Why do I feel so violated?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by achristensen, May 7, 2009.

  1. This past year was my first year as an official studio and for having done all my work word of mouth, I feel good about the year. I photographed a number of seniors, had a great time, they all placed good-sized orders and all-in-all it was a very positive experience. However, yesterday a mother called to inform me (which I am glad she at least informed me) that they had scanned one of my images to create their own graduation announcements. Needless to say, it rubs me the wrong way. What is the best way to avoid this? How do you keep people from just copying your images willy nilly?
     
  2. You can't. Even if you have something in your contract, what's going to stop people from giving them out just to family? I'm surprised she even called you about it. At least she's not trying to make money on it.
     
  3. You're going to get all kinds of comments about this and my response probably won't be all that popular.
    They are wrong and you are right; however, any communication or action you take with this customer will only make you look bad. Who would want to do business with someone who came after them or threatened them with legal action? It's a Catch 22 for sure.
    The best thing you can do is to offer a very attractive version of this product that they're making themselves and market it as a great add-on or incentive with a larger purchase. Maybe even put a "stuffer" or coupon in with their order when they pick up...-Aimee
     
  4. Well, congratulations on getting your business going... now to your question...
    how about you look at this in a different way? The parent called you out of courtesy, but you are learning of this as a business opportunity. Perhaps a PDF format for graduation announcements as a part of a/the package deal? You could then control image quality a little bit more, provide an incentive/service to your clients and either earn an additional fee or at least insure your business viability.
    Just a thought.
     
  5. And whatever you do, don't forget that anything you post here or most anyplace else is easily found by anyone Googling your name. In contentious situations (and this doesn't really sound like one, to be honest), you want to be very cautious about how you describe anyone with whom who have done or might do business. Google never forgets.

    As for the specific situation: at best, in terms of real-world public relations, your main option is to explain to the customer that your entire business model is built around your reputation, and that a central part of your reputation is derived from the quality of your images. When someone else takes it upon themselved to reproduce those images, your experience has been that everything from sharpness to skin tone to composition can take a real hit - and you'd truly hate for such an image to the first and last time that someone encounters your work. Offer instead to play a modestly priced role in her desktop publishing project, and make it work for both of you. Assert that the results she'll get will be much nicer.
     
  6. Thanks for all the great replies. Yes, the moment she mentioned she was using the images, I mentally added graduation announcements to my list of available items for this year. I like the add-on to package idea- so they automatically get them with certain package levels. She did complain to me that the images didn't look so great after copying them and I think that bothers me the most- because I am very picky about sharpness and skin tones and overall color effects and CROPPING. Ugh. Matt, I have had to explain that my business model is based on the quality of my images (right down to the paper they are printed on) with a number of customers (not this one, however) who complain that I don't offer everything on a disk. I know lots of photographers do this for a large sum but I care less about the $$ and more about the final product.
     
  7. First ask where she got it copied or scanned at. If it's a local business, you might want to address your copyright concerns with the manager there. I believe the Kinko's copy chain got hit with a big lawsuit that actually resulted in most retail copy centers to post an obvious sign warning customers against illegal copying, and the store bears some responsibility if they allow it to happen. Some retail chains now flat out refuse to copy anything that looks like it was taken by a professional unless they have a letter showing the person has permission.
    Then, upsell your client. explain that the right way to have it done and "look good" and done right, they should do it with you, and that is something you normally charge for as an extra or premium option service.
     
  8. I remember one post a couple months back where someone suggested using papers with texture, so that if someone tries to make a photocopy, the image doesn't come out very good at all. That would make it harder for someone to do this and get a useable image.
    Not suggesting you should do that, but it is an option.
     
  9. If they scanned the image and made their own announcement, then you have the problem of dealing with a customer you wish to retain, etc. However, if they took the scan to another printer/publisher, then you have a legitimate beef with that - by now, any commercial printer (in the general sense) should be well aware of the issues in copying anyone else's work.
     
  10. Now for an even less popular answer...
    I can definitely understand your concern from a quality standpoint, but from Joe Public’s perspective, this is where copyright protection goes too far. I would assume Joe’s line of thinking goes something like this:
    · I paid the photographer quite well for 1) taking my picture and 2) giving me this print
    · The picture is of me
    · I feel I have exclusive rights to “me” unless I sign something that clearly states otherwise
    · I understand I cannot sell your work or otherwise earn money from it, but I’m unclear as to what extent you can sell pictures of me, and make money from them
    · If I want to use this picture of me, that I paid for, in the exact context for which it was created, with no commercial intent, who do you think you are to tell me not to?
    Had the image been used commercially, I would wholeheartedly agree with you.. In this case, Mom used the image to communicate how proud she is of her son… I think Joe Public might have a point on this one, copyright or not.
    Like I said, a less popular answer!
    Bubba
     
  11. Popular with me Bubba. If I contract someone work for hire to shoot images of my family I surely want the right to use them as I wish. Anyone that can't figure that into their business model doesn't get the call from me.
     
  12. What Aimee said 100%
     
  13. politely this is not work for hire. they purchased a print, they can do anything they want with it except copy it. obviously everyone knows copyright law, that doesnt need to be repeated.
    amy, im still unclear of what she was calling about. was it we are so happy with the photos we even used one for the announcements or WE ARE using them for announcements (undertone...you cant stop us).. if you reply in kind most of the time people understand and are not offended.
    assuming the call was nice toned from her...i would say something like, glad you liked them. i offer cards that are of better quality...BTW did you know that copying a photo is illegal. i just wanted to let you know so you dont get in trouble..
    i tell my clients something along those lines even when they are dealing with another photographer, just to help them, genuinely help them, and then they know not to copy my photos too.
     
  14. Disregarding your intent to hold onto print profits as much as possible, my point was, I will not hire something to do portraits unless they are able to release a file to me for my personal use as I wish.
     
  15. Amy - pretty much the same thing happened to me, this week - twice. Both times pictures were being used by commerical organisations (small ones, but still business outfits) having been copied from customers or directly off my website.
    Much as I agree with all the wise advice in this thread, nobody's addressed the emotional aspect of it. I know exactly how you feel. Deep breath, have a hug from me, and move on.
     
  16. Justin,
    But what happens in the end when they use your image not to your liking (in terms of color correction, sharpness, cropping, composition, etc.) and then attach your name to it. 200 people see it and (granted I realize the average Joe Public won't notice what we notice) they ask "who took this picture? Huh, I can do better than that." What then does that do for your business prospects? I know I will never have control over what happens to images but having as much as possible is what I am after. I'm looking for practical actions not philosophical discussions at this point- albeit a valid and important discussion and one I am sure has been covered here many times.
    I assume most people know about copyright laws, people disregard them all the time with a variety of formats. Does language need to be stated somewhere in materials we give clients?
     
  17. What Bubba and Justin said. This is a risk you take in business. You did get paid, and the clients are going to think that since they paid you they have a right to use the photo how they want to. They sort of have a point.
    When RIAA lawyers get all uppity and start suggesting that we don't have the right to copy music from our CDs to our iPods, even though we did pay for it, we say they're full of it and keep on doing it. We call it fair use, and it's a gray area, but it's the same thing here. Your business interests, from the right to charge for prints to the right to control the look of everything with your name on it, are an abstract concept to the customer who paid for the photo. The idea that she's violating your copyright didn't even occur to her.
    If the photo were being reused by a business you'd of course press them on the issue to get additional compensation but there's nothing you can do here but let it slide, thank the parent for the compliment of saying your photo was good enough to be worth copying, offer to provide "the highest quality" prints for anything they want to do with it in the future and ask them to consider you for any future portrait work and recommend you to their friends.
     
  18. All,
    I did nicely give her my permission to use them and offered to create a similar announcement with original files quickly and for a small fee if the copies didn't turn out with Kinkos. I also requested that she make my business cards readily available at the graduation party to which she agreed.
    I am so grateful for this place. I know that when I have a really pressing issue, my questions will be answered quickly and in more ways that I had considered. Thank you all so much.
     
  19. it

    it

    That's why I just charge a decent fee up front and let them do whatever they want with the images. Policing this type of thing is a huge waste of time IMO.
     
  20. If all that people judge you on is print quality, then you've got some other issues.
     
  21. Technology has changed the field and there is no going back. When dealing with families photographers should charge for the shoot and give a CD with a license for personal use. Offer prints but don't depend on them for your profits. The simple reality is that any Walmart with a Fuji Frontier can produce top notch prints from digital files. Better to give them those files properly prepared than to leave it up to a cheap flatbed scan of a 4x6 proof.
    Any wedding or family portrait photographer who imagines that a "you must buy prints from me" business model is sustainable in the modern world is just fooling themselves. There is nothing you can do to stop customers from using flatbeds, ink jets, and/or the local photo lab from making as many prints as they want, so why pretend otherwise? You offer a service, not a physical commodity. Charge for the service and leave the commodity up to locations that specialize in commodities.
     
  22. Keeping a super-tight control could be unprofitable. It would be more profitable and less painful to try to turn the situation around. The post about offering graduation invitation printings in the future sounds like a great idea.
    If they're going to a self-service place, how hard would it be to build them a photo file that looked like a graduation invitation, and include it on a CD or in some kind of a digital transfer, so they could download it and print it out themselves at a laser printer kiosk? I bet once you came up with a template, you could use automatic form-fill functions to add in changeable details like a subject's name or place and time of graduation ceremony, and so on.
    Notice, some stationery manufacturers offer different kinds of cards pre-cut to accommodate photographs. Maybe there's a cost-effective way to come up with some economical products that would meet your future customers' needs. It would also be easier for them if you did; they wouldn't have to go to as much trouble in scanning and authoring. Chances are, too, if you coordinated this well, you would probably produce a product of superior quality, which might make them even happier in the long run.
     
  23. first, they had to scan your pic, so its not like a RAW image file, they already got an inferior print...... second, you can't dedicate your time to the few scofflaws and people that likely didn't have a criminal intent, more like dumbness related to copyrights.... third, you can use the situation to learn from it, and offer custom printing for your customers for birthday announcements, holiday cards, party announcements, graduation announcecments, etc, when you take orders from customers for pics, make it an UP FRONT pitch for pics.... 99% of my pics are done with that in mind already, my first pics were a friend's daughters pics for a holiday card to send to family.... the cash is NOT in the pics, its in the derivative merchandising...... my second assignment was image mugs for a friend's strip joint, now THOSE SOLD for a lot.......
    if someone were to approach me like they did you, i'd tell them flat out, "yew po' THANG! hell, mah oreegeenal looks much better and that paper's dang nasty....., can I show ya how its done fer a few nickels mo'! hell, yew even scanned at a low resolution, I can see color problems from here, that child ain't supposed to be GREEEN like that, is they?"
    but then, I do this for fun and to entertain the hell out of myself, mostly, the cash just SEEMS to follow..... the important thing is to MAINTAIN decorum, smile, have FUN with it, make the most from each experience and figure that its better to have one happy dumbass that spreads YOUR WORK at her expense, as each photo IS AN ADVERTISEMENT for YOUR mind's eye that you use to take photos with, each copy STILL represents you, than it would be to create a ruckus, cause anything negative, or be other than professional and dignified. On occasion in every business you find a few difficult moments and people that test us, it can't be cause for us to think poorly of other clients or stop what we do... DO what you enjoy, photography..... don't let the biz end stale you.....
    if you wanted to be a pain, find out if she scanned it at home or at an establishment..... the first situation , any legal recourse would be a waste of YOUR money, for the second, you'd have to go thru the motions of turning them in for copyright infringement, and a few years later you'd settle out of court...... it is worth your time, effort, energy, and passing minutes of life to do that? for onesy twosy, NAH...... if it was a daily rampant thing, yeah....
    so, take advantage of the situation, befriend the lady, GO to that grad party if possible, and use things to their best.... at the end, she's still advertising and promoting YOUR talent with each copy she makes....
     
  24. If all that people judge you on is print quality, then you've got some other issues.

    This make no sense and is internally inconsistent. If others are judging a photographer on this sole criteria, then there are cannot be any other "issues" that matter even if they exist.
    If print reporduction quality is not important to other'speople's views of a photographer's abilities, please feel free to explain why rather than merely presenting an arbitrary insult.
     
  25. Amy, slightly off topic, but you only give prints? You don't give images on a CD/DVD at all? If so, then wow - I am surprised that still works.
     
  26. This make no sense and is internally inconsistent. If others are judging a photographer on this sole criteria, then there are cannot be any other "issues" that matter even if they exist.
    .

    If print reporduction quality is not important to other'speople's views of a photographer's abilities, please feel free to explain why rather than merely presenting an arbitrary insult.
    .

    Sure it makes sense. I'm pretty sure I can look at anyone's print from Walmart or wherever and be able to comment on whether or not the photographer has done a good job as far as lighting, posing, locations, style, etc. Saying "Oh, if they print it at Walmart and show it to people, I'll never get another job" underestimates the intelligence of the public and overestimates the skills of the shooter.
     
  27. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I like Bubba Fett's answer. The reason you feel violated is that you are locked into a business model that says that whenever anyone wants more prints they have to come to you. You may have the legal right to demand that but it doesn't work, and is counter-intuitive to many people for the reasons Mr Fett indicates. There is no practical way of keeping tabs and protecting your rights so the reality is that the business model doesn't work in today's world. You need to adopt a pricing policy which gets you more of what you need from a project at the outset; because pretty much everyone will have a scanner, or know someone who has a scanner, or can get stuff scanned at a store.
    An example- for my daughter's wedding we asked in a brief for a limited quantity of prints but DVD of full res images so we could play with the files and print what we wanted in whatever size on whatever medium, in a store on on an inkjet and so on. Anybody who indicated that they didn't want to work like that was immediately discounted. You can bet on that route growing as people get comfortable with the idea of making prints themselves. Reality is that had the photographer's prints been bettwe than ours then we'd have bought more from her. But that wasn't the case, so whilst the photographer didn't make any downstream income at least they had been briefed to expect that. But most people won't even think about writing a brief - they'll just assume as Bubba Fett says.
    So bring your product and contract into line with what people want and how they are likely to behave, and make sure whatever you give out is great quality - there are always going to be some people who will want the best.
     
  28. Well, at least she told you. Welcome to the 21st century. The technological boom affects us all. YOu can buy scanners at the grocery store now. The problem of scanning photos instead of buying them will happen more & more. Just a word of advice, consider going to 100% online ordering, that is what hurt my business than anything else
     
  29. I'm pretty sure I can look at anyone's print from Walmart or wherever and be able to comment on whether or not the photographer has done a good job
    You said, "f all that people judge you on is print quality, then you've got some other issues." Not only were your writing about OTHER people judging a print, as opposed to yourself, your comment was based on the other people judging on print quality alone, not this new and additional criteria of "lighting, posing, locations, style, etc.". If the premise of the comment makes sense (which it NOW does) its because you changed it.
    Thank you.
     
  30. >> An example- for my daughter's wedding we asked in a brief for a limited quantity of prints but DVD of full res images so we could play with the files and print what we wanted in whatever size on whatever medium, in a store on on an inkjet and so on. Anybody who indicated that they didn't want to work like that was immediately discounted. <<
    Yep, that's what I think too. I don't think I'd ever pay for a photographer if he/she says I won't get the digital copies on a CD.
     
  31. I think Gary's advice is VERY good. Incredibly good. In addition to Aimee's and others too, I think Gary had a great idea.
    :)
     
  32. You're not alone.
    I gratuitously photographed a neighbor's prom party, gave them an edited CD and slide show, and received a thank you note with one of the images of her daughter and her date enclosed. A copy was sent to all who came to the house.
    Richard
    P.S. The mother is an attorney!
     
  33. So bring your product and contract into line with what people want and how they are likely to behave, and make sure whatever you give out is great quality - there are always going to be some people who will want the best.​
    Good answer. This all falls into the realm of what is known as Marketing .
    From Pride-Ferrell's "Marketing , Concepts and Strategies ":

    Marketing concept
    : A philosophy that an organization should try to provide products that satisfy customers' needs through a coordinated set of activities that also allows the organization to achieve its goals.
    Amy,

    I am sorry that you felt so violated to begin with. But it looks as if you have turned this into something positive. Best of luck to you, I hope that your business continues to do well.
     
  34. "I gratuitously photographed a neighbor's prom party, gave them an edited CD and slide show, and received a thank you note with one of the images of her daughter and her date enclosed. A copy was sent to all who came to the house.
    Richard"
    .
    What's your point? You freely shot the event, and freely gave them a cd of the images with (apparently) no other comment. I'd assume you gave me a gift to do what I like as well.
     
  35. "You're not alone.
    I gratuitously photographed a neighbor's prom party, gave them an edited CD and slide show, and received a thank you note with one of the images of her daughter and her date enclosed. A copy was sent to all who came to the house.
    Richard
    P.S. The mother is an attorney!"
    It sounds like that's what you intended as you gave a photo CD for an event you shot for free. They were clearly happy with your work so you should feel good about your gift.
     
  36. For orders, I put my copyright on the back of each photo that I provide. For "giveaways" I include my copyright on the bottom right corner on the front of each photo.
    So, if someone says they tried to have a photo scanned at Kinko's and Kinko's refused, you can deal with it on a case by case basis.
    Obviously, the above does not stop individuals with personal scanners from scanning your photo.
     
  37. Look on this in a growth manner I suspect that the reason she told you was perhaps that she perceived that if you were to do it it would cost allot more:
    Going with the unpopular coments:
    It sounds like you really put allot into things and produce a fantastic result. This I hope you are charging for. Ultimately the face on the picture owns the copyright to the reproduction of the image. However I feel that it sounds like you have charged for a one off result. I would feel agrevied if someone tooka picture of me and then expected me to pay everytime I used the image, ie an avatar on a social website
    Is it possible that you charged a fair price for a picture but that is where your input ends, with the (beautiful)final result?
    Like a painter, you get money for the Original, but not for the fakes, photograph's of the original... Does Leonardo Da Vinci get royalties from every single book that has published copies of his concepts? No, same thing with Monalisa, does the artists family receive royalties for every tea towel sold with her smile on it? and the qualities never the same...
    Sorry, but you need to accept that people are people. Go back to her and ask her if she would like you to do the same thing but with your professional quality?
    Cheers G
     
  38. All,
    First of all I started this post with "Why do I feel so violated" not because I really felt violated but because I wanted to get people's attention and get all these great answers! You guys always come through! Phew and it worked. It's one of the top threads of the day! I love that level of discussion
    Mostly, I was slightly irritated but being a solutions person I wanted to figure out a way that I can have a little more control over this issue (as I know people break copyright laws all the time, just like I go a little too fast in my XC90 from time to time). I appreciate everyone's comments- they are all very insightful, even Justin's who seems to have a chip on his shoulder. :)
    I have decided to slightly raise my package prices (yes, I sell prints, not disks and really enjoy it) and include 50 announcements as a part of every package and see how that works. I assume most seniors will need at least 50 announcements but some will need more which will generate more revenue as they will be able to purchase additional announcements a la carte. What do you guys think?
    Now I am going to start on a new thread. Disks versus prints.
     
  39. Photography should be fun. This thread is a reminder to me why why I enjoy landscapes and wildlife photography.
     
  40. Copyright & Work For Hire vs. General Public
    Amy,
    Permit me to share my perspective: As a recording engineer, I have witnessed the same evolution in technology and debate over copyright take place in the music industry years before it hit the photography community.
    Some points of clarification:
    Original author retains copyright in work unless contract is a work for hire, and ownership is transferred.
    Owner of copyright is entitled to compensation from all revenue sources - downloads, teatowels, coffee mugs, ringtones, etc.
    This is standard practice at professional level between business entities and contracted content providers; be they photographers, authors, composers, etc.
    Owner of a CD or DVD is permitted to copy onto computer for personal use - but not disseminate over internet. The RIAA doesn't care if you copy your CD onto your iPod - they care if you upload the CD to Limewire so 1000 college dorms have free access.
    Anyone's opinion of large entertainment / music corporations notwithstanding, that is the law as currently written.
    As to the issue at hand: The general public knows & cares nothing about the finer points of copyright: Most would balk at being told they are not allowed to reproduce or muck with digital files of images they have bought.
    Trying to tell them they didn't actually buy the image, just the photography services attached to it, will be lost on them, as will the finer points of ownership of a single image's reproduction license vs. copyright.
    They own it, they bought it - is the likely thinking.
    And btw, few lawyers are familiar with the nuances of copyright and publishing, unless they specialize in the field.
    So proactively re-working your business model is a smart move: offer the additional service - possibly throw it in for free, as a promotional item (adjusting your prices to cover print costs) and possibly a tiered option for, say, flattened or layered Photoshop files.
    Perhaps co-ordinate with the schools to offer a simple pre grad season training class on effective image tweaking to all the proud parents? In a word-of-mouth business, this is what will set you above the competition, and garner you tons of good will.
    As an aside, although it's a tricky area, I have concerns with providing amateurs original files to play with; if the results look awful, the photographer is blamed, not the wannabe photo editors.
    Likewise, having worked in music production for nearly 3 decades, I have witnessed firsthand how labels, artists, managers, etc. can royally screw up a recording because they didn't know what they're doing - and the studio was always blamed. Digital technology has simply made this more common and easier to do. I deal with it every week:
    "No, your drummer playing with T-Racks on his laptop will not give as good a result as my 30 years of experience and $100k of handbuilt equipment - sorry for being a buzzkill, dude."
    Nothing will change this - so being flexible, proactive, and having a sense of humor goes a long way.
    Best of luck; and get used to feeling violated; it's the artisan's curse: just be thankful patrons can't throw artists in jail if they don't like the results, like in the good old days...
     
  41. +1 Kerry
     
  42. People are going to scan your images either way. Its pretty standard and the "nporm" especially when you goive them a disk of their images. Its also just for a grad announcement (not an ad campaign!). Just factor this in and charge a bit more for your work if you have to. I prefer to make my money on the front end and not waste my time with reprint orders and such anyhow. its an anoying waste of time and Id rather be shooting than running to a phto lab.
     
  43. Look up copyright fair use and see if that clears up your feelings. The woman clearly 'broke' copyright law, but it is just on the edge of fair use, so that you would be wasting time pursuing a settlement, after all the woman only saved some money, she sure isn't profiting. How much money would you have reasonably made from those graduation announcements? Since you are working with alot of graduates, are you offering down the line services such as the announcements, reprints, and so on? The best way to avoid this is to spell things out clearly in the beginning, in writing for one, but verbalize what you are able to do for your clients and why it is better for you to do it, rather than themselves. Express what it means to you to retain quality control over your images. Once you've done eveything you feel you could have, it's really out of sight out of mind, and just keep working on the next project...
     
  44. An option that hasn't been brought up yet is to talk about these things up front. I always tell my customers to let me know if they need a file for a special purpose--whether it be an announcment, thank you card, blanket, pillow, mug, collage poster for reception, etc. I am more than happy to provide them with a properly sized file for the purpose or make arrangements to have the file sent to the printer/vendor. I've done enough of those things in the past that I know how to prepare a file for various heat transfer and printing methods. I can't say that I've ever had anyone abuse my generosity in this respect. In fact, I believe most of them see it as a favor and are very grateful that I'm NOT charging them an arm and a leg for a special project.
     
  45. Amy go with less less announcements: say 10
    That way you have given them a taster, and will cover their core family needs, then when they need more they can either hash it themselves or give you a call because they need more.
    But they will have a difference in quality and be confused who to give the lower quality ones to...
     

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