Welcome to the latest article about an ever growing problem that is copyright theft, fake photographers, stolen images, and yet more worryingly people buying wedding photos and using them as their own work for their business!
Today I will be explaining what has been happening, what to expect, and what you can do to spot them and hopefully save yourself a lot of money and heartache!
Its something I am seeing become increasingly common in the field today, and with people preaching “copyright free” (which is a whole other article on its own) its no wonder so many people out there think its acceptable to advertise some one elses work as their own for whatever misplaced belief they have in their head.
So lets start off stating the obvious, if you are thinking of doing this, you are committing FRAUD. Most important is you hurt the clients, then you hurt everyone else in the industry who picks up the pieces and fights for trust on what is a very challenging job. And if you are doing it intending to defraud people……. Well the law will handle that.
To The Issue Of The Fraud Photographers
The way it originally used to work was people literally just stole wedding images, or entire albums off peoples websites or blogs. Never local photographers (we tend to notice) but off the sites of some other photographer thats much further away. Whether that be the US, of some where in Greece! It happened and it was difficult to catch them until TinEye and google came along with its reverse image search (which I will advise you how to use!).
But now as a revelation in events, and I am shaking my head in disbelief at this, people are buying stock images and using them to advertise as a wedding photographer passing them off as their own. How they can still think it is perfectly legal or respectable because they paid for the images is still beyond me on that one.
How To Spot Them
Now this is a tough thing for those neither internet or image savvy, but one of the first things to spot is typically if they have 2 or more sets of very contrasting images. We photographers typically fall into a certain variant of style in our work, but you will see a consistency of the images. Posing, light quality, and most important typically all from the same country! Where as on these sights you will at times see very amateurish photos no better than snapshots of the family alongside some very sparkly ones you would think to see in a glossy magazine.
Second thing to look for is where the wedding looks like it is based, if there are many that look like they are somewhere very sunny or in other countries there are certain characteristics you can spot.
An example being eastern european countries with their elaborately painted churches, obviously hot climates with palm trees and accompanying architecture and culture brands as well as the participants having typical bone structures in the face.
Alternatively, in the US its often very flashy and you will see very plain new world churches and obviously brands! They tend to stick out! but the US seems to be increasingly unlikely because they, like us lot are becoming increasingly vigilant.
Third thing that typically sticks out is a new website. Now, if you are not web savvy you might want to skip this bit unless you really want to try.
How to find this out is with a WHOIS (as in Who Is but one word) request. Type it into google and you will find a few sites pop up that allow you to check it for free. Type in the domain of the website e.g. www.fraudy-photographer-website-address-here.com, and it will give you a stack of info.
Where it’s hosted, who by (though this can be kept private), who the owner is, but also, when the domain (the web address) was registered. So if it pops up as January 2014 and you are in April 2014 get suspicious!
Another thing it will show is in what country it is hosted. So if you are from the UK and it is not hosted in the UK, again get suspicious! These sites typically outside the EU (in our case) are set up deliberately to defraud people then disappear without a trace.
Forth thing to do, reverse image search! using either TinEye or Google which can be installed as an app or plugin, into what ever software you are using to surf the web (in my case, mostly Chrome and I.E).
When you have these installed they are super easy to use; you see an image, you click the right hand button on your mouse over the image, and from the drop down box of options you will see some titled “reverse image search”.
The program will then take you to a web page showing any that are listed on google or other search engines BUT ONLY ones that have been logged. So if you are suspicious you will want to do this for a good few varied images. Some will always pop up.
Typically not a UK site, but could be all the same you will see the images under a different photographers name, with different clients (typically not BOB and VERA you see some weddings relabled). And when you see different images pointing to different sites with far more images from those weddings never mind being suspicious, start to panic!
There is one thing to note about this; is that it will take you to other sites images appear and may well be the property of the photographer. You can find our work on a host of websites, searching some of the commercial work you will find it on Visit Scotland! And on certain blogs our images have been used for articles as examples. If thats the case common sense judgement will prevail!
What To Do If You Find One?
Report them! if you have gotten this far finding the photographers the images belong to just drop them an email and let them know where you spotted them. If its a foreign country,,, well that’s a tougher proposal that I can vouch for having tried to open dialogue myself. If you are feeling brave contact the thief photographer directly and advise them that you are contacting the people who the images have been stolen from and it may make them think.
If they have bought said images from a stock library,,, well there is no hope normally but if you want to tell them they are committing fraud regardless go ahead. I have not been received well when doing this in the past.
But, among the best thing you can do after attempting the above to politely resolve the situation is:
TELL YOUR FRIENDS!
If you spot a fake, tell everyone you know so they know to avoid them.
If you have followed my steps you will have a fountain of evidence to back it up to and I suggest you present this as well to back it up.
Its the best thing that can be done is to starve these fakes from getting the victims they are looking for.
And best of all, you know you have saved someone a great deal of pain and suffering, and yourself.
I hope this has been of help to many of you out there, as you may gather this is a matter close to my heart having had people coming to me in tears presenting the bad photos of someone else asking if I can salvage it, or that someone ran off with their money having never showed to the wedding looking to mock some photographs in their best dress.
Until later, all the best and happy hunting out there for your perfect photographer!