To the bloggers and writers that don’t ask permission to feature my photos
Hey there, popular blogger/advocate/writer who’s featuring my photography. I appreciate what you do. I honestly do. You are helping put breastfeeding and birth photography on the map. Getting it seen. Making it normal. And I am thankful that my work has somehow made it’s way across the internets to your screen, where you admired it and thought “Well, hey! That would be the perfect illustration for my article”. In my early days as a birth and breastfeeding photographer, I admit it, I was hungry for this kind of exposure. I thought it was the utmost compliment to discover somebody had shared my work. Like… MAGICAL really… But let’s play out how this might cause problems if not handled the right way.
[Scene: me at my desk] *PING!* Oh what’s that? A notification on Facebook? I’ve been tagged in a post!
Check this out, an article on birth photography. They’ve used one of my pictures. OMG! This page has like tons of followers. That’s kind of awesome. The article is well written, too.
Huh. Wait a minute… This article is 7 months old? Wow, disappointing I’m just now finding out about it.
I better respond and thank my client for finding it and tagging me. Hopefully she sees it as positive exposure.
Interesting. She says she discovered it on Pinterest and has made a (harmless I’m sure) comment about not knowing what she was getting herself into when she hired me. Is she flattered or annoyed? Hard to tell. But now her friend has commented that it’s not cool that she didn’t know about it until now.
I can see their point. *I* would have liked to know about it, too. And I hate to look like I pimp out my work.
It’s true, I’ve got a signed model release from her. And on a personal note…
A) Free exposure is a hot commodity.
B) This site has thousands of hits, daily!
C) The image is watermarked, so viewers can go to google and search for my website.
But I’m worried they wouldn’t take that extra step. So now that I think about it, a link to my website sure would have been nice. And a much more appropriate way to credit, with regards to SEO (which the writer is getting ALL of).
I don’t want to be a nuisance or come off as demanding. I won’t get anymore valuable exposure if I start acting like a prima donna. But I feel used.
I’m also wondering how this particular photo even began circulating. The clarity isn’t good. Almost like it was downloaded from one place and then uploaded here. Or right-clicked and saved. I hope to high heaven it wasn’t screen shotted.
Sure, I made it public when I shared it on Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest. But that doesn’t mean it’s a free for all. And now something is circulating with my name on it and it really isn’t the best representation of my work.
It’s just one photo, and I hate to make an issue. But this is happening with increasing frequency and now I’m in the difficult position of soothing my client and approaching a stranger about the ins and outs of copyrights. I’d have happily sent a fresh image if I’d only been asked for one. And I’d have checked in with my client to make sure she was ok with the publicity. I’d also have asked for a link to my website so that the feature would be mutually beneficial.
Photographers, does this ring a bell? Writers, does this POV make sense to you? It might strike a chord. Might make you angry. Might be embarrassing.
Don’t be embarrassed. Just take the right steps in the future to share a photographer’s work. BUILD a working relationship with a handful of photographers who’s work you admire and I promise you won’t be disappointed. We are an understanding bunch with a bleeding heart for the power of illustration! BONUS, many of us hate to blog so we value your talent for putting words to our images!
Here’s a simple list of steps for those who wish to share photography in their articles:
1) Make contact: “Hi Leilani, my name is _____ and I write for _____. We are working on an article about _____ and think the attached image would be the perfect addition.”
2) Ask 3 questions: “Would you mind if we shared this image?” “Do you have a model release allowing it’s use in this manner?” “How would you like to be credited?”
3) Show appreciation: “Your work is lovely. Thank you for allowing me to share it. I hope to work with you again in the future.”
If you don’t hear back from the photographer, don’t take that to mean it’s ok to go ahead and share. You aren’t letting them know what you plan to do, you are asking. So be patient and wait for a response. Rattle their chain after a week or so if you don’t hear back. Chances are they are busy photographing and editing!
Also if you are marketing yourself in any way using a photographer’s image, I strongly encourage you to offer to pay them. This includes but is not limited to permanent placement on your website or blog. “Exposure” doesn’t put food on our table anymore than it does yours! And if you aren’t local to the photographer, a simple link is not real beneficial, as photographers typically take sessions only within the city they live.
The birth (and breastfeeding world) is still evolving. It’s wonderful to see art and literature and advocacy come together for beautiful and powerful storytelling, and education. I want to see this continue, but with mutual respect. So take this as a friendly learning experience, and do right by photographers and their clients.