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Your Digital Photos Are Too Professional 739

ScentCone writes "AP's technology writer Brian Bergstein reports that your 8 megapixel camera, and lukewarm+ lens/Photoshop skills may keep you from getting over the counter image printing services. Professional photographers have successfully sued processors (like Wal-Mart) for reproducing their digital works without permission. Clerks are now being told to deny print orders for some work that looks too good. Talented amateurs are having to jump through hoops, present documents, and otherwise cajole teenage cashiers into taking their orders. No doubt one successful suit costs more than a thousand denied amateurs' orders, but sheesh. On the other hand, pro wedding photographers depend mightily on the income derived from reproducing their work, and it will take time for things to evolve to the point where clients are willing to pay a lot more up front in exchange for wider image rights after the fact. There's no well-supported digital equivalent to a negative (as reasonable proof of ownership), so retailers are defensively resorting to near paranoia to stay out of court."
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Your Digital Photos Are Too Professional

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  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) * on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:11PM (#12844124) Homepage
    On the other hand, pro wedding photographers depend mightily on the income derived from reproducing their work

    I always cringe when I read something like this. To anyone who is planning a wedding out there: Don't be fooled into this!

    It's a little off-topic, but I want to point out that this practice - once "just the way it was" when it came to wedding photography - is becoming less and less common. When we got married (a year ago next Sunday), the #1 thing we looked for was a photographer who wouldn't insist on maintaining the copyrights to the photos.

    This turned out not to be a problem; the few photographers we looked at who still wanted to maintain copyrights were all old-school (in a negative sense) in other ways, too. One guy even wanted to tell us that our relatives wouldn't be allowed to take pictures at our own fucking wedding! I can't imagine how someone would hire this guy; what kind of asshole is actually going to tell their guests they can't take pictures?

    Anyhow, the photographer we ended up with used film rather than digital. I actually looked for this; it added a little bit of work on our part on the back end of the wedding, but as a hobbyist myself I feel there's a real advantage to film specifically in terms of the quality of black and white photos. She did a great job, too.

    Once the pictures were developed, we got all the negatives. We scanned the pictures using a kick-ass negative scanner from Nikon that we bought refurbed (and then sold on eBay for a profit) and stuck the pictures out on Ofoto so our friends and relatives could order right from there. Compare this to my Best Man's wedding a year earlier where he went with a "traditional" photog who kept the copyrights from the photos and wanted to charge us $20 per shot... Well, let's just say I don't have any of the pro shots from that wedding.

    Now, back on topic: If your photos look too good, why hassle with the local Walmart just to get yourself what's going to be, at best, an 'okay' print? Unless you need the prints Right Now, go online! When I'm trying to get my own "good" photos printed, I've had great luck with Adorama's printing service. Plus, they're used to seeing shots that are far better than what I can produce. Ofoto (or whatever they're calling themselves these days) generally kicks out satisfactory results as well.

  • Proof of Ownership (Score:3, Informative)

    by dos4who ( 564592 ) <top_mcse@hotmaiCOWl.com minus herbivore> on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:17PM (#12844218)
    RE:"There's no well-supported digital equivalent to a negative"

    While it's not absolute proof of ownership, most digital formats these days include a specification called EXIF. (Google for "EXIF" or see http://www.exif.org/ [exif.org] for more info).
    The extraneous information in a digital photo containg EXIF data includes such information as Make & model of camera, etc. While such information is not absolute, it can, in a pinch, providde reasonable proof of ownership, as long as you can show you own the equipment specified, and that all the images point to your equipment.
  • Who cares? (Score:2, Informative)

    by AndyMan! ( 31066 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ydnaogacihc>> on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:27PM (#12844377)

    I'm an "semi-profesional" photographer in my part time, and I bounce back and forth between printing my own on my home printer and using a service like Shutterfly [shutterfly.com].

    I can't imagine ever using a retail service like Walmart. Good quality photo printers are just too innexpensive to justify using a retail service. This is hardly limited to "profesionals" either.

    Print your prints at home! Everyone! Yes, I mean you!

    Geeks have a great opportunity to take ownership of thier prints by printing themselves. Printers are cheap, paper and ink is cheap, and it's not much work at all. A decent photo printer can be had for under a hundred bucks.

    Back when developing prints meant expensive equipment and dangerous chemicals we had a ton of excuses to outsource developing, but those days are long gone.

    On another note, now speaking as a profesional, clients order prints from Shutterfly directly and never see high quality JPG's. If I ever release JPG's to clients they get branded with "COPYRIGHT" watermarks accross the center of the image.

    Rights to digital photos are incredibly simple to protect as long as you never release high quality digital prints.

    To all these Profesional photographers sueing Walmart, I really have to ask what in hell they're doing releasing high-rez digital files in the first place. What the hell do they expect? I guard my digital files as I would negatives.

    I've never seen a high quality scan that looked remotely like the original, so someone scanning a print and then printing it themselves is not a big concern of mine. Quite frankly if someone is willing to go to all that work for a shitty print, all the power to them. I only ask that they leave my signature off.

  • Re:Stipulations? (Score:5, Informative)

    by VidEdit ( 703021 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:30PM (#12844421)
    A stipulation where? Not in copyright law. Copyright does not allow you rights to reproduce "orphan" works such as wedding photographers--at least in the US. This problem is much bigger than Walmart. Ironically copyright law *presumes* that the person who commissioned the work owns the copyright, therefore if you or your relatives are in the photos it is reasonable to assume that the copyright belongs to you regardless of who took the pictures. Professional photographers try to turn copyright law on its head and make clients sign contracts saying that the work for hire is not work for hire and that the photographer owns all rights to your photographs. The first thing is to never agree to give up copyright to a photographer. Remember, if there is no written contract to the contrary, any photography you commission is copyright by *you*, regardless of whether the photographer tries to write "proof" or copyright by so and so. If this wasn't' the case, those pictures you ask strangers to take of you on vacation wouldn't belong to you either. At least one European country has a law saying that you have a right to reproduce pictures of yourself or of dead relatives. We need such a law to make sure that our heritage isn't locked up by silly copyrights.
  • by Egregius ( 842820 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:30PM (#12844429)
    Actually, my dad is an old-fashioned wedding photographer. Besides having his chain of photoshops almost being put out of buisness by digital photography (simply because almost noone prints their photo's anymore, instead viewing them on their computers), he does work with the system 'we keep your negatives, you may reorder them from us'. Why? That's his buisness model. You can get reproductions for cheap, and this is the only way he makes a profit on making good pictures. The higher the quality of his work, the more 'expensive' reproductions people get.

    If people are unsatisfied with the work, then they don't reorder. Simple.
  • by Giant Killer ( 33130 ) <daveNO@SPAMdavegandy.com> on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:41PM (#12844586) Homepage

    My brother-in-law had this very problem recently at Costco. After arguing with the person, he eventually had to fill out all sorts of silly paperwork to get them to let him print his own damn work. Just because he's got a good eye and a decent camera (Digital Rebel rocks with the kit lens, folks) they told him the images must have been done by a professional. A compliment of sorts, but quite an annoying one.

    Like others have said, PRINT ONLINE. There are some great services out there, and if you know exactly what you're looking for you can get a good deal. My favorite for amateur photos is currently Mpix.com [mpix.com]. They have a great turnaround time, but more importantly, they have metallic paper [mpix.com]. If any of you have noticed those crazy cool silver gelatin prints in museums, this gives that same sort of effect. Looks great for black and whites, but especially amazing with reds, blues, and yellows. They also have this cool continuous tone black and white paper [mpix.com] (regular digital prints won't give this). Their prices are good, too.

    If you're looking to do real work somewhere in the semi-pro realm, there's really only one choice: White House Custom Color [whcc.com]. This place is for real. You don't just open up an account and upload photos. This place has you fill out a client questionnaire and then they send you samples of their stuff. The coolest thing they have, which I've not seen anywhere else, is linen textured paper [whcc.com] (you'll have to read through one of the PDF's).

    If you need something local and same day, Walgreens is great. They almost always have some sort of a special each week, and I ended up paying $.19 for each 4x6 the last time I was there. The color might not be spot on, but it is same day service. Shipping and tax end up balancing out in the end. Not bad at all.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Blue-Footed Boobie ( 799209 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:46PM (#12844658)
    Good quality photo printers are just too innexpensive to justify using a retail service.

    Um, Walmart's photo printing service uses Dye-Sub printers - and a 4x6 print only costs $.19. I'm sorry, but the quality is excellent and the price is far cheapers than a "consumer" dye-sub's (Kodak, Hi-Ti, et al) cost-per-print.

  • by ZiakII ( 829432 ) * on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:46PM (#12844667)

    Your new here right?
  • by temojen ( 678985 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:47PM (#12844687) Journal
    Not hard to make an 8 megapixel scan from an 8x10 print though.
    But it is VERY hard to make a scan of a print that's anywhere near as good as what the film or CCD saw.
  • by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @03:00PM (#12844897)
    If I sign something claiming ownership of the image, why are they liable?

    Because that's what the copyright code says.

    It's strict liability. As long as you are copying copyrighted material, Congress doesn't care whether you knew it was copyrighted or not.

    Maybe this will spur Congress to reform the copyright code... NOT!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2005 @03:07PM (#12845005)
    I seriously can't believe that the slashherd is railing on wal-mart for this. I used to work at a wal-mart photo center and people would come in all the time, with prints, or digital photos that were obviously professional, and probably copyrighted.

    Most of the time they were on CDs that had the name of a business or professional, and sometimes a warning about copying them, and other times people would just be dumb enough to bring in original professional prints for scanning.

    Even if it wasn't obvious by the packaging, you could usually tell by the guilt they wore on their faces, how they acted, how they would generally avoid you, and use the self serve kiosk. At that point if you asked them if they were professional, %80 of the time they would admit that they were, and try to get you to copy them anyway. If they insisted that they weren't, and it was an ambiguous case, then you could have them sign a _very_ small form, and wal-mart would print them anyway.

    In this case, wal-mart is not acting as the copyright police, they are acting as a business who could probably be held liable for assisting people violate copyright law, and they have a right, and some people would say a responsibility to shareholders, to refuse your business.

    Furthermore, the copyrights that wal-mart is helping to protect are very often owned by individuals or small business, that is normal people like you and me. People who depend on that protection to make a living, and not in a culturally exploitative kind of way.

    Oh, and just so you know I am with you guys on one sentiment. Wal-Mart Sux! ;D
  • Re:Nnnnnnope! (Score:2, Informative)

    by yellowbkpk ( 890493 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @03:18PM (#12845172)
    Add a hundred bucks and you can do laser. Much better for longer-run Black and White copies. :)
  • by neile ( 139369 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @03:38PM (#12845442)

    Costco is more than happy to take your semi-pro or pro shots and print them. In fact, they specifically do things to cater to pro-sumers and independent professional photographers: each and every one of Costco's digital printers are profiled every six months. The profiles are made available on the web at Dry Creek Photo [drycreekphoto.com] so you can have a completely colour-managed workflow.

    The best part is the price :) Costco's largest size, 12"x18", is only $2.99 a copy, and they look stunning. I have six hanging in my office right now and people are shocked when I tell them where they were printed.


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    javascript:void(window.open('http://bugmenot.com/v iew.php?mode=bookmarklet&url='+escape(location),'B ugMeNot','location=no,status=yes,menubar=no,scroll bars=yes,resizable=yes,width=385,height=450'))

    Then, anytime you come to a site requiring registration, just click that bookmark, and, odds are, you'll get a ready made password to use.

  • "(obviously, he can take all the pictures he wants in a public place but to make money of those pictures, he needs my consent, if I understand correctly)"

    You don't understand this correctly. Their are two types of usages by which a photographer could make money off of a photo of you. One is commercial, like an advertisement, which would need your permission, and the other is editorial, which would not.

    For example, if I took a photo of you getting your head smashed in by a cop, and then sold that image to a magazine writing an article about police brutality, I could make money and would not need your permission because the photo would be an editorial addition to the article, and not a promotion for the magazine.

  • dispelling myths (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2005 @04:59PM (#12846422)

    Firstly, professional photographers don't release full-resolution versions of their photographs unless they want their clients to be able to make prints from them. Or they include watermarks. Generally, you do a gig, you offer proofs, and you sell the prints. If you transfer the rights, you offer full-resolution digital images. But you're transferring the rights.

    Secondly, there is such thing as a digital negative. Professional photographers (at least, any who are worth a damn, which is included in my definition of "professional") generally shoot in raw format, which virtually all "pro" cameras support these days, and what they wind up with is an uninterpolated image of the CCD, which they _never_ give out to anyone. It's the source. It's the digital negative. Sure, you could try reversing the process, but you most likely won't get the same original image, and it would be a difficult process to perform (i don't believe any software exists for it today). Honestly, there isn't a lot of difference with film, either, since one can create a negative from a print. Or a print from a print. And you don't see studios getting sued because they copied and retouched mom's 30-year-old wedding photo. It's like suing plextor for creating a dvd burner that some random joe uses to pirate movies.

    I'm not saying that shops aren't getting sued by prick photographers who feel that maybe they can make a buck this way, since talent isn't working out for them, but frankly, i'm appalled that these deep-pocketed companies aren't putting up more of a fight.

  • Re:Sillyness (Score:3, Informative)

    We're making more fake paper money than we have real money (like gold and such) to back it up with.

    Er, time to come out of the 19th century. :) "Money" is an incredibly complex concept that I'm not going to pretend to fully understand (there's a first for Slashdot), but the fact that it's not "backed" by a hard asset is a feature, not a bug. Tying it to a something like gold puts your economy at the whims of miners and people who stockpile gold.

    Currency is an extremely carefully controlled thing. Why do you think the Fed is independent of the government? It's so the government can't start printing money whenever they want to. Currency is, in fact, backed by the US Economy, the total of all assets, and the banking system, and the amount of currency is balanced to all that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 17, 2005 @05:45PM (#12846906)
    I would much rather have my pictures printed on photopaper (archival quality actually) than from an inkjet that will fade much quicker.
    It's still being printed on an ink jet, dude!
    The parent post is talking about silver halide photographic prints, made from the digital files using lasers. They are exactly the same as prints made from negatives. They are vastly more durable, not to mention more waterproof, than inkjet prints.
  • Re:Stipulations? (Score:3, Informative)

    by alan_dershowitz ( 586542 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @07:57PM (#12847833)
    You really need to learn what the fuck you are talking about. Unless the photographer cosigns a document stating the photos were made as a work for hire, it's NOT A WORK FOR HIRE.

    Link [copylaw.com]

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!