A Photographer's Opinion on the Latest "Gold Rush"

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NFTs. You might have heard this acronym lately: it stands for “Non Fungible Tokens”. What is an NFT though? Well, imagine you are an exclusive car manufacturer: you create one-off models as well as super limited editions. YOU are the manufacturer and YOU own the brand, so each car will always have your name on it, but you won't be the owner of it anymore once you sold it. Quite logical right? Now replace the “car” with any sort of digital art, and you are starting to get the idea of what is an NFT. In more formal terms, it is an digital certificate of possession (if you prefer, a token) of a non reproducible and therefore unique digital asset (photo, video, gif, music, etc). For those of you asking themselves how is this different from cryptocurrencies: this is the same difference that there is between the US Dollar and a Picasso painting: they both have value, the US dollar though is interchangeable and it doesn't matter how many pieces there are out there (to a certain extend, don't get me into inflation and macroeconomics please), while the Picasso is unique and for sure not interchangeable.
In order to create an NFT you'll have to “mint” it: you basically have to pay a fee to a miner somewhere in the world that, thanks to super powerful computers, will do the job for you and place your unique NFT on the blockchain (the Ethereum blockchain most of the times) with a unique address that will end up in your personal wallet. You will remain the author of that artwork forever, but if you sell it you won't be the owner anymore.
NFTs raised a lot of questions and created a lot of chaos in the photography world, so the aim of this article is to explore and dig a bit into some of these concerns and doubts. I'll try to give my personal opinion about the opportunities and drawbacks of this new “tool”.
Let me be crystal clear: this argument is far more complex than it might seem at a first glance and since I am, like pretty much everyone else, quite new to this world, there might be many aspects that I haven't considered or haven't crossed my mind yet. Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to add something, I'm always open to a nice conversation!

What are the Opportunities that NFTs bring to the Table?

I mean, it's a whole new market. I think that it should be self-explanatory, but just in case: a new market by definition will bring huge opportunities to those who will manage to thrive and prosper in that niche. And this was a market where photographers (landscape and nature photographers in particular) barely got any space till this moment: art collectors, apart from some exeptions, never paid much attention to photography as a form of art.

Now, in the last few months we saw a relevant increase in the sales of photographs as NFTs. That's a fact. I saw many of my colleagues sell some of their artworks for good money. I'm honestly so glad that some photographers got their work financially recognized because – whether you like it or not – we all have to pay the bills at the end of the month; if NFTs will help photographers to pay those bills and allow them to continue to produce their artworks, I'm all for it. I'm seeing many harsh comments towards “sell-out” photographers – but sometimes it's good to be with our feet on the ground, and money are a part of the photography business whether you like it or not. If you are a full time photographer, there's no doubt that this new market can be a huge opportunity for you, or at least an additional income to your core business.
Let's be careful though: from what I saw till this moment, this market is pretty much still in its early stages. There aren't many collectors in the market, and actually, all the biggest sales I've seen were made by one single collector. So, let me get this straight: if your works get noticed by this collector (or the other few of them that are currently looking for our kind of pictures), there might be a chance to sell them for a nice amount of money. Reserve price is up to you, but let's say that prices of landscape photographs are around 1-2-3ETH at the moment, give it or take. Translated into dollars, that's an amount of money that I'm sure a lot of you (me included) will consider relevant, or at least helpful. And prices are getting higher and higher each day. But do you really think that this market condition is sustainable – long term? Selling one-off pieces – if you get lucky to be in the graces of one collector - at really high prices? I don't think so. I think that we will soon see a stabilization of the market: don't ask me how, but things are going to change and we'll see who came in for a quick buck and who came instead to “play” the long term game.

As I said earlier, I think that it's a market full of new opportunities, but you'll need a personal strategy to be successful and be noticed by the art collectors; I'm sure that more of them will enter in the NFT market eventually, but don't play all of your cards based on what is happening right now because you might get easily discouraged and get out of it as fast as you came in. Don't rush things: you are an artist after all, take the time you need and prepare an entrance worth of your artworks!

So, it's all fun and games or what?

As much as I'd love to tell you that NFTs are flawless.. They aren't. Let's start with the biggest issue of them all: the environmental impact. Crypto-mining is no bueno from an environmental perspective as you need a lot of energy to create these tokens, and guess what? NFTs are created in the exact same way. Each time you'll mint a new artwork, you are basically asking to someone around the world with a computer powerful enough to consume a relevant amount of energy in order to create it and deliver it to your digital wallet. Not exactly eco-friendly. There are many ways in which you can offset your carbon footprint, but the problem is still there. And right now there are also high gas fees to pay when you are minting a new piece of art (around 20$ - depending on the gas price which varies greatly even around the day) – fees that will be cut off by more than 90% when ETH 2.0 will come into play. Now, I tried to do some research but I'm not expert enough on the argument to know if the implementation of the new technology standard will reduce the gas price as well as the energy consumption in the same amount – I really hope so. Otherwise, the only logical consequence is that – due to the minimal costs of minting new artworks – the market will get flooded really quick and the energy consumption will become way more relevant compared to what it already is at the moment.
How can you help? Mint as little as possible. Obviously the best way would be not to mint at all, but I'm not in the position to tell you what to do. Just mint your best works and stop there, don't mint your entire library.

Another concern that I have about NFTs – but this is more of a personal one – is the more direct correlation between a photo and a currency. I mean, after you mint it, the photo becomes a currency to all effects. I'm worried that, if we the hype around this phenomenon won't drop in the near future, it may shift the main purpose of photographers from creating art to making “easy” money thanks to the aforementioned hype and enthusiasm of the moment revolving around NFTs.
Also, that will consequently change the way collectors (and non) will think about the artists works. Don't get me wrong, scalpers and people who were in the business just to make a profit out of artworks have always been here, but if the whole process becomes just a scheme to make money and pass the “hot potato” at always higher prices, there's no art anymore. It becomes just a product, a share in a stock market.
This is obviously a long shot and far from me to say that it is how things will play out (I really hope not), but I thought about it a lot.

My personal experience so far!

I'll spend a couple of lines writing about the platforms I tested so far as an “NFT artist”, maybe this will help you not wasting days to understand what's what, like I did..


The first platform I came across has been Opensea: the biggest marketplace for NFTs at the moment. In order to be able to mint NFTs there, you have to pay a couple of one-time fees, which are about 110$, and then you are free to mint as many NFTs as you want. The problem is that, due to the huge amount of artworks that are already there – either you are an already known artist or you will have a really hard time making a sell. One more thing: I noticed that it's not a very photography-friendly platform, as it's more focused on other types of digital arts. I minted a couple of photos there, but I haven't sold anything so far.

Click here to check out my OpenSea NFTs!


After the failure on Opensea, I tried something more “selective”, Foundation. The only way to become an artist there is with an invitation, and to get one you'll either have to know someone that it's already there or start crying and spamming on Twitter. You will regularly find artist that are doing giveaways in exchange for retweets, follows, shares, etc. Some of them are even asking for money, but I wouldn't go that far.
I've been on the platform for not even a week now, so it's way to early to give you any feedbacks. You'll find way more photographers there, so my impression is that you'll have higher chances to sell something there if you fall into the landscape photography niche. What I can say is that it's quite expensive to mint there: depending on the gas prices, it will cost you 15/20$ per photo to mint it and another 15/20$ to list it on the website. So, consider 30/40$ for each NFT.

Click here to check out my Foundation profile!


I opened an account on KnownOrigin, but it's not possible to subscribe as an artist at the moment; it really feels like a well made marketplace with quality works, but that's all I can tell you!

Hic et Nunc

Last but not least, I also tried Hic et Nunc, a marketplace revolving around a different blockchain: the Tezos blockchain. You won't be able to access with a Metamask wallet (or any other Ethereum-based wallet), but you'll need an ad-hoc wallet. Right now I'm still struggling with the log-in (yes, I'm that bad with technology), so that's probably a no-go for me, but I heard good things by those who managed to get inside. I don't think it's invitation-based, so everyone can access the platform.
Now, there are many other platforms that I still need to try - Rarible, Mintable, Superare, etc. The ones I mentioned are the ones I laid my eyes on the most, but in the future I'll probably try to learn as much as possible about each platform - their strengths and weaknesses, while keeping the minting of new NFTs as little as possible.

My Final Two Cents

I won't lie: I'm still a bit skeptical about this new world. And that's probably why I haven't really committed to it on a greater length.
It might be the future (it probably is), but I'm still wrapping my head around the fact that till yesterday world-class photographers were struggling to find a collector for their one meter-wide fine art prints for 500/600$ and now, all of a sudden, they sell those same pictures in a digital edition (so, no print attached) for 5x that prices. Yeah I know, they are one-off, the original one, but still. And don't get me wrong: that's great, I'm happy for the whole photography business. I just need to process this fast change.
On the other hand, I'm finding an hard time to understand the photographers complaining about the high prices most of the images are being sold at the moment, calling those images overrated. I mean, we all cried till yesterday about how agencies, customers, magazines wanted to pay us in “exposure” and we had to “survive” asking incredibly low prices; now that there might be a market which values your art for what it is worth, you are complaining that prices are too high? I mean come on, give me a break. I guess that we, photographers, will never be happy.

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