Friday, March 08, 2013

The fine art of giving your work away for free.

Alysheba at the Kentucky Horse Park

I've been thinking about this topic ever since I was contacted a few weeks ago by some people on a forum on Wikimedia.

A few months ago, Flickr changed and expanded their photo licensing and my flickr photos' license was changed from creative commons to creative commons commercial.  I did not realize this at the time, because I was still preoccupied with grief from losing my dad.  I did notice after a while, that my photos were occasionally getting more and more hits.  Once a month, my photos would shoot up to 1000 views and then would stay more steady the rest of the month.

Eventually when I clicked on the referring links from different search engines I figured out that my photos were being used in other places on the web. Sometimes with photographer credit, and sometimes not.

After putting all of this together, I checked the license on my photos and realized that the license had changed.  I changed it back to creative commons non-commercial and started saying yes to all of the requests to use my photos in sim games.  My thinking was that since I don't appear to be selling many photos I could at least have my photos used, with photographer credit, in the sim games.

The Newfoundland Stallion Godfrey

So this brings me to the emails I received from wikimedia.  They were asking permission to use my photos since I had set my license back to creative commons non commercial.  I was also sent a link to the discussion.

I was floored. 

All of my flickr photos were there and were being discussed as to whether or not wikimedia could keep them since my license was changed and since many of them had an obnoxious watermark across the front of them.  There is software out now that can erase the watermarks and some of the photos had had their watermarks removed.  At first I was a bit like..hruummppphh.. I was directed to the usage statement by wikimedia stating that If I allowed them to use my photos anyone could snag them and use them for any purpose.

I was at a crossroad.

Do I take that risk and waive my license and allow folks to use my photos however they see fit?

Do I keep my photos to myself and yank them off of wikimedia?

Heres what I decided and why:

1.  The file sizes that wikimedia and flickr have are not my large file sizes. They are a smaller resized version.  Although they could be used on a website, I believe that they wouldn't be so great in print.  I'm hoping that this leads to direct requests for my larger photos and therefore (hopefully!!!!) payment.

2. This discussion really helped my confidence.  They really wanted my photos.  I now look at them in a whole new way.  Maybe I am good enough afterall?

3. I have a lot of photos of rare breeds of horses thanks to the 2008 Festivale of the Rare equine and they would be used on wikimedia and wikipedia to illustrate what those breeds may look like. The photos could help those rare/almost extinct breeds if someone fell in love with the breed.

4.  I was not paid to take any of those photos.  I was in public, shooting my little head off with the camera for the sheer joy of it.  If I had been paid to take the photos the licensing would be a completely different matter.

5. Most importantly.  I can keep my photos to myself in obscurity, where no one has ever heard of me, or I can share my photos, get photography credit and raise awareness of my work in the world.  Doing so would go a long way to me eventually switching to doing art/photography full time.

The Akhal Teke Stallion Victory

Needless to say I am going to allow them to use my photos.  Not only that, but I joined wikimedia and I'm going to upload clean copies of my photos myself with the smaller filesize.  I also may upload more photos in the future if I get some interesting ones.  I think it will be nice to sort of give back to a project like that.  Hopefully it'll last. But if not, I tried and was a part of something.

Now lets talk about free miniature tack.

Top 10 at NAN 2012 - I made the tack, the entry is owned by a big supporter: Iva Kimmelman

I am very very very grateful to the hobbiests and the collectors that buy my tack.  I really am.  These people allow me to make things that I really enjoy making and are my biggest supporters.  They show my tack and they trust me to make them something really great and I appreciate it so much!

So once a year or so, I make something and give it away via lottery.  I think that is only fair - you support me so this is my way to repay your kindness.  Last year I think I did it twice and I will be giving at least one piece away this year.

And lastly, donating to live model horse shows.  I fully support shows in my region.  I know how hard it is to put on a show thanks to my friend Anna's wonderful shows.  She really worked hard and it's a thankless job sometime.  So If I go to a show I try really hard to donate 100% of a piece of tack.  The show holder can give it away or whatever, however they see fit.

In my mind occasionally giving something away for free is not a bad thing.  I do understand the opinion that one should never give their work away for free but I think the occasional exception is just fine and may sometimes be beneficial to your reputation.


timaru star ii said...

Wow Heather, I am so moved I'm commenting while on the road. It really sounds like you've thought hard about these issues. I do think you've made some right choices. Not easy! But I look forward to hearing about developments. Best of luck!

Sara Kucharski said...

It seems to be that more and more people in this hobby are having issues with their pictures. It is hard dealing with social media and finding the right answers but it sounds like you are on a good track. As to giving away tack for free, sometimes it just gets your name out there. I gave away a barn halter when my facebook page hit 50 likes and I probably will again at 200. I know Jennifer did with her comments and her blog exploded with them!