Digital Photography Etiquette

So you’ve had your session, been to the horse show, and have purchased your digital images. What exactly can you do with them now? Let me help clear up a few things about the age of digital photography that some people just may not know.

Digital Media
You’ve recently attended a horse show and have been to the Official Photographer’s website. You see some stunning images of yourself and your horse, and you’d like to buy some to share with your friends. You see two options for digital media:

-Web Use/Web Sized
-Full Resolution with Print Release

Well, which do you need to purchase, and what does each of them do?

Web Use
An image listed for “web use” means just that- it is exclusively for use on the web, usually on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. It is NOT for printing, and is typically uploaded at a low resolution to cause any printing to turn out a poor quality.

Print Release
An image listed as “Full resolution with print release” Means that you have permission to print that image as many times as you would like, so long as the image is for personal use and not monetary gain. IE- You can’t print that beautiful headshot of your horse on a coffee mug and sell them to your friends, or turn a picture of you riding your horse into a t-shirt that you sell. You CAN however print the picture on a coffee mug for yourself, or a t-shirt for yourself. You can make canvases, photographic prints, blankets, etc. and most of the time what you can and cannot do is outlined in the print release you receive with your images.

No print release? NO PRINTING. Printing images that you do not have permission to print can come with hefty fines if you are caught. It’s just not worth it.

Theft
And while we are on the subject of digital media, lets talk about theft. *GASP* THEFT? Yes. Screenshotting, downloading, or copying an image that you do not have permission to screenshot, download, or copy IS THEFT. That’s the bottom line. It is no different than walking into a store and taking a shirt because you liked it.

“But it has their logo on it! It’s free advertising for them!” Is a line I hear quite often. Lets go back to the shirt scenario:

You walk into a store like Tractor Supply Company looking for feed for your chickens. While you’re there, you run across a ball cap with the Tractor Supply Company logo on it. You think to yourself, “you know, I’ve been needing a new ballcap. Tractor supply will appreciate me taking this and advertising their store for them!”

See the problem? With Images, there is NO DIFFERENCE between screen capturing an image or if you walked into a store and stole an article of clothing. If you take a picture without paying, it is stealing, and you can be forced to pay thousands of dollars in restitution if you are caught stealing images. Many photographers will let people off easy if they promise to take the image down and not do it again- but not all of them are like this. This is the photographer’s literal bread and butter, and by taking images you are taking food out of the mouths of their children. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Marketing
What if you want to use the digital image on your website to market your business, lesson program, or training barn?

That requires a different release entirely. That would fall under a commercial release, as you are using that image to advertise your business to make money. If you plan on buying a web only digital, or even a full resolution digital with a print release, be sure you ask your photographer if there are any additional releases they require to use the image for your website. Some will tell you no, some will tell you yes, but give credit, and some will outright require a release.

Submitting Images
You’ve done what you’re supposed to and have purchased your digital images. You see a company running a contest for a free saddle pad, and to enter you need to submit a picture of you riding your horse. Did you know you need your photographer’s permission to submit that image? The same is required if your photographer took pictures of your horse wearing a custom made halter, and the company that designed the halter wants to use the image for advertising their halters. They would need to contact your photographer to obtain permission directly from them. You do not have the authority to grant permission for any entity to use a picture you did not take, so always get in contact with your photographer if this situation arises!

Basic Etiquette
So you’ve chosen to buy the web release image just for showing off to your friends and family on Facebook. Many photographers will put a small logo on their web only digitals, but sometimes they don’t. When that logo is on the image be sure to not crop it out!


While it’s not required, simply tagging your photographer when you post one of their photos goes a long way in helping out their business and getting them the visibility they depend on to make more sales and get in front of more clients. Some photographers even run referral programs where each lead you get them gets you credit towards a session! Not sure if your photographer offers this program? Just ask!

Printed Photographs
Now, lets talk about Printed Photographs. This includes everything from traditional pictures to photo albums to canvases. What can you do with those? Well, pretty much the same as your web sized digitals. You can display them in your home, give them to friends and family, or even give them as gifts. What you cannot do is reproduce those prints in ANY manner. You cannot make more prints, you can not scan them and display them digitally, you can not sell them or submit them to publications or contests. Again, doing all of those things requires permission from your photographer. This is why some people find the value in buying a higher priced Digital that includes a Print Release, as you can typically print as many copies of the digital image you would like, as long as they are for a personal use only as listed above.

Copyright Ownership
The last point I’m going to bring up is really the most important one, and that is Copyright Ownership. In the United States, the person who TAKES the photograph, OWNS the photograph, even if you have paid the photographer to take the images. Unless they turn over actual copyright to you, you only have USE of the images, not OWNERSHIP.

Why is this important??

Because the owner of the photograph can quite literally do anything they choose with the photograph. Posting, editing, altering, sharing, selling, submitting to magazines, etc. If you aren’t comfortable with your images being shared publicly by the photographer, be sure to have that conversation BEFORE you book the photographer as some will have a requirement that your photos are allowed to be used in their portfolio and marketing. All photographers should have you sign a model release which will outline exactly what the photographer can and can not do with the images they have taken of you. If there is something in the release that you aren’t comfortable with, tell your photographer as they may be willing to amend it. If they won’t, and you aren’t ok with how your pictures will be used, you are within your rights to move on to a different photographer.

Not sure? Ask!
The bottom line is if you aren’t sure, ASK! Your photographer should have absolutely no issue educating you on the do’s and don’ts and would much prefer you ask permission than beg for forgiveness, especially when that forgiveness can come at a hefty price tag. Photographers aren’t monsters, and they certainly aren’t the enemy. They are just a small business owner like so many others trying to make a comfortable living and pay their taxes and insurance. Just like many other small business owners, photographers have a lot of overhead to pay for such as wear and tear on equipment (those camera shutters don’t last forever!), insurance, business licensing fees, web hosting fees, gallery hosting fees, editing program subscriptions, continuing education and workshops, wear and tear on vehicles, and the list goes on and on.

In Conclusion
So support your local hard working photographer. Buy those pictures. Tag their page. Recommend them to your friends. Share their posts. Every little bit helps! We love seeing images we have taken for you shared and displayed proudly on your Facebook walls and Instagram feeds. When you make them your profile picture we still get excited each time it happens. You are our biggest fans and our best support network, so we want to see you happy with your photos- and see you sharing them the right way. Share on and show the world the images you love!

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