How Small The World Has Become

Tonight I was writing a blog posting about Steve Jobs for my technology and business blog. I really needed a photo of Steve Jobs, ideally from the 2007 MacWorld Expo, to complete the posting. A quick search of Flickr found me a set of MacWorld Expo 2007 photos from a photographer in Taipei, Taiwan. After a quick browsing through his photos, I found it…the perfect photo of Steve Jobs that fit the mood of my posting.

Total time to find the image: about 2 minutes.

Now, I could have just copied the photo and placed it on my blog posting. Even if I put a credit to the photographer, it wouldn’t have been right or legal. The photo was clearly marked as copyrighted all rights reserved. I didn’t have the legal rights to use the photo. What to do?

Luckily for me, Flickr has an email option that allows you to send a message to other Flickr users. So I sent a message to the photographer and simply asked him for permission to use his photo within my blog posting. The amazing thing was that I got a response back from him within 30 minutes; before I was finished writing my posting I had authorization to use the photo I wanted.

The moral of this story: Ask and thou shall receive? It’s better to follow the law than risk breaking it? I think both of those…as well as the fact that the business of images has completely change.

The proliferation of digital photography and web based photo sharing sites has lowered the bar to taking and sharing images. These photo sharing sites are populated by many armature point and shoot types but also an increasing number of enthusiast and professionals. Many times an armature’s (and increasingly the enthusiast’s) images are just as useful as an professional’s images…specifically for low-res uses such as web publishing. I recently asked a number of photography communities that I belong to about the use of Creative Commons licensing models by the photographers. One of the common themes within the discussion was “why would you give away your work for free”.

While there is some merit to this viewpoint, in today’s image flooded world it is also too easy for the person who wants to use your image to just move on to another image. If the photographer who owned the image I wanted to use would have said no, I would have used one from someone else. However, because he said yes his image is now displayed on my blog with a link back to his Flickr collection. One never knows what smallest bit of exposure may help to bring opportunity knocking at your door…or inbox. I know many photographers who have found new revenue streams for their images by giving a few away for free.

This is just the reality that us photographers need to accept and deal with today. Trust me, the online proliferation of images will only continue. With more and more people moving into photography and taking more and more photos , the quality will continue to increase along with the quantity. We can either accept this and try to adapt to use this new world to our benefit, or be left behind.

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