I am Giving my Photos Away (to the right causes)

by Nov 4, 2019

A couple of different things I’ve been working on for a while came together recently and explained to me they were really the same thing, and so I’ve been working on figuring out exactly what that means. I’m now far enough along I can talk about it here and announce what I’m now doing:

Project 1: for years I’ve had it on my web site that charitable organizations can license my photos for free for their use on request. I get a few requests a year, but I’ve always felt like there’s too much friction: you basically have to know the offer exists to know to look for it. Because of this, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it easier for these organizations to ask for a license, and how to help them understand the offer exists.

Project 2: since my mom died, I’ve been trying to get my own estate and estate planning in order, and one of my goals is to make life as easy as possible for whoever gets stuck having to deal with the aftermath of me not being around any more.

There is actually a third not-quite-a-project as well, which is since I have no interest or plan in trying to turn pro or make money off my images, I’ve been pondering how I can make my images more useful to people other than, well, me. it’d also be nice to grow my audience, get images seen by more people, etc etc. Especially given I have no real interest in doing the kind of marketing things one might do if one had a plan to “become well known” or “be identified as a thought leader” or, well, that stuff. I’d rather be taking pictures than grinding my SEO or pushing Facebook campaigns or whatever.

Those two things came together in what I think is an interesting way.

As far as the estate planning, I realized I really didn’t want to make someone try to sort out my photos and donate them to various places after the fact. The reality of asking someone to do that would be — probably it’d never get done. I know how long it took me to make sure the most important family photos got redistributed after mom dad died.

And besides, if my plan is to give them away after I die, and if I’m not actively trying to market/sell them now, why am I waiting? And at that point, those two projects tied the knot. Here’s the offer:

If you are a 501(c)(3) organization (or equivalent), you can apply to get a free set of my images for use by your organization. I am preparing a distribution of images that I will share along with a license that allows you to use them without charge. That license will be a non-exclusive, no-charge license to use as part of your organizations operations. Attribution is optional but appreciated. The license is perpetual and revocable only under one condition: you may not redistribute the images for use outside your organization (in non-lawyer speak: you can’t give a copy of the images to anyone else; they have to request them from me).

The license may get tweaked a bit as I formalize it, but my goal is to write it in language that doesn’t require a lawyer to interpret, and doesn’t cause a lawyer to giggle and point when they do review it. The intent that I hand over a bunch of photos, the organization decides which might be useful and sticks them in their Digital Asset system, and then they use them. If they can give attribution, awesome, but I realize there are many uses where that’s not practical and I’m cool with that.

The image distribution will be as full-sized, high quality JPEG images with full metadata, in an organization TBD, as a zip file that can be downloaded. I expect to update that distribution annually and issue an update distribution of new and revised images to existing users. I expect those annual updates to continue as long as I do — which means when they stop, whoever’s dealing with my estate doesn’t have to worry about my images, while organizations can take advantage of them now.

I think this wins for everyone: I can solve one estate hassle while I’m around to sort it out, and I can offer something of value to organizations I value now and into the future. And those organizations get free imagery and don’t have to go chasing licenses every time they want to use something — so hopefully they’ll use my images more than someone else’s, and think fondly of me. And by shipping off the images, I don’t need to maintain a web site, I don’t have to issue licenses, and the organizations can integrate them into their systems directly and have one less thing they have to try to remember how it works…

I know, of course, I’m now also pissing off the “you should never give away your images” crowd as well as the “your doing that ruins my business model” crowd. My answer to both crowds is “tell me the last time you worried about how you do things might impact me again?” — your business model is not my problem.

I plan on having this going by the end of the year. I already have one group set up to use it (and they have a preliminary batch of images I used as a test for the organization), and I now have two others I’ve started talking to, which is why I’m now trying to nail down details.

Want to be considered for a license and set of images? Send me an email (chuqui@mac.com) and we can talk. I don’t guarantee I’ll approve the request (but you lose nothing for the asking. it’s all free). And honestly, unless you’re repping for PETA, it’s hard to think of why I might say no…