Why My Photos Are on SmugMug

Also could be entitled No Photographer Or Creative Person Works For Free.

The furor with Instagram doesn’t really concern me; I barely attempted to use that service, but gave up on it pretty quick. Until recently, I was, however, a big fan of posting my photos on Facebook – with a watermark stating my copyright, of course – and it came to my attention that Facebook’s latest TOS already have a clause that gives them claim to whatever users post. Including photos.

Big, huge no-no for a photographer.

And let me explain why I will keep my Facebook photo posts to a minimum. The simple reason is that I don’t like giving usage rights over to anyone who isn’t giving me my dues.

This is how I make money off my photos:

1. Sales of usage rights.

You can view them, yes. I always send out viewing copies, but if you want to use them, that’s where money and legalities are involved. Until I draft and receive back a signed contract that delineates use of the images, I remain the sole person with rights of use. So in the event any musician in my clientele will use any image without that signed contract, I can – and I will – immediately contact him/her and anyone else involved with a cease-and-desist order. As the sole owner of the usage rights (remember, no contract = no usage), as well as the master rights to the images, I have the final say on where any photos go.

So Facebook suddenly having the right to do as they please with my images doesn’t sit well with me. That is the real reason I put a copyright clause into my shots: not because it will prevent Facebook, but it makes it that much less appealing for them to use. Because they appear on FB, they have the right to use them anyway. I may as well make it less appealing by embedding the copyright.

I do give breaks. I do give usage rights without charge from time to time. But bear in mind that it always comes back to me one way or the next.

2. Print copies

Self-explanatory. People do ask me for prints, and I’m happy to provide them. That is why I’m a SmugMug member: Smug prints full-res, custom-sized print copies, and I can make available whatever size I feel is best. For instance, there is a canvas option that I’ve test-driven and the result is stunning. But the wallet-size defeats the purpose of the photo.

3. Pre-arranged Contract/Barter

I’ll admit that it’s rare that I get a pre-paid call to shoot, but I do get bartered arrangements for photography on a regular basis. Barter is payment, and it’s payment I do accept, but please don’t tell me that I’m shooting “for exposure” – ever. The only exposure that concerns me is the exposure levels in Photoshop when I’m revising and correcting aberrations in photos. Exposure as a photographer I already have, and the thinly veiled implication by a statement like that is that my work is not seen as valuable.

Paying, or bartering with a photographer is simply a matter of respect for the photographer and the work they produce. They put money and time into their gear and into their work. If you check out B&H Photo and look at camera prices, you’ll see: this stuff ain’t cheap. My own gear is actually budget-priced, compared to the gear I’d like to acquire. Tell me, please, how long do you think would a photographer, who had invested that much time and energy into learning their work, would keep working for free?


This is also part and parcel of why I’ll keep my music shots on SmugMug. Because my prints can maybe make a buck while they’re up there. I’m also considering putting some of my non-music images up on iStockPhoto, because that is a great resource for graphic designers and can make me some money as well.

But above all, the person who keeps the rights with those options is myself. And considering the emphasis put on master copyright, that is important to me.


Link to my galleries: http://kgilrainejazz.smugmug.com