[UPDATED] "Wedding Chicks" Blog Breaks Terms of Service to Make More Money

[UPDATED] "Wedding Chicks" Blog Breaks Terms of Service to Make More Money

Wedding Chicks has responded (located at bottom of article).

Advertising utilizing social media has been an uphill trend for those of us in the photography profession, but when does it become unscrupulous for a company to charge photographers for more exposure using their social media sites? When the social media sites say it's against their terms of service, apparently. Wedding Chicks, a popular wedding blog, is doing just that to wedding photographers on Pinterest and other social media sites.

I was going through our Fstoppers Facebook group when I noticed a very irate post about the wedding photography blog charging photographers money to post their photos and information on their social media sites. The poster was Dina Douglass of Andrena Photography, a very influential wedding photographer based out of Los Angeles, who was named one of the top wedding photographers in the world by American Photo Magazine in 2011. So, of course this caught my attention right away.

 

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Her complaint was the fact that Wedding Chicks is charging photographers to have their content posted onto their social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. For their Pinterest social media account they are charging photographers $100 to pin three photos onto their account and $150 to pin five images, as shown on their advertisement below.

 

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"When I discovered that Wedding Chicks was offering to pin images to their Pinterest page for a fee, I was disappointed as it reminded me of the slippery slope that we’ve been on as an industry. Generous photographer contributions are the foundation for wedding blog businesses. Pinning images for a fee seems to take advantage of photographer generosity. I have to wonder where this is going to end." -Dina Douglass

It's not just Pinterest that they're charging money for though. If you want to be featured on their Facebook page without buying any actual space on their blog, that will cost you too. For example if you want a simple social media package it will cost you $200 for two pins on their Pinterest account, one Facebook post on their Facebook page and one tweet on their Twitter timeline. The prices go up with the more social interaction you request. You can see their social media packages on their media kit.

 

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Now you might be wondering why this is news at all. You see it across social media platforms everyday. Companies that charge advertisers to have their content on their social media sites is nothing new. The reason this is causing such an uproar in the wedding photography community is because of two issues. First and most importantly it is against Pinterest's and Facebook's Terms of Service (Facebook) or Acceptable Use Policy (Pinterest) for any persons or companies to charge for third party advertisements. Twitter seems to be vague when it comes to their position on third party advertising. Second because blogs like Wedding Chicks have been built on photographer content. So to say that they are now charging you to give them content to post on their social media is absurd.

I reached out to Pinterest about their Acceptable Use Policy and how it deals with situations like the one with Wedding Chicks. I asked them, "If a blog charges a photographer $150 to have 5 of their (the photographer's) photos pinned onto the blog's Pinterest account/board is that a breach of your ToS?" Annie Ta from Pinterest responded quickly, "It's a violation of our AUP to pay [charge] directly for Pins as per this section: http://about.pinterest.com/use/#compensates-pinning."

So, the argument on whether it's okay for Wedding Chicks and blogs like them to charge people to post on their social media (Facebook and Pinterest) is a moot one. The answer is a simple "no." Nonetheless, the debate did reach to Facebook and Pinterest where photographers around the country shared their disgust for the blog's business practices.

 

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Wedding Chicks took to Twitter to defend their advertising model.

 

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It's one thing to charge someone for a sponsored post on your blog and then out of courtesy plug that sponsored post on Facebook or Pinterest, but you simply cannot charge directly for those posts or pins. Wedding Chicks is under the impression that it's providing a service to their vendors when in actuality they're performing a disservice to photographers. As blogs we thrive on content provided by photographers, especially wedding blogs that are built on the backs of the imagery that wedding photographers provide. So, to charge a photographer for content that the photographer under normal circumstances provides to them to help keep their blog fresh, engaging and read-worthy is beyond absurd, and in my opinion, an insult to photographers everywhere.

You as wedding photographers help keep wedding blogs in business. If it wasn't for your imagery on their sites, no one would bother to take a second glance at them. Now am I saying all advertising with them is wrong? Absolutely not. If you want to be featured on their blog (and not invited to be featured) then sure they can charge you for the exposure. There's no rule against that. If a company wants to put advertising space on a blog, there's nothing wrong with that either (although there are people who would argue that point). As a potential bride I don't know how much trust I can have with a wedding blog (not a directory like WeddingWire.com) that charges to have photographers featured on their website and does not just feature photographers based on talent alone.

"I'd like to see wedding blogs adopt a set of standard practices that ensure fair treatment for contributors. At a minimum, I strongly believe photographer credits should be posted directly on photographs. This practice would ensure that the creator's identification would stay with their work, even if the photos are re-shared on other web sites, blogs or social media. Most wedding blogs don't allow on-image credit and this practice does a huge disservice to photographers seeking to protect their work.

I'd also like to see wedding blogs adopt content ethics that are more in line with journalistic standards. To that end, I'd suggest that wedding blogs that employ pay-to-play marketing identify paid content as “paid” or “sponsored.” This kind of authentic transparency would do a great service to both their readership and their contributors. While many photographers enjoy the enhanced visibility that wedding blogs provide, the pendulum has swung so far in favor of the wedding blogs that many photographers feel they consistently end up with the short end of the stick."- Dina Douglass

As a blogger for Fstoppers I couldn't agree more with Dina. How do you feel about wedding blogs like Wedding Chicks breaking social media terms of service so that they can charge you to provide them with content?

Wedding Chicks' response to Rebecca Britt:

"Firstly, we wanted to let you know that any of our Valentine's Day promotional pin packages, that have been purchased alone and part of a larger advertising package, have been refunded and issued an apology.

We apologize breaking from the Pinterest Terms of Service. We had no intention on doing that and have tried to rectify the situation.

There also seems to be a confusion around submissions/features and advertising. Every wedding, styled shoot, bouquet recipe and diy project that you see on our homepage is featured at no cost. I see that you have our media kit, so you know what we do consider to be advertising. The above homepage features are not part of that."

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117 Comments

Wedding Chicks wants to pay you ( the wedding photographer ) for entire blog post made up of your work with a link to your site. If they can pay you with a link to your site, then you should be able to pay them with a link to theirs.

We all know that's not going to happen.

So according to Wedding Chicks, vendors were "asking" for this service? I'd have to question how many vendors actually asked for this service. I can't imagine that request was made enough to warrant Wedding Chicks implementing it out of demand.

Exactly. Show me the emails.

I'm sure there were companies asking for pins and posts that they weren't already featuring. They probably had so many requests that they thought they might as well monetize it if they do it. You've got to love the lengths greed will go to.

How much value does having a couple pinned images out of ~20,000 images even bring you? That is a giant sea of images for any bride to look through and the right bride even happening to stumble across your image is slim anyway.

Simple. Stop giving away your images to Wedding Chicks. Or, perhaps we should start charging them accordingly.

Greg Tennyson's picture

I hadn't heard of these women until today. They sound like a couple of talentless hacks who troll the internet and repost other peoples intellectual property. I'm going to browse their site and if they have any of my images posted they'll be hearing from my lawyer.

They don't post images without permission, not that I've EVER heard of.

Trevor Dayley's picture

What a great article. Interested to see what Pinterest does to their account?

Yes, I would like to see how Pinterest swiftly takes an action when they know there is clear violation.

I think it's stupid, but I guess this is aimed at newcomers to the industry? Someone who wouldn't normally get picked up by any wedding/photography blogs can now pay to be featured on a very popular blog.

But at the same time, Wedding Chicks is completely devaluing their brand. When word gets around that the only stuff featured on their site is stuff people paid to have there, no one is going to care.

Even if it wasn't against the terms of service, this practice feels unethical considering the amount of free content vendors provide them with. The very content that keeps their audience count high enough to successfully charge a premium for advertising.

Lovely. I'm not going to waste any thought on this. It's wrong and against the terms of agreement, so it's really easy to see the fate of this scam.

Yes the simple answer is for photographers to stop giving away their work. Unfortunately, there will always be those willing to try and go against the grain to gain an edge or get some traction when they are just starting out. This is very similar to the issue with newbies charging next to nothing and trying to undercut the industry by being "affordable" ( cheap)

Curious why Pinterest hasn't given them the boot, since it's against their TOS or whatever they call it.

Mark Weikert's picture

I am too. If this were facebook, they would probably have their account suspended by now :)

I honestly don't see how this is any different than Facebook, which was built on the backs of its users providing it with free content, now charging Businesses exhorbitant amounts of money for that content to be showed to anyone. Sure, it's their platform and they can do what they want, but it still feels exactly the same. I understand that what the Wedding Chicks are doing is against FB's and Pinterest's TOS, but that's the only thing that makes it any different.

I can understand where you are coming from here, but Facebook was built upon the premise of communication and connection and could exist without quality photography. The more accurate analogy would be if Facebook would begin to charge its users to use the site period. WC *needs* the photography to maintain its number of viewers.

I think it would be pretty easy to argue that FB took off because of the photos, not the other way around. It is definitely the most popular photo sharing site on the Web.

Greg Tennyson's picture

If we, as a community, agreed to file takedown notices every time they failed to pay for photo content their website would die, and FAST.

Greg Tennyson's picture

The business model won't last if it's not tolerated by the people subject to it. It'll be forced to evolve or end up on a list with Blockbuster and other companies who failed to keep pace with innovation.

People are realizing that they're seeing paid ads on facebook and the people paying for the ads will begin to notice a decline in their effectiveness and hopefully stop paying for them.

I don't mind paying for advertising, I do it every day. But they need to be effective and the way FB currently implements them they hardly ever show up to the people that are supposed to see them.

Prime example for what happens when you give your content away for free.

This is Exihibit A in the case of Photographers thinking the world revolves around them. Every other business in the world pays for advertising, but when someone asks a photographer to do it, they get outraged and make comments like "You should be paying ME to feature my work!" or "You wouldn't even exist without work like mine!" or "Your industry is built from my generosity!" How self-important can you get? Wedding Chicks has 4.6 million followers on Pinterest. They are offering a chance for anyone to get in front of those followers for a very low fee. Pinterest TOS aside (which is its own brand of hypocrisy), it's brilliant, it's inexpensive, and it probably has a very high rate of ROI. If you don't like it, then get a feature on their blog and get pinned for free, or pin your own work and hope that it gets in front of 4.6 million eyes on its own. But please stop acting like the entire wedding industry should bow down and worship you. We have all built our businesses on the backs and generosity of other vendors, as well. Florists, makeup artists, hairstylists, dressmakers, venues - they don't charge us to feature their work. Imagine if bridal gown designers everywhere started revolting against photographers, saying "They should be paying us to feature our work on their websites! They wouldn't even exist without us!" At least we usually get credit when our work is posted - how often is the full vendor team credited when images are shared on Facebook or Pinterest, or even on our own blogs? Good grief, some photographers even CHARGE other vendors to use photos to show their own work!!! Can you get any more hypocritical?? "I'm going to show off your work for free, but if you want to use mine, pay up." Photographers think the wedding industry revolves around us, while systematically ignoring and taking advantage of the many other vendors without whom our work would drastically suffer. Maybe it's time Fstoppers write an article about that.

The wedding industry is symbiotic. We all work together, we all depend on a slew of other people doing a good job to make our own work look good, and none of us is so important that we deserve special treatment. Everyone gives their work up for free in the media marketplace in the hopes that brides will choose them. EVERYONE. Not just you, precious photographer.

Good for Wedding Chicks. It's a brilliant idea, one I will probably be taking advantage of. 4.5 million impressions, 5 times, for only $150? You'd be crazy not to.

Contrary, long, and not terribly persuasive.

A Classic Stacy Reeves post!

It is so nice to know we always can count on you, Stacy, to show up to the latest industry fight and argue against common sense.

Way to shill for the Wedding Chicks, girl. Maybe they will appreciate your support so much they give you an extra pin or two.

And we can always count on the anonymous cowards who don't have the balls to put their names to their words.

Patrick Hall's picture

Is it advertising if they don't link to your site or have your logo on it?

My understanding is that with the pay-for-pin package, they will pin any image you want from whatever site you want, so if you want those 5 pins to come from your website, with your logo on it, then that's fine. That's the difference between paying for pins and getting them for free. When you pay, you make the rules.

[..Pinterest TOS aside...]
Stacy, I think you missed out on the ENTIRE (sorry to yell, but there is no underline here), point of the article. The point was, to recap: It's okay to charge whatever you want for decent exposure.
But it's not ok to charge bypassing pintrest or facebook.

Compare to the superbowl:
30 sec cost like, what? a million bucks, but instead of paying it to the televison company now the NFL is holding out their hand for the check.
That is what the post is all about.

If that were the "ENTIRE" point of the article, I would agree with you. But it's not. There were multiple comments in the article insinuating that even if this weren't against the Terms of Service, if it were totally fine by Pinterest and Facebook, it would still be some horrible greedy unethical thing. Note the inclusion of Dina's post, which has nothing to do with the TOS or rules, and has everything to do with the wedding blogs owing something to photographers, which is a sentiment I find ridiculous.

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