[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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118 Comments

Previous comments

Greg, your comments are really just getting comical now. Yes, the pictures magically appear on the blog, the little fairy comes and sells advertisement for them, and elves run around making sure all the backend infrastructure works perfectly for the 3 million views a month that you don't have. And Santa Claus comes once a year and makes everything all perfect.

Come on, really?

greg tennyson's picture

They post other people hard work on their blog. You're not going to convince me it's hard work.

One day, in a very distant future, when your own blog hit the viewership they have. You will remember you once said "it's not hard work." I don't care what you post, that's a very significant viewership and doesn't just happen magically. Takes hours and hours of picking out right materials, formatting, constantly trying to make the blog better. It's hard work.

Oh and by the way, as wedding photographers, we are always posting other people's work. The florist that put the bouquet together, the designer that pulled the whole look together, the makeup artists that make our brides look beautiful, the list goes on and on. So to say it's "my work" is being
disingenuous. How big is your ego?

greg tennyson's picture

It's pretty big.

Working a Wedding with the other vendors is a collaborative effort. Someone I've never met using my intellectual property isn't the same thing.

srsly!!!! A table with nothing on it or a bride without a gorgeous designer dress and beautifully designed hair isn't very interesting!

Don't forget that now rather than doing any kind of hard work (finding, researching, and contacting great artists) they have instead just propped their feet up not only expecting it to come to them, but to be paid to post it.

Actually, I dont think it is "illegal". It may be against the TOS of pinterst but that is a far cry from being illegal. No laws have been broken

Honestly. Probably many sites doing this not in public... You know, the old fashioned way...

This isn't new, I know many places, at least in facebook, that charge for a place in a certain group or page, even when you can actually pay facebook and get better price and coverage! Obviously this kind of things are sadly targeted to an ignorant audience.

Turning on the people (photographers) who helped you to your dreams is like turning on and hurting your own parents......

I wonder when FStoppers will start charging for Photographer posts ;)

lol

Rebecca Britt's picture

Never, that's absurd!

I would never write for a blog that required photographers to pay to be featured there.

I was being Facetious :P

I know FStoppers wouldn't start charging people for posts.. thats what they are built on! Its strange the bloggers haven't realized that without their wedding photographers/videographers they wouldn't even have a site!

blog$

What if, just IF, Facebook and Pinterest actually either ignored or amended their TOS and started to coop with blogs to share in the cash.

Facebook and other social media sites are continually looking to mine new revenue streams. What's to stop them from using this tactic to do just that?

Genuinely asking here...

i really, really, really, really, don't understand what the big deal is. Maybe I'm missing something. This is just another platform for people to advertise. Just like people pay to be featured in print magazines. Oh you didn't know? Photographers & wedding planners PAY to be featured in print magazines. Where's the uproar about that? This happens everywhere. People pay to be on preferred vendor lists, people pay referral fees, Where's Dina Douglass on that? Completely ridiculous. it's just all advertisement.

So there are two arguments.

First argument is why should a blog charge the photographers that give them the content in the first place. Very simple. This is extra exposure. Not something they do for a feature for free. No more different than paying for an ad on a blog for that special banner on the top of the page. People pay money for advertisement. I've been approached by a local cable channel to be 'featured' on their local vendor spotlight section. But I have to pay them $2000 to be featured. How's that any different than somebody paying $150 to be pinned 5 times? We, as business owners, then have to determine if the cost is worth the investment. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with blogs providing another form of advertisement.

If the argument is that we should all be paid for our 'art' when we provide them to magazines & blogs, because they are making money off our images. Let me ask you this. When we, photographers, do stylized shoots. Do we pay every single vendor what they normally charge? Or do we trade/bargain/barter as much as we can? Isn't it then hypocritical to say 'pay for my art' when we aren't willing to pay others ourselves?

It is all about the purpose of the content; if it is advertising to increase the artist/photographer's exposure and get more business then I can't see why a fee should not be expected. However if the host is using that content not strictly as advertising and more as embedded content in their site for their own benefit then there has to be some negotiation and in most cases the fee will be to the artist/photographer or sometimes free to the host if the benefit is mutual.
The only think I would ask is that the site makes it clear what type of content i am looking at; paid for(advertising) or content selected by the site. If a site is transparent then the choice always come down to the photographer as a business decision to make and viewers know what they are being presented with.

Wedding Chicks has never asked photographers to pay to be featured in their blog. This is a complete separate advertisement opportunity.

Further, let's just all stop with the 'giving away our art for free' argument. We give free albums, canvas, wall art, to planners, wedding venues, other vendors all the time. It's for cross promotion. They use our 'art' and book more clients. So, are we to charge vendors for products we give them now? Since you know, these evil planners & wedding venues book more clients off the backs of hardworking photographers, therefore we should be compensated for it!! That sounds ridiculous right? So is giving wedding blogs crap for charging money for extra exposure. It's just all advertisement.

See I thought the same thing at first, I blame the weird wording on part of some of these photographers, but what it comes down to is this, these blogs started out as a merit based way to feature your work, "you're really good, can I feature your work" then after they became well known for featuring good work, they have decided to try and cash in on that by saying "we're known for sharing good work, pay us, and we'll pretend we like yours"

Okay so something no one has pointed out is the reason that these wedding blogs exist is for wedding photographers and other wedding professionals to get their names out.

These blogs exist to get your work out in front of hundreds of thousands of potential customers every day! I am a wedding cinematographer and every time my work (wedding or styled shoot) is featured on a major wedding blog (including wedding chicks) I will book at least one wedding from this exposure.

These blogs exist as a location for brides (our clientele) to come and see a huge amount of vendors. This is usually the first place these people go to see photographers, cinematographers and other wedding professionals, and I can guarantee that any wedding professional's website doesn't get a tenth of the traffic one of these blogs gets. So it is a huge deal to be featured where you can get a high level of exposure for your work.

All of these blogs, though they do not normally use images with logos or watermarks, all have the photographers have a "pin it" link in the blog with the photographers name attached, and any blog which does otherwise clearly state how the images will be used and the credit they will get when anything is submitted. They want to engage their readership with photographers work.

Lastly this whole debacle is about them charging for social media interaction. For the majority of people (I know some photographers and wedding professionals who have huge followings) these blogs have a giant audience who is watching their social media and the majority of that audience is brides, the people we as wedding professionals are trying to attract. So blogs like Wedding Chicks and others can and do charge for social media interaction to share your company with their fans and put you at the forefront of their followers minds.

Yes wedding blogs needs photographers and cinematographers work for the content of their sites, but one company alone could never have the draw of one of these blogs to consistently attract a nationwide or international audience, which is where the value comes in. Sites like weddingwire and the knot charge a huge premium to be in their directories and often cost 3 or more times what these blogs charge. But fort most of these blogs their directories are based on quality where as for weddingwire and such its how much you pay is how much exposure you get (with priority listing etc)

Sorry to rant but blogs have changed my company and allowed it to grow exponentially and is an amazing resource for my brides to find me and connect with my work. The money that I spend on advertising with them (directories, banner ads etc) is well worth it because I see the return with brides coming to my site from these blogs as well as after booking telling me they found my company on those blogs. In face the wedding I filmed last night came from a wedding blog and they booked well above my average package.

So when looking over a blogs media kit, not every advertising option is right for every company but these blogs charge for social media because they can engage more brides than you can alone. Its basically a digital bridal show, but you can meet and interact with tens of thousands instead of hundreds!

What an epic waste of the time and energy it took to build an online presence. A cautionary tale though, don't alienate your customer base and/or those who helped build your brand.

F Stoppers should send WC a bill for this article.

Paid content that blurs the line between editorial and promotion in times past has been against the law. The Internet has no regulation other than that set by the owners of the sites. There is a massive discussion underway among advertising and promotion professionals regarding the ethics of it all.

We all know the alleged difference between for example, Google Ads and "organic search." And we are all aware of the efforts being made by web site owners to get on "page one." The difference between say Google and what the Wedding Chicks are doing is apparent when you see Google boxes and segregates ad content from organic search.

The real question is, do a blog's readers understand when they are looking at an ad and when they are looking at content created by the blogger that is an editorial decision based on expertise. In other words, does a bride know when she is being told/shown something published to educate and elucidate and when she's being sold something.

To be fair to the Wedding Chicks, this practice has been going on by print publications since at least 2003/2004. A well known California photographer and industry "rock star" revealed to me that he paid $4K to a prestigious magazine for a quarter page ad and publication of a destination wedding he'd been hired to cover.

What wasn't realized is that the editorial was part of the package. Instead it was implied that the event coverage was selected for both photographic and other industry related content.

It may surprise people to know that magazines used to have staff photographers that covered weddings. Those photographers, and the decisions to send them, were made in advance of the event and the staff shooters arrived with their own agenda that didn't include pleasing the bride.

Here's the risk for Wedding Chicks, who I believe honestly wanted to help their ad clients. Aside from the ramifications of unauthorized selling of ad content on the social media sites in question, is the risk of being sued by a bride. It will happen when a bride assumes an implied endorsement and her wedding photos are botched.

Admittedly, probably not a huge risk, but a risk none-the-less.

#PREACH... I get calls and emails all the time telling me that my images have been stolen. Think about it....with the new "pin it" buttons on most major wedding blogs your watermark free images can go viral with the click of a button. There definitely needs to be more respect for our industry .....let's keep this conversation going it looks like a window of opportunity....

I know one blog I won't be submitting to for free anymore.

Um, 4 years have gone by and it's 2018. Not much has changed except that Wedding Chicks now charges $500 for an Instagram post. I have just been in a conversation with them by email and they sent me their 2018 vendor guide. I've uploaded their full vendor guide at this link. https://tinyurl.com/yck5vwro