Photography has been a hobby of mine for a long time. From developing the old black and white photos in my basement darkroom to today’s tiny digital cameras. One of the things that is much easier with digital images is sharing. Uploading photos to a site like Flickr makes sharing photos with family and friends very easy. I used to email photos to friends, but now they can go to my Flickr page and view them whenever they want. It changes sharing from a “push” to a “pull” technology. People can set up notifications or use RSS if they want to know when new content becomes available. I also have it set up to put a little blurb on Facebook when I add new photos to Flickr.
I also like seeing the different ways my amateur photography gets reused by others. For example, one of my photos of the Crab Cooker restaurant in Newport Beach, CA was reused on Wikipedia. Two other images were used on a travel site called Schmap.com. But my favorite reuse photo is one showing a row of three identical houses, all for sale in my old neighborhood in Redlands, California. It really captures the essence of housing crisis, and it has been reused in at least five different places.
Reuse & Reputation: Can they be tracked?
They say the more you give the more you get. While my photo sharing isn’t likely to generate anything more than a simple satisfaction of being appreciated, it has implications for reuse in other areas as well. Openness can pave the way for increased reputation in your profession just as easily as in your hobbies. But how do you know if you are making progress? Tracking reuse can be fairly simple if you have a fairly unique username. I have set up a Google Alert to crawl the web and notify me anytime my Flickr username (caswell_tom) pops up somewhere. Of course, this won’t track reuse in print or on password protected web pages, but it’s a start. As my collection grows I keep track by adding a “reused” tag to each of the photos (here is what I have so far). I also add a comment on my image with the URL where the photo was reused. Flickr makes adding tags and comments to your photos very easy.
Does greater openness = greater reuse?
I have learned that unique of obscure photos get reused far more than common ones. And while greater openness does not necessarily translate to greater reuse, I have noticed that people started reusing my photos around the same time I assigned an Attribution-only Creative Commons license to all my photos. It’s just anecdotal, but I didn’t not have any cases of reuse until I made the change from CC-BY-NC to CC-BY. It seems logical that a less restricted license would be more appealing to an online journal, magazine, or other site. Of course, adding metadata also helps. I usually add a few descriptive tags to my best photos. But just as important is my willingness to open up my CC license by only asking for attribution without adding a bunch of other conditions that make reusers nervous. The truth is, I really don’t care if people use my photos commercially. And the odds of them being used for something really offensive approaches zero.
I collect reuse like some people collect coins. I think it’s fun to see what happens with them. You never know where they might end up. If you have your own story of tracking reuse, please share!
UPDATE: I just found out that my friend, Julià Minguillón from Barcelona does the same thing! He posts all the places his photos have been reused to delicious, and he has over 160 cases of reuse. Wow!