Why crediting a photographer builds good karma

March 17, 2023

Crediting a photographer in a nutshell

Imagine a photographer feeling powerless, worthless and unappreciated, because their art keeps floating around without seeing their name associated with the efforts that went into that creation. Yes, it’s disappointing and extremely exhausting. Naturally, being in the photography industry for over a decade, this topic has been brewing in me for a few years now. With the rise of social media and lack of education about the importance of crediting photographers for their work, I was inclined to put together this guide as a comprehensive resource.

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Imagine my heart sinking every time I see my work without being credited and ask yourself, what can I do to prevent that happening to someone over and over again?”

Yana B, Photographer

Why it is important to credit photographers’ work?

Regardless of gaining points in your good karma jar, crediting a photographer is simply the right thing to do. It is an industry standard and taking someone’s intellectual property without crediting them is considered distasteful and unethical. You might think – “but I paid for the photographer to capture my event, so I should own the product without having to credit”.

It doesn’t matter if you commissioned a commercial photographer to photograph your wedding/event, or to create other photographic art for you. The photographer retains copyrights and the moral rights to get credit for their intellectual property, unless there is a written contract that states otherwise and releases you from the obligation.

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The obligation to credit someone’s work doesn’t diminish by time elapsed since the work was produced.

If you hang an original Van Gogh on your wall, you will most likely tell your guests that you weren’t the one who painted the piece. You will be proud to credit the painter for the artwork.

Photos are intellectual property

Photography work is an outcome of years of education, technical training, preparation, planning and unique creativity. You choose a photographer because something pulls you into the world they see. The way they interpret the reality on a 2-dimensional plane, the outstanding approach employed to capturing beautiful moments you haven’t even noticed.

But, what is intellectual property? As Wikipedia notes, intellectual property is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. There are many types of intellectual property, and some countries recognize more than others. The best-known types are patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. 

Copyright is a form of intellectual property

The U.S. Copyright Office defines copyright as:

  • A set of exclusive rights awarded to a copyright holder or owner for an original and creative work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
  • A limited statutory monopoly that gives a copyright holder the sole right to market a work for a limited period of time.
  • Copyright also includes exemptions that permit a user of the copyright-protected work the right to exercise an exclusive right without authorization or royalty payment under certain conditions.

(Source: U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright Basics” – http://copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

Copyright is inherent in a work from the moment it is created and it includes literary and artistic works, such as:

  • Novels, poems, plays, and films
  • Musical works
  • Artistic works, such as drawings, paintings, photographs, and sculptures
  • Architectural designs

If you are looking for more resources, this article by an intellectual property attorney Ekene Chuks-Okeke outlines different aspects to consider and is a fantastic read.

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Examples of unacceptable behavior

A business using photographer’s work for their own promotion without crediting the photographer’s work.

A vendor who participated in an event/wedding providing their services on site, using photography work created that day without properly crediting the photographer.

Client giving vendor access to photographer’s work without notifying the photographer/or without providing proper photography crediting requirements.

Client posting photographer’s work without proper crediting.

A photographer selling a workshop/mini-session using other photographer’s work to make income. (with or without proper crediting)

What is the right way to credit photographer’s work

When delivering photographs, most photographers will provide their preferred way to be credited on various platforms. It would look something like this: Photo Credit – Photographer’s Name/Business Name with a linked homepage.

For web and Facebook:

Photo by/Photo credit: Yana B | Intimate Weddings & Adventure Elopements

For Instagram:

Photo by/Photo credit: @yanabenjaminphoto