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Photography and NFT

The art photography market relies on the sale of a limited number of physical prints. However, with the rise of Instagram and social networks, photographers are now exploring new ways of selling and exhibiting their work. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are emerging in 2021 as a potentially transformative technology for the photography market. We invite you to read our previous article on web3 concepts if you're unfamiliar with the term. 

The Art Price report states that photography will account for 2% of the total contemporary art market in 2021. The NFT market already accounted for 5% at the same time. In the Artprice ranking, we must distinguish between sub-categories. The "digital art" movement, which began in the 1970s, has only grown and evolved with new technologies. There were video works and works using computer code before the birth of blockchain (review the career of pioneering French artist Vera Molnar). 

In this article, we'll explore the potential of NFTs for photographers, how they work and the copyright aspects to consider.

What are NFTs?

The artist's point of view 

NFTs are unique digital assets that are verified on a blockchain, a large, decentralized and secure digital ledger. This means that each NFT corresponds to a single numbered photograph. Digital works can be bought, sold and exchanged just like any other physical asset. The operation is carried out directly from one electronic wallet to another. A private individual buys directly from the artist or via a platform specialized in NFT sales, paying in cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Ethereum, for example) or by credit card in the local currency (Euros or Dollars, known as "fiat" payment).

One of the main advantages of NFTs is the ownership of unique digital assets, such as art, music and photography. This enables photographers to sell each print as a digital collectible, rather than as a physical print.

The collector's point of view 

For the collector, it's important to know the number and number of prints produced. A photograph does not have the same value if it exists in 8 or 200 copies, for example. This is why the seller (be it the photographer or the gallery) clearly specifies the number of prints and the number of the series he is buying. In reality, before blockchain technology, everything depended on the good faith of the artist and the gallery ....

From now on, the NFT is a proof of issue date from its registration on a blockchain. Its first sale is called a Mint. (from the English verb to Mint, the action of minting money and, by extension, registering the NFT on the Blockchain linked to a smart-contract, i.e. metadata specifying who the author is, the number and number of issues in the series, and other fundamental information).

Clearly, we need to distinguish 3 categories of works 

Firstly, material goods are physical works. I'm thinking of a print of a photograph numbered 1/1 that you can find in any traditional gallery.

In second place, immaterial goods represent digital works. Photos are no longer developed in studios. Images are computer-generated. For example, a digital photo file, or several related files such as video, photo, audio and code, are stored in an NFT. 

The third case presents tangible goods with an intangible link. This is the case of a photo print numbered 1/1 with a QRcode stuck to the back, pointing to the NFT. 

How do NFTs work?

For the general public 

NFTs are created using smart contracts, which are self-executing contracts whose terms of agreement between buyer and seller are written directly into lines of code. When an NFT is created, the smart contract specifies the details of the good, including its ownership, provenance and any other relevant information.

Once an NFT is created, it is stored on the blockchain and can be bought, sold and traded like any other asset. Ownership of an NFT is recorded on the blockchain, and the smart contract guarantees that the conditions of the sale are met.

There are several platforms and startups that enable artists and photographers to benefit from NFT. Popular platforms include Nifty Gateway, OpenSea and SuperRare. But they also sell other forms of digital art, such as algorithmically generated series of "collectibles". These images, known as PFPs (picture for profile), can be used as profile images on social networks and become a sign of belonging to a community, like the best-known Crypto-punks.

For those who opt for "Security and confidentiality 

On the other hand, there's the French platform, which offers artists and photographers greater security and confidentiality.

Here, the artist controls the access given to particular collectors and people genuinely interested in his work. What's more, his images, which are also protected by a thumbnail, guarantee that the buyer is the only one to see and own the source file of the image.

What are the benefits of NFT for photographers?

 There are several potential benefits of NFTs for photographers: 

  1. Ownership: NFTs allow photographers to sell their work as digital collectibles, rather than as physical prints. Photographers can control how their work is displayed and sold by specifying the terms and conditions of image use in the smart-contract.
  2. Royalties: NFTs can be configured to pay royalties to the artist, providing a new source of revenue for photographers. Still in the experimental stage, we expect this practice to become widespread over the next few years.
  3. Accessibility: NFTs can be bought and sold worldwide, enabling photographers to reach a wider audience and sell their work to collectors all over the world. The traditional art market, moreover, is wary of market disintermediation platforms.
  4. Authenticity: NFTs offer photographers a way to prove the authenticity of their work, as the ownership and provenance of the asset is recorded on the blockchain. This is important for collectors, who began to show an interest in these new practices as early as 2021.
  5. Longevity: Digital assets can be stored indefinitely, ensuring that a photographer's work will be accessible for generations to come. The Bitcoin blockchain has been around since 2009, and started up in 2013.

Examples of successful sales

In recent years, the world of photography has undergone a major shift with the emergence of NFTs. Photographers are now able to monetize their work in a new way by selling unique digital assets on blockchain platforms. Visit the category of the most popular site opensea.

These assets can include anything from a single photograph to a series of images, and can even include videos and art 3.

3 famous examples

Notable examples of photographers using NFTs include Kevin Abosch. 10 millionaire investors back his Forever rose concept. 

Other photographers enter major museums. Such is the case of Lynn Hershmann Leeson in San Francisco. José Ramos, a landscape photographer, represents the new generation of NFTs in the photography market sector, with the aim of increasing value and protecting transmission. 

These examples show that NFTs can revolutionize the photography sector by giving photographers greater control over the distribution and ownership of their work.

As the use of NFTs grows, it will be interesting to see how they influence the way photographers create, share and sell their art.

Copyright issues to consider

Copyright is one of the main issues to consider when using NFTs to sell photographs. Photographers need to ensure that they own the copyright to the images they sell as NFTs, or that they have permission from the copyright holder to do so.

It is also important to consider the conditions under which the images may be used. For example, the buyer of an NFT may not have the right to reproduce the image or use it for commercial purposes. These conditions must be clearly set out in the NFT smart contract. This metadata is generally not widely used on popular platforms. It's a good idea to find out what you're actually buying.

In addition to copyright, photographers must also consider other legal issues, such as trademark and privacy. For example, if an image contains the likeness of a recognizable person, the photographer must obtain that person's consent before selling the image as an NFT.

Other precautions to bear in mind

Beyond copyright registration, photographers using NFTs can take several precautions to avoid infringement and problems. If a photographer uses someone else's work or content, they must obtain permission from the copyright holder before including it in their NFT. It is preferable for artists to use original content that they have created themselves. This eliminates the risk of infringing someone else's rights. Keeping a record of their original work and of any licenses or permissions obtained by photographers for the use of other people's content can help prove ownership and avoid conflicts.

Photographers can also use watermarks to protect their work and prevent others from using it without authorization. This is what offers, to give real value to the sole owner of the file.

web3 premium conferences address the art and luxury market ecosystem.

The concepts of blockchain-wallet-nft-metavers-IA are coming together to form a new digital economy (tokenization) currently under construction, known as web3. The photography sector is an excellent illustration of all these exchange and valuation mechanisms. That's why I'm presenting the mechanisms of the value chain that I know best. 

In addition to the keys to understanding, you'll meet other professionals in your industry (insurance, legal, events, transport, marketing...) to better guide your future personal projects. 

Whether you're a photographer, a player in the art and luxury goods market, an executive or simply passionate about the evolution of technology, I'd be delighted to welcome you to our next meeting in September. You'll find all the information you need in the newsletter.