I’m now in the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs)! I have been investing in cryptocurrencies for several years now and understand blockchain technology, so as an art creator using photography, NFTs were a logical leap to make.
Two 15-image OpenSea galleries are fully ready as a start, with plans for more over time from my 35+ year portfolio:
- Phenomenal Sky: a collection of storms, sunsets and other sky phenomena, and
- Lands and Waters: photography of our outdoor world, subjects large and small
My whole OpenSea SkyPix page is here.
If you deal in NFTs, are interested in doing so, or just curious, check it out, and spread the word! As with physical photo galleries, you don’t have to buy to just look and enjoy.
So for the unfamiliar: What is an NFT? Here’s a simple primer from an IP attorney. For more, read on…
Think of a unique original painting or photo print in a physical art gallery, signed by the artist with a certificate of authenticity. Creating an NFT does this digitally, by means of a “smart contract”, which is a preset program that executes the terms of a digital contract. In this case, it wraps an invisible and unique electronic stamp into the digital image, which can be traced right back to the originator, in theory, forever.
Each NFT is a unique asset, especially if the artist makes only one copy as an NFT, as most do, and as I will. Anyone who buys an NFT of mine will have the only smart-contract certified copy, period — because on the blockchain, it carries a digital signature unique to my work.
Like physical photo prints or paintings, NFTs can be bought, sold and traded by anyone with access to the blockchain (a kind of online commerce network) where it resides. The buyer holds the unique, electronically signed file; the creator retains copyright to the original work. NFTs are “minted” by the creator (or designee) using a service such as OpenSea, Rarible or Mintable. Doing so applies the uniquely identifying digital data to the file, sets the token upon the blockchain for display and trading, and takes a small cut of each sale made using its site.
Proceeds from the first sale of an NFT go mostly to the artist and partly to the display medium. After that, the creator gets a small royalty from each sale of the same asset, as long as the blockchain exists and the creator had set a royalty percentage to receive. In that respect, it’s better for artists than the secondary physical art market, from which the artist gets nothing after the initial sale.
If you buy my tornado print from Jane Doe, I get nothing. Buy it online from Ejane Digidoe, I get a small percentage, no matter how many times it has been bought and sold before. The largest and most stable blockchain for NFTs is Ethereum, which is strongly established and uses the ETH “ether” coin as a payment mechanism. At any time, the artist can cash some ether out of his/her digital ETH wallet to fiat currency such as dollars, euros, yen, or pesos. But to buy and sell NFTs on a blockchain, you have to have a digital wallet containing some of its money, in this case ETH.
An NFT can be a photo, scanned physical painting, digital art of any kind, music, other sound file, animation, or video clip. I create photography, so my NFTs are digital photos. I provide them at a resolution high enough that any buyer can make physical prints for framing and hanging, if they so choose. Other artists send physical prints to buyers of their photo NFTs who want to identify themselves. NFTs can be bought and sold anonymously or by real name. My OpenSea account is under SkyPix, named after my main photographic website that has existed in some form for over a quarter century.
To trade in NFTs (or cryptocurrencies like ETH, bitcoin, XRP, etc.) you need a digital wallet with a reputable and secure online cryptocurrency “bank” app, such as Coinbase, Gatehub, Metamask, and a few others. Setting it all up can be a pain in the butt because these outlets have their own learning curves, often aren’t intuitive to navigate for investors and traders, and have multiple layers of security to wade through (which is good, as they involve e-money!). That usually means proof of identity, a way to wire fiat funds in for conversion to crypto, lengthy “addresses” that are nonsensical strings of characters unique to your “wallet” and that you store in a secure place, and two-factor (or more!) login credentials.
Creating an NFT and putting it on the market is more than just uploading a file and description to a site. It’s a process, a sort of rhythmic dance between the provider (like OpenSea) and the wallet app (like Coinbase) that involves a series of logins and a QR code scan or two as you have a three-way interaction with them. Each needs to make sure the other and you are authentic, each and every time. After doing several, one gets used to the rhythm and knows what step is next. But it’s still a little time-consuming, and you do have to put in time and effort to create NFTs.
Like Mark Cuban, I believe NFTs are the future of art trading, and we today are in on the very early, basic stages of it. I’ve invested ridiculously little for the potential gain involved — nothing I can’t afford to lose (a time-honored, cardinal rule in any venture). If none of them ever sell, I’ll be disappointed, but out only about the cost of a very nice dinner for two.
I must offer great gratitude to fellow photographer DopplerJess (whose work is amazing, if you haven’t seen it) for her encouragement and inspiration.