"Macro Art In Nature"

Explorations in the artistic world of macro photography.

“Rights Grab & RF” – I give up!

Okay, … you guys know that I have to rant at least once a month about something!

I am no longer surprised with some of the organizations that help to sponsor many of the “rights grab” photography contests that you see today. I guess you can simply say, … “it’s business”.
“Nature’s Best Magazine”, (the best magazine of its kind) has a “Staples” ad on their site promoting a contest called “Hometown Views” photo contest. Just read what one would give up if they enter! Sure, … there is a very nice prize for the grand prize winner, but after that there are some very small prizes and “all entries” (even if you do not win anything) gives Staples a royalty free right to use your photo as they see fit for one year or possibly longer, … and during that time, the owner of that piece can not use it.
I am also not surprised that the judges for this competition is the PPA, “Professional Photographers Of America”.
I thought that Nature’s Best Magazine would stay away from something like this, and even the PPA, … but nope!
(If I am not mistaken, .. these rules were a bit different a couple of weeks ago!)

“National Geographic” has some contests going right now that runs along the same lines as the “Staples” contest mentioned above. Getting your image in a magazine such as National Geographic is cool, … but can be costly if you do not read the fine print!

But you know what? I don’t care anymore. I give up!

Photographers in the business use to gripe and pitch a fit at all of this nonsense, watching businesses build up that image library of images that they got “for free” because of individuals not reading the fine print, … or maybe they just did not care about it since photography is mainly just a hobby to them. If they win something, or maybe get their image in a magazine, … then that’s cool. If nothing comes from it, … they just lost a image that they did not really care about.
There are many companies out there who realize that there is a vast number of amateurs and/or those who simply do not read the fine print, and will happily help to build up that company’s image files for that rare shot at fame, or a prize.

I have to hand it to those companies who do this.
It’s just business. They are in business to make money. They need to save money in certain areas to make money. They know what the bottom line is!
They know that they can profit from the gullible! Hey, ….. its legal too!

With the micro-stock sites now, well, … I will not go there.
Have at it if you wish, and if it helps to pay the bills, etc., … then more power to you.
I don’t care!

Professional photographers use to get together and voice their opinions/objections to these “rights grab” contests and even the micro-stock agencies. Not anymore!
In the past couple of years, it seems that so many photographers who are making a living from their work has taken on the “every man for himself” attitude.
They use to work together as a group to keep their profession at a certain level, to work to make things better for everyone. Does not seem that way now for some reason.
Now, trying to get photographers to work together for (I guess you could say), the “common good”, is like trying to herd fleas into the corner of a room. It just ain’t going to happen!
Then again, maybe it is some mis-guided perception on my part. I don’t know anymore.
It is now to the point to where I really don’t care. I’ll just look after myself!

Will I let my work go to someone else for good, just to “maybe” win a prize?
Will I sell and cheapen my work for a dollar?
I put this in the same line as, “would I give Jesus a nipple ring?”
There are some things I just will not do!!!


March 5, 2007 - Posted by | art, blog, canon, composition, Digital, DSLR, fauna, flora, flowers, hiking, insects, landscapes, life, macro, nature, outdoors, paintings, Photo Blog, photoblog, photography, photoshop, Wildlife


  1. Mike, funny you should post this today of all days. I am in the process of pulling many of my photos from last year off of a stock agency’s site. After much thought, I’ve decided that stock is not the way I want to go. I feel like I’m selling myself short. That’s not to say tha stock photographers can’t make a good lliving at it, once they upload several thousand photos. I just don’t want to end up a tiny goldfish in an ocean of people eager to practically give their work away.

    Your rant was not a rant – it’s reality. I’m glad you wrote it; now I don’t have to!

    Comment by Photo Buffet | March 5, 2007

  2. I love a the shots on your page today, very beautiful! I am fond of Dragonflies, and the purple and orange image at the top is very nice. Thank you for sharing!


    Shawn Nacona

    Comment by nacona77 | March 5, 2007

  3. Thanks for the heads-up! I’d considered the Nat Geo contest, but nothing beyond making a bookmark to check later. I think you’ll find that there are a greater number of fed up photogs that would love to unite against this kind of abuse. Just today I had a band manager contact me wanting to use my photos on his website, when I quoted him a price, he went crazy saying how could I charge him for using photos of HIS OWN show. He even offered to put my name at the top of the page! How could I’ve possibly turned down that offer. Oh, well I’m having one of those days too… just wishing we could all unite for the common good and get back to doing what we really love – taking photos!

    Comment by Christian James | March 5, 2007

  4. Interesting comments. Having been out of photography for awhile and just getting back into it, I hadn’t heard about this as a big issue.

    It does remind me quite a bit of things which were said in the graphic arts industry with the rise of desktop publishing and the programming industry with the rise of dBase and Access. Two areas I have had personal involvement in. There have probably been many other similar discussions in other industries throughout history. I suspect this gets discussed anytime a disruptive technology starts making significant in-roads into an established professional community, allowing “amateurs” to compete with “pros”.

    Thanks for the thought provoking article.

    Comment by Harley Pebley | March 5, 2007

  5. Bonnie, RF is not a very bad thing at all really, and I have some right now that I will put in the class of “royalty free” or “rights managed” with no problem.

    There are some that I would not hesitate to use for RF, but for a bit more than $1. There are many out there who are looking for something along the lines of a RF image, and would not hesitate to spend $30 on up to $75 for a RF image if it suits there needs.
    That way, (to me), it really does not cheapen your work that much, if any.
    A $1 for a image does, … and I don’t think that there is any argument that anyone can throw to me out there that would make me think otherwise.
    Yes, some photographers might have 5-10,000 images on those dollar sites and may make a killing. Good for them!
    Actually, … most do not make a full dollar on that license/sale anyway.
    A potential client would not want that same image for a national campaign though, … would they? Reason is, … it has been cheapened, and maybe sitting on the side of a coffee mug or a garden tote!!
    Ask a art director or art buyer what they think! :)

    So, license your work as RF if you wish, … just put some kind of dollar amount to it that says it has some value, … at least to you!
    Your work does have value, … so charge accordingly!

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 5, 2007

  6. Shawn, … thank you for the very kind comments!
    Now, … If I had only a percent or two of your imagination, I really would be happy.
    Your artwork is very cool in my opinion!!

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 5, 2007

  7. Christian, my older brother is the band leader for Nanci Griffith, and knows all to well how people in that industry will “want want want”, but not give anything much in return.

    Glad you stuck to your guns!

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 5, 2007

  8. Interesting rant! :-) It never ceases to amaze me at how people will sign something without reading, in hopes of getting something ‘free’. On those very rare occasions when I even consider entering a contest, I read everything! I’ve seen clauses like that saying that you give them exclusive rights to use your images as they please for a period of 1 year, or whatever. Criminal! However, if you sign it, you agree.

    Hopefully your rant will save someone some grief!

    Comment by paul | March 5, 2007

  9. Harley, yes you are right about he advancement of technology and the way it has changed things so much in this industry.
    The amateurs, (I sort of hate using that term, as it sounds a bit degrading at times), can capture some great images now even with some of the cell phones.
    Put them on line for a dollar, and someone will buy them.
    Anyone can do it now!

    Does all this effect me?
    Well, … maybe.
    But I do think it is the major reason for me working solely with art buyers.
    With the micro sites that gives you roughly .30 cents out of that $1 per download, I would have to license/sell around 9000 of the same image to earn what I did off of just one image, … used for a wall mural.
    That’s crazy!

    Ah well, … to each their own I guess! :)

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 5, 2007

  10. Yes Paul, … you have to be very careful with some of these contests today and read “everything” in those requirements.

    Magazines like Nature’s Best if absolutely awesome, and I thought that they would shy away from a contest such as this and only have contests that would be along their own contest lines. I thought that they would be more prone to looking out for the photographer. Things have changed I guess!
    Money talks, and it is a Staples contest, …. so.

    And then, PPA are the judges of the contest, and I guess to them, the rules/regulations/requirements at giving away your work is okay with them.

    All of this enhances those thoughts of going at it alone and in the fine art market!

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 5, 2007

  11. a good topic and one that has so many variables.. while I can understand the ‘pros’ that are so vehement against others giving away their work for free, I also understand the other side of the fence. I’ve donated photos to conservation efforts I believe in (like Michigan Nature Preservation Society).. and they used my images on almost every month of their calendars this year (I got to write it off on my taxes- and I got more exposure) Exposure and getting your foot in the door isn’t easy in this field, it’s become SO competitive since the digital age.. but I also get paid by other agencies and won’t give them ‘freebies’. When you add up the time we spend, the photography equipment, the gas to get to where we go (and I don’t go far), it all adds up.
    One thing I learned at my first art show is there is definitely a market out there for what I do.. and honestly I never went into photography to make $$.. it’s just a natural extention of my love for nature.. and I had such a blast at my show, the comments were overwhelming and left me quite humbled.. because I truly don’t see it as anything special. I do it for the joy of it, pure and simple. Those one on one connections are priceless, when someone looks at a photo you’ve taken and says WOW or ‘how did you ever get that shot?’ and my booth was the busiest of all 30 something there.. maybe because I was ‘new’, maybe because I didn’t OVERprice my work. I took a good look around and there were so many poor compositions being sold for $80 bucks for an 8×10.. by photographers who could afford to travel to Homer and take BAD eagle shots! LOL! I guess because I shoot for myself and not stock I’ve never been intimidated by the big guns that can afford to travel the world to get their images. I can find so much within my own space and I never have the thought in my mind ‘will this sell?’ I have too much fun and the day it becomes anything but fun I’m out there for the wrong reason.
    I’ve always wondered why some call all of their work ‘fine art’. To me, your outstanding frog image could be labelled fine art because it’s different.. unique.. it has YOUR style all over it. I only call my own work fine art if it’s printed on fine art paper..
    I was talked into sending in a photo for Natures Best Competition last year by a former winner.. I thought what the heck, might as well try it. I didn’t expect to win, so when the results came out I was cool with the final results. But I’m not into self-promotion (actually I suck at it).. I’m into nature promotion.. and if just one person is moved by an image I took or one person says ‘hey I have that bird in my yard, they’re beautiful.. what is it?’.. then I’ve done what I’ve set out to do by opening a few minds to the thought that ‘hey peeps, there’s some pretty cool stuff out there if you slow down and take the time to LOOK at it’. I’m quite passionate about my photography, but it’s a selfish endeavor on my part in many ways. I found my niche, and I’m very ok with where I am on my photography journey.. because really that’s what it is.. a journey into nature and into our own hearts.

    Geeze, this is the longest blog post I’ve ever written in history! LOL! :)

    Comment by Cindy | March 5, 2007

  12. Well Cindy, … I may have to give you a award for one of the most “long winded” posts by a visitor in the history of M.A.I.N.!
    Bwah ha ha ha!!! :)

    I fully understand where you are coming from sweetheart!
    It is wonderful what you do, and how you go about doing it.
    Hard to find now days people who are that committed, that passionate about their craft and in the purest sense.
    I for one, find you a pleasurable person and one that I am very happy to know.
    It is a gift that you have, … and I am a appreciative recipient on this end.
    You got a gift girl! :)

    It is just that some will simply give or unknowingly give their work away, and there are many who are there to take it.
    That is what puzzles me so much.
    I have seen many who are new to the game, want to get into the business, and are constantly told or suggested to, to “do it this way”, while all along, it “may” be hurting them in the persuit of that dream.

    Ahhh hell, ….. I don’t know.
    I do know that I need another cup of coffee!!

    Be back later, … and thanks Cindy, or, “motor mouth”. LoL!

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 5, 2007

  13. yup, I agree.. so many want that exposure that they will go to any length to get recognition.. and in the long run they are just lining corporate pockets and are stalled out in a sense. (and then there are those who will post long comments and get a new name.. motormouth!) bwah-ha-ha ha!!! backatacha ;)

    Comment by Cindy | March 5, 2007

  14. Hey Mike, I’ve heard this subject debated over and over about RF images and it looks like its not going to go away so its something pro photographers have to learn to live with. Many moons ago I played in a hard rock band that was reped by a agent and the local musician union. At that time we could get four to five hundred dollars for our three man group at a high school dance or a college frat party and were booked every friday and saturday night. In the early seventies that was pretty good money. Then came the DJ and every band cried foul. A DJ could offer to come in at a fraction of what a band could and play a much larger selection of music. Of course every high school and frat house could see the huge savings and of couse the bands were put out of business unless you wanted to go into to the bar scene which we didn’t. Wedding bands had the same problem as the cost saving of the DJ for the wedding planer was to great to pass up. Now a days a kid in high school with a garage band has no where to play because schools dance all go with DJ. This is no different then whats happening with RF. As far as loyalty, we’ve all seen whats happen to the mom and pop business when the Walmart, Home Depots, Best Buys, all came to town, the people supported these store and drove out the little guy. There was no loyalty to these local merchants, people are only interested in whats good for themselves, and if that means saving a buck at walmarts, so be it. I’m as guiltly as everyone else. So I’m not suprise that the RF market is taking over, and no matter how much any one complains it not going away. The old saying applies, if you can beat em join em. I’m not saying that there aren’t good stock sales still going on, just as some people still hire live bands at weddings but its not gonna be like it use to. I never ventured into the stock scene, I prefered to sell my image to people that were interested in hanging them on their walls. Cindy and I are on the same wave length as that we like to connect one on one with who is buying our images. With stocks sales you don’t have that personal connection. I’ll never get rich but I make a living selling my images though art shows, publications, and offering workshops, and don’t worry about stock sales. You have found a market in selling your images through designers and thats great. I think the pro nature photographer has to be great at marketing, be creative, and think outside the box to make it. A few years ago I went into a art gallery and saw some of Thomas Kincades paintings for the first time and ask the gallery owner why his paintings where so popular and why some of the other painters that work was equally as good was selling for much less, I was told that knicade’s wife was a marketing genius, which helped propel him to the top. I don’t know the answer, but do whatever makes you feel good.

    Comment by Mike Moats | March 5, 2007

  15. Stick to your beliefs. At the end of the day all you’ve got is your self-respect, and if you sell yourself short then what do you have? Personally I’d rather do this for myself than give my images away for nothing, or next to nothing.

    I am convinced that the whole world is out there trying to rip you off in some way or another. Just about anything you do anymore involves miles of fine print that you have to read. It’s disgusting that a professional photography organization would be involved with such practices. Glad I’m not a member!

    Comment by Roberta | March 6, 2007

  16. Mike, Roberta, and all others again, … thanks for the comments.

    This subject is something that I usually tried to stay away from in the past, as I could easily see where things were heading.
    I thought that this once, I would just blurt some things out that was on my mind, and let that be it.

    The way that many things are heading, … well, … it ain’t good!

    Thanks again guys, and now, … back to our regularly scheduled programing!! :)

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 6, 2007

  17. I found this whole topic fascinating, although it does not really pertain directly to me. Hope you don’t mind if I mention it on DPS.

    Comment by Saralonde | March 8, 2007

  18. No problem at all Saralonde! :)

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 8, 2007

  19. I’m surprised that PPA is still involved. It may just be a mis-communication. Tim Grey was judging a contest a while back with these kinds of terms (through his book publisher), and I told him that I would not submit an entry because of it. He pulled out until the terms were changed.

    Comment by Paul | March 9, 2007

  20. Yeah Paul, … nothing really surprises me anymore!

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 10, 2007

  21. I agree with the disheartening feeling that everyone wants something for nothing. Writer and artists seem to be especially vulnerable to being taken advantage of. I guess it’s a ego thing.

    Anyway, you might want to check out the website No!Spec which has a lot of information about how to NOT work for spec.

    Great photos. I really like your use of color and textures.

    Comment by Karen | March 14, 2007

  22. Good words. I’ve been shooting for 10 years and have never had any real input from professionals. They’ve had no interest in building up photography in people, just in building their own. Not all photographers of course, just the ones I’ve known. I appreciate any time I come across photographers that believe in “the greater good.” Wonderful site!

    Comment by Jason McKinney | March 18, 2007

  23. Karen, Jason, … many thanks for your thoughts on this.

    Karen, I most certainly will check out that site here later tonight or sometime tomorrow. Interesting!

    Jason, … I think that “for the greater good” has now flown out the window, and one will never get a majority together to improve anything anymore.
    It’s just not like it use to be!

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 20, 2007

  24. We searched and looked for professional portraits for our daughter’s graduation portraits and came across the most beautiful senior portraits from a studio in San Antonio. The quality was wonderful and the prices were not outrageous.

    Comment by Patty | May 24, 2007

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