December 01, 2015"Capturing Unique Images Today is Becoming Increasingly Challenging"-Don Komarechka

Capturing “unique” images today is becoming increasingly challenging. Many of the subjects I point my camera lens at have been carefully chosen because of their “fascination factor” or iconic quality, and this generally leads to universal appeal. With such appeal in the Internet era, however, often comes infringement.

Many images that I’m known for, including snowflakes, water droplets, and iconic images are expensive and/or time consuming to create. Each snowflake image requires hours of editing to reveal the perfect beauty that falls from the winter sky, and precision shooting to get all of the components to make the final image possible. Through each winter, I dedicate the majority of my time to the subject. For full-time work with a specific niche in photography, many photographers can establish a reputation and become an expert in their field, no matter how obscure.

With snowflakes, hundreds of images of the same crystal are captured. Each image is at a slightly different focus point that the others, all shot handheld due to the fleeting nature of the subject, with the hopes of combining these focus “slices” in software. Usually around 40-50 images are required for the final image, but with no way to know for sure if I’ve captured exactly the slices I need, I overshoot by a large margin. Memory cards fill up fast and so do my hard drives, and an average of four hours is spent on a single crystal.

Other projects take months to create. Previsualizing a concept of placing red maple leaves on a bed of snow in the shape of the flag of Canada, the leaves needed to be preserved for a number of months while I waited for the right conditions – fresh snow, bright sunshine, and absolutely zero wind. Because of the patriotic impact such an image has in Canada, it has had a surge in popularity. With any surge in popularity, there will be some level of copyright infringement.

When I see my work misappropriated on various corporate and commercial websites, it breaks my heart. There seems to be a pervasive attitude on the Internet that if something can be found through a search engine, then it must be free and in the public domain. The disregard for the intellectual property of others is not only a frustration, but it hurts all artists financially. If I was asked to license my images and negotiated the right price for usage, everyone wins; the term “starving artist” need not apply. However, the more frequent and prevalent image theft becomes, the less money a “successful” photographer puts in the bank.

If I were to fight each case on my own, I would have died from stress a few years ago. Photographers should fight for their images however, and I think the more artists fight for their work, the better off the entire industry will be. We’re not lawyers however, and fighting a continuous stream of legal battles can be expensive.

I’ve been with ImageRights International for a number of years, and I consider them my “copyright infringement department”. The service they offer allows me to fight for my rights as a photographer, while not worrying about legal discussion and often hard conversations with the infringers on my copyright. Working on contingency is fantastic, as we both share in the success and I don’t have to have a budget to fight for my lost income.

While not all cases result in a settlement, I can confidently say that the folks at ImageRights fight as hard as possible for my work. I’ve discovered a good number of copyright infringements on my own and ImageRights has a system to uncover even more unauthorized uses of my work. It’s a great platform; they fight the good fight, and when a case is settled I genuinely feel like a wrong has been righted.