Updated: Feb 6, 2020
Most people don't know it, but when a picture is taken, the photographer automatically owns the copyrights to the photo. The subject actually doesn't have any of the copyrights to the image. It's odd to think about and is super complicated, but let's skip all that technical mumbo-jumbo for now. I promise to get to that at a later date. Let's get to the important stuff: photo mistakes you're making and why it matters to us photographers.
Please keep in mind while reading this that photography is literally a photographer's livelihood. It is how we pay our bills and feed ourselves. This is a topic that has bothered me for years, so I am sorry in advance if I get a little heated. I take this subject personally.
I'm going to start with a couple of short personal stories. If you want, you can go ahead and skip to the bolded bits below, but I feel like a little bit of a stage is required to set a foundation.
Fun fact: the first time I was published as a photographer, I didn't know until after. I found out by being tagged in the model's Instagram post about it that my photos had been published on a magazine cover, as well as in a multi-page spread. Not only were my images published, but zero mention of my name was attached to them. On top of that, this magazine, which sells for $50USD per issue, did not compensate me in any way. Just gonna let that sit for a minute. Kinda hard to feel proud of something when it in no way recognized or benefitted me.
Now imagine having a long, tearful heart to heart with a model about how upsetting it is to spend so much time creating an image you are proud of, only to have it ruined with model edits. Okay, now imagine the same model two weeks later posting your picture with skin so edited that it looks orange and plastic, liquified to look unhealthily skinny, then topped off with a preset filter.
This is something that happens to photographers daily, and it is so frustrating. And a lot of the time, models and clients don't even realize what they are doing wrong. If you are still here, I urge you to continue reading. Who knows, maybe you'll learn something and be able to share it with others.
Instagram Filters & Editing
As previously stated, when a photographer snaps a photo, the second they click the shutter button, they own the rights. Altering an image in any way is actually copyright infringement. From the moment that the image is created to the moment you receive it, we often spend countless hours editing to get everything exactly how we want it. I've been known to spend over 6 hours on a single image. However long the actual photo shoot is will never compare to how much time we spend in post-production to perfect an image.
Now, imagine spending hours putting your life and soul into an image, only to see it a few days later with a filter slapped across it. Hours of color grading destroyed in seconds with a preset. Or having hours of skin correction blurred away by face tune. Or worst of all: the dreaded curved background exposing the wrongful use of liquify. This emotionally crushes our souls and can destroy careers if our name is attached to this poorly altered work. That being said, it has a financial impact as well, even if the alterations are well received.
By putting a filter over my images, or by sharing your edits of images in any way, you are falsely advertising for a product and service that I do not offer. When a prospective client sees the image that you have altered, loves it, then comes to me asking me to reproduce it, they and I will both be met with disappointment. It is not within my brand or me to produce that form of an image. I have spent years cultivating my craft and style, and your edit simply is not me. You are taking away the identity of my photography by altering my work.
Editing a photographer's work generally doesn't make sense to me, anyways. Frankly, you hired your photographer for the way they shoot and edit. If you were looking for something else, perhaps you hired the wrong photographer for your needs. If you are truly unhappy with the way an image is edited, contact your photographer. I am sure they would be more than happy to rework the images to please you.
Selling Images of Yourself that We Took
Remember that collab we did? The one you didn't mention was to rep clothing for a company you are an ambassador for? Yeah. Let's talk about that. It is lovely that you are making a dent in the modeling world. Heck, you're even getting kickbacks from the customers you are bringing in for that company. And now here we are. I've put in my time to create work that I in no way have profited from. Yet not only do you profit, but the company that you are representing has gotten free advertising from my work and has, therefore, made money off of my work, too.
I'm not going to go any further on this topic because I think it is relatively self-explanatory from here as to why this is an issue, and why this makes photographers mad.
Not Giving Credit
I know, I know. Exposure doesn't pay the bills. But that doesn't mean don't give me it! One thing it does do is give photographers the potential to connect with paying clients. They have the opportunity to see my work in action and maybe even hire me. If someone sees an image they love, but doesn't know who took it or who to contact, I've just missed out on potential income. And it isn't just photographers who are impacted by this. As an industry courtesy, consider this for everyone involved on the shoot - not just the model and photographer. Makeup artists, hairstylists, designers, and everyone else involved all rely on word of mouth to stay afloat. Please give credit where credit is due.
Also, legally the work belongs to the photographer. Would you post an entire chunk out of a book, sharing it without giving credit and quoting the author? No? So why are you doing this to photographers? If plagiarism is easy to understand, not crediting photographers should be easy to understand as well.
Alright, rant over. If you've made it this far, I want to apologize again. I know I might be getting a little angry about this subject. It is just very disheartening to deal with the same issues over and over again with no regard for photographers. It is heartbreaking hearing from other photographers on an almost daily basis of incidents of work being stolen, sold to magazines or companies, being published without knowledge or permission, and images being altered after hours of work. It's so heartbreaking seeing our images being used without any acknowledgment of who created the images.
I urge you to please consider these issues when you are posting professionally taken images. When in doubt, if you're not sure if you are doing something wrong, or if there is something you should be doing, talk to your photographer. Communication is always the best way to avoid and/or resolve issues.
I would love to hear below any questions you may have on this topic! Or if you are a photographer with your own "horror stories", please share them below. I firmly believe that if we discuss these issues more, then we can help to hopefully avoid them in the future.
Anyways, as always, thank you for reading!
I hope to see ya back here soon! If you have any topic you would like for me to discuss, please reach out! I love hearing from people!