Don’t commit this Instagram sin (or you might piss off a fan)

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A photo posted by Brett Bottorff (@brettbott) on


Why it’s still important to provide photo credits via social media

If one of your fans takes a sweet picture of you, posts it on Instagram, and tags you in it, of course you want to share it with your own followers right away. You’re excited. You look like a total rock star. BUT…

(Are you ready for some common sense advice?)

… slow down for a second and make sure to give the photographer credit!

Earlier this year, Taylor Swift was in the news for allegedly making a rights grab on photos taken during her concerts (and using them without attribution). But at the indie level, this sort of thing happens all the time, and in ways that can seem innocuous.

My friend Brett recently went to see Cœur de pirate and took the photograph shown above. He posted it to his Instagram account and tagged Beatrice (the artist). She then shared it with her followers, without attribution. I’m sure it was an honest oversight since, when Brett asked for a photo credit, she at least tagged him in the photo.

In the meantime, the photo on her Instagram account got liked almost 4k times. Now, Brett’s not trying to make his living as a photographer, or trying to get his name out there with touring bands who might be looking for some concert photos. Plus, he’s a huge fan of Cœur de pirate’s music, so it’s not like he was super pissed off. She didn’t lose a fan or anything. But she could have.

Share the credit. It’s easy.

I understand that copyright and “authorship” are ideas in flux right now. I know that content gets shared and reshared and reshared on the internet to the point where things feel like they should just be in the Public Domain by default.

But not everyone agrees. For some people, credit is still very important. And it’s very easily given.

One easy way to share an Instagram photo with the proper credits is to use an app such as Repost or Regram. These apps take the original image, add a credit, and post it to your own Instagram feed.

But sometimes it’s a bit of a bummer to clutter up a really great shot with the photographer’s Instagram username. In that case, the least you can do is mention the photographer by name in the caption (and tag them, if possible too).

Easy, right? Okay, good.

Have you been guilty of sharing a photo without giving credit? Has someone else used your photos without attribution? Why do you think this happens? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Been there, done that. Gotta give credit wherever credit is due.

  • Can you be sure that the person submitting the photo is the photographer? Might it be best to say something like “photo from [supplier’s name]”.

  • Red

    It happened these days with an Italian singer.

    Exactly the same, but the photographer in this case is a real photographer.
    She was hired by a magazine to shoot him at a concert. Later, the artist, posted one of her pictures without permission or attribution. So, their are now fighting with all of this.

  • jackiegage

    Agreed! Plus, people around you seriously shine from these acknowledgements.

    A similar experience happened with my friend; he is a polaroid photographer who snapped a photo of Alina Baraz at her concert last week. He tagged her, she reposted it, and didn’t give him any attribution. The photo she grabbed from his feed now has about 2,500 likes…

    It’s like… c/mon… At least tag the guy?!

  • How would any band, musician or songwriter feel if someone used their music and didn’t even credit them? It’s the same thing for a photographer who’s work is not credited.

  • Louisa Wah Hansen

    I get really pissed off when people don’t credit me for my photos (even though I am not a professional photographer), especially when they capture my photos instead of use the “share” function on FB and just reupload on their page without mentioning me. I have since started to watermark my photos but the thing is I don’t like covering the entire image with a big watermark so I just put a © notice in a corner. This presents problems too, as in a recent case in which a company just stole my photo and cropped the bottom edge where my copyright notice was. The concept for copyright and authorship is extremely low in the society where I live. This issue is utterly frustrating. I think that not only professional photographers need credits. Anybody who creates anything needs to be recognized for their creative work. There is an increasingly lack of respect for creators of content and this is a very very bad trend for those who are creative, especially those who are trying to make a living by selling original creative content, may it be articles, photos, videos or music.

  • This kind of thing happens all of the time. I’ve been on both ends. Normally, there isn’t any sinister intent but with unoriginality at an all time high with social media, I think it could be important to put some etiquette back into the mix… At the least, others would see the attribution and think twice next time about stealing shots or whatever. Taylor swift has been copywriting everything in an almost maniacal way, even song lyrics that are really not even her own property – just phrases or words people have said for decades. I know that her and I will never ever ever be getting back together.

  • Larry Steen

    Thanks for this important article, Chris. As a part-time, professional photographer, I feel a credit is important for gaining attention and career-building, so I watermark my name and copyright in a corner of the frame of any artistically noteworthy photos I post on FB. Unfortunately, however, this is not possible when a client posts a shot from a shoot which I can’t watermark due to the client’s artistic/design uses with the shot.

  • Done With It

    Once everything is taken for free, the internet will die because there will be no way to pay for the infrastructure or websites.

  • If they say it’s a photo they shot, I’d credit them. But yes, if it’s vague, your suggestion seems close enough.


  • Right? Seems so easy!


  • Haha. Never ever ever ever?


  • If it’s a client who has paid you for the work, do you care if they then post on their site or social without attribution? (Is that part of what they’re paying for?)