Thursday, January 10, 2008

And Photo Justice for All

Most photographers are somewhat protective of their images. And they should be. If you shoot it, the image belongs to you and no one else should be using that image for anything without asking. There are exceptions to the rule but for the sake of simplicity, I won’t go there.

Now, let's say you are not only someone who takes a lot of pictures but you're also a parent. Suddenly, the word protection can be written in all caps and followed by at least three exclaimation points. We photo parents are not only worried about protecting our images (our creative work and for some of us, our livelihood) but now we’re dealing with a subject that is far more important; our children. It doesn’t matter whether you post photos of your kids online without much worry or concern or you covet your family photos never daring to risk the wrong person seeing or stealing them (and therefore opt not to post them publicly), we all want to protect our children. There’s no debate there. Just like the million other judgment calls we face every day (what food to feed our kids, what bedtime to keep, how much TV is too much) ‘to share or not to share’ is a choice every parent has to make for themselves and their families. And, for the record, I’m asking that we not judge one another on our decisions, kay? I’m nipping that baby in the bud right now. Instead, let’s band together and empower one another by putting our collective (and creative) heads together here and hammer out some workable solutions to this universal issue.

After a number of emails from concerned moms asking ‘should they or shouldn’t they’ and reading posts addressing the topic, I have intended to tackle the subject myself many times. I just hadn't gotten around to it. But, when I got the query from the supermoms of The League of Maternal Justice, asking me for my thoughts on the matter and my take on any solutions, I decided the time is now. They'd like to compile some insights regarding the photo sharing concerns of moms and even more importantly offer some good advice of ways we can protect ourselves and our photos. We're talking insights, tips and tools for moms from moms. We’re all in this together, so why not demystify what’s going on through some discussion, shall we?

I realize that neither talking nor implementing all the safety precautions in the world can give us any guarantees (just as locking our front door doesn’t mean no one can break in) but I believe we are all better off arming ourselves with knowledge. Let’s uncover and discover what it is we can do as mothers to ensure to the best of our abilities that the photos we choose to share of our children remain safe.

I hope to hear your thoughts on the matter; your stories, your concerns and what you are doing (if anything) to combat the risk of having your photos used without permission, blatantly misused and/or stolen. Do you choose to share your photos online? What service(s) do you use and why? Do you tag your images? What kinds of photos do you share and what is off-limits? Do you use copyright notices, watermarks, shrink wrapping, or any other tricks you can enlighten us with?

OK, it’s up to all of you, my fellow mama lions…let me hear you roar!

*the photo above is my submission for Theme Thursday (contrast) at Stacy's.


Megan said...

I use flickr and i make sure I never tag my images. i also don't post my kids' photos to groups unless it's a small one (like summer toes, for example). i've found that without tags, no one looks at my images unless i've sent them there. also, it's not like my blog is widely read ;), so unless i see a sudden wild surge in readership, i don't feel *too* worried.

Jenny is Live & In Color said...

Cute photo!

I don't have a lot of readers either, so I haven't been too concerned. Yet. I am curious to know what others think.

Bunny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bunny said...

I am so very interested in what everyone has to say on this subject. I have changed all my kid photos in Flickr to "friends and family" only and I have made my online friends my "friends" so I can still share the kid photos with them. I also do not tag my photos. I will be following this discussion carefully since I really want to do the best thing possible to protect the images of my kids.

(Sorry for the repost, I had some errors)

Stacy said...

The photo of your daughter is a perfect fit to your dialogue.

Hmmm...where to start? I think about this often. I will be the first to admit that I think my kids are beautiful, because...well, I'm their mother. Putting their images out there on the Internet sometimes makes me think twice. I make sure I don't post bath photos showing too much skin. On Flickr, I have started putting their pictures visible only to friends and family, and I never tag them. I have deleted past Tabblos on that site that have been viewed too many times for my comfort level and have taken off tags that are automatically put on.

Sometimes I worry about the many lurkers that come to my site and don't post. However, there are people that see my kids in everyday life and I have no control over that, as well.

I also don't state what city we live in and we aren't listed in the phone book. If someone really wanted to find us, though, I'm sure they probably could. Woe to them if they do, family owns lots of guns and knows how to use them well. ;) I try not to worry too much about it.

There are so many blogs out there, that for the average person it would be very difficult for people to find a specific blog. If you don't have many visitors and have a new blog then the likelihood of someone unsavory seeing it is very small. It has taken years for me to get the blog traffic that I do, and if I hadn't started participating in the MBS Monday's it still would only be seen by my family for the most part.

My advice is to only do what you feel comfortable with. I have stopped short of sharing my blog on several sites since I didn't want too many strangers with disparate interests seeing my address. Having a bit of common sense as to how you share your kids' pictures can go a long way to finding your comfort zone.

If I had it to do again, I would set up my blog differently. I am actually thinking of changing my blog address soon, just so it isn't attached to my last name. That will help my comfort level a bit. :)

Amy said...

I scale my images down so that they aren't as desirable for printing purposes. I do tag, but only generically with the month and year the photo was taken. I worry about this a lot. I also make photos private after six months - a year. That may not be a lot, but I don't want baby photos out there forever. And no sweet naked bath or beach shot except with family. So far not many people read my blog, and the only weirdos I've had have been to my flickr account after nursing shots. I've changed those to private, though they seem to persist in groups. I'm glad you brought this topic up!

Head Gaggler said...

I love that shot too. I am not as paranoid as maybe I should be. I post pics of my family and kids online. But like Stacy I never disclose where we live nor do I even write out my kids full names. I know that if there is a will there could be a way but I am pretty small potatoes out there and I love being able to share these images of my loves that I am willing to take a risk. So far I haven't found anything that makes me uncomfortable...yet.

Killlashandra said...

Lovely image.

Good topic too. I'll have to think about that one and write my own post and link back to yours. You're right it's a bit of a conflicted issue. Thanks for sharing. :)

Jessica said...

I share my photos on my blog and through Flickr.

Mandaroo said...

A very appropriate photo for the topic. But, I'm glad that I get to see your beautiful girls' faces, as well as yours, in your blog. It makes it so much more personable and friendly.

That being said.....A big part of blogging is about building community. If you are building community with other moms (or for us other homeschoolers, as well)I think it's natural to want to share photos of your kids and the things you enjoy doing as a family. Many of us are trying to improve our photo taking skills, therefore sharing your photos of your kids is a way to get feedback and to having a lot of practice in developing your skills. For the most part, viewers are probably mostly family, and those that you have solicited (by leaving comments on their blogs), so except for an occasional accidental viewer I don't think it is a huge concern.
I hadn't thought of the tag issue until mentioned here, and recently someone said I might get a lot of "weird" viewers when I tagged one of Olivia's photos with "feet", so I removed it. So, I may go through my tags, and remove or change, if I see fit. If I see someone who appears questionable faving a photo in flickr, I block them, and perhaps change the photo to f&f.
I don't think we need to be overly fearful, but should take reasonable precautions.
I enjoy the friendships I've made in the blogger and flickr world, and it would be a shame to let fear take that away.
Thanks for starting this dialogue.

Maya said...

I have struggled with this as well and as I begin to get into photography as a business, in which it will be more obvious where I live. I'm thinking about changing my blog name as well so that our last name isn't attached to it but I keep putting that off.

I have made so many friends and having been inspired by blog friends and flickr friends. Much of this has stemmed from photos.

Perfect photo for this topic.

Barbara said...

Very important topic. The key to this is SECURITY. When I was choosing which service to use, I kept in mind the things I wanted: I wanted to be able to tag. I wanted to be able to share with friends and family ONLY. And I wanted a place to be able to keep my personal photos without having family intertwined. is KEY for family photo sharing. All users must sign up and request that you add them as your “friend.” Only after you add them as a friend are they placed into one of your custom privacy groups- groups that you can modify at any time. I’ve set it up so that only my family can view my family photos and so forth. This is specifically the privacy I was looking for.

Anna said...

I use Smugmug, which has a smaller clientele than flickr (and I like it so much better), plus I never tag photos with kids. Plus, I have a great collection of my boys naked photos that just never get posted at all.Sigh.

Maggie said...

A great shot - and a great topic too!

I upload all of my pictures to flickr, and I use tags - mostly to help myself keep them sorted. I do keep from uploading anything that I think might draw unwanted attention - ie) I make sure that no one can see anything in bath pictures, etc. I also go through once or twice a week to see if there has been any activity on my photos - anyone has made anything a favorite and whatever. If someone that I don't know has done so, then I will sometimes make that photo private, so that they can't access it.

As far as someone else 'using' your work, it is something that I sometimes wonder about. I have considered putting a watermark on my images, but haven't yet. I do have my flickr account set to not allow others to download my photos, although I am not sure how secure that really makes them.

Sheila said...

At first, I was hesitant to share photos of my children on my blog. I never post their names, just their ages. I never post images that can be easily taken out of context because what they are wearing, how they are standing/sitting, etc.

My aim is to share my memories while protecting them.

carrie said...

Tracey - thanks so much for tackling this...I'm just getting to the point where I am starting to get a little "Mama Bear" about all of this. I, too, use flickr - no tags! - but I haven't moved my photos to friends & family - only yet. Mostly because I really only do my blog for family members and a few friends. But I have seen my readership increase and just recently have started paying attention to the search words, how people get to my site. That is what is freaking me out - very strange keywords, leading to me and my children. So I am much more cautious on what I say and where I leave comments and post the photos. Unfortunately it is a very scary world, and I think we do need to take (start taking) precautions.

I'm with Stacy - no more "nakey" photos or even ones without shirts, etc...which is very hard, my girls LOVE to run around without clothes, and sometimes they are the sweetest photos...

btw - I LOVE your photo and "bitty baby!"

Tonya said...

I have dealt with this situation on numerous occations and have had hundreds of photos stolen from my flickr account and used on a site called ORKUT, a bunch of children that create fake profiles and steal pictures of children from flickr and other places on the net. I have gone friends and family a couple times but when it really boils down to it.. They have no idea where I live and my child is home safe with me.. It does still bother me greatly however when I get mail with links to profiles with my daughters pictures in them.. I enjoy sharing my photography with others, it is my passion.. I feel if they are not stealing them off flickr Im sure they could find my blog, my daughters website etc etc. I live in England but my entire family live in Canada, They go to her website or my flickr to see her latest pics and my blog for any updates.. It still still sickens me though that people steal them.. I also watermark the images but they steal them even with the watermark on them!

Mama Luxe said...

I've gone back and forth on this.

Right now I am at the place that as long as she is so young that she is always with me, I feel comfortable sharing her images.

As she gets older, I may start taking more precautions both for safety reasons, but also as she becomes a young woman, I want her image to be hers. Once she's old enough to understand, if she says, "Hey, why don't you put that picture on your blog," I might; I'd have to revisit my security concerns. But if she says, "Maaa...that's so embarrassing," then I won't.

Kelly said...

...I'm so glad that you posted this! I'm a new mom and a freelance artist, so when I created my blog last month I wondered what to do. I'm still torn, but at least I know that I'm not the only one with this concern. Reading everyone's experiences is helping me work it all out. For that, I thank you!

Kelly said...

From another Kelly...This is truly a great post and a very timely topic! I don't have a flickr account but I do post pictures of my girls on my blog occasionally, though that is not its sole purpose. I also track my blog stats and keep an eye out for where things from from. I have worried about the stalk and steal factors, but I agree that if someone truly wants to find you, they will find you, no matter how many privacy settings you have on your blog, your flick account, what have you. I guess I've chosen to attempt live my life without worrying too much about things I can't control. I watch what I'm doing, and what others are doing, and just try to keep everything in perspective. I'll be interested to see what tips and discussion comes up here! Glad I stumbled across this! :-)