Today I'd like to introduce Christina Gressianu, this week's guest blogger. Christina is an award-winning photographer, whose work can be seen in publications such as The Knot. Her success required a merging of photography skills with brand-building expertise, honed in the world of New York City ad agencies. Christina is also the author of Zap the Gap, a guide to building a brand the closes the gap between your business and the hearts of your customers. PhotoMint readers, please give Christina a warm welcome by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.
Photography for me is one part about making the best work I can, and the other part about getting it as visible as possible. Once I started being in business as a photographer, a third part entered the mix… the part called making money. So I make great work, get as many eyeballs on it as I can and convert those eyeballs into paying clients. The Internet is beautiful for the eyeballs part.
When Pinterest hit the scene about a year ago for me, before I knew anyone else using it, I thought it was the coolest thing since the internet itself. The whole bookmarking thing had been a problem for me, because I'm visual… I don't remember the title of that webpage with the awesome peanut sauce recipe, but I remember the photo of noodles and broccoli in a square white bowl on an orange placemat. You get my drift? So me and Pinterest were like Forrest and Jenny… like peas and carrots. Then one day, I found that people were pinning my work! People I didn't even know where pinning and repinning my photographs… do you know how many new eyeballs that is on my work?? I don't either, but it's A LOT! And as we know, eyeballs can mean $$.
Then Pinterest got big, like really BIG really fast, and suddenly people were misusing it. I don't think it was intentional, but people where pinning photos without linking back to the source or giving credit. Photographers started getting upset about this and blaming Pinterest, and then there was that lawyer who said she was deleting her account, which made me leap to Pinterest's aid. Because any photo you put out on the Internet is stealable, and has been since browsers first started supporting photos. Flickr had the same problem a few years ago. But you don't have to be a victim and get angry about it… here's what you can do:
1 – WATERMARK your images. Whether you prefer to drop your logo in a white border at the bottom of your jpg, or overlay it on the actual photo, pick a style and do it. If you're putting your photos anywhere online—Facebook, your website, Flickr, etc. without a watermark, you're doing yourself a huge disservice. Not only does watermarking protect your images from “theft” but it also puts your business name and logo in front of all those eyeballs too. When your photos are used somewhere other your website, you want them branded the same way Starbucks wants your coffee cup branded long after you walk out of the store. There are great tutorials on how to automate watermarking both in Photoshop and Lightroom. This plugin for Lightroom makes watermarking a breeze.
2 – COPYRIGHT your photos with the U.S. Copyright Office. In most states if you clicked it, you own the copyright. Registering the copyright makes it iron-clad official. It costs $35 for each batch of images you register. I had an excellent intellectual properties lawyer recommend I register any images published in a magazine. And I said What? $35 for each one??” He told me that if the photo is not worth the $35, then…
3 – LET IT GO. That's right. Someone is using your image without credit or outright stole it and put his own name on it… consider it a compliment and move on. You're only as good as your last wedding or session anyway, so create more… that's what we creatives do anyway—create. The legal battle will be lengthy and costly… can you afford to drop out of your business for 6 months to fight in court? Shouldn't you be more worried about booking and taking care of your clients? And what's the pay off? Pretty much just that you get to be right.
I know, letting go seems hard. It's the last thing anyone wants to hear. I want everyone to love my work and know it's MINE. But I let it go. Apple gets knocked off all the time, as does Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton, and everyone else who makes something great. In college, one of my art class sculptures was stolen out of the gym locker room. I left it out because I never thought anyone would steal my crazy artwork, and then it was gone. First I was confused, then I was angry and then I arrived at “Isn't it exciting to create something that people want to steal?” Yes it is.
Lastly, consider this. If someone steals your image off the internet, how big is that file? What are they going to say when The Knot emails and says, “Hey, we love your image? Can you send over the 3000px file?” Ummm… no… The truth always comes out in the wash.
I haven't policed my photos on Pinterest to make sure they link back. I'm just happy they are out there. And, I cannot tell you how many inquiries I've gotten in the last 6 months from people who say they don't know how they found me, I was “all over the place online.” Win!
So don't just let go, push your photos out there! Add buttons to your website to make your photos more easily pinnable. If you're using WordPress for your website, here's a great Pinterest plugin. Watermark your images and then hope for the link back. If someone goes through the trouble of editing out my watermark, she must need it more than I do. I can make new, better photos anyway. And so can you.