The Blog Library

Q&A | To Facebook Share or Not To Facebook Share

In the comments on yesterday’s post, Kristi asked a follow-up question that merits its own discussion:

Q:  What is your opinion on clients using images on social networking sites without your “permission”? For example, cropping out your logo or copying the image from an online gallery? I have heard two schools of thought: copyright infrigement and free advertising, as people will inevitably ask who took the photos and where they can get some just like it.

A:  I’ll tell you how I view it, but I’ll not pretend that my  way is THE way.  You have to view these things in the context of what business you’re actually in before you can determine whether social network sharing is going to help or hurt your business.

I’m in the business of selling art for the home, and thus it doesn’t hurt my sales if people share low-resolution, watermarked images online.

My feeling is this:  If clients are going to want to do it anyway, don’t fight against it.  

Instead, make it easier for them to do it, but in a way that also benefits your business.

Nearly all my clients want to share images online.  Instead of setting myself up for irritation and constant policing of the internet, why not allow it – but on my own terms?

I state in my contract that they are free to share images I put online, as long as 1) they leave the watermark intact, and 2) include a link to my site near the display of the photo.  I highlight this clause when we go over the contract, and remind them again when their images are posted.  People have been more than happy to comply.  Yes, I have had to send a few reminders to people (using the problem-solving language I advocated before, and attaching a watermarked image to the email for their convenience).  So far, they’ve made the swap without complaint.

If people purchase a disc of images, I include two folders:  One with printable, high-res images, and one with “web only” images.  This makes sharing easier.  If they don’t buy the disc, images on my blog can be dragged and dropped to desktops, and I tell them straight up that they are free to do this.  (They’ll figure it out anyway.)  The time it takes to drag and drop and upload to facebook acts as a natural ‘barrier,’ and they only tend to share their very favorites.  The images would make even a lousy 4×6 print, so I’m not worried about getting ripped off in print sales.  And saying that people will get “Free Facebook-sharable images” seems to be an exciting selling point.

I should mention, though, that my prices are high enough that I don’t attract many ‘bargain hunters’ who try to beat every rule and take their images and run.  I make it abundantly clear that my services are an investment of both time and money.  My end-to-end client process is also long enough that it’s not a good fit for people who just want quick pictures, so bargain hunters usually pass me over.  This may not be the case for everyone; be sure to consider your clientele.

In situations like this, I always remember a story about Ivory soap.  

Apparently at the time Ivory came out, soap was always thick and heavy, and the company was concerned that people wouldn’t buy Ivory because the bars were lighter and would float in water instead of sinking.  They worried that people would perceive their soap as lower quality, or feel that they were getting cheated out of a full bar of soap because it was so light.  And then a marketer said – hey – let’s ADVERTISE that it floats!  THE WORLD’S FIRST FLOATING SOAP!!   Let’s make that the selling point!  And they did – check out one of their original ads here.  People went crazy and bought the new ‘floating soap.’

The moral I take from that story is don’t fight the consumer.  Understand how they will react, and make it benefit you.  If people are ‘stealing’ to share online – then hey, they must REALLY want to share online!  Make that easy for them, and advertise that it’s easy!

When it’s not worth the fight, just make the sticking point a selling point. 

(Ok, that sounds a little too business-conference-slogany….all I need are some powerpoint slides and a bad tie.  Anyway, you get the point…)


Posted in ,


Keep reading:


  1. Heather on January 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Photographs also need to know that Facebook takes the “title” attribute you give to your photographs and uses them in the caption automatically when uploaded! (NOT the “name” of the image… there is a separate “title” meta area. You can change it in Lightroom easily, or individually in windows by right clicking on an image, hitting “properties”, flipping to “details”, and typing in the “title” box.

    I use this feature to add “Photography by Heather K, Lansing Wedding Photographer. See more at the blog!“. Then it’s never left to chance. 🙂

    • Jenika on January 13, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      That’s a neat trick, Heather! Thanks for telling us about it. So handy!

  2. Isabel López on January 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Jenika, I just adore you!! I love all your posts, I discovered you thanks to Elizabeth Halford (I also adore her!).I do appreciate the way you write and your “psychologist” approach, you have made me realize how important is to understand people’s reactions since they are not photographers…
    I’m a beginner and all my doubts are related to how to value my work (I feel so insecure about it)and how to set a pricing strategy, specially regarding to facebook, digital files, watermarking… So, this post seems to be written specially for me.
    I took a look at your website and it’s great, everything is so clear… The only question I have about this post and “How to Get Over Your Fears…” is if you think I should set my prices and offer a discount while building my portfolio (let’s say 5-10 sessions…) because of my lack of experience. I’m thinking of purchasing Easy as Pie, I read you love it.
    Big hug from Barcelona, Spain!

    • Jenika on January 13, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      Hey Isabel!! WOW, sending greetings to you across the ocean! I love how easy it is to talk to people so far away!

      I’m sure your work is better than giving yourself credit for 🙂 One strategy to try is to set pricing where you want it to be longer term, and then saying something like “For a limited time, get your session __% off.” Over time, slowly reduce the discount as your skills improve and you know you’re getting consistently good results between sessions. That way people know up front what you’ll eventually be charging, and they’ll understand that the discount price is not permanent.

      I personally used the opposite approach – my first session was $75, the second was $100, then I jumped to $300, then after some more shoots $500, then I implemented my long-term pricing. At the time though, I didn’t have a website up that listed pricing information, so no one but me knew about the differences between clients. I don’t recommend the method I used, it was a little haphazard and unorganized. I wish I had done it the other way around.

      I hope that helps some more! I do recommend Easy as Pie, it REALLY helped me understand the mechanics of pricing, and helped me be confident in what I was charging. Just a note – if you use a link from this website when you go to purchase Easy as Pie (as in – click on the link in the sidebar that says “need pricing relief?”) then a bit of the proceeds from the sale go to support this site. It’s totally your decision, but I definitely appreciate the support as it helps me keep this site running smoothly. Thanks!

  3. Kristi Kvenild on January 15, 2012 at 6:42 am

    I like the concept of promoting the stealing (in not those exact words). Why are so many photographers reluctant to sell digital files in an age where the consumer WANTS them, and, like you stated, is willing to ‘steal’ for them? I have heard many a fellow photog be put down for their choice to sell / market / include digital images; to me, it is a simple case of knowing your clientele and meeting the demands of a society thay wants things fast, furious, and online.

    • Jenika on January 15, 2012 at 6:52 am

      I’m with you. The files come complimentary with the packages that I want to sell the most, and then everyone gets what they want. 🙂 I do understand the concern some photographers have about people printing at drugstores and the photos looking awful, but for me, as long as the major art pieces are done professionally, I can’t stress too much about the 4x6s. I think most of my clients want the files for archival rather than printing purposes – most tell me they take forever to get around to printing, if they do it at all. But everyone has different clients and different sales goals, and thus different concerns. Personally, I’d never hire a photographer who wouldn’t part with the digital files – though I’d definitely expect to pay a lot for them. I’d want to make sure to have a backup should the prints be lost/damaged, and the photographer wasn’t around or didn’t have the files on hand anymore.

  4. Photography By Lorna on February 16, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    I already provide a full web share file with my digital files and put it in a separate folder with the permissions limiting them to only share with logo intact and the other file with no logo limited for personal printing.

    They still put the un-watermarked ones on facebook!

    So far I have not implemented any way of addressing it but it does bug me somewhat becasue I have already given them what they want and they want more.

    • Jenika on February 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      Ugh, how frustrating. Sounds like it’s time to follow up and remind them what you agreed upon in your contract. I also add an “explanation of files” PDF on the disc that reminds them what they agreed to about the use of their images, and explain that it’s not advertising – it’s to prevent image theft which is a violation of their privacy. Some people just need a reason to follow a rule, and that one seems to work..

Leave a Comment