Chances are that you’ve heard of NFTs in the last couple of years, even if you’re not very clear on what they are or what they do. And while some people are beyond excited, some folks are still confused about what it means. Environmentally irresponsible and unpredictable, are NFTs good news for photographers?
STILL FROM ‘CROSSROADS’ BY BEEPLE, THE NFT OF WHICH RECENTLY SOLD FOR $6.6 MILLION
What Is An NFT?
Non-fungible tokens or NFTs refer to all things unique and irreplaceable. While cryptocurrencies and physical money can be traded (or exchanged for one another) NFTs contain a unique digital signature. These digital assets could be photographs, videos, or audio files. They were created to solve the problem of copy-pasting on the Internet; if a million people can download a jpg file, how does one claim ownership of it? The NFT solution effectively gives the buyer a “certificate” of digital ownership. Even if someone else has downloaded the .jpg, you’re the only one with a certificate saying that you own it.
From sports collectibles and comic books to trading cards and artwork, NFTs have successfully made their way to the headlines and artistic community. Multiple platforms and exchanges, the most well-known one being OpenSea, sprang up over the last few years, exhorting artists to “mint” their artwork for sale on their platform.
Marx predicted the credit and fictitious capital a long, long time back. Today, NFTs or non-fungible tokens exist as an asset class to temporarily indicate ownership. People who have done their homework are already wary of investing in tokenized assets because NFT isn’t a sure-shot way of indicating ownership.
Source – knowyourmeme.com
Initially, NFTs began as an experiment to help people donate and support creators. In return for your donation, your name would be included on a blockchain – an indelible digital ledger that records transactions. The ownership that NFT promises is actually both volatile and speculative. One might go ahead and pay thousands of dollars for the JPG of a meme or a cat picture, but users can download it to their device and distribute it on their social media with zero consequences and no expenses from their side. NFTs do not confer any value on your work, which is why as a photographer you need to invest your time and energy in more stable ways of earning and saving money.
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Creating & Selling An NFT
Creating and selling NFTs (non-fungible tokens) involves several technical steps, as well as decisions about the platform and marketplace you use.
- Choose a blockchain: NFTs are created using blockchain technology, which provides proof of ownership and authenticity. There are several blockchains you can use to create and sell NFTs, such as Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, and Flow.
- Create your digital artwork: Before creating an NFT, you need to create a digital version of your artwork that will be minted on the blockchain. This can be a photograph, a digital illustration, a video, or any other digital asset.
- Mint your NFT: To mint your NFT, you need to use a platform that is compatible with the blockchain you chose. Some popular platforms include OpenSea, SuperRare, and Rarible. You’ll need to create an account, connect your digital wallet, and follow the steps to create your NFT.
- Set a price: You’ll need to set a price for your NFT, either in cryptocurrency or in fiat currency. Some platforms allow you to set a fixed price, while others use a bidding system.
- List your NFT for sale: Once you’ve created your NFT and set a price, you can list it for sale on the platform. One can include a detailed description of the artwork, as well as any information about its provenance and authenticity.
- Promote your NFT: To increase the chances of selling your NFT, you’ll need to promote it through your social media channels, your website, and any other relevant platforms. You can also consider collaborating with other artists and collectors to increase visibility and interest in your work.
So as you can see, this is *not* a simple process. And that’s not all; it’s expensive, too.
A Win-Lose Situation
NFTs provide artists and photographers with a win-lose situation. Without emptying their pockets, there’s no way for a broke and talented photographer to achieve overnight success or even the littlest support. Yes, there are costs associated with selling NFTs. The exact costs will depend on the platform and marketplace you use, as well as the blockchain you choose.
- Minting fees: When you create an NFT, you need to mint it on the blockchain, which incurs a fee. This fee varies depending on the blockchain and can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Some platforms might cover this cost for you, while others will charge you a percentage of the sale price.
- Transaction fees: Each time an NFT is sold, there are transaction fees associated with the blockchain. These fees are paid in cryptocurrency and can vary depending on the blockchain’s current transaction volume and congestion.
- Listing fees: Some NFT marketplaces charge a fee for listing your NFT, regardless of whether it sells. This fee can range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the platform and the listing’s visibility.
- Sales commission: Most NFT marketplaces charge a commission fee for each sale made through their platform. This fee can range from 2.5% to 15% of the sale price, depending on the platform.
Source – Tumblr
Additionally, NFTs can create issues around ownership and copyright. Once an NFT is sold, the buyer owns a unique token that represents the original digital artwork, but they do not own the copyright to the photograph itself. This can create confusion and legal issues around the use and distribution of the photograph.
There are a few reasons why NFTs simply won’t work in the long run and will slowly (yet steadily) remove all value from art in general and photography in particular unless they grow more irrelevant with time. In 2023, the hype around the whole thing has died, and although NFTs are still being created and sold, many have become aware of the digital bubble that NFTs are.
- Environmental concerns: One of the biggest criticisms of NFTs is their potential negative impact on the environment. NFTs are created using blockchain technology, which requires a significant amount of energy and has been criticized for contributing to climate change. Critics argue that this energy consumption is unnecessary and unsustainable, especially given that there are already established ways to authenticate and sell art and photography.
- Exclusivity and elitism: Critics argue that NFTs contribute to an already existing problem in the art world of exclusivity and elitism. By creating a new market for digital art that is only accessible to those who can afford to purchase NFTs, some worry that this will further separate the art world from the general public.
- Uncertainty about long-term value: While NFTs can provide a new way for artists and photographers to monetize their work, there is no guarantee of long-term value or sustainability. Some worry that the NFT market is a bubble that could burst at any time, leaving many artists and photographers without a source of income.
On The Brighter Side
Now that we’ve discussed the risks, costs and challenges, let’s try to explore potential benefits to getting into this space.
• Access to a new market: NFTs have gained significant popularity in recent years, even though it’s definitely gone down drastically over the last year. As an NFT photographer, you can tap into this market and potentially reach a wider audience than you would with traditional photography.
• Unique monetization opportunities: NFTs allow photographers to monetize their work in new and unique ways, such as through auctions or resale royalties. This can provide additional income streams and potentially increase the value of your work over time.
• Control over distribution: With NFTs, photographers can retain more control over the distribution of their work, as they can specify the terms of ownership and licensing. This can help protect their intellectual property and ensure they receive proper credit for their work. However, this will also depend upon the exchange, so please do your homework carefully.
• Increased exposure and recognition: NFTs are a relatively new field, which can attract attention and generate buzz around your work. This can lead to increased exposure and recognition within the photography community.
It’s worth noting that the benefits of becoming an NFT photographer may vary depending on your individual circumstances, the quality of your work, and your ability to market and promote your NFTs effectively.
“Incomplete Control” by Tyler Hobbs, Source – Instagram
The “right clicker mindset” is a derisive term that intends to call out people for downloading or simply pirating an image but it’s really just a temporary flex. Photography is an art and like all other forms of art, its value and essence lie in creativity and the amount of effort put into it. There’s a reason why even the most experienced of investors shudder before buying or creating an NFT. But then again, NFTs have also helped some photographers take their art to a whole another level. We suggest that you research and pay attention to your pockets before hopping on the NFT bandwagon.