I don’t know whether I did something awful in a past life or if I’ve just had really bad luck, but ever since I started shooting the same shitty thing has been happening to me.
Right from the outset, the very first photo I had printed was credited to somebody else. I shot a photo of Matt West doing a nosegrind on a picnic table down stairs at St Kentigern College in Auckland. Cheapskates ran it in their magazine, but somehow it ended up being credited to Ginge. In Cheapskates’s defence—and with no hard feelings to Ginge who was actually shooting photos at the time—it was an easy mistake, especially with the amount of film that was probably bouncing around the office at that time.
However, it wasn’t the last time it would happen.
In incidents that stand out over the years as the most painful, I’ve had somebody else’s name credited on a cover I shot for a British music magazine. I’ve had images used without permission and without credit by a gourmet burger chain. Most infuriatingly, photos of mine were replicated and altered by the world’s largest children’s film studio and book publisher. Don’t even get me started on the amount of times my name has been misspelled. Whether it was by genuine oversight or a ‘don’t know, don’t care’ attitude on the part of the publisher, the damage has been done. There is little you can do to remedy the situation after the fact, and you’ve gotta have pretty deep pockets to take on these companies in court, even if you’ve covered your own ass.
So with that said, true to form, it happened again recently. Photos of mine were used without permission and without credit on the web. I believed after sending my low res images away, we were all on the same page, but you just can’t trust people to place the same value on your images that you do. This is especially true with the advent of Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and such, where little regard is given to the photographer who pressed the shutter.
What can you do to protect your images from exploitation? Short of watermarking all of your images, which makes you look like a nob, or getting everyone to sign a legal, binding license and possibly scaring them away, there isn’t much you can do. Probably the best way to avoid this type of thing is to be verbally clear about what you expect from the people you send your photos to. It’s unfortunate that you may not be able to expect payment for your images, especially as you start out, but you sure as hell can expect to get a credit on the photo.
Think of this as a caution. You’re as good as your last photo, so what good is it if it’s got somebody else’s name on it?
I updated my site the other day with some pics I took with Lenny Rivas when he was out here a few months back, but here they are again, and a couple extra.