I wrote about copyright infringement in yesterday’s post and today was thinking of another, related topic: using others’ photos as “inspiration” or “examples” of the work you could do. Obviously, using other people’s copyrighted photos (and again, photos are copyrighted when they are created by their originators — they do not have to be registered!) is problematic on an ethical level, something I believe I’ve covered pretty thoroughly on this site. However, it’s also problematic on a marketing level, for several reasons:
- Prospective clients deserve a clear picture (pun intended) of your capabilities. This means showing them actual work completed by you and/or your team: not that of other companies, not stock photos.
- You deserve a client base that is making their purchasing decisions based on what you can offer. When you sell yourself based on images of your own work, you can be 100% confident that you’re able to replicate that work, or something like it, for future clients. When you’re trying to copy what someone else has done, you may not be as successful, and may ultimately let the client down.
- Stolen photos and stock photos usually just look bad. Ethical considerations aside, when you “borrow” a photo from another site, you’re often cropping it, stretching it, and otherwise distorting it, making it render poorly on your own site. And face it, most consumers can spot a cheesy stock photo from a mile away. Neither reflects well on your business.
If you’re looking for a way to document your own work, consider one of the following:
- Focus on quality networking to build solid relationships with photographers who may then be willing to trade services. (Just don’t assume they’ll jump at the chance — we all have busy schedules — and please be sure you have something of value to trade. Until you’re able to offer qualified referrals, you need to have something to offer!)
- Follow up with the photographers from your events to politely request permission to use any images of your work. Remember to offer credit (and, preferably, a link back to their site) and remember that they, as the creator of the images, have the right to decline your request. It happens.
- Consider purchasing your own DSLR camera (starting around $350 for a half-decent consumer-grade camera) and learning to use it so that you can capture photos of your own work. This way, you won’t need to rely on others’ images — though it should be noted that using photographers’ images with permission and credit has other benefits to your business. Also, remember that your own personal camera should be used before the event starts to document your work. Please don’t take pictures during the event itself if you are not the couple’s hired photographer!
A good rule of thumb in any element of your business is don’t be lazy, and this applies to your marketing as well. Take time to showcase your own talent — I promise it’s worth the effort.