Thursday, October 11, 2012


Fauxtographers and Your Photos Being Ripped Off

Be carefull out there

In this new 21st century we seem to face many new terms, many new customs, many new paradigms in our photography universe. The new terminology means learning what these new words mean. Heck, when I was learning photography back in the stone age, bit depth was how far your chisel would go into the rock you were using to create your photo. OK, maybe I haven’t been around since Fred and Wilma Flintstone, but it sometimes feels that way. Learning terms like bit depth, CF cards, CMOS, ISO (I still remember ASA), pixels and megapixels, raw, color space, and so on and so on, makes your head ready to burst.

Well, I just heard a new term I never heard before and it’s a sad one. “Fauxtographer”. It was used to describe a “newbie” photographer who just got a camera and decided, since it was cheap and easy to start a website, using other people’s photos was an easy way to start and get clients. Just skip all that hard stuff, like actually shooting good photos. Just find great images on photographers websites in far away places and who would know? I mean, how hard could it be to take photos like that? Right. And how hard could it be to hit a small white ball into a hole in the ground?

Like hitting a ball in golf, taking a photo is very easy. Doing it well, doing it on demand, that’s a different and more elusive skill set.

While the Internet makes it easy to find and steal images, it also makes it easy to find images. There are several image recognition softwares out there that can look for images. There is an army of eyes looking. I had one client point out a coffee selling website that ripped off one of my kid photos, thank you very much. That led to a five-figure check being deposited into my bank account. Of course that was only because I had previously registered that image, before the infringement. More on that in my legal blog with lawyer Ed Greenberg—the Copyright Zone here on Pixiq. We will be covering that subject many, many, many times.

Google is another great way to track and find your images. I tag and caption my images with unique terms, so I can do a search on Google for my images. Never title your images that you post on the web as “Photo1, Photo2” or “JPEG 002”. Name it so it’s unique and you can search for it. Metadata is a great thing. Don’t tell them, but most image thieves don’t change your metadata and it’s searchable. Shhhh!

As we progress, you’ll see more and more ways to track your images. And if you protect yourself and register your images, when you get ripped off, rather than raising your blood pressure, you will just hear the pleasant sound of “ca-ching”, money rolling into your bank account.

But back to the Fauxtographer and their ilk, it is something to be aware of. But if you are honest in your dealings, you are a real photographer, not a faux one. The reason I say this is that I find many photographers who devalue their images because they feel like the photographs are not worthy. That for some reason their photos aren’t “there,” wherever there is. Don’t ever fall into that self-depreciating trap. I’ve reviewed many portfolios, and when I find a photographer who hands me his or her portfolio and starts` making excuses before I can even look at one image, I’ll cut them off. Never make excuse for your work. Your photos should speak for themselves without the photographer lowering expectations beforehand. Rather, I teach my students to hand over a portfolio either saying or feeling—“Here is a great group of images you’ll just love.”  If you don’t feel that way about your photos, don’t show them. Show what you love and what you believe in. Just make sure, unlike the Fauxtographer, that they are all yours.

I can tell you that the photographer’s claim of a mistake in using stock images isn’t true. I know one of the photographers whose images were ripped off and her copyright physically removed before posting. This was no accident, not innocent error as this photographer says. The photographer got over a thousand people taking her “$500 package reduced to $50” offer. As many a pro pointed out, there is no way for a single photographer to physically shoot that many sessions in a year, not to mention that with the time spent filling those orders, you’ll make one or two dollars an hour. At best. If you're really organized. Otherwise, it's a disaster in the making.

Simple thought for the day—Be real, not faux.