Why You Need To Copyright your Images

Long Overdue Update 10/31/17:

I’m pretty excited to have had this post re-posted in very well respected The Phoblographer <—–click on link.  Thank you Chris for spreading the word! Since then, I’ve tweaked the formatting on my post, but it’s still the same. I have also heard from another photographer whose work was also stolen from this same band. I’m waiting to hear the outcome of that. When I do, I’ll update this post.

In this post, I want to share a “bedtime story” with you all. Yes….for my closest friends and family members, you know what this post is about. I’ve waited a long time, but with so many stories showing up on PetaPixel, two years is long enough I think. For the sake of what happened, I can’t name the band.

But first!

Why do I need copyright my images? I mean, once I click the shutter and take the picture, it’s mine.

Ok, technically that’s true legally. However if someone steals your images, if they are not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to anything bad happening, you may only recover “actual damages” instead of “statutory damages.” What this means is  that you as the photographer will only be entitled to the “fair market value” of your work, instead of what could be up to a $150,000 award, plus legal fees. (Parts of this description came from https://www.format.com/magazine/resources/photography/photography-copyright-law-guide )

So if you need to hire a copyright lawyer, the first thing they will ask you is if the images in question have been registered yet. If yes, then you can proceed. If no, well, that’s going to be harder if your case goes all the way through and in front of a judge. The reason behind this is that professionals take the time to register their images because of the value to them and their livelihood, whereas say a, hobbyist, may not. Someone stealing images from a person and using it means a huge loss in revenue for a photographer.

I’m not going to go in detail on how to go through the process of registering your images. There are plenty of sites that can help you with this if you Google it. My favorite sites are:

The Photo Attorney


A great article from Photoshelter 5 Things Photographers Can Do to Protect Their Images Online

Here is a great video from Scott Wyden Kivowitz on how to prep your images for the US Copyright Office using Lightroom. Lately I’ve been using Capture One Pro, but I can apply what he does here to that too.

A fellow photographer got me into this site Pixsy and what they do is really cool. You sign up, and sync your images with them either directly from your computer or social media site, website, etc. They find matches of your images online, and send you an alert. Then they’ll give you options on how you want to proceed, and yes they can handle international infringements. The service is free for up to 500 images. If you have more images that you want to have monitored they have different monthly plans. Now you don’t get the full amount if you win, they keep 50% except the the highest paid plan, you keep 55%. Overall, it’s not a bad system and I did have an image that their software found. I contacted them and they took care of it, done. I highly recommend trying it out and going with it, if you do find something that’s a huge deal then get a copyright lawyer.

Ok now that we have all of that taken cared of let’s go one with my experience shall we?

Back in 2015, I went to a concert here in my town and thanks to my buddy, a popular band from way back came to perform. The opening act was The Successful Failures and that was my first time seeing them. I was in the audience doing my usual thing, taking pictures. I wasn’t paid to be there, actually I paid for my tickets. But I asked if it was ok to take pictures and he said sure. I had my Canon Mark 5D III, the 16-35mm f2.8 L lens, and the 70-200mm f2.8 L non-IS lens. I’m working the room, doing my best to not be in the way of people enjoying the show. And we’re all having a great time, enjoying the hit songs we all love.

After the show, my husband and I meet the performers, the lead singer is a friend of my friend, and he introduces me. We get our photos taken, hands shaken, it was a great night. Before they went onstage, I met the previous band this way too, exchanged information.

Later on, I post the images from that night to this blog, watermarked them as you see here. Shared the post to social media and of course to my friend. The lead singer of The Successful Failures reached out via email and told me how he and his band members loved the images that I had posted. He wanted to know if they could use some of the images on their website and social media and how much it would cost. And touched upon the photo project for their new album.

I got back to him because at the time, I wasn’t sure how to price this sort of request. But I could see the value in what they do and they knew the value of what I do, there was going to be an awesome photoshoot coming up, I love their music, and most importantly, they asked for my permission. So I came up with a web sized per image price and we agreed upon it, had them sign a contract and that was it.

I follow the bands that I photograph on FB, Instagram and on Twitter.  That’s when I noticed that that well known band had screenshot my images right off my blog and was using them on their FB, Twitter and Instagram with a link to their merchandise section to sell stuff like shirts and cds. That’s called using my work illegally for advertising. So at first I was pissed, but I played it cool because this is a friend of my friend. So I private messaged the band with this and I’m so happy that I had the insight to make screen copies. 

If you can’t read it here’s what it says:

“Hey there! While I’m flattered that you like my images, I’m not cool with the screenshots and on my blog it does state that all images are copyright Deirdre Ryan Photography. Please do not copy in any way, this includes screenshots, thank you. I wanted to be nice, be cool. I’ll let it slide this one time, but please tag me and please change all posts to include Photo by Deirdre Ryan www.deirdreryanphotography.com thanks. This includes Instagram 🙂 My FB Page is http://www.facebook.com/deirdreryanphoto I’m re-branding myself again as a commercial and editorial photographer, so this would greatly help me and as a friend of Randy’s 🙂 Oh I forgot, if you could tag my IG with my IF @deirdreryanphoto Thanks again! Have a super awesome day!”

Looking back now I realize what I dork I sounded like LOL! I wasn’t asking for money or being a jerk. I just wanted photo credit. And as you can see, it was seen.

I waited a while and nothing….crickets…so I added my photo credit in the comments. Then, and I wish I took screenshots of those, they deleted my credits! And I saw that some fans had shared my image.


I tried again and they blocked me! WTH? So I hopped on IG and not only did they block me, they cropped out my watermark and slapped some crappy IG filters on some of them. The reason I knew this was because I had another IG account that they didn’t know about(ha!). I had added my credits in the comments there and at the time you couldn’t delete them, but I was blocked from their Twitter too! So I had my friends monitor their account for me. I think that they asked them in the credits who took the photos, etc. and they got blocked and deleted too, I can’t remember right now.

Here is what the originals looked like on my blog posting:RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography RandyNowConcert_Men Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography Without Hats_The Successful Failures_Photos By Deirdre Ryan Photography

(If you notice, the copyright symbol isn’t on them, at the time, I didn’t think I needed it. But now I have them on now, but I wanted to show you what they looked like for reference.)

So I first I got a hold of my friend that I network with, she is a copyright lawyer. In fact we’re still in touch. She suggested that I email the band first, so I found their manager’s email. Btw, they have a different manager now.

Dear _______,

My name is Deirdre Ryan, I’m a professional photographer in New Jersey, (USA).
I’ve spoken with an attorney with whom I’m in the process of retaining. Before I go ahead and do so, I want to give you an opportunity to take down all of my images.
Please call back as soon as possible _________.

Take down you images from where?


These are images I shot of ________ that I posted on my website’s blog(Recent Work). These images are on their Instagram and Facebook accounts and they were Tweeted. Two were posted last week, and four this week. 

So let me get this straight..

You went down, and shot the band… The band posted low rez pictures that you posted online of THEM live… and you have a problem with this… and now have the nerve to threaten us with lawyers?? am I getting this right?

Based on the tone of his last email, I called my lawyer up and I said, you deal with this. I could tell right away that this guy was hostile and would not offer a dime. I put her on a retainer and then the nightmare began. But I was really thankful that I had her. She then asked me to draw up an estimate of what this would cost them, so I did.

Their manager was rude, mean and over the phone with my lawyer, it was F this and F that, he clearly had a problem. He didn’t see the issue with what I had with my work being stolen to be used on their social media outlets and with a link to sell merchandise. I wasn’t asking for anything other than taking them down. I tried to be nice, asking for photo credit, then emailing with a polite and direct message.

Instead he was an asshole. Never asked for permission, deleted my photo credits, ignored my messages, and

it took about 3 months for them to take my images down.

In the end, I’m “banned” from their future shows(no big deal to me), and you know what he told my lawyer? This is “rich”….he was just trying to help a young photographer out.


If you wanted to help a “young” photographer out, you would’ve done what I asked for in the first place.

Next time someone steals my work like this again, they are going to pay me. I went through this ordeal because I didn’t want them to think that they could push anyone around, ESPECIALLY women. I didn’t this for  myself, but for other creatives out there.  They had stolen from the Getty’s site too so it’s only going to be a matter of time before they will end up shelling out thousands of dollars.

Should You Hire A Pro Photographer For Your Business?

This goes out to all of my creative friends and peers out there. I’m sure you can all relate.

I’m sharing this  because my friend, another photographer, got burned 2 days before an event by people he knew for another photographer! People, this is our livelihood! This is how we make a living. He could’ve made GOOD money on that day but instead saved it for non-deserving folks. I know how he feels, truly I do, I’ve been there. I’m asked why am I so expensive, why do I need to sign a contract and a model release? Why do you copyright your images?
Well you asked, now I’m going to blog about it. And I’m hearing more stories like this all the time. Don’t be that person. Thank you

The other day I posted this on my Facebook page:

I am part of many Facebook groups, and on one of them, the admin is trying to stop others from the constant selling from everyone who posts. Posting just to sell and run is not just boring and tiring, we don’t get to know the person behind the business. What is it that drives you? What do you want? Here’s what I want: consistant work, clients who value what I do, and come back to me and not just go to the cheapest or a photographer who does it for free. That’s not how you build business relationships. I understand that we all have bills to pay, the same goes for me and my family. But I got into my career not just because I have a B.F.A. in Photography but it’s something that I knew instinctively since I was very little. Thank you  www.deirdreryanphotography.com

I want to start a conversation, is investing in professional photography for your business worth it?

Let’s go back in history with me for a few moments or more. While I was re-building my business, I had worked for free for credit, producing what I thought to be great images, and looking back I can see where I have improved. But, I was going with the art direction or my own limitations for whatever reasons. This is called portfolio building and for some I was paid and told that I would be hired back and then to found out that instead they went with someone who did the remaining work for free. Or other clients hired someone else, or friends, neighbors, of mine would use other photographers or a chain like JC Penny’s.

When you are doing everything in your power to build a business and make money to support your family….this hurts. And you know it’s happening because, well, Facebook…hello. My friends know or should know me well enough to come to me, and I will cut them a huge break. Or if you’re a business and I started something, and it’s tough for you as well, at least hire me back and let me finish the job. I understand, all you needed to do was ask, talk to me, right? Don’t let me find out on social media. This has happened more than once. Reaching out to those who have the power to help me get in front of small businesses in my area and beyond haven’t helped me either. But I see them use other photographers, which is fine and the work is great. However when I do buy local or support small businesses, I don’t get the same respect with repeat customers from said other businesses.

This is a stab to the heart and you try so hard not to take it personal, it’s business. But you can’t help it. We’re artists and creative people tend to be sensitive. It sucks, we put on a brave face and a huge smile every day. Our work is out there for the world to judge and see all the time.  Yes, I did ask for this career and I do love i, but I know that I’m not the only one.

So, back to the original question:  is investing in professional photography worth it?

YES! Why?

Let’s look at the real estate market first. Now I understand that the salespeople and brokers must pay for many of the expenses of marketing properties up front unless I’m wrong. But I’m seeing a lot of horrible cell phone or point and shoot camera photos that are literally thrown up on the site. It doesn’t do the properties any good and as a possible buyer, I know that wouldn’t entice me. And if I was the seller, frankly I would be more than upset. From my research, it seems that real estate photography is still inexpensive for what you get but it’s anywhere from $150-$300 in my area. And what about real estate agents still getting their headshots taken with a cell phone against a white wall in the office?? Please hire someone that knows what they’re doing, invest in yourself, make others take you seriously. I’ll admit, I’m not a real estate photographer, but I know for sure that I wouldn’t use a cell phone to sell any property.

For non-profits, yes you need professional photography to get more donations and marketing to get better reach for your cause. But pay the photographers, we know there’s money for us somewhere. I’ve done my fair share of work for credit and let me tell you something….nothing has come out of those.

A professional photographer wrote a post and gave a creative license for everyone to use it.

Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work For Free

But, but….I can’t afford a professional photographer, you’re all so expensive! I can just take a fancy Canon or Nikon DSLR with a pop-up flash or my cell phone, that’s all we need. 

Look, I get it, in fact we all do. And if that’s all you can do for certain things, go ahead. However let me tell you something when you put a camera on auto. Those photos may or may not come out. My daughter was in a 5K earlier this year and they had a guy taking pictures. He didn’t have a flash and when I heard the shutter, it sound very slow.

I used my mirrorless camera, because I’m a mom first, I was there taking pictures of her and this time I didn’t bring my huge Canon gear like I had to last time, I had to because using a cell phone is not acceptable. And oh this year it poured.

Well, I saw the pictures that the guy took, they posted them on Facebook, and most were out of focus, blurry and I was right about the shutter speed being too slow. I felt bad for the parents who thought that they were getting great images. But this is a classic case of you get what you pay for.

Be Your Own Brand

For businesses you want images that fit you and your brand.If you use stock images, your customers are not going to see who the real people behind the business really are. Also by using a stock image, there’s a big chance that someone else is using it as well. Tell your story by being unique, work with a photographer, bounce ideas off each other and have fun with it.

The owner of Wholetrition helps to train a client using the heavy ropes as part of her workout routine. The owner of Wholetrition helps to train a client using a weighted ball as part of her workout routine.


Why am I so expensive?

If you ask around, I’m expensive, or some people think I’m very reasonable for the support that I give my clients with what I provide for them. Some of my friends who are photographers charge way more than I do and think that I should do the same. And I’m very close to it. Many factors come into play, but first is this:

I run a business. When you have a business, you pay quarterly sales taxes, insurance, extra bills, leases, and oh if you think that digital is not as expensive as film, you’re very much in the wrong here. There’s the time we spend editing the images. We’re constantly having to upgrade our camera bodies as they don’t last as long. Cards get corrupted, computers need upgrading, repairing or replacing. Websites aren’t free, same with domains, and since I’m a pro Canon user, I pay for a service to get discounted repairs and cleanings. Is that worth it? Yes, because last year I had to have 2 flash hotshoes and the top of my Canon 5D Mark III replaced…$480. Without the discount it would’ve been double that. Oh and don’t forget that we’re constantly backing up files, that costs money too on hard drives and the cloud. Credit cards charge fees too. I have a CPA.  A copyright lawyer. Bills for the car, healthcare, daily living expenses, networking events, marketing,  copyright and usage fees, oh and there’s my experience.

Let’s talk about my experience. 

How much is your time worth? When you work with someone who takes a longer time and is not able to give you what you want the first time, with the quality you need, the creativity and customer experience behind what I do. Do you want to miss deadline and get sub par work? How many times have you gone into a place  like a restaurant and said,”Hey, I love your food, I’ll pay you half of what you’re asking for. If I like what I’m eating, because I’m an established business and I’ll come back and refer you to others.” Sounds nuts right?  But what I’m saying is if you ARE an established business then you know the value of what I do already. I mean you don’t want to say, go to a deep discount plastic surgeon or lasik eye doctor right? So considering what I charge,  for what I do, I’m well worth it.

Moving Forward….

There will be people who will not like this post, and that’s fine. I don’t like it either, however there are many things that I’ve had to explain over and over again to others and I wanted to get it out in the open. I’ve worked in this field with all men who talk rough, so in turn, I’ve had to play that game to survive at times. In the end, I know who my target market is and is not. I’ve come too far to give up, I’m not a quitter. My goals are clear, and I need to keep moving forward.

My next post will one of answer these questions:

Why do I need to sign a contract and a model release? Why do you copyright your images?