Public Service Announcement

No idea who created this, but it gets the point across
No idea who created this, but it gets the point across

Found this on FB, and I cannot begin to tell you just how true this is, and how many times this needs to be said.

If I had a dollar for every time someone had asked me to shoot “for exposure”, I’d likely be able to retire. My answer is and always will be a resounding no. I shot for exposure when I first got my camera and when I first began experimenting with photography. That’s what happens when you’re a beginner. But I’m no longer a beginner, and I take this seriously, and by no means is what I do easy or free.

Now, you know that I do primarily (not exclusively) concert photography. I do it because more than one party benefits. Seriously, let’s look at it this way: these photos that I produce are not just for the artists. The artists benefit first, because it’s their show, and those photos are their faces, and their energy, and their promo. But the same goes for the venues hosting these concerts. How does it look for the venue that someone can turn out photos like that? How does the venue’s appeal change when people see some fabulous concert shots? They’d want to attend more shows there, right? There you have it. This is not just for the artists’ benefit, but the venue’s too.

Consider also this: concert photo is a very tricky thing to execute. You don’t know what lighting conditions you’re heading into. For all you know, you may take 400 frames, and not have a single worthwhile shot if the club’s lighting is odd. And believe me, that has happened to me more than once, where I’d go in, snap a good 300 and spend a week nose-deep in Photoshop to make them passable. But I love it, because it’s a challenge, and because shooting in weird lighting is the best way to learn about photography, lighting, shutter speed, and your camera sensors.

You’re thinking, “Well, if you’re good, you wouldn’t need 3-400 frames!” Bull. Thanks for demostrating that you don’t get it. You do require 300 frames with some concerts. Granted, that’s depending on your lighting and your gear, but if you’re shooting concert, you’re going to get a variety of poses and expressions, none of which are within the photographer’s control. Get it? You can’t ask a musician, while he’s mid-note, “Hey, turn this way, lift the sax a little more!” Nope. You control nothing in a concert shoot. The only thing you control is where you sit, and the settings on your rig. And yeah, you’re going to get 300 frames, most of which capture all different angles of the performer, and all the lighting changes, etc. It’s your job, as the photographer, to weed out the best ones and use them.

So those pictures up on my Facebook page, those pictures on SmugMug? They take work to execute. I didn’t become a good photographer overnight. It took me practice, more than one bad shoot, several conversations with other photographers, reconnoitering manuals, and then, repeatedly, practicing and applying what I learn. Retouching a photo should be the last resort for processing; then you become a graphic designer. Luckily, that’s what I do as well.

And if you want to use my images, then please purchase the rights of use. It’s not just courtesy, it’s business. You’re purchasing a product, a product that I have worked hard to execute, a product that I ensure meets a certain standard. You can also get the rights of use if you – just a suggestion! – contract me to execute the shoot in advance, for a set fee. Moreover, until you have the rights of use, you do not have any control over the images, legally, since you do not own them, one (the photographer owns the images unless they sell master rights), and you’ve not been permitted to use them. It’s simple truth: regardless of where you post them, or how you use them, legally, I’m the one in charge of them, unless you have a license agreement from me that delineates how long you have the rights of use and how they’re abridged, if at all. Don’t worry, I don’t bite. I don’t stiff on use rights. I don’t ever stiff on use rights. But if you’re using these images without my permission, I can, perfectly legally and within my rights as the creator and owner of the photograph, put out a cease-and-desist order to any medium that you send them to. So if you want a photo that I snapped to run in a magazine, then you will either 1. pay for the right to have it there, or 2. deal with the consequences of me bringing a cease-and-desist order straight to the publisher.

You can view them free. Always. You can view them. But if you want to use them, that’s when we get serious.

You think, “But people share your Facebook pictures!” True, but that’s what they’re there for, and by no means are they all my shots. Facebook only sees a small percentage of my work; SmugMug has the rest, and Smug, unlike FB, doesn’t appropriate usage rights without permission. Facebook is open country for photos; if I post it, it can be reposted, and reused as need be. This is why I’ve taken to curtailing what I put up there. This is also why SmugMug, which I am paying for out of my own hard-earned cash, is my primary photo repository. Not only it offers beautiful prints – which are my product, by the by – but it, above all, it has no impact on usage rights. I can share them, and other people can share them, but I remain as the owner and distributor. And, like everyone else in the creative world, I would very much like to be paid for the work that I do. A musician doesn’t get on stage for free, either.

I make money, as a photographer, in three ways: advance contracts for shoots, sale of usage rights, or sale of prints.

So really, if you have a photographer at a show, and they turn out some great images, and you want to use them, pay the photographer. Chances are it’s not a hobby for them, it’s what they do. They, like you, have to keep the lights on. It’s not just snapping pictures; considering some of us travel, we’re also paying serious expenses in order to execute those shots. If I have to travel to photograph you, then please at least make an effort to defray my travel costs. And considering that I’m a bargain maven, then trust me, it won’t cost that much.

The only exposure I care about is the Photoshop setting when I touch up my shots. To ask someone to “shoot for exposure” is ridiculous. You don’t expect your dentist to work on your teeth for practice, would you?

Don’t expect the same of your photographer.