Nowadays with social media being what it is, we have the world at our fingertips. It's so exciting to be able to have a photo session and see your images online instantly. It's a great benefit to photographers and clients alike. But there is a bit of a downside and a risk to putting your images online.
First of all the photographer retains the rights to all images (unless they sign a release form, which most don't). Even if you get a disc of images from a photographer, that doesn't mean you can turnaround and sell them. They still belong to the photographer.
Secondly, photography is their business; their job...their income. It's how they make their money and pay there bills. If someone is using the images without paying for them, it literally takes money (and time) away from the photographer.
I know photography sounds expensive, and I admit, it is an investment. But if you realize that for every session, let's say an hours time for shooting; there are at least double the hours in editing. An average family or portrait session can easily yield a few hundred images.
The photographer has to take the time to go through every last image and keep or delete the image. After that, there is editing to each of the images for color correction, contrast, sharpness, vibrancy, or other artistic rendering. Below is one very small example of the difference from out of the camera to preview:
Believe it or not, there are multiple photoshop layers to this image.
When I shoot, I usually know which images I will be converting to black and white. And I also know which ones will get even more of my attention and more artistic rendering.
This is why the session fees are higher than most people think. For a one hour session it's about 3 hours of the photographers time (not including travel to and from the location).
A good photographer will want to emote a mood from each image. That takes some serious ability and years of education. Much care is taken for each image before it is seen by the public.
When the session has been edited and the pictures go up online, the main goal will be that the client is delighted with what they see and they will order the images. A photographer can help guide the best sizes and frames based on the space you will use to hang your images.
But what happens in many cases, is the images are seen online and taken from the website (usually by screen print or thanks to the Iphone, a simple click) and voila....the image can be re-used however one wishes. Now if I post an image on Facebook and it has my watermark, then I expect it will be shared. And I would hope that the watermark stays on the image so people will know where to go for images like what are seen. However, what I have a problem with, is when someone takes an image from the website, and prints it onto actual paper and passes it off as my work, or something they paid for. This is very bad for business.
The impact on the photographer, you may think is minimal, but when the image gets out there (a poorer copy than the photographer would ever let go), this image is representative of the photographer. The value of the image is dramatically reduced and the photographer, in the end, pays the price.
I have seen this play out many times over the years. I have shown up to weddings where a 20"x30" board filled with all my images (basically stolen) sits on display and is passed off as my work. And it is very difficult to swallow. And the worst part is; the place that printed it could see my logo on every last little image on that board. If they were doing their job, it would have never been printed.
Unfortunately, with social media being what it is; sharing is just a click away.
So, what's a photographer to do?
Well, as we try to stay one step ahead, there is always someone in front of us ducking and weaving the system. So basically, we keep plugging along. But we do ask that if you hire a photographer, please respect their art and understand that just because the image is viewable, it doesn't mean it should be acquired without proper payment.
Do you expect to show up at your job and work for free? Certainly not.