I don’t usually bring industry concerns to this blog, as this tends to be my client work blog. However, I decided this information is very important – both for the photographer as well as consumer. These are the dark dirty secrets of photography that many won’t publicly speak about.
I’ve been involved in the photography industry for 15 years. Right now, this industry is a disaster. I’m not crying about the over-saturation of everyone buying a DSLR and going into business. I’m happy with the success of my business, and will keep going and working hard to develop my business even more.
What I am going to do is throw a cyber call out for help. This article is about newborn safety AND thieves in this industry. While they don’t necessarily relate, both issues are HUGE in especially newborn photography.
There are things going on in this industry that you as consumers or photographers may or may not get glimpses of. First, there are a lot of newborn photographers putting babies in harm’s way. To give some background – you may see some of my images, for example – the newborn on the horse saddle. This is a composite, which means, the baby was never left unattended on a horse saddle by itself. There were safety measures that were taken, and then PhotoShop was used to take peoples’ hands out of the picture and/or to put baby separately into a “clean” shot of a scene where the saddle/bench/set did not contain the baby. I’ve done several articles myself on newborn safety and so have many other photographers, trying to educate those who are new to this industry and help them see how they can be safe and not sacrifice a baby in the name of art. Here’s a link to one of my articles – http://jodieotte.com/?p=632
Unfortunately, some new photographers (and some seasoned photographers) are deciding that baby should be placed in things without the use of PhotoShop. Newborn photographers want the “wow” factor. They want the pats on the back from their peers. They love hearing “You are AMAZING!” Well, we have HUGE responsibilities that we need to acknowledge that are WAY more important. Recently, there have been some photos of babies hanging in trees without safety measures – yes, literally hanging there in a thin “pouch-like” contraption made of yarn, no PhotoShop, baby is uncomfortable, upset, and in one case screaming and red-faced, yet, the comments on this image were “this is art!” and “how cute!” I don’t recall the public ever calling it cute when Michael Jackson hung over a balcony with his baby, yet at least his hands were still on his baby, unlike what was going on in this particular image.
Then there are babies stuffed in thin glass jars with things like candy or bubblegum. I’ve seen these glasses. Go to your nearest craft store and look at the hurricane glass. Have you ever been emptying the dishwasher, and you go to pick up one of your kitchen glasses and it is cracked or broken? Yes, this is the same type of glass that photographers are putting babies in. There are two issues with these images. One, babies are belly breathers, and when you are piling gumballs all around baby, it’s like burying someone in heavy sand standing upright. They may start to breathe even shallower. Not the best idea. But the worst part about babies in glass is what should be the most obvious. If that glass cracks or breaks, you are not just risking injury, you are risking DEATH. Yes, there, I said it. If one of those glasses break because baby has startled (remember, the startle reflex?), or a sibling has accidentally knocked the glass over, or the glass had a small crack in it that was left unnoticed, and a glass shard gets them under the arm, well that’s where one main artery is. It doesn’t take much blood loss for a baby to die.
Consumers, if you really want some of this type of imagery, there are ways to have it done safely, and it is okay to tell your photographer NO. Photographers can photograph a doll inside of a glass jar with gumballs all around. Then, they can photograph your baby in a safe non-breakable container, and photoshop the top of the two images together to make it look like baby was in the glass jar. It can be done safely; unfortuantely, 95% of the imagery out there like this, has not been done in this way, and those photographers are very openly admitting that. If you wish to have your baby hanging in a photograph, there are ways that they can use PhotoShop to make it look like your baby was hanging in a “sack” – your baby does not have to be held 4 feet up off the ground.
You don’t think anything bad can ever happen? Three years ago, a photographer (yes, this was verified by the source) was photographing a baby being held up by her assistant. Her assistant’s arm gave way and baby fell, landed on a beanbag, but bounced off and ended up on the floor. The baby had a permanent spinal injury, and the photographer was sued. This is no joke; this industry needs regulations and education. When you choose a daycare for your child, your daycare provider has taken classes, has had a full FBI criminal background check and fingerprinting, and has gone through a process to become licensed (I went through it myself 16 years ago). The photography industry needs some sort of regulations or licensing especially when working with babies.
THIEVES IN THE INDUSTRY
I’m just going to put both of these topics together. We have an issue going on that has just started rumbling through this industry. It’s nothing new, but photographers are just getting tired of it because it is happening all the time. The frustration is evident. There are new “photographers” getting into this industry and stealing professional work. I’ve personally had some of my work stolen off of my blog, and a photographer posted it on her blog, and made up names of “the clients” and pretended that they were her clients in order to gain her own clients. Did you just gasp? Yes, that means she’s a thief. Plain and simple. She stole someone else’s property, and pretended it was her own. It is illegal to take someone’s photography work and claim it as your own. It is a crime.
What’s even more astounding, is when this happens, because the internet makes the world so small, as on social networking sites, when a photographer finds out her work is stolen, she’s shocked, and posts it on, let’s say her Facebook, and states “Ohmigosh, someone stole my work!” Yes, it’s almost like a mob scene when other photographers find out. They are angry. They are angry because this is their friend or fellow “coworker” so to speak, and they want to defend and call out this thief for what she is, and they want the public to know, THIS IS NOT OKAY. THERE IS NO EXCUSE TO STEAL.
When the thief is confronted, it’s always the same excuse. “My graphic designer did it.” “My web designer did it.” “My associate photographer did it.” “Don’t worry, I fired them”. 99.5% of the time, this is a lie. When a photographer has a session fee of $50, she cannot afford subcontractors or associate photographers. The amount of people with their pants on fire online is SHOCKING. Everyone wants to give people the benefit of the doubt, but we can do that no longer.
The next thing that happens in the chain of events is the whistle blower gets attacked. They will receive antyhing from being publicly scorned to threats from either friends of the thief, or from the thief themselves. Then, the victim of the thievery is called a cyber bully and told they are not being nice.
Yes, you heard that right, the tables get turned and the whistle-blower, a.k.a., victim, the true professional photographer who has worked for years on her craft and her imagery is now considered a horrible person, not-nice, cyber bully. The thief is then considered “She’s just a poor stay-at-home mom being attacked. She made a mistake, well it wasn’t even her mistake, it was her [imaginary] associate that did it.” THERE IS NO EXCUSE. IT’S STEALING. You don’t hear “I know she robbed a bank, but she’s just a stay-at-home mom….” HA… no… it doesn’t happen that way. It has gone so far as a Groupon photographer used someone else’s work and marketed themselves on Groupon with it. When she was called out, she contacted her local news and got them on her side, and cried “poor me, I’m being attacked” and actually managed to have a local story done on her, with the local news absolutely ignoring the fact that she committed a crime.
Enough is enough.
If a big-named company stole another company’s ANYTHING, they would be charged criminally and probably be all over the local to national news.
So we are asking, as a photography community, to please, please, PLEASE help our industry. We’re not sure where to go. We wish that the PPA (Professional Photographers of America), would help us in this matter, but to be honest, they seem to have some basic help (DMCA takedown letters) but not enough is being done. I personally, along with many other seasoned pros, would LOVE to help. Every time we get frustrated, and speak publicly about these matters, we are treated as if we are horrible horrible people, even receiving [empty] Cease and Desists and email threats.
People ask me “Why do you care? Why don’t you mind your own business?” Why? Because this industry is out of control. We want to protect this industry that we hold near and dear to our hearts. We want to have this industry valued. We want to maintain our businesses for years to come. You can’t buy a pair of scissors and say “I’m a hair stylist” and acquire clients. You need education and licensing to become a hair stylist. And for goodness sakes, it’s hair, it grows back. Yet someone CAN buy a DSLR camera, and call themselves a photographer, and next thing you know, they are stuffing babies in glass jars and hanging them from trees. We care more about our hair than our babies? Then, the thievery is a free-for-all. It boggles my mind that there are “photographers” defending those who steal and use others’ hard work and talent to acquire new clients of their own because they are too lazy to do the hard work themselves, and heck, they don’t have to because there are no consequences. They are lying to the consumers and stealing, and that’s okay.
And the lying doesn’t stop at the stealing. There are also people who buy a camera, take a workshop, and teach their own workshops (with the information they had just gained from the workshop they attended) six months later because they have worked on marketing themselves and creating an internet presence pretending that the free sessions they post on their blogs are real paying clients. But that’s another story, and I’m sure this post is long enough. :/
Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a great place. It allows us to be able to market to our target consumers, allows us to network with other photographers to help us grow, but there’s a really bad side. We want to protect our work. We want to protect our customers, but we can only do so much. We need help. This industry needs some sort of regulations or licensing because it’s becoming out of control. We don’t want the reputation of our industry to become a joke. And believe me, it’s becoming a joke.