What Do You Do When Your Client Would Rather Remove Your Image than Credit You?

What Do You Do When Your Client Would Rather Remove Your Image than Credit You?

Chasing clients to ensure I am properly credited for my work takes up more of my time than I care to admit. It’s frustrating to see my images used without due recognition, but none more so than this particular incident in which a relatively well-known musician’s team seemed to prefer removing the image from Instagram entirely, rather than simply adding my handle to the caption.

We shot the set of images in question for a magazine. On the day, the talent — who I've chosen not to name — seemed invested. Almost too intensely so, given that he quite frequently lifted the camera from my hands so that he could get a better look at the images, often suggesting ideas of his own. I entertained him, figuring that as irritating as it was at times, I should be grateful he cared enough to want the shots to be the best they could possibly be. We shot various clothing looks, and everyone left happy.

Upon sending over my selected images to his record label, I was asked if some could be posted immediately, to which I informed them that awaiting the magazine’s release was imperative. A couple of months passed, and it was time to release the images.

As is standard practice when sending over final images, I insisted that any pictures posted must credit both myself and the publication they were taken for. Also outlined was my policy that any social media posts must make reference to the feature, and that any images used to promote anything other than the shoot itself (a new track, gig, tour poster, etc) would be invoiced for. All’s good and well, these guys are professional and know the importance of tagging. This musician prides himself on his artistry and respects the effort that went into these pictures – I’m confident there’ll be no bumps in the road.

Except when it came to crunch time, my name was missing. The magazine received their due tag, but there was nothing in the way of photo credits. Frustrating, given that it was I who had planned the concept, booked the creative team, arranged the location, and both shot and edited the images.

Years ago, whilst still working my way into the industry, I would have kept quiet for fear of risking being blackballed, or seen as problematic. After all, many of these management types don’t seem to have an appreciation for how important being credited for your work is. As a freelancer, many of my jobs come from word of mouth after all. But after years of battling to receive the credit I rightly deserve, I decided to reach out to the artist’s record label again.

My initial email took several days, as well as a chaser, to get a response. Needless to say that by then, the impact and any subsequent buzz around the post had largely diminished. When the response from the label came, I was surprised. It read:

We didn't agree on this being a stipulation. I did however asked him to tag you originally. If you'd like I can tell him to take it down [sic].

I replied, making reference to my initial email. Accompanying the high-res download link was a clearly worded message insisting that tagging on social pages was essential. I then received this:

I’ve flagged this with management. I understand your frustration on this but I’m doing my best to get it deleted or changed.

I couldn’t get my head around the notion that deleting the post was a more logical conclusion to them than simply adding my name. It felt spiteful somehow, given that I was more than happy for the post to remain on the artist’s page; of course, I want my work to be seen.

At the time of writing, the post remains live, with over 200,000 likes, the account with 1,000,000 followers, and with my tag nowhere to be seen. It’s a sad and confusing state of affairs when an artist – someone who is seemingly integral about creating art, and respecting that of others – shows such a blatant disregard for my work. It feels disrespectful; after all, we were all part of a team that were working together with the same goal.

No photographer should have to feel like a nuisance, or as if they’re hassling clients and souring relationships, in order to simply be credited for the work they spent weeks planning, prepping, and perfecting. The industry needs to do better.

Do you insist clients credit you on social media? When your images are used without credit, what’s your usual approach?

Lead image credit: Jakob Owens on Unsplash.

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Property Shooter's picture

Charge more and don’t ask for credit. Have a disclaimer in your T&Cs stating that you reserve the right to use all material captured in your own marketing. I think it carries more weight to have a celeb in your portfolio than to have 200,000 followers of a celeb not even notice who took the photo, no?!

Deleted Account's picture

This would have been a good starting point because it gives you a financial claim to the proposal amount if they had agreed to the "no photo credit" plan. Gotta cover your bases and make it feel (for them) like they're getting something for giving you credit.

LA M's picture


I've never asked for credits and as far as I'm concerned usage of the images to promote myself in perpetuity is far more important.

Daniel Bayer's picture

You are a wise person, Proper Film.

Mr Blah's picture

It's a business move. They are betting you would rather your work be seen mentionless than unseen. You have a decision to make. Do you hurt the magazine reputation and your gig with them or let them take advantage.

I would just post the pic on my personal feed and tag the group. See if that get's the ball rolling.

Harlan Bowling's picture

Did you get paid for the shoot?

In my opinion, on a paid shoot, credit given is a compliment, not a requirement. The client paid me reasonably for my services and thus are given licenses for the photos they have paid. There are exceptions and handshakes and such, of course, and credit can be an amazing marketing tool. But requiring credit takes away a bit of the value and attention for the client on the photos...and their goal is marketing material for themselves.

If you're shooting for "free"...then that is obviously a different story, and a much more clear agreement needs to be made about what everyone is getting out of the shoot.

Andy Barnham's picture

I think you've missed something important; the shoot was paid for by the magazine and thus the client is the magazine. The musician is using images paid for by the magazine, for their own personal gain for free. The photographer has correctly asserted their moral rights, and it's reasonable to expect to be credited as (I assume) the photographer was paid an editorial and not a commercial rate.

Harlan Bowling's picture

I certainly see what you're saying, but that to me would seem to be between the magazine and the musician. As the client is the magazine, and has paid for the images, they belong to them. So any license beyond that would be at their discretion. I guess it all comes down to the details of the contract that was signed between the magazine and the photographer, and how that extended to the musician. But either way, I still stand by the idea that credit is not a requirement when you've been paid for the shoot.

D Porter's picture

I've had this happen as well, but on a much smaller scale--I'm no Jack Alexander. But, I will almost always add a "Thanks..." (even if a compliment or credit wasn't proffered) and the following...

user 65983's picture

I am not sure what to think.

Ken Hilts's picture

Apparently the "Lord" (whatever that is) commands there to be massive banner ads in the comments section :D

Eric Mazzone's picture

The license states credit has to be given, then he has to give credit otherwise it will cost him a lot more for violating the license. That's HIS choice. He does have the choice to NOT use the images, but that's him also losing out on using the magazines name as well.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

A post like this and an Unplash image just don't reconcile. At least in my mind. I just don't understand how on a website where all the writers are photographers, it seems nobody is capable of creating their own images and instead keep reaching for the "photography is free" button. It's a rare article on here that's not using an Unsplash image. I just don't get it.

Why should they credit you? It's just a photo. Photography is free, right?

Supporting Unsplash contributes to that mindset in the general public and it manifests in scenarios like the one you're writing about.

You can't complain about people not respecting your profession in the same article where you support a website that undermines your profession by advancing the notion that any image you need can and should be had for free.

I'm sure the Fstoppers audience is majority photographers. But I'm also sure that any would-be photography clients who found this website would think that Unsplash is a great thing for photographers because it shows up in every. single. article.

I really wish you guys would give Unsplash a rest and take a few minutes to create your own images. Or at least pay for stock photos and set an example for how to support the industry rather than undermine it.

dale avery's picture

That's a very good point.

Robert Nurse's picture

A good image to use would have been of the client who's not doing right!

Jonathan Brady's picture

This topic has been beaten to death by myself and others but they couldn't give any less of a f&$# what we think. Until and unless it impacts their bottom line.
Seriously, it's a small fire they can't be bothered to piss on to put out.
They don't care about their community. They care about what their community can do for their pockets.

David Crossley's picture

Well put Lenzy. And why can't Jack Alexander/Fstoppers publish an article pertaining to how damaging "Unsplash" is to what's left of the stock photography market?

Joe Healey's picture

Hey Jack, thanks for sharing this. After looking at your website, clientele and published credits all I can say is good for you. Your work is stellar. I'd be disappointed in that weak reply as well. It's nonsensical.

Jack Alexander's picture

Thank you Joe!

Ivan Lantsov's picture

you dont get thanks, that is what money is for!

bill bynum's picture

It seems at your level it wouldn't matter as much, just get paid more and then credit yourself in your portfolio. What is what should close the deal to get work. But, I have no idea what being on that level looks like really.

ADAM DADA's picture

Lol artist gets paid and wants exposure instead.

liliumva's picture

Were you paid for this gig? What does your CONTRACT say? I mean saying it in emails are nice, but what did they sign and agree to? It sucks, but eh, if you got paid well I wouldn't sweat it. If it frustrates you that much you should make it apparent in a huge, bold, large numbered font in your contract so they see...or charge way more.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Just read: he says it's in his T&C's, which by definition are the contract. If the artist agreed on this, then end of story: they must comply!

liliumva's picture

But that's not what he said... "As is standard practice when sending over final images, *I insisted that any pictures posted must credit both myself and the publication they were taken for*. Also outlined was my *policy* that any social media posts must make reference to the feature, and that any images used to promote anything other than the shoot itself (a new track, gig, tour poster, etc) would be invoiced for. "

An email doesn't always mean it's legal, depending on the context and when BOTH parties agree to it. He then mentioned "I replied, making reference to my initial *email*. Accompanying the high-res download link was a *clearly worded message insisting that tagging on social pages was essential*." He said this AFTER the fact, not in the contract. Saying "So hey Joe, you need to tag me. K THNX!", does not make it legal. It's a courtesy, esp if you're paid for it and you do not have it boldly listed in your contract.

Regardless, if he's getting frustrated over this need needs to up his quote. Esp. if they chose to delete it entirely on their own accord rather than having to deal with this issue. You should get paid enough not to care, and only have to deal with *real* issues like infringement and misuse. That is, again, unless you have it in a legally binding document such as a signed contract.

With that said, if someone like an artist or label wants to find you because of the work they've seen, they will.

Johnny Rico's picture

They arent your client, the magazine is your client or did i skim it too fast?

Brad Delaney's picture

When I charge people I don't expect them to tag me. Some will anyway which is nice. I always ask for a testimonial where I state that tagging on Social media is appreciated. If I do a collaborative shoot with a model or Company, it is part of the deal. If they don't tag me they understand that they will receive an invoice.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Artists that I used to photograph were indeed more or less aware about copyright, but only when it comes to music. They had no clue about photographers. Their managements were even worse and the usual answer was "you should be happy enough to have been given the chance to shoot X or Y, so shut up now". I've never felt more sane and relaxed since I left this business altogether years ago.

alberto cabrera's picture

In 30 years in the business, I never seen a photographer get credited for paid commercial work. Editorials, yes. It's common practice. But for commercial work? Nope.

Andy Barnham's picture

I agree, however in this instance my reading of the article shows the shoot was editorial and moral rights were asserted.

Andy Barnham's picture

Unfortunately, for me, there are several pitfalls here;

1. The musician was not the client, the magazine is. Trying to control images with someone who is essentially a third party is itself problematic. Added to which the photographer was dealing with an agent, not the musician themselves, which adds in another link, further separating the photographer from the musician.

2. Contract; all clauses should be in your T&Cs, sent to all concerned at the start of a project, not added towards the end of the process.

Vladimir Vcelar's picture

It depends who your client is and which country you're from. Different countries have different laws. If a paying client posts any of my images publicly, I make sure they sign a legally binding contract where my intellectual property is credited and protected. If they use my images to make money, they must state so in the contract, and either extra payment is required as compensation for copyright usage, or a as-per-sale commission is payed out accordingly. Doing it behind my back and seeing my work out there where others get the credit (and money) is theft, insulting and plain wrong. This also goes for the "exposure" argument some clients push for, making money off you while you struggle to put food on the table.

Jim Dugan's picture

I understand wanting credit but I think it's frankly the sign of an amateur. Once you get past a certain point, it's all about the Benjamins. And one of the big problems with that beginner-level need for credit is that there are people who think credit should be sufficient compensation: "Well, I gave you CREDIT! Now you want to be PAID? That's so unprofessional." FU pay me.