This Business Coach is not available as a download, however it may be read in its entirety here.
To be successful as a photographer these days means getting your images out on the web where they can be seen by as many people as possible. It's not just your website anymore. Itís your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and the countless industry blogs that are taking the place of the old fashioned paper magazine.
The downside to all this exposure is that photos often get misappropriated and used without any credit to the photographer. Whether intentional, innocent or inadvertent, a lot of photos get copied out on the web and used without your permission.
As a photographer, your images are your babies. They need to be protected so that you can reap the benefit of all your work and vision in creating each wonderful image. In this Business Coach, I'll talk about four simple steps you can take to make sure your little babies are well cared for even when you leave them to roam out on the wild west web.
A Proper Name
Almost all of us have blogs these days where we post the latest and greatest samples of our work. If you're posting wedding or portrait images, you can expect that potential clients will download image for inspiration. Unfortunately for them and especially for you, these photos are rarely properly labeled so that clients can find you when the time comes. When a photo is downloaded, it goes into a folder lumped in with a bunch of others. If your name is not somehow attached to the image, then there's zero chance this person will come back to you. Definitely not good!
The easiest thing you can do is rename the file with this in mind. Get in the habit of renaming all of your images after your studio. On my personal blog, I rename everything john_mireles-xyzsubject-101.jpg. Yes, it's a little long, but at least someone can tell whose photo it is without even opening it.
Tag Your It!
The next thing I recommend takes a couple of minutes to set up but is easy to apply now that it is. First, create a metadata template in Lightroom (or your image browsing application of choice) that has all of your studio information and then tag each file with that data so that the file can be identified later.
Metadata is information about the image that is stored with the image. There are many uses for metadata, but my primary goal at this stage is to attach my copyright and contact information to each image so that no one can complain that they didn't know to whom the photo belonged to or that they didn't have the rights to use the image. (Your cameraís EXIF data is a form of metadata.)
Here's a little video that I put together to show you how to create a metadata template in Lightroom.
If you don't use Lightroom, you can use Bridge, Expressions Media or most any other full feature image editing or cataloging program to view metada or create and apply the template. The basic concept is the same for all programs though the process may not be as automatic as with Lightroom.
The metadata with your info won't stop anyone from downloading the image, but it can prevent a company or graphic designer from claiming that they didn't know who the photo belonged to when they used it. Also, if you do register your images with the US copyright office (something I'll talk about in a minute), you'll be able to claim a copyright violation was intentional - which can lead to a lot of money in your pocket.
The Ultimate Protection
Since I brought up copyright, I'll go into it further here. You own the copyright to your images from the moment you create them. However, in order to receive the full protection of copyright law, you'll need to register your images with the copyright office. The cost is $35 and there's a form to fill out. Once you've done it, it's pretty simple.
Unlimited numbers of unpublished images can be registered at once. Also, images may be registered as unpublished within three months of their creation regardless of whether they've been published or not. So, the thing to do is create a small thumbnail of each image that you post online or send out to vendors and then every three months send them in to be registered.
The benefit to this is that if an image is used by another photographer or used in an ad by a big company, you can claim the full statutory damages of $150,000 per violation. Without registration, the amount you're entitled to collect is pretty nominal, to the point that it's generally not worth hassling with.
If you have questions about copyright, here's a Copyright Basics page that you can read on the Photographer's Toolkit Facebook page.
Leave Your Mark
The last thing you can do to protect your work is watermark all of your images before they go onto the web. All means each and every photo - not just the ones that go on your bog. You'll want to watermark the images that go on Facebook, Twitter and to third parties like coordinators and florists. You never know where your images will end up.
Just ask photographer Jennifer Dery. She provided a disk of images to a florist with whom she worked a wedding. That florist turned the photos over to the popular wedding blog, StyleMePretty.com who ran the images. Fortunately, Jen watermarked the images so she was able to get the appropriate recognition for her work. Otherwise, she'd have received nothing (other than a copyright violation).
Some wedding blogs unfortunately state that theyíll refuse to publish images with the photographer's watermark. My suggestion is to place the watermark in the lower right hand corner of the image so as to be relatively unobtrusive. Images with the watermark boldly emblazoned across the center or significantly cutting across the image are sure to raise the ire of the publisher. If photographers can standardize their placement of the watermark to the lower right corner, then the blog publishers are much more likely to accept watermarked images as a matter of course.
No Doesn't Always Mean No
Case in point, StyleMePretty.com states that donít accept watermarked images, however they did run Jennifer Deryís images even though they had a watermark. The key was that the logo was well designed and didnít overwhelm the image. If you run into a blog publisher telling you that they wonít accept watermarked images, know that they have and they will.
Bottom line, donít be afraid to insist that your images be protected via watermark. Remember, once theyíre downloaded by the prospective client (or ill-intentioned thief), all credit will likely be lost. Since blogs donít actually pay money - just photo credit - itís important that you receive the credit you're entitled to.
Finally, Iíll repeat the point that I made earlier. Your images are your babies. Even though you canít know where they are at all times, whoever might end up with your images should be able to find you Ė at all times. All of your images should always be properly named, tagged and watermarked anytime they leave the safety of your computer for the uncertainty of the web.
All content is copyright John Mireles/Photographer's Toolkit. No reproduction without permission.