Some of my friends on Facebook marvel at my ability to identify photo sources. I want to teach you how so that you can do it too. You are not detracting from your photo post by including an image credit with it. Providing a credit shows that you acknowledge other people’s creative efforts.
Big brands became so nervous about what photos they could use on Pinterest that several of them significantly delayed establishing accounts on the Pinterest platform.
Big brands usually understand that they need to provide photo attribution wherever they post – their lawyers remind them. Those who aren’t careful will likely end up apologizing and paying for images, such as when Vogue misappropriated Instagram photos.
This understanding by most brands has not yet fully trickled down to the average user on Facebook.
A Facebook friend who works as a social media professional told me, “Facebook is still the wild frontier.” I suggested that as social media professionals we have more responsibility than the average Joe to give credit for photos we post that aren’t ours. I think that it is important that we set an example for others.
I feel everyone – not just social media professionals and brands – should make an effort to give attribution wherever they use photos.
Some people protest ‘these photos are all over the place so now they are now in the public domain.’ Are they?
“What is right is right, even when no one is doing it. What is wrong is wrong even when everyone is doing it.”
— St. Augustine
If you knew how to get a photo source with ease, wouldn’t you take a moment and start giving attribution to show respect to the creator of the art work you are distributing?
You will learn how in this article.
My husband and business partner, Ray Gordon, is a professional photographer. A good friend of mine, Marsha Collier, authors more than one book a year for Wiley. These people have good reason to be protective of their IP (Intellectual Property). Being close to them has made me more aware of the issue.
In March 2012 Mashable said:
Keep in mind that, unlike Facebook — which is mostly about creating and posting your own stuff — the focus of Pinterest is posting stuff you find on other sites. And if you find content on other sites, odds are you don’t own it, someone else does. That someone else may have something to say about you posting their stuff without permission.
That statement is now ironic because this issue is now prevalent on Facebook.
How Far Do You Need to Go to Give Image Attribution
– Post an image with a legible watermark
– Give the photographer’s name with your post
– Give the photographer’s name and where it can be found such as Flickr or 500px
– Give a link to a source that the photographer owns
Any of these options is better than no attribution – and I am seeing a whole lot of no attribution on Facebook.
The safest way to access images is to use those that the creator has specifically given an OK to use with attribution.
If a photo is on Flickr with an “all rights reserved” designation, the photographer is not offering it to you.
On Flickr’s Creative Commons, they make a distinction and make the attribution bar higher if the usage is for a site for commercial gain. If you are a brand and this is for your Facebook Brand Page, that to me would be just as much for “commercial gain” as if you put it on your website where the sales actually take place. What do you think?
What is Copyright Fair Use?
Although, I am not a lawyer, I do want to share two references to Fair Use that came up during the big IP stir caused by Pinterest in February 2012. Please note that these are not definitive.
“Kirsten turned to federal copyright laws and found a section on fair use. Copyrighted work can only be used without permission when someone is criticizing it, commenting on it, reporting on it, teaching about it, or conducting research. Repinning doesn’t fall under any of those categories.”
But wouldn’t both pinning and Facebook posts fall under “commenting on it” if proper attribution was also given? I am not sure. Any lawyers here?
From Business Insider
“Fair Use law allows people to use work they do not own the copyright to. There are four elements to consider when determining if something is Fair Use:
– The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
– The nature of the copyrighted work [is it fictional or factual]
– The amount and substantiality of the portion [of the work] used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
– The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work”
In this article, they ask the question, ‘isn’t exposure good for the creator?’ Their answer:
“A case involving J.D. Salinger’s attempt to stop his letters from being published established that a copyright holder always has the right to control the use of his work, even if that means he’ll make less money.”
Social Media Lawyer Sara Hawkins on Fair Use, Copyright and Online Images. The Best Ways To Make Sure You Are Legally Using Online Photos for LifeHacker. Sara also wrote about the difference between copyright and trademark on June 9, 2014 on her blog SarafHawkins.com.
What is a Link to an Artist? A Link to a Pinterest Pin is Often Not Enough
A link to a Pinterest pin is better than nothing in terms of attribution – but due to the nature of Pinterest, it may not link to the artist. So, please take a moment and check the pin. Especially if a pin is linked to a Tumblr, you are not on solid ground. If the image says “pinned by pinner” then it was pinned from an image they saved to their computer. Unless they give photo credits in their comment – or you feel confident that they own the photo – you don’t have a link to the artist. If the image lists the source as “google.com,” that is not a direct link. A link to a Facebook Brand Page from a pin is also not a source, it just means that the Facebook Page owner edited the pin source to link to their own Facebook Page.
A link to a Tumblr is almost always useless. Unlike GooglePlus, Tumblr generally does not attract photographers. It attracts people who pass photographs around without attribution. You may know what Tumblr they got it from, but that almost always leads you down a rabbit hole to nowhere. Here is an example of a beautiful whale photo posted with a link to Tumblr link as a photo credit in late March. Living on Kauai, I know how rare good whale photos are and I’m sure the origin of the image is not with this Tumblr.
Usually Tumblr, WeHeartIt and Imgur will not help you find photo sources. These are, in various ways, photo aggregators. Pinterest may have the source, but you need to check.
Distractify.com occasionally provides photo sources but often not. Distractify.com in itself is not a source. If you want to credit Distractify with being the photo source for where you found your image, fine. But take a few more moments and provide the photographer’s name as well.
If you find an image in a blog post, link to the article itself and not the media upload link, even though there may be multiple images on the page. For instance:
To link to a photo in this article you would use:
not the media file:
and not the site:
What can be learned from the many articles about how to pin properly on Pinterest, such as this one by Amy at Positively Splendid can be applied to linking to the creator of an image anywhere on the web. These Pinterest Etiquette articles were written by loyal Pinterest users in the earnest hopes that Pinterest would survive the claims of lawyers in February 2012 that “Pinterest was a hotbed of illegal copyright infringement.”
You can read more about Pinterest on my “How to Use Pinterest” Pinterest board.
Statigram (now ICONOSQUARE since late April) and Webstagram allow you to send an Instagram image to email while adding a watermark of the account you took it from. Note that it’s up to you to add a link back to the Instagram account because you are now posting from your computer or phone camera-roll.
This photo of the Saar Loop in Germany was posted to Facebook with a photo credit to a Pinterest pin. The pin was initiated by someone pinning from an image they had loaded to their computer – there is no information in the description, so there is no source.
When you finally get to the photographer, Wolfgang Staudt, he is very clear on his website and on his Flickr that all rights are reserved and he wants to be asked permission for its use, which I did. I didn’t get an answer yet so I am not showing the photo. In any case, he still should watermark to protect himself.
Images With Quotes Are Still Images
Just because a image has a familiar saying on it, doesn’t mean that someone didn’t create the original image. A Google Search by Image shows this image is listed on Etsy by Pascal “Paz” at SunnyChampagne and that is to whom the credit should go.
Advice for Photographers – Use a Legible Watermark
If you are a photographer, your best bet is to place a tasteful, legible watermark on your photos. You would actually be helping out the average person who really just wants a pretty picture to share on social media. Don’t get fancy with watermark fonts. Legibility is your top priority when creating watermarks.
This highly useful Creative Commons photo on Flickr is shown here as an example of a legible watermark, and is available to use with attribution.
Examples of WaterMarks That Are Hard To Read
It is very important that watermarks are created with legible fonts in appropriate sizes to aid in readability. For instance, I knew this photographer’s name because Zbynek Kysela used it in a photo credit for his Welcome Spring by Miguel Ángel Sánchez-Guerrero Ros 500px Facebook post. Even though the photo has a watermark, without the accompanying written credit, Miguel’s full name would have been lost.
Cursive watermarks are hard to read:
Posted by Zbynek Kysela on Facebook with the photographer’s name, Ahmad Zaghamlm, and name of the piece: The Lonely Poppy, otherwise we could have never read the watermark.
Garden Entry Provence, France Illegible Watermark
When we tried to zoom in on the watermark it fell apart even though we dug for the image with the best resolution.
Your Website Domain is the Best Watermark Because We Can Find You
The “Music is What Feelings Sound Like” image is watermarked “TakeLessons.” We might guess that means “TakeLessons.com” but don’t assume you are as recognizable as Nike and your logo is enough. Hopefully, TakeLessons had the rights to this photo when they watermarked it.
You Should Not Watermark Photos That You Do Not Have the Rights To
If you pay a photographer to do a shoot for you, you have the right to put your website URL on the photo as a watermark. I encourage you to also include the name of the photographer. It’s just a nice thing to do. I tried hard to track down the source for the photo of the bench that has been seen all over Facebook and on blogs with the provocative words: If you could sit and chat for one hour with anyone living or dead who would you choose? EndlessLightandLove.com watermarked it but it would appear that it is not possible that it is theirs because they published it on their blog after it was posted many times in blogs and on Facebook. They have not answered my inquiries. I would love to update this article with the correct source if it is found.
I have sent an email to both of the email addresses Marc, the owner, gives for ThoughtQuestions.com. I wrote: “Have you ever given thought to attempting to give attribution to the photos you use or at least putting a disclaimer that you don’t own them? Or do you? I assume your watermark is just to claim your combining a question with a photo you feel is available to you? Please don’t take this as an accusation. I am just trying to describe all possibilities of what people are doing on Facebook when they post images that they don’t own. marcandangel.com/about/ does not describe you as photographers – that is how I am making my assumption.” (UPDATE: ThoughtQuestions now provides attribution for their photos. BIG kudos!)
In a third example, it would appear that Kashif Pathan is picking up travel photos, labeling them “interesting things” and watermarking them as his own. Travel sites such as Expedia were using this Baros, Maldives image for years before he uploaded it with a watermark in February 2014. The official Baros, Maldives site doesn’t use it. If you look at his Flickr, it is obvious – by the breadth of isolated locations across the globe – that it would be difficult for them to all be his. Flickr does not include ExiF photo data and the Maldives photo itself is low resolution. I can’t find his name linked to “photography” on the internet (except for a minor piece on ImagesPhilippines that diligently links to Pathan’s Flickr for a photograph of Taiwan). That said, I do recognize that if you are watermarking and downsizing your own photo before putting it on Flickr, Flickr will not be able to read the camera shot attributes unless you use software that preserves the ExiF data.
If you are choosing to use a photo that has a watermark, and you are serious about photo attribution, you should consider the fact that not every watermarked photo is watermarked by the creator. If it is watermarked by a photographer, you should be fine.
Mobile Watermark Apps
Update: The new iWatermark+ app for iOS (shortly available on Android) is blowing all prior mobile watermarking apps out of the water. I just wrote a tutorial on how to use iWatermark+. It costs just $3.99.
Here is a list of mobile watermark apps selected by PopSugarTech/ReadWriteWeb back in January 2014. Mobile watermark apps are important when you are posting direct to the web on Facebook, Instagram etc from your phone camera.
These include Marsta, iWatermark, A+ Signature, PhotoMarkr, eZy Watermark Lite and iVideoMark.
Be Sure to Include Alt Tags with Your Images
You should also make sure to post “alt tags” with your photos so that Google can easily associate your name with your photo. Alt tags are required when you publish photos on a website, as it allows blind people to “read” what is in a photo. (If you use the Yoast SEO plug-in for a WordPress website, it will remind you to fill in alt tags for your photos.) This is a relatively simple task. If you don’t use the Yoast plug-in, you can go back and check your posts in “text” mode (not visual) to make sure alt tags with photo credits are there. You can still add tags to the code in between the two quote marks alt=”” without having to reload the photos.
To add alt text directly into a PhotoShop image file, a photographer can use these PhotoShop instructions for “actualtext.”
Digimarc Your Images
You can track your images around the internet using the Digimarc software and service. Digimarc allows artists, photographers, design professionals, agencies and businesses to track their images with a code embedded into the image. PhotoShop has been shipping with a Digimarc plug-in since 1996. Aside from providing you with the ability to track your images, the externally invisible mark “communicates image ownership through copying, manipulation, editing, cropping, compression and decompression, encryption and decryption” to those who know to look for it using PhotoShop or Digimarc.
Digimarc is available for $99/year for 2,000 images in the (Professional) Edition, or $499/year for 5,000 images plus phone support for the Business Edition. PhotoShop or PhotoShop Elements is required. This is the list of the Digimarc partners today.
The Basic Edition ($49/year for 1,000 images) is of limited utility. It “allows you to communicate your ownership information and usage rights for your images, enabling prospective buyers to locate you. This service enables digital watermark embedding only, without the added benefits of the Digimarc Search Service.”
How To Search For a Specific Image Using Google
If you are on the Google Chrome browser, even in Facebook, you can right click on the image and you will have the choice to “Search Google for This Image”. That’s it. You are now where you need to be.
Following is a step-by-step summary of how you can find a specific image on the web using the Google Search By Image feature if you have stored the image on your computer and don’t know where it came from.
First go to Google’s Search by Image link.
You can Search by Image using this interface on the following browsers: Chrome 5+, Internet Explorer 9+, Safari 5+, Firefox 4+.
Click “Try Now”
At the next screen, click on the camera.
You now see that you can search with an image you load from your computer after you select “upload an image”.
How do you get the image? By taking a “screen shot” of the image you have found on the web. As an alternative, you can enter the URL of the image you have found. In the case of photos I find on Facebook, a screen shot works better.
To take a screen shot:
If you are fortunate enough to be using a Mac, just use the utility program built into the Operating System called “Grab”. (If you don’t yet have this on your Dock, go to your “Utilities” folder inside the “Applications” folder. Find Grab and drag it to your Dock). With Grab, click and drag your mouse around the image – when you release the mouse button you have a screen shot. It will be saved in “tiff” file format. The Google image search interface does not mind using tiff’s. If you don’t have a Mac and are using a PC, there is a similar feature for you as well – please give us your recommendations in the comments.
Name your screen shot and save it. If the image you have found has text on it, use that name the screen shot file. In my first example, I put “you are a blessing.” When there is a name of a location, I use that. If there is no information, I use what it looks like to me.
It appears that Google Search by Image delivers results that include the relevancy of what you titled your screen shot.
You then choose “Upload an Image” and click on “Choose File.” Find the screen grab on your computer and upload that image.
You will be delivered to a Google search results page with your image and the various locations the image has been found online.
If you are using the Google Chrome browser, you can right-click on the image as you find it on the internet and then click on the option “Search Google for This Image”. You can find a description of this Google feature on GoogleSystems.blogspot. Surprisingly, this works even with Facebook image posts that are “for friends only.” You do not get search results from Facebook, but you can search for the source of an image that is already posted on Facebook this way.
Here is a simple example. If you look at the Google Search by Image results, you can see that the ownership of this image is clear cut. This photo was taken by the designer, Lisa Johnson to show, on her poppypaperie.com blog for the benefit of other crafty designers, the process she went through creating this design for sale on My Favorite Things website.
These are the results I got (update). In this case, they are the same using my screen shot tiff to search on the Google Search by Image interface as they are with the right click “search Google for this image” method on the Facebook post.
Example Two: Count Your Many Blessings. In this post, I needed to take one step back from the source that I found to the original source of Felicity Jane Studio which was kindly given by the blogger that Google Search by Image found. I spotted the “via” at the bottom of the first post by ABC The Blog.
Example Three: This photo of little girls at a Mermaid Party on Lydia’s Party Wagon blog by Heidi Hope was easy to find. with Google Search By Image. The one photo the Party Wagon blogger, Lydia, used that wasn’t watermarked is the one I saw on Facebook. In the case of this non-text image, I did not name it Mermaid Party but Google immediately recognized it as such. My results with the tiff screenshot and the right click were similar. Four pins on Pinterest were listed first and then the Party Wagon link with the tiff and three pins then the Party Wagon link on the right click. Gratefully, Lydia, the blogger who posted it, named and linked to the photographer’s site.
Let’s make the effort. Let’s add the best attribution that we can. On average, digging down to an image source should not take you more than 10, perhaps 15 minutes.
Examples of Appropriate Attribution
I often mention my friend Yasuyoshi Kobayashi as someone you can depend on to give attribution. He also posts many of his own photos.
Kobayashi san ensures the source gets credit and his followers can go directly to the source to pin to pinterest etc. It is a gift that comes back full circle to him. I had the pleasure of pinning this to my Japan board on Pinterest.
Zbynek Kysela provides a good example of someone who always provides attribution. He doesn’t link but you can easily find the artist with the name he gives you. Note that these two images also use a non-obtrusive but legible watermark. (Update: Zbynek now consistently links to his sources)
Move On photo of two snails on two little stones by Alberto Ghizzi Panizza on 500px
Leopard Staredown by Conrad Tan on 500px shot at Kruger National Preserve, South Africa.
Susan gives you the Colin Cowie Weddings website source in this elegant cat wearing an emerald necklace post.
In this You Are Beautiful image by Jennifer McCulley, Susan Gilbert gives you the Etsy account so that you can find it to buy it.
This image posted by Susan Gilbert is on Flickr with a Creative Commons license that allows distribution with credit to Krissy Venosdale. Krissy has more recently begun water marking her images with Venspired.com but obviously she hadn’t done that with this one which was uploaded to her Flickr in 2011.
If you find out who the artist is after you post an image, you can still add it. It is easy to edit photo posts on Facebook. As soon as Jan Gordon got the info she added a credit to Mark Daehlin
Don’t Use Images That Google Images Links to a Stock Photo
You may have seen these two images on Facebook in the past few months. One is from Getty Images, the other from Shutterstock. A Google image search shows that they have indeed been passed around but you don’t want to be the one that these stock photo companies come after.
The Unattributable Photos of the Internet
Here’s an idea for photos that you search for on Google Images but you still can’t find the source. “Photo credit: difficult to determine”.
Here are two examples:
If you are a brand, I would still steer clear of these. But if you have searched and there is nothing but WeHeartIt, Tumblrs – like this one that have a disclaimer: “(DISCLAIMER: I do not own or claim to own any of the pictures featured on this site unless stated otherwise. If any of the photos belong to you and you want me to remove them or give you credit, please send me a message with a link to the original photo.)”, Imgur, and other non-attributable sources as in the Google Search by Image search for this photo of the 2 little girls hugging
I would say that this nice large image is up for grabs for adding text to. It is just adorable and perfect for a social or blog post about friendship. Unfortunately there are parents out there who somehow lost this along the way.
This is the Google Search by Image results for the garden entrance in Provence.
There is no proper source for this photo available. So without a legible watermark, you just have photo collection sites and Tumblrs that are obviously not owned by photographers referencing each other. In this case, just some of them are:
But I cannot tell you who the photographer is.
The Graphics Fairy Offers pre 1924 Photos
Karen (the owner of TheGraphicsFairy) says that images that were created before 1924 cannot be copyrighted and are in the public domain. A recent post on Facebook used this French pom pom hat image from the graphics fairy that had been watermarked by a Facebook Page.
In this case the Facebook Page that watermarked this image was within their rights. It still would be nice to give Karen credit.
The Quandary for Photographers to Go Online or Not
My husband has a library of art photos that are not online. You get a taste of his work on CourageGroup.com and even on his Instagram @RayJGordon. As an architect and urban planner, he has a wonderful eye for architectural detail art photos. We are still struggling with how best to expose his work without giving it away. One photographer told me, once the work has been paid for he doesn’t care so perhaps we should put online some of his paid work such as the calendar he did for Air Italia.
For the professional photographers reading this, what is your solution? This online discussion among photographers on photoforum.com says that you should copyright your work.
Here is how to copyright your image, although some say all you need to do is add a © to your watermark.
Facebook and Some Other Sites Block Pinners From Pinning to Pinterest From There
Dave Taylor explains why he did it for one of his sites and how to do it for yours.
We Expect Instagram Photos to be Yours
In my mind, Instagram photos are taken with a mobile phone and ideally posted using the location you took them. Viewers, and the location have the extra pleasure of being able to click on the location and seeing all photos posted there. I have seen some restaurants post nothing but studio shots of their food. Though this is boring, at the very least we expect that you own those photos. This is definitely not the place to post photos of others without specifying who they belong to.
There ARE reposting apps and ways to repost photos of others from Statigram and Webstagram but they all embed the account of the original poster and it is recommended that you give them a shout-out in your caption as well.
Take Your Own Photos
Now that most everyone has a camera phone there is no excuse for you not to building a library of your own photos. I would much prefer to see a photo YOU took than a glorious one you found.
If you want to use photos with quotes you love on them, you could add text with attribution to the person you are quoting to your own photo? I am not going to go into detail here on how to add text to a photo but it is not an insurmountable task. It may not be as fabulous as the one they are selling on Etsy but it is actually yours.
DO take an hour and learn about font use for adding text to photos and don’t use more than two compatible fonts for this purpose. Your text color should have enough contrast with the photo background to be readable.
Buy Your Photos or Source Where You Are Given Permission by the Photographer
Chris Lema blogs every day and does presentations rich with photos. Here he explains where he gets his photos – legally.
What Some Have To Say About Content and Image Attribution Online
How Not To Steal People’s Content on the Web from HubSpot.
Facebook Note from Alyssa Ginsburg: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due Photography
Urban Dictionary: Photo Credits
by Elizabeth Halford on @ProBlogger (Darren Rowse)’s Digital Photography School: Have You Ever Been a Victim of Photo Piracy?
I learned after publishing this article that there is a GooglePlus community aimed squarely at the issue I address here. The name of the community is Photo Sharing | Fighting Picture Theft. Their stated objective is “A community for sharing information on how to share other peoples photos in a good manner.”
Best Practices for Sharing Photos on GooglePlus by Matthew Shuey
Just before publishing this article I put the question to the members of BlogChat (the Sunday Twitter Chat). For the most part, these bloggers strongly support appropriate attribution.
— Kerry O'Shea Gorgone (@KerryGorgone) March 31, 2014
— Penney (@penneyjs) March 31, 2014
— Cathleen Savage (@Blue_Drift) March 31, 2014
— Collin Kromke (@CollinKromke) March 31, 2014
Facebook Embedded Posts
This article includes Facebook Embedded Posts. I wrote about them recently on AskLindaSherman.com.
I discovered with this article that on both AskLindaSherman and here on BoomerTechTalk, the Facebook embedded posts get very wide when viewed on a tablet but not a mobile phone. Please expand your tablet view to read comfortably. If I find a coding solution for this, I will implement it (though the Facebook developers page says the appearance of the embed cannot be adjusted, so that is unlikely). I tested this post with an iPad. If you are using a different type of tablet would you please let me know if you get the same issue. Second drawback. I realized that I cannot pin these images directly from this article onto Pinterest because Facebook blocks pinning. I may end up replacing them with screen shots. The embedded tweets are not presenting any issue.
I would love to hear from photographers, lawyers, Facebook users and anyone with an opinion or additional information on this complex subject.