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Photo Theft?


 This is a repost of an online article that I first heard about through the Online Photographer Weblog, and was originally posted on

The article was removed from that site as the editor wanted to make sure that it was understood that Wise Bread did not condone Carrie Kirby's actions and didn't want there to be any association between her article (and the actions it describes) and Wise Bread.


You can click on the Wise Bread link above to see where the original article was and to read people's comments, or click on The Online Photographer link to read the comments there.

There has also been discussion on Flickr about it, you can check that out here.



Wise Bread has now relinquished its rights to the article. Carrie Kirby now holds the copyright and she has given me permission to repost it here.


Once again, Will Chen (the Wise Bread editor) wants to make sure that it is clear that the site does not condone her activities relating to this article, and wants no association between the article and




Are You Stealing From Your Photographer?

by Carrie Kirby



We're having a children's photographer work our daughter's first birthday party, so we can give each set of guest parents a photo to remind them of this wonderful first year.

Luckily, the photographer has agreed to relinquish the rights to the images, so our guests won't have to go back to her and buy pictures of their own kids. That's not how it usually works, though. Despite the ease of image duplication in the modern world, most photographers still sell their work by the print.

As a customer, I feel like photographers are obscuring the value of their service when they charge this way. When I can buy a decent-looking print for under a buck, buying copies of my child's portrait from the photographer at $25 or more seems outrageous.

I understand what the photographer is charging for -- the value of her time, her talent, her training, and the editing she's done on the photos -- not to mention the studio space and equipment she used creating them. Our photographer also said she wants to retain control of her images to make sure they are only reproduced as high-quality prints. Still, it's puzzling to me why more photographers don't charge a larger sitting fee -- thereby charging for the work, which is their actual product -- and then provide digital images of the photos taken. After all, the right to reproduce pictures of my kids isn't worth much to the photographer once I'm done buying my prints.

Confession time: The last time we had portraits taken of our daughters, we did what I believe many, many consumers do these days. We bought what we felt was a decent amount of prints, in this case, a package that, combined with the sitting fee, cost $600. After spending that much money, we felt that we had rewarded the photographer enough for the service she'd provided us.

So... we scanned our photos, tried our best to correct for the image quality loss, and shared them digitally, made additional copies for friends and family, and even uploaded them into calendars as gifts for family members.

Did I feel guilty about this? Sort of. I also felt frustrated that, despite our best efforts, the prints did not look as nice as they would have if we'd printed from the original digital files. Since my photographer seemd happy with the $600 she received for photographing my kids, why couldn't she just give me what I really wanted?

And of course, there was the anxiety about getting busted. Last year, we went through the same routine, and we were confronted by a Walgreen staff member who told us they woudln't reproduce the prints because they were obviously professionally done. This year, to our relief, no one called us on our transgression.

There are limits to how far I'm willing to go in my crimes against photography. I bought nearly a dozen prints from the photographer, most of them 8 by 10s. I would not, for instance, have walked out of her studio having purchased only one or two 8 by 10s and then fired up the printing press.

Next time, I may play by the photographer's rules and spend the same amount of money for a larger number of prints, just in smaller formats, and forgo the jury-rigged duplication efforts. Or better yet, I'll finally find a photographer whose work I love and who charges the way I want to pay.

What about you? Have you scanned and duplicated those professional photo shots? Do you feel like you did anything wrong? Or do you feel that, since you already paid the photographer, the crime was a victimless one? Would you be willing to pay more for photo sittings if you could get digital files of the edited shots?