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The vanishing image

During this period of the year, like many of us that write about photography, I receive many well wishes from a wide variety of photographers, photo galleries, photo agencies and pretty much anyone involved in the photography business. They all come via email mostly from people I have never communicated with in my life. Under the disguise of wishing me a warm holiday season and a healthy new year, they also act as a not subtitle piece of marketing screaming “look at my work”. I am assuming that their hope is that I will write about them here, something I never do.

I don’t mind. I enjoy discovering new ( for me) photographers or new photo businesses, although some should maybe consider another career. What puzzles me is that all of these emails come with a good web resolution of one or many of their images. In an age where free image sharing is rampant and out of control, this frenetic release of photographs to probably thousands of unknown recipients could lead to massive image stealing. It’s like sending your wallet to thousands of unfamiliar people with the hope they will not take your money. Scary.burning out ...

Obviously, because most people in the photography world abide to an unwritten code of honor ( that seems to be vanishing) of not using images without permission, the damage is not extensive. The recipients either delete or archives them.

The perfect tool for a photographer to promote his work would be something that would automatically delete the image after a set amount of time so that it can be viewed but not used. Interestingly, that tool exist and is very popular, but not among pro photographers but rather teens. It’s called Snapchat.

If you think this ridiculous, think again. Already some of the most digital forward thinking brands already have Snapchat account to communicate solely via pictures. And, because every image sent via Snapchat has to be held to be viewed, and only for a few seconds, their engagement numbers are impressive. Imagine if a smart pro photographer would do the same. Send out his best images without ever having the fear of seeing them copy , pasted and republished. In fact, they could create a dedicated following who would get to see their best production. or exclusives. even still embargoed images. A perfect photography marketing tool.

After refusing a $3 billion offer, you can be sure that Snapchat has strong plans to expand its offering. Those will certainly include monetization of photography. If you missed the boat on being an Instagram star, it is certainly not too late to become a Snapchat pro. Get your existing and potential clients on it. Don’t make it a resolution, just do it.

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.


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