The emergence of NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) brings a new type of technology for establishing digital copyright of original content. This can help creatives, like photographers and artists, to create authentic claims that can be verified on a decentralized database called a blockchain. A blockchain permanently records the information which cannot be modified or deleted, since it is stored on many different computers. The computers are located throughout the world and operated by users who are incentivized to maintain the blockchain network to verify transactions. For NFT, it verifies a claim to ownership which records the data and issues a token that is given to a rightful owner.
What Are NFT?
An NFT or non-fungible token is a form of cryptocurrency that is a unique representation of content. It can be art, photographs, video, tickets, and even memes. A unique and non-interchangeable token is created for it to represent the creator’s digital copyright and ownership. This is not a tangible or physical object. It is all data recorded on multiple computers to verify the authenticity of that claim. This can help settle disputes that may arise regarding the authenticity of something like artwork or proof of ownership of that artwork. For photographers it can include their photographic images and video content. It is now represented by a token which can also be monetized. The NFT can then be sold in an open marketplace platform where other users can bid a price that adds value to it.
The NFT establishes the authenticity of the creator of the original content. It can then be sold by the creator to another person. The NFT ownership then transfers hands, but the original creator is still attributed by the metadata recorded in the NFT using what are called “smart contracts”. Thus, the NFT contains indisputable proof of who the original creator of content was and the current owner of the content. The problem today is that anyone can claim to be the creator of digital content, but they may not have a way of proving this. An NFT using a blockchain provides the provability for any creator.
Steps To Getting Started
- It begins by selecting the content that you want to tokenize. It can be a popular image, a digital art piece using your photographic work, timeless portraits or any type of image you can verify is your original work (in JPEG, PNG, MP4, or other digital formats). It should not be another photographer’s work unless they have your permission or agreement.
- Create your digital wallet to grant you access to an NFT. Digital wallets are software apps that can be installed on a computer or smartphone.
- Select an NFT platform to get started. You will create or mint your NFT by uploading the content you want to tokenize. You will need to purchase a small amount of cryptocurrency (depending on what the platform requires) to mint the NFT. You will need a digital wallet to purchase the cryptocurrency.
- Once you have a platform selected, you can bid an asking price for your NFT. You can also have the platform manage your NFT for selling, giving you less responsibility. Users can also collect royalty payments every time their NFT is sold in the open market, providing passive income.
Get A Digital Wallet
For creatives, grasping the concept of an NFT is hard at first. Tokens are not tangible physical objects. They are digital pieces of information or metadata that establish proof of ownership. The process, called tokenization, is all digital using a computer. This requires using a digital wallet, which is just an app used on computers or smartphones. It can be installed as a browser extension on Chrome like the Metamask wallet. Metamask is the most commonly used digital wallet for NFT and other cryptocurrency. The digital wallet grants access to the NFT for the user.
A digital wallet is basically an app that connects you to the blockchain. It contains a special piece of code called a private key. This must never be given to others, only the wallet owner should possess this key. The private key is a secret code that secures the NFT. Without a private key, anyone can steal or access your NFT. The private key ensures only the owner has access to the NFT. If another user obtains the private key then they can steal the NFT, which is why it must never be given to others. Make sure that you also write down or save the secret recovery phrase of your wallet (see your wallet’s documentation for more information) in case something goes wrong.
There are different types of platforms where NFT can be created and sold. Here are some of those platforms that can help beginners who want to mint an NFT get started. When accessing these platforms, you will need to connect your digital wallet (e.g. Metamask) in order to mint, sell or purchase an NFT. Accessing an NFT platform requires a digital wallet, which is like your sign-in account on Google or Facebook.
The Rarible platform for NFT is one of the largest in the market. First-time NFT creators can use a Rarible because it is not difficult. Users do not need to have any programming knowledge or code anything to mint an NFT. Once a user’s wallet is connected, a ‘Create’ button begins the process for minting the NFT. Users have the option to create a collection or just a single item to mint.
Users can also obtain RARI tokens, which are Rarible’s own cryptocurrency. It can be issued to creators who sell an NFT or purchased through exchanges. The token does have value for holders so it is a form of incentive. According to Rarible:
“NFTs represent a new way to own digital content, and that digital content will be a massive market in the years to come.”
An NFT can be any type of digital content in their supported formats like PNG, JPEG, MP4, etc. (refer to the platform for file formats supported).
Here is a comprehensive link that contains FAQs about how the platform works.
OpenSea is another major NFT platform. It has a more customizable website, where users can also create a profile along with connecting a wallet. This also offers a decentralized marketplace for creators to sell or exhibit their NFT. OpenSea lets you create collections of NFTs that you have either created or purchased.
There are over 200 categories for NFT on OpenSea. This is a huge platform since it is preferred by many NFT projects. The platform charges users 2.5% of the purchase price for each NFT sold. OpenSea claims to have the lowest fees in the NFT platform space, so creators have flocked to it.
You can learn more about OpenSea from the following link.
An emerging platform for creatives (currently in beta as of this post) is HTMLCoin’s own Libra.Codes. This platform offers a fast and simple way to mint an NFT. It is also for free (as of this posting) so there are no charges for minting and deploying an NFT to market. They also charge only 2% for any NFT sold on their platform. Unlike other platforms, this one does require registering account information. They also don’t require Metamask since they have an integrated wallet.
I had the opportunity to speak with Vincent Hoffman (HTMLCoin COO) regarding the platform. When asked about NFTs, he had this to say:
“By tokenizing music, a book, a video, art or whatever it is, it is given a unique token or token set so that each item can be tracked and it is clear who owns which NFT.”
Libra.Codes also allows physical items to be tokenized. This can be a painting or original photographic prints (film or printed material). When the NFT is sold, the buyer will then have ownership of the tangible item along with a verifiable digital counterpart in the NFT. The creator of the content will then receive a payment (royalty if resold).
What Is Hype And What Is Not
NFTs are attracting attention from public figures, social media personalities, athletes, and even celebrities. It is a part of the hype because of popularity. One reason to consider NFT is the money that they generate. Digital artist Beeple sold an NFT (“The First 5000 Days”) on a Christie’s auction worth $69,346,250. Some artists are either envious of how a JPEG file that represents art could cost so much money or baffled by how much people are willing to pay. Others are wondering if this is even real art or just part of a fad that will soon fade.
To understand, in general it is because NFT are about collectibles and rare items. If you value an antique clock from the 1930’s or an autographed Jacky Robinson baseball card, then you can understand why NFT have value. Only a few people or just one person can own those rare items. That is why it is so valuable.
The NFT Beeple sold has value to the buyer who now owns it. The buyer who goes by the code name Metakovan would have paid even more if there were higher bids. According to Metakovan:
“This NFT is a significant piece of art history. Sometimes these things take some time for everyone to recognize and realize. I’m OK with that. I had the opportunity to be part of this very important shift in how art has been perceived for centuries.”
Collectors who pay a fortune to own a piece of history or a rarity will also be willing to spend on NFTs. They have value, whether it is sentimental or commercial. Like with some antique collectors, the owner does not even have to sell the NFT. For the creators, they take verified credit for it since it is recorded on the blockchain. This also allows them to automatically collect royalties that are programmed during the NFT creation process. Without a blockchain it would be much harder to verify something unless there is a curator (third party) or to collect any royalties since you don’t know who is going to pay for it.
Photographers who are in it for monetization purposes should understand its true value. What is important to consider here is that it is not about selling widgets and becoming rich overnight. That can happen, as proven by some NFT creators (e.g. Beeple). It has to be a genuine, authentic and aesthetic piece of art that you can boldly showcase. Other times it does not even have to be on the caliber of Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz. What makes it unique is your style, but make sure it has quality. The NFT creates a token of your work that is verifiable on the blockchain and made available for bids or purchase. If you truly value your work as a photographer and believe their worth to others, then an NFT is something to look into.
Regarding hesitancy to try an NFT, Vincent Hoffman (HTMLCoin COO) had these words to say to address that:
“People are generally hesitant to try new things or new technologies and prefer to wait for mainstream adoption. However NFTs are already past the tipping point of recognition and will only increase in adoption regardless of those who are hesitant.”
Photography like art is an evolving medium. Amidst paradigm shifts, like when cameras transitioned from film to digital, those who were used to the old ways were the most resistant to change. Photographers today upload content to many different platforms to earn money. Stock photography websites are a popular place to earn extra income from, but the royalty payments are not that much. Social media is also popular, but it can be full of deceit (e.g. trolls and bots). Photographers are falling for likes and followers, even though some of these user accounts are fake or inorganic. It may help with monetization, but it requires plenty of user engagement which is fine if you have thousands to millions of followers.
NFT for the most part is based on organic engagement, since it actually involves people who have funds (in cryptocurrency) that are ready to spend. Some photographers might think that their work is no good and it would be a waste of money to mint an NFT. Perhaps using an NFT seems to be a better way to measure true organic engagement with followers, since they value your work when they purchase it. On social media all a photographer can get is a like or comment to show appreciation. When a fan actually purchases a photographer’s work there is more value since it is also verifiable on a blockchain. That is what NFT can deliver to photographers.
Those on the fence about NFT either have doubts or some form of anxiety. Those who have doubts probably heard misinformation that minting NFT harms the environment or is just a trend. It does not seem to be the case and there are studies that can show otherwise. Then there are those who want to get into it, but just don’t know how. I have presented some information on how to get started, but it is always best to do your own research as well. The more education you have about NFTs, the more knowledge you can build with that information.
(Photo Credit In Cover Banner: Marcelo Chagas)
About the Author
Vincent Tabora is an engineer, photographer, and writer. He’s an editor of High-Definition Pro, where you can read more of his interesting articles.