Rant alert – one of my biggest pet peeves is to see people willy nilly posting professional show proofs on Instagram. Yes, they’re of your horse who’s adorable and amazing. Yes, there is almost always a way to save the picture from the photographer’s website. No, that doesn’t make it okay to use.
I realized a while ago, that many people just don’t know that this isn’t okay. While the world of photography and social media has a lot of blurred lines (cue Robin Thicke), there are some fool proof ways you can navigate safely.
Before I get into how I (former horse show photog) think you should use proofs online, let me say why I think this is important. Horse show photographers are dropping like flies. Many don’t shoot shows anymore, and those that do often don’t even put proofs online. If they catch someone snagging their work for free, it’s a good way to stop getting pictures taken of your horse by professionals.
So if you like having horse show photographers, keep these guidelines in mind. If not, well… thanks for ruining it for the rest of us. Sorry, not sorry.
If a proof says “Stolen from ‘X'” – you can’t use it. Ever.
While many show proofs just say ‘Copyright’ or ‘Proof’, some photographers have gotten quite explicit with their messaging, and rightfully so. While good show photography can be expensive, and it’s tempting to save the proofs to share with your friends on Facebook and Instagram – let’s take a second to look at the world steal.
take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.
You know what is also expensive (like show proofs)? Designer purses. You know what I don’t do, grab one off the shelf to show my friends at work the next day. Don’t do the same thing with show proofs.
But what if it doesn’t say ‘steal’?
Even if the message is less direct, it’s still not okay to save proofs off a pro photographer’s site and share on social media. Even though the photo is of you, the artistic work is copyright of the artist… in this case, the photographer. Redistributing it breaks their copyright of the image, and you could face legal action. Best case scenario, you’ll piss off the photographer. Worst case scenario, you’ll get a bill in the mail asking for payment for the image or a pending law suit. You may think I’m joking, but pro photographers in the Equine Photographers Network would often post on the forums about sending people with stolen photos a large bill.
So how do I show my blog readers and Facebook friends the really cute pictures of ponykins? How do I get help from friends figuring out which one to buy?
You know what photographers love? Free publicity. A great way to share photos on social media is linking directly to the photographer’s site. Here’s an example of how I would do it.
The pictures that Awesome Photography Company took of Simon at the show are so great… I can’t choose which one I want! Click here (link) to see them and help me pick your favorite!
You’re still sharing the photos, and you’re sharing them for free. In this example, the photographer gets 100% credit and the photos are available for purchase right in front of the viewers. Who knows, maybe your grandma will buy some proofs of precious ponykins for you since you put them right in front of her face.
But I will lose ALL MY INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS!!!!
Tough nuggets. Isn’t it better to take the higher road?
What about really old proofs that aren’t available for purchase anymore, and don’t say “stolen”?
This is a gray area that I myself admit I have posted photos in this category on this very blog from time to time. 100% safe? Don’t do it… but since I’ve literally done this, I asked a pro photographer friend what she thought.
Her advice? Try to remember who took the photo and link them with the proof. Something like “This is an old show proof from Awesome Photographer (link) that I found!” as a caption for the image. If you don’t know who took the photo, it’s hard to say. You’re still breaking a copyright law (in this case, me) by posting that really old photo.
What’s the solution?
At the end of the day, professional photos are a luxury – not a right. Most photographers these days have reasonably priced web or Facebook sized images for digital download. Don’t confuse a web image with a purely digital file though! Sometimes the digital files are for high resolution prints, and that can get very expensive.
If your local show photographer doesn’t offer this, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. I’d venture that any photographer would rather have a polite email from a potential client wanting to pay them for their work than having same person just take their work for free.
Photography is a changing art form in this digital age of social media, but the responsibility isn’t 100% on the photographer. As consumers, we need to be law abiding, polite and clear in what we want from professionals moving forward.
What are your thoughts on this issue?