Recently I visited an open studio and enjoyed spending a little time in another artist’s space. It is always interesting to me as I recognise the little peculiarities in such an environment. Little details that artists share in the creative process. But then I noticed a prominent sign near the door as I turned around. It said “No Cameras – Please do not take photos of the Art!” As I was a tourist I was carrying a camera although I was not using it. But I still felt a tad unwelcome. But what surprised me more was the request not to take photos of the art.
You may be wondering what I mean? What is wrong with demanding that nobody take photos of your art? You could be missing a huge opportunity. Consider this:
Copyright and Theft
The traditional argument says that taking photos of another person’s original work amounts to copying an image. The moment you take a photo, without consent, you have copied that image and therefore breached copyright. In theory you could also print that image and frame it and thereby steal potential income from an artist. Even worse you could sell that image to others for profit and reserve a special place in Hell for all eternity. It does seem pretty awful when looked at in these terms.
Learning to Paint from a Photo
What if the photographer wants to use the photo as a learning reference to practice painting? Sorry that is also verboten without consent from the artist. I know that artists of long ago copied master paintings, but that was presumably with consent if the master was alive. If dead - well then did it matter? Not really unless you were a forger. That is another thing entirely. In any case master works in a museum, for example, are regarded as sources of learning. No problem there.
Many artists think nothing of painting from another person’s photo, in a magazine for example, then selling the painting. Strictly this is a no-no as well.
Dilution of Brand Identity
A point that some big brands get very upset about is the dilution of their hard earned commercial status. An original Louis Vuitton handbag will set you back hundreds or even thousands of dollars. A good knockoff will be much cheaper. It will almost surely be of inferior quality too. The copyright holders will argue very convincingly that that these knockoffs harm their brand identity in the marketplace. And profits.
Jeff Koons may say the same thing if replicas of his installation art are sold for a song and then installed in someone’s front yard. Not good at all for Jeff’s image.
Time for a Reality Check
Now there is a line that one cannot cross. I have highlighted a few of those above. There may be more that I have not touched on too. The thing is though are these attitudes still valid today? Of course I do not condone selling knockoffs. That is stealing pure and simple. But If Peggy takes a photo of one of my paintings with her iPhone to show her friends at tea is that a problem? If Peggy really was a threat to my business she could copy photos from my social media or website and perform her nefarious deeds. But the odds of her doing such things are slim to none.
Images are Not What They Were
There was a time when experts insisted that artists should get professional photographers to take pictures of their paintings. Regular folk had such useless cameras that the images were a joke. True back in the day, but now everyone’s cell phone has an excellent camera.
In addition everyone wants to see a picture these days. Social media is an insatiable beast that gobbles up photos by the million a minute. Of course you want to share a photo on your social media account. If you love what you see you want to share it not so? Sharing is caring has become the motto of the day. Is it therefore not time to rethink this matter of photos?
Pinterest is a fantastic source of images and information. Most of the images are shared from other people’s websites or social media channels. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are much the same.
Marketing Power Democracy
When in recent history has a regular artist been able to reach thousands of viewers without spending a fortune? Certainly ten years ago an artist would have had to resort to an army of tactics to achieve this and at great expense. Five years ago things began to change rapidly. Yes magazines and such publications still had importance, but the costs were still high to access these sources. But the new social media channels were gaining ground fast. Savvy artists could reach many people via their social media accounts. This helped brand identity grow rapidly.
Today it has changed again with increased confidence in online purchasing. Now artists not only show their work online, but also sell it too. Even traditional galleries are starting to sell online too.
The only problem is that for the average artist making a living the online world has become very competitive. Now you need to pay money to get Facebook to show your work to your audience. This trend is growing as many social channels race to monetise their platforms. The truth is that all those free views of your work have been limited unless you pay a fee. This trend will continue.
Today every artist has a wonderful opportunity. The online world is still young. But growing fast. So fast in fact that we all need to wake up to the opportunities before we get left behind. Never before has a new artist had so many ways to reach so many people as such little cost. The challenge now is how to convince people to purchase something. But that is another issue. First you need to show your work to the right people.
How about the person standing in front of your painting and thinking to herself, Wow that is an awesome painting? Why not encourage your fans to take photos and share them? It is shares that count in the world of social media. Shares – not likes. Encourage sharing and you can spread the word about your art quickly and for free.
If you are an artist you can try this approach to remove any doubts for potential collectors and fans. The next time you exhibit your art how about putting up a sign that says “Photo Friendly Paintings – take a photo, share and tag @_______”
What if you added an incentive too like a follow back or a mystery coupon for every share and shout-out? I am sure you will come up with many tactics that are fun and easy to apply. Maybe the person who takes the trouble to photograph your work is only a few steps away from actually buying your work. Makes you think.
If you are a collector or fan of an artist’s work take the step to share the artist’s work online. This is easy to do on their website, or should be. But if you are at an exhibition or at a studio you may want to ask the artist or curator if you can take a photo and share it with your friends. If the artist is there in person then he or she may be happy to be included in the photo too. Of course if the artist has included a sign encouraging photos and sharing then go right ahead.
In this way both artist and art fans are taking an active part in helping an artist grow her business and have fun doing it too.
What do you think of this approach?
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