NFTs are changing the way photographers create and monetize content

Since their explosion last year, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have shown their appeal to collectors, investors, and traders alike.

They have attracted particular attention in the art world, where an item’s provenance is everything and owning the official, unique version of an item is far more valuable than a copy or duplicate.

Some have postulated that Artists creating and storing pieces in the chain can use the technology as proof of ownership for popular art forms.

Photography has found its place among the various art forms utilizing NFTs, but what immediate value does it bring to artists and consumers?

Indeed, as an emerging, rapidly evolving technology, NFTs are not without limitations.

Related: What is crypto art and how does it work?

Most participants started learning about NFTs through marketplaces like OpenSea in the first half of 2021.

The first wave of artists experimenting with this new technology are taking a personal, curated approach to onboarding new talent. Twitter Spaces and Discord servers have proven to be important channels to support outreach in the NFT ecosystem.

The Importance of Content Control

Photography today produces an unprecedented range of content, and NFTs are a tool to further accelerate and democratize content while providing new ways to generate revenue from these resources.

Photographer Marshall Scheuttle told Cointelegraph how harmful the current Web2 model of “exposure compensation” is for artists.

“How we present our work has been largely dictated by the existing platforms, and as the space grows and evolves, it is imperative for us as artists to contribute new solutions and options on how to better reach our audiences while meeting people’s needs artists can fulfill to present their work,” said Scheuttle.

“Content is out there in the world, and trying to capture it at this point seems impossible. I want my content to be in as many places as possible, as long as I have ways to compensate myself for producing it.”

Artists cannot freely distribute their art through traditional channels to make a quick, direct positive impact.

Blockchain technology has allowed artists to define their terms through NFTs as transactions take place outdoors, making the space more transparent.

Intellectual Property Recognition

NFTs provide putative proof of provenance for individual artworks, which is appealing to many artists seeking to regain full ownership of their work and bring their art to new audiences.

However, there is a slight difference between provenance and copyright.

Most of the copyright enforcement challenges come from the NFT marketplace. Lots Online marketplaces trade NFTs, and most of them follow an auction-like scheme with varying levels of curation. However, these platforms do very little to protect ownership and use. In some cases, bad actors have been seen stealing photos and then making NFTs out of them.

There isn’t a pragmatic scenario where people don’t fake or use other people’s content for other purposes. Both individuals and companies have used images without permission in the Web2 world without mainstream repercussions – it’s nothing new in digital art.

Copying crypto art is technically impossible as pasting an identical copy of the image cannot capture the information representing the NFT component of the artwork.

The current NFT space encourages the open flow of information and seeks to validate the provenance of content present on the blockchain. Crypto artists certify and mint NFTs associated with the authenticity of the art created, which can then be uploaded to various marketplaces to target potential buyers.

Julie Pacino, daughter of legendary actor Al Pacino, began self-funding her Keepers of the Inn project by coining a collection of photography NFTs to maintain creative control over her work.

Recording from Pacino’s “Keepers of the Inn”. Source.

Rethink marketing strategies

Anyone with a camera and an internet connection has an equal opportunity to create art and monetize it. With a new wave of professional and amateur photographers getting involved in this space, there will be more quality work. Those photographers who are willing to accept a modest income for their work will set the minimum prices.

Artists in the ecosystem need to engage their audience to stay relevant. By allowing the people in the space to read the story, hear the words, and understand the process, artists make an important emotional connection.

Elise Swopes, a self-taught photographer and graphic designer who made $200,000 in 10 months selling her work as NFTs, told Cointelegraph:

“It feels like a lot of pressure to change your style to appease the mass market of 3D design and illustration, but it’s a nice reminder that I’m quite passionate and driven to create what I do love instead of trying to keep up.”

Artistic credibility drives prices in the secondary market. An authentic NFT has only the perceived value attributed to the art, the artist, and the community.

The shading. Source: Elise Swopes.

Being tech-savvy won’t be a key differentiating factor in building an audience like pseudonymous NFT art collector “6529” described. These artists who stand out from the crowd need to create unforgettable experiences.

“So your job is to make the connection, to find something that appeals to that subset of people (a tiny subset is fine, 1,000 is more than enough to have a wonderful career doing exactly what you love ) who love and appreciate the same things you do.”

A good example of this is the story of Sultan Gustaf Al Ghozali, a 22-year-old computer science student from Semarang, Indonesia. He converted and sold almost 1,000 selfie pictures as NFTs to look back on his graduation trip. The collection generated a total trading volume of 397 Ether (ETH), which currently equates to more than $1.2 million.

Overcoming technological barriers

Artists face the challenging task of transferring their collections and individual images to the NFT space. The onboarding process can be daunting for beginners, but the promise of a new audience with direct compensation and support is a powerful incentive.

Swoop says:

“The most exciting thing about NFTs is that I don’t have to trade the purpose of my digital art for the print. I think my art looks best on a screen.”

Better onboarding mechanisms will encourage people to regularly engage with photography NFTs and redefine what it means to create art. The steep learning curve is flattened with more curated educational content, making the experience of navigating the market and finding the artwork you want easier.

Curated platforms thrive with one-of-one marketplaces. A hybrid approach like Scheuttle’s “Morningstar” NFT photo book is an innovative way to add value to the project. He explained that NFTs have given him the tools to earn fair compensation for his work while also helping him grow as an artist.

Creatives are constantly pushing the boundaries of what technology can achieve and are only just beginning to understand the possibilities that NFTs bring to photography.

The natural evolution of photography is to embrace these new tools and adapt to the changing times to allow a new generation of photographers to thrive on the Web3.