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Senin, 04 Agustus 2008

Your Photos: Look At Them As Deposits to the Bank

Few photographers imagine their photos are worth much more than the immediate compensation they receive from a magazine, book publisher or assignment client.

Also, to save filing space, many photographers have thrown out extra "baggage" of "outdated" negs, and transparencies, and of course, digital images. Little do they realize they are tossing away a gold mine. In the early days, some photographers had special agreements with their publishers or newspaper and magazine editors, that ownership of photos purchased, could revert back to them (the photographers) after three years. In some cases the agreement would state a shorter period of time. (This was in the days before the revision of the Copyright Law decreed that copyright ownership now stays with the photographer. In its earlier form, the Copyright Law transferred copyright to whoever bought a "use" right to a photo.)

COPYRIGHT MATURITY

Unfortunately, in those earlier days some photographers didn??t take advantage of an agreement provision to keep their copyrights.. They were busy with their other projects and went on to other things, as the photo industry matured. Their original negs and transparencies, lying dormant in files at book companies, newspapers, and magazines, were sometimes discarded by a junior assistant or inexperienced clerk, to make room for contemporary work. What could have been an annuity for a photographer, disappeared into the dumpster.

Of course, some organizations had the foresight, manpower, and funds to catalog and save everything. One example is TIME-LIFE. Their files of photos chronicle the life and times of America since 1936. Their latest count of images was 21,000,000, kept in their climate-controlled library at the base of Rockefeller Center in New York.

When the former director of the TIME-LIFE library, Beth Zarcone, gave me a tour of their collection, I saw youthful pictures of Muhammad Ali (13 books have been written about him in the last decade), Frank Sinatra, astronaut John Glenn, Eleanor Roosevelt, and countless others. These were pictures taken by long-gone photographers who never thought about the legacy they were creating on film.

Recently, I had a talk with Flip Schulke, famed photographer of the Martin Luther King, Jr. era, and the subsequent years of political unrest.

He said, "As a young photographer in the 60??s, I didn??t throw anything away. After all, I thought of my pictures as my kids. Who gives their kids away?" As a result, Flip has a deep selection of outtakes from his assignments and self-assignments.

"Today, I??m making more money from those pictures than I did back when I took them," says Flip.

His books and photos on Martin Luther King Jr. have earned in the six figures. A recent sale to a major TV network for a TV special, netted $24,000 in one month.

Flip also is authoring a St. Martin??s Press book about Muhammad Ali. He is working with The University of Minnesota and Macalester College (where he graduated) in St. Paul MN, on a CD-ROM featuring his photos of Dr. King.

"Stock photographers should realize that their editorial photos serve as a pension, an annuity, as you get older. When you??re an editorial stock photographer, everything becomes history," he said.

Flip pointed out that many photographers might not have the time or funds to produce their own archival CD series. One way of getting around this is to donate your collection (with limited copyright) to a university, college or museum that has the budget to edit, conduct a selection process, catalog the pictures, produce a CD, and promote it. The institution and the photographer then share in the profits.

"Some schools, however, don??t always have the funds to follow through on the complete process. If they don??t, the pictures will sit around in a box, the same way they did at your studio. Choose carefully."

DISK SPACE IS CHEAP

For present-day photographers, Flip warns that despite the convenience that digital cameras offer to photographers and publishers, the process can backfire. In many cases, a city desk editor will take a memory card from a digital camera, choose only one or two shots from the photos on it, say of a fire scene, then zap the card ?? and then hand the disk back to the photographer. This may save disk space, but it destroys the outtakes that might prove valuable to the photographer??s historical collection.

Flip Schulke warns that every photo has historical significance. "Hold on to your photos. They are your future social security.

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