“Excuse me sir,” I said. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t photograph my images.”
“Sir, please don’t photograph my artwork,” I voiced in a stern tone.
I jumped out of my chair as the gentleman with the Nikon D5100 lowered his camera. I pulled my International symbol’d “Do Not Take Pictures of the Pictures” sign off of the umbrella pole (a mere two inches away from the image he had just shot) and placed it into his hand.
“What’s your problem, man?” He asked.
“Sir, the problem is I’ve asked not to photograph my art, yet you continue to do so.”
“So, you should be flattered that I want to take a picture of your stuff,” he said.
Flattered that he liked it, yes. But not that he ignored repeated requests to stop photographing my copyrighted images.
There’s a little more to it, though. This gentleman spent a minimal amount of effort to shoot one of my pieces. He didn’t have to hike five and a half miles on a lava flow. He didn’t have to rely on a charcoal respirator to breathe amidst the sulfur dioxide spewing from the ground. He didn’t have to bear the heat of 1,500-degree lava as it pours into the ocean… and come back with the shot.
He also didn’t camp out for four nights “chasing” after the right sunset, patiently waiting for the right clouds to roll in over the horizon, then timing the waves to get the right water effect. One series was five-years in the making: A full five-shot, humpback whale breach sequence. The first time I got a full breach with a level horizon, while shooting from a 30? Zodiac boat that?s always in motion. This guy never stepped foot on a whale watch boat.
I tried to explain the aspect of copyright and asked him to delete the images, but he had none of it. He merely stomped off, muttering something about the relationship between photographers and donkeys.
Thankfully, he’s one of the minority.
This was not, by far, the first time people have shot photos of my images. With the dawn of the digital age, there now seems to be a disproportionate number of individuals that would rather shoot someone else’s artwork, than purchase a print or trek to earn their own. At first, it really didn’t bother me. Then when I found one of my images on another Web site (with different photo credit), I really felt ripped off.
Many people fail to realize that when a photographer depresses the shutter button and the image is captured, a copyright is instantly assigned. The photographer “owns” the image as his/her creative property. If someone photographs your image, they’re basically stealing it. Part of my job, as a photographer, is to educate people on the value of one’s images, and taking copyright one step further by registering their images.
Down the road, I know I’ll probably run into a few more people, like my recent admirer. Only now, I have my Fuji HS20 EXR at the ready to take the offending photographer’s “portrait.” I’ll then offer a trade: delete the shots of my images on their camera, and I won’t pass along their mug shot to my attorney. It’s a pretty fair trade, don’t you think?