The theft of online photographs is a huge problem. If a photographer has his images stolen, they make no money from them. They may also spend money on legal fees fighting the thief. If they don’t make money with photography, they can’t buy new or better equipment, travel to shoot locations or hire models and support staff, replace worn out equipment and pay their bills. This means they have to get a 9-5 job, and can do very little photography, so this photographer no longer creates images for the world to see. We all need money to survive. Stealing photographs from the Internet takes money away from photographers, and we all lose.
Some of the photographs that are stolen don’t even have a monetary value. I have a friend who had the photo of herself, and another of her dog, stolen from her Facebook page. The thief wanted to pretend to be her by using the photographs on a different Facebook page. I have no idea why they did this. My friend complained to Facebook, but they didn’t do anything to the thief, and the thief’s Facebook page is still up.
Photographers try to protect their images by adding watermarks, or using small, low resolution images. But image manipulation software has advanced so much lately, that any watermark can be easily removed. And a small image can be enlarged to almost any size and be razor sharp. I recently saw a beta version of some software that should be out the end of 2018. It automatically removed all types of watermarks, and took small images that had lots of noise and made beautiful, large, sharp images out of them. When that product comes to market, anyone will be able to do anything they want with every image on the Internet. At that time, the only way to protect your images will be to keep them offline.
Enforcing your copyright in court is also a costly and time consuming effort. And even if you win, you may not receive the money the court awarded you. Many times, the guilty party never pays the fine. I knew of a photographer who won, but wasn’t paid. He went to court because of that, and won again and still didn’t get paid. He went back to court for a third time, won, and still didn’t get paid. He finally gave up, was never paid, spent thousands on court costs and countless hours in court. Even though the copyright laws were just amended to make it easier to take someone to court for copyright infringement, you still have all of these same issues. Basically, copyright laws are useless to any small business or Creative.
Creatives in every medium have always had a hard time making a living with their art. But, I have good news, there are a few things you can do to make your photography career more successful.
- If you make prints, do them in some unique way. Or you can come up with a special way of processing images, like Matthew Brandt constantly does. http://www.matthewbrandt.com For example, he did a series of prints about the La Brea Tar Pits in southern California, and he used tar from there on his prints. Actually, there is no tar at the Tar Pits, it’s really asphalt.
- If you work with businesses, put useful information on your site and social networks for your clients. This could be links, articles or observations that will help their business. Do promotions (online and offline), that will help your clients. Know where your clients are, and promote to them there.
- Have your own unique style. Magda Wasiczek has her own unique photographs of plants that are soft and dreamy. http://www.magdawasiczek.pl Have a style that someone can look at and say, “Hey, I know who took that photograph.” You may want to look into composite photography too.
- Use your imagination. That is the only true, unique thing that you have. Give your imagination free rein when creating photographs, how you present them and how you market yourself.
Nothing you do will keep people from stealing your photographs or copying your style, so you need to keep growing and innovating to stay ahead of the pack. But that’s what a real artist does. If you sit in one spot, living off of past successes, the world will sprint past you and leave you in the dust.
Now go out and create some great photographs.