As this blog and our website develops, photographers who participate have continuously reminded us to take care when we use their photos. Many have had images used unofficially or without credits and want to avoid this in future. We are continuously working to try to ensure our site, and those who visit it, do not take advantage of our artists in this way, but it is definitely a learning process.
This is the negative side of promoting on the net, but there are many good points to online marketing as well. We think Isa Leshko’s (http://isaleshko.com/) points as presented on http://lenscratch.com/ could be a great help to those of you who put your work on line and are just as useful for those of us doing the promoting for understanding the photographer’s challenges as we show them off in cyber space.
LESSONS LEARNEDHere is some advice regarding how to best protect your work when you are marketing it. I think these lessons apply to any artist who puts their work online. At any time, even when you least expect it, your work may go viral. Be ready for it.
1. Register your images with the Copyright Office before posting them on your web site.
Registering your images should be a regular part of your workflow before you distribute any new images to the public. As my work went viral, I took some comfort in knowing that my images were registered and that I would have an easier time legally pursuing damages if my work was infringed. ASMP is a wonderful source of information on how and why you should register your images.
2. Carefully plan the timing of a PR campaign if possible
When planning a PR campaign, carefully consider the timing. I could have released my film in September when it was ready. It may have still received coverage and generated print sales. But, I decided to release the film in early November instead as a means of attracting holiday print sales. And, my galleries and I scheduled a price increase in mid-January as further incentive for buyers. The timing worked very well. Also keep your shooting schedule relatively clear during weeks in which you are focused on PR. The last thing you want is to get a media inquiry from a major publication and not have time to respond to it. Always respond to a media inquiry very promptly – preferably within an hour of receipt. The reporter contacting you might be working on a tight deadline, and a slow response might result in a missed opportunity.
3. Remember your goals and message
When you get a media inquiry, always keep in mind your goals for your work and how this media coverage would help you attain them. I do not believe that any PR is good PR when it comes to articles about your work. If you are primarily a fine art photographer, you probably don’t want your work featured in a tabloid magazine or entertainment news show. When giving an interview, keep your focus on the core ideas you want to convey about your project. If the reporter or editor does not want to have a meaningful discussion about your work, turn down the coverage. Trust your gut on these matters and/or bounce the situation off a trusted friend or advisor. Protecting how your work is perceived is far more important than any short-term publicity you might gain from a fluff piece about the work. Patti Smith recently gave very good advice to young artists during a talk at the Louisana Museum of Modern Art: “Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful—be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices and protect your work. And if you build a good name, eventually, that name will be its own currency.” Keep these thoughts in mind if you ever find your own work going viral.
4. Learn how to price your work for licensing
When my work first went viral, I was completely inexperienced with licensing images. When I received my first print use request, I reached out to friends who are editorial photographers for advice. I recommend you do the same before licensing your images if you are not versed in the process. I also highly recommend buying a copy of FotoQuote. Over the last two years, I have earned a nice income from licensing fees, primarily for print usage. A few online venues have paid usage fees as well, though that is less common. FotoQuote has been an indespensable resource for me.
5. Protect your work through license agreements
Instead of assuming you and an editor are on the same page, ask detailed questions and clearly define the usage terms with which you are comfortable. Editors frequently can provide you with a mockup for the pages in which your images will be used. It never hurts to ask for one. I always use a license agreement whenever my images are published electronically or in print by a third party. Even when an editor does not pay for using my images, I request that a license agreement is in place. Retaining creative control of my images is very important to me, so I always request that an editor may not crop my images, print words over them or otherwise alter them without my prior approval. I also clearly stipulate that usage of my images beyond the terms outlined in the agreement is neither implied or granted without prior written permission from me. To learn more about licensing, visit the ASMP tutorial.
6. Keep tabs on online usage of your work
Shortly after my work went viral, I set up Google alerts and Twitter searches on various key words relating to my work. These alerts enable me to monitor how my images are being used in the blogosphere. If I find any instances that are offensive or blatantly disrespectful to the work, I send the blog author and/or site administrator a DMCA Take Down Notice. I also have reported numerous copyright violations to Facebook administrators. In each instance, the offending content was removed within 24 hours. Unfortunately, Facebook does nothing to shut down pages maintained by repeat copyright offenders. I had to report one page several times. But, the content is removed quickly once the violation comes to their attention.
7. Don’t lose sight of what is most important.
I remember having the worst performance anxiety leading up to my first Elderly Animals shoot after my work went viral. I nearly had to cancel the shoot because I was so nauseous. Expectations for this work had become so high and I feared that I might not be able to deliver upon them. Fortunately, once I began the shoot, I got so absorbed in my work that all of my anxiety dissipated. The experience reminded me that it is so important to not think about how your work will be received while you are making it. Doing so is aking to looking down while walking on a tightrope. It’s critical to focus only on the work itself and not worry about what anyone else thinks of it.
Isa Leshko, Photographer
To view Ms. Leshko’s work: http://isaleshko.com/
Read more about what happens when you go viral at