On Social Media and Photo Sharing

So, why all the fuss over posting images to social media?

I believe that social media websites and other photo based sharing sites are one of the most important developments for photographers and other artists to show and market their work, and also for those who are fans of photography. Most professional photographers today rely on social media to advertise their work and services. Many depend more on social media websites to sell their services and work than dedicated professional or personal websites. Twenty-five years ago, if an unpublished photographer (not published in printed magazines and books) wanted to show their work to a larger audience, it usually meant having a show in a gallery and printing and mailing out as many post cards as possible. If three-hundred people attended the gallery opening, that was a good turnout (and probably one thousand post cards mailed out to known addresses!). With a well executed social media plan, that number can quickly grow into the thousands or even millions of followers and fans. (Annie Leibovitz’s Facebook page has over 730,000 followers at the time of this writing.)

Please Link To My Site, Don’t Upload My Photos

You are more than welcome to link a photo from one of my pages or link the entire page to any social media site you like. I will be extremely flattered by the gesture and will be eternally grateful forever and ever. When you link to an image from this website to Facebook, for example, the image still lives on my website and not on the Facebook image servers, and I still get credit for my work. When you download a photo from my website and then upload to a new post on Facebook, the image then lives as a file that is controlled by Facebook and not me, and quite often I don’t get credit. According to Facebook, I still “own” the rights to my image although I no longer have any control over the file. Facebook is probably not interested in “selling” any of my images for money, but if you give permission to another app to access your photo library – and this happens all the time (can be another social media site, games, cool camera filters, etc…), it might be possible for that “third party” to exploit the images for their own advertising use.

Here’s Facebook’s policy on image rights and ownership. Not an easy read for most people (including me), but luckily I have good lawyer friends.


So, would you send in your grandmother’s famous prize winning top secret cookie recipe to McDonald’s to use for free so they can make millions and millions? I sure hope not.

Would you recommend to a friend who is in a band (a very good band and that’s how they make all their money) play for free at a popular local restaurant or club so they can get “exposure” even though the restaurant or club will profit greatly because the band is hot and will draw customers? Well, maybe OK at first but soon you have to pay the rent.

Would you be willing to work at your job for a week or so without pay even though the company will profit from your labor? Now, that’s just silly.

Same thing applies here. While I’ve never seen my work in a McDonald’s ad campaign (actually, that’s completely OK), I have seen my work ‘lifted’ (stolen) and used on other commercial websites for money making ventures – and without my permission or due compensation. A lot of my work is personal too. How do I know when other people steal my work and post to their websites – and websites I’ve never heard of? There’s now an app for that believe it or not!

Social media websites are incredibly important for artists of all types and they are here to stay. Social media sites have enabled artists of all kinds to publish their own work when they want, how they want and where they want and to the largest possible audience in human history. I just ask that if you are interested in posting and sharing my work, please do so respectfully and responsibly.

– Tony Cifani