While fortunately most of you would never think of stealing another photographer's work, even the idea leaves me with the same feeling I had when, in my twenties, my first apartment was broken into. It just hits me in the gut and it's a lousy feeling. However, writing about this stuff is therapeutic and just maybe somebody will read it and think twice about misrepresenting their skill set in the future.
So, here are a few thoughts on the subject, addressing those of you who think you can take chances.
Your Galleries: Using somebody else's work and suggesting it's your own, right off the back, besides being unethical and illegal, is idiotic. Sure, you might get a client or two, but what happens when you can't deliver? What happens when your client is thoroughly pissed off, because their album doesn't look anything like what you convinced them you could do?
Images from Workshops: In all honesty, it's almost just as bad when you show images you took at a hands-on workshop while standing next to the instructor. At a program in Ohio four years ago, Jerry Ghionis made the following comment,
"Don't shoot over my shoulder, because you won't learn anything. I'd rather you photographed me capturing the image, so you remember what I'm teaching. Plus, if all of you from this area run images of the same couple, it challenges your own credibility."
Posting Images in the Various Forums: It's real simple. Don't post images that aren't yours. There's a wonderful thing about social media in photography, so many people watch each other's backs. If there's one theme everyone has been exposed to, simply because of what's been in the industry news over the last couple of years, it's stealing other photographers' content.
Thanks to PhotoStealers/StopStealingPhotos.com slowly but surely the photo world is becoming a safer place. If you haven't been to their site lately, take a look. There are now 31 pages of people who have been caught and that's only the tip of the iceberg. (Please note - in the original post I had a mistake in the link. My apologies - it's been repaired.)
Stock Photo Images: Okay, so in theory, if you bought the rights and include a photo credit, you're on safe ground. NOT! Sorry, I don't buy it, because this is about photography and every image shared is automatically assumed to belong to the artist doing the promoting.
I ran across a photographer last year who used stock photos throughout his brochure, price list and then mixed in a few in his galleries! No photo credits anywhere and he actually tried to tell me he wasn't suggesting it was his work, just creating effective advertising! If you know me well, then you know I used all the four-letter words I have in my vocabulary in my response!
I know this is sort of a rant this morning, but there aren't enough words to describe my frustration over the topic. Every time a client is disappointed over the quality of the finished product it hurts our industry. Everybody eventually feels the pain, all because of a minority.
The moral of the story is...
If you can't walk the talk, then just shut up!