Photography’s elusive credit line; and, should we pirate Photoshop?

Photography’s elusive credit line, and should we pirate Photoshop?
by Naeem Mohaiemen for AlalODulal

Photography’s attribution has entered increasingly contested waters as the internet has made photo sharing ever easier. Most outlets would not think of printing (or reprinting) an essay, op-ed, story, etc. without giving the byline of the author. Yet, photographs are routinely reproduced without photographers’ credit. This is in spite of valiant effort by organizations like DRIK for representing photographers’ rights. website always gives photo credit when it is known to the author/ editors. If we are unable to ascertain the source, we credit the website from which it was taken. We have had the situation before where photographers contact us for proper credit on our blog, but root problem (photograph appearing elsewhere without credit, or appearing with wrong credit– especially on Facebook) stays unresolved.

Therefore, a request to all photographers. Please put [© your name] on top of a grey or black bar and put it on the bottom right corner of your image (on top of your image). Whether posting on FB, or reproduced on online news media. Otherwise when that photo is shared widely, and eventually it comes to one of us, and then we share, or post on a blog, or email, then you don’t get the credit– and, we have no way to give the credit as we don’t know whose photo it is.

Yes, watermark does “ruin” a photographs perfect aesthetic, just a little bit. But if you have a pristine photograph without credit watermark, you risk it circulating without credit. Especially when photo-sharing on the internet is just a simple “Save As”, “Copy Image Location,” “Copy URL,” or that ubiquitous Facebook “Share.” Even if someone does want to give credit, such methods of photo-sharing carry the image forward without the credit.

Yes, watermark can be cropped, if the person WANTS to crop. The point is, even if someone does NOT want to crop, and wants to credit the photographer, once the image has been shared, the photographer information is no longer carried forward– unless it’s in the image.

The idea that photographer’s credit should not be on the photo comes, I think, from a time when majority of photography was printed– seen in newspapers, magazines, and books. Later, museums, galleries, public spaces. But now, majority of photos I see on any given day, I see on the internet. Some of my photographer friends, I have never seen a physical print of their work, but am intimately familiar with their work. This is the way we live (and work) now. So the rules of photo credit should also adapt.

The Demotix style, where the watermark is huge, and right on top of the entire image, mars the image. In their case, because they are an agency, it is probably easy to contact them and get the non-watermarked image after paying a fee.

If you are not an agency, you may want to do a smaller copyright, so that people can also see the basic image, and then contact you to get a high-res with permission. There can be other ways as well. The corner bar, copyright is one solution I am proposing. There are probably others.

A photographer may get upset by seeing their work, unattributed, on somebody’s wall or blog, but this would be resolved if they would put watermark on the photo. You can put it visibly on bottom right which does not spoil the photo but solves this problem. Otherwise, contacting each blog/website that shares an image and asking them to add caption will take up all your time. Also, in many cases, such as wordpress blogs, the Caption field is under the photo but again if someone shares the photo via URL sharing, the caption will not carry forward– because it is not embedded in the photograph.

Solidarity, and thanks to all photographers who discussed this issue with me.


Let us come to something else that has been on my mind. All photographers are alert and vigilant about theft of their image. Yet how many of us pirate software such as Photoshop which is essential to our craft?

“But that’s different,” we say. However, by now, Bangladeshi photography has become a global cultural superpower, with photographers exhibiting at MoMA, Whitechapel, and Pompidou. President Barak Obama’s entourage still photographer is a Bangladeshi (Jewel Samad). How much do we spend on equipment? How much do we charge for certain assignments, at international standards?  Photography industry in Bangladesh is now at international standard and has international reach. Is it also time for us to play by international standards of regulation? Or should we keep demanding a “state of exception” because “amra to gorib” (we are poor).

Are we really that “poor” any more?

The common thought goes: Software er jonno poisha dei moga! (only dodos pay for software). Is it so?

Below are excerpts from a contrarian argument, for paying for Photoshop, by photographer Zach Sutton.

Let’s have an ongoing debate about this? Thanda matha’e (jodi shombhob hoi).

© Zack Sutton's article
© Zach Sutton’s article

Why You Should Be Offended By The Pirating of Photoshop
by Zack Sutton

…[W]hy shouldn’t you pirate Photoshop? It’s simple, because you don’t want people stealing your images and using them for whatever they’d like. In fact, you spend so much time making sure people don’t steal your images or ideas. You constantly complain when someone asks you to shoot their band for free. You’re up in arms when a concert gives you a ticket to their show in exchange for event photography. You want to be taken seriously, yet you have no problems with stealing from Adobe…

“But Adobe is a multi million dollar company!” Absolutely, they are, and they deserve every dollar they make. They have built their company from the ground up by being innovative and tailoring to the market’s needs. I was just discussing this with a photographer over the weekend. Does anyone remember PaintShop Pro? I loved that program ten years ago, even more so than Photoshop. Where is PaintShop Pro now? It still exists, if you believe it. But it’s faded off into obscurity, because they were no longer able to meet the demands that the industry wanted.

Adobe has continuously impressed us with the technology they’ve been able to create. When content aware fill was introduced, my brain nearly exploded with shock. Even their latest tool, Camera Shake Reduction is straight out of science fiction. I’m convinced they’re about 2 years behind from making the CSI-esque tool “Enhance” a reality. They’re constantly adapting and improving, more so than any software company in existence. You need to reward them for their hard work and diligence. Sure, the Creative Cloud is a pain in the ass. I too, like having the disc in front of me and the appearance of owning the software. But when you start using Creative Cloud, you’ll find that it wasn’t built to piss you off, it was build to help push innovations through at a much faster rate. It was built to increase your workflow, by allowing you to download Premiere Pro with the click of a button, or to search through thousands of fonts that they’re offering up for free (Over $200,000 market value worth apparently).

Adobe is making millions with their products, but that is no reason for you to boycott them as long as they’re still creating fantastic products. If your photography career begins to take off and you start making good money at it, does that give anyone else the right to kick in your door and take your things?

“But $50/$20 a month is a crazy price to put on software” Is it though? I mean, thats $600 a year for all of Adobe’s software, and $240 a year for just Photoshop. And sure that seems like a lot, however I just purchased a Canon 5d Mark III 2 weeks ago. That camera costs well over 3,000 dollars, and have I noticed an astonishing improvement over my work from when I was shooting with the Canon 5d Mark II? Absolutely not. The photos on my website are well over 2 weeks old, and my printed portfolios have remained unchanged since the purchase of this new camera. Why is that? Because it’s a tool, and with how I shoot photos, the Mark III and Mark II do not make any difference to my work whatsoever. I wanted it because I wanted it, not because I needed it.

I NEED Photoshop. It has worked its way so far into my workflow that there is no turning back. Photoshop has helped improve my work far more than the Canon 5d Mark III ever will, and the Mark III cost far more than I’ve ever paid Adobe for anything. So why is okay to spend thousands of dollars to Nikon/Canon annually without much thought and the idea of paying Adobe for their cutting edge tools absurd. Is it because you can’t illegally download the Mark III firmware to your Mark II and be set?

If you do some math on the topic, the Cloud actually turns out to be cheaper. If you’re only using Photoshop, you can get it right now for $20 a month. Buying Photoshop CS6 (an old version no less) right out the door costs $666 on Amazon. So by that math, it’ll take you 2.7 years before Photoshop CC has reached its value from the boxed editions of the software. Within those 2.7 years, Adobe will certainly have at least one, if not two new versions of the software available for you to use. So how are you not saving money with this plan?

… Piracy is going to happen, that’s the nature of the beast. If you can build something, someone out there can find a way to tear it all down. So it all really comes down to who you’re supporting. Are you going to stand at the sidelines and cheer for the guys who are creating things beyond your own imagination, or are you going to root for the people who come in looking to destroy that idea and innovation? Being a creative mind myself, I’ll gladly choose the former.

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