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 photographers. Case 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.
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 work. I 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! :)