[cc-community] Why Photographers Hate Creative Commons

Evan Prodromou evan at prodromou.name
Thu Dec 27 13:17:18 EST 2007

On Fri, 2007-12-21 at 10:37 +0000, rob at robmyers.org wrote:

> http://rising.blackstar.com/why-photographers-hate-creative-commons.html
> Short version: because they don't understand the licences. ;-)

Here's the response I gave in comments.

Is everyone going to stop sharing photos for free in order to preserve
the business model of pro photographers? Absolutely not. 

So what can pros do to adapt to the new situation? There are probably
some good examples from Open Source software. Programmers have been
dealing with this new situation for two decades, and as a group they
continue to thrive. 

1. Make better, proprietary works. That is, make software (or photos)
that's significantly better than what's available for free, and make
sure that differential is valuable to the market. 

2. Brand. People buy Microsoft software less because it's better than
free alternatives, but because they know the name. Building and
maintaining a reputation is a good way to influence buyers to pay for
your work. 

3. Service. User38766 on Flickr won't be responding to email, providing
extra version of a shot, or recommending graphic designers for the
customer. Acting professional and providing professional service is a
big value for buyers of software and of photos. 

4. Do work hobbyists don't do. There may not be a good (enough) photo of
the shoreline in Sargent, TX available for free. Pros can take orders to
do shots that aren't available elsewhere, and charge accordingly.
Software developers do this a lot -- making alternatives for software
for niche markets, or adding modules to existing Open Source software to
connect with little-used other systems. 

5. Blend. Photographers can begin to take on more of the work of an AD
by mixing and matching CC-licensed works with their own custom shots.
For example, for a magazine piece on the Texas coast, there may be good
Free photos available on Flickr for Galveston and Houston, but no good
shots of South Padre Island. A CC-aware photographer could cut costs by
only taking shots that need to be taken, and using his/her professional
eye to fill in the rest with CC-licensed photos of similar style and

The most important thing to remember here is that it's in nobody else's
interest to figure this stuff out for you, the individual pro
photographer. Hobbyists will keep posting free photos, no matter how
much you complain about the competition. Online services will continue
to build businesses on sharing free photos, and buyers will continue to
look for bargains among CC-licensed shots. 

Most of all, other photographers are competing with you in this new
world. The people who figure out the new system and how to thrive in it
will edge out other photographers who are sitting on the sidelines
complaining. That's the way business works, and it may not be nice, but
it's the way it goes. 


Evan Prodromou <evan at prodromou.name>
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