I used to say I’m not a photographer. Not owning a camera placed obstacles in the way of taking pictures. I’d buy a disposable camera before a vacation. I picked up the post-vacation prints one year and found on the same roll of film shots from the previous year’s trip: I’d averaged two pictures per month.
Saying “I’m not a photographer” was synonymous with “I don’t take pictures” and easily conflated with “I can’t take pictures.” Which is silly, because anyone can take pictures. The quality may vary, the reasons may vary, but all you need is a camera and the decision to press a button.
What makes a photographer, then? Perhaps the eye. Or the eye and the mindfulness.
I know that in since I began my blog, I’m thinking more visually. That’s why I’m so appreciative of people who share their pictures with Creative Commons licenses. I customized my Firefox toolbar with a button: when I click it, it launches Flickr to search for CC-licenses images that I can adapt or modify for use in a non-commercial environment.
This is the search string, in case you’d like to try it:
I have a similar string for CC-licensed images for commercial environments:
(I got that idea from the ever-helpful Harold Jarche, who recently posted Photos you can use, a list of several sources for images.)
I’ve developed an informal process for how I use these images here on my blog:
- The image itself links to the source (e.g., the original on Flickr).
- The credit line at the bottom of my post links to the photographer’s profile.
In addition, I tell the photographer about it, using a template like this:
Hi, [Photographer Name]:
I want to thank you for posting this photo with a CC license:
[URL for the original image]
I used it with a post on my blog, and thought you might like to see the result:
[URL for the blog post]
The photo on my blog links back to the original in your photoset, and the credit line at the bottom of the post links to your profile.
I very much appreciate that you made it available.
The “credit crunch” in my post title refers to the fact that I’ve recently caught up on these thank-you notes. I sent out about seven dozen in the last six weeks and received some 20 replies. Nearly all thanked me for letting them know about the picture, and several commented on the post in question.
One photographer did point out his specific requirements for acknowledgment–requirements I hadn’t met. I couldn’t figure out how to include the kind of credit desired, and so I removed the image from the post and let the him know I’d done so.
Lesson for me: double-check the CC license.
When I search for images, I try to find ones a little out of the ordinary. The two I’ve included with this post strike me that way: I hadn’t expected something like the first one, which scarcely hints at a camera. The second image appealed to me in several ways: the different directions people are looking, the red robes, the children.
All these things help widen my visual vocabulary, and I’m convinced they enhance the thoughts that appear on my Whiteboard.