Do Unto Others What You Want Done Unto You


This photo has been pulled off websites and used as a screen saver and desktop photo. I've also seen prints that have been made from the newsprint scan.

This photo has been pulled off websites and used as a screen saver and desktop photo. I've also seen prints that have been made from the newsprint scan.

It bothers me to see ads like this placed on websites like Guru.com:

“I have a DVD of untouched pictures from a family member’s wedding. My wife would like to make a photo album with about 80 of these images, probably 5X7 inches and maybe a few 8X10s. They need touching up and processing. The initial photographer has an expensive and limited package offer that does not suit our desires.”

I’m not bothered because someone needs photographs worked on and made, but because I believe they are disrespecting the photographer who took them. Look at the facts: they hired a photographer to do the job of capturing a slew of images from a very important occasion. They entrusted that photographer with one of the most important moments of their life. Now, they want more prints but don’t want to pay the original photographer to make those prints. The last sentence is the big, red flag.

My first question to the submitter is, if I could ask, have you even attempted to talk with the photographer to make the desired prints at a reasonable cost? I’m guessing they didn’t. I’m sure most photographers would be likely to make a concession in order to satisfy their customers. Especially in these economic times. Then I would tell them that they’re not just paying for the paper, they’re paying for both the time and effort it took to capture those images that they now want to adorn their walls.

However, what I find even more disconcerting is the overwhelming response to the ad. Over 30 photographers are bidding on the project. Personally, I find it repulsive. And the sad thing- these photographers will be the loudest complainers when this happens to them. Are the photographers bidding on this project actually thinking about what they are doing? Are they aware of the disrespect they are showing to the original photographer?

As this  happened to me on several occasions, I speak from experience. People have made prints of my photos using the photograph from the newspaper. I’ve also seen prints from the internet version. Granted, they are not high quality and actually look like garbage, but it has been done.

This photo was photocopied many times and sold by a copy center in Aspen, Colo. It infuriated me.

The most notable incident occurred after I shot a memorable photo of two bears. During my second year at The Aspen Times, I heard on the police scanner about a mother bear and her two cubs creating a stir on Main Street and 6th Avenue in Aspen, Colo. Since I was caught up with my work, I ran down to the intersection where the bears were raiding a crabapple tree of it’s ripened fruit. Shooting from across the street, I captured the mother bear standing on her hind legs eating from the tree as one of her cubs was perched near the top. Then they both looked at me. It became on of my most famous photos.

After it ran in the next day’s paper, I began receiving calls for print requests. I had so many I just had batches of 8x10s printed and the front office staff sold them. I believe I sold over 500 8x10s and 100 11x14s, and one 4 ft. by 6 ft. giclee print.

What really pissed me off was about two weeks later, a lady came into the newspaper to talk to me as she wanted a better looking print. So I went to the front office and she showed me the poor quality print she bought for $5 and wanted a better looking one. I asked her where she got it. She told me the guy down at the print shop near Clark’s Market was selling them. I was at a loss for words.

What she showed me was a color photocopy of the print. The print shop had bought one of my prints and was selling copies of it. I was livid. I was so mad I went back to my computer and began to Google “copyright attorney.” When I told my friend Dan, he simply said I should just go down and ask them to cease and desist. He also said I should ask my friend Rick to go down with me. Rick was an Aspen Community Safety Officer and an artist. He is now a full fledged police officer with Aspen.

That’s what I did, and that’s all it took. I just asked the guy to stop. It turned out that the people who were buying the cheap copies ended up wanting a real print so they were coming to the paper to buy one. So it actually worked out to my benefit.

The point is, having your work stolen from you is a very devastating experience. Regardless of the circumstances or outcome, having to deal with a scenario where you end up spending energy trying to get justice, takes away energy that could be better spent on your creative endeavors.

Before honoring a request from someone to make prints from a set of files that were obviously taken by another photographer, ask them if it’s been cleared with the original image creator. Ask if you can have the photographer’s name and number so you can personally find out if it’s OK. Don’t take for granted that the client says it’s OK from the original photographer.

Don’t be the jerk who willingly disrespects others in order to line their own pocket. After all, what you are doing is stealing from the other photographer.

Paul Conrad

Pablo Conrad Photography

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5 comments

  1. Good post, Pablo. While I am no longer amazed at anything and surprised by little, these types of actions by “photographers” does get under my skin. Photo.net has several posts recounting just such horror stories, and they seem to be coming to the fore a bit more. Photoshop User magazine has an excellent series in it regarding copyright, the how’s and how-to’s called, The Copyright Zone.
    Thanks for the heads up and the reminder!
    GFK

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  2. Your story deeply moved me. I rejoiced at your response. You have the right to be angry and call for the justice, yet you didn’t thunder or complain, but share the greatest wisdom (you used the painful news to remind us about the sacred law (Do Unto Others What You Want Done Unto You)

    I perfectly understand your irritation, yet you should feel yourself honored – your works were evaluated so highly that somebody risked even to steal them. Many can just to dream about such publicity…

    My respect and greetings.

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  3. Happy New Year Paul. This is a very real problem. I’ve seen the ads posted on Guru.com and other so called freelance sites where photographers “eat their own.”

    I can understand at times the desperation “former photojournalists” must be going through to bid on gigs like that but what kills me is the “wannabes” who will even under bid or low ball everyone.

    I’m not sure what the solution is for us, an almost extinct species. I think we have to ironically teach. Often times it means teaching our competitors.

    I do point out to my students that what goes around does come around.

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  4. Happy New Year everyone and thanks for the comments.

    It is a problem where the only viable solution may be that repectful photographers don’t bid on gigs like these or even take jobs requiring working on others endeavors. Then the only ones bidding would be the wannabes who’s reputation will only go downhill.

    The photographers with good business ethics will stand out in the process. Not only with others in the business, but to clients as well. And it may teach those needing work like this done, to go back to the original creator to have it completed.

    Thanks again everyone.

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