We photographers hold quite a lot of power when you stop to think about it. That’s what creative control is all about. We have the final say in how an image will look, how it is composed, whether or not to show it to anyone, and so on. And this makes me think about one key thing: As photographers, we dictate how people will consume our content.
Think about the print purchasing process. When we decide that we’re going to sell physical prints, we each have our own system. Maybe we will only sell one print of a given image, or perhaps we will make a limited run on that image. We choose the size and crop for that image, too. So when someone wants to enjoy our work outside of whatever digital advertising we may have done to get it out there, they are now stuck with one option: To purchase the print in the shape and size that we created for them, and then make it fit somewhere within their homes.
In this day and age, this kind of methodology might just be us photographers shooting ourselves in the foot as far as our target audiences go. Maybe it’s time to rethink some things—most importantly, rethink how the modern consumer consumes. Then perhaps we need to target our offerings to fit these new methods of consumption.
For instance, instead of simply selling the original print, can we sell digital copies of our work? Can we allow a consumer to purchase a single-use digital right of some kind that allows them to use the image on a digital display so that they can showcase it in their homes? Or perhaps they could use this single-use digital right to make a print for themselves—but make it in a size that fits the space they have to place it.
Of course, there would have to be rules in place. Most photographers would not be comfortable with the average consumer doing their own post-processing, for example, because then the work may no longer resemble that which the photographer intended to show the world. But somewhere in this, it seems like there should be some flexibility to allow consumers to consume our content in a way that is most comfortable to them.
I can see a similar thing here with books. Perhaps it is time for more of us who produce photography books to start offering them as eBooks alongside traditional print books. Surely some of us will always prefer the paper print book to the eBook because we love the heft of a real book, we love how they look, how they smell, how they line up on our bookshelves or sit on our coffee tables.
But eBooks are just convenient. We can consume them on our phones when we’re standing in line somewhere. In this way, we can allow consumers to take our art everywhere so that they can enjoy it where they want when they want. Some consumers may prefer digital art books to paper ones. In fact, those who prefer digital artbooks may even find that they can turn those books into something of a display. Why not let your smart TV display a favorite page from a favorite artist’s book so that you can enjoy the art writ large on the screen as you mosey about the house doing chores or whatever else you’d like to do on a given day? Of course, nothing that I’ve suggested here is meant to be taken as a be-all, end-all solution. Rather, I think it’s important to point out the fact that maybe it’s time we rethink how consumers consume. In so doing, we may find new outlets—and some consumers may find our art more accessible.
Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.