observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

Dear Diane: I took one of your photos; that’s okay isn’t it?


So glad you asked about that. I do have specific policies about that included in my “Client Info” tab under “Policies and FAQ” posted above and on my website, as well as in my “Welcome” package that I send to all my clients. I’ll respond with more clarification in this open letter. What I share here pertains to most photographers, not just me.

I love it when clients want to show off their images. That’s why I encourage displaying beautiful prints in your home and office. In this electronic world, the unfortunate thing is that some people assume the moment an image is online, it’s ‘free for the taking’. This confuses me because we don’t think that when farmers display their produce at the market; or clothing retailers hang their designer items on racks; or the local restaurant puts out their lunchtime buffet, that we can simply help ourselves and not pay for what we take. Yet when an artist or photographer displays photos online, some people feel it’s okay to take it.

I sure don’t want to be a big boob here but since you’ve asked the question, I’ll publicly respond with some important considerations. Pull up a chair and your favourite beverage while I begin to unravel the maze of considerations. Just as Maya Angelou says, “If we know better, we do better.” So I’m offering this so everyone will know better and be able to do the right thing.

Here are a few things to know about photographers in general plus my personal policies:

1. Please DO ask your photographer what their policy is regarding taking photographs from their website or blog, if they don’t already have that information posted. Most photographers don’t allow it – I definitely do not allow it. Most photographers use our blogs to promote our work and, as a courtesy to our clients, we also like to share a sneak peek from the recent photo session.

2. Please always remember that © is for copyright (the originator of the work owns the rights to the work whether it is words, images, or music).

3. If your photographer does allow you to use photos from their website or blog, please DO include the full name of your photographer (or the business name), including a link to his/her website – or at the very least to include the url so others can find them. Plain and simple that is a polite courtesy. In essence, the photographer has provided you with a sample to use.

4. I have recently implemented a new policy, specifically to accommodate clients who may want to share images with friends & family in online venues such as Facebook, a private blog, or other social media. With my new policy, for every image that a client orders a beautiful print, I will email a low resolution, watermarked version of that photo suitable for sharing in any social networking site, at no additional fee.

5. When a photographer does provide you with an image(s) for sharing in this way, DO NOT crop out their logo/watermark! In my policies, and with most photographers, it is clearly stated not to manipulate the photos. Removing a logo/watermark is definitely manipulating the photo.

6. Please DO NOT edit the picture. An important part of a photographer’s work is also involved in the darkroom or the digital darkroom. If you are a digital scrap booker or someone who loves to learn and use digital software, that’s great, just don’t experiment with the photographer’s photos. You may think you can do a better job or maybe you are experimenting with things like selective colour, please don’t alter the photographer’s image. Not only is it insulting but, for those who know the photographer took the picture, they will assume the photographer did the digital editing and I can guarantee none of us want our work altered in any way. Alter your own images please.

7. Please DO NOT take scans of a photographer’s photos and then try to print them. Not only is this illegal but the resulting quality is drastically lost and reflects very poorly on the photographer. If you are trying to save money, perhaps you should consider getting a neighbour or relative to take your photos and have them printed at a retail establishment. With custom photography not only are you paying for the considerable amount of time the photographer puts into every session (and editing process) but you’re also paying for expertise, packaging, one-on-one customer service, a higher quality print product, and the costs of doing business.

8. Don’t forget, a professional photographer whether s/he works full time or part time, as I do, is a business person. We have all the costs of doing business that other entrepreneurs have including office supplies, product samples, office equipment, photography supplies and equipment, marketing, insurance, shipping costs, professional development, and a wide range of other expenses. When someone helps themselves to photos we have displayed online, it is no different than shoplifting from our store.

“If we know better, we do better.” ~ Maya Angelou

I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of positive experiences this past year with my clients. I know some photographers are not as fortunate as I have been with some of the experiences they’ve had with their clients, in terms of photo shoplifting. Unfortunately over at Flickr I’m no longer posting photos because of the high incidence of theft.  I’m so glad you asked this of me because it gives me the opportunity to openly share my thoughts and policies with you. Even if you have hired someone else this past year to take your visual keepsakes, I hope you will adhere to the photographer’s policies with respect to the images they display in their online store/gallery. We can’t sell our products and services if we can’t safely display our wares.

That nicely segues into the ideal opportunity for me to thank each and every one of my clients particularly this past year – THANK YOU! My business has grown by leaps and bounds considering I have chosen to keep it as a part time business. I have new and exciting things to offer my clients coming in 2010 and I look forward to capturing more of your special moments through my lens!

This post and all photographs on this blog are Copyright © Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved. That means it is illegal to copy any part of this or to copy and use any of the photographs for any purpose whatsoever. If you wish to reprint this information, you must contact Diane Schuller to make a request. You are welcome to create a link in your blog or website to this page, however. Thank you for respecting my copyright.



Protect Your Online Images plus  Posting Photos Online (especially of children).

Diane is an on-location natural light photographer serving Edmonton & Grande Prairie, Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.


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Steve - December 2, 2009 - 6:29 pm

What a beauty. Love the DOF.

Marcie - December 3, 2009 - 8:28 am

Wonderful food for thought. This whole ‘taking’ of photos and using them for one’s own purposes is a real problem and dilemma. On the one hand – I post so as to ‘share’…but it doesn’t mean that the images are meant for just anyone’s taking. Your post reminds me that I have to get much more serious about watermarking..and clearer about copyrighting as well. Thanks for your well-articulated thoughts.

Roberta - December 3, 2009 - 12:01 pm

First of all….what a beautiful shot of this majestic horse. Second…..well said! It is such a battle to protect our images online; and it shouldn’t have to be.

uberVU - social comments - December 3, 2009 - 2:18 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by bruceclarke: Great post by fellow photog regarding image use for clients – http://www.dianeschuller.com/blog/?p=1399

Puna - December 3, 2009 - 9:33 pm

It’s the ultimate compliment. And the photo of the horse is beautiful.

Christine Edwards - December 6, 2009 - 8:13 am

Diane, I’m sorry you’ve been having problems with photo theft. How do you know that they’ve been posted elsewhere? I checked out the tineye site you posted on Flickr. Did you upload all of your images to be searched? Just curious.

Shelli - December 8, 2009 - 9:24 pm

Very good post, Diane. If you don’t mind, I might link to it elsewhere. What have you heard about Flickr?

Mildred Nalley - December 9, 2009 - 9:05 am

I am visiting from Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams. I’ve been admiring your lovely work. Have a lovely day.

C Hummel Kornell - December 9, 2009 - 10:32 am

Well said and I hope LOTS of folks read and heed this advise. Be aware that pirates can successfully remove watermarks without cropping your work. Good luck.

Your work is beautiful, I especially love the horses. I promise to look and not download!

the inadvertent farmer - December 9, 2009 - 11:56 am

Great post…I have come over from Jen’s Muddy Boot Dreams. You have some great points. Just because it is in cyber space does not give people license to steal photos. You have given us all something to think about. I have thought about how to come up with a policy for my photos but except for a watermark I haven’t done anything yet…thanks for the ideas and the info. Kim

Darla - December 9, 2009 - 1:00 pm

I came from Muddy Boot Dreams….I have read quite a bit about this sort of thing this year….one girl even had her entire blog copied!!

Frances - December 10, 2009 - 3:20 am

Thank you for the heartfelt frank post. I appreciate your feeling. I also appreciate your gift at photography. I visit the group of photography bloggers to learn from your methods of capturing feeling and form.
Thanks again

Jennifer - December 13, 2009 - 9:56 pm

This is a wonderful post Diane! Thank you for writing it! 🙂

shawna - December 21, 2009 - 12:36 pm

i really like that analogy you made of physical theft. it’s very true. thanks for setting this all out there in a great post!

Carolynn - January 7, 2011 - 7:24 pm

Well said. I really like the comparisons you’ve given to green grocers and the like. Makes the concept of the unauthorized taking of photos off our websites all the more ludicrous.