After seeing the responses to Robert's dilemma of his nude model wanting back her pictures I was not surprised. However had this been a professional forum (people that did photography for a living) the responses would have been 99-1 in favor of telling the people politely that they have no right to even ask.
I had been a member of different portrait associations over the years including Professional Photographers of America, Professional Photographers of Canada as well as a bunch of others. These associations and others pay lobbyists to monitor and fight for photographers rights as to copyright etc.
Quite a few people on this site are strickly scenic photographers and I'm wondering if they would feel the same way if they photographed say a farm building on a great vista (a la Moonrise over..) and were approached afterwards by the farmer and he demanded back the prints and negs. This is not too farfetched as if this farm building was identifyable as his, he has a case. But for the sake of argument would you be as willing to give away your work. Even if the work was not great, or not your best, would you cave in under this pressure. Would the fact that someone was angry that you took their farmhouse cause you to give them your work?
A number of people have cited goodwill or not worth the trouble, or being a nice guy etc as a determing factor. We as a community and profession have always been very self conscious about ourselves and so willing to give in to demands like this. I don't think any other profession is the same way. Do architects give away their blueprints, do jewellery designers give you the mold with the piece they designed?
I can remember when I used to shoot wedding and after they placed their order they asked can they have the negs. I said no, we retain the rights etc. and they asked a perfectly legitimate question. "what do you need then for?. Well the answer is I don't need them. But they are mine. In fact a lot of beginning photographers give away their negs afterwards, which makes the rest of us cringe.
I guess my point is, they are my property, I spent a lot of time learning to make them and they don't now, or ever, belong to the person that is in them. And would you feel the same way if someone demanded your work because they, or their property are in them.
Michael, I hear what you're saying. And if the images were not nudes, I would agree 100%. You're absolutely right that, provided the images were covered by model release, there is no legal obligation whatsoever to return or destroy negs. There's not even a legal obligation to not use or display the images. Again, though -- it's the reputation that I want to protect, paticularly if my main work was nudes. You (the photog) can always say 'no.' Even if you have said 'yes' once or twice, you can always say 'no.' But if you use and / or retain very personal images against a model's will (even if she initially agreed to let you) it can be that much harder to get models / clients. Word travels.
Now, if these were regular not-so-personal portraits and they were covered by model release, I would handle it differently. I would not return the negs, and I would use the images anyway, unless there was a very compelling reason otherwise. (For example, if using them would somehow be dangerous to the model. I had a situation like that once.)
There are many different ways to handle the situation, though. Let each handle it in the way he/she feels is right.
I agree with Cheryl on this one. For better or for worse, figure studies are a special case. While I think the photographer needs to protect him or herself by not giving away negatives, I can imagine destroying negatives in rare cases.
If you don't want trouble, then the solution is to hire professional models who understand the legal issues and pay accordingly. If one relies on friends and acquaintances or inexperienced models willing to trade time for portfolio prints, then I think one has to acknowledge a certain degree of risk and the possibility of regrets down the line.
Good question Michael..remember a GAPW workshop I went to with John Shaw, he stated that a realease was needed for shot - Autumn, barn, somewhere in New England..turns out that this one place has ended up on so many calendars tha the owner requires a fee and release - so scenic work is changing too! I feel like you should NEVER give up your negatives - period. Now if you burn, spindle, shred, them that is fine. Even if a figure study of a friend, does not matter..in my mind they aren't much of a friend and secondly why the remorse...
Just my opinion and worth as much.
It doesn't suprise me after I read an article about a particular tree on the scenic drive in Monterey, Ca. that has been copyrighted. So basically one can still shoot a picture of the tree, but must get permission (and I assume pay some sort of licensing fee) if one wants to publish the picture. I am not sure who owns the copyright - the city?
Originally Posted by photomc
Anyway, one of the earliest lessons I ever learned in photography is never give away or even sell the negative. A pretty inventive contradiction to that rule is observed by someone I'm taking a portrait class from presently - he also does weddings and it is his policy, once five years from the date of the ceremony have passed, to send the negatives to the couple. This accomplishes two things: 1-It frees up his storage and, 2-If the couple are still together they probably have a kid or two by then, and this seeming act of unselfish goodwill usually results in a booking for a family and individual portraits.
Robert, all that doesn't help with your quandary, and as there doesn't seem to be anything to add to all the terrific thoughts everyone else has shared, I just hope you are able to resolve the situation soon and in a way you can feel good about.
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As a commercial photographer I sell the rights to the images I've created for a client. Whether it's negs or transparencies is a request by the client and though I retain the right to use the images at my descretion they are bought and paid for by the client . I have no problem turning them over.
As a Fine Art photographer I NEVER give the negs to any one.
The distinction for me is simple, Commercial work I care about bringing the projects to the satisfaction of the client . They can do what ever they want with the images to create more sales for themselves and in turn hire me again so that I make more money on new projects. Advertising photographs have a very short life, needing to be replaced constantally.So for this I care about the money. As far as Fine art I care about the images. Even the portraiture for the entertainment world falls here. They have never even asked for the negs knowing that the negs are part of my creative process. nobody is going to create from that neg what I know about the image.
Roberts situation comes from an over controlling husband and a model who does not understand why she did what she didn in the first place. If she did she would have the strength to tell her husband to get over it.
As far as property releases are concerned, It's an imperfect system. Some situations the release is a matter of funtion. I shot a 727 for a air transport company one time on the tarmack at sunset. The release procedure what a pain in the ass. took 3 months But very necessary. I shot one of the U.S. olympic training centers last week. They gave me some rules to follow but no release required. So if in dought ask, If you can get away with it go for it! but be prepared to either pay or leave.
See, for me the friendship issue is a moot one now. She busted that up when she asked about this during my rehearsal dinner, and slunk around town trying to track me down the day after my wedding! I mean it is all pretty sleazy. So after that, after not even having TIME to consider what I should do, I count the friendship thing moot. I have a low tolerance for what amounted to a shakedown.
Now, some have said "it is beginner work", which is odd because nobody has seen the image...but anyway, yeah, I have done better, and I WILL do better.
Does that mean one should not value their work?
Why are some people so ready to devalue photography to the point of nothingness? I did two shoots which she was very pleased with. She got several prints out of it, including a pretty good 11x14. So why should that work be considered worth nothing?
Add to that the fact that I revisit images so I can see how I have improved, and we have a definate value to these items.
Let me put it this way....
If you can't go back and see what you have done wrong, how can you improve? It would be like taking pictures with no film in the camera! At a certain point you have no concept of how you are doing without a history to look back on.
Which is why I feel we should never "devalue" our work. It is ours and it has value. Be it good, bad, or ugly.
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I wish I had more time at the moment ... I'd start a thread about copyrights - what they mean and the protection they afford.
Generally, a copyright protects an artistic concept. Every class I've taken stresses that the work is protected from its conception - that is, from the idea itself. One could conceive of a work of art - creating the copyright - describe it to someone else, who then proceeds to *DO* it - and the original artist can recover damages from an infringement of the copyright. The problem would be in proving who had the original concept.
Property and Model Releases are not the same thing... they are contracts permitting the use of an "item" in a very broad sense - like one's body - by another for monetary gain. A simple parallel - I've used your lawnmower to cut my neighbors grass - and I made money from that use. The owner of the lawnmower has the legal right to expect a fair portion of the profit.
There are other laws applicable to photographers - the most notable being those dealing with libel (A famous case had to do with a photograph of a prominent politician taken at an airport. The photographer managed to frame the scene so that it LOOKED like the politician was at the airport with a *stunning* woman - who was not his wife. Actually there was no relation between politician and "stunning" - his wife WAS there and much closer to him than the other girl. So far no libel - but the sleazy rag that printed the photograph libelled by writing a false report stating that the politician WAS there with the girl - arggh!! this has to be an all-time record digression..), and Invasion of Privacy, and a whole bunch of others.
In the case of the "popular barn" the owner of the building could not prevent its being photographed - It is in a public place and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. The photographer would own the copyright - from its conception.- no matter what He would not be free to make money from the image with no consideration of the owner ... he did use the guy's "lawnmower".
Forgive brevity and typos -
Ed Sukach, FFP.