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Watermarks and “Getting Photo Credit”… WHOA – They didn’t tag me.

Why we do not need to be “tagged” if we do it correctly at export. So here’s the deal… I see quite frequently in social media posts where photographers are frustrated and sometimes full on angry that a client would have the audacity to post one of their images without giving them the credit they rightfully deserve. After all isn’t it illegal to use a photo someone else took without giving them credit? Why does it matter to us in the first place? It matters because we think that if someone posts our images on social media that people will see our watermark and want to hire us, it’s a marketing thing. The truth is we don’t win clients with the images our clients float into the world with random hashtags and inconsistent vendor links. We draw the attention from the images that we put out there that have consistent tags and links, that reference vendors who also have links to us. We grow organic SEO points by putting clean easily read images into the clouds and letting Google know that they are calling back to OUR site through embedded meta tags. Besides, at the end of the day when Susie asks Jody who took the photos at her wedding while they are chugging lattes and catching up the answer will be you, and that is when it matters.

What about the legal aspect? Isn’t it intellectual property? Well, it all comes down to the intended use of the photos and the contract. I think there is a lot of confusion around this subject because of this were a commercial shoot for Levis Jeans then it would be an issue – sort of. A situation where the client is using the images for an ad will absolutely not have any reference to the photographer. The whole point is to market the jeans without the confusion of the photographers name. In this scenario you would negotiate a price for each use ($500 for the vogue cover, $600 for the billboard on 5th Ave, and so on), but that’s not what we are doing. We know the intended use is to show the world through social media, filters and all, that the client is married. So, if you went to court and told the judge that Brad and Jennifer posted your pictures on three different social media sites, without giving you credit, after they paid you $5,000 for the pictures and the services to take them he would likely not rule in your favor. Contract or not it is too messy of a deal to police the clients you had in the past after taking the most amazing photos that they will treasure for THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. Your images are going to be sprinkled over facebook pages and insta tags for years, even decades.

If you use the meta data correctly and deliver the images including the data then your name will be forever associated with the images anyway. I even add a link to the digital contract in every image I deliver so if there is ever an issue I can pull up the image and it has the contract embedded in it.

This is just one section of the file where you can add your company name and contact information. There is no doubt that the file belongs to you forever… well, sort- of. You see we are going about this the wrong way by think of it as ownership when we are hired to take pictures. Your contract can say whatever you want it to about the watermark or giving credit when posting or not printing the images at Walgreens, but how are you going to police that? The truth of the matter is, you are sharing the images with the client and both of you are allowed to do whatever you want to them. Your style is not proprietary, and the filters they want to put on the images through social media don’t matter, and here is why. We are in the business of taking pictures for money. If you go around harassing the people who pay you then you are going to not get hired after the word gets out that you are controlling and possessive over your “ART”. So, in order to keep everyone satisfied I tell them to go ahead and download them and share them to social media. There is never a watermark unless it is for a promotional thing, but then we put our website on the image at the lower right.

I know it seems like the best idea to add the pretty watermark and tag all the images you are in, but adding the link back to your website is actually better because every time they post or share your images you are getting better SEO rankings (more on that in another blog).

Until next time – Get out there keep capturing images and if you have an idea for a blog just let me know in the comments below.

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