Today, the potential to share still and motion images easily and in real time with a broad range of viewers is unparalleled in the history of communication. This is a complex and challenging environment and it is crucial that photographers understand how they can protect their images while still taking advantage of global marketing opportunities.
- Be Strategic: Develop a plan that represents your visual brand. This will help you define and understand your markets and products in this rapidly changing environment. Determining precisely what you are “selling” will guide you to the social media channels that fit your business goals. New technologies and distribution models allow photographers to take on expanded roles. Look for opportunities to develop unique value added services such as leading a creative team, producing and distributing your own creative works and online publishing.
- Be Careful About Partnerships: It is important to understand the policies and culture of potential online partners. Look for companies that have positive and sustainable working relationships with photographers — and support them.
- Linking vs Uploading: One way to control and protect the work you share on third-party sites is to upload photos to your website or blog, and link to social media sites from there. In other words, publishing from a publication platform you control is safer than uploading your work directly. There is a danger in building your business on a platform that retains the right to change terms without notice or permission.
- Other Protections: Although not foolproof, in many cases adding metadata to your work can help protect your ownership. Watermarks can also be useful but should be done carefully. Overly bold and restrictive watermarks may distract from your images and turn away prospective clients. Finally, a best practice for photographers is to register images with the US Copyright office before publication.
Additional Information Sources
The Instagram Papers:
Utilizing Social Media for your Business
Know Your Rights on Social Media
ASMP/PhotoShelter Guide to Copyright:
Automate watermarks using Lightoom:
PhotoShelter Guide to Facebook: