

    Well said.

    I do the same thing. Although my pictures are not that great and most likely wont get used, I have received a couple of “can I post this on my facebook” emails from people who maybe went to the same concert or event as me.


  4. Your photo probably warrant some kind of copyright thingy but I am glad that is not your main objective. An older blogger friend does have photo stock type drawings and he has his protected. In his case it provides some form of protection deservedly due to how much he has put into his photography. I just tinker taking mostly candid shot and so I am glad to share some of these just because.


  5. Your friend might need the protection, but I’d say this. He probably isn’t detering many image pirates. They’ll use the image anyway, with watermark, or by cropping it out.

    He isn’t losing any money when they are misappropriated either. The people that are ‘stealing’ them, aren’t the sort of people who’d pay in the first place.

    He probably is losing valuable, professional exposure. By allowing non commercial use, his photos and name, and usually Flickr link, would get spread around the web.


  6. I am with you on this Gary – I have no problem with anyone using my photographs. I am not a professional photographer. A mountain climbing company actually sent money to me for a shot of Orizaba – unrequested – amazing. I have had several request to use – I always give permission.

    What I do not like is people that link my photos into their web sites using my bandwidth – if you are going to9 steal a photo – take it – don’t link to it.


    • I hear you on hotlinking, although I guess it depends where you’re hosting. If you are paying for bandwidth per mb, then yeah, it’s a pain. With Flickr it’s not my bandwidth, and it doesn’t affect me.


  7. Pingback: Flickr Friends | The Mexile

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