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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

Justina Blakeney Justina Blakeney

Designer, artist, stylist & mama. Founder and CCO at The Jungalow. Crazy for color, pattern and plants!

33 responses to “The Business of Being Boho: Instagram Etiquette: Using Other Peoples’ Images”

  1. Keila B says:

    I agree! You’re so right about that, even if it takes a little bit more time to find the source,people’s hard work really merits the recognition! Great post!


  2. Claire Worth says:

    Thanks so much for this post, Justina! It is a great set of guidelines and I absolutely agree – a designer spends so much time creating and it totally stinks when someone doesn’t give proper credit. I share other people’s designs on my blog and Insta, but make sure to give credit and always add commentary about how and why I feel the design works! Thanks again for your support of this community and for all the inspiration you put out into the world!

  3. nora says:

    this is a great post! i do the digital for an arts org in which once a week we feature an image on IG, as well as feature in our monthly newsletters, and we also use the hashtag as soft consent. when we first started doing this years ago, i would try to find their email or leave a comment, and often wouldn’t have “permission” on time. when people finally responded they were so sad to have missed the email or seen the comment too late! on a similar note, we also credit our staff members for their pics.

  4. Bee says:

    Thank you for writing this post, Justina! Lately, Instagram has been turning into a bit like Tumblr/Pinterest in that it’s difficult for me to find the original source of images. When I like an image, I want to know who created it so I can go look at their account/portfolio to see more of their work.

    And I absolutely agree about the respect issue. I have friends in the creative field and know how hard they work to produce content. Their work deserves respect and recognition via attribution. This situation reminds me of citations in essays/papers. Many of us are taught, whether in high school or college, to cite our sources when using the works of others. So why shouldn’t this practice extend to visual content such as a regram of someone else’s image.

  5. Insightful! And I could not agree more! As a struggling small business, regrams or having one of my images re-posted by someone with a huge social media audience is an honour I don’t take lightly. Every time you click ‘like’ on one of my pictures, I literally squeal in delight lol

    I had a big account re-post one of my images not too long ago & whilst it was incredible to think they’d done it at all because they enjoyed my effort, they didn’t give me any credit & simply used the hashtag ‘#jungalowstyle’ to repost!!
    I’m not going to lie, it was so upsetting.
    I’ve also had smaller accounts repost my pictures with no credit, at all. Seemingly insinuating that the styling was their own.

    As a struggling Mama small business it is actually intensely frustrating & incredibly annoying.

    I don’t repost anyone’s pictures. But if I have a book or an artwork or a decorative item in my styling that belongs to another store or author or person, I always tag them to put out some love for them.

    I wish everyone followed this basic ettiquette.

    Great tips, as always Justina!

  6. You’re a class act Justina, no question about it.
    I haven’t shared another’s image on Instagram yet (I’m new to it anyway), and I don’t know that I will… but I try to follow these suggestions when I Pinterest. I almost always credit the blog or artist in my caption. I try to make sure the link goes directly to the artist/blogger’s page. It drives me crazy when I’m trying to follow links for more info and they fade out to nowhere… so I try not to drive others crazy.

  7. carrie burdick says:

    This exact thing happened to me. I posted a photo I took then several weeks later, I happened to see it, with nothing that mention me at all. I did write the person and they apologized and added my name but I did find it disturbing that someone would do that and claim it for their own. My question is, how do you ever know if it is being done?

  8. Carissa says:

    This is an excellent post. I have seen many artists I follow talk about a big account reposting their image but the artist not getting any credit. Magazines and other corporations should know better and it’s just good common sense! When I used to blog I would use google’s reverse image search to try and find the original source of images that had been tumblr/ pinterest posted a zillion times without credit.

    Sidenote- I’m a newer reader and I really enjoy this blog. It’s refreshing to see so much color and texture. I also REALLY liked the recent post about social media and sponsored content. :)

  9. Thanks so much for this post, Justina (also for the sponsored content post a while back, which was really interesting and great)! I think all of the Jungalow feeds are especially good at this. I’ve unfollowed a few popular feeds because they got called out a few times in the comments for not giving credit when the images weren’t their own – they definitely made it seem as if they were original images – and I felt mislead.

    As a visual artist (www.etsy.com/shop/wanderinglaurfineart) sharing my work on Instagram, this concern is heightened. I suppose I was optimistic/naive for a time in thinking the Instagram community would behave honorably because it feels a lot more connected and warm-and-fuzzy to me than most social media. (even though I am a lawyer in my day job and should know better! shame on me!)

    Then recently someone reposted a painting of mine claiming it to be their own, and a follower gave me a heads up. I got the image removed, but it made me wonder about other instances I’m not made aware of. I constantly stress about if/how much I should be watermarking these images. To me, it takes away from the painting, and can be removed anyway by savvy cheaters, but I also want credit for my work! I imagine as instagram expands, I’ll have to find a uniform way to deal with this, or just accept it might happen.


  10. Diarra says:

    Such a class act. I love that you deal with these issues on your site. All good points that Instagram should probably send out as a “reminder” to users. What ends up happening is that it’s the same recycled content being regurgitated over and over–makes the feed less inspiring and unoriginal.

  11. debra says:

    Excellent post!

  12. […] must read on Instagram etiquette and how to properly credit/regram […]

  13. I need to remember to do this, sometimes you just find a cute picture that you feel you have to share with your followers, but you don’t realise the impact you can make if you don’t credit the person properly. From now on I’ll deffo be doing my research.

  14. Alex Zorach says:

    I hope more people read this, especially to the end where you talk about the importance of finding the actual source of an image.

    On Tumblr especially, but also on other sites, I frequently see people share things and give the “source” as Pinterest or WeHeartIt or some other generic site, but without actually crediting the original photographer, author, or owner of the work. It’s sad, because a lot of information gets lost this way.

    One thing I really like though, and would recommend, Google Image Search has gotten much better in recent years, and you can upload an image and search by image…in many cases that will find the original source, although that doesn’t always work.

    Thank you for this post!

  15. Kudos for skillfully sharing this well thought out and well written gem! I hope this pops up as a how to / guidelines for many years to come. I’m so glad you are gifting this info & doing social media classes. Copyright is seriously important and I think a lot of folks just don’t get it or even think things through, unless they are artists or have been uncredited themselves. And then there are always folks that flat don’t care. Crediting via Pinterest is bogus IMO. So THANK YOU! And I love your beautiful work!

  16. Alejandro says:

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  18. Monica says:

    thank you for this, justina!! you are truly one of my fave IG accounts and as a small business owner – clothing line launching this summer- i realize i’m probably going to have to start curating content rather than just posting pix of me and the kid at the beach ;) so i’ll def be following your lead/guidance and don’t be surprised if you are the first not-my-own-photo posts to my feed – haaaa!

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