10 December 2012

photography // giving credit where credit is due...

This issue comes and goes for me.  It wanders in and out of my peripheral vision, but after my experience tonight, I have to speak up.

It may seem like a small issue; I am often guilty of overlooking the importance of this myself.  But recently Pinterest, and the Internet in general long before that, really shines light on the issue of proper image credit.

My initial interest in this topic is pretty straightforward: I'm a photographer.  The idea of someone finding an image of mine and not being able to identify me as the creator of said image is an upsetting one, both for my business and for my creativity as an artist (or whatever you'd like to call me -- but be nice).  :)

This is why photographers watermark their images.  Yes, it's to prevent image theft (the risk of which is pretty highly debated in photography circles anyway), but it's also to promote image identification.  What a huge loss for me, as a wedding photographer, for a soon-to-be-bride to see one of my images (and perhaps fall in love with it, and want the photographer behind the image to work at her wedding), but not know that image belongs to Anna Delores Photography.  She's frustrated because she can't find and hire the photographer, and I'm frustrated because I'm unable to offer my services to this client.  Everybody loses.

I usually add my logo to the lower left-hand corner of images I intend to publish online as a way of making sure my images can be traced back to me.

This is, however, definitely not a problem limited to photographersCase in point: I was researching the origin of images I used in this blog post from yesterday.  I'd found all the images via Pinterest and was assuming (erroneously, I discovered) that the images I was re-pinning were properly linked and credited.  I was curious about this dress (it's stunning!) and set off to find it.  After an hour of searching, I now know that this dress was designed by Justin Alexander and that the photographers were McGowan Images.

Gown by Justin Alexander | Photography by McGowan Images

I was especially frustrated with the difficulty in tracking down the credentials for this image because its origin was Style Me Pretty.  The link, however, went to a web gallery on Style Me Pretty that did not link to the original blog post where the dress and other vendors are listed (though this gallery did at least have a link to the photographer's website).  I eventually found the original blog post, which is where I finally found the link to the Justin Alexander website, but to be honest with you, I'm kind of an Internet ninja -- I am really persistent at tracking down information.  I had to use Tin Eye (which I HIGHLY recommend) to find the dress on Style Me Pretty to begin with (the image from Pinterest was linked to a Tumblr site that had no forwarding link information), and frankly, I don't think a lot of brides are aware of this tool nor apt to use it.  Correct me if I'm wrong!

To my dismay, I had the same experience with this lovely pair of images of Keira Knightly in an ice-blue wedding-style gown.  I still don't know who the designer of this dress is, nor the photographer who captured the images.  I even traced the photo back to Green Wedding Shoes and thought to myself, "of course Green Wedding Shoes will have the original details!"  Nope.  Not a one.

What I think made me the most upset by seeing this image on GWS was that blog visitors who commented on this post asked in vain about who designed the dress.  No one had an answer, and much worse, someone provided a link to another designer saying "so-and-so will duplicate this dress for you if you take the picture for her to copy!"

This reminds me of a recent post by Leonora: it is not okay to take someone else's creation for your own use without proper credit (which, in some cases, is a simple copyright acknowledgment; in other cases, it may involve compensation).  Call it what you will: borrowing, stealing, copying, duplicating... regardless of the term you use to describe it, you are taking an original design from someone else.  Sure, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when you're making a living from your creative juices, and someone else takes advantage of that...

This is obviously a slippery slope, and I've grappled with it myself: there is a very fine line between being inspired by something, and copying someone else's workI mean, there are a lot of wedding photographers out there, and most (if not all) of us have blogs where we share our work (not to mention there are at least a handful, if not more like dozens, of images that are considered "typical" or "must-have" wedding photographs -- are we all copying each other then?  Or just giving our clients what they want?).  I follow several other photographers' blogs and find daily doses of inspiration from their images.  But I don't go out and try to duplicate those images.  Again, there is a fine line at play here; do I take note of certain angles and techniques another photographer is using?  Yes.  Do I take my clients to the same location and put them in the same poses?  No.  But where does this distinction begin to blur?  For example, I love photographs of the bride and groom's shoes/feet.  Jill DeVries does this particularly well, in my opinion, and I love to follow Jill's blog.  I also photograph my own clients' feet during engagement sessions and weddings.  Am I copying Jill?  Or am I inspired by Jill?  I think an argument can be made for both sides here.  I will say, for the record, that I make a sincere and genuine effort to bring my own creative vision to a good shoes shot, and it wouldn't even occur to me (until now, trying to imagine a blatantly unacceptable example) to pose a couple's feet in the same way as an image I'd seen on Jill's blog.

Okay, so now I'm definitely rambling.  I'm impressed if any of you even read the past couple of paragraphs in their entirety, for all the tangents I followed.  

But I'll come back to my original point, my initial aim for writing this post in the first place: as a plea to properly credit any creative inspiration you decide to share with others.  Double-check the source of your Pinterest pins; link back to bloggers, writers, and artist websites when using images or quotes on your own blogs; correct dead links when you find them; and support originality as much as possible.

I don't think it's difficult for most people to imagine the frustration that accompanies a disconnection with your own hard work.  If your boss loves something you've accomplished but doesn't know it's you who executed whatever task or project it is that he's admiring, wouldn't you be at least a little bit upset?  For a pat on the back, a raise during your next performance review, a great recommendation for your next client, or even just to go home knowing you've done your job well?  Because your livelihood or even your own creative integrity is hinged on someone being able to trace your work back to you?  If nothing else, at the end of the day, it just feels good to receive acknowledgment for your endeavors and successes.  Credit where credit is due.

Thank you, friends, for enduring my rant!  :)


  1. I couldn't agree more!!
    I was also discouraged to note that GWS had a "Pin It" link on the dress-- which will serve only to remove it even further from the original designer/photographer. {As a side note, I did a quick Google Image search on the dress & it has been repinned so many times I can't even begin to find the original! The earliest pin I found was 2009, so its safe to say the photo is pre-2009, but that is all I could get-- so frustrating!}
    Plagiarism-- of the written word & pasted image, has become a real problem. I think it is done mostly out of ignorance {even though common sense dictates we should try to credit where credit is due}, so thank you for the timely reminder!!

  2. Amen.

    I get so frustrated researching pins and finding that there is no source for them. Thank you so much for the reference to Tin Eye! I will definitely try that next time I need to find an image source. I'm guilty of being sort of indifferent (read:lazy) sometimes, especially if I'm repinning from the Pinterest app on my phone. On my computer, I usually trace the source before pinning.

  3. Great post! and your tangents are fun to follow! I agree, not only for the creator's sake which is of course of great importance, but for the potential consumer's sake as well!

  4. Such a great post. I wish more of the general public cared about "linking with love" and giving credit where credit is due.

    Once Pinterest was released from beta, it became a mess of improper links and copyright infringement. I am guilty of pinning pictures from Style Me Pretty's galley and not the blog post for specific details not the collages they post, but I do add descriptive text and a link to the post. However, I feel they are such a roll of the dice. Some of the weddings they show have everything from the wedding dress designer to the garbage man listed and other weddings you are lucky to get the name of the bride and groom let alone any vendor details.

  5. I wrote a post today on organizing Pinterest and I touched on giving proper credit, but you said it 100x better than I did. If everyone credited properly, the internet would be an even better tool than it already is!

  6. Nothing makes me more upset than not being able to track down a source, especially when it's on tumblr and the search often stops there! UGH. But you also bring up such valid points about the line between inspiration and creation, I mean I can imagine a lot of brides come to you with photo ideas (taken by other photographers) and they want a similar product. I guess I can imagine this because I have a full folder of Disneyland photos I want to take during my engagement photoshoot (someday!) but I can't possibly hire EVERY photographer from every photo that I liked. And frankly it's Disneyland, there's not a huuuuuge variation in places for photos. Anyways, I'm rambling now but I appreciate the overall sentiment of crediting when crediting is due!

  7. Well said. I couldn't agree with you more. I wish people had more respect when pinning and using pictures. I've had personal experiences in which people take pictures from my blog and use them for their own uses and it's unbelievably rude. If only they would link to the proper place, or even ask me first, it would make a huge difference. Lovely post girl! Thank you for addressing such a sensitive subject.

  8. Oh, how I feel this (on both sides of the issue, now that I've begun my photography business). It's so frustrating when I find something amazing on Pinterest and there's no link to the original DIY instructions or the shop where I can find that cute item. And I found my own wedding photographer via a watermarked photo of hers on Facebook, so you're so right about that being a way to promote image identification and promote your business.

    Well said :)

  9. and Pinterest and Tumblr are not sources people!!!!

  10. I really love this post and couldn't agree more with it. I'm not even a photographer or artist myself, but I can definitely put myself in their shoes. If I wrote a long, exhausting term paper and think about my professor not even knowing it has been written by me or someone else acutally taking credit for my work - that would be frustrating.
    That's the reason why I contact all of the artists I feature on my blog beforehand and ask them for permission - which is often myssively appreciated!

  11. Great post, so true! I love your blog and I am now following you!

    Sparkles and Shoes

  12. {av} at {long distance loving} has been talking about this - especially when it comes to Pinterest - for a while, but I have to admit that I didn't think it was a real problem until I started looking into the credited sources of the images. Unsurprisingly but very sadly, they're often totally incorrect and inappropriate.

    I started trying to clean up my Pinterest account and realized that I was guilty of the same bad sourcing when a pin led back to my blog and I (in my blogging infancy then) hadn't credited the image properly. I've actually paused my Pinterest clean-up to go back into the archives of my blog to clean up those images and sources. It's taking forever, but online integrity is SO important, especially where people livelihoods are concerned!

    thank you for posting this!

  13. and you're right to be especially frustrated by GWS - I'm always especially disappointed when bloggers who definitely should know better don't source or credit properly!


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