The Business of Being Boho: Instagram Etiquette: Using Other Peoples’ Images
I hopped on the Instagram train pretty early, in 2011, back when vintage filters and scratchy ‘frames’ around the photos were still a thing. Now, five years later, I have three accounts (a personal account, a Jungalow account, and an account for the Face The Foliage project, curated by the Sister Golden Shop) and through a series of tactics that you can read more about here, I’ve amassed a pretty huge following. One big change I’ve noticed lately is that while a few years ago most people were using Instagram to share their own original photography, it’s becoming increasingly popular to share other people’s work on the platform (and I do it too!).
And while I don’t by any means consider myself to be an etiquette expert (I’ve been known to put my bare feet on the dashboard while in the passenger’s seat) nor am I qualified to share legal advice, I have been teaching quite a few workshops on social media lately and it occurred to me that many people may be sharing other people’s images without properly crediting simply because they don’t know any better. So I thought I’d share the practices that I’ve adopted, and what works for me, in hopes to help this situation even a tiny bit, because, let’s face it, it sucks when people share your work without giving credit, right? Especially when we’re all trying to grow our audiences. A regram from any account, (but especially an account with a large following) is a great way to grow, so if we all can work a little harder to give credit where credit is due, I think that it will help to foster a better, more inspiring, community.
I should start off by saying that other people’s images are their property. Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that technically if someone wanted to go after you for using their images without permission, they could. So again, this isn’t about what you can and can’t do from a legal standpoint — it’s about what I consider to be best practice when sharing images created by other people on Instagram.
- One easy way to avoid any question as to whether or not you can share the image is to ask permission. Also, many brands have community hashtags. If someone adds an image to my community hashtag, I take that as a soft consent to regram their image to my feed. There are exceptions to this — I won’t regram anything with a human in it (especially a child) without asking first. I’ve been doing this for a year on my Jungalow account and I’ve never had anyone ask me to remove an image.
- Once you’ve decided that it’s OK for you to use someone else’s image, there are two ways that I think people should be credited for their work. First off, tag the person in the body of the photo, like this:
(above image by Liz-Kamarul)
- You can do this by pressing “Tag People” in the menu when you get ready to post the image. But…(and I can’t stress this enough…) this should not be the ONLY way that the person who created the image should get credited for their work. Since people have to actually click on the photo to see this credit pop up, I don’t think that by itself it’s enough credit for the artist/photographer/stylist of the image.
- Next up include their “@Tag” in your copy. I recommend adding their tag right away…not at the bottom of a long rant, not at the bottom of a paragraph of hashtags, but right up front for everyone to see. When you bury someone’s credit information (or don’t add it at all) you’re kinda claiming that image as your own, which is not all that cool IMHO. The only time I think it’s OK to have the crediting information at the bottom of a post is if you’ve paid someone to create the image for you. So, for example, if I worked with Dabito on a shoot, and he shot it and I styled it, and I payed him, in that case I think it’s OK to add “Photo by @Dabito” or “Camera emoji @Dabito” and the bottom of the post.
- Next up, if you’re regramming someone’s image — make sure it’s their image!! I can’t tell you how many times people have regrammed my work, crediting whatever feed they found it on. It also happens that people credit @TheJungalow for other people’s images that we’ve regrammed. Usually, it just takes a bit of detective work to figure out if the image is actually theirs. Do other images in their feed look kinda similar? Is the image crisp? (if not, it may have been shared so many times that it’s losing it’s crispness.
- If you post someone else’s image, definitely ask before changing the image in any way — especially if you plan on adding writing on top of the image, drastically changing the colors, filters, or crop.
- If you found an image floating somewhere online that you want to post– be it a Tumblr, on Pinterest or whatever — it’s never OK to credit Pinterest for an image. If you need to post it, either do your homework to figure out where the image came from originally or don’t use the image at all. It’s happened so many times that I’ve run into pictures of my home or something from my book and the credit reads #Pinterest. It’s really pretty annoying.
Giving proper credit for people’s work is really a respect issue. It takes much less time to figure out how to credit an image than it does to actually create the imagery–so I think that crediting properly is really the least we can do. What do think? Have your images ever been shared without proper creditation? Did it bum you out? Did you care? Did you say something? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!