Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ask Jillian - Kudos Without Credit?

I've gotten some great "Ask Jillian" questions, so I think I'd better get to writing! Today's "Ask Jillian" comes from a photographer who I am going to dub "Catalina" (yes, after software I was using last year, for the nerds among us). She's like to know how to deal with bloggers who post and talk about her images...but don't credit her or ask permission.

Catalina writes us to say:
One of my big boosts of blog readership and business has come from being on some high profile wedding blogs. It's so flattering and I have built real life relationships with these women. My question is, I get a lot of other blogs just taking my work and using it on their not so well done blog. They even go as far as to take screen shots of my websites of non-watermarked photos. I put a message on my blog saying I'd be happy to 'loan' you the photos and to let me know. Through the magic of google alerts, I can still see people using my photos without asking for their blog's content. I don't want to ruin any potential relationships, say if the person is an invitation designer in my area, but I really want people to show a little respect. How might I handle these situations without looking like a scary cop?
Well, Catalina, in the new era of web 2.0 this is going to become a very common problem. I think it's awesome that you are (as has been suggested here before) using Google Alerts to find out when others are saying nice things about you! It's a wonderful feeling to find out that your business is being talked about....but not so great when they are talking but not using your name!

I think you're already taking the right approach, but let me expand a bit. Here are the things I try to remember:

1. Stay calm, cool, and collected.
Catalina is already doing this, but it's a good reminder for the rest of us. Keep in mind that it's a positive thing to have more people looking at your work, so don't get too worked up. And *most* people out there really want to do the right thing and will if you just ask nice enough. Don't get yourself all worked up until you've tried the nice approach first.

2. Make friendly and encouraging contact with the blog owner.
Most will be elated that you found their blog and contacted them. Start off by emailing them to say that you noticed they had featured some of your work, and thank them for their kind words! Say you're super excited to be on their "insert appropriate positive adjective here" blog. Then ask if they would mind posting a link to your website or blog, so that blog readers can see more? If their blog is well done or has a big readership, you might ask if they would mind if you mentioned their post on YOUR blog! This gives them a bit of a turn-around boost and really shows you're willing to help them out too.

You might also leave a comment on the blog entry, that says something to the effect of:
"Oh my gosh, thanks so much for featuring my work! I'm elated that you like it. Anyone who wants to see more... - hugs, photographer"

3. Don't worry about the level of "professionalism" on their blog.
Catalina mentioned that sometimes the blogs aren't well done, or the screen captures they are taking look poor. I wouldn't worry too much about it. I do like the idea of offering to provide higher quality images for their use, but otherwise don't sweat it. Readers of the blog (probably friends and family of the author) aren't likely to hold it against long as they have a link to your site which *is* high quality. It's more important that they are saying nice things and providing a link to your blog/site.

4. Put it in perspective.
If the "nice approach" doesn't work, don't necessarily jump into "lawsuit" mode. Yes, it's frustrating when we aren't getting credit for our good work, or when someone is presenting our work in a less-than-professional way. But our response...both internally (stress and emotions) and externally (emails, calls, lawsuits)...needs to be proportionate. Take a step back and decide what the impact will be. If it's a random bride's blog and her family and friends are her only might be worth just letting go. Do a couple of google searches for your business name, and see where that link shows up. First page? Worth pursuing. 18 pages in? Probably not. (In cases of you not being likely won't show up at all.) Think about the time, stress, and money you'd need to put into fighting the injustice, and decide if it's worth it to you.

Depending on the situation, it might be a mild case of "stealing intellectual property" (they aren't claiming the work is theirs, but they are using it without permission). If you feel it's worth pursuing, check out Anne's post about confronting someone who has stolen intellectual property.

Thanks Catalina for the question! I hope that you have more blog recognition than you know what to do with, cause I know it will help you grow your business!

PS - Another idea would be to add a disclaimer to your blog/site indicating that images may not be used without crediting you with a link to your website. Then when you contact someone, you have a policy to point to.

Jillian Kay is a wedding & portrait photographer from San Jose, CA. By weekday, she is a mild mannered software engineer. By weekend, she is a joyful and energetic force behind a camera! Jillian enjoys tackling the tough questions about client relationships and helping others see win/win solutions. When not working, she loves taking walks, blog-stalking, visiting with friends, and enjoying life!.


  1. Great post! I have a question though... if they don't mention your name or business name on the blog, how do you know if they've used an image? I do Google Allerts too, but I will only get flagged if my name is used... does that make sense? Is there something else we should be aware of as far as tracking our intellectual property?

  2. Courtney, Jillian may have some other suggestions, but I know the time I've discovered my images being used like this have been a matter of (a) people hot-linking to my images, something you can track if you have access to your log files; or (b) people emailing me to tell me they have seen my work on another blog. Weird how that happens, but it does. Seems the internet isn't such a big place after all.

    Another idea might be to use your name (whatever you track with Google Alerts) in the file names when you post images to your blog - if people don't rename them, those should come up as well.

  3. The end of #2 is a very important point... people will probably click that link back to your site if you provide it (assuming the blog owner doesn't screen your comment out - then you would know something is up). If you do throw your link in the comments, you can track find out if anyone visits your site from that link via Google Analytics (just sign up for that early and add the code to your site).

  4. Christine, what do you mean by log files?


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