let’s talk photo crediting.

[poster created by myself and pia bijkerk (with yvette‘s lovely handmade fonts!)– view larger format here]

So. A few weeks ago, Chelsea discussed a super polarizing topic on her blog: photo credits. And although I’ve always been a bit of a hippie that likes to encourage us all to hug, be friends and share inspiration, the gal’s got a point. Give credit where credit is due, be professional and be gracious.

Her post (and that of Grace’s a few months ago) spurred a mass email exchange between a few fellow colleagues, and behold, a few days later, a fun little poster was born.

In light of this poster release, I’d like to share a few thoughts I have in terms of photo credits and the beauty (curse?) of the Internet:

The Internet is vast, vast, vast. And original sources are often impossible to find. I get that. As a blogger, I’ve come across dozens of images daily with no original source, almost as if they’ve appeared out of thin air. What works for me? I follow the format of this poster, except for in the following circumstance:

Sometimes, an image (art/photography/etc) is so beautiful it elicits an incredible reaction that is so, so inspirational. And after seeking for a replacement, it can’t be found. For some reason, this image tugs at my heartstrings more than anything else, and I feel the need to share it with you all.

This has happened only a handful of times in the 5+ years I’ve been blogging, so know that I don’t like to rely on the “heartstrings” as a defense technique. BUT. It has happened before, and I haven’t been able to locate the original source. In this instance, I credit this as a SOS Image.

The key to photo credits, in my opinion, is to be aware, intentional and respectful. I completely understand that there are times where an original source is nearly impossible to find, and if there’s no replacement and you simply must share the particular image, I’d suggest creating a SOS of your own (as a last resort, of course) and putting out a call to readers to help you credit that image properly.

In other words, come up with your own protocol/photo technique. Will you refuse to post all images without proper credit, period? Or will you come up with a SOS system of your own? Will you go as far as to boycott the use of social networking / bookmarking sites that don’t regulate original sourcing of images?

It’s up to you, but I’d encourage you to give the topic some deep thought. I’d love for everyone to receive the praise they so deserve in the best way possible.

Let’s all hold ourselves to a higher standard, OK? And hug while we’re at it.

p.s. Thanks to Grace for announcing the launch of our poster this morning, and thank you for the support, friends.

  • Excellent. Love the poster and your thoughts. My business partner and I were just talking about this last night, so timely as well. Credit is important, but link-backs are even better, when possible!

  • That was worded so nicely! Yet, totally gets the point across … Plus, the design is super cute. Great piece of work!

  • Well said, Erin! I’m with you on the hugging, sharing, and being friends part; can’t we all just get along!? But I always put myself in the creator’s shoes: if it were my image, I would sure as heck want the credit! Golden rule, sister :) Thanks for the lovely poster!

  • It’s a great idea and super cute. Just one thing: There seems to be a word left out. Shouldn’t it say, “In short, give credit where credit is due” or “In short, give credit where it is due”?

  • When something unethical is happening in my community, I find it imperative to speak up whether it’s uncomfortable for people or not. Thanks for being part of this Erin!

  • this is most awesome erin, and miss pia jane, too.

    as a blogger who always credits (underneath every photograph i post with links), i appreciate you pointing out that extreme desire that comes over us all to share an incredible photograph, that remains a mystery, even after hunting wide and low. i like the idea of the SOS image.

    i do not understand blogs that simply list ‘google search’ or some such laziness. it’s not cool, and as a former photography advertising art buyer, i can tell you – you are most definitely risking getting sued, or at the very least upsetting your community and helping to promote this very prevalent level of unprofessionalism. it give blogs a bad name…let’s not do that. let’s respect each other, hug and give credit where credit is due. xo

    • Thank you for this article! This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I have a tiny personal home reno blog and I always go the extra length to credit. This means stylist/photographer/and link back to the creators’ site or the site where I found the most complete information about the image.

      In my opinion Image crediting really sets apart good blogs and lazy bloggers. Like Victoria says, nothing is worse than “google search” as a credit or “my Pinterest”.

      I also do the SOS image. I call it “credit unknown” and reserve it only in the case where all my searching ends in vain (and I just love the image so much). But I invite anyone to let me know the source so I can credit it!

  • This poster is bloody brilliant! I love that you’ve taken this controversial topic (although how giving credit where it’s due is controversial is beyond me) and made it a bit cheeky!

  • Love the poster. Will you guys ever have a print version for sale? Would love it for my studio….Thanks.

  • Pingback: Street Cred 2011!
  • ignorance is NOT an excuse. this is so helpful since i don’t think a lot of people realize how much effort and heart goes into styling and making a photograph. i admit i didn’t really get it when i started blogging. you girls did great work! xo

  • LOVE the poster!!! as someone who NEVER uses any images except my own, i understand the passion, love, blood, sweat and tears behind the work. one of my pet peaves is not giving credit where credit is due!! i might come across a blog with beautiful imagery and get totally engrossed, just to discover all the images were stolen. so disappointing. it really is thiefery (word?). glad i stumbled onto your blog this morn and i likey your name…….

  • I think about this issue a lot. I have mixed feelings about the idea of giving credit where credit is due because credit doesn’t pay. Of course it’s a good habit to get into, but I worry about the ethical implications of stripping a photographer or other image maker of their earnings. Just wanted to put that out there as food for thought.

  • hi ms. bunny —-

    very interesting topic! are you saying photographers should be paid for online use of their photos? i’m certainly intrigued! please expand! :)

  • …but the poster is incorrect. It’s not ok to use images without the author’s permission even if you give them credit and write awesome things about their work. In fact, it’s against the law.

  • i am interested in the legal side of this, because it seems that if it is actually against the law to re-post any photo without consent from the origin – then Pinterest, and WeHeartit would be sued like Napster was back in the day.. right? some are affiliated with creative commons, but i am wondering what the “middle ground” is, and if it is actually as the comment above says, illegal.

  • hi emily —

    i’m not trained in this area, but it is my understanding that it is not illegal (although there are strict regulations and guidelines against copyright infringement). let me research and get back to you…

  • I’ve seen this poster everywhere! How did I miss it came from you. Wait, that’s ironic, isn’t it?

    *Good work!

  • Brilliant poster! This topic came up for me today too, when a friend asked how to handle a Facebook situation. Her friend copied her photos, and added them to her own album without giving credit. My friend was upset and wasn’t sure how to handle it, so I gave her some options (one being a watermark for future uploaded photos), but the other was to simply ask her friend to write a photo credit. I think it’s really important that people give credit on Facebook too. It’s not just etiquette that bloggers should follow, but for any and all social media users. Thanks for posting!! :)

  • oh i’m so sorry your friend went through that! the regulations can be very gray, so it’s important to use the golden rule and credit as you’d like to be credited (in my opinion!). :)

  • I know this is a couple of years since you posted on this, but I had to ask… can I reproduce this to put up in my classroom? I’m a music teacher but my room doubles as a photography/graphics room. It’s always good to remind students what is and isn’t ‘stealing’ in regards to copyright and intellectual property!

    • Hi Lou – Absolutely! We’ve adjusted the rights on our Flickr page to allow for sharing in classrooms/libraries/etc. We’d love for you to spread the word! :)

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