How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sharing My Work Online

- - Blog News

I have found my images in every nook of the Internet, mostly attributed and not altered in any way, but often unattributed, remixed, appropriated as paintings or drawings and cropped in ways that offend me to no end. Every time I come across my work presented like this, I cringe a little, but most of the efforts are benign and nobody is profiting off my intellectual property. When someone is profiting, I shut that shit down.

via Amy Stein Blog

There Are 22 Comments On This Article.

  1. I posted this comment to a thread on G+ about this post. I think it’s important to share it here too:
    “People… you can’t eat a credit line (attribution). Every time an image of yours is posted, someone is making money off it. Maybe the blog runs ads so the blogger is; Google almost assuredly is (just about every time); but the point is, no use should be permitted without PRIOR permission and, when the artist chooses, payment. You are being naïve if you think that most of the “sharing” isn’t 1) causing your work to be devalued; 2) making it impossible for you to license your work later (no way you can ever grant exclusivity to previously “shared” work); and, 3) making money for someone else.”

  2. Its funny that I just decided that I am going to post my work online now and not fear that someone is going to steal it. I see it like this. If nobody is looking at it nobody is going to hire me. I do love making images but I also want to make a living doing it. Thoughts?

  3. I find it frustrating that so many photographers BELIEVE that simply “getting there images out there” is going to “get them work” and create a lasting career. “You can’t eat a credit line.” I think most NEW photographers (and many old) should have this tattooed on their forehead. Simple question. Why would someone pay for OUR imagery when WE are so obviously “giving it away?” How do you get noticed? Hard Work and dedication. Does anyone really believe that the photographers that Rob Haggart is featuring each day on Daily Edit – just fell into their photography careers? No – they worked hard, talked to and worked-with the right people. Nothing – I repeat – nothing comes easy in this business, yes, business. STOP worrying about your photography skills, your presentation and concentrate on the business side – long before you start “giving it away online” or worse yet – in person.

  4. Maybe people who want to “give it away” on the Internet should do so with focused intent and effort, as a form of viral marketing. That way, they get to develop useful marketing skills and actually build their brand. Just a thought.

  5. A photography business involves hard costs. If you only include cameras, lenses and lighting, the costs can be substantial.

    If you sell usage below your cost of doing business, you are paying your customer to take your images. Giving away images is fast tracking yourself to the bottom.

  6. Amy Stein

    To be clear, I am not proposing that photographers give away their images. I’m suggesting that the flow of information has changed and it has made a lot of sense for me to give up some measure of control and let my images enter the stream without fussing over every blog post that features my work. I make a very clear distinction between some dude with a Tumblr blog that likes photography and posts your images and a for profit venture that is using your work for commercial or editorial purposes without permission, credit and/or compensation. If I spent my days issuing cease and desist letters to everyone who posts my images on their blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed or Google+ stream I would not have time to do much else. And, I absolutely believe this philosophy has made my work more accessible, more valuable, help me sell more books, etc.

    I am doing all right in my career and have managed to help many other photographers get off the ground with their careers. The old models have changed. Openness, access and content sharing are the currency of modern community and promotion. You can fight it, get winded and lose or you can embrace it and use it to your advantage.

  7. le cinemasagiste

    “When someone is profiting, I shut that shit down.”

    hahaha…profit. that’s such a 20th century term.

  8. These days I always get my images online first, and with a large watermark that includes my web address (© That means it is much more difficult for someone to steal my image (OK…not THAT difficult), and makes it relatively easy to find me if they really want to license it, use it with permission, and/or get an un-watermarked file. I DO get such requests so I at least know that to some extent that strategy works.

    John Lund

  9. those people stealing images to decorate their webpages probably ripped images out of magazines to decorate their bedroom wall. you know those people…

    • You are mistaken in your analogy as there is nothing wrong with ripping pages out and posting them in your home like that. Nothing illegal. It’s not the same at all.

  10. I would be interested Leslie in hearing your point of view on sharing people’s work for the sake of sharing inspiration. I often post images on my blog giving full credit and linking back to the image creator’s website.

    A lot of people contacted me thanking me for making them discover new artists. I no way do I benefit from posting these images as my blog is personal and doesn’t feature ads.

    I’d like to know what’s your take on this.

    Simon Duhamel

  11. Simon: even in Canada I’m pretty sure that’s a violation of the artists’ copyright. All you need to do is ask first… most artists will say “yes” and then it’s fine. My point is and has always been exactly that: ask the artist first.

    As for Rob’s comment, there is indeed much devaluation of work by it being posted without artist permission. “Sharing” is never free… someone is making money. I think the artist should make money from her/his work… that is all.

    Of course, posting your own work on your own site is great and absolutely required, but posting it on FB where the TOS suck or letting it loose via a bullshit CC license that means you can never license it with exclusivity in the future, well, that’s bad for artists and the value of their work.

    I’d argue that usually (not always) an artist “sharing” her/his work is actually bad for ALL artists… not just the one “sharing.”

    As for those who have found success, they are the EXCEPTIONS–like Cory Doctorow is to writers. Most do not find any success in sharing.

  12. Great post! I can understand why people worry about protecting their rights, but I don’t think it is realistic to track down all the “benign” sharers. I know that we are entitled to be morally outraged, but it’s wasted energy unless it’s something that merits litigation–and I don’t think some blogger fan with a few sidebar ads falls into that category. I like TimR’s comment about “focused intent and effort.” We have to know WHY we are putting photos on the internet in the first place and we have to go into it knowing that once something is online, it IS going to get shared (unless no one likes it).
    I know that the money I earn from exposure is far more than what anyone else ever earns from sharing my photos. If I ever find that person, I’ll write a “cease and ASSIST” (sorry, couldn’t help it) letter to see what I can learn from them.

  13. In May I was approached by the BBC (Brazil) and G1 to run the underwater series with no compensation. Asking for a clickable link through to my website for print/merch sales was one way to (fingers crossed) make a few dollars from the coverage, which they were happy to comply with.
    The BBC photo gallery received 900,000 hits in three hours, G1 about the same, my website crashed; and I sold one T-shirt.

    Was it naive? Possibly. BBC and G1 may have profited from the feature through advertising impressions, and the series was reblogged/shared online leading to advertising revenue for the bloggers, which also led to a few more Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter followers.

    For me it’s no longer a matter of publicity it’s now how to transfer online presence into revenue. End of the day I’m still stoked on the promotion, and personally it’s not worth holding out for the US$150 editorial online gallery comp when it’s so easy for them to move onto the next photographer/artist that catches their attention for their 15 minutes of fame.

    I’m not adverse to sharing online, however maybe this is my downfall?
    Interesting times hey.

  14. Amy’s simply making the same decision that store owners make when they account for monthly losses to shoplifting. It’s inevitable and you simply write it off. You could put all your merchandise behind locked cages and prevent shop lifting altogether but then you will prevent many legitimate sales as well. The key is to test out methods of sharing your work and seek results vs. “devaluation.” There are plenty of photographers forging new paths and many people who recoil in fear because they don’t understand twitter, facebook, google, etc. Guess what, nobody knows how this is going to work. You can forge a new path or you can sit on the sidelines and watch someone else figure it out.

  15. Leslie’s right.
    Devaluation is kind of hard to measure here but simply put why pay for something from someone who gives (or posts) it away for free.

    The old adage you get what you pay for still holds true. Why wouldn’t it?

    And why the heck is this a long conversation? Just get out and sell! The web is a source of leads but not so much a closer. Unless you’re Amazon or iTunes, et al.

  16. One of the most successful photographers on the internet (and definitely the most followed on Google+) is Trey Ratcliffe (aka stuckincustoms).

    He puts all of his work online on flickr, smugmug, and his blog, in full resolution, with no watermarks, and with a creative-commons sharing (non-commercial) license. His photos end up everywhere. He has become extremely successful and well known.

    I don’t really like his photo style. He’s very good, but probably would not even be in the top 10% of pros. What Trey understands is that obscurity, not piracy, is #1 enemy of creative artists. Trey’s business model is the future of photography.

    • If Trey is giving away his work then he wouldn’t be in any “percent of pros”. Pros charge for their work.

      I am not doubting that Trey makes money off of his “model”, and good for him but it is not the future of photography. If every photographer did this model, then there would be no business left.