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March 17, 2010


As I thought of becoming a professional photographer, (albeit without the letters ASC after my name – that will come later) I did extensive research across the internet, via books etc, on the images that are sought, micro stock industry, other stock photography sites, technology available etc. I came upon two things which has been the focus of my attention; Rights Managed Photography (as well as copyright issues relating to photography) and the photography stock industry. Before touching on these topics I must point out that technology aside – the basis for any good picture is first and foremost – COMPOSITION. Once you have composed a picture, the next step is to secure your rights, market your image and secure the best possible price without infringement upon your rights as a photographer.

In my bid to enter the professional photographers’ market in Jamaica, I learned a few things:
a) the purchaser does not expect a photographer to charge more than once for the use of their image
b) the purchaser (as in one case where I interviewed for a freelance photographer’s position) does not have a working knowledge of the Copyright Act as it relates to photographers or HOPES that the photographer does not.
c) In a recessed economy photographers seem to agree that it is best to “make a money” than to stand up for their rights and to demand monetary settlement as is their due.

When I am quoting a potential client on my services, I make sure to state what kind of license goes along with the pricing that they are getting. For example, a client wanting to use an image exclusively for a limited time or unlimited should expect to pay more than using the image for a specific time and a specific use. If they secure my services that means that they have selected the option and pricing that they require. The rights managed fee is usually quoted separately from the photographer’s daily fee ( I institute a minimum charge of a half day). Some photographers think it is better to to bundle everything in one fee so as not to discombobulate or perturb a potential client.

Has this method worked for me in the Jamaican environment? A simple “Yes” or “No” is not applicable here. In order to have any successful business, one must be prepared to be patient. I have been doing professional photography since 2003 and it is only in the last three years that I am not being turned down more often for jobs. ( I might add at this point that this not only because of my method of quotation, but also because I have to compete with a lot of picture takers as well – who will do the job cheaper but not necessarily better).

In the long run, photographers lose when they do not manage the rights to their images as the client feels free to re-use the image as many times, for anything and as long as they like without paying another cent to the photographer. It behooves the entrepreneurial photographer to understand their rights on a local and global scale, and since Jamaica has been a signatory to the Berne Convention for a long time – locally and globally are almost synonymous.

I shall now quote from an article by Samuel Lewis written for Digital PhotoPro Magazine on the issue of copyright – “Gaining knowledge of the fundamental aspects and pitfalls associated with copyright is the potential. The real power waits to be discovered by those who wisely apply the knowledge in their business.” (In reference to American author Napoleon Hill’s quotation “Knowledge is only potential power”

Further quoting form his article “Do you really know about copyright law?” from the same magazine
” One of the unique aspects of copyright law is that it recognizes and confers upon copyright owners not just one exclusive right, but a series of exclusive rights. US copyrights law currently enumerates six different rights, four of which are directly relevant to photographers. These include:
the right to make copies of the image;
the right to distribute copies of the image publicly by various means (generally, through sales or licensing);
the right to publicly display the image;
the right to create derivative works based upon the image.
Not only does the copyright law confer these rights, but it also allows a copyright owner to deal with these rights separately. A copyright owner can sell or license these rights individually, even if the result is that four different people end up owning a certain right to the image”

Read the entire article

For information – Samuel Hill is a Board Certified Intellectual Property Law specialist and partner at Feldman Gale, PA in Miami, Florida. He is also a professional photographer who has covered sports events for a quarter century.


Roy Sweetland
March 19, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I find this a very interesting topic and great forum to both explore and educate ourselves on this often overlooked but crucial aspect of our work.
As someone who have been constantly retooling and adapting i find it both challenging and rewarding to convert creative talents to financially rewarding projects, products and services.
Having done a few projects with a cross section image users in the business i have come across myriads of approaches, contracts and misconceptions some are deliberate others are born out of ignorance while a lot are being driven out by the harsh economic situation we now have.
Its very important that we all arm ourselves with the knowledge of common practices in most of the image use markets as that will help us to better terms and more favorable rates, i take the point that we are our worst enemies as the more you articulate the these rights and advocate equitable rates the more you find some clients shying away from you towards other photographers who are not too keen on securing their rights and are just in it to “Make a money” and just offering cheap “Royalty free” images versus high quality “Rights Managed” product
The range of photography is pretty wide given the abundance of digital cameras and it is the prerogative of each individual to demand or secure their just reward for their images and its this interplay of supply and demand that drives the prices that people want to pay for images. These days everyone consider themselves photographers whether they are using professional or consumer equipment or even their cell phone or video camera to capture images, at the end of the day no one have a monopoly on good quality images as acquiring such can range from just a chance pressing of the shutter to the ability to get awesome unlimited and unfettered access to events, places and personalities.
The business of consistently creating high quality in demand images require an investment knowledge of taking technically correct images and acquiring reasonable high quality equipment
One of the best tool any pro photographer will tell you that you need is just the eye for great images as long before you release the shutter the idea or concept of the shot have to be resident in your head before you can see the image and then its up to you and the camera to capture in the same way that you imagine or saw it.
Regarding the agreement between the photographer and the user “assignment of Rights and Consent Agreement” document which goes by different name depending on the organization you sign off with there are terms in it that you need to be familiar with before signing it, i usually pick and refuse the ones i like or dislike and and create a generic one for myself that i can give to a client that is not aware of it or might not be so inclined, the general rule is that the simpler you make this document its the easier for it to be agreed on and for payment to be made, the down side is that the more terms you add that secure more of your rights the longer it might take for agreement but the more grounds you will have for a better deal and in some case more legal legs to secure damages in cases of illegal or unreleased use.
Include definite time periods such as two or five years instead of language such as in perpetuity, restrict its use to known technology and dont let the client include terms such as “future or unknown technology” as in the case of giving someone the use of an image for use in a book and then its used for web application.
It also important to specify if the use is for promotional use vs commercial/merchandise or both the more exclusive rights you allow the higher the fee you will seek to derive
These are just some of the relevant pertinent issues i thought about based on the the debate thus far, there are other areas that we can explore in the future such as the establishment basic standard fees and rates for photography assignments and the establishment of standards for various areas of photography
I look forward to further discussion on this vital area of our profession

David Madden
March 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm

The Jamaican aspect.
Its a work in progress with a lot of work to be done on both amateur and pro photographers side. Jamaican amateurs need to wake up and make an effort to arm themself with knowledge on licencing. And Jamaican pro’s need to come off their holier than thou horse and offer answers in this area, when approached by amateurs. It can only benefit all because it will lead to a level plainfield. Theres really no point in a pro worrying about competition from an amateur. Only the best will always stand out. But an amateur not armed with proper info will do a $10 job for $2. This hurts everybody because it creates the impression that the pro has been as they love to say “tiefing” or ripping off the clients.


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