After dabbling in photography for years, Elli decided she wanted to step up her game and become a professional photographer and make a living at it. “The idea of working with clients was definitely inspiring and exciting, ” she said.
This week we would like you to meet Elli Morris.
1. Can you take us through your process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?
My first step is self evaluation: what work matters to me at this point in my career? Knowing that, I look for clients who fit my core values. I market to them by promoting my values, dishing out tidbits of knowledge on social media or sharing work that depicts ways to help and heal. When I connect with a new client, there’s the process of discovering what they need and how I can help. That can be one meeting, lots of emails, or numerous phone calls but most often it’s all of the above over a time period of a couple weeks. Other clients meet months before they are ready to begin work. Sometimes clients only need my services every two years. NO, absolutely NO, not everything produces money! I have a social responsibility department within my business which directly and without payback addresses issues that matter to my heart. Those projects range from short films to year-long daily postings on Twitter. Do those sometimes lead to paid work? Heck yeah! Money is not my motivation for those projects but it’s the best when they naturally evolve into paid projects.
2. What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?
The time spent at the job is 100% of the time I invest in the client. That I show up, shoot and I’m done. No pre or post work involved. Wow what a lie! The shooting is just 10% of the work. I suppose a quick second would be that using my images in exchange for a link on a website is acceptable payment.
3. Have you experienced copyright infringement and if so how has it affected you personally and financially?
I met a businessman while shooting an event who wanted to buy my work for his professional website. I posted samples from the event which he promptly stole, put on his site and wouldn’t pay me. I enlisted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the images were removed. But then months later I discovered he was using them in print. I was distraught because my only option was to take him to court – federal court. Lawyers at that level cost 10 times the value of the infringement. I was so angry and helpless, he was a scumbag and had won. Until I spent yet more time and energy researching bill collectors. That route paid off.
4. What is your best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?
Include a notice on every estimate and invoice that unlawful usage violates federal US copyright laws. And to know the law in order to explain to potential clients. It adds value to your work for them to know it’s copyrighted.
5. If there was one aspect of the copyright law that you could change, what would that be and how would you change it?
I think this has happened but allow small-claims courts to accept copyright infringement cases. The majority of copyright owners aren’t attempting to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars, we need a means to get hundreds or a few thousands of dollars back from unlawful usage.
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