It is not news that the world is awash with images (and photographers). Digital photography having made this problem grow by a factor of ten (or more) is also not a revelation. I was reminded of these points as I was nurturing another set of image-makers who aspire to go out into the world of commercial photography.
Another thing that I was reminded of recently is the almost irrational fear many photographers have of image piracy. Sure, some folks are likely to use your (or my) images without permission and yes, the web has made that easier. On the other hand, is that really worth worrying about? How much money do I lose each year to image piracy? I have no idea and to be honest, I do not think it is worth my time to worry about that too much.
I will say that I regularly get queries from folks who want to use my images and they are writing to ask my permission. I am thrilled they have the grace to ask before using my work. Some are the stereotypical “student using images in a school project.” They are not likely to pay to use my images, but just by asking for my permission, we start a discussion about intellectual property rights. That is a small but important victory.
Some folks who write me can be “turned into” paying clients. Some folks cannot, but at least I tried. In all cases, they write me because I have tried hard to be “found.” Most photographers should worry less about image piracy and put more effort into making themselves easy to find.
Assuming your images have the correct copyright meta-data and a potential user decides they like and want to use your image, you should make it as easy as possible for them to find you. Having a web site certainly helps, but being registered with some of the various photographer’s databases is just as important.
Two of the most prominent ones are at:
These are both free of charge. Also, the ASPP, American Society of Picture Professionals, has published guidelines for photo researchers and buyers who are seeking a particular photographer, usually because they have a photo for which they need publishing permission.