Publishing and sharing on social media.

November 09, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Today's brain dump is about photography and social media. I'm writing this after some reflection on my own experiences with how people use images on the internet.

I publish a lot on social media. I like my photos to be seen, not to languish on a hard drive. Likes and shares are nice, they are instant feedback. I love the potential for promotional knock-on effect of publishing live concert photos - the chance that something I publish might entice someone to go to a gig, or listen to a band they haven’t heard before. It’s great being able to promote the shows of bands I love to the community of people that I am part of. I love it when sharing images starts a chain reaction of conversation that results in ticket sales. 

I publish for the enjoyment of all sorts of people. A lot of my friends are the friends and families of musicians, they are the support network, they are the people who can’t necessarily go to the gigs because they are holding the fort at home.  I have met and photographed some fantastic people because of connections I’ve made online. I value the relationships I have made; that can't ever be overstated.

On the flipside, music photography can be an expensive and time consuming business. A small fortune spent on equipment, time invested in learning, improving, developing a style, seeking accreditation, travelling, photographing, editing, publishing...pressing the button is such a very, very tiny part of it. As anyone in a creative role will understand, exposure on social media, good though it is, is NOT a sure fire fast-track way to paid work. Because sharing on social media is so easy, it helps to promote the "everything on the internet should be free" viewpoint. 

This is where it can start to drag you down a bit if you let it. It's a sad state of affairs when people are offended by someone's expectation or request to be fairly compensated for their work, just because it can be shared for free on Facebook! Basically it boils down to having a bit of understanding and respect. Obviously it's up to the individual to decide how to handle requests for free stuff, and decide what form 'worth it' takes to them (and personally I have a few scenarios where 'worth it' is not measured financially), but I also think it's really important for everyone to understand that a free for all should not be the default. 

There's so much more to be said on this subject, but the point of this blog is more about my approach to handling image use on social media and I'm already getting off track...

My simple requirements for anyone wanting to use my photos on Facebook are:

  1. No cropping or editing. I upload images how I want them to be presented!
  2. Share using the share button. This way I have a chance of keeping track of who is seeing the photo, and people can trace the photo back to my page.
  3. For any potential use elsewhere, contact me before using.

Keeping it simple, avoiding headaches. Or at least that's the idea!

As you will probably have noticed, I watermark most* of the images I put on social media with the copyright symbol, my name, and website address. Now, technically I don’t have to do this - copyright is automatic and exists as soon as the shutter is pressed. However, there are still a lot of misunderstandings, and the very nature of social media platforms is to allow easy sharing. Because I expect that a certain percentage of concert photos that I post on Facebook will get sharedI watermark them, primarily to:

  • Identify myself as the photographer.
  • Make it easy for people to trace the source of the photo 
  • Prevent the photo being claimed by someone else as their work 
  • Prevent the photo from becoming an ‘orphaned work’

Is watermarking foolproof? Absolutely not. Photos still get used all over the internet in all sorts of ways that haven't been agreed, and that needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis. Most people don't want to do wrong by you, and although this is no excuse, most issues arise from people simply not realising that there are dos and don'ts when it comes to using pictures that you find on the internet (though of course there are exceptions to that!), and from lack of communication.

As aesthetically annoying as it is, adding my copyright watermark to each image removes ambiguity about where the photo has come from, makes my life a little easier if I do have to have a discussion with someone about the way a photo has been used, and makes deliberate infringement easier to chase up. Also, if someone wants to commission me, license a photo for commercial use, buy a print...they know how to find me. 

Hit me up on facebook if you want to talk more about this!


*(the exception to this is when I create and share banners for bands, in which case the only message is 'please use this image as is to promote the crap out of this band', or when unwatermarked usage has been agreed).