by Timothy Lee
Thu, Mar 6th 2008 4:08pm
Wired has a write-up of PhotoShelter, a site that helps "protect" photographers from the scourge of their work being too easy to find. They cite Lane Hartwell, the photographer who got bent out of shape when one of her photographs appeared briefly in a popular viral video, as an example of the kind of photographer who would benefit from the site. I can understand why she'd be unhappy that she didn't get credit for the use of her photo, but I don't see how switching to PhotoShelter would have improved the situation. Most of the money in photography is going to be from commercial clients. Companies tend to be pretty good about paying for photographs (and other content) because they've got deeper pockets and less plausible fair use claims. On the other hand, non-commercial uses of photos aren't going to be very lucrative; most individuals and smaller non-profits will use a lower-quality free image rather than pay to license a professional photograph. Certainly the creator of a viral video isn't going to pay royalties on a product he's planning to give away for free. So the smart way to handle things is to treat non-commercial uses of your photographs as promotional opportunities, seeking credit rather than compensation. That should build your reputation as a photographer and hopefully get more commercial clients interested in your work. PhotoShelter appears to be a solid site for professional photographers looking to catalog and market their photographs. But the fact that the site makes it more difficult for people to find and use a photographer's work isn't something photographers should be cheering about.
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