Category Archives: Photography Business

Boards, Blogs, and Bling

The Pro Photo Home photography message boards have started a new program where you get paid to post. I had to check the date on the email to make sure it wasn’t April 1st. A follow up email this morning assured me that the program is real. For contributing content to the site you are paid 10 cents per post, with a maximum of $100 per year. You do need to sign up to be a member, at $35 per year, which takes your potential earnings down to $65 per year. Read more about the Photo Rewards Program.

If you regularly post to,, or another photography forum, this may be an intruguing idea. Your content is worth something. Better content creates a website that more people want to visit, which creates more advertising revenue for the site owner. Pro Photo Home’s acknowledgement of the value their content contributors provide is a step in the right direction.

But now that we’re in the age of the blog, can the message board really survive? The photographers whose opinions I care about do not regularly post on message boards — they have blogs, or write for publications. Here’s why — you have the potential to get paid more, and you own the content.

Let’s pull back the curtain again for a minute. If you follow an Amazon link from a blog and purchase any product, the blog owner gets about a 4% cut from Amazon. Last month someone clicked on a book link on my blog and bought a Nikon D200 and accessories, and my cut from Amazon was close to what I’d get for a whole year of posting on Pro Photo Home. Anyone planning to buy a Leica M8 soon? Maybe a new TV?

B&H Photo has also started an affiliate program. High traffic lens review sites like The Digital Picture utilize a nice blend of photo store links, Amazon, and Google Adsense without being overbearing.

I haven’t really made much of an effort to monetize my blog. The Amazon links are there for your reference. I only recommend things that I really like. My goal is to make enough money each month to cover my web hosting and other expenses, but I’m not worried about it if I don’t.

My tolerance for web advertising depends on the quality of the content. The better the content is, the more likely I am to put up with advertising. Where do I draw the line? I don’t like banners, boxes, or Google ads interspersed within the content. Keep the ads in the sidebar, and I usually don’t have a problem with the design.

Do advertisements and product links change how much you trust the content of a website? I would love to hear some examples of blogs you read regularly that have well designed ads.

Photography News: Business, fine art, Vivitar 285

  • Pro Photo Business Blog — A new business oriented blog for professional photographers.
  • Not to be confused with John Harrington’s Photo Business News & Forum, which has been kicking some serious butt lately. John’s book is an essential resource if you’re interested in the photo biz.
  • On the fine art side, Muse-Ings has been at the top of my must read list lately.
  • In other news, the venerable Vivitar 285HV is back! Check out the full rundown over at Strobist.

John Harrington

If you have an interest in the business side of photography, John Harrington’s Photo Business News Blog is a great resource. Over the last five years I’ve read a lot of words of wisdom about the photography business from the web, books, professional organizations, seminars and workshops. John’s book Best Business Practices for Photographers provides a wealth of solid business information, and excellent negotiating strategies. The real life email communication and contract examples are worth their weight in gold. Whether you are just starting out, or already a pro, this well written book is an essential resource that’s packed with great information. Highly recommended.

Copyright: Creative Commons

Update 1/30/07: Mia Garlick, General Counsel for Creative Commons, pointed me to a wiki: Discussion Draft Non Commercial Guidelines that addresses the concerns I’ve talked about in the article below. Forbes usage of Thomas Hawk’s image would clearly be commercial usage according to these Draft Guidelines. Gray areas with licensing make me uncomfortable, and I’m quite pleased that Creative Commons has a document in progress that seeks to clearly define what constitutes commercial usage. – jr

The Creative Commons license is billed as a more collaborative and open way to share your work than a standard copyright. I found the most interesting part of the Creative Commons FAQ to be a short item called Is Creative Commons Against Copyright? which states:

Not at all. Our licenses help you retain your copyright and manage your copyright in a more flexible, open way. In fact, our licenses rely upon copyright for their enforcement. The justification for intellectual property protection (under U.S. law, at least) is the “promot[ion of] the progress of science and the useful arts.” We want to promote science and the useful arts, too, and believe that helping creators or licensors fine-tune the exercise of their rights to suit their preferences helps do just that.

Sounds like a noble idea. But things get messy when you try to apply this paradigm to photography. At the risk of alienating some close friends, I want to boil the issue down into the most significant downside of using the Creative Commons license for photographs:

Applying the Creative Commons license to your photographs may provide a structured way to give away your work to large corporations for nothing more than a photo credit.

Forbes recently used one of Thomas Hawk’s images that was licensed under Creative Commons, and did not give him the required photo credit. After Thomas brought the issue to their attention, they added a credit. When Mr. Hawk was asked why he did not charge Forbes for the image, he responded on his blog:

For those of you who suggested I make Forbes pay money to use the image, reparations, etc. that’s just not my style. I like sharing my photos with the entire world. I make a little money on them from time to time but that is not the primary motivation. For me this issue was more about educating the mainstream media on the appropriate use of creative commons licensed images and the need for approval and credit.

The real crux of the situation is the fact that Thomas may not be able to charge Forbes any money because the Creative Commons license may already allow them to use the image for free, as long as a photo credit is included. Creative Commons limits commercial usage — which means advertising. But magazine and newspaper usage is editorial, not commercial.

Any magazine or newspaper in the world may be able to use your images for free as long as a photo credit is included. By licensing under Creative Commons you may be giving up control of editorial usage of your images, and potentially losing thousands of dollars in revenue.

And because the Creative Commons license is not revocable, any image obtained under the Creative Commons license may be able to be used in the future without payment.

Let’s look at an example of how a standard copyright affords much more control over your images:

A: Forbes wants to use a portrait for an article. I would license the image to Forbes for one time, non-exclusive, North American usage in their print publication and/or website, and in addition to a photo credit, I would put $300-400 in my pocket. Maybe more.

B: A few months later, a small non-profit organization run by volunteers is doing a feature on the portrait subject, and I let them use the image for free.

C: A few weeks later, a magazine I can’t stand wants to use the portrait — and I tell them no way.

But with Creative Commons, the large corporation, small non-profit, and magazine I don’t like may be able to use the image in print and on their website, and all I get is a photo credit.

I’ve struggled to understand why anyone would use a Creative Commons license for photographs when you can just copyright your images, and maintain control over who uses them. If you want to give your images away, that’s your decision to make on a case by case basis. But why give up control?


Heller on stock photography

Dan Heller has two great posts about stock photography on his Photography Business Blog. One covers royalty free vs. rights managed stock. The other post covers Corbis.

If you’re interested in stock, make sure to have a look at the article he links to called Five contributions to decline of stock which discusses the following five issues:

      • The decline of print media
      • An oversupply of stock photography
      • Super-cheap images
      • Google Images, Flickr, and user-generated content
      • Customer and contributor confusion

Dan then goes on to clarify his views on the stock photography market. Interesting reading.