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The Almighty Buck

The Art of Intellectual Property 434

dpilgrim writes "When digital technology meets intellectual property, most of the attention focuses on the movie industry or the music business. I was surprised to discover how much of an impact there is in smaller areas like professional photography, and put together some reflections on my experience." This is why when I get married I want to make sure I contract only for the photographer's labor.
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The Art of Intellectual Property

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  • by Teknogeek ( 542311 )
    The problem is this: she is still living in a world of 20 years ago where the primary means for viewing and distributing photographs was as a print on paper.

    The problem is this: they are still living in a world of 20 years ago where the primary means for listening to and distributing music was as a casette tape.

    Our photographer thinks she is in the business of providing high quality printed photographs. In fact she is in the image-capturing business, and as the business shifts from printed to digital format, she will either adapt or fail.

    The RIAA thinks they are in the business of providing high quality music CDs. In fact they are in the audio-distribution business, and as the business shifts from CD to pure digital format, they will either adapt or fail.
  • the scary thing about the advent of technology in media is that while we expect that it would enable more "use" out of our media in various ways -- take for example the CD-ROM of this guy's photo album -- in fact, so many companies are endevoring to turn this tech revolution into a way to either provide less to the consumer or charge more for what they already have.

    for instance, divx, god rest it's soul, was basically an effort to remove our ability to purchase and watch our favorite movies again and again, by luring us with better image quality and sound. there are plenty more examples of this, and plans for even more.

    it's up to people like us, who realize when people are being ripped off by technology because they don't know better, to get them riled up over the issue. send more people to the EFF et. al.
  • According to RMS, that's not even a valid phrase in the English language.
    • He says it's not a specific enough phrase to discuss. And I agree with him - when you talk about "Intellectual Property", what are you discussing? Copyright? Patents? Trademarks? EULAs? Right of purchace? Fair use rights such as excerpts? Parody? NDAs? Clean room reverse engineering? Trade secrets?

      If you ask him his opinion on "Intellectual property", he'll simply ask you to be specific. It's a bit like my asking you your opinion on "Computers". Or what is your opinion of "Politics". You can randomly choose one aspects of these things, I suppose, but you can't really answer the question correctly.

      Incidently, to show how absurd the term "Intellectual Property" has become, a bottle of Soy Sauce I bought recently has a big warning on the back: "Intellectual Property Rights Reserved". What the hell does that mean? Legally, it's nonsensical, as IP doesn't realy mean anything, but refers to a wide class of legal constructs. And how it could apply to a bottle of Soy Sauce is beyond me - the title and logo might be Trademarked, but there's no reason to have this odd disclaimer on the bottle to support that.


    • According to RMS, that's not even a valid phrase in the English language.

      Then why does he apply a strict copyright and license on every bit of code coming out of the FSF?
  • by phliar ( 87116 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @05:30PM (#4258051) Homepage
    You have to respect the photographer's copyright.

    Just like with source code -- it is up to to the producer of the source/photograph to decide what copyright terms to attach to the product. You don't like the terms, go elsewhere. Once this gets off the ground there will be photographers (or artists in general) making "Open Art", and there will be the ones making "Closed Art." You can't get on a high-horse and say that "Art Wants To Be Free" or anything like that.

    • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @05:48PM (#4258117)
      The problem isn't as much as the idea that the photographer has a copyright on the images, but rather that they are performing a work for hire.

      The truth today is that there isn't as much value in the duplicate prints of keepsake photographs. There is more value in the ubiquitous distribution of the composed images, via the internet or sending someone a CD.

      Ultimately it is an issue with contracts. The problem is that the photographer historically provides artistic service in composing the shot, and in printing the image. The wedding photographer's competition isn't digital copyright infringement, it is the throw-away cameras that are put up on all the tables.

      All industries must continually evaluate where they add value. Duplicate prints aren't where a photographer should make their money today.
      • The problem isn't as much as the idea that the photographer has a copyright on the images, but rather that they are performing a work for hire.
        This is what a contract is for. When you decide to hire the photographer, you sign a contract. It is up to you and the photographer to negotiate on who owns the copyright etc. Why is there any issue here? It's just contract law.
        Duplicate prints aren't where a photographer should make their money today.
        Where is this written? There is no should -- a person can make money in any manner as long as it is legal.

        • Where is this written? There is no should -- a person can make money in any manner as long as it is legal.

          But it also has to be profitable. If people are making their own copies, whetherlegitimately or not, it's time to change to a different revenue stream.
      • the work for hire point is good

        But there's another point worth considering- the original source in many of these photography situations is *you* and/or your family- just like nike can't run a commercial with Michael Jordan without talking to (and no doubt paying) him first, you should own the rights to pictures of you by default, which is not to say that the photographer can't share those rights, only that she can't exclude you from them.

      • The problem isn't as much as the idea that the photographer has a copyright on the images, but rather that they are performing a work for hire.

        Isn't this the same arguement used by the RIAA? Musicians are just doing work for hire, so they don't own the copyright on their works, the labels do? Where exactly is the difference between the RIAA saying a musician is doing work for hire and you claiming the photographer is doing work for hire? In both cases it is someone paying an artist to perform their art (in one case they record music, in another they take photos) and then claiming they own the rights to the artists work because they are paying them. The only difference I see is that in one scenario, it is the "evil RIAA" depriving artists of their rights, and in the other it's you getting you're wedding pics cheaper, i.e. no difference.
        • The musicians had a body of work that was theirs BEFORE the label contract came on the scene. I read something Frank Zappa said once to the effect that there is no canonical versions of any his songs, only particular recordings and performances. He didn't just fight Warner Bros. for his master tapes but for the music he composed while in their stable. I would grant that the label owning the copyrights for particular recordings they had paid for being fair. It's just like getting paid to play a private party. The band, on the other hand, would still have the copyrights to the sheet music itself. They can perform and record their songs elsewhere even if the relationship with a label goes bad. Alas, no record company behaves so fairly. They want to own the whole enchilada and not only be able to fire a band but to lock them out of their life's work in the process AND be able to bleed them financially white for that last drop of profit once they aren't "big" anymore. I have a feeling Rosen likes the idea of used up boy bands working fast food just as much we do...doesn't make it fair though.

          Nothing so dastardly is being proposed for wedding photographers.

          In the case of a wedding photographer, his technique is not the whole art of it. The subjects of the art are paying to record a deeply personal I would not suffer to let someone else own in any way. I would allow the photographer license to use the photos for promotional purposes or whatever other fair uses go into running his business. I'll cheerfully let them have the use of the photos. I simply won't allow one to own a part of my life. The musicians should not allow record companies to own parts of theirs.

    • When you contract someone to do something - whether its writing software or taking a photograph, you own the copyright. The only exception is when you sign a contract giving the copyright to the contractor.

      So in effect it is up to the client who contracts the work to decide on the license, as they are the owner, not the contractor. This does not depend on any "Art WantsTo Be Free" argument - it is simply a fact of law.

      • I agree completely. This is just a matter of contract law. It may be that there is a social expectation that in contracting with a photographer you assign the copyright to him/her. But this is totally up to the client -- just make sure the contract does not say that the photographer will own the copyrights.

      • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Saturday September 14, 2002 @07:13PM (#4258483) Homepage
        When you contract someone to do something - whether its writing software or taking a photograph, you own the copyright. The only exception is when you sign a contract giving the copyright to the contractor.

        This isn't informative -- it is 100% wrong. Copyright is held by the author of a work by default. Barring a contract that explicitly transfers copyright to the buyer, or an employee-employer relationship, the copyright will be owned by the photographer. Copyright is an asset to be sold or bought just as the negatives and prints are, and each has to be explicitly negotiated for.
        • I'd want to look into it, but I shy away from agreeing with you.

          In the realm of patent law, if you create a patentable invention in the course of your duties while working for someone, or even just using their facilities, IIRC, it is owned by the employer. Regardless of any explicit agreement.

          Lots of people work creating content for businesses as an integral part of their job -- I doubt a formal agreement is necessary if the nature of the work is intrinsically work for hire. But I'd want to check it out.
    • Actually, it is NOT up to the producer to determine what the copyright is on their work. That's the government's job. The most the photographer can do is to give up some of what he was given by the government.

      We have copyrights because we generally view the market as having failed. Your solution, aside from being utterly incorrect, does not help the situation one iota.
  • by bartash ( 93498 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @05:33PM (#4258064)
    Guests at a wedding take lots of photographs, but they are all the same. You get a million shots of the couple cutting the cake, but not many of Aunt May together with Uncle Bruce. As the article says the wedding photographer also composes shots that other people copy.

    The other thing is: never hire a friend to take your wedding photographs. Your friends are there to enjoy themselves. One of my friends hired another friend to take the wedding photos. Something went wrong and the photos were never delivered. Those old friends are still not talking. Don't be cheap, hire a pro!
  • Incidentally.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by phliar ( 87116 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @05:35PM (#4258070) Homepage
    I am in fact a photographer, and I'm also a hacker. The code I write on my time is free; just like the photographs I take of events etc. However, there is code I write for my employer, just like photographs I take on commission for someone else. For this "work for hire" it is up to the person paying to decide what the copyright on the work is. (I might try to convince them to go the free route, but ultimately it is their choice.

    Art is like like source -- copyright is copyright, and you have to respect it.

  • by jokerghost ( 467848 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @05:37PM (#4258076)
    I have to agree with the professional photographer in this instance. This isn't a case of fighting an uber-huge corporation that has billions of dollars to spare. This guy is effectively cheating a good source of revenue out of a photographer who is trying to earn a living.

    Let's face it, photographers are not millionares (for the most part! ;) As one who has tried to get his art featured in several galleries, I can attest to this! Let's face it- photographers earn a living off of one thing- the final proof. It's very difficult to set up a shot, get the lighting perfect, and have a harmony of composition just right- combine this with the fact that many people want their wedding pictures to be *perfect* and you can see the photographer's dilemma. That shot that you've worked so very hard on is being distributed to hundreds of people, who will never pay you a dime for your efforts. Even worse is the person who stands over your shoulder just to snap the same shot you do... Come on people! It's not like the photographer is being unreasonable! She's simply trying to recoup her losses and earn a living... Oh, and if you don't think that photography is an expesnive business, allow me to demonstrate. A medium format camera (5 x 7 negative, which most professionals use for weddings) runs in the range of $1000-$3000 for the body(!!) alone! The lens, on top of that, will run somewhere from $100-$900, depending on what you need. Then, the film itself can cost up to $15 for a single negative! Oh yeah, there's also darkroom costs- chemicals, the enlarger, the processing time.... Oh, and don't forget that photographer might just want to earn some money for the hours that she's spent on site with your family...

    So, I'm sorry, but this isn't an issue of "open sourcing" the finals. By giving High-Res pictures to your entire family without paying for each one of those photos distributed, you have cheated and honest, hard-working, photographer out of a living. (I know a few who have been driven out of business because of this.) So, please, spare me the "I have rights to a picture" argument... Sure, you have the right to do what you want with that photo... But by the same tokein, the photographer has the right to not sell you the super high res photo you want.

    As an aside, and unrelated, I think that "analog" photography is a much "truer" art form. If anything, you have a negative, which you can use to prove you took the shot- as opposed to a jpg, tiff, or what have you which could be the property of anyone.

    • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @06:29PM (#4258264)
      Your point would be true, except that the photographer seems to be trying to get paid several times for the same work.

      If the photographer profits from selling additional copies, then he should do the basic work for free. The low-quality samples provided should be treated as a sales catalog. The couple who got married should be treated as models, they shouldn't have to pay anything for the production, and should get part of the profit from the sale of additional copies.

      Suppose it was a fashion magazine which had a photo of, let's say Cindy Crawford, on the cover. Would ms. Crawford have to pay for the whole production and not get anything from the magazine sales? Saying Cindy Crawford is famous and her image is worth a lot is not an answer, since, if one can sell pictures from a couple who is getting married, then they are professional models, deserving as much respect as Cindy Crawford, only their image would not be worth exactly as much as Cindy's, since it would sell less copies.

      • If the photographer profits from selling additional copies, then he should do the basic work for free. The low-quality samples provided should be treated as a sales catalog.

        this is basically true of how it is done today. Photographers charge a minimal amount to cover expenses, but you don't make money from shooting the wedding, you make money from selling the prints. The proof sheets ARE a catalog.

        The couple who got married should be treated as models, they shouldn't have to pay anything for the production, and should get part of the profit from the sale of additional copies.

        LOL -- the couple is the customer. They are not models, if they were the photographer could fire them when they act like idiots and cause him to run 4 hours over, or burn expensive film on shots they'll never sell.

        Saying Cindy Crawford is famous and her image is worth a lot is not an answer

        Yes, it is. The magazine sells more copies because cindy crawford is on the cover, not because a person is on the cover. Being cindy crawford and having her image is of intrinsic retail value.
        • The magazine sells more copies because cindy crawford is on the cover, not because a person is on the cover

          People buy copies of wedding photos because it's Don's wedding, because it's Lucy's wedding, they don't buy photos of some "persons" wedding. Being Don and Lucy has an intrinsic retail value to the photographer.

          • eople buy copies of wedding photos because it's Don's wedding, because it's Lucy's wedding, they don't buy photos of some "persons" wedding. Being Don and Lucy has an intrinsic retail value to the photographer.

            Okay, to make this clearer -- Cindy Crawford's image has value to the general public.

            The wedding couple has value only to the wedding couple and the family (rarely do guests ever buy a wedding photo -- 90% of your money comes from the couple or the bride's family).

            Being Don and Lucy has no value to the photographer unless Don and Lucy (or their families) are willing to pay the photographer for their images. Many photographers will take photos of Cindy Crawford's wedding for free, because they know they can sell them to someone other than the Crawford family...
            • Well, make up your mind. Either:

              (1) Don and Lucy's wedding has no intrinsic value for the photographer, or

              (2) Don and Lucy's wedding has intrinsic value for the photographer.

              In the first case, the photographer should give the negatives to the couple, along with any IP rights. There's no point in holding something that has no value to you, but may have value to someone else.

              In the second case, if the photographer can get some profit from the sale of additional copies, the couple's image does have value, and they should get a share from those sales. It seems to me that the photographers are trying to get the best of both worlds, they want to get fully paid for their work while keeping any additional profit to themselves.

              • D&L's photos have value to the photographer, but only because the photographer has put work into creating them.

                The photographer, had s/he not been commissioned to do the work, could not care less about Don, Lucy, or their wedding photos.

                Having done the work, they have value to the person who created them - the value, to be specific, is the fact that they can sell these photos to Don, Lucy, maybe D&L's parents, and maybe even a couple of guests.

                That value must, necessarily, be enough to keep the photographer in work. Duh.

                • No, the value is the photographic service you provide at the wedding, plus the spiffy looking albums you put together shortly thereafter. Holding the copyright hostage longer than that just makes you look like a control freak hoping for some ransom money.

                  What value is there in keeping the negatives to yourself after the wedding's over and you've been paid already? I'd gather that almost all wedding photographers make the vast majority of their money for the job and almost nothing from exclusive (ick) reprints years down the road.


              • Well, make up your mind. Either:

                (1) Don and Lucy's wedding has no intrinsic value for the photographer, or

                i made up my mind long ago -- D&L have no intrinsic value to the photographer. Luckily for his business, images of their wedding have a commercial value to D&L, and the photographer is in a position to sell them those images.

                If the photographer blows off the wedding to go scuba diving, he hasn't lost anything (other than a customer), but D&L have lost a lot. They'll never have professional photos of their wedding.

                It seems to me that the photographers are trying to get the best of both worlds, they want to get fully paid for their work while keeping any additional profit to themselves.

                What would be the point of selling photos to Don & lucy of themselves, and then giving them a percentage of the proceeds? Do you just like paying extra taxes? I think D&L would rather that the photographer is able to offer them a cost they can live with than worry about royalty checks every time their mother-in-law orders reprints.

                Feel free to negotiate this recursive royalty with YOUR wedding photographer, but I'd rather not waste my time or theirs.
        • "LOL -- the couple is the customer. They are not models, if they were the photographer could fire them when they act like idiots and cause him to run 4 hours over, or burn expensive film on shots they'll never sell."

          Since they are customers then they own the images. Simple as that. The photographer wants to have his cake and eat it too. Either they get free prints and the photographer owns the image or the CUSTOMER owns his own fricken images. I certainly will make that clear to any such doing personal work for me.
          • Since they are customers then they own the images. Simple as that. The photographer wants to have his cake and eat it too. Either they get free prints and the photographer owns the image or the CUSTOMER owns his own fricken images. I certainly will make that clear to any such doing personal work for me.

            Simple as that? Fine, but don't be surprised at how much you are charged for labor when you tell the photographer you want your prints for free.

            You can negotiate the details all you want, but if you want a professional to show up on some saturday to take pictures of your personal events with expensive equipment he has paid for, you're going to get charged a lot for it.
      • Cindy Crawford has not come to the photographer asking for a service - Cindy Crawford is providing a service, as is the photographer, to the customer, which is the magazine publisher. So that analogy does not hold water.

        If you want, for your wedding, you could commission a photographer on the basis of "You can have some of the profits we make from selling these" - good luck in getting a photographer.

        The basic profit for the wedding photographer is in the couple's and parents' books. Additional copies also help, but are financially much less significant.

        Say a wedding guest has a camera identical to the photographer's, hangs over the professional's shoulder and takes the same photo... it is still the professional who has done the work - the guest is the theif.
        The end result might be the same, but the guest's photo would not exist if the professional had not got the people arranged with the right background, lighting, etc.

        Maybe paying a flat fee for "labour" would be one approach, but if that would include rights to the images, it'd be taking far more from the photographer, and should therefore cost you much more money.

        Therefore, the status-quo is more likely to survive than be replaced - unless DRM takes off platonically, in which case you can have the images, but cannot share them / take credit for them.

      • Explain to me how the photgrapher is a thief in this case; it seems to me that the groom agreed to a contract before satisfying himself as to the terms of service; rather, he went ahead an assumed that how he thought things should be, would be. This is naive (esp. when the groom appears to have been aware that an analog camera was to be used, which should have been a "red flag" if he wanted digital copies), and you can't blame the photographer for his lack of foresight.

        Not that the photographer is necessarily in in the right either - a preferable solution would be to provide tiered digital service - by providing a catalog of screen-resolution images (unobtrusively watermarked with studio contact information so that recipients could obtain a physical print/hi-res filefrom the studio) at a relatively inexpensive rate, and the hi-res images at a greatly expanded price (perhaps even higher than what she had quoted for the CD she was actually offering).

        This could even be broken down further, such that the bride and groom could pay piecemeal for the hi-res versions of the images that they want, which in some cases may be less expensive than obtaining the complete catalog.

        In any case, it is naive to think that the photographer's labor/investment (in converting high-end negatives to digital format) is not worth paying for (even if this process is outsourced, someone is investing time/money in the process); therefore, this should be considered an extra cost, in addition to the cost of labor, developing photos, and putting together a catalog.

        Do some of these material/transfer costs "go away" should a pro. photgrapher use digital cameras? Yes, but at the current time there are limitations to what can be done with these cameras, and so we will be in a "transfer period" for some time while technical details and training is taken care of; in the meantime, it is silly to assume that one should get digital cost savings when contracting for analog photo work.

        Ultimately, it seems to me that article's author has point, but that this is overshadowed by taking a rather extreme position, mostly because he lost an argument with his father-in-law.

        I'd say to get a life, but I'm at work on Saturday night. Alas!
    • No no no, they're not cheating you, you're cheating them by scaling your fees according to something other than the actual cost of reproduction plus a reasonable markup. Instead, photographers should sell the scarce part (scene setup, high-res pictures, whatever) for what it's worth, and sell the reproduction services separately for what they are worth, which is almost certainly less.

      Perhaps the issue is not that people want to screw such an "honest, hard working" individual as yourself. It's that the world is changing faster than your pricing plan can keep up with it.

      As an aside, does it bother you when your eye doctor tries to keep your prescription so you can't buy glasses/contacts from anyone else? Is this any different?

    • By giving High-Res pictures to your entire family without paying for each one of those photos distributed, you have cheated and honest, hard-working, photographer out of a living.

      Cheated? Really?! You are being hired for the SERVICE of taking photos. You are not hired to keep someone's wedding negatives hostage so you can gouge per print indefinately. Charge accordingly for your services (with one of those services being the non-exclusive ability to make prints from the negatives made for your employer).

      As an aside, and unrelated, I think that "analog" photography is a much "truer" art form.

      Mmm. Yeah. "analog" is "truer". Allow me to lift my pretentious left eyebrow and raise my martini glass with pinky extended.


    • by TFloore ( 27278 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @07:02PM (#4258433)
      Or have you never heard that saying?

      The problem here is that the photographer is trying to charge for the wrong part of the work. The photographer is trying to charge high prices for the easy part of the work - making copies - and keep prices low for the hard part of the work - setting up a good pose with good lighting and a good background - because the technology used to allow this pricing model.

      It has become too easy for the customer to do his own copying, and the pricing plan needs to change to reflect the current realities. The high-cost part of this should be showing up at the wedding and setting up the shots. The resulting photographs should be supplied at close to actual cost, because that isn't the hard part of this. And none of this crap about how making the album is art, that's a cookie-cutter operation, pull out one set of photos and put in the next set.

      I do agree, this isn't an issue of "open sourcing". This is an issue of not recognizing where your "art" is, and charging properly for it. Trying to charge for a package with a built-in (false!) assumption that people will come back to you for re-prints is not recognizing the realities of the business.

      And yes, I *do* strongly object to being told I have to pay again and again and again for a picture of me. No, I paid for you to set up the shot. The resulting shot belongs to me.

      I paid for your expertise at arranging the shots, not your abiltiy to make copies of pictures.
      • The cost of the reprints may seem high to someone who takes their film to the corner drug store for processing, but the cost of having a professional color lab make high quality enlargements of medium format negatives is a lot more expensive than what you pay at the drug store.

        In reality, most photographers these days do make money from the reprints, but probably not as much as you might think.

        I do agree, however, that given current conditions, perhaps multiple business models could be used. Many people who don't want to hassle making their own high quality scans and/or prints will still want things done the "old fashioned" way (my parents would certainly want it that way, they don't even have a computer at home), and, OTOH, more tech-savvy users will want a CD-ROM with hi-res images and then make reprints themselves (I'd prefer this myself).

        A photographer could offer both models to potential customers, with the second approach being more heavily "front loaded" in terms of the fees since he/she knows that there won't be much income from reprints. One way or another, the photographer needs to get paid for their time and their artistic input to the end result, and earn an amount of money commensurate with the value associated with profesisonally taken photographs. Although I might want the option of the hi-res CD approach if it better fits my style of doing things, I shouldn't expect that it should necessarily be cheaper to get the images that way.
    • I think with this photgrapher there is a missing of expectations issue. Artists are creative people and some pieces are really good. But the problem with artists is that the vast majority makes no money. To become a famous artist it is not just skill, but luck, timing, etc. So as a result artists have to get real paying jobs. Problem is that those artists consider even their paying work as works of art. A moment to capture.

      But the people hiring the artist considers the moment only pictures to share and remember. They do not consider the work as art. Sure these people are "bohemian" in the eyes of the artist, but they people DO NOT CARE.

      So when the people ask for high res images and the photopgraher scoffs there is an obvious missing purpose of the endevaour. Who will win in the end? The customer because they will get pissed and bad mouth the photographer. And other photographers that consider taking wedding pictures solely as a job will get more work.
    • I'm a part-time, freelance wildlife photographer with over $30,000 in camera equipment. I sell part-time to top markets (The Nature Conservancy's national magazine, a book cover, and a kid's magazine put out by National Geographic are my most recent sales). I make a small profit equivalent to a couple of days work hacking software. I do it mostly for the challenge and enjoyment. I have yet to pay off my capital investment in hardware and ongoing expenses for film, processing, travel, scanning etc.

      On the other hand, nowadays I run Oracle on a $1200 laptop and can charge $200/hr for my time while customizing Open Source software.

      There's an economic difference that can't be ignored.

      When computer hardware cost $30K (like my camera system cost me) there were very few open source hackers working at home on their own as volunteers. The open source movement owes as much to the fact that high-powered hardware costs trivial amounts of money than anything.

      Meanwhile, high-end camera costs don't drop because there's no Moore's law to exploit in the construction and design of lenses. Yes, modern materials and techniques have vastly improved lenses over the last three decades but very slowly. The physics underlying lens design was figured out decades ago. Lens manufacturing and design is a far more mature industry than microchip design (likewise we're unlikely to see 767 equivalents on sale for the price of a new car in the near future).

      If you don't want to pay for wedding photos ... don't get married. Now there's a simple solution.
  • Overrated (Score:3, Insightful)

    by halftrack ( 454203 ) <> on Saturday September 14, 2002 @05:37PM (#4258077) Homepage
    IMHO I think he has overrated how widespread digital photographs has become, but I do agree that photographers must either adapt or become extinct as a profession (in the portrait business.) However there should be a meta-phase. Photographers should offer high-res copys on CD, but at a high(er) price (which essentially is the meta part.) As the author points out we pay for the composition rather than the high quality print you can get for yourself or just don't care so much for.
  • Put simply : You pay more for access to the source.

    Compare this to the cost of hiring someone to build an accounting package for you instead of just buying ACCPAC or Simply Accounting.
  • We have a choice. We can treat the professional photographer's artistic work as proprietary intellectual property not to be meddled with. Or we can treat such work in an Open Source manner, allowing and expecting the "source" to change and be redistributed. This choice won't be made on moral or personal grounds. It will be made for pragmatic, business reasons.

    Of course it will, but not to the conclusion that this author states. Consider, if you will, this passage from my college-level textbook:

    ... Less obvious is whether inserting a link to someone else's copyrighted material is a violation of the law. If, for example, the site contains a direct link to the content of another site, say a photograph, is it a violation of copyright law? In this case, the answer is probably yes. ...

    -- Information Systems Management in Practice, 2002, pp. 98-99.

    There are plenty of business weasels vying for the future of greater control and profit-through-litigation. Why? Because offering new service that goes above and beyond what is available now requires risk and, above all, more work--and as we all learned in our physical science courses, work = time + money.

    Profit through legislation and litigation is easy. The RIAA wants to continue to sell you the same old plastic discs at an insane markup rather than venture into new digital markets. It's easy to pursue a BS lawsuit over an external linker.

    Open Source, as in the author's usage of the term, is not a priori inevitable. It will take work to break the paragidgms that preceeded it.

  • Give her a brake! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Knacklappen ( 526643 ) <> on Saturday September 14, 2002 @05:43PM (#4258097) Journal
    I declined to pay her price, not because I thought it was too high, but because she was not offering me source code access.
    I feel she was ignoring the needs of her customer in a fundamental way, and that ultimately, for her and her profession, that would prove to be a mistake.

    Sorry, while I in principle am very supportive of the Open Source idea, I think you just have to give it a break here. OSS developers do not demand everybody to go OS as well (that's one of the differences to RMS's FS-idea).
    If this woman decides for herself, that taking "proprietary" pictures is the business model that best fits her needs, then it's OK for her. If her business will not survive in the long run, then it was her own fault. If you have hired her without talking through the terms of the contract, nobody else is to blame than you.
    Everybody should have the right to decide for him/herself. I understand you point, but I sure understand her's as well. In your situation, I would just buy the 8"x11" variant, scan it, edit it in the way you see fit and put it on your web site. And if you get sued, you may have the opportunity to brake new ground regarding copyright rules on wedding photogrphs. ;-)
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      Sorry, while I in principle am very supportive of the Open Source idea, I think you just have to give it a break here. OSS developers do not demand everybody to go OS as well (that's one of the differences to RMS's FS-idea)... If this woman decides for herself, that taking "proprietary" pictures is the business model that best fits her needs, then it's OK for her. If her business will not survive in the long run, then it was her own fault.

      The author wasn't forcing her to Open Source her photography. He was declining to subsize her closed-source model -- which is his right, under any circumstances. A trade transaction is always an exchange of equal value: You give up what you think the other is worth. He decided that her conditions did not meet his needs. Why on Earth should he pay her to not satisfy his needs?

      People can choose whatever business model they wish. But that doesn't create some moral imperative for me, or anyone else, to subscribe to that model. The author wasn't dragging the photographer into court. He was making an observation and a prediction: Professional photographers are not adapting to the changes in what people expect, and -- if they continue to not adapt -- they will become extinct or nearly so.

      I saw nothing in the article that indicated the falsehood of either of these statements. I think, in fact, the author got it exactly right.

    • If this woman decides for herself, that taking "proprietary" pictures is the business model that best fits her needs, then it's OK for her.

      There is a problem with this viewpoint. The problem is that the customer is learning the pitfalls after the event is over, and he has no way of saying "you aren't providing the service I want, I will go to a competitor that does provide the service I want".

      The wedding is over. You can't choose to hire a different wedding photographer now who will sell you full-resolution digital images. It's too late.

      Now, you can have a nice argument over whether the customer should have asked ahead of time about something he just assumed, or if the photographer should have mentioned something she just assumed, but however that argument ends up, neither of the two are going to leave the transaction happy.

      This isn't a false advertising situation. This is a buyer beware situation. ASK QUESTIONS. Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Know ahead of time when you can make a different choice, not afterwards when it is too late.

      And doesn't it just suck that you have to be paranoid when you're setting up your wedding? What a time to have to ask distrustful questions of your contractors.
  • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Saturday September 14, 2002 @05:44PM (#4258098) Homepage
    You can certainly get a photographer to sell only the "labor" to you, but be prepared for that labor to cost ten thousand dollars a day or more.

    Think of razors and razor blades -- right now you get the razor free because the blades cost a small fortune. if you came up with a way to make your own blades, all that would happen is they would have to start charging more for the razor in the first place.

    If you really want unlimited reprints and digital originals, a professional photographer will be willing to sell that to you, but the price will probably be higher than you want to pay. The reason images are sold with limited rights is not to rip people off, but rather to provide the lowest cost possible to each person.

    If you're only printing 1200 copies of a company newsletter, you probably can't and don't need to pay as much for a photo as the New York Times does.

    Yes, professional photogaphers will go through the same business cycle that desktop publishing went through in the 80s -- everyone will think their brother-in-law is "good enough", but eventually people will remember why they paid a lot of money for photographers in the first place.

    The low end of the market IS better served by a technology that lets them do it themselves. If you only have $200 to spend on wedding photography, you'll get much better results by spending it all on disposable cameras and having the guests shoot candids. Spending $200 on a pro will barely get you a seated portrait (and certainly not unlimited prints).
  • by cenonce ( 597067 ) <> on Saturday September 14, 2002 @05:49PM (#4258120)
    This is not quite like the popular topic of the RIAA and free access to your own music. First, you are dealing directly with an artist, not a representative of an industry (i.e., RIAA). For RIAA, it is all about the money. For an artist, it is about their work, effort and yes, the soul they put into the final product. You will never see an open source concept for artists. This is why artist freak out when their work is displayed in a disparing manner (see VARA (Visual Artist Rights Act). Definitely a European concept, but it has caught on in America (There was a big stink a while ago of a sculptors works being displayed in a disparging manner in a building and also a big stink put up by the artist who made the original of that "living sculptor" at the end of "The Devil's Advocate"). Open Source is a great concept, but there is a middle road too between it and Microsoft, as well as areas where I don't think you will see it enter (such as open source art). -A
  • This is why when I get married I want to make sure I contract only for the photographer's labor.

    Just curious, what did your contract say, Taco? Were you scammed by the DMCA in a photographer's disguise at your wedding?

  • A photographer hired to shoot an event is producing a work for hire unless specified otherwise in the contract. The author of this article should check the language of his contract with the photographer. If there is no language specifically contradicting the work-for-hire status, he owns all rights to the original photographic negatives.

    As always, it pays to read the contract. I had to pay a high sum for the photography at my wedding, but I also got all the negatives, high-quality proofs, and high-resolution scans to distribute and reproduce as it pleases me. All I had to do was negotiate a work-for-hire.

    If you don't read the contract, you are almost certain to get screwed.

    • Depends on what you mean by hired. In California, all work done by contractors is NOT work-for-hire unless specifically stated in the contract. So, if you're in California, your above statement would be incorrect - if there is no language specifically indicating work-for-hire status one way or another, it would default to the photographer owning all rights.

      Note that there are specific exemptions to work-for-hire covered under copyright law.
      • Yep, it's good to check the state law too. As I alluded to in my earlier post, if you want something, you'd better spell it out in the contract. If the photographer tells you he will not assign copyright under any circumstances, he is a liar. Just offer him more money.
  • by K. ( 10774 )
    Funnily enough, I went to get visa photos today, and the photographer was very reluctant to give me the negatives as well (which I need coz Canada's changed its rules post 9/11), until I crossed her palm with a tenner. Which I thought was pretty reasonable.

    I don't think the original poster's analogy holds, though. The source code for a photo is surely the information required to produce it, which is the scene, camera settings, darkroom/lab settings, etc, as well as the skill of the protographer. Information on how to take photographs is readily available, (though the ./configure stage is a bit long, fnar). It's more like buying a non-free-software product, agreeing to the licence, and then trying to insist that you have rights to infinite-user versions on all possible platforms.

  • Well, of course. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @06:00PM (#4258165) Homepage Journal
    Of course- that's the problem. Digital media makes information so liquid that it's really tough to meter it. You've got to figure out some way to operate that's more than just information scarcity.

    I can't help but think that photographer should simply leave the cameras at home and go out to weddings with scenery and LIGHTING... amateurs simply do not understand lighting... she could charge the same price for simply directing photographic situations. A full complement of lights, the right setting, and it's *tweet!* bring over all the amateur digicam people and have THEM do the photo taking. It'd come out much better than their usual stuff. She could have some prosumer digicam herself, but not consider for a moment that the resulting images were what she'd be charging for.

    I've been fooling with studio building for a long time now- and currently my focus hasn't been on assembling a bunch of recorders and stuff- people can do that in their homes so easily that it's a tough sell even if I can trounce their quality levels. Instead, I've been getting TOYS. Guitars, basses, now an electronic drum trigger kit (eventually a real acoustic drumkit). People can have all sorts of (half the time warez) software for recording, but they will NOT typically have a mesh-head drum trigger kit to bash away at. I'm hoping to expand that out until I can get business as a studio- NOT for having recording equipment, maybe some people will even want to bring their PCs and use their own! Instead, it will be for having a killer SETTING and the environment that you just don't see in most pocket studios.

    It's like that. I hope like hell I'm making the right call here but I honestly don't see how else to do it. The actual media is next to valueless, but making the environment for the media to be produced can be all the difference.

    I once produced some totally pro-looking product shots for guitar boxes I make [], on an old Connectix Color Quickcam (640x480 webcam). Did it by using the sun for lighting, using a big curtain for strong diffusion where needed, taking lots of identical (except for lighting variations) pictures and averaging them together in software... couldn't overcome the resolution issues but dynamic range ended up being phenomenal, easily pro level...

    And of course, there was a time when I could've told you that in a book and probably sold lots of them because it's such a killer effective trick, but now in the digital age I've just replicated those words God knows how many times over the internet for basically nothing, and have to hope that (a) it'll benefit people to know about PTAverage and averaging near-identical digicam pics together for dynamic range, and (b) if I keep giving good ideas, people might figure out that I tend to have them, and record in my studio or something :)

    It's really quite a braintwister figuring out what constitutes work and value in an age of digital replication. It's like, to go into the future we need to DESTROY the idea of value for individual collections of bits and somehow reformulate business around expertise and convenience. In that light, the whole 'piracy' thing is counterproductive because it's a concerted attempt to teach people that copying is morally wrong, when it's still effectively costless and effortless.

    What would the world be like if ALL copying was completely permitted and there was no IP at all, but then people had to seek out the producers of any particular new thing they wanted produced? Would it be abundance? Would it be drowning in media all of which was worthless?

    • Blockquoth the poster:

      I can't help but think that photographer should simply leave the cameras at home and go out to weddings with scenery and LIGHTING... amateurs simply do not understand lighting...

      This might be a marketing disaster -- people want to think they're hiring a photographer and getting something -- but it's not a bad idea. If I were to try it, I think I'd also take the pictures... but give the negatives for free as part of the service. Then play up the lighting, scenery, etc. And make amateur imitation a selling point, not an obstacle.
    • Hmmm, you are on to some really good stuff there. No IP at all, pay only for work performed, I have been thinking on those lines myself. Treat the photographer as a *consultant*, who will advise the amateurs present to the best set-up in each shot.

      Same with music. Pay performers only for performing, the only one who actually does some itellectual work is the composer. This is my business model for music: the producer pays a fixed fee to the composer, hires people to perform the music, pays for each performance, charges for people who attend the live show. Bootleg copies would be allowed, without any copyrights attached. After all, think about it this way: suppose you want to go see a live show. Would you think, "naah, I guess it isn't worth the effort, after all, I can always get a bootleg recording later". Have you ever met anybody who thinks like that?

  • ... and in my opinion, it has always been wrong. The photographer charges less for her time than it's worth, but tries to make up for it in overpriced photographic prints. That business model is almost as flawed as "We take a loss in every sale, but we make up for it in volume!"

    It would be more fair for everyone if the photographer just charged for his time, and then charged a fair amount for reprints. The end result should be about the same cost.

    In fact, a wise photographer would offer two payment plans: the traditional one, and one that charges more per hour for taking photographs but offers the negatives and lower-cost reprints. People who don't want to make their prints can pay the photographer to do it.

    • In fact, a wise photographer would offer two payment plans: the traditional one, and one that charges more per hour for taking photographs but offers the negatives and lower-cost reprints.
      Exactly! There is full knowledge on both parties' sides, which is much more likely to lead to a fair contract.

      There are wedding photographers that do this -- I know one in Oakland, California.

    • I personally agree with your preference for a different business model, but that doesn't make the existing one wrong. Your statement that a photographer could offer a choice is the best alternative. Advocating the freedom to choose terms is always a better simply saying one model is wrong and one way or another would be better, such as "they should only ever charge for their time".

      In this case, work for hire has drawbacks that need to be considered. Although people choose photographers based on reputation, paying them less upfront gives them additional comfort since there is even more incentive for the photographer to earn more money by producing quality prints. In many ways, this traditional payment model is precisely what makes them professional photographers rather than skilled tradespeople (whether they count as artists is actually beside the point). Many people would rather pay for good results than pay by the hour and potentially end up with crap. The prevalence of this model also serves to discourage fly-by-night operations.

      It bothers me when flexible pricing terms are not available. For an economically justifiable price, I should be able to get any terms I want for any service or product. If suppliers are unreasonable or picky about their terms, then I should be able to use the free market to find someone else. Whether and to what degree this flexibility exists should be the true measurement of market health.
  • good luck (Score:2, Interesting)

    WHen I contracted a wedding photographer, I contacted 17 professionals, and NONE would release the negatives or waive IP rights. I ended up going with an amateur, and I havent gotten the pix back yet.
  • Here's the deal: If you don't have to pay for it, you won't. And if you don't have to pay for an inferior version, then you will get the freebie and skip the superior one.

    Photographers know this. It's fundamentally the same as the MP3 craze. What would you rather have, free low-quality MP3 format songs or high fidelity CD audio for $15 per album? Too many people choose the freebie, and thus less money to those who produce the content.

    When you hire a photographer to take pictures, you are paying them for 2 services: 1-their time and effort. 2-whatever photographs you eventually decide to purchase. A professional photographer cannot hope to make a living on only the labor fee. Thus, photographers are beginning to limit the availability of proofs. Photography is a profession from the time when it took a hell of a lot of skill and experience to "capture the moment". Now, in an age where we have a cheap and inferior substitute to "analog" photography, the profession is finding itself in a vulnerable position.

    10 years ago when you hired a photographer and bought prints, you were effectively buying a service and product that could not be easily or cheaply reproduced. In effect you weren't buying the rights to the picture itself, but a copy of the picture. Nowadays, you are still in spirit buying the printed photo itself, but you now have the power to copy them as much as you please, almost for free. How can artists compete with that? By A: charging more and B: limiting your ability to make high-res copies of THEIR artwork.

    I also take offense to the comparison of "closed/open source" with the photographic medium. The primary positive philosophy behind open-source development is that when the original data is open to view and modification, it can be IMPROVED by the author's peers. This is completely at odds with the digital photography issue. The original data (the negatives/proofs) of a photo session can't be openly analyzed and improved by the photographer's peers. It can only be freely copied by the user.

    IMO, this is a decently written, but very misguided commentary. You don't pay artists for all rights to a picture. You pay them for the limited quantity of paper images you receive. Hell, I guess you could buy the rights to the initial image, but if this were to become the case in the future, expect professional photos and negatives to cost much, much more.
  • You can run a nearly infinite number of these stories, and eventually the one that applies to you in some way, you will agree with. Technology is in that little exponential curve right before it shoots off into worlds unknown, our very own event horizon into the tech future. Quit snickering. It's true. Not a one of you in here can honestly predict what tech will have done to us in 50 or 60 years. Digicams are letting everyone emulate a professional photographer. We're stealing the environment she's set up? Guilty. The day someone pays a photographer to set up shop, hang out at the buffet and let the guests do their own shooting is the day we are vindicated. Maybe someone already has. What moral tragedy will it be when McDonalds realizes it is cheaper to replace all of its workers with automated machinery? Can a person of today really be so stale as to admit that day will never come? I've read this site for a few years now, and it's become apparent that companies care about but one thing- money. Before you know it, we'll have stock broker chat bots with financial AI, and convenience stores that are mutated into 35 foot wide vending machines. Every single job, or career, can and will be replaced with technology, with the rare exception. A long time ago, half of Americans were dutied to provide our nation with food- that's right, they were farmers. Now that number is a very low single digit. Did we complain? Yes. Is half of America unemployed? No. So what happened? That doesn't help push the position that our futures are all doomed. Amazingly humans have the ability to adapt. I don't know if I will be hyper enough to exist in a world with 12 billion people who have every utility provided to them by an automated process, but I'm sure the people of that day and age will have a most excellent plan for it. Maybe there will be two planets that shine blue, with all that tech. Maybe three!
  • Sure, you can have your friends with digital cameras take wedding pictures, but you are deluding yourself if you think you will get the quality a professional photographer will give you. A prosumer digital camera today offers a single zoom lens and 5 megapizels per shot. This is well below what a good 35 mm film camera with interchangable lens is capable of, and not even in the same universe as that Bronica or Rolliflex medium format camera used by the pro. Not only that, but the professional knows what poses, lighting, framing, exposure, film and so on to use. Not to mention the simple fact that in photography the craft is in the making of the negative, but the real art and skill is in the production of the print.

    The fact is that the level of skill and equipment required to produce that color corrected perfectly framed razor sharp 8x10 is not going to be available unless you hire a pro. And that pro has a family to feed.

    If you want open source, i.e. the negatives or high res scans, you can probably negotiate that with a photographer. But be prepared to pay a fair price for that, equivalent to what the photographer would normally net from selliing the prints and albums to all the relatives.

  • Leonardo da Vinci is an artist whose work was so interesting that he remains famous today. How did artists like da Vinci support themselves?

    It was a different time, with a different kind of economy. And guys like Leonardo, or later, Mozart, sought out sponsors, patrons.

    This tradition continues today. Richard Stallman and Tim Berners-Lee being two receipients of the MacArthur "genius" fellowships [].

    Our modern understanding of intellectual property is merely a convention. It is not a natural law.

    Having said all that I find I agree with dpilgrim that his photographer was making a poor choice about how to adapt to the introduction of new technology.

    There are lots of tasks which were once the province of highly-skilled craftsmen. People who have had their rice bowl broken by technology have my sympathy. But they are best served by adapting.

  • You can get the negatives or a high quality digital image quite easily, just buy them, and the reproducing rights.

    The photographer expects that they could make more money selling their work in the manner of reprints, and charges appropriately.

    Just an idea, wait a year, the photographer will lower their expectations for reprints and sell the negatives for quite a bit less. My photographer wouldn't consider selling them until at least 1-2 years after the wedding. Of course by that point I realized spending money on wedding photos is dumb.
  • by SWPadnos ( 191329 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @06:32PM (#4258283)
    When I got married (5 years ago), we hired a professional photographer we knew to shoot the wedding. His standard contract was for a proof sheet, several wedding albums, and extra prints (different quantities of albums and extras dependent on what level you paid for). Also, after 2 years, we got the negatives.

    This allowed us to get albums for ourselves and our parents, and some extra prints for the family. He was able to sell more prints and albums to people who wanted them in the short term. We ended up with the negatives, so we can now scan / reprint them ad infinitum.

    Sounds like the best of both worlds to me.
  • I live in the UK. A few months ago I married my Estonian bride in Tallinn. This had several advantages, and one of them was that most of the photographers we approached were happy to give us the negatives at no extra charge. I scanned them and bunged them onto a web page []. I am also now able to get reprints done here in the UK.

    The photographer isn't going to go out of business because of guests with digital cameras. He took group shots at the ceremony, but my wife and I then went round to his nearby studion for some more shots. My point is that a guest with a nifty digital camera isn't all you need to realy good shots. The studio had proper lights, backdrops and even live doves and this shows in the results.

    There is also no way that I would have accepted on CDROM no matter how good the quality. I want my grandchildren to have access to these images. What would you do if your parents gave you a roll of punched tape and said "Here are our wedding photos?" Even if my grandparent's wedding photos were on glass plate negatives, it wouldn't be difficult to rig up a scheme to view them.

  • Having a digital camera doesn't suddenly embue you with the ability to take great photos. No matter what your camera, lots of professional photography needs special equipment (macro lenses, tripods, studio lights, backdrops etc) and trainings. Digital cameras make it a bit easier to get the exposure right, but composition, depth of field, capturing the feel of movement (e.g. running water) all need ability, practice and probably training. There may be fewer professional photographers in the future, but they're not going to be as rare as professional artists.

    And as for using digital rather than film for realy important photos, I'll stick with film for now. The photos of my wedding in March are on film and there is thus a good chance that my grandchildren will be able to figure out a way to look at them. Putting them onto the web [] was no problem as I have a film scsnner. If my parents wedding photos were on punched tape I think that I would struggle to see anything at all.

  • As a Fine Art photographer, this situation doesn't affect me much, since my prints are made with antique processes and nobody would ever consider a digital reproduction as anywhere close to the quality of my original prints. But occasionally I do run into a complete idiot photog. I recently had to have a portrait done for a Japanese resume, which is not much more than a passport photo. Wwhen I told the photog the picture would be republished in a book of resumes, he said that was prohibited, he would not allow reproduction rights without an extra fee. I told him I would use a different photographer. Oh if only I could take my OWN picture.
  • One thing this article clearly shows is the polar opposite viewpoints that people tend to take - the "enlightened" let's-find-a-way-to-benefit-from-new-technology view (exemplified by the narrator) and the "backward" let's-keep-things-the-way-they've-always-been view (the photographer). I bet she'd love to hear about Microsoft's upcoming ubiquitous DRM system. ("you mean you can send out a file that can't be copied more than once? And they have to buy it again if their computer crashes? Awesome!")

    Unfortunately the "backward" side seems to be winning. Look at DVDs - DVD video could have been specified in a neutral video format that would play on any player, anywhere in the world. But the MPAA film studios didn't feel like re-negotiating all of their exclusive regional distribution contracts, so they slapped on the Region Coding system. So we have regressed - there are now MORE barriers to international video distribution than the simple NTSC/PAL dichotomy of the analog world.

    And since more barriers always benefit the producer, and the producers have Congress in their pockets, it's going to get worse...
  • The fact of the matter is that technology isn't going to eliminate the value of professional photographers in certain situations, most particularly weddings. While you may get married more than once during your lifetime, the fact of the matter is that each unique wedding event, only happens once. The reason you hire a professional photographer is that the photographer provides an insurance that you'll have one good set of photos to look back at with the grandkids. Whether they are taking digital or analog photos, it's their ability to provide consistent quality that you pay for.

    If it turns out that due to digital piracy, photographers find themselves unable to charge for prints, then they'll end up providing originals, and charging more up front instead of charging for printing. In the end they'll end up getting the same amount of money, they'll just get it all at once instead of getting it spaced out over time. People will pay it because the service provided is worthwhile.
  • Reality check (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nivedita ( 179357 )
    Some points:
    • The first and most important point: when you sign up with a wedding photographer, you enter a contract, and 99% of the time, it will say that the photographer owns the negs and the photos. /. readers may think they know more about professional photography as a business than the guys/gals who make a living doing it, but don't they at least believe in the free market? If you want a different contract, negotiate it up front!
    • This guy says he wants digital photos to view on the computer and to send to friends/relatives, for them to view on computer, and doesn't want prints; and then complains he isn't going to get the highest quality digital images? Why do you need a drum scan of a 6x6 neg when all you want to do is look at a (max)1600x1200 image on the screen?
    • He thinks the photos from his digicam are better than those he can take with an SLR? You need to spend at least a grand on a digicam before you will approach the quality of a $300-$400 SLR. The advantages of digital have nothing to do with quality of the image - it's more immediate, it's the route you want to go if you want pictures on your computer, but it is not the way to get photographs that look better.
    • He seems to think that 5mp digicams are closing the gap between amateur photography and professional wedding photographers - has he actually looked at the prints? There's a reason why professional cameras and lenses cost as much as they do: there is much more of a quality difference than between a walmart pc and your uber gaming box. Another post gives some figures about camera and lens costs that are grossly underestimated, btw: medium format lenses will set you back 1-1.5k$ each, and those are the cheaper ones.
    • He compares software to photographs, but omits a crucial detail: even the mediocre software professional is making $50k plus per year, probably more. Even if a wedding photographer shoots a wedding a week, he'd have to make a profit of $1000 per wedding to match that, and he has a much higher capital and material cost. Would you seriously pay more than $1500 for a CD of your wedding from a mediocre photographer?
    • For those of you planning to make prints from negatives that you buy from your photographer: you should consider that to get prints comparable to those in your album, you will pay a minimum of $10-$20 per print: the prints that a wedding photographer gives you don't come from Walmart.
    • Professional photographs cost serious money: it's generally accepted that if a magazine loses someone's original slide, for eg, that it will cough up about 1.5k$ as the going rate.
  • The author posits that fifty years from now there will be a drastic reduction in the number of photographers per town because digital cameras will democratize picture taking so much. I think that he is deeply confused about what photographers do. Photographers do things like lighting, composition and framing that have nothing to do with the particular technology available. Sure, in the future photographers will charge for their services rather than for physical prints. But that will only emphasize the specialized nature of those services. Perhaps wedding photographers will be squeezed by those who think that Uncle Bill can do it but there are many sub-specialties of photography. Even in the world of wedding photographers there is an even chance that people will continue to prefer professional composition and lighting to "taking your chances" with whatever the guests take.

    Portrait artists didn't go out of business. The business evolved into photographic portraiture. Now the analog business will evolve into the digital one. The skill of capturing the moment will not be dispersed any better through the evolution of technology.
  • If need be, can't the bride and groom scan the photos, post them on the web and send friends and family there to view them? Sure the prints aren't great, but the pictures can be scanned well enough for viewing on the computer.

    So, in the short term, people get to see the pictures without paying ridiculous reprint fees (yes, that's my opinion of the payment system) and the photographer gets zero business for it.

    In the medium run, wouldn't it make more sense for photographers to offer to pricing plans: the traditional one where their services are very cheap and prints are expensive, and a second where the service is very expensive (as it should be for any professional or artist) and the prints are provided on CD for the customer to duplicate?

    In the long run, I agree with the article, consumers will demand and get open source photos much in the same way we are currently demanding cheaper music and software. If the market does not respond, the consumers will work around them just as they do now with Bearshare for downloading music and software. Right now, people go along with the photographers' system because they haven't imagined the alternative. All it takes is a Napster to come along and change the way people view a system. Then things start changing.
  • by Rocketboy ( 32971 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @11:48PM (#4259532)
    Pretty much, anyway. Look at it another way: what is a photographer selling? Not pictures: Aunt Emma with an $8.00 disposable camera can provide a picture. Give her enough attempts and some are probably going to be pretty nice. Add Uncle Mort with his $300 Canon Rebel and cousin Sally with her APS point 'n shoot and... well, it doesn't take long to gather enough decent pictures to make up an album with a dozen or two nice shots in it. You may have to look through 500 bad snapshots to find those dozen or two keepers, but it's free, right? Even if some of them show up at next year's family reunion. I had clients ask me what I could do with their $300 wedding photography budget: I told them to spend half of it on disposable cameras to distribute to guests, collect the cameras after the wedding, and spend the other half on drugstore processing. They'll probably get something for their money since I wouldn't do a wedding for $300. I couldn't.

    As a wedding photographer, if I wasn't selling pictures, what was I selling? Dependability, repeatability, and creativity, along with years of experience learned the hard (and expensive) way, burning film and breaking cameras. Let's take these one at a time.

    1. Dependability. I didn't have a special camera I used just for weddings, I had two of them, both top of the line and maintained annually by the manufacturer so that I could be sure that when I told a couple that "I'll be there on your wedding day," they could be damned sure I would be there, with working equipment, ready for action. You don't think this is important? Try it some time. Then there are all of the "special" shots brides (and their mothers,) really, really want. Coming down the aisle with Dad (or Mom or Grandpa: whomever.) The exchange of rings. The first kiss. A long list, actually (typically anywhere from 30-40 special moments on a shot list.) I got them. All of them. Oh, and most ministers/Priests, rabbis, etc. don't permit flash photography during the ceremony, which means I'm shooting in whatever light is available (surprisingly often flourescent. That's why your shots are green. Mine, obviously, weren't.) I got them all, even if I knew -positively knew, beforehand - that no one would be buying them for their albums. No flub-ups, no re-takes: the right shot, first time, every time. Mistakes? Sure: I wouldn't be human if I didn't make one occasionally. But as a professional I'm paid to minimize the mistakes and give my bride and groom the best possible chance of getting the photographs they wanted (and paid for.) If they didn't, I didn't get paid. Dependability? *Every* essential component of my wedding kit was duplicated, in some cases triplicated (is that a word?) Two main cameras, both professional and expensive (Mamiya 645.) The most used lens is the 80mm, so I had two of those, as well as a wide-angle 45mm and 55mm and 150mm and 200mm telephotos. Tripods. Three pro on-camera flashes (Sunpak.) Two dozen batteries ('cause all batteries die when you need them the most.) Filters in assorted sizes for each lens ($25-$50 per filter, my filter pack at one time ran to over 20 of them.) Radio-slave lights and backups for those and batteries and backups for those... backgrounds, stands... it took most of a minivan to get my kit on station. I rarely used even half of it but there were times when the backups got used... and one memorable disaster when by the end of the reception I was down to my last camera backup (a 35mm,) and film. Something about a torrential downpour, gale-force winds, and marble sized hail... But you couldn't tell it by the pictures.

    Repeatability: My portfolio reflected what I did. Prospective customers could count on their wedding being done in the same 'style' my portfolio portrayed. It was constantly changing because I was constantly changing, but at any given moment in time a bride and groom could point to their wedding album and my portfolio and say, "I got what I thought I was getting." I used pro films, kept track of my lot numbers (color emulsions vary a little bit by lot, but when you need detail of a white gown next to a black tuxedo you need to know, not guess, how the film will respond.) and used professional processing. When you came back six months later and ordered a few more prints because Aunt Sally was miffed she didn't get an album as good as your mom (and after all, she's been sending you the same $5 for your birthday every year since you were born, you ungrateful little tramp!) the prints you gave her were identical -- not approximately, but absolutely the same -- as the ones she saw in your mom's album.

    Creativity. Sure, Uncle Ed can take a picture of you and your new spouse coming down the aisle as well as anybody can. What about the black and white you asked for, because you read somewhere that color prints don't last as long as B&W? How about that shot of you and your spouse lighting the peace candle with your faces glowing in the warm candlelight and that expression of beautific joy on your spouse's face? You got that photo (which you used to headline your album, by the way,) because I knew -- knew, not guessed -- it was coming, saw the image in my mind far enough in advance to have positioned a camera with the appropriate lens on a tripod in the one place in the entire church where everyone else's head would be out of the shot, and set the exposure for ambient lighting because a flash would have ruined the whole thing. How about that double-exposure of you and your new spouse gazing into each others' eyes underneath that beautiful stained glass window, resplendent in all its Technicolor glory? Did you realize that was a double exposure, the window made with a long exposure the morning of the wedding because it faced East and by the time of the wedding the sun would be in the west, muting the colors? Did you know that the window was actually shot on different film precisely because of the exaggerated color that film gives, which is normally the absolutely last thing you want in a wedding photo? No, you did not. You can't tell by looking at the picture.

    Someone somewhere is saying about now, "what the hell, I can do that in Photoshop. Take ten minutes. No big deal." You sure can, too. Did you think of that in time to get the photos you needed, or are you just making it up out of the shots you happened to have taken at the wedding? "Oh, look: these go nice together." I thought so. Are you going to make 20 copies because everyone who saw it wanted one, and guarantee each and every one of them for 70 years or your money back? No, what you're going to do is print as many copies as you have ink and paper for and give them away, rationalizing that those printed at the beginning and end of ink cartridges look a little off with the thought that, what the hell do people want for free, anyway? Did you do that 10 times per wedding? Or did you do it once and, pleased with yourself, sit down with a nice cold one?

    One thing for sure, and the other half of the reason I quit wedding photography, is that digital is definitely replacing film for that type of event. It isn't ready for the job, but it's doing it all the same. (No, I'm not being spiteful, either. I wasn't ready for my first programming job but I got it anyway. And learned very quickly. Panic quickly. Thoughts of, "School wasn't anything like this," quickly.) Short of extremely expensive digital equipment and even with the best in digital printing, a digital photo in many (not all, but in many) circumstances still can't beat film. Truthfully, today the difference is mostly in the output, but even so 8 to 10 megapixel cameras are far from common and are the minimum required to approach the quality of even 35mm film. They are, often enough, good enough for the purposes to which they will be put, however: magazine and newspaper reproduction, cheap posters that'll be in garage sales in 12 months, that sort of thing. By the way, I'm going to get snooty and elitist here. I've looked at hundreds of digital prints and uncounted prints from film and I have to say that, today, anyone who says that digital output even comes close to a competantly made print from film is blind, stupid, or lying. And I don't give a tinker's damn what you think about it, either. It's a free country, go ahead and be wrong, you have a constitutional right to be an idiot if you want to. You may not be able to tell the difference, my dog may not be able to tell the difference but I can tell the difference and I refuse to tell the emperor what pretty clothes he has on when I damn well and good can see with my own two eyes that he's buck naked as a jaybird on the day he was born. God, that felt good! :)

    The other half of the reason I quit wedding photography? Photography is a commodity: everyone has a camera, or could have, if they half-ways wanted to. Everyone has seen countless pictures in magazines and on fliers and... so everyone questions why should they pay me $2000 to photograph their wedding when they can go to Wal-Mart and buy a perfectly keen camera for $129.95? My answer is -- you probably shouldn't. I'm a photographer because pictures are important to me. They obviously aren't nearly as important to you, so you should have the option of paying less. And you do. And when I got tired of having to justify my price, I stopped doing it. I still get a dozen inquiries a year from couples who've seen my work and want to know what it would cost... but I've sold the equipment (well, most of it ;)) and don't do that any more. You may not have noticed but there are a *lot* of wedding photographers out there, many of whom are willing to work for less than I was (or am.) They all do perfectly good work -- find one who's portfolio and price you like and book him/her while they have a date open.

    Oddly enough (and to get this back on-topic for the Slashdot crowd,) this is pretty much the same reason why I'm a pointy-headed manager now, instead of typing furiously away at a keyboard as I did for most of the past 20 years. It isn't about the money, it's never been about the money (the Lord has blessed me in that I've always had enough and that I'm not greedy. Don't really want to be rich.) Some things I won't compromise on and quality, of whatever I'm doing, code or photography, is top of the list. Now I earn my living one way and coding and photography, where I can be as picky, as self-rightously immolative as I desire, is for me, a very demanding audience of one. My personal programming projects set on a shelf while I rotted for 20 years, cutting quality to meet artificial and unrealistic deadlines, feature lists compiled by drunken marketing droids who couldn't tell a customer from a toilet seat, and interface designs produced in fevered heat by dyslexic color blind toxic waste snorting reeky farts. My personal photography rotted for 15 while I shot one more couple in heat and, in all honestly, both have improved since I returned to amateurdom. Lesson learned, thanks.

    Oh, and a parting piece of free advice for those thinking of taking the vows in the future: the very first couple I photographed as a wedding photographer chose an inexpensive package with the frank excuse that, "Statistically, we only have a 55% chance of still being together five years from now. Why pay more with odds like that?" Now, 12 years later, they're still married. Then there's the other woman, who called a couple of months ago to see if I would photograph her fourth wedding. Yes, I did the first three and no, I won't be doing this one. :)

In English, every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.