A few days ago I received a harrowing message from another wedding photographer. A new photographer in her area had sent her a gallery of images that she said were her own work, and she discovered, through reverse image searching, that she had stolen two of my images (the two featured in this blog post).
I was in shock. I checked the gallery, to be sure, and discovered that, indeed, not only had she taken my images, but had placed a watermark over them to indicate that she was the author of them. It was an immediately frustrating experience, because as those images mean a great deal to me and she was attempting to make a profit off of my time and talent. And, even worse, she was trying to mislead other photographers and potential clients, which broke my heart.
I had brushed the situation aside once I had handled the sitaution with the new photographer as a somewhat random occurence, but then, a few days later, another Maine photographer announced that she had also discovered that her work was being used on another photographer’s Facebook page and had been also purposefully watermarked as a sample of her work. In both situations, by the way, photographers in the Maine photography community rallied together to support this other photographer and me as we dealt with the theivery of our work, which really showcased how wonderful and close the wedding photography community is in Maine.
Ever since then, a few other Maine photographers have found other photographers using their work through a quick reverse image search, and we’ve all come to the conclusion that image thievery is more prominent than ever. And that’s frightening, as I would hate for couples to be deceived by a portfolio that has been partially (or completely) stolen from other photographers. So, in order to save other brides and grooms from being deceived… here’s a few tips you can use in order to determine if a photographer that you’re considering hiring may be deceiving you.
1. Check out their Facebook fan page. Are clients often tagged in the images and are their friends and family commenting underneath them? These are positive signs that the images were created by the photographer.
2. Are the images on the photographer’s web site and Facebook consistent in style and quality? If so, that’s a good sign. If the images differ greatly from one another in regards to saturation, color toning, and shooting style, they may be borrowing photos from a variety of different photographers.
3. How much is the photographer charging? Although more experienced photographers have been caught stealing photography (and blog posts!), it’s often newer photographers who have very little experience who are caught stealing work and using it in their portfolios to serve as a “placeholder” for future work, or to show what they hope to create in the future. Neither of these reasons, by the way, are good ones.
4. Google the photographer’s name and see what pops up. There are a few vigilante websites (PhotoStealers is my favorite) that out photographers who have featured stolen work and photographers on their websites, and they ensure that their thievery will haunt their business for the rest of their lives.
5. Does their work seem too good to be true? Similar to number 3, does the photographer’s portfolio seem too good for the amount they are charging or the amount of time they have been in business?
6. Still not sure? Try taking a few images you are questioning and do a reverse image search to see if they pop up on any other photographer’s websites. My favorites are Google reverse image search and TinEye. Try to verify which image is older, which will typically indicate where the original source of the image.
7. Read reviews on an impartial site (like WeddingWire) to learn more about other couples’ experiences with the photographer. If there are many reviews that are positive, there’s a good chance the photographer is making many couples happy and that the photographer is providing legitimate work.
If any other photographers have advice they’d like to share, please leave your nuggets of wisdom in the comments! And, couples, please be careful. I’m so sorry that image theft is becoming more prevalent, as it hurts the entire wedding photography industry. Make sure you trust your photographer and their skill level before you hire them, as you won’t get a second chance! And, I promise– I would never, ever steal work or content from another photographer nor try to claim it as my own! I strive to be 100% authentic, all the time. :)