NFTs and Photography

NFTs and Photography


NFTs and Photography

NFTs and Photography

NFTs and Photography

NFTs have been around a while – at least 5 or 6 years – but it wasn’t until 2021 did they really capture the attention of creators from every corner of the globe. NFTs didn’t even enter our collective consciousness until the artist known as Beeple sold a piece of digital artwork for a record 69 million dollars. A number like that can certainly get people’s attention, so suddenly, everyone was talking about NFTs. So can NFTs benefit photographers? Wait, what is an NFT anyway?

What Is an NFT?

An NFT is a unique cryptographic token on a blockchain that can represent a real piece of artwork, music file, or collectible. These items are minted or “tokenized,” which certifies ownership on the blockchain and allows these assets to be bought, sold, and traded. NFTs are also “non-fungible,” which means they are wholly immutable and not interchangeable with each other, unlike currency or commodities.

NFTs And Photography

When most people think of NFTs, what immediately comes to mind are highly pixelated digital art, cartoons, and GIFs. Some of this art is genuinely compelling work and deserves our respect. Others, however, are no more than non-fungible, tokenized gimmicks (an audio file of a fart was minted and sold on an NFT marketplace just recently). But photography, still in the NFT infancy stage for the most part, is on the rise. Several marketplaces have reported a marked increase in both photography NFTs minted and sold over the past few months. Some NFT platforms are even connecting buyers and sellers of photography work exclusively.

If this trend continues, photographers will be able to significantly supplement their incomes with a minimal amount of invested time or effort. In fact, experts expect demand for some of the trendy digital art to wane as collectors seek out higher quality art, including photographic images.

Copyright Issues

When you sell an NFT to a buyer or collector, are you giving up all your I.P. rights? The answer is an emphatic no. You still retain the image copyright just as if you had sold a physical print to a client. The buyer could display the image digitally or re-sell the NFT to someone else. Each transaction is chiseled into the blockchain with complete transparency, so there is never any question about legitimate ownership.

The Environmental Impact?

When I first entered the NFT space a few months ago, its environmental impact was my biggest concern. I read that the BitCoin blockchain, to use one well-known example, consumed as much energy in a year as some entire countries! Ethereum, the blockchain used for most NFT tokenization, is also an energy hog. But green NFT blockchains now exist, and environmentally conscious photographers are flocking in that direction. Ethereum 2.0, perhaps only months away from being introduced, uses 99.5 percent less energy than Ethereum Classic. This means minting a photograph will consume about the same amount of energy as posting an image to Instagram. Well done!

The future of green NFTs is bright. Concerns for the environment and the carbon footprint associated with blockchains and minting NFTs are serious ones but are now mainly in the rearview.

Should You Give NFTs A Try?

If you’re a photographer, you need to do what’s best for yourself and your business. That might include choosing to sell NFTs or not. That’s entirely up to you. But don’t let the fact that NFTs are new and unfamiliar be the reason you decide to sit on the sidelines. During the course of my career, I have watched many photographers dismiss innovative technological trends for no other reason than they were new and required a different approach to the business. The transition from film to digital and embracing social media are two glaring examples. By the time the error was realized, the opportunity had passed and they spent years playing catch up.

Yes, NFTs might seem strange at first glance and perhaps even confusing. But without disclosing any specific numbers, I have made more income with NFTs in only 2 months than I did in print sales over the past 5 years. And I believe this could be only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Bernabe Answers Twitter AMA (Ask me Anything)

Bernabe Answers Twitter AMA (Ask me Anything)


Bernabe Answers Twitter AMA (Ask me Anything)

Bernabe Twitter AMA

Go Ahead. Ask Me Anything

If you feel 2020 has been like a strangely dystopian episode from The Twilight Zone, you’re not alone. To borrow and paraphrase a colorfully descriptive lyric from the pen of musician Gordon Summer, it’s been one humiliating kick in the crotch after another for humanity. It began in January – as most years do – with Kobe’s tragic death and limped into February with the persistently hellish brushfires in Australia, where 40 percent of the koala population perished. It’s estimated that the total area of torched land there, when the fires were finally contained, was equal to the size of Portugal. March smirked, said hold my beer, and unleashed a global pandemic on the world that forced almost every human being into a self-isolating lockdown with nightly rolling death counts and frightening toilet paper shortages. April conceived a vision of what a 1930s-style Great Depression might feel like and gifted us a flying demon called the murder hornet. And if all that doesn’t Sting enough, we’re not even halfway through May.

So, at the urging of some Twitter followers, I sheepishly offered an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with the hashtag #BernabeAMA on April 28 and 29, as a modest distraction from all the above. I chose some of my favorites and gave my answers here. I’ll try to address as many of the others as I can, but most were fairly redundant so an answer to one is an answer to many. I also tried to avoid most of the technical gear questions because….well, I think gear is boring, at least for what I wanted to accomplish here. I’ll get back to you personally about your camera gear and lenses. Hey, I do have the time.

So here we go. Thanks to everyone who participated!

What was your biggest photographic challenge? @IamnotMarilyn

My good friend Rick Sammon just completed a book titled Photo Quest: Discovering Your Photographic and Artistic Voice and I was honored to be asked to write the book’s foreword, which I happily did.  With regard to “finding your voice” I attempted to make two key points. First, it’s essential that you know yourself. Know your sources of happiness, your deepest fears, who you really are and what you’re not. Be honest since this is where the voice comes from. Second, as an artist, you need create for yourself. Be selfish. Don’t create to pacify the critics or impress your peers. Don’t create for the sake of “likes” on social media and don’t create for commercial success either, otherwise it’s not your voice. It’s the voice of someone else. By being selfish, paradoxically, you ultimately achieve perfect selflessness since there’s no greater gift you can give your audience than a piece of your authentic self.

Now I hear many of you shouting into your computer screen or phone.

“That’s sounds great, Bernabe, but how can you be a professional photographer or artist and make a solid living if you’re not listening to the market and what editors, collectors, and clients want from you and your work? How can you survive financially?”

The long answer to that question would make an excellent blog post or essay for another day. The short answer directly addresses your question as to my biggest challenge.

I have always admired your photos with symmetry of animals. And this is very different from a landscape. So, what happens first: luck or patience in getting the shot right? @40GRAUSS

Luck plays a much larger role in wildlife photography than any of us would care to admit but it still runs both ways. I’ve been in situations where I’ve done everything right and prepared for every possible contingency and it didn’t work out because of something completely out of my control. Conversely, there were times when I couldn’t be more inept if I’d forgotten to remove the lens cap yet still managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat. You take the good with the bad but good luck does tend to correlate positively with the amount of time invested in the field. Patience certainly helps but preparation and research are even better.

Can nature and landscape photographs be “too pretty”? @gregerts

I don’t believe you can have too much beauty in your life, particularly during these dreary times. But instead of relying solely on superficial beauty to carry your image, why not make it meaningful too? Better yet, make the images all about what’s meaningful to you and the emotional responses to your experiences. The real subjects of your photographs should be raw emotion: awe, peacefulness, power, fragility, joy, melancholy rather than the shallow, self-indulgent sentimental beauty you might find in a Thomas Kincade painting or John Denver song. Your personal vision and interpretation of nature should be the shortest distance between your heart and your audience so they can feel what you feel, not what your camera coldly captures.

Did you do formal photography study such as at school/college? Did you do an internship or work with a more skilled photographer in the beginning of your career? @MelindaAlfred

No, I’m completely self-taught which only means I have so many bad habits to overcome that I now rationalize my flaws as giving my work “character.”

I have mixed feelings about formal training for artists. On the one hand, the more you learn about anything, the better as a general matter. On the other hand, an untrained, motivated, insanely curious person with a strong personal vision might have a more intuitive feel for creative expression, but that’s just my uneducated, unlettered opinion.

How did you know your style? @fanni40877378

I’m allergic to the whole concept of style to be honest, to which anyone who has seen how I dress can attest.

When someone sends an email to say they’ve seen one of my published magazine photos while in the dentist’s waiting room, it’s a nice gesture that never goes unappreciated. But when they go on to say they knew the photo was mine because they recognize my style, I die a little on the inside. By having a style, it means I’m using the same conceptual formula time after time for each experience even if the location, subject matter, and circumstances are different. It’s muscle memory. It’s easy. It’s lazy. It’s not being creative.

I try to approach each situation with a clear and open mind, completely in the present moment, with zero influence from the previous day, week or month. Have a look at David Bowie’s body of work through the years. I respect the hell out of Bowie. He was always re-making himself and his music as something different from what he did before while still being different from everyone else. That’s why even now, Bowie’s music still sounds so fresh to me.

What is the progression of questions/attributes that you use when evaluating a scene for its photographic potential? @firthermor

My process always starts with an emotional/intuitive/right-brained series of questions regarding how the scene or subject makes me feel. I’m searching for an emotional core around which I’ll build the image. The process then transitions into conceptual/technical/left-brain thinking about how I want to execute it. This is almost always the methodology I use.

You can only use one lens for the rest of your photography days. What will you choose, and why? The format is 35mm equivalent, and it must be a real existing lens. @awilliamsny

If you’re going to put me in that predicament, I’d hold my nose and go buy a Tamron 18-400mm “ALL-IN_ONE” lens. Honestly, I didn’t even know there was such a thing until 5 minutes before writing this piece. But in the real world, I would keep my Canon EF24-105mm F4L IS II USM (Soon to be the RF Version) since 24mm is wide enough for wide-angle, near-far landscapes and 105mm would allow me to do some wildlife in a pinch, with a bit of cropping. It is, of course, the perfect “walking around” lens and ideal for street photography and general travel.

Beyond photography, music and writing are there other creative art forms that interest you? @mauramullarkey

Are you saying there’s more to life than that? I mean, beyond food and the love of friends and family, is there anything else I need? I’m a fan of any type of creative expression – movies, music, art, even poetry – that has the ability to inspire or move me to tears.

After another long hard day at the office, travelling, or shooting in the field, what’s your go to drink? @life_with_louis

With the exception of an occasional signature exotic drinking experience tied explicitly to a particular place (aguardiente in Colombia, pulque in Mexico City, absinthe in Paris, etc.), I prefer to keep my libations pretty simple: water, a double espresso, or red wine, depending how good or bad a day it was.

What is your favorite Seinfeld episode and why? @themahoneyphoto

The Boyfriend. I grew up in the shadow of New York City and I’ve been a Mets fan since I was 4 years old. Keith Hernandez, Art Vandalay, did you sneak a peak?, the magic loogie. No need to go on. But I consider the very act of asking a Seinfeld question to be openly flirting… so I see you, Jason.

What is that one elusive goal you have yet to accomplish in your career? @KristaBower411

I’ve always wanted to get arrested and spend a night in jail, but that goal has been a spectacular failure. You’d think it wouldn’t be so difficult or “elusive” but it has, mainly because of the many caveats and pre-conditions I’ve demanded. For example, it must be a real arrest, not some phony stunt. It must be a victimless crime yet not petty and pointless like shoplifting or trespassing. I’d prefer to be arrested and incarcerated in the name of some righteous cause such as a protest or sit-in while battling a social or environmental injustice. I could actually be proud of that and wave my arrest record around in public like a badge of honor. Also, one night in jail. Just one, thank you very much.

Why? Curiosity mostly. That and my environmental activist friends tell me I can’t be taken seriously until I’ve been arrested at least once. But yeah, it’s mostly curiosity.

Hey, you asked!

Is Vero Better Than Instagram For Photographers?

Is Vero Better Than Instagram For Photographers?


Is Vero Better Than Instagram For Photographers?


Vero, the hottest image-sharing social media app at the present moment, is taking aim at Instagram, the undisputed king of mobile image sharing platforms. Vero is attempting to lure photographers and artists who have grown weary of the ubiquitous advertisements, algorithmic timeline, and inability to share links, as well as the image ratio limitations on the Facebook/Meta-owned mobile app.

New users to Vero are given a “free for life” offer, eventually leading to a fee based subscription model for later users instead of advertisements for revenue. Vero also uses a chronological timeline instead of an algorithm to distribute content to followers. Photographers and artists will certainly applaud that feature. And Vero has no trouble displaying vertical images without cutting off the top and bottom, whether the ratio is 2:3 or 4:5. You would think this would be an easy fix for Instagram.

Follow Me On Vero

At the moment (2018), due to the platform’s rapid growth, the system is slow and experiences intermittent downtime. This can be written off as growing pains as the membership has ballooned from 150,000 to 3 million in only a couple of weeks. 

But the Vero product appears to be a good one in the very limited time I’ve been using it. Vero could quite possibly flame out over the next month or two, like many other recent social media upstarts. But then again, it could take a considerable bite out of Instagram’s dominance. We will wait and watch.

Facebook Overhaul Will Hurt Photographers’ Pages

Facebook Overhaul Will Hurt Photographers’ Pages


Facebook Overhaul Will Hurt Photographers’ Pages

An upcoming change to how Facebook manages its news feed will have a big impact on photographers who use business pages to share their content with followers and clients.

In a January 11, 2018 post to his personal account, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” He went on to say, “you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

This change will hit the Facebook business pages particularly hard. For photographers who use pages to share photos and videos with their followers, they will see a lot less engagement in the coming months. The changes to the algorithm Facebook uses to disseminate content to its users will allow fewer photos and videos from photographers’ commercial pages from being seen on followers’ feeds.

An inside source at Facebook told me over the weekend that unless your business is spending thousands of dollars in advertising per month, your commercial page will “probably die a slow death.”

I’ve noticed less follower engagement on my Facebook page over the past 12 months, even though my number of followers continued to rise. Lately it seems as if it’s the same 7 to 9 people making comments on every image posted. I experimented with posting directly to my Facebook page, as well as auto-posting from my Instagram account. Same results. I suspect this will be a net positive for consumers of content – particularly of family and friends – and a negative for media, small businesses and creators such as musicians, artists, and photographers.

This change should continue to differentiate the primary roles of the two most dominant social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, as the former steps away from its role as an accidental publisher and disseminator of news while the latter fully cements that claim. It appears Facebook will be the place to connect with family and friends while Twitter will be where you get news, information, and/or publish news, media, and commercial content.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.