Credit Where Credit Belongs

Here is the companion post to today’s *ooof*: Armitage in Sight over on me+richard. Rather than committing this to the waste paper basket, I decided to post this on my own blog, because it might give you some background into RL photography as a business – and the use of photography in the day and age of the internet. This post is not directed at anyone in particular. It just attempts to explain copyright and copyright restrictions from the POV of a photographer. Your comments and thoughts are very welcome!

27881_1281567530367_8359276_nAs a practicioner of photography I am moving in a bit of a gray area with my weekly analyses of other photographer’s work. Not because I may be reviewing their work unfavourably and exposing some faults but because the *ooof* is usually accompanied by the discussed image. Strictly speaking, I may not use someone else’s image in any public forum without prior permission of the copyright holder. Legal particularities vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in general a photograph belongs to the creator for ever and may not be reprinted without permission. That does not mean that you always have to pay for the use of an image, but considering that photographers make their money with images, using a photograph without permission is equal to theft. (Yeah, I told you I was going to say some unpopular things here…)

This is the case in particular when looking at the work of press photographers. They tend to be freelancers who only make money if they not only *get* the shot but also *get it out* fast. However glamourous this profession may seem to you – seeing celebrities up close, attending media events, getting free entry into openings etc. – it is a very hard job, both physically and mentally, in a very competitive market. You have to be a fast worker with enough instinct to know where to catch the celebs. You need to be well-connected to be at the important events. You have to be technically more than proficient to produce relevant images under pressure, in confined space, within a short time-span. You have to have use of the appropriate equipment for making the picture and for sending it on asap. You also have to have the ability to engage with your subjects so that *they* engage with your camera. This is a highly-skilled, fast-paced, multi-tasking job. And it does not pay particularly well. You’ve got to love what you do in order to endure the waiting, the late nights, the scrum in the press pit, the rejection, the uncertainty of your monthly income.

All too often I hear people saying things along the lines of “ah sure, they are just pressing a button, *anyone* could do that”. Wrong. There is much more to press photography than simply releasing the shutter. And the fact that occasionally an amateur gets lucky with a coincidentally snapped image that makes the front pages is merely an exception that proves the rule. In order to *consistently* produce useable press images you need much more than fluke (see above). The industry is notoriously secretive about its prices. They generally depend on which size of image you need and what the circulation of your publication is. But consider the expenses that the photographer has for making that image:

  • Photography is an equipment-based profession. To produce images that reach industry-standard requirements, photographers have to invest in cameras that cost from € 3500/$ 4000 *upwards*! And this is not a once-off but a regularly recurring expense as the camera hardware needs to be updated on a regular basis!
  • Camera accessories are effing expensive but indispensable: A camera flash will set you back from € 500/$ 550 upwards. Studio equipment is even more expensive. You need strobes, reflectors, softboxes, shades, tripods, stands, backdrops…
  • You have to invest in insurance to keep your working tools safe and to protect yourself from damages you may incur while on your job. This will cost you several hundred Dollars/Euro per year.
  • Stationary hardware: Part of the photographic package is the production of a carefully edited and post-produced final image of a shoot. You have to have the appropriate computer hardware (exclusive Apple Mac being the machine of choice in the graphic professions;  starting from € 1000/$1300) and software (Adobe Photoshop – full version costs in the region of €700/$800). Security software and storage facilities (whether in-cloud or hardware-based) also add to the cost.
  • Transport cost: Particularly as a press photographer you are travelling to “where it’s at”. This could be just a walk down the block – but it might be a plane-ride away.
  • And all that before we talk about the educational investment in photography. A degree in photography will set you back from €15.000/$18.000 for tuition. The experience gleaned in the field is not quantifiable but certainly should also be remunerable. As is the actual time that a photographer spends on the assignment – after all, you would also pay a plumber by the hour…

Do you see how it all adds up? You have to sell many, many pictures at €50 each in order to make ends meet at the end of the month… And this is actually why I am advocating the fair use of photography in digital media. A photograph is the product of an individual’s hard labour. You may use it for your own enjoyment for free, after all it is visible online or in a magazine, but if you are using it to make money with it, you need permission to use it and you should pay for it. Just imagine someone copied a piece of your fanfiction, for instance, pasted it on their own blog, passed it off as their own and possibly made money with it. How upset would you be? It would be grossly unfair – and it is definitely illegal.

183047_1572205476134_6584960_nHaving said all that – by and large the photographs that I see posted on blogs every day are not used to make money. They are used for the entertainment of the readers, or for illustration purposes. It can be argued that they will spread the photographer’s name. But that is only the case if the photographer is credited. So wherever possible, as an act of fairness, credit should be given to the creator of any image. That is the least we can do to acknowledge the hard work and the monetary investment that has been put into the images.


24 thoughts on “Credit Where Credit Belongs

  1. Pingback: *ooof*: Armitage in Sight | Me + Richard Armitage

  2. Is it wrong to offer a professional photographer money for a one-time use of a photograph without the watermark? I enquired, but did not receive a reply. I have since seen the same photo Photoshopped to remove the watermark.


  3. It is an important issue to address. I rant on and on to students about citing sources, so it would hardly be OK for me to use a photo without crediting the source 🙂 I’m definitely not profiting from the blog, but fair is fair, and it’s not exactly hard to include the photo credit with the image is it. Thanks for a insider perspective!


    • Yes, the whole issue of citing and crediting came to my mind, too, not being out of college for very long. It really became second nature to me there, and I hope it will become that for more people in relation to photography too.


  4. BTW, I need to remember — the topic of this post touches on something I was dreaming about this week. Hopefully I’ll get centered enough to write something about it myself later.

    This is a great exposition of your point. Very convincing. As to your central topic: this is something I’m guilty of — I’m usually reliable about coming up with the source for something (though I wasn’t this week — I was just so darn tired) and I tend (95% of the time) not to post fan candids without permission of their owners. But yes, I certainly post copies of photos by professional photogs that I don’t have direct permission to post.

    Incidentally this question is something that Ali runs into at all the time — there’s a lot of stuff she won’t put in her galleries precisely because she doesn’t have permission or can’t get it. So anything one can document on has either the tacit approval of the owners (the screencap series — the rightsholders are aware of those and haven’t objected) or the permission of the rightsholders (photos that are taken from actual files, as opposed to those where her files are created from print articles — that’s a different story and I don’t know how she deals with that) or else they are things she understands to be in the public domain. So it’s worth asking, if the only place one can find a photo is somewhere else than (the most common source used to be the Russian page, or nowadays tumblr) and it’s not documented by Ali, what the rights status is.

    I’m only aware of one situation where a blogger was asked to remove images of Armitage by the rightsholder (in that case, Warner Bros.), but it’s something one should be aware of precisely for the reasons you specify.

    As a historian, I’m tempted to quote Marx, but I’ll refrain 🙂


    • Again, a little disclaimer here: This post was a reaction to noone in particular 😉 But I really appreciate that you acknowledge occasional lapses. Well, I am guilty Guylty myself…
      Your exposition about Ali’s approach is brilliantly informative, Serv, and the much needed expansion to my background remarks. Thanks for presenting the facts. I did not know but somehow assumed that that was the way Ali was operating. RAnet is so well-known (and -loved) and much-used that it easily can attract the attention of the copyright holders. I did not expect anything less professional than the approach that you have explained. It also serves to calm my conscience. And huge thanks are due to Ali, for sorting these things out!
      Thank you for your support, Servetus. I think that your voice really adds weight to the issue! And I look forward to reading the post that you have been planning on this or a related topic!
      PS: As a leftie, I’m very curious now to know what you were going to quote from “Onkel Karl”… 🙂


      • I would be lying if I said either that I had no qualms OR that I was a stringent observer of the law … as always, the truth is somewhere in between. And I didn’t think you were picking on me 🙂 If I were to be completely honest and here I am risking the wrath of my photoshopping friends — my problem lies less with snaffling small or watermarked versions of celeb photog images than with removing watermarks. To me, if a watermark is laid on an image, that means the rightsholder is saying aggressively to viewers, don’t use this image without my permission. (As opposed to quietly accepting that if you put an image on the web, your ability to control its dissemination is essentially over.) I don’t observe this rule super stringently, but in all but about six or seven cases in the last three years if an image appeared originally with a watermark and it didn’t appear later on without one, I’ve only posted it with a watermark. Of course, I can kind of “afford” it, in that I don’t seek to be documenting events in real time. I’ve usually got time to wait. And again, I’m hardly perfect. What seems to happen with a lot of those images is that they lose value over time (as you note in your original post) so that Ali often adds older materials as they become available.

        Marx — I was thinking of the passage from the first chapter of the Communist Manifesto about the bourgeoisie: “The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.” What you have to live off is your exchange value; you change from an artist into a photographer trying to sell what you have to exchange; the bourgeoisie, in order to perpetuate itself, by means of science / tech, finds a way to turn your skills into something perceived as having no more exchange value. “The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. ”

        FWIW 🙂


  5. Last week my coworker who is going to collage on-line was checking her posts on an assignment that she had to do. We where on break and she wanted to she if anyone had posted there work yet. They where to give a brief over view on the story they had to write in their own words. She saw that someone else posted and opened up the post, started to read and when she was done thought the person had the same view as she did. After rereading it again saw that other than a couple grammar changes and to leave out a couple words it was her post. She called me over to read both to make sure she had read it right, it was the same right down to the last sentence. My friend was very mad, she was going to wait till she got home to call the teacher but could not wait and called right there. The teacher was going to call the other person to find out why this had happened. It was not even a case of hurry up because it was due soon, they had 4 more days to work on it. She don’t know what the other person told the teacher, but I think she feels a bit better than at the time. We also talked about this type of thing for awhile that day.


  6. Pingback: Richard Armitage Legenda 77: Stuff worth reading | Me + Richard Armitage

  7. I agree. It does get a little dicey when people are posting and re-posting, using and re-using images. From an electronic imaging point of view and digital art pov, its important to make every effort to protect and watermark your work before releasing it to the public. Its something that is taught in some of the more conscientious educational circles and should be common practice. Its been my experience to assume that others do not operate from the same ethics and move on from there. At any rate, thanks for sharing your open and honest views.


  8. I know it’s the middle of June and you wrote this in April, but I just ran across it and thought I’d say thanks for the note. I try to remember to thanks everyone for the use of their pictures, unfortunately by the time I get some some of the pictures they’ve been folded, spindled and mutilated so many times I’m not sure who exactly took them. I would ask a question. Does that count with all the pictures you see on internet images if they don’t have a watermark on them?


    • Now is as good as any time, Arkenstone! My notifications will always reach me! Thank you for reading and taking this on board.
      As regards your question: In order to re-publish an image you *always* need the permission of the copyright-holder (= usually the creator of the image, i.e. the photographer) regardless of whether it has a watermark, copyright notice or not. Unfortunately, the internet has blurred boundaries, though. It is all too easy to crop out a watermark, or to even photoshop it out. Or to manipulate it and thus create a “collage” that has elements of an original work.
      My approach is to try to be as fair as possible. Name the source, or point out if an image does not belong to you, and also mention in your own post that image rights accrue to the owners (even if unnamed). As I said – it becomes theft when you make money with an image whose copyright you do not hold. When you are using them for your own private pleasure, the situation is different. But the copyright holder is within his right to ask you to remove an image if he doesn’t want to have it re-published anywhere.
      It is extremely hard to police copyrights on the www, and the consequences of copyright blunders differ from country to country.
      Caveat: Please bear in mind that my advice here comes from a practitioner of photography and not a lawyer.


  9. Amen sister! I am fanatical about proper crediting of images and such on my blog and elsewhere. Not only is crediting fair and ethical as you admonish, but it also allows the reader to go to the original source where they might find other work by that artist/professional that they enjoy. In fact, I have developed a way of “filing” images electronically that usually lets me find the source quickly if I have somehow lost the hyperlink to it–by embedding the source and/or source link info in the image file name. I know, I am way too organized. Ha!

    P.S. My hubby is an amateur photographer–he did a few gigs here and there for pay on the side while he managed two professional photographer supply stores for 15 years. Otherwise, his photography/art is just one way to express himself–mostly nature and architecture shots. But they are beautiful and several images grace my office at work. And our home has always overflowed with a photography library that he has collected over the years. But ooh la la, hat photo equipment pricey! He never had the high end photo equipment, but he had some very nice mid-grade cameras. We even built a darkroom in our home years ago before he went all digital. Ha!


    • Hi Grati – that is actually a really good point you are making. By crediting we can keep notes of how to find the source of the images again. It also helps to rely on only a couple of main sources of information. Personally, I archive photos in a similar way as you, always noting the name of the creator in the title.
      Oh dear, your hubby is a photographer? I know the symptoms from the other side – the photobook library encroaching on the house, the dawdling on walks, the never-ending expenses for gear, the laundryroom-turned-darkroom. Same here! 😀 Although it must help to be store manager in a photography store 😉 Ah, I wish…


  10. Pingback: *ooof*: Shadow Man | Me + Richard Armitage

  11. Pingback: Great News for Bloggers… (and not so great news for photographers) | GUYLTY PLEASURE

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