Social media is a wonderful tool for photographers (and every profession) to have their work seen and talked about and bring in new clients. But, social media too can lead to the kidnapping of photos, which are then passed around as slaves to memes and blogs usually without the proper attribution. So how can photographers use social media without losing control of their work? I have been writing about the horrors of social media lately, and I want to stop that and offer help instead. There is no foolproof way to keep photos from bouncing all around the web, but I do have a few tips to using social media safely without losing all your work and keeping your name attached.
Metadata is a must
If you are going to upload a photograph anywhere online, make sure you filled out the metadata for each photo properly. This information is a more crucial than some photographers believe. Without that information, photographs can fall into the category of Orphan Works, which basically has been OK’d to use without permission by an act passed by UK’s Parliament. Mainly, if an organization can’t find you but tried—maybe because there was no metadata—it can use your photos.
And, there is worse news: Many social media platforms strip out the metadata. So what now? Do the metadata because it’s helpful for websites that keep it intact. There is a chance, however, it might be deleted. But, there are some other solutions to keep you photographs attached to your name.
Watermarks if you can bare them
When all metadata is stripped, watermarking photos might be the next best thing—though only if you can bear it. Watermarks can really make a photo ugly, especially if it takes up the whole photo. But, it’s the only foolproof way, for the most part, to keep your name attached to a photo. (I say, “for the most part,” because there are techniques for removing watermarks, which lead to more mangling of the photo.) If you do decide to use watermarks, make it pretty and try to integrate with the photo—don’t make your photographs beyond recognition. Also, include the website, if possible, that has the photo without a watermark—remember the metadata, however.
Do not upload full resolution images. Don’t even think about it. Especially if you don’t want to use watermarks and metadata has been stripped, your photographs will be abused—maybe even printed and sold! Really, for social media sites, small to medium-sized photos will be sufficient to gain fans. (Thumbnails will do nothing for anyone.) Lead people to your website to see a bigger image—though, even then, do not upload full resolution images.
Social Media Ambassadors
If none of the above solutions work for you and even if they do, choose a small selection of photos for what I call social media ambassadors (i.e. sacrifices). Placing maybe three photos and linking back to a website, where more or the rest of the photos can be found, is the best social media practice a photographer could follow. This way, not all the photos in a collection will be taken advantage of or lost to orphan works—which is a good sub-tip: Don’t upload all of your work to social media platforms. It will be tempting to use the best photos from a bunch, but I would suggest against using the best as the chance of them being kidnapped is too high.Author: Matthew Corkins received an English degree from Michigan State University. Now, he’s a barista. Figures. Though, sometimes he’s a writer: matthewcorkins.com