Why Should I Worry About Photography Copyrights?

A photograph I recently took of the Quincy Bayview Bridge has become exceptionally popular locally as of late. I'm glad; I put a lot of work into this photo, which I primarily shot for a website I'm building.

I posted a secondary photo I had shot (while adjusting exposure and focus before the lights came on) on Facebook, and a buddy of mine who works at the newspaper asked if I had any others that he could use for the Quincy Herald-Whig Answer Book cover (Quincy natives should check out David Adam's Answers Blog, which is the source material for this book). I sent over 2 others, and he chose the one you see above.

Then, I got asked if it could be used in a story on Whig.com. And as part of the promotional ads run in the Whig.

They all asked, and offered to cite me as photographer. They asked, so I obliged, glad to help out my friends (disclaimer: I work for Quincy Interactive, which is a part of QNI, which owns the Whig).

Later, The District posted an ad utilizing my photo on Facebook, which didn't contain my photography credit.

This is where things got a little hairy; While I don't mind people utilizing it, there were a few requirements.

Number one, I wanted credit for the photo, if nothing else. I need to build my name back up as an artist locally, since I've been out of the art scene for a while.

Two, I need money. While I didn't get compensation from the Whig, I was mostly helping out friends. I've been debating on whether to sell this photo as stock, or as a print. When The District posted it, I had to debate how to handle it.

Ultimately, I asked them to post a link to my piece for sale with the next FB post they make on the bridge lighting (which is tonight). Having them add it to the previous post would be pointless, as it has basically already hit it's maximum reach. Still, if I can sell a few prints, I'll be happy. The District had no ill intent, and had no idea that I was requesting credit for the work.

Something to consider when sharing your work is its value; You may find that, while it isn't as valuable to you, others may find it worth much more. While it's great to be altruistic in sharing your work, you do have to remember that it all costs money to produce. I myself am finally working towards purchasing a new camera (after using the same one for approximately 9 years). The time and equipment all cost money, regardless of how much you love what you do. So, retain your photography copyright, and enforce it as much as you're willing to.

Why Should I Redesign My Website?

First, some housekeeping: With work, new projects, and more piling up, WSIW will become a bi-weekly feature. Now, without further ado..

Why should I redesign my website? It's a simple question, and, with a little luck, I'll be able to explain why for a number of scenarios that many of you finding this blog will be able to identify with.

Case number one is a common one that I've consulted on in the industry: A website designed 10 or more years ago (or something avoiding standards newer than 10 years in use). While you may say, "It works fine for me", you're not the audience. You may even argue that you've polled your existing business, and they say they have no problem with the website.

The issue is, you need to grow new business. Your existing clientele won't be around forever; grabbing younger, newer, or different demographics ensures viability in the market for you; even potential growth! So, going with a modern responsive website (that also has great, SEO-friendly content). This means people will find you on ALL devices, rather than just one, and will be able to easily find you through simple searches.

The second case is a little more murky, but still applicable. You've got a great site, but your branding has changed, and you've lost consistency between your online presence and your brick & mortar.

In this situation, you need to remember that brand recognition can be as important for the smaller businesses, as well as the large. McDonald's is an iconic brand, for better or for worse. In history, certain symbols were used to denote business types. The barber pole for barber shops. Scales for law offices. Recognizable links to businesses maintain a relevance, today especially, with stiff and ever-increasing competition. Having consistency means your brand sticks with your customers, both new and old, helping you continue to grow and keep business.

Finally, a case that is ambiguous, but still important when arguing for a website redesign. When you started your business, and your website, you may have done just a few simple things. As the years went by, you've expanded. Adding new facilities. New services. New products.

Your old website was designed around your content (hopefully), so when you expand your business, your content expands with it. At certain points, it is smart to redesign your website to accommodate that new content. A simple contact form becomes a "Find a location near you" page. A page describing your primary and secondary services breaks down into SEO-friendly sub-pages that provide more critical detail about what you offer. Your products, which were only available in-store before, should become available online to a growing market that could include the entire world.

With those points, hopefully you'll be able to understand the importance of regular redesign with a growing business.

WSIW: Why Should I Get A Library Card?

Photo from Carol M. Highsmith, via Wikimedia Commons (Library of Congress Main Reading Room).

This was going to go up last week, but I was too busy prepping for my performance piece that was exhibited last week. Keep an eye out for photos and video about the piece soon!

This week's WSIW may be somewhat controversial, depending on the circles you are in. Why controversial? Because, when people ask “Why should I get a library card”, I'm going to say you shouldn't..

..At least, in an ideal world, you shouldn't. Please, bear with me on this before you send hate mail (or throw away your library card).

Libraries had a great amount of relevance 20 years ago; For many, it was their sole source of recent knowledge in published form. You could find books on gardening, engine repair, technology, and more. That's just in the non-fiction sections. Fiction publications were also a great source of entertainment at a library. Let's not forget about the periodical sections, too, and even cassette tapes (for the kids out there, those are what we listened to before CDs and mp3s, after vinyl and 8-tracks)

Today, you can find all of the above, plus some more interesting additions; DVDs (both fiction and non-fiction). Music CDs. The periodicals are still there, too, and may even be in digital form, searcheable via computer.

Even more exciting is that many libraries offer access through digital means outside the library; you can check out ebooks, movies, and more from the comfort of your home and never have to worry about returning them late.

Why the hate, then, for libraries? To put it simply, they're failing (like most industries) to truly grasp the age we live in, and are strangling the flow of information that's possible today.

We've got Wikipedia. We can go online and research just about everything we could want to know about. We've got Netflix. Amazon Prime. Hulu. YouTube. Newspapers online with digital archives. Podcasts. Countless great methods of consuming information and entertainment without leaving the couch.

Yet, we still seem to not be able to truly access everything the library has in any true sense.

Libraries are a publicly-funded solution to sharing everything, but they have their limitations. Physical media, while still enjoyed by many, isn't quite as usable as it is in digital form.

I believe that any and all non-fiction content in a library should be easily accessed, indexed, referenced, and more.. Without any stipulations. No library cards. No time spent searching shelves. No need to even physically go there.

Why?

Information cries out to be free, and in a world where misinformation is king, being able to say, “No, here's the exact words written, here's the retraction published 2 years later, and here's the revised book and the relevant section that was revised” without having to spend a (frankly, ridiculous) amount of time digging is what we need now.

Libraries should be a trusted repository of the world's knowledge, and shouldn't be censored, or have any barriers to access. We need that today. I'd rather my taxes go to digitizing everything and making it accessible than keeping up an antiquated system that has only barely scratched the surface of true information accessibility.

Librarians should become information specialists, not glorified bookkeepers. I'm not saying that a librarian's job is meaningless, but a large amount of time is spent maintaining an antiquated system.

What about the elderly, or those who don't have access to the internet?

We already have something in place for that. Libraries have computers. Libraries have classes that assist people not familiar with technology. All we'd be doing is removing the exceedingly overwhelming space utilized by traditional media and making room for more computers and people.

As well, change is inevitable. Why wait for the old-world to leave us? Let's bring the old-world into the new-world.

The only realistic argument against digital media is that, should we have a massive technological failure, it might become inaccessible.

That's fine. I'm not saying destroy the books; Just don't rely on them so much. Let the current library system be privatized for those who choose to use it. Sell the books. Give them away. I don't care.

The only concern I have is that the world needs information. Let's make it accessible to all.

How to handle mistakes during a musical performance: It's not always going to sound like jazz.

Instead of a traditional Why Should I Wednesday about the design world, let's talk about music, and how to handle mistakes during a musical performance.

The most common advice I've heard to new musicians regarding the subject of making mistakes during a musical performance is that you should never show it in your face; the audience won't know the difference, as long as you don't do anything different visually (and, of course, don't stop playing).

I disagree, to a certain extent. While some mistakes can be played off well (there is a great old joke about jazz music being like any other form, but you intentionally play all the wrong notes), humanity isn't as dense as you might think when it comes to music. We listen to it constantly, for one. Two, music is like a language that many people understand at a basic level; We can sense emotion from it, and even conjure images in our heads as the music goes on (music videos just help us along). When something is played that doesn't make sense, it makes us uncomfortable.

Guy Forsyth, an amazing musician, once quoted another amazing musician (when referencing harmonica, or blues; I can't remember). I'll paraphrase it for you, but the basic gist was music is like a river, and you're seeking the resolution from it. Ever river goes somewhere; every musical phrase does the same thing. While leaving a musical phrase unresolved can create an ideal sort of tension, when done improperly, it throws off the entire vibe of the music.

Then you've got the problem facing a lot of young artists; we all started out playing music by other people. In many cases, very popular music by other people. It'll be recognized, for sure, and some may be humming or singing along as you go. Miss a word? A note? People can, and many will, notice.

What does all this mean, though? Should we apologize to the crowd? Should we allow the pain of that wrong note show on our face? Should we start that phrase over?

No. Honestly, there isn't a great solution available beyond one very important point: Know your music, and know it well. Practice. Have reference material available for words and musical phrases.

And finally, for those of you who miss notes.. Learn to improvise and work with your band. While some sour notes may be difficult to recover from, being able to play it off by resolving it properly can make a world of difference in how people interpret your performance.

If you're one of those laid back, interact with the crowd performers, then you're allowed to smile when you hit a wrong note. Include the audience in the joke. Play it off. If you're having fun, the audience should be having fun, too. Get crazy with it, even! I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten words to my own tunes and had to fake it on stage. If I've got fans in the crowd, they'll know when I smile that I'm not taking myself too seriously. On the street, I'll make a big deal out of it in the music.

Number one, though, is to never, EVER stop playing. Keep your confidence, maintain the dynamics of the song, and play through it to a proper resolution.

That's how you recover from mistakes in a musical performance.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for Rimsky-Korsakov's most well-known work!

WSIW: Why Should I Advertise Online?

It's Wednesday, which means it's time for another Why Should I Wednesday. Today's question is simple: Why should I advertise online?

The ad world has shifted substantially over the years; We've gone from catchy jingles and Burma-Shave, to flashing click-baiting and clever calls to action. Newspapers, TV, and even radio are still relevant, but where does online advertising fit in?

Many businesses, especially smaller ones, fail to see the value in online advertising. Hell, even having a Facebook page, to them, is a waste of time.

Well, I'm here to tell you there is one big, clear reason to not dismiss online advertising; Customers who react to it love the immediacy it can provide.

When you've got the right product or service, an online ad can serve you better than any other medium. All you have to do is spark the interest; a clear, simple tag line, some artwork that draws the eye, and a call to action with a sense of urgency will get you more business than you realize.

The important thing to take into consideration is that online advertising is very different compared to other ad mediums; You need to keep things simple. Don't pile on the text. There's no reason to put your address or phone number in the ad (the goal is to get clicks; your landing page should have all the contact info). Your branding is important, but not near as important as the offer and the art (which are what draw users in). Most of all.. Give them a clear and obvious reason to click.

What happens after a user clicks is equally important. If your landing page doesn't match up with what the user is clicking to immediately, you're going to lose the customer really fast. Ensure that whatever offer you have is right there in plain site within a second of hitting the page.. Especially for mobile. If your goal is to get users to fill out a form, don't get too crazy with it. Keep it simple. Don't make your user do all the work.

Finally, one amazing bit of awesome with advertising online is the technological features; Targeted advertising alone is worth it.. Being able to target numerous different locations and demographics means your ad impressions go to people who might have a genuine interest in your product or service. Video pre-roll ads can pull double-duty with your TV advertising campaign. Sharing features create the opportunity for a clever marketing campaign to go viral, spreading your reach even further without costing a dime.

Ultimately, the message is this.. Don't let your advertising dollars sit in just traditional media. While still effective, you should certainly budget for online advertising, too!

Why Should I Wednesday: Why Should I Learn About Other Cultures?

As I prepare for the first private exhibition of my new performance art this Saturday, I'm finding myself with a little more time on my hands.. So, we finally get another Why Should I Wednesday. Today's topic? Why you should learn about other cultures.

While this may not seem to be related to art, I assure you, every artist needs to consider learning more about other cultures; not just for their art, but their interpretation of art, personalities, tastes, and more.

Of course, I have my own personal motivations to discuss this right now.. My new performance art is all about understanding other people; in particular, love. The piece itself has required study, and even immersion, in BDSM culture. While not quite is broad as learning about early Japanese art, there is something meaningful in subcultures.

This immersion has brought me a much better understanding of the meanings and motivations in the world of BDSM. While it may seem strange, doing so was necessary for the piece, which has evolved from commentary on conservative oppression on LGBT rights, to trying to get people to question the idea of legislating love.

As well, 2 companion pieces that are yet to be finished are inspired by an early Japanese watercolor style that I had seen a few years back. Without having friends in Japan, I might not have really grasped the aesthetics of the work, or been able to approach the style with sincerity as an artist.

So, never shy away from other cultures, sub or otherwise. Understanding them will help you grow as an artist, and a person.

Why Should I Wednesday: Why Should I Hire An Artist

I apologize for the belated Why Should I Wednesday, but I've been busy working on some new artwork, and a performance piece that'll be exhibited locally. Anyway, without further ado, here's today's Why Should I Wednesday: Why SHOULD you hire an artist?

When we, as artists, price out our work, we frequently deal with balking clients who think we should work for much cheaper, if not free.

I'm here to tell potential clients that we're worth more than what you think.

You may have Photoshop. You may see that you can get a Wix site for cheap. You may have a nice camera. What you don't have, however, is the knowledge and experience to utilize those tools properly.

Let's say you need some work done on your car.. You've got plenty of tools. You've got a garage to work in. You could fix anything wrong with it, right? Not likely. You might be able to get it working, but odds are, without the proper experience and mechanical knowledge, you won't get far in the repairs.

Artists have not just the tools, but the experience and education necessary to create attractive, effective works for whatever purpose you need. Our time is valuable, just like a mechanic's. Our tools are only a small part of the cost of doing business with us; you pay us for our mind, and our time. Without either, any creative undertaking with professional intent is lost in the flotsam of bad work.

Why Should I: Buy A High-End Monitor

Welcome to the second Why Should I Wednesday article, where I offer tips to graphic designers and artists of numerous mediums. This week's topic? High-end monitors, and why you should buy one.

This one is going to be short and sweet, so put down your sandwich, pause the latest episode of Downton Abbey on Netflix, and listen up.

There are 2 primary reasons you should seek out a higher end monitor. Number one? Contrast.

Cheaper monitors utilize a fancy term called "Dynamic Contrast Ratio", making claims that it can display a contrast of 2 million to one*. Heck, even some higher end monitors do it.. but, if you're a graphic designer or photographer, dynamic contrast can, and WILL be the bane of your print work. Why? You're not getting an accurate representation of an image.

Dynamic contrast adjusts the brightness levels to create the most striking image, in short. While great for casual consumption in some regards, it's bad when you're trying to get your latest artwork adjusted for the printers, giving you a false sense of black levels.

The second reason? Color accuracy.

Find yourself a nice monitor that boasts 99% sRGB coverage and a low Delta-E and you'll be sitting pretty in the big leagues, able to get your print work nailed down to impressive accuracy once the monitor is properly calibrated to your specs (did I mention that you should also calibrate your monitor?), which translates to less money wasted on bad prints and unsatisfied customers.

Seriously. Buy a nice monitor. There are countless available, so start reading reviews and join the cool kids club.