Adam Coppola is a Photographer and Director at Coppola Photography, a Commercial and advertising photography business based in the northeast (Killingworth, Connecticut). He has been a professional photographer for about 14 years. He went full-time shortly after his first daughter was born eight years ago. Since then, He’s had another daughter and his wife has come on board as the studio manager and producer for Coppola Photography. As a family owned photography business they create both stills and motion content for their clients to tell the story of their brand.
What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator?
I believe the inspiration came during a time in my life when I was passionate about traveling. I was in my early 20s and I was experiencing unbelievable places, cultures, and meeting people that completely opened up my understanding of the world. They were life changing experiences, moments, and stories. I felt a strong desire to share these stories with my family and friends. The camera became my vehicle to share personal experience and I strived to give these experiences and people justice through my photography.
What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
I think there are two answers to this one. I love meeting and working with people. Whether it’s the talent or subject in front of the lens, the client I’m striving to support, or the collaborator contributing to make the final image shine, I thrive on connecting with people. The second part of this is: using light to tell a story. I’m fascinated by shaping light to impact emotion. There are a million ways to light a subject and I’m constantly pushing my knowledge and skill set in lighting to improve my craft.
Can you take us through your creative process?
Well, it is different every time. But I can give a hypothetical example… Let’s say a client brings forth a need for stills and motion content. Let’s say they have a new product that they are taking to market and are challenging us to create content that showcases the beauty, unique nature, the unique experience, unique features, and the quality of their product. My team kicks into gear to create a compelling concept and method of telling their brand story through photography and video. We then build a team of collaborators by sourcing DPs, talent, stylists, set designers, hair and make-up artists, editors, sound engineers, to name a few. We create mood boards, inspiration boards, mock ups, storyboards, write scripts, take test shots, scout locations…. and the list goes on. We also communicate back and forth with our client to dial in on our collective ideas. Then, we organize, schedule and plan a production day that brings together the talents of many to maximize the productivity of creating content that has a powerful influential voice. From there, we shoot… and we wrap. But the production isn’t done. Post shoot, we have selections, drafts and post production work. Finally, we deliver our images and video and enable our client to proudly tell their story.
How long does it take?
This process can happen over a two week timeframe in an extremely condensed case or can take three months or even longer. It really depends upon the size of the production and the amount of content created.
Does everything you produce make money?
Most of our shoots are commissioned by our clients but occasionally we create imagery because we want something new and unique in our portfolio (personal projects/Light Test Shoots). Personal projects have many values and uses. We want to experiment and improve our craft. We want to take big uncalculated risks without the chance that it will negatively impact our client. We want to pitch a potential dream client. Personal projects are meant to build skill, bolster portfolio, and land new clients. We usually do not profit from these shoots directly but we believe they help us land the next project.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?
I think the biggest misconception is: quality gear = quality image. A fantastic image isn’t a result of having a really good camera, set of lenses, or expensive lights. They help, absolutely! But that excellent image is a direct result of planning, collaboration, vision, perception, knowledge, skill, and experience.
When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), a trade organization for professional photographers, has been an enormous resource in my professional growth as a photographer. It has equipped me with an understanding of best business practices to serve my clients and advocate for my profession. It has also educated me to have a pretty good understanding of copyright and image ownership so that I can advocate for myself as well as my clients, and make photography a viable profession to support my family. Without understanding the value of copyright, creative content ownership and usage licensing, I would have never been able to make photography a successful career path.
And I find it helpful to advise my clients on how to purchase rights to what they need instead of paying for usage that they don’t need. Or how to protect the creative assets through exclusivity, or protect themselves with talent releases and consent. This knowledge and understanding may cost my client a small percentage more in the beginning, but I guarantee it will save them so much with regards to time, frustration and potential legal frustrations in the long run. My aim is always to serve my clients in the best way possible.
Have you experienced copyright infringement and, if so, how has it affected you personally and financially?
Yes, of course. There are hundreds of examples and it is difficult to explain all of them. There is a website, pixsy.com, that can quickly identify all of the web uses of an uploaded image. Typically nine out of ten uses it identifies are unauthorized copyright infringements. It’s insane how common image theft is and it surprises me how many people have very little understanding of ownership, usage licensing and copyright even within the creative industry. I feel that this gap in understanding among people and professionals is a result of a system that has very little consequence for infringement. If there was no risk of a speeding ticket, people might drive 80/85mph all the time. I am a strong advocate and believer in the CASE Act and hope that it will motivate an understanding of copyright ownership, not motivate increased legal battles over copyright ownership, thus drastically reducing the amount of copyright infringements.
What do you do when you encounter someone stealing something you’ve invested your intellect, time and money into?
Most of the time nothing. I’d be wasting time and money in managing infringement because it’s so rampant. I’m in photography to create and support my clients, not to bust kneecaps and chase infringers. If I find a case in which a larger company (that should know better) has stolen an image, I may send them a note thanking them for their desire to align their brand with my intellectual property. That note will include an invoice and then I see what happens. Most people take down the image and I don’t hear anything, although a small number of professionals pay the invoice.
What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?
My best advice would be to educate yourself on copyright and how it applies to your profession and your contracts. Learn how to advocate for yourself and speak fluidly about ownership and usage licensing (easier said than done) and most importantly, join and support a trade organization that has your back when it comes to protecting the rights of creative professionals.
What is your biggest copyright-related challenge?
My biggest challenge is educating my clients about image ownership and usage licensing. I really enjoy working with my clients and my purpose is to create images that help them to be successful. If they succeed then I succeed. The challenge lies in explaining ownership and licensing. Sometimes I need to tell a client something that they don’t want to hear and I get responses like, “the last photographer didn’t care,” or, “you’re the first photographer that’s ever mentioned usage rights.” I feel that it’s important to shed light on something that may disappoint a client at first because, when they do things the right way, it will serve them well in the long run and I will be able to continue to be a successful creative professional. These conversations can be difficult, but if approached in the right way, they lead to success for both parties involved.
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