Photographers Get Cheated, Forget That!

My husband is a talented Photographer. So talented, I teamed up with him to start a content marketing agency. As our client list grew, we realized very quickly photographers get cheated even more than we thought. We saw Paolo’s photos get used by brands without even attempting to ask for permission. News outlets without giving credit and social media, forget it! Regram after regram after regram.

Protecting Photography Online

It’s as if the golden for photography has become: use at will, don’t ask, and definitely don’t pay. Infuriating! If I sound a bit angry, I am and I’m not even the Photographer! Here’s the thing, I’ve been on both sides of this argument.

I know for brands especially on social media, using a photo without asking for permission is flat out stupid. Here are two examples of how using photography without permission puts brand equity at risk. Buzzfeed recently had to pay up for stealing photos and Photographer Max Dubler wrote a rather scathing article after his photo was downloaded and shared on social without his permission or payment. He even went so far as to share screen grabs of a DM chat with the brands social media manager. Talk about brand equity risk.

When it came to work, Paolo and I knew this would happen and were proactive in our contracts. We came up with a proper rate that included full rights for our clients from the get-go. Our clients were happy with the terms and often found reuse of product photos across all owned, earned, and paid media invaluable.

Our policy was well thought out and generous with one exception. No use of images in a secondary revenue stream. Only use for the primary revenue stream for which we were contracted. Problem solved.

Now, travel photography, that’s VERY different. With Paolo’s travel photography there are no clients and no contracts to protect his work. It’s personal. It’s our lives. Paolo’s time and our money. We pay for our travel. We don’t wiggle our noses or take magic carpets. We pay for flights and gas and hotels and AirBNBs and we sacrifice a lot of other comforts in life to do so.

I promise, rants almost over. This is the part that’s calm and productive.

Since there are parts of the world we go to that fewer people visit or are hard to photograph, it makes Paolo’s work more valuable. Which means it’s more likely to be “borrowed” without permission. So when I started back up again and decided to use Paolo’s photography, I wanted to protect his work. Without watermarks. Because Paolo hates watermarks and I can’t blame him.

So for now when I share Paolo’s photos that are a bit more rare, I’m creating slideshows. Most of the time when photographs are used without permission, someone is looking for a quick, cheap solution. It’s laziness. A slideshow adds a layer of complexity I’m hoping dissuades use without permission. It might be very 1980s but I don’t freakin’ care! Okay, anger outburst over, I swear. If you want to see a nice midwestern girl angry, do her family wrong. Honey this pit bull with a smile bites.

Fellow Photographers who blog, I’d love to know what you do. Have you found your work being used by brands without your permission? What have you done about it? Have you tried anything like digimarc barcoding to any success?

For now my solution is slideshows. Like it or lump it. Hopefully a few people like it because I need 100 subscribers on a YouTube channel to get a vanity URL. Care to be one?

Click the YouTube icon to get to our channel, if you care to subscribe, we would be grateful and happy to return the favor!


  1. We’ve tried different things too to protect our pictures without compromising the blog. We usually post our pictures at a low resolution so they wouldn’t be a high enough quality to be of use for advertising. Not sure if this is a good enough solution or not.

    Liked by 1 person

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