Fall Foliage, Flickr and the Search for New Business Models

Flickr’s potential as a resource for photo editors everywhere has yet to be fully tapped. Though some more old school photogs may complain that Flickr has undercut the stock market, the world has changed. Cheap, easy to use DSLRs (like the Canon Digital Rebel XT that I own) have democraticized the expert culture of photography and made a universe of free photos available.  Changes like this make the stock photography business model no longer viable.

I’m certainly no expert, and I’m not sure I would even claim the title of “photographer.” I’m just someone who enjoys taking and sharing pictures. For this reason, I’m pleased whenever my Flickr photos get picked up by web sites, like the Go Blue Ridge Card Blog, which included one of my pics in their blog. I took the photo almost exactly a year ago, on the way back from a family vacation in Blowing Rock, NC. I was amazed by the colors, especially the reds, and did my best to capture what I saw from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Go Blue Ridge Card Blog is produced by Go Card USA.  What do they do?

Go Card USA produces all-inclusive attraction passes for 12 US Cities. Make the most of your vacation with a pass that gets you unlimited admission to top attractions for one low price.

In addition to the Blue Ridge Blog, they’re rolling out blogs for all of the cities they serve.  They also have a group on Flickr.  It’s a smart marketing strategy to use free or low-cost tools to get the word out about their product.

And, as someone who works in the web field, I’m really intrigued by these creative strategies and the possibilities of social media. I, personally, love Flickr and believe that its model of community photo-sharing is just getting started.

I'm Socially Conscious and Stuff

DCist used the photo above to illustrate a story on upcoming anti-war demonstrations. It’s from a couple years ago, during a previous anti-war march. I spied this fellow, and his nervous happiness, in the crowd. Funny – no one else seemed to notice what was actually on his sign. The important thing to the crowd, I guess, was that he was carrying a sign.

Ironically, if you read the comments to the DCist story, no one else saw the words on the sign either. There’s a message here somewhere. Are protests on signs like ads that we tune out?

Schmap and Photo Rights


My favorite Pebble Beach pic was included in a Schmap guide.

I’ve let Schmap use several of my photos. Here’s how the describe themselves:

Schmap is a leading publisher of digital travel guides for 200 destinations throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The innovative technology behind Schmap Guides is also used by clients, partners and bloggers to power schmapplets – a range of fully customizable map mashups and map widgets.

They found my pics through Flickr. On Flickr, you can choose to make your photos available though a Creative Commons license… or not. I have my photos listed under a Attribution-NoDerivs license. This is a pretty broad license – I’m saying that other people (even for-profit companies) can use my photos as long as they attribute the picture to me (by running my name under it) and that they can’t remix it into other works of art.

There’s been periodic discussion on Flickr and elsewhere on Schmap and other services and the ethics of sharing photos. Some take the perspective that the photographer always must be paid for use of their photos. I, however, am not a professional. I take pictures because I enjoy them. If some little magazine or web site wants to use them, and can’t pay, that’s OK. I’m more interested in getting my pictures out there, sharing them with the world, than with making a profit.

A similar debate took place in the early years of the Internet. Shouldn’t writers get paid for their online content? As a writer, I think they should. Early attempts at renumeration for writers, like “micro-payment” schemes and putting things in “walled gardens” have largely failed. Why? Because the web is awash in written content. Nobody (and that means you and me) wants to pay. And now, for better or worse, the web is awash in free photos.

If you’re not going to get paid, why take pictures and put them online? Or, for that matter, why write? If you enjoy these activities, you’re going to do them, and not care about the value the market assigns your efforts. That, in my view, is the mark of the true artist.

Photo Shoot with Caveat Improv Group

I had the opportunity to take some pics of Caveat, an improv troup that is part of the Washington Improv Theater. It was a lot of fun – they’re a very creative group and they came prepared with ideas of what they wanted to do, which really helped. We shot in Meridian Hill Park, a city park designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. Once known as the “most violent national park in the region,” it is now safe and scenic, the way it should be.

riding down the park's steps
An impromptu slide down the stairs race.

Caveat
The Caveat improv group.