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Time to Register Your Copyright

130106_0013_6dz8076 So, two weeks have past of the New Year. Have you broken your New Years Resolution’s yet? Well, I have a resolution that you need to make and keep.

Start regularly registering your photos with the copyright office!

I am sure this is something that you plan to get to someday, or maybe, there is just too much information out there that is confusing you. I actually heard some info a couple of weeks ago on a well-known podcast that was contrary to my understanding. I had to check my references to make sure my memory was not failing me.  Well, let me get you pointed in the right direction.

A couple of years ago, I found a book that clarified things for me, the Photographer’s Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age (Lark Photography Book)
There is a lot of useful information in this book in addition to copyright, and I recommend you add it to your library.

The website  The Copyright Zone is also a good resource.

In summary, you own the copyright the second you take the photo, and infringing on that copyright is illegal whether you register your work or not. But registering gives you more teeth in the legal system, and apparently lawyers will not take your case if you have not registered your image.

You can register your images online at the Electronic Copyright Office. Photos are registered by year and whether they are published or unpublished.

Published images are fully protected from infringement if they are registered within 3 months of the publish date. So if someone infringes one of your images in that 3 month window, it is as if you registered the image at the time of publishing. If someone infringes your image before you register, and you registered after the 3 month window, your payday for the infringement case may not be as lucrative.

An image is published anytime I sell a print or file or post something on the internet unless it is in a password protected gallery for a specific person. Tags such as “published year”, “registered as published”, and “registered as unpublished” with smart collections in Lightroom help to keep track of everything. I use a quarterly schedule to collect all my published images and register them in one batch. Oh, and just because you may miss the 3 month window from publishing does not mean you have an excuse to just not register that image. As long as you register prior to any infringement, you are still protected.

Unpublished images are collected and registered once at the end of the year.

Each registration is $35 for an unlimited number of images. So if I register published images quarterly, and unpublished annually, that is 5 x ($35) = $175/year. At a minimum, you can take a chance with the published images, and register them annually at $35 for published, $35 for unpublished, and a total of $70/year.

So there you have it. Registering your copyright is not difficult or expensive, so just start doing it!

I have been registering my images for the past 2 years, and I feel a little better about sharing my images on the internet as a result. I am still leery about the various implications of the terms of service on the social networks, especially with the recent Instragram discussions, but that is a discussion for another post.

I look forward to seeing you at our next meeting on January 22.

Have a great 2013!

Dee Zunker
President – Houston Photographic Society

It’s Not Done Until It’s in Print

Supplies for Matting Print Printing is the final step in photography. You are simply not done until you see your image in print. There is a certain emotional response that is just not there when viewing your prints on a computer screen. You notice details, there is texture, and there are more colors. You finally have something tangible in your hands that you created.

At the Houston Photographic Society, we have a print competition once per month where members bring up to 2 prints to be critiqued and judged in the competition. The physical printing and competition is the reason I chose to join the Houston Photographic Society a few years ago. I wanted to do more than just look at prints on a projector or a computer screen, and I wanted a reason to get some of those images off my hard drive.

I was a bit lost on how to mat my prints at first, so I did the typical YouTube and Google searches, and muddled through. I learned some things, and I wanted to share with you what I do for our competitions. You can read Matting Your Photos – Part 1: Precut Mats. This is just the basics, and there is more to learn about the artistic side on how to mat to enhance your art. If you would like to learn more about matting at a deeper level, I recommend you take the Matt Cutting class at the Houston Center for Photography taught by HPS member Laszlo Perlaky.

I hope you join us this year, make some new friends, and take your photography to the next level. You can find out about our upcoming meetings on our meetup site.

Have great 2013!

Dee Zunker
President – Houston Photographic Society

The most important filter in photography

© 2012 by John Kleb

Message from the President
February 2012

Lens filters are a useful tool for the photographer. It was prevalent in the days of film, but still applicable in this digital era.

Today, digital white balance takes away most color balance issues in an overall setting and gradient filters can be applied in post processing.

© 2012 by John Kleb Honestly, do you think I’m going to write about some piece of gear that a hundred articles on the internet can tell you about?


And, then I try to sell you on one thing making your photographs better?

You should know me better than that!

Yet, selling you on using one important filter is exactly what I’m going to do.

I’ve spent the last five days on the road travelling from Houston to Phoenix and back — approximately 2500 miles in all.

The trip served two purposes: one was to meet up with some photographer friends and acquaintances from all across the country; and the other was just to take a good mind-clearing road trip.

Mission accomplished on both goals!

We had an interesting conversation while I was there that particularly rang true on my second goal. You see, I’ve been kind of bored with my work lately. I felt a bit stagnant.

Getting back into film helped, but it seemed I was doing the same thing — just on a different format.

Then the subject of photographer Jake Stangel’s work turned into a philosophical discussion of the filter, that is — the personal filter.

Stangel is a young guy who is one of the bright new faces of commercial and advertising photography. What’s interesting is that if you follow his work, you’ll see there really isn’t anything he won’t photograph.

It’s not that the photographs are unknown genres, new ideas or new processes.

It’s that it’s all still interesting and new to him. If he sees it he shoots it. It isn’t that he doesn’t have a good eye or lacks technical skill, but rather that there isn’t anything not important enough for him to photograph.

It’s like giving a camera to a young child. They have no filter or rules to tell them what to do or how to do it. If it looks interesting they push the button.

I remember at our wedding we had disposable cameras on the tables that all the kids had a field day with. Who knows how many photos we had developed of the reception that showed everyone from their knees down? But that was the kids view. They didn’t have to bother with being ‘proper’ photographers. They didn’t have that filter getting in the way of what they saw.

So, Sunday morning, I woke up early before I had to hit the road back to Houston and walked around downtown Phoenix for a while. I took with me two rolls of film and the determination to shoot what was interesting, not what was grand and perfect.

It was fun.

© 2012 by John Kleb It was enjoyable to not have to shoulder the burden of making sure that I had made a photograph worthy of the rest of the world. I still have no idea if any of it is any good or not. I haven’t had a chance to develop the film yet. But, in some ways, it doesn’t matter if they aren’t good.

Street signs.

Stripes on the road.

Blocks of color painted on the side of a building.

I let go of caring if it was cliché or an overdone subject.

I removed the filters.

I continued the exercise a bit on the way home. Not a lot of time to hang around and shoot along the way if I wanted to make it home at a reasonable time and still make it to work on Tuesday.

The camera in the phone became my friend again. We made peace and a few photographs. Even if they lack a lot of merit from an artistic or technical standpoint, they documented a journey that was both physical and spiritual.

What more can you ask for without asking for too much?

~John Kleb, 2012 HPS President



Year End Print Competition

In just a couple days, we’re going to hang prints for public display at the Houston Public Library—Central (500 McKinney in Downtown Houston) for our Year End Competition (or is it beginning?).

I’d like to give a personal note of thanks to Jim Fife for doing a lion’s share of the prep work for this show. Without his efforts, I don’t know how we would be getting this show to the public.

Thanks, Jim!

Message from the President
January 2012

I hear a lot these days about how photographers need to have a signature style to their work—a specific lighting pattern, look, color palette, gear, or whatever. Apparently, we’re supposed to be able to look through our work and find what we do most often and refine it.

Okay. But, why?

"Experts" say it will help define your work and make it unique, to give it your look.

That’s all good and well.

But, I personally think a lot of these people are putting the cart in front of the horse.

Trying to go out and build your style has some massive pitfalls attached if you go about it the wrong way.

For instance, new photographers have a tendency to pick the current fad in the photography world, copy it, and call it a style.

Similar to this is to copy the style of an old master and call it a style. If you do this you haven’t found your style, then you’ve probably found what you like or what you think will be popular.

Opposite of this is to just do everything under the sun once or twice and wait for some omnipotent spirit of the arts to reveal your style. By going down these roads, you are apt to find a lot of frustration.

Photo by John Kleb

The problem is, I think you must go down these roads.

An acquaintance of mine has a deep knowledge and study of music—especially jazz.

He likes to equate photographers finding their style with trumpeter Clark Terry‘s “Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate”, which is saying that finding your signature is a process—not an event.

I think this really holds true.

You have to try to recreate what you love, incorporate it into what you do, and let it grow into something unique. Do this and you have a style.

What no one can tell you is how long this process will take.

It’s not like you take a semester of Your Style 101 and you’re done. You really have to do the work. It will most likely take years unless you’re just a photo-savant. Those people are rare—very rare.

You have to do the work to get there.

Unless you really have a passion for the work, it’s going to be hard to do. The closer you get, the harder it is to keep pushing until you evolve into something new.


Simple formula, hard to execute.

~ John Kleb, 2011 HPS President

The Downtime


I’d like to thank the Society officers and chairmen who served us for 2011: Bob Jump, Orlando Morales, Jim Fife, Don Hill, Donna Kleb, Nathalie Brouard, and Les Stessel.

And, I’d like to give a special thank you to Bernie Levy who has decided to hang up his treasurer’s hat after many, many years of service—you leave big shoes to fill!

Thank you all for your service and I look forward to working with those officers returning again next year.

Message from the President
December 2011

Growing up on a farm this time of year was always a very self reflective time. All the crops are in and the equipment is mostly serviced and stored away for the winter. I spent most of my time that wasn’t in school either hunting ducks and geese around the house, hunting deer in the hill country near Leakey, Texas, or building things in the work barn.

For the most part, it was very laid back compared to the spring and summer. There was a lot of time to think and plan for the upcoming year.

I guess those old habits are just ingrained in me now.

I find myself thinking and planning more than doing. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing—it just is.

Click on Thumbnail to view full-size

Plans have been drawn up for a new mini-darkroom and storage area. Detailed CAD drawings, material list, and work flow. It could have been half built by the time I finished all that. Quite a bit of research has been done for diversifying what we grow on the land we live on. The live oak tree business has dropped off with the housing market, so it’s time to re-think what we do.

I’ve moved out of my studio space and looking for a new one. All the gear is still packed on a trailer in the barn until I figure out what I want to do for a new space. It’s busy. But it’s a plodding along kind of busy.

It’s a good time though, too. It’s the time of year where you clean off the chalkboard (okay, it’s a dry erase now) and write down what you want to do, then really think about how you want to fill in the space getting there. That’s what was so great about all those years of long drives to the hill country and hours in the deer stand—it gave you time to think.

At least that’s what I did with the time—just letting the mind wander to see what emerged.

Thinking seems to be under appreciated these days.

Work, work, work. Hurry up. Increased efficiency. Always on. Task oriented flurries of activity.

Sustaining that kind of lifestyle is a dream killer for most. It’s like driving so fast that your GPS can’t update fast enough until it finally sends you off a cliff instead of turning. It’s a road to burn out for what ever it is you’re doing.

Take some time to stop and listen to simple silence.

Get lost in it.

Don’t over think a single issue, but rather, let it wander into a completely new subject. You never know what you might find there.

I know this doesn’t sound like it has much to do with photography, but it has everything to do with it. It’s been said that every photograph is a self-portrait of the photographer. Done right, you bare a little bit of your soul in every shot.

The longer I photograph the more I find this to be true. I think other artists take this as a given truth. I don’t know why it can be a hard connection to make for photographers. Without that time for introspection, you don’t know what or how to share yourself through your photographs.

The time I spent in the hill country and in the fields at home is when I really made my start in photography. My camera saw where my wanderings took me. I wouldn’t venture that my photography was necessarily “good” by any standard. Rather, it was simply documenting where I went and what I did. Trying for “good” would come many years later.

Perhaps it’s because we have so much technical skill to master that we lose touch with the artistic part of what we do. We spend so much effort to get the best shot that we lose sight of what the best really is sometimes.

Work at the lighting. Work at the composure. Work at the printing. Better gear. More efficient workflow. Constant networking. Task oriented flurries of activity.

It can be a creativity killer.

Go somewhere and just sit down and think.

Get lost in some silence.

Go someplace familiar and wander it till you find something new there.

Make a project out of it. If you end up with a record of aimless wandering, that’s okay. You may wander into something special down the road.

The photos I’ve attached with this month’s letter were all taken in the mid to late 1980’s. I was somewhere between the ages of nine and twelve. It seems like a lifetime ago in land far away now. But, what I did then still echos in what I do today.

I just had to look back twenty years later to realize it.

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