Sometimes I can’t help myself. I got into a discussion with a Facebook group regarding use of images. The group in question is the page of a fairly respectable company in the tourist industry. They used a image of the Forth rail bridge to adorn their page, and due to an error on their part didn’t give that person credit. To cut a long story short, the photographer managed to prove they were the creator of the image and everything was sorted.
A couple of points here. Nothing new, I know, but it shows how easy it is for folk to take images without giving credit. Especially annoying when a commercial company uses an image for their own purposes. Mistakes happen, and the group in question resolved the issue and issued an apology. With the advancement of technology and availability of high quality equipment many amateur photographers can take pictures professionals would be pleased with. Making or using a watermark isn’t that hard, but is always worth doing.
Second point, and something that is more insidious, is the notion that companies often will now look to use amateur photographers to gain images without paying for them. The thing that irked me most about the Facebook group’s response was they were doing the photographer a service by using their image, giving them credit and therefore exposure. True, but at the end of the day, they are still getting a great image for nothing, zilch. No expense, no effort. Of course it is nice to have your work recognised, but at the end of the day companies which can afford it and have marketing budgets can use this simply to save money. A credit in the small print of a website or brochure is scant reward for a carefully crafted image.
A few years ago I looked at entering a competition with a multi national hotel chain. There was a prize of course, but on reading the terms and conditions it appeared that the photographer was giving the image to the chain. Copyright remained with the photographer but in return for a weekend break (At times and locations decided by the chain) the photographer gave up all control and by entering and agreeing the to the T and C their image could be used how and whenever the chain liked and altered however they saw fit. It was in effect giving over the image and the hotel was getting it pretty much for free. I posted on a few forums to see if others thought this was a bit of a cheek, and although most agreed, there were quite a few who said if you don’t like it, don’t enter. Fair enough, I suppose, but to me it is giving away something for nothing, especially to a multi national who can well afford to pay for it. How much did these people really value what they do?
I saw recently on another group a newspaper company Johnstone Press, who are a big player here in the UK were making many of their staff photographers redundant. They could get good quality images from the members of the public of incidents and events. Such is the technology available in a modern phone. I thought that was a damn shame. People who are experienced, trained and invested in their skills losing their jobs. I like the idea of citizen journalists and blogs are great. I also think there is a place for professional journalists, Newspapers and media using readers pictures, when a staff photographer isn’t there is fine. But when it replaces them, what does that do for photography?
Think of the great photo journalists Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau to mention a few. Google them and you will see some truly iconic images that has shaped journalism and how we view the world.
I think if we give away our images too cheaply, or for nothing. If we drive out the professional photographer then photography, the media and the world are a poorer place.