Ian Spanier & Michael Grecco: Digital Storage Advice, Part 2

March 14, 2017

By Ian Spanier

Michael Grecco

Last month, Ian Spanier gave us a look into his digital storage system and then sat down with Michael Grecco to discuss his ProStorage system. This month, they continue their conversation discussing how important it is to protect your images in other ways. 

It’s integral to protect your digital assets. Grecco recommends creating a system that works best for you economically and based on what’s available to you. At the end of the day it’s an investment in your business, and in a digital world, backup is key. © Michael Grecco Photography, 2017.

Ian Spanier: In October 2015, you described your copyright infringement system that integrates with your archive system too. Do you have advice for photographers who shoot without a contract? How can they avoid that grey area around copyright when it comes up?

Michael Grecco: I do not know what the grey area could possibly be? The copyright law expressly gives no one rights unless the creator grants them usage. No terms means no rights.

The copyright law gives the creator the control over their work. It’s up to the creator to always make sure that there is clear usage language in their invoices. Creators need to be upfront with their clients as to what they can do with their work. I suggest that photographers keep the license as close to what the client needs are as possible. The copyright law gives photographers the ability to license their work, photographers should not simply give it away.


IS: More and more clients today seem to believe that terms of use are unnecessary that they have unlimited rights to use images. We know that registering your images gives you, the photographer, the most protection under copyright law, but how does that apply when there is no contract for the shoot?

MG: Look, every client in the world would love every right for free, right? But an artist cannot survive like that—there is no career if you are not getting paid.

Let’s look at this more broadly. If a photographer is only thinking about the shoot income, they’re overlooking the potential revenue from relicensing those images the following year. If they have a tight contract, they are now getting the income from the shoot, and getting licensing revenue for past shoots. Photographers are thinking of the immediate way too much and they’re not thinking of how a business grows. It’s also common to think that you’ll lose the job if they restrict the use—but I do not believe this is true. There are ways of adding it to a contact that make sense.

As far as the copyright law is concerned, it is rarely the clients who are stealing work. Theft happens by third parties, such as website and internet platforms that grow their business and make millions with other people’s content—which I think it’s pretty much the whole internet!


IS:  Could registering your images be a photographer’s best line of defense when a client uses images outside the original agreement?

MG: Again, I do not see this as a client issue. The best line of defense here is to have an invoice with a proper license in it. This requires a conversation with the client prior to the shoot—and almost all clients want to do the right thing. To answer your question, yes, it would help if you had a client who did the wrong thing and misused your work. I have registered every image I’ve shot over the last 25 years. Those registrations might prove to be my retirement (not that I am retiring, ever) but they will mean money in the bank.


IS:  What do you recommend for photographers who have not been so diligent in saving/storing/registering their work? This could get expensive to catch up, no?

MG: Every penny spent on copyright registration is like an annuity that grows and grows. Third party theft of work is not going to stop any time soon. If our readers wanted, they could upload 1000 images to the service for free and see where all the activity of their work is. I would bet two things: One, infringement of their work is all over the internet and two, they’ll be shocked because the amount of infringement is so much greater than they could have ever imagined.


IS:  Have you ever gone after a client that’s infringing on your original terms of use?

MG: I have never had an issue with a client (at least where it was not a mistake). Most clients, at least the ones I work for, are professionals and understand licensing. It’s the rest of the world out there that you have to watch out for. What I am impacted by is internet business models that are built to make money with fake news, click bait and sensational news stories. These are the sites that have been built on the back of real content creators. Photographers make their living licensing their work. The internet theft must stop. We have the power to stop it.

Michael Grecco is a Los Angeles based photographer with a long history shooting. To protect his work, he’s developed a state-of-the-art backup system as well as developed his own static free storage solution.

Ian Spanier began taking photographs at six years old when his parents gave him his first point and shoot camera. After majoring in photography in college, Spanier worked in publishing as an editor, but making pictures never left him. Having only known 35mm, he taught himself medium and large format as well as lighting.

Clients include: MTV, Comedy Central, A&E, HBO, Runner’s World, Fast Company, Shape, UFC, Conde Nast Traveler, Danskin, Field & Stream, Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Fitness, Marie Claire, Time Out NY, Psychology Today, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, AirTran’s Go Magazine, The New York City Economic Development Corporation, Bank of America, Gerber Knife Company, This Old House, WP Carey, Time Inc. and Simon and Schuster, FLEX Magazine, M&F HERS,  Price Waterhouse, LowePro, FujiFilm, and 2Xist.

Ian’s first full book of published work, “Playboy, a Guide to Cigars” arrived in cigar shops November 2009 and the public version hit retail stores Spring 2010. The book is a collection of his photographs made in six countries spanning two and a half years. His newest book project, “Local Heroes: America’s Volunteer Fire Fighters,” came out to critical acclaim in the Fall of 2012.

Ian is a member of the Lowepro, “Loweprofessionals” Team and The Photoflex “Light Leaders,” a brand ambassador for Hoodman USA and Imagenomic.

The original masters of photography have always inspired Spanier as they shot what they saw. For him, there is no “one” subject that he photographs; he also chooses to shoot what he sees.

Although he works anywhere and everywhere, Spanier recently left NY for the sunny coast, and now lives with his wife and two sons in Los Angeles, CA. Questions or comments, e-mail him at: To see more of Ian Spanier’s latest advertising, editorial and personal projects, visit his site at He is represented by Big Leo.