David Jay, founder of Shoot And Share a platform for photographers to share high resolution images with their clients, made a rather interesting comment on social media the other day. He proposes you ditch the rights to your work in celebration of freedom and claims it will make you a happier photographer and the world a better place!
In an effort to bring you the readers some variety on the topic we have two differing opinions on the advice given by David Jay. We of course urge you to form your own opinions and, if you so please, share them with us in the comments section. Let's open this up to thoughtful and meaningful discussion because it is a very real and persistent issue in our industry.
Peter House Shares His Opinion
Though I am personally not too familiar with the Shoot And Share platform, I was under the impression it was all about convenience. Shoot and share should not translate to "shoot and give away" but rather "shoot and easily distribute". While I applaud David for creating a platform that is widely used by many professionals, I am rather appalled at his ignorant call to action, and I feel I need to offer an alternate perspective to those who may be seriously considering that path.
David tries to rally users by referencing July 4th and the ideology of freedom which it embodies in an effort to have hard working photographers disregard the concept of copyright. David's analogy however falls a bit flat when one realizes that our fore fathers fought not just for the freedom of expression but for the right to protect ones copy. These two ideologies are not at opposing ends, as David would have you believe, but work together in what can best be described as a symbiotic relationship.
With the freedom to create art, no matter the medium, comes the responsibility of protecting artistic vision and integrity. By allowing anyone and everyone to alter and modify YOUR work in any which way that THEY please you loose that fundamental value of self expression which defines a true artist.
While it is true that we work for our clients, we do so on a freelance basis, and the copyright always stays with the creator of the work. We are not doing the client an injustice by not allowing our work to be modified or used in any which way. We are hired based on the style and vision we present in our portfolios and that is what we are paid to deliver based on the terms of the project. Our focus is on delivering the absolute BEST product and customer service that we can. Why must there be some altruistic context on the matter?
The risk we run as artists by giving away our work or allowing it to be modified far outweighs the benefits it would provide to the client. If a client horribly defaces your work and makes it public, the repercussions for the client are minimal, but can be damning for the creator of the work. If I am going to lose potential clients due to a bad product, it will be of my own doing, and not as a result of anyone else. At least that way I can stand up and take ownership for my mistakes as I was raised instead of making excuses and pointing fingers at the various sources cheapening my work.
As a commercial photographer I could never, nor would I ever, put David's advice into practice. What I will do however is suggest you read my 4 part series on pricing photography which I released on Fstoppers some months ago. In no time you will know the HOW and WHY on this subject, and its all free, how is that for altruistic?
Now you've got the FREEDOM to issue as many licenses as you want! Happy 4th of July everyone!
Lee Morris Shares His Opinion
Although I completely understand why photographers would fight this movement, I for one have always taken David Jay's approach to my wedding images.
I remember assisting a photographer right out of college and he was explaining to me that he only kept his commercial images for a few years and then he would delete them. I was shocked to hear that he would delete something that he had worked so hard on. I'll never forget his response: "It's not art, it's just work that I do for my clients. I have no connection to these pictures."
When I first got into wedding photography I probably did consider my photography "art." I assumed that my clients were booking me because they believed in my "style" and "vision." Over the years my clients picked terrible images to go in their albums and they edited my images, made them look absolutely horrid, and then uploaded them to Facebook. It really bothered me at the beginning, I felt like they were ruining MY work. Eventually I had to let that go.
Instead of viewing my wedding photography as "my art" I started to view it as my client's pictures. They weren't hiring me because they wanted to hang a "Lee Morris" print on their wall. They hired me because they believed I was capable of taking quality images reliably. I have never "spot colored" an image because I think it looks ridiculous but I still get asked all the time if I will do it. If clients were really hiring me because of my "style" they wouldn't ask me questions like that. The sad truth is that 99% of wedding clients are uneducated in photography and although they are capable of appreciating quality photography, most of them can't distinguish the difference between good and great imagery or classic style and trends.
I know that if a client edits one of your pictures and then publishes it online it doesn't put your business in the best light but I believe a happy client will always tell their friends about their awesome photographer. That potential new client will inevitably go to your website after hearing a recommendation and will see your best work. That will never happen if you fight with your client.
Although I wouldn't say that I make significant changes to my shooting style or post production for individual clients, I do try to shoot to please. If they love candids I'll focus more on that, if they want more posed pictures I'll be happy to spend more time in that area. When they inevitably choose bad images to put in their album I smile and tell them what great taste they have. "It's not art, it's just work that I do for my client."
Although I find it very strange that David would create a website that forces photographers to give their images away (because he is losing a ton of potential customers and money for it) I do agree with the idea of simplifying your business and allowing the client to be happy so that they will tell their friends about how great you were. While most photographers are spending time and energy fighting with their clients, I give them what they want and move on to the next job.