NFTs and Photography
NFTs have been around a while – at least 5 or 6 years – but it wasn’t until 2021 did they really capture the attention of creators from every corner of the globe. NFTs didn’t even enter our collective consciousness until the artist known as Beeple sold a piece of digital artwork for a record 69 million dollars. A number like that can certainly get people’s attention, so suddenly, everyone was talking about NFTs. So can NFTs benefit photographers? Wait, what is an NFT anyway?
What Is an NFT?
An NFT is a unique cryptographic token on a blockchain that can represent a real piece of artwork, music file, or collectible. These items are minted or “tokenized,” which certifies ownership on the blockchain and allows these assets to be bought, sold, and traded. NFTs are also “non-fungible,” which means they are wholly immutable and not interchangeable with each other, unlike currency or commodities.
NFTs And Photography
When most people think of NFTs, what immediately comes to mind are highly pixelated digital art, cartoons, and GIFs. Some of this art is genuinely compelling work and deserves our respect. Others, however, are no more than non-fungible, tokenized gimmicks (an audio file of a fart was minted and sold on an NFT marketplace just recently). But photography, still in the NFT infancy stage for the most part, is on the rise. Several marketplaces have reported a marked increase in both photography NFTs minted and sold over the past few months. NFT platforms such as Focus Market are even connecting buyers and sellers of photography work exclusively.
If this trend continues, photographers will be able to significantly supplement their incomes with a minimal amount of invested time or effort. In fact, experts expect demand for some of the trendy digital art to wane as collectors seek out higher quality art, including photographic images.
When you sell an NFT to a buyer or collector, are you giving up all your I.P. rights? The answer is an emphatic no. You still retain the image copyright just as if you had sold a physical print to a client. The buyer could display the image digitally or re-sell the NFT to someone else. Each transaction is chiseled into the blockchain with complete transparency, so there is never any question about legitimate ownership.
The Environmental Impact?
When I first entered the NFT space a few months ago, its environmental impact was my biggest concern. I read that the BitCoin blockchain, to use one well-known example, consumed as much energy in a year as some entire countries! Ethereum, the blockchain used for most NFT tokenization, is also an energy hog. But green NFT blockchains now exist, and environmentally conscious photographers are flocking in that direction. Ethereum 2.0, perhaps only months away from being introduced, uses 99.5 percent less energy than Ethereum Classic. This means minting a photograph will consume about the same amount of energy as posting an image to Instagram. Well done!
The future of green NFTs is bright. Concerns for the environment and the carbon footprint associated with blockchains and minting NFTs are serious ones but are now mainly in the rearview.
Should You Give NFTs A Try?
If you’re a photographer, you need to do what’s best for yourself and your business. That might include choosing to sell NFTs or not. That’s entirely up to you. But don’t let the fact that NFTs are new and unfamiliar be the reason you decide to sit on the sidelines. During the course of my career, I have watched many photographers dismiss innovative technological trends for no other reason than they were new and required a different approach to the business. The transition from film to digital and embracing social media are two glaring examples. By the time the error was realized, the opportunity had passed and they spent years playing catch up.
Yes, NFTs might seem strange at first glance and perhaps even confusing. But without disclosing any specific numbers, I have made more income with NFTs in only 2 months than I did in print sales over the past 5 years. And I believe this could be only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Join The Adventure!
Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe.