EP 37: Understanding and practicing sound image licensing techniques can be very frustrating to many photographers. With rising WFH contracts and limited education on controlling image rights, we often find ourselves asking "is it even worth trying?". In today's episode, we talk with freelance photographer, educator, and author, Todd Bigelow about the essentials of building a strong licensing workflow; from copyrights to archiving to rights-managed terms.
The Business of Photography Workshop
Freelancer's Guide to Success (Book)
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Michael Der 0:02
You're listening to Artrepreneurs, a podcast that inspires photographers and visual artists to live their best creative lives. My name is Michael Der and I am a full time photographer with nearly 10 years of experience in the freelancing world. And I'm sitting down with an amazing community of visual artists to talk about process, business, and the lessons that have helped them grow. So let's get to it. Artrepreneurs starts right now.
All right, friends, welcome to Artrepreneurs Episode 37. thrilled to have you listening to the content and supporting this show. My featured guest today is an accomplished freelance photographer, selfless educator, and now he can put newly published author next to his credentials. His brand new book, The freelance photographers guide to success is an absolute gift to photographers pursuing freelance. And today he's going to help us demystify the practice of image licensing, so that you too can generate revenue from your photography, outside of just your assignment rate, you can follow his work at Todd Bigelow photography.com. And for those of you in the Southern California area, if you are looking for a little bit more education, a little bit more tutorial on your business, be on the lookout for updates on his upcoming workshops at the big photo blog.com. And if you are looking for some free content, I'm a huge fan of his YouTube channel filled with short discussions on the business of freelance photography, and photojournalism just tons of great resources out here, folks. So without further ado, it is my pleasure to welcome the distinguished Todd Bigelow to the show. Todd, thank you for being here. My man, I appreciate you making the time.
Todd Bigelow 1:25
Hey, my man, I really appreciate the invitation. And I was looking forward to this. Yeah, let's let's do it.
Michael Der 1:31
Well it's been a long time coming. I've wanted to bring you onto this show for a long time, just because every time I talk to you, every time I listen to your workshop, or whatever it is, I learned something from you. And before we get into kind of the nitty gritty of licensing before we start melting brains on rights, manage terms and archiving, I just want to connect my listeners to the work that you do. And what inspires you about the stories that you tell? Can you give us a little insight into Todd Bigelow, the photographer?
Todd Bigelow 1:56
Yeah, And I think that's important. I appreciate that chance, because sometimes we delve right into the nuts and bolts of licensing and business topics. But I think first and foremost, what I really like a lot of my friends and colleagues and people I speak to to know about is, you know, I didn't just kind of come up with a bunch of ideas on on how to be a freelancer it, it came from being a photographer, you know, I started out at a small newspaper, straight out of college. And, you know, like most photographers, and a small newspaper, you do everything, including, you know, running out to shoot, you know, a page one feature art because they, some editor forgot that there was nothing good enough to go on the front page, and you got to run out with like, 20 minutes to find a picture and do all that type of work. I photograph pets of the week, I photographed you know, homes that were for sale, I mean, you did everything for the classified section. And then you know, you mix it in with high school sports and car crashes and brush fires and whatever man you, you know, you learn to grab that camera and and make images is is quickly and as good as you can. You know, I'll give you the brief version. From there, I went back to the Hartford current for a little bit, I caught on pretty well there. as a freelancer for a number of months, I was able to convince the fine people at the Los Angeles Times at their Valley edition of Ventura edition, which they had at the time to give me a shot as a freelancer so relocated back to Los Angeles, within a year, again, caught on with the LA Times pretty well, where I was offered a contract position for a number of years, and did a lot of really great work with a great staff there and contributed to Pulitzer Prizes for the coverage of the LA riots, and also the Northridge earthquake, where the valley edition was was ground zero, we were we were on site very quickly. And then it was just time to again, push myself to another level Mike and and i think that's important for any creative individual. I don't know, if it's just something in my DNA, I'm never really satisfied with myself, I'm never really satisfied with my own work. And I always want to see if I can, you know, find a new challenge. I don't fear failure, I really don't want to like it. But I'm willing to take that risk. And so from the la times I while I was under contract, I was going to New York and visiting editors cold calling editors at Time magazine and Newsweek and, you know, down into DC with Smithsonian, and in a couple of geographic publications and so forth, and just, you know, trying to get over that tough wall into the magazine world where there's less assignment work and a lot of incredibly talented professionals. And I was able to, you know, I was able to do it, it took time and perseverance and I pushed hard and, and caught on and did a lot of work with a lot of really and continue to do a lot of work with good publications. And you know, that's where I've been for most of my career almost 30 years of freelancing. So you know, I'm blessed.
Michael Der 4:58
Yeah, I mean, I think there would be something wrong. with you if you were okay with the failure, you know, but I think in general, it's such a great diversity that you have of assignments, clients, you've shown a lot of mobility, I think that actually has to translate to the business aspect, which we're going to talk a lot about today. Do you agree with that? Is that is that off base?
Todd Bigelow 5:18
No, that is that is that is spot on my one key element to the way my freelancing has evolved over the years is I've had to diversify. I've always pushed I've always been comfortable and pushing into new arenas, and taking some risk, I'm blessed to have an incredibly supportive wife, that is certainly not risk averse. So you know, we've taken some chances, we've certainly hit our speed bumps along the way with with my freelancing like anybody but you, you're not going to roll into New York and make a cold call appointment rollout and get three assignments from from a major international publication the next week, you know, you have to be willing to to have a clear understanding of how it really works. But yeah, I mean, I'm not comfortable with failure, I understand it's part of the process. But as far as like that willingness to be diverse, and push into maybe doing taking that same skill set that I have, and had, you know, working with particular news magazines, and applying it to working with particular nonprofits, that was something that I maybe wouldn't have really thought of 20 years ago, when I was getting a lot of work from magazines that had much bigger budgets than they do now. But since those budgets shrank, you know, how can I use that same skill set and do what I love, and I have to go out and find new clients, you know, that perhaps aren't in the, you know, publication arena, but are still looking for photographers to help them tell their story or accomplish our mission.
Michael Der 6:50
Right. And I'm always curious with every Freelancer that I talked to, whether it's on the show or not, is how they experienced that first move from let's say, employment to freelancer, you chose to pursue a life in freelancing maybe at a time when it wasn't as invoke, as I'd say, as is today, how easy or challenging was that decision? And then what was like the internal dialogue that you were having at that time?
Todd Bigelow 7:14
That's it, the timing of that question is just so funny, because earlier today, I was writing up kind of a bio for a speaker's agency. And I was just writing about those early years, to give them an understanding of like, you know, what perseverance has has done for me that the willingness to not just accept that I might stumble and fail and then just quit. So it's, it was, you know, I won't lie to you, it was scary. And, and to give you a little insight, you know, that first job out of college was a staff position. But those staff positions were much more readily available, you know, 2530 years ago, those, they just aren't anymore. And I talk a lot about that and teach that aspect. But for me, I was able to go straight into a small newspaper. But man, after a couple years, I just had a hunger to push. Yeah, I just felt like I had reached my, the end of what I could really accomplish. And it was a great opportunity for me, but it was time to move forward. And moving forward meant for me at that time jumping into the freelance world I had was already married. Still still with my wife. She was there from day one. And you know, to give up that, that steady paycheck, and to move 3000 miles across the country, with no guarantee that the Hartford current would hire me as a freelancer. Yeah, but they weren't gonna hire me in LA. So we moved into basically an extended living hotel. And my wife was cooking on a freakin hot plate, man. You know, and, you know, we took the chance and and when that beeper beat, I called in as quickly as I could, and man, if they needed me right then and there. If it was for tomorrow, it was always Yes. You know, it didn't have to tell me anything more is is yes. You know, I won't lie to you and say, like, you know, I was such a good photographer, and I just knew I'd get great work. I mean, that's, that's just not reality. You know, I had doubt and I know that other people out out in the freelance world is one in which doubt is going to play a role. Often. You just have to have enough confidence and enough grit and enough desire to outwork everybody and out hustle, everybody, you and I have talked about this? Yeah. Like we've talked about this in my workshop. I look across the room, and I tell some of the people in my workshop, see me, you're competing with me. And you could very well be a better photographer, but you better out hustle me, because I'm going to work my ass off. I am going to work super hard today and tomorrow. And if you get the job, I'll be the first one to say Nice work. But if you don't, you're going to be competing, you know against me because I'm going to get up early and I'm going to continue to try to develop clients and so forth. So I think that that willingness to work really hard, helps the doubt aspect, you know, because yeah, that's it's always a question mark with freelancing. That's just reality.
Michael Der 10:12
I often, you know, I talked to some people and I compare this and I think you hit on the word grit, you know, and there's a book out there called grit about how that is like the one attribute that really associates with highly successful people. It's just that grit, that notion of stick with something. And I kind of attribute it to like being a working actor, you know, like Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, they don't apply, they don't have to audition for anything, right. But your average working actor, like a full working actor might have to go to auditions three or four times a week, they may have to deal with rejection all the time, they have to do Shakespeare in the Park, they have to do you know, extra work that pays them $100 for 15 hours in a day, no speaking lines, there's just this hustle, there's this grit to to that freelance life that I think you're talking about. And it's funny because I immediately resonated with some of your story there because when I moved out to LA, it was the same thing cooking on a hot plate, I was washing dishes in my bathtub, because I didn't have a kitchen we got out of debt, right? You do what you got to do exactly what in the business came easy to you, and what maybe took a little bit more work.
Todd Bigelow 11:13
I don't know if anything ever really came easy. If my wife was in this room, she would stick her head over my shoulder and said nothing came easy. Like we in my wife didn't go to college, she went straight into the workforce, you know, found herself into a job at Pacific Bell is a directory assistance operator, which maybe many listeners have no idea what that was. But when you wanted a number, you would pick up the landline and you'd hit 411. And somebody would pick up and say city and in information or city a number please. And then you'd ask for, you know, Michael Der in Los Angeles, and they try to find your number. And I only bring that up because she was a grinder. And she grinded her way into a job and then tried to find her way into other aspects of that company. And I was doing the same but without one company. So I don't know if anything came easy, Mike, I, you know, I had to contact the current. And then when I was at the current I contacted the Los Angeles Times, I wasn't you know, somebody that was on some big national, you know, radar scale, and you have to remember now, you know, back then there was no social media. So I couldn't be blasting my workout on the social media and hoping to grab people's attention. I had to basically pick up a phone and call editors and say, Hey, listen, I've been back here. I've been working hard. I'm you know, if I was to relocate, do you think you guys might be able to use me or something. So in that sense, nothing really came easy. I had to continue to just push myself towards people and and then get them to look at my work when I could meet with them. And then hopefully convince them that if they gave me a shot, and then once they give you a shot, you got to you got to produce so I hope that doesn't sound like a cop out. But you know, no, in reality, I don't think anything ever really came easily to me.
Michael Der 13:07
If there was a person... was there aTodd Bigelow to Todd Bigelow, so to speak, at that time. I mean, who did you, I'm sure it's hard to pull this one but who were your big resources that you relied on to teach you Okay, this is how licensing works. This is how contracts work. This is a bad contract. Yeah.
Todd Bigelow 13:23
Great. Great, great, great question. Yeah, there were I mean, there are instrumental people in my career that I thanked many times, I thank them in my book, I any chance I get I mentioned them on social media all the time. One person who had the most profound impact on my career early on was Jim Colton, who at the time was director of photography at Newsweek, right. What he did for me was I was an early I was accepted into the Eddie Adams workshop when it was number three. And when it came out, it was as it is today as well, but very, very sought after. I mean, you're gonna get four days in the Catskill Mountains with the best photo journalists in the world and the most influential photo editors and so forth. And you had to apply and get accepted and I was fortunately accepted and during that weekend got to meet in speak you know in a very social environment mostly with with with Jim and others and show my work and upon leaving the workshop. I remember Jim saying to me, hey, Woody, you know, you're going back to LA What are you doing? And I said, No, I was gonna go into the city into New York and and you know, Pimp My book around, see what I could do. And you know, I'll never forget that Jim said hey, you know if you need to just drop my name and say, you know, I told them to call you know, when you when you call Michelle Stephenson at Time Magazine, you know, tell her I said to call and when you touch base with anybody at Newsweek say that you saw me and I said to call and in I did and you know that always that always open the door, you know, yeah, so I was able to get a lot of appointments. I started to coach on my work and convince him but you know, and And he went on to Sports Illustrated where I was a regular contributor for 19 years. And it was only because of Jim I never went met with Si, only when he left Newsweek and went to si did he bring his Rolodex and gave me a shot at a job and then, you know, told other editors at the magazine, you know, Todd has a, you know, good luck with the photojournalism So, you know, I did a lot of I did, you know, event coverage, but I did a lot of feature and off the course repertory type stories for them. And that was principally because, you know, Jim brought that Rolodex and convince others so, from from the creative and assignment and freelancing standpoint, I don't think anybody, you know, really did as much for me as Jim did, and I'll forever be indebted to him. I love him. He's a great, influential person in this industry. And then there are some other lesser known people that did help me understand the business world, one of which Richard Dirk was a staff photographer for many years at the LA Times and then went on to be an editor. And prior to joining the times, he had been a freelancer. So when I was ready to bounce from the LA Times, full time into the magazine world, he he instilled in me a number of core values, which I hold on to today, and I pass along to others.
Michael Der 16:21
That's awesome. That is huge. And a big shout out to Jim Colton. So let's move into the topic of the day here, which is licensing. And I find that a lot of people are not really well versed in licensing, maybe even intimidated by it. In its simplest form, could you define licensing to the uninitiated?
Todd Bigelow 16:38
To the uninitiated, the key aspect is understanding that licensing is the grant team. So let me italicize here in any, you know, in our in our, in our vocal conversation here where you can't see the italics, but it is the granting of rights for someone to use your photographs. So as a photographer, or anything else that you create, if you're a musician, you can grant somebody the rights to use your music. So whatever your creation is, you're granting the rights, you're not selling the ownership. And you're not in any way transferring the copyright or anything of your work, you are granting the rights. And usually that granting is specific to a use or a duration, or a combination of those things. So in its most simplistic form is a granting of rights of your work to somebody else, a third party to use that work.
Michael Der 17:37
And I love what you talking about with not selling I think if I remember correctly, this rewinding the clock maybe six or seven years ago, when I first went through your workshop, people would always say in the in the classroom, a student would say, Well, when I tried to sell my photographs, and you would immediately jump on him and say no, no, no, it's licensing, right? And that just stuck with me ever since it's like that's what we do. We license photos. We don't sell photos.
Todd Bigelow 17:56
Yeah, that's, that's a key point. That's a key point, Mike. And I'm so glad that it stuck with you. Because Because when you sell something, you're essentially transferring the ownership of it. So if I sell my car to you, Mike, you know, I can't come back and take it next week and drive off with it. You're like, exactly, dude, you sold me your car. Okay, but if I was to say, in, in really Airbnb and other places have, you know, took that concept and ran with it and created multibillion dollar industries, when you if I put my home up, you know, on Airbnb, or my apartment or something, you know, I'm not selling you my art. Right? I'm basically licensing you the rights to use it for you know, period of time. Now it's through a rental agreement, it's well worth but it said same concept in to take it one step further. There are tax implications, very serious and legitimate and real tax implications between selling something. And licensing something that I go into later in the workshop and in the book about why it's important that you understand that licensing is granting the rights to something.
Michael Der 18:56
right. And I like how you mentioned music, I think it hits home for creators, because when you tell someone, sure you can buy a song off of iTunes, that doesn't give you permission to use Taylor Swift song in a commercial, or even a YouTube channel for that matter. They totally understand like, of course, I can't do that. But for whatever reason, when it comes to photographs, it's just not as obvious. We don't acknowledge it quite the same way that we do other forms of intellectual property. And I'm not really quite sure why that is.
Todd Bigelow 19:20
I'm not sure either. But you're definitely right on that. Photographers tend not to think of their work as a product. When I'm taking pictures. When I'm making images. I'm trying to make an impact with you, as a viewer, I want you to be impacted and feel something from those images. So I don't go in when I'm out there shooting thinking, Oh, I'm going to produce a product. But ultimately, these are our products and we have to from a business sense. Think of them about how we can control them, use them appropriately licensed them from for income so that we can fund our freelancing business but for some reason, photographers In my opinion, with a lot of years of experience, such as, as a photographer, but also speaking and talking to a lot of photographers like yourself around the country, they they just tend to not think of their images the way a musician might think of their, their songs. Yeah, you know, the way anybody might say, No, I don't want, you know, a politician or anybody else just taking my song and using, you know, they have to come to me and ask for a license, because, as a creator, I have the right to say yes or no,
Michael Der 20:31
yeah, 100%. And, you know, Todd, this, this topic gets me so amped up, because, you know, for myself, I'm so used to assignment fees being the only source of income. And the more I learned, the more I implement these techniques, the more I can sort of see this untapped potential. And I think that's so important that you're here because I want people to feel the weight of that potential, like, what are they potentially losing? And I'm sure it's hard to just choose one example to pull from. But is there any experience that stands out to you that really encapsulates the importance of licensing in your career?
Todd Bigelow 21:02
Yeah there's quite a few. And you know, what I like to do and when I have the opportunity to, you know, present my workshop at conferences, and I like to, I like to show examples of things that the images that I've license, that, quite frankly, as you know, are mediocre at best. I think it drives a point like that general population of freelance photographers think, Oh, well, you know, I don't really need to worry about licensing, because who's going to license? You know, this image of a farm worker that I photographed working the Strawberry Fields of Oxnard, or who's going to license this image on this high school bandleader or something, but I show countless examples and in my book as well, because I want photographers to understand that you never know what image is going to fit into some publications version of a story or designers version, if you have the proper releases to use in some commercial aspect or something you don't know. So the examples I show in particular, let's talk about Demetrius Walker, because this one stands out, you asked for one particular one that stands out Demetrius Walker was an assignment from Sports Illustrated in 2005, or seven or some somewhere around there. And I remembered this assignment vividly it came from a man I love Porter banks, a great photo editor at Sports Illustrated prior to that he had been at USA Today. But he called me up and he said, you know, ask me to go photograph this young man who is on and he was on some traveling AAU style basketball, and he was going to be playing at a local gym in Los Angeles, high school gym. And I didn't really have a clear understanding of what the story was about just told, like, go shoot this kid at this game, anything on the sidelines, anything you can get, we need images of this kid I said, Great. So I show up as a just a god awful gym. Hopefully, there's enough photographers that can understand that sometimes you look up at the lights. And if you see those old school mercury vapors, you know that they pulsate. And then if you photograph it higher than like, 200th of a second, you're gonna get, you know, vertical lines through your head, you're freezing, the pulsating light. And I knew that's what those were. And I was like, oh, man, like, nobody wants to shoot basketball and 100/22 can't even do it, you know, and I'm not Yeah, and I'm not about to go in and light up this gym. This was like, kind of a style of looked at, you know, that's not what they were after. And plus, I just didn't have the capabilities to go and do that anyway. So I show up, I shoot this thing. It's not a good shoe. Yeah, it's just not, you know, I mean, the kid barely played, when he did play, he didn't touch the ball. So I probably had to combine five minutes of playing time with him and stuff off this off the side of, you know, on the court, deliver the images, they run a story and it's a story about dealings of these club organizations and how they kind of identify young kids and make it seem like they promised the world to them. And, and then, you know, what really happened. So anyways, forget about it, I put the images to my workflow. I put them up on my, my website, they're not out front for somebody to find, but they're definitely searchable in case anybody needs them. Of course, I forget about them. And then I get an email, you know, years later from Random House, you know, one of the largest publishers in the world and and they're looking for Demetrius Walker images, and they know I have them, they found them on my site, and would I be willing to license them for a book. And it turns out, I was pretty much the only one that had these images, and I license multiple images for the cover for the spine for inside chapters. If memory serves me correctly, the back cover and I licensed them specifically, which will probably go into more later but for the hardcover, so in case they wanted to, you know, went to a softcover edition later. They would have to come back and license them again. And and I, you know, ended up making far more on the licensing fees than I ever did on the $500 assignment money. And I would have never figured that there would be any, quote unquote, value. But the book
that they end up, that the writer ended up following this young man and others for seven years, which I had no idea of knowing, right. And he wrote this incredible book. It's not you don't even have to be a sports fan. It's like a drama. It's sad. It tugs at your heart, it's called play their hearts out. And it's by George Dorman. And it ended up being a best seller in the sports genre. And it was just a fantastic book, I licensed them, because I understood how the images were going to be used. It wasn't just, you know, you know, licensed them in some way that makes a kid look bad or anything, and the kid was the main subject, and he was quoted throughout. But anyways, I had no idea at the time of shooting them that that would be an important image. And there's countless examples over the years of that countless like countless, countless, countless examples.
Michael Der 26:03
Well, I think it's such an important lesson because photographers, we get caught up in evaluating an image based off of how good we think it is, and not so much in terms of its potential usability, right? Like, we don't really see it from that angle, you never know what a publication might need. Just because an image isn't portfolio worthy, doesn't mean it doesn't have value. That's an example of that for sure. In your book, you kind of compare the value of photograph to that of like equities in investing. And I think that's a great analogy, because in the short term, it may not move the needle a whole lot, you might get $150 $200, whatever it might be, for an image upfront. But over the long term, it could pay off substantially more, I know, there are several of your images that have seemingly like a longer shelf life where they're constantly relicense, here and there over the course of the years. What is the most licensed image that you have? And how much value has it created versus the initial assignment fee? You don't have to give me the exact number or anything like that. But just in terms of comparatively, how much has that value shifted?
Todd Bigelow 27:03
Yeah, wow, it would be hard for me to say right now, because I haven't done that computation in a number of years as to the exact image that has licensed the most, there was a few in the running for a few years. And, you know, what I would do is I would go to my agency. So most of my licensing is through, you know, directly through me, through my own archive, at Todd Bigelow, photography.com, shameless plug, but but, you know, I am affiliated with with various agencies, one agency I was with until they sold the archive, which was a great agency, Aurora, founded by Jose Zell, and a couple others years ago, I was asked them periodically for a update, and they would provide, you know, through certain image numbers, you know, I would see that they were being licensed on my monthly commission report. And then I would ask them, I would say, Hey, can you give me the numbers on these particular five or six images, and then I would use those images to drive this point home in my workshop and my talks, because these images, Mike are not, you know, it's not LeBron winning a championship, you know, it's not tiger, you know, winning the US Open. I mean, those are, those are great images, and so forth. But most of the images that consistently licensed over time are there's one image in particular that I know would still remain one of the top ones because I've continued to license it is really a kind of just a grab shot. So years ago, I was at a air show, and my young son at the time was infatuated by planes. And we went to a airshow at Miramar. And as we're leaving, I look back. And there's kind of this grandstands where I'm behind it, and there's two flags blowing in the way, and then they're kind of framing these people standing along. And in the background, here comes the Blue Angels. And, and I kind of get this shot. Now, you know, I don't think anything of it. But, you know, for whatever reason, over the years, my agency was able to play set quite a bit, you know, several, several, several $1,000, you know, in overtime, so, you know, overtime, that's probably in excess of $10,000. Going back, you know, a number of years, I would say off the top of my head that the most licensee image is the image that is also the most infringed image. So there's probably a correlation there. And that is an image I took along the US Mexico border, they're scaling a wall scaling offense in this kind of late afternoon sunlight, they're all silhouetted in various stages of climbing or running for the wall. And that's license a number of times to publications and films and so forth.
Michael Der 29:42
Yeah. And I think that's great context, because what I really want people to understand, and I would include myself in that conversation, to be honest, is what we are potentially giving up what we might be missing out on. And if I'm reading between the lines here, when I'm looking at your site, like the immigration work that you're talking about, it does seem like the majority of your licensing work is actually Going through editorial channels like newspapers, magazines, online news. And I've always been under the assumption as I got into this industry, that licensing really mostly applied to commercial advertising work. And I'm happy that you are showing us that that's not necessarily the case all the time, that there is another way. And I think that's an important lesson to all the listeners of this show who really gravitate to photojournalism and don't want to go down the marketing or advertising route, you can be a journalist and still take advantage of licensing. That's an important takeaway.
Todd Bigelow 30:29
Absolutely, probably the biggest point because there is a clear legal definition between editorial and commercial use, you know, yes, the vast majority, Mike of my licensing is editorial, which might mean a few $100, maybe $1,000, or $800. But drawing back to your previous point over time, that can accumulate. So with a large archive of images that are available for people to use for publications for editorial sites for whatever the case might be. And we can talk later about the difference between editorial commercial, but as long as I have that work available, I'm fine with, you know, if it's a good license for $250, I'll take the 250. Yeah, because I know that over time, it's going to continue to 50 here, 500, there 800. Here, whatever the case might be, any amount that I can bring in through that revenue stream is additional income for my business is additional revenue that I can either reinvest or use to pay my personal bills or whatever. But clearly, your listeners should understand if they don't, that you do not have to have model releases for editorial usage of an image. And editorial is not just like a magazine or a newspaper, textbooks are considered editorial. So some of your listeners may be saying, Well, how can that be, you have to buy a textbook or you have to buy a magazine. But that's not how it is defined. And editorial use is defined between an image is being used as part of a narrative, you know, as part of a literal story. So maybe somebody is writing a story on this, this young man, Demetrius Walker, and it's going in a magazine, fine. But then somebody is also writing a story about the kind of backdoor dealings of club basketball, which is what the writer went on to do and sold it as a book, there's still a narrative there. Right? So I'm not endorsing a product or service or idea. And that is what a commercial use is. So in a commercial use, there's no specific narrative, right? You're just clearly trying to use an image to sell a product service or idea. So in the editorial arena, I don't need anybody's permission from the subject to license to a another particular publications or, or website or so forth. And or nonprofits, there just needs to be that narrative. And let me leave. One final point here that is important for photographer, especially for photo journalists. A narrative can also be a photographic narrative, okay? So it can be somebody wants to license a series of my images, which tell a story of say, the migrant surge along the border, and what it's like to get to the border and not have any place to go. So it might be eight or 10 images, without any words that really are a photographic narrative, okay, so I can license those images.
Michael Der 33:36
I hope people rewind that part. Because it's like what we tell ourselves, sometimes our false narratives like, you know, like, I was telling myself, Oh, this only applies to people in the advertising space, or I don't have a model really, so I can't license these things. That's just not the case. I think that's, that's a great highlight for you to bring up there. Let's jump into kind of the building blocks of like a good licensing workflow, because I believe that's really something that you're a big proponent of, and you have a whole chapter in your book that's called licensing for life, which I think is such a succinct description of what our goals should actually be. We're trying to effectively build a way of life a method of doing our job that encourages licensing opportunities to sort of organically pop up. And so I wanted to start off with copyright, because I think that's ultimately at the core of all of this. Talk to me about the role of copyright and controlling your work and licensing.
Todd Bigelow 34:25
Yeah. If you don't have the copyright to your work, you can't license it. Okay, so copyright is ownership of your work. Okay, so as intellectual property creators here, right, so we're creating intellectual property for photographers, we're creating images, that's my intellectual property. If I am a freelancer, by law, I own that image when it's created into a fixed and tangible form. Okay, that's literally from the US copyright law. I own that image as a freelancer if I'm an employee Let's say I'm a stock photographer at any publication, I do not own that copyright. The publication owns it. Okay, so as a freelancer, I own the copyright. But what I do not get Mike, as you know, as a freelancer, it's I can't no guarantee that tomorrow I have an assignment, the employee gets a guarantee of like, hey, look, your staff photographer, you're working Monday through Friday, or you're working, you know, Wednesday through Monday, or whatever, and you're gonna, you know, it's football season. So on Saturday, you're doing UCLA on Sunday, and you're doing the Rams or whatever, okay? You don't get that as a freelancer. You can't by law, literally, like, in fact, laws have gotten tougher now on companies to make sure that they don't treat you that way that they have to make sure that you're a freelancer. So what do you get? You know, this, I'm back, I'm gonna ask you, Mike, as somebody who's been in my workshop is somebody that takes this so seriously, and I love and appreciate how much you you continue to strive to learn. But I'm gonna ask you, what do you get as a freelancer that you don't get as an employee?
Michael Der 36:02
What do you get, as a freelancer that you don't as an employee....
Todd Bigelow 36:07
Michael Der 36:08
just the copyright.
Todd Bigelow 36:09
That's it, that's exactly what we're talking about, right? So we get, we get the copyright. So as a freelancer, I get the copyright, but I do not get the guarantee of work, I don't get company gear, I don't get any gear, I don't get a 401k I don't get health benefits, right. So what do I get, I get the copyright to my work, I get control of my work, I get the opportunity to leverage that work for additional revenue that is so instrumental in how I've been able to, you know, evolve my photography from heavy reliance on assignment work only, you know, 15 years ago, then seen the writing on the wall with the magazines, losing their budgets to contraction, you know, publications going out of business, and retaining control of that work and learning how to leverage that to develop a licensing makeup. Now I'm going to be real with you. It's not like I'm rolling in a, you know, in a bends, you know, with my licensing revenue, it's not, but I am. And I make this point clear in my book that I develop multiple revenues so that when you add them up at the end of the year, when you add them up, at the end of the year, I'm able to make a living. But it all starts with copyright, because I have to have the ownership of that work. Okay. And so as you know, Mike, copyright falls into two categories when it's created into a fixed tangible form, but that is not the registered copyright. Okay. So unfortunately, in US copyright law, there is an added level of protection that you get when you register your work with the US copyright office that can and will lead to you as a photographer being able to better control and protect against unauthorized users. So I want to make sure I make that point clear.
Michael Der 38:02
Okay, gotcha. So so you don't have to necessarily register your copyright in order to license it just adds an extra layer of benefits there.
Todd Bigelow 38:11
Absolutely. That that, that that that is very, very true.
Michael Der 38:16
Perfect. So that that's great to know, you can't license without a copyright without without owning the copyright or controlling your work.
Todd Bigelow 38:22
Yes, because again, let's go back to if you own the car, yeah, you know, I can't do anything with that car. So if I, as a freelancer give up the copyright through a contractual agreement, like a work for hire, I lose all future control that work once once I shoot that image. And under that type of arrangement, I cannot use that image in any way, shape, or form because I literally gave away that copyright.
Michael Der 38:49
Right? Now. What you do really consistently is you maintain a copyright discipline throughout your your whole work, and you said it at the beginning of the show 30 years of not taking work for hire jobs. If somebody asks you for it, you just politely say no thank you and walk away. A lot of photographers, myself included, were sort of participating in this mixed bag of clients where we're going to be licensing to others, we're going to control our copyright and some and then others, we're going to take the work for hire just to pay the bills. And I know it's a tough negotiation mentally, for me, at least because I know the value intellectual property. I know the benefits of licensing and know how being inconsistent with clients can be a bad negative look on your brand. But I also know that bills need to be prayed. And this is a this is a challenge. I think everybody goes through like you talked about. It's not bad decisions. It's more uninformed decisions. What kind of words of encouragement Do you have, if any, for those who want to own all their copyrights, but don't yet have the leverage or financially at least to walk away from many of their clients?
Todd Bigelow 39:50
Yeah. So you know, one thing that I'm very consistent about is making sure that you know, I, I don't feel I have any right, nor will I ever pass judgment on anybody. I'm going to steal from Bruce Lee here, Bruce Lee was a creator. Okay, if you if you really read and study anything about Bruce Lee, you will come away with the fact that this was not just a guy that showed up in these movies, this guy was a revolutionary with how he thought about developing martial arts. Now, martial arts is a creative field. Okay. And what he did was was astounding at a time when people stayed in their one discipline. So he would study Judo, he would study Wing Chun, he would study savant, which is a French kickboxing, he would study all these different arts Muay Thai, from Thailand, and then he would blend that into what worked for him. That's what made him so famous in the martial arts world, which brought fame into Hollywood. And I really take that same philosophy, which he coined is, take what is useful, and then discard what is useless. So there might be something from muy Thai that he didn't like, but something that he really did like, and then he's going to fit that into his own. And that's how he created what was called g kundo. That is just you can apply that to your photography. So take, you know, something that I might share with you. And if it works, use it, Mike, okay, if it doesn't work for you, then don't use it. And then add your own clients and flavor to make your business work. So by no means and I make this point clear throughout anything, I write anything I talk about in my own life, because this is how I've led my life, to each their own, you got to make it work for you. And if it does work, use it. But having said that, I think a lot of people make really important decisions about their careers without being well enough informed about the impact those decisions could have, particularly long term. So short term decision making should not be the only you know, way you make that decision. So at least have an informed understand decision. And you know, My son is now 25. And I tell him the same thing, Hey, man, when you make a choice, just make sure you make that choice with an understanding of how the dominoes might fall later. You can't always predict it. We can't. That's right. But and I understand that there's a mix of like, Okay, I gotta pay the bills. So what I would say to young photographers is try to find the clients that treat you the best. Yeah, and with respect, and those won't always be the big name clients in whatever field you're in, whether it's the advertising field, or the photojournalism field, okay, but if you feel that getting your name on the radar of the big name, clients will advance you in some way, shape or form, then maybe that's right, you need to go. But I do know that that route is, if that's a road, that road also has a lot of, you know, scattered burned out, busted down vehicles on the side of the same that took that route thinking this is going to lead to, you know, the golden land. And what happened was editors moved on from that publication, or they found new talent. And suddenly, your three times a week went down to two times a week went down to one times a week, and now you're one time a month. And it's like, because there's no promises. Yeah. So make those informed decisions. So take what is useful from what you know, you're learning and applied, you know, apply your own interpretation of it, but just make informed decisions, you know?
Michael Der 43:24
Yep. And that's exactly that's exactly what we're doing here today. So that's really, really good advice, right to use the information, and then make the best decision that you possibly can at the time.
Todd Bigelow 43:32
Yeah, Mike. And let me just one last point, because, you know, I want to show like how my career has evolved. So you know, 15 years ago was 80% of Simon work, I really didn't have to worry too much about licensing. But I know that, you know, assignment work there, the budgets are not in place that were 15 years ago, it's let's just be honest about this stuff they don't really talk to you about when you're in school, exactly. We're not going to tell you about the budgets there they fall in. So you need to have a more diversified income stream. So you know, make sure that you understand that and one of those income streams, quite frankly, should be from licensing, and you have to hold on to your copyright, What it is you're going to license.
Michael Der 44:13
Perfect. Out of curiosity, what do you think the percentage is? Now I already know the answer, because it's in your book, but like, what is the percentage? In terms of you said it was 80% assignment work? You know, 15, 20 years ago? What is that percentage look like now? And what is the percentage of licensing compared to what it used to be?
Todd Bigelow 44:28
Well, like any, like any freelancing, you know, I mean, nothing really changes and you're gonna have some years that are up and some years that are a little down and some years that are just off the charts, you know, I mean, it's, it's, it's like, Whoa, everybody's calling all the ones 2020. I was, you know, very busy, you know, because of COVID. And, you know, I'm out there shooting stories and projects and licensing, um, so, in other years, you know, you're putting more effort towards other things, but, boy, I would say that it you know, definitely not at 80% like what so I would say my assignment work is 2530, you know, my licensing is 2530 I have teaching income that is, you know, 15, you know, maybe 20, I have my workshop, which did not exist until 2013. So I developed that income stream on my own. So that's another good 10%, I now get asked to consult on a number of things. So there's new income stream that was not around 15 years ago. And then because of that, I realized, well, geez, people, like yourself that attended some early workshops would ask me, do you have anything that I can take with me from the workshop? And at first, I would provide a PDF summary. And then I, people would say, Did you write a book? Do you have a book? How am I gonna write a book? Like, dude, I gotta shoot, you know. So I decided, like, I'm going to this was a resolution before, even right when the pandemic was starting to hit, but I had it, it was going to start in January of last year, write the book, and I thought, I'm going to start it. And then in between shooting, I was writing. So by last summer, I had secured a publisher, and everybody's like, just self published, I'm like, I want to see if this thing is good enough to get published, I got published by a really good publisher, you know, so that's a new revenue stream, with new royalties coming in from that. So, you know, it's a whole lot of 10, 15 and 20%, which makes me feel a lot more comfortable than having my eggs in one basket.
Michael Der 46:24
Totally. Because the reality is, if we were to pull, let's say, 100, Young photographers or greenfingers, they don't have to be young, just new people in the industry, most of them are probably going to say it's 100% assignment work. Yeah, to know that you have 1515, you know, that is such an eye opening, peel the curtain back a little bit on what it's like to diversify, because if one goes down, then you're still safe everywhere else.
Todd Bigelow 46:49
Right. And, you know, that's, that's, that's not unique to what we do that, like, I mean, right, pick a restaurant that, that serves multiple meals, they serve something in the morning, and they serve something in the afternoon, and they serve something different at night, right. Or even if you're, you know, a restaurant, like, let's say, like, Shake Shack or something like that. I mean, you know, if you go in and you only offer burgers, there's only a few businesses that probably get away with that, like in an out, or Whataburger
Michael Der 47:18
You better be damn good. a
Todd Bigelow 47:19
damn good and own that space, as they say, in the business world. But otherwise, you better have some alternatives on there to pull in some revenue, because some people might roll in and be like, I don't want meat today, I add meat lamb, I want a piece of chicken or a salad or something like that. So you know, I tried to tap into what my experiences are. And that's, that's just an evolutionary process. So, you know, I didn't have all those experiences, I wouldn't be able to. And I and I recognize that when I talk to young photographers, but I do tell them, keep in mind where you might be in five years. So I tell young photographers, you know, stay in touch with the university, because after five years of working in the field, you might be able to appeal to them as an adjunct professor, you know, because they love to come back in and hire their own. So you might be able to teach one night a week, a seven to 10, introductory photojournalism, introductory art photography, I teach advanced studio lighting class to two graduating seniors and masters students at my university, those are opportunities that after a few years, you should be able to go in and off yourself. And if it doesn't, if it doesn't go right away, man, stay in touch with them, well, because eventually there might need somebody and they're gonna be like, hey, I'd rather bring in somebody that can tout my own program, you know, exactly, and somebody on the outside. So keep those things in mind. So when you can grow you have you have that understanding of what opportunities might be out there, even if they're not opportunities you can take advantage of right now.
Michael Der 48:42
Yep. So let's talk about the archive next, because I know you're a big proponent of this, can you give me a little insight into the difference between your online portfolio that holds all your best standout images? Compared to the role of an archive? Like, what are the main differences? And how is that important to maintain for licensing health?
Todd Bigelow 49:00
Yeah, so I know you read the book Mike. Damn, cuz you wouldn't be asking me
Michael Der 49:06
I want to be empathetic to the listeners. I want them I want to put myself in their position if I hadn't read the book.
Todd Bigelow 49:15
Yeah. I mean, but these are such key points. And, you know, so licensing begins with Think of it as a storefront. Okay, so you just let's say you just got a great retail space, what are you going to put in it? Right? So somebody walks through the door, they gotta see something. What is, you know, what are you selling? What do you what what are you offering to your to people that walk in that showroom when somebody walks in? That's my portfolio. Okay. So that is my website when you land that and I'm going to try to get images that reflect who I am, what I'm about. Obviously, they're going to be hopefully good images because I don't put bad images in my portfolio. But that's my show. Like, that's all it is, I'm gonna try to dazzle you a little bit like somebody is gonna walk in. And, you know, if it's a retail space, you know, it's a combination of like, okay, you know, if you walk into an Abercrombie and Fitch or something, you know, it's like the music is black, right? Yeah. I mean, yeah, it's, it's got a vibe, it's like cool, high energy, and it's like, the apparel is going to reflect that whole vibe. That's what I want my portfolio to be. I want it to showcase about who I am as a photographer in that vibe. But ultimately, if you walk into that store, and let's say you're flipping through it, and somebody sees, you know, a really nice hoodie that day, like, but it's a color you don't like Mike, do you just walk away? If there's somebody there, you're more than likely. And I've used this analogy so many times, but it's so on point, if you're more than likely to say to the salesperson, hey, do you happen to have that hoodie and a blue? And they're gonna be like, yeah, let me check in back. Right, in every retail outlet has a back Yeah, that back into your archive, that's my archive, man. Like, I don't put everything out in front. Because it would look cluttered and like crap, and everybody's gonna walk in and be like, Damn, if I wanted this, I'd walk into a Home Depot and spend three hours walking around trying to find something, you know,I don't want that archive to be in back. What that back is, is it's all of my images, including really mediocre images, like the one we talked about of Demetrius Walker that ended up being in I have countless examples of this being in demand for some reason or another. And that archive is searchable completely if you land on my website, so you can land on my website, there's search capabilities. And it's also all of those images. 10s of 1000s of images that have gone through my workflow, and that are keywords are absolutely available if somebody searches on Google. So they put in certain terms, doesn't have to be a person's name, it can be anything, and it comes up in the Google searches, which it will, when they click on it, they're basically opening the back door of my retail outlet that just take them straight into the archive, they skipped walking through the showroom. Now they're in my archive, they landed exactly what they wanted, you know, on and and now the opportunity is for me to license that image. Okay, so how do they find my images that got to be up on an archive, that takes advantage of strong SEO, Search Engine Optimization, your images have completed a workflow with proper keyword in and all these types of things so that they can find them. If your images are sitting on a hard drive on your desk, nobody's gonna find them. Nobody's gonna knock on your apartment door and be like, Hey, man, somebody told me that in 2013, you know, you are photographing on Venice Beach. And you might, you know, obviously, that ain't gonna happen, build that archive, because that archive is a basis for all of your licensing. You can't license you know, if you have an empty archive, what it what is, what are they going to license?
Michael Der 52:56
I'm curious, is it worth archiving? Anything that is unable to be licensed? Meaning like, if you do work for hire assignments for clients? Do you put any of that stuff in your archive? Or is it just stuff that is only able to be licensed?
Todd Bigelow 53:10
if you don't own the rights to it, if you don't own the copyright, don't put it up there, you know, unless you have specific rights contractually, that allow you to display the work to just show what you're capable, capable of, and some agreements will will have that included. But my goodness, if you do not own the copyright, you have no rights to that work. It's as if you did not take the image. Gotcha. So and that's really clear, because you can get yourself in legal trouble, if you don't understand that.
Michael Der 53:40
So presuming that we've gotten this far, you know, we've retained our copyrights, we've registered our copyrights, even maybe we've archived the images, we've keyworded them for the SEO, let's say we want to take this a step further. And we want to start pitching this work to potential clients. In your experience, what approach has worked for you pitching images that you've already made? Can you walk us through what a general pitch might look like?
Todd Bigelow 54:02
Sure. There's a couple of scenarios I talked about in the book, there's a couple scenarios we'll talk about in general, which is, let's say that you're a freelance photographer, and you're going to go out and cover in upcoming protests, like women are going to get into the streets over the Texas abortion law. Okay, and you know, that's going to happen, lay the groundwork now, before the protests, like if you've already been in contact with certain editors in hopes of getting work, you know, you've you've reached out to them, maybe you've made contact, let them know, you plan on being in the streets or something if there's anything you can do for them, because they might say, oh, in fact, I was gonna assign somebody so you might get an assignment out of it. Right? If you don't get an assignment, but you're actually out there shooting that day. You got to move quickly, right? If you hope to make any sort of license out of that, the reality of it, because I'm always honest, is it's going to be difficult, because you have the wire services. You have the Getty agencies, yeah. And so forth, that are moving those images so quickly, that public locations have subscription access to already. So they're probably just pulling those down. And those are going to be good images, and they're going to use them. Okay, so having said that, that's one kind of example of trying to license images, if you're just going out and shooting, you know, something that's happening right away. But that's not by any means what we only license let's say, I am going on vacation, which I, okay, so I'm going to be heading off to Italy for a month. Next weekend, I'm going to be photographing all over Italy, I did this a couple years ago, I come back, I put my images through my arc through my workflow, copyright them, put them up on my archive, I then do a curation, right, and I might do 15 different galleries so they can be based regionally, you know, I'm up in Veneto, I'm down in Rome, or Naples, or something like that. I might do it by style, or, you know, particular like maybe there's something I did around, you know, nightlife or something like that. Okay, this is just stock photography, shooting, and I do this on my vacations, but I can curate images on my website, through my archive, I can select images and just create individual galleries from that. And I'll tailor those towards particular, either travel publications on my travel sites, let's say my wife is in them, you know, and obviously, you know, she'll sign a release, I will maybe make those more commercially available to a Frommer's for a budget, or you know, your website, okay, I will brochure or something. Am I successful all the time? No, but I'm getting those images on the radar and make connections with these editors. And who knows when they come to me and say, but they do it by clicking on those links. So I don't send the images, Mike, I never send the image. Yeah, I send links to galleries. And those galleries don't have download permissions they can view and when they click on those, and I can see that they're looking at it. So that
gives me information that there was some interest. So even if I don't hear from him, I might send a little follow up email and just say, hey, if you had a chance, maybe not even showing that I know that they did let you know, if you had a chance, you know, and I hope you'll like to please keep in mind be happy to license and or work with you in some capacity. So that's another way of licensing, right, so I'll put them through a workflow, I'll put them up on not the public portion of my portfolio website, like we talked about, but on the back end of the archive, through that back end, it automatically creates links that I can send out to particular editors. Okay. Now, a third one, if I'm doing a specific story, and this is very much, you know, how busy how I was busy last year with with COVID, I was identifying certain things that I wanted to photograph. So I had three major stories that were licensed. I did a neighborhood project, right when we went to a lockdown, and I literally walked my neighborhood and found all sorts of interesting stuff going on. Put those images together with the great editing and help of of Jeffrey Smith at contact press images, we were able to curate that into a strong little picture story and begin pitching that around. So contacting editors saying, Hey, you know, are you interested in this? This is what this neighborhood looks like in LA, NBC News was interested in licensing, okay. So because of that, they landed on the click on the link. They looked at them, they immediately contacted us and said, We like this, you know, let's see what we can do with it. And we came to an agreement and a licensing fee was acquired. The second one was identified. Personally, you know, that I saw a lot of businesses that were supposedly on lockdown were operating behind closed doors, okay, so I was able to gain access to a lot of the businesses and photograph them doing their thing, even though they were supposed to be locked down. We call that the underground economy, same process, upload those to my archive, I'm not putting them out on social media. I'm not doing anything there. They're basically in my archive. They're not even available for anybody to see yet. Right? Because I'm curating those into pitches, little stories, little photographic stories, pinch out one and ended up at Politico. And then the last one was once we had a lot of, you know, civil rights movement in 2020. And identified kind of a new trend where a lot of really traditional conservative white suburbia in LA was getting strongly behind Black Lives Matter movement and photograph that in a particular way. And we did the same thing again, in license at the box. So multiple different ways. There were stories I was shooting, there was vacation photos, and then there's individual breaking news stuff.
Michael Der 59:42
Yep. I love it. This is exactly what we need to hear. Because I know there were tons of photographers out there who did their own self assignments, did the exact same thing as you what uncovered social protests, did their own COVID quarantining projects, and the ones I know definitely did not licensed to any news channels. They just posted them. to Instagram, you were able to license three different projects to three different clients. So I think that shows the potential of what we can actually do with our own personal projects. If we build the system, and we're proactive about it.
Todd Bigelow 1:00:11
absolutely. In a, if you're trying to do the same exact thing that every Daily News photographer, I mean, like daily pause, news, pause photographer, and not like a particular publication photographer, but, you know, the staff photographers that are covering everything for Getty and for the Associated Press, and for AFP, you know, name it, I mean, you're gonna have trouble breaking through, because you got to find a way to make better images from a different perspective. So that it looks a little bit more unique. And then you have to be able to have the infrastructure in place your art live, to make it easy for them to view those images. Because if you're suddenly like, oh, let me Dropbox you those images, these editors, man, they want to click on one link, take a quick look, identify this as interesting and unique, and then start the process of seeing if you can license that. And then I'm controlling everything, Mike. So this is an important part of licensing. When I when I do a project and then license it, I'm not on assignment. So there's not a photo editor or a publication, telling me essentially what the story is, and essentially leading me in how to photograph it or telling me kind of what's important, which is very much how assignment, you know, work operates. We know that right? But I'm in full control and doing what I want to do, and then trying to present it and then getting a licensing fee from it. But I will also tell you, there is a fourth choice that I did that I worked out for over a year that we had multiple interests from publications, and they just were not offering reasonable fees. And we just set up and that never got licensed.
Michael Der 1:01:52
Right? Win some, lose some right.
Todd Bigelow 1:01:54
Win some, lose some, Yeah, and yeah, I mean, let's be real about that's, that's, that's, that's how it works.
Michael Der 1:01:59
The other aspect that you were touching on when you were talking about going to Italy is that I love the fact that you're intentional with just kind of your self assignments, your personal stuff, again, it opens up the doors to what's possible for us out there so that when you go on vacation, everybody takes a camera on vacation, but and I would imagine to some degree, correct me if I'm wrong, that when you're going out there, and you're photographing silhouettes at sunset on Venice, or whatever it might be, part of it is to satiate a creative impulse. But then part of it might be like, there's a potential usability here in this, if it's not this image, it might be one of the images in this whole catalogue. So you're shooting almost intentionally, for the possibility it's not going to guarantee anything, but it just increases your chances
Todd Bigelow 1:02:41
that is 100% accurate. That is exactly one. You know, I mean, we're photographers, right? What's not to like, and I love street photography, I love you know, traveling, I love to take pictures. I mean, that's what I love, right? So of course, we're gonna take these pictures, but why would I just take them and then let them sit on a drive? Yeah, I'm a good photographer. Yeah, I'm gonna, I'm gonna put them through a workflow. And who knows if they're gonna, I don't know if they'll ever be in demand or ever be licensed. But listen, that's what I do. So I it's not like, you know, it takes me a year to put them through a workflow. And it costs me all this money. It's just sit down, grind, again, grind through the process of, you know, developing, I have a efficient workflow. So it's not even that much of a grind, you know, right, yeah, just part of the process, part of the process and get him up there. And then let them sit and like Google and not in the search engines do their thing. And if they come across them, you know, and then you do your thing, be proactive and get get them out and let them hopefully get on the radar of others. But if they don't, at the very least, I did what I love, I took some nice pictures on vacation.
Michael Der 1:03:45
Exactly. And and I think it incentivizes you to go out and pursue your own stories again, and just kind of go out and make pictures, maybe you have just a 5% chance of licensing anything, but I'll take 5% over 0
Todd Bigelow 1:03:58
Yeah, that's it. And that's what I that's what I want to do, I want to be busy, and I want to work and I want to do what I love to do. But I also am always cognizant of the fact that I need to, you know, try to create as much, you know, revenue for my business and provide for my, you know, family and do whatever I can and it's a team effort, you know, I yeah, wife works, I work, you know, we're getting towards the end of the having to grind through life stage. You know, we got our kid out the other side of the door, he worked, you know, through college. So I'm very passionate about making sure that we stay busy and we work but we don't just go out and shoot pictures. And and don't do the rest of it. Because that that can be that can be the quicksand that can that can sink you.
Michael Der 1:04:44
Exactly. So we've talked a lot about kind of doing the upfront work in licensing, you know, getting your copyrights or registration, archiving it pitching it, but we haven't really talked about the license itself quite yet. Let's assume that like you shot an assignment a self assignment, NBC News. Respond to say, yes, we'd love to license some of these images. What is the basic process from here? What are you asking them? And then what are you putting on the estimate?
Todd Bigelow 1:05:08
What you want to know is how do you plan to use it. So whether or not I'm making a pitch, and they're agreeing that they would like to run this, or somebody just contacted me, like we talked about and said, Hey, listen, you know, we found these images on your site. And this happens all the time. You know, we'd like to use these. So either way, it's the same thing. If somebody contacts me, or I contact him, I say, Okay, well, how do you plan on using these because that is going to that is going to be the deciding factor. If you walk into a, you know, AAA, and I've used this analogy many times, and you walk up to the counter, and you just look at the person, you say, hey, how much is your food? They're gonna kind of look at you like, Okay, what are you, right? They're gonna say, What do you want? And I'll tell you what the food cost is, right? So the cost is determined by what you want. So it's the same thing for licensing we call this the industry causes rights managed licensing, or RM licensing. So the process is they call me I call them doesn't matter. How do you want to use it? and want to use it on our website? Okay. Is there a story associated with this? Because the more information I get, the more I'm going to write that into the license. So I would say, you know, let's just take one image, let's say, textbook company, an author that was producing a textbook, I wanted to use an image from a prison ministry shoot that I had done, I basically said, okay, what's the name of the textbook? Is his first edition or second edition? How big? Is the image going to be used? Where is the image going to be used? In other words, will it be on the cover inside or a chapter opener? So these are all factors that will alter the fee, and, you know, basically, any other use? So and that's very important. So I say, please list any other uses such as PDF, or any other you know, access, teachers edition, anything like that. That's a textbook example. If this was just another website, I would say only for that website. Okay. So make sure that you when you write the license, I would say, you know, the license would say, basically, Todd Bigelow, copyright owner, and I'm just paraphrasing here licenses to Michael Der, for one time nonexclusive, use the photo attach within this quote, for use on the entrepreneurs podcast, one episode only to be aired on and I'd list the date, no additional note, use no third party use no distribution, or licensees, no use by assignees partners or affiliates. Todd Bigelow remains a sole copyright owner, and then I would quote you a fee, and probably would just be a couple $100, a few $100. In that case, gotcha,
Michael Der 1:08:02
gotcha. So you got to get all the details upfront. If somebody says, Yeah, we'd love to use it for a book, you have to ask him all these questions and prod them.
Todd Bigelow 1:08:09
And that's so important, because if you don't, you are, in essence, giving them perpetual use of that they will go on and use that image in any other way. So they provide you a license, which they oftentimes will for you to agree to you, I can guarantee you, I will bet my next year's salary on the fact that it will be vague, and allow them to use that image in any way, shape, or manner going forward. So you don't want that. So let's talk about the analogy. And that would be like me going into AAA and paying one time, but now I get to go into AAA and get food for the rest of my life for free. I can use their food for free. That's not how it works. The next time I come back in, I got to buy again. So if I license properly, what it does is it opens up the opportunities for additional licensing from that same client. So I and this has happened countless times, I've shown this in my workshop, I licensed you a textbook company for that first edition for that title by that author. And then they're aware of it the textbook company, let's say Pearson or McGraw Hill, and they have another author or that author writes a second book, or that author, same author goes to a second edition. Now they have to come back to me and say, Todd, we'd like to use this image in the second edition, or Tod this author is writing a new book. Can we use this image? Absolutely. Here's the licensing fee, and I just generated a second licensing fee. If I don't license properly, and I just provide them vague use of it. They're gonna drop it into every textbook that they can.
Michael Der 1:09:47
Yeah, no question. No, I already know the answer to this. But I know for those who have never consumed your content before, will immediately say okay, well, that's great. But how do you price these terms out? It's one thing to know what a client wants to do with the image. But we need to know what those requests cost. Are you using any program or software to help you educate yourself and your clients on the cost of licensing.
Todd Bigelow 1:10:09
So definitely there's there's different software out there. And some, you know, people might have a certain affinity for certain software, if it works for you, again, going back to what use what works for you use it. For me, the industry standard is FotoQuote, F-O-T-O quote. Foto!uote also comes included with the larger software package called FotoBiz, F-O-T-O, B-I-Z. that software is made by Cradoc, C-R-A-D-O-C, it's been around for 25-30 years, it's built into the photoshelter platform, it's built into a lot of platforms, you can go to their site and look at it, it is definitely the standard. So I use that as a standalone software. It's also built into my photoshelter base site, so that if I choose to allow certain images to be licensed directly through my archive, without ever contacting me, they use the same software. And and so I'll just get a notification that a license was just written that is not only provides you with the fee structure, it will, it doesn't just give you a theory, it kind of gives you a range and defaults to the middle one, it'll give you good information on what you know how to properly coach somebody through a license. So there's additional information in there for you to use. Oftentimes, if I get some pushback from Oh, well, that's more than I would pay it, say Getty or something like that. I'll take a screenshot of literally the software showing the fee. And I'll circle the fee. And I'll send it back and say I'm just quoting the industry standards, you know, software. And if they're not inclined to accept that, you know, I'll try to work with them. But that's just how it works. Sometimes they're going to come, you're going to expect to pay $50 and basically Own your image. And I won't license to that.
Michael Der 1:11:55
So right. You mentioned rights manage, which is the RM licenses, which is kind of like an a la carte type of method. What if the client wants a full buffet? Like they don't want to be tied down to any terms, they'd rather have a carte blanche to their usage, is there a license for that?
Todd Bigelow 1:12:10
Yes, the most popular license for the mega agencies for the shutter stocks and the gettys and the elemis. And you know, the major photography archives is royalty free, or RF, what royalty free is a pay, the client will pay a one time usage fee and get perpetual unrestricted rights to the image, they still don't own the image. But they will, they can use it forever. And with no restrictions for the one time fee, and that fee is oftentimes very low. Okay, so just to explain how RF is different from RM royalty free is based upon a low fee, extremely high volume business model, which works wonderfully for a Getty, or an alamy are a Shutterstock. Because if your images are on those platforms, and those archives, Getty will take a percentage of every single image licensed from the Getty archive. Okay, so their volume is very high. But let's say, you know, on a given month, let's just take an arbitrary number, they license 100,000 images in a month, what maybe two of those are yours, so you get a percentage of that extremely low fee of only your images that are included that month, okay, now, if your volume is very high, maybe that RF model will work for you. But you have to have a high volume of licenses, because royalty free is generally going to be a low fee. Okay, so maybe $100. But now, whoever licensed it for $100. And if you're doing that through Getty Images, that $100 you're only going to get 35% of it. So you're going to get 35 bucks, maybe, and the client gets perpetual use of it forever, you're never going to get another license from that client for that image. Okay, so generally speaking, I don't engage much in RF licensing, there are some images that I do make available for RF in hopes that the volume will will drive a consistent revenue stream through through many people licensing that that image and they tend to be very general in nature, more of like the sunsets and you know, Venice Beach type thing. Last but not least, you have to understand that with royalty free licensing, if somebody wants unrestricted royalty free, true royalty free licensing, they don't have any restrictions, which means they can generally use those in a commercial manner. Which means you as a photographer have to make sure that you have proper releases, model and property gotcha for any of those images, and that all logos and trademarks are Remove from those images. Okay, somebody is running with a great big Nike swoosh on their thing. You can't license that commercial. OkayYou know, that's clearly going to be a trademark violation.
Michael Der 1:15:11
Gotcha. So if a client were to reach out to you directly and said, We want a royalty free, like, assume that they knew what royalty free rights manage work, if you're doing it directly, not through, let's say, an agency or anything like Getty, could you then not charge significantly more for that royalty free? Yes.
Todd Bigelow 1:15:26
And that would be more of a hybrid model. So oftentimes, what it is, is they don't even know that they're asking for royalty free, but just breaking down kind of how you know, the two major licensing structures that you'll find on various agencies and archives. But if somebody contacts me, which they do, and they'll say, we just want to use it forever, you know, are we want unrestricted rights, we can't have any restricted rights. They don't know that that's basically they're looking at royalty free, they want to pay for one time use. So yes, I can set the fee, whatever I want. And I'll explain to them, Listen, if you only want to use it, you know, for this one particular publication, I can just charge you a few $100. But if you want to have on restricted rights, use this image, the fee is going to go up substantially. Okay. And I'm not opposed to that, you know, I'm still not going to transfer the copyright and I'm in, you know, the thing that would make it very expensive was if they want an exclusive use of it, which is very rare to get, but if they want non exclusive, meaning I can continue to license it. I'm not restricted by that. They want non exclusive perpetual use of that image, fine, I'm gonna quote you a much higher fee. Okay, no problem. In fact, that's a great question. Because oftentimes with textbooks, I will make that offer in advance, say, if you want for multiple editions, I'll charge you a discounted fee up front. So you can have multiple editions, but often times they'll say no, you know, we'll we'll just do this now. Because they don't want to pay up front. Now, for something they say that, you know, they they don't even know if they'll produce another edition later or something.
Michael Der 1:17:00
How much time do you spend kind of edifying your clients on licensing? is they're just gonna say, what do you do? What do you do to make that communication a little bit easier? I know, on your website, you have a great little feature for licensing through your website and through to you directly. When did you come up with that idea? Did that take you a while to be like, Hey, I'm doing this, I'm responding directly to emails way too often. Is that the impetus?
Todd Bigelow 1:17:23
Yes. Now pretty much the impetus, like, okay, am I gonna slide this little thing onto my, maybe somebody, I'll figure it out, but I, you know, first of all, it's my job. And, and, you know, as a consumer, I was just saying this to my wife the other day, as a consumer, you know, I love when you get great service. You know, it could be your little local store, it could be even a great big chain or something. But I just love like when you feel like somebody is just so willing to help you. So I really try to I make sure like, if somebody reaches out and they have three or four questions, I always say, Hey, no problem. You've got any more questions reach out, you know, I'm happy to help you through this process. But you know, definitely at times I wish, they would understand basically, that what they're asking for is basically a perpetual use of something that I created, and they only want to pay one time for it. That's a buffet, right? They want to buffet when you know, you're walking into Ruth's Chris, man, they don't offer buffets, right? You know, you're gonna pay to go in. That's just how it works. So, yeah, I do spend time but that's part of the business. And, you know, just like a salesperson is going to spend time on the sales floor trying to get you, you know, to buy the car, they're gonna get you to buy that sweater. What are those shoes? And sometimes you're just like, you know what, man, I appreciate the help, but I'm going to go check somewhere else and you bounce out. Yeah. Okay. You don't always get the you don't always get the license, and I'm okay with that. I even thank them and let them know like, hey, nope, no worries at all. Please let me know if you ever need anything in the future.
Michael Der 1:18:53
Yeah, I'm curious about for urgent type of news stories, right? Let's say somebody's like, something happened in news that's noteworthy. And you do actually get that opportunity to license images to them. There's a small window in order to get this done. I'm assuming that you collect payment before you release images, how are you collecting payment? Like, how is that process working? How are you able to copyright? I mean, you already have the inherent copyright, but are you registering it after the fact just walk me through that kind of negotiation.
Todd Bigelow 1:19:21
So for breaking news, you know, for stuff that's happening quickly, that's definitely going to be a difference situation. So I'm probably not going to be quote unquote, collecting fees prior to them using the image in a, okay, in a rapidly evolving situation of a wildfire earthquake. You know, suddenly a violent protest breaks out or something like that. But in practical reality, from a practical reality perspective, you're probably not going to be contacted by some never heard of website that suddenly wants to, you know, use your image and if that's the case, I probably would ask that they, you know, pay me through PayPal or Venmo or something, but, but that's not going to be there. case, it's usually gonna be a New York Times or Washington Post or USA Today or, you know, somebody like that or, you know, whoever your local publication is that wants to use the image, in which case there, you're gonna have to put some faith and trust into the, into the process and build that afterwards. Okay. So that's the practical reality of it. Outside of the breaking news situation, I do not release the image until payment for the licenses received. And that comes through trial and error. So feel free to use my No, you know, what I've had to stumble through over the many years of chasing down payments, you know, the process is just like any other retail process. So if you'd land on my site, you want to license it, I don't care what it's for no problem, I quote, you say you like the quote, the fees fine, everything's fine. The way my website is set up the minute, I'm alerted that PayPal has received the money or if they say, Can I Venmo, you? Fine, if they want to go super old school and write a check. And I tell them, as soon as I received the check, and it clears, then then I'll release it. But almost everybody can just go on my paypal and pay by credit card, the minute it dings, I literally send them if they already have the link, I literally just change my end from view only to download, okay, and I can choose if there are a website, and they're only licensing a small image, I can actually choose it that can only download a small image. Okay, so I have those options. And then I just shoot him an email received your payment. Thank you so much. You know, here's the link, click on it, you'll see the download button in the images is there for them to download?
Michael Der 1:21:32
Gotcha. And are you sending them like a literal license kind of copy? Along with the images?
Todd Bigelow 1:21:37
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I make that for and I tell them, please retain this for your records, and they go through my website, it will, it will deliver that to them and it places it into my into my portal, so to speak, I can see that, who licensed that or what the license was. So yes, they receive a license, I have a license, it saves into my photo quote, you know, in the photo biz, it literally saves it as you know, and and I can see if that license expires, let's say you're licensing to a gallery and an exhibition or something expires in three years, I set a reminder to go off, you know, in just under three years, and I remind them that the license is expiring, and would they like to relicense and I offer them a discount. And I've done that multiple times where it gets relicense.
Michael Der 1:22:24
Well, that was gonna be my second question, which is, you know, what happens when it's time for renewal? Like, what's that process? Like?
Todd Bigelow 1:22:31
Yeah, and actually, that's built into those photo based photo quote software? Like, would you like a reminder, it'll drop it onto your calendar?
Michael Der 1:22:39
Yeah, I think we've sufficiently melted enough brains on this topic for the episode. But it's been honestly, it's been fantastic. I hope people can catalog this episode, because it's such a wealth of knowledge to help out on a very somewhat complicated topic. It shouldn't be as intimidating as I think it is. But it is somewhat complicated. If you're just getting started on it. I want to leave a few minutes to talk about this book that you that you've made sure. It's called the freelance photographers guide to success available on Amazon and Routledge publishing. You wrote this book in a rather short time, it seems, but I'm sure it was 30 years in the making. That's how much information is in it. What's the easiest part about writing this book? And maybe what was the hardest part about writing the book?
Todd Bigelow 1:23:19
You know, the easiest part, you're right, it was, you know, this is an accumulation of my experiences. The easiest part was, it was like this conversation might, you know, I'm not the type of person that I set out to not write a textbook, like I don't want this to be, let me tell you the truth. This is how it is, you know, truth is always evolving. Anyways, you know, what was? What's true in the Revolutionary War ain't true here. I mean, who would have thought we'd be sending drones and, you know, warfare was in trenches, so everything evolves. So I make a point of writing this in the language that is like, Listen, I'm not here to tell you how to do stuff, I'm here to share with you what's worked for me. And that makes it easy to write. Because I can write it in this like conversational tone, you know, you know, that made it easier for me, let me just write this and, you know, emphasize what I would emphasize now by stressing something and you know, and it flowed because I've talked about this for a long time, you know, I've developed enough, you know, experience in addressing these issues where I could kind of let it flow through that process as well. The difficult part was probably overcoming the naysayers out there really a lot of them.
And that not necessarily that there were a lot of naysayers. I was gonna put the asterisk next to that in the sense that, you know, I got a lot of push towards like, Oh, yeah, just, you know, publish your Amazon do an Amazon Self Publish. And I, you know,I don't know if necessarily it was naysayers in the sense that they thought it wouldn't get published. You know, again, it was like stepping out into the freelance world. Let me see if I can do this. And if I get smacked down by the publishing world, okay, I get smacked down and I can fall back and self publish, but I wanted to see If it would be viewed as a solid book, in any, you know, getting published is different, because it definitely goes through a process. And that process was was more time consuming than I knew it to be because I hadn't done it before. So what do I know, but the publishers man that I just, I'm so blessed, I was so fortunate they that Rutledge showed interest, they walked me through the process, they had great people involved, I had to send it out for peer reviews multiple times. So I understand that that peer review, and then they're reading the book, and they're sending back critiques, you know, so, you know, I welcome that critique, like I would a portfolio critique and how to get better, and then I had to make adjustments and then send it back out again, and then get, you know, kind of critiqued again. So that part was difficult in the sense that, like, you know, it was time consuming, and I had to, you know, open myself up to criticism, but of course, it made it better. Right,
Michael Der 1:25:57
yeah, it's a vulnerable place to be. But I think it's, it's such a fantastic resource, it really is a true guide, we're absolutely going to be sending out a few copies to our listeners. So you know, thank you for helping out with that. Love. I will be posting the rules to the contest on our Instagram page, entrepreneurs pod. So check it out, folks, I promised that the content is going to be very easy to enter, we'll do a random drawing for three lucky listeners at the end of the week. For those who are looking to straight out buy the book, it is available on Routledge publishing and on Amazon, I will post the links in the show notes along with Todd's YouTube channel, which I think is outstanding resource. I want to thank you again for that. Yeah, for and your business and photography workshop is coming up soon at UCLA.
Todd Bigelow 1:26:35
Yes. Yeah. And as you know, Mike, it I keep it small so that we can delve deeply into this stuff. And we can discuss it. So it's filling, it's a almost 50% full and it's not it's November 6 and seventh at UCLA all day, Saturday and Sunday, like nine to five.
Michael Der 1:26:51
Awesome. And I what I like about it too, is that, you know if even if you read the book, there's still advantages to going to the workshop. Like there's just something about having actual true conversations face to face, asking your questions getting them answered. It augments the book, the book augments the workshop, and I've been through your workshop twice. You know, I've had consultations with you. I've talked to you. I've watched your YouTube channel, and I read this book, and it still feels like I'm learning things for the very first time. So kudos again, to you for putting the effort into this. It's a great resource. I know you've done a lot of talking already. But the floor is yours if you'd like any last words to leave our audience.
Todd Bigelow 1:27:25
Yeah, well, you know, thanks for having me, I really appreciate the opportunity to just kind of like, you know, discuss these things, because it really is to me, and it always has been about trying to share the knowledge is that the creative world can be kind of insular, you know, we can kind of hold on to what works for us not really want to share it. So I encourage people, you know, pay your knowledge forward, help help others. I really think that that makes us a stronger profession, a stronger industry of freelancers. And last but not least, you know, value yourself guys value yourself, because in the world of freelancing can be pretty cutthroat. And essentially what the game is, is some people will try to devalue you in the hopes of getting something for free or cheap, no, your mark, understand your value. And, you know, respect all of your knowledge and work that you've put into making yourself look good, you know, visual artists.
Michael Der 1:28:19
That's fantastic. I love leaving it on that spot. Todd, you made it through the gauntlet of questions, my friend, and you're such a good sport. I really can't thank you enough. You're the first person that I wanted to have on this show. When I when I started it. I was just too intimidated that you would say no,
Todd Bigelow 1:28:38
Get outta here. I'm so appraochable man.
Michael Der 1:28:38
I know you are. It's more my internal
Todd Bigelow 1:28:39
hit me up anywhere, guys. Yeah, for sure, I really appreciate it. Mike, I love being on
Michael Der 1:28:43
Hey, it was an absolute blast. And I just want to say again, thank you, you know, because you've been a role model for me, not just in business, but also in life. Because if there was one person who from the very beginning taught me that freelance is not necessarily an occupation, but like a lifestyle, you are unequivocally that person. So I just want to say thank you once again, for everything you've done for me, and what you continue to do for creatives like me.
Todd Bigelow 1:29:06
You're welcome. And I appreciate that.
Michael Der 1:29:08
All right. Well, there you have it, folks, that is going to wrap up our episode 37 of Artrepreneurs. We're gonna be back next week with new content launching every Friday. Thank you again to the fabulous Todd Bigelow for jumping on the pod and to everybody else for tuning in. My name is Michael Der. I hope you guys have a great rest of your day, and I will catch you next week.
Hey, everybody, this is Michael Der thank you so much for making it all the way to the end of the episode. I hope you'll follow tag and engage with us on our Instagram account at Artrepreneurspod. We've also launched our website Artrepreneurspod.com. It is the central hub where you can sign up for our newsletter, read our blog posts, send us voicemails, and even access discounts from our amazing affiliates. It's also the perfect spot to shout out Artrepreneurs with what would be an immensely appreciated five star rating and review and if you're feeling extra generous, you can even make a small donation that's really going to help us All right, the growth of this podcast, but no matter what you do, folks, I just want to say thank you so much for supporting this program. There are a lot of great photography podcasts out there and I am just grateful to have gained your trust even for a moment. Take care everyone. See you next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai