Why Photographers should Stop Complaining about Copyright and Embrace Pinterest

The Digital Rapture

As this future becomes more and more plain to me, I see a rapture of sorts, where old-school photographers clinging to the old-fashioned ways of doing things will be “left behind.” So much of the irrational behavior and anger is usually based in fear (fear-of-change, specifically), but it doesn’t have to be that way.

When it comes to sharing your photographs online, you can go in two directions. You can put small images online, watermark them and then spend some or all of the week chasing down people that have used them inappropriately.

Or, you can be like me.

Offer up all your creations in maximum and beautiful resolution to the will of the web. The web, and the universe, has a certain flow to it. You can become one with that flow and enjoy the ride. You can let the opportunity of what-can-be motivate you rather than the more poisonous fear-of-loss.

Join Me on Pinterest

I’m at pinterest.com/treyratcliff/.  I have boards with my stuff, places I’d like to visit, other favorite photographers, and design ideas.  Link to yours in the comments if you want to share.

The Big Picture – The Now of Sharing

Sharing isn’t the future; it’s the now. Before we talk about Pinterest in particular, let’s discuss an overall digital sharing strategy. Forming a solid philosophical foundation will help keep you from feeling like you’re always flapping in the latest digital breeze.

A pure artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world.

In this recent talk at Google, I talk about the importance of sharing as an artist. Skip ahead to 7:22 for my sharing strategy or 11:50 to hear about Creative Commons.

Sharing your artistic creation with one person is better than zero. Sharing your artistic creation with 20 people is better than 10. And so it goes. Furthermore, if you want people to see your work in all its glory, it needs to be available at maximum resolution with no watermark. This is my opinion. Personally, if I see an image with a watermark, oftentimes all I can think about is that annoying watermark. Maybe this is just me.

The Results of My Open Sharing

I’ve been doing this for over five years under the Creative Commons Noncommercial license, which means anyone can use my images for personal reasons such as blogs, wallpapers, etc., but they must contact us for commercial licensing. It has resulted in my images getting 100’s of millions of views in the past few years; and emerging in the last six months in Google+, where open sharing has helped me to get over 3 million followers. When I share images there, the results go crazy because of the multiplication effect. For example, the “End of the World” image below has been viewed more than 35 million times.

This photo has over 35 million views thanks to Google+. When Google+ got started, many photographers were also upset about copyright issues. But not me.

None of this would have happened if I had the opposite attitude towards sharing. There are many other photographers that know exactly what I mean and get a lot of pleasure out of people seeing their work. It doesn’t matter if it is 100 people or 1,000 people that see your work. The point is that sharing (aka communicating your vision) with others makes the artist feel more alive.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is window-shopping on steroids. It is said, in a generally dismissive manner, “Oh, women really like Pinterest.” Fool! Women rule the world! In the great interwoven networks of our Dunbar 150s (wikipedia) , it’s the women that form most of the connections between and across groups.

> Techcrunch sites that Pinterest has over 10.4 mil users and 97% of the likes are from women. Article.

I say it is like window-shopping because it is a very visual and eye-darting experience. Women have a particularly good eye at finding something that is “interesting.” Now that doesn’t mean it’s good or bad necessarily, it just means that they are interested in it. They have an ability to “gather” interesting bits – a skill that still baffles my befuddled male-hunter brain. Then, almost effortlessly, they can “pin” it to their own board — their own “window.” This window-shopping then spreads at an algorithmic rate as different users with different Venn-diagrams of interest start building their own windows, all of which adds to the growing meta-mind-share of interesting images.

> “My wife used to have an interest in my interests, but now she only has an interest in her pinterest.” – Trey Ratcliff on a lonely night…

Why are some photographers anti-Pinterest?

Many photographers fear Pinterest because anyone can “pin” an image of theirs and all copyright is stripped away. This isn’t necessarily true, because the link to the originally pinned location is still there. So, you can think of it as a hyperlink that just happens to be a visual thumbnail instead of boring text like “Awesome Photo of Disneyworld.”

Instead, now I think of Pinterest as sort of an amuse-bouche. If people are interested, they will follow links to find out who actually took the photo. Perhaps they want a print. Or maybe they would like to license the image to use for an advertising campaign or on a commercial website. Either way, people that are willing to pay you money will do their best to track you down.

Free traffic leads to real revenue

Most people in the world are good people. If they find digital art they want to buy for a print or use in a commercial campaign, they will figure out a way to get you money. 99% of your traffic is truly “window-shoppers.” They will look at your goods, take note, enjoy them and move on. But 1% will want to make a personal or business transaction with you.

Despite what fear-mongers have told you, everyone will not steal your images. Most legitimate companies will work out a proper licensing arrangement with you. Even though I use Creative Commons Noncommercial, I still license my images with the Copyright office. This enables us to sue companies that do not go through the proper channels. There was a well-publicized case lately where we sued Time for using my images in an ad for their iPad app. But that is another story. The point is that most people do not steal, and on those edge cases where it does happen, you have many reactive options.

Pinterest accounts 15% of our Traffic

StuckInCustoms.com has healthy traffic that grows every year thanks to good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. We don’t advertise or buy links or any of that stuff. So I depend on the Internet and nice people like you to link back to the site and tell your friends that you find something unique and cool.

Last month, we had 714,143 Pageviews and 234,107 unique visitors. 15% of this traffic came from Pinterest. Amazing! If Pinterest didn’t exist (a reality some photographers would prefer), then our traffic would be 15% less. Choosing to switch-off innovation is a fool’s errand, especially in today’s world. It reminds me of the scene in Anthem where the council of candle-makers becomes rather upset at the invention of the light bulb.

New Styles of Human Communication

Increasingly, we have a new way of talking to one another. It’s not through voice or text — it’s through photos. They are like Chinese characters taken to the next order of magnitude. It’s strange to think about, but I can quickly show you five photos and communicate an idea, a story, or a complex thought. There wasn’t an easy way to do that 5 or 10 years ago.

Someone on Pinterest can make a board called “Feeling a bit blue,” and they can fill it with cool-colored melancholy photos. Isn’t this just another way of making a poem? If I built up this pinboard and sent it to a friend, it’s nothing but a visual poem in a new medium. It’s just as powerful, and, in many ways, more accessible.

Pinterest is simply another way (a newer, evolving way, mind you) for humans to communicate with one another. It is increasingly the job of digital artists to inspire, share and bring more beauty and communication into the world.

Discussion of your opinions on the matter

Whenever I discuss the subject of copyright in the evolving Internet, there is more than enough vitriol that gets spewed into the comments. That is fine.

  • Pinterest is becoming a very interesting platform for photographers. I’ll definitely embrace it.

  • Casper van Zyl

    You have worked hard enough to help others and deserving of all good things that come your way.

  • Scotty Graham

    Hi Trey….totally agree with you, and you would know…most of us dream of the kind of traffic you get!! When you upload your photos to your blog, google+ or where ever, do you run into any space issues? Do you upload a jpg version of your photo or a full-sized TIF or RAW image? Some of my images could end up being over a gigabyte….wouldn’t make sense to upload those large files would it?

  • Anonymous

    Great article, Trey.  I got into photography not long ago with the primary goal of releasing the locked up creative aspect of my personality.  I have had various degree of success but all throughout I have always found it to be a sort of tonic for the soul.  For this reason alone, I create and share without asking for anything in return (most of the time =).  Thanks for the inspiration.

    -Christian Ortiz

  • I’m often defending the whole watermark saga since deciding to stop using them mid last year. It’s amazing to see how many people honestly believe it will stop any sort of copyright infringement. Anyway i’m loving pinterest at the moment 

  • I was a late convert, but I see the wisdom of sharing via Creative Commons.  It wasn’t that I had any concerns at all about people using my photos for non-commercial interests – that was always fine with me.  An attorney once advised me against using CC for fear it would weaken a copyright infringement lawsuit.  Well, it turns out that the attorney wasn’t as good as I thought and his advice confused copyright with licensing.

    The reality that many photographers have denied for the last few years is that people aren’t interested in paying for photo.  Perhaps a few folks are, but most everyone thinks that they’re free because they’re on the Internet.  Fighting that perception is like trying to hold back the ocean with a broom.  Right or wrong, that’s the way it is out there.  However, people are still very interesting in photographs.  They seek them out.

    That means sharing good photographs with the world is like laying bait for people to find you. They’ll follow the trail.  You just have to find a way to convert those visitors into customers. Since they aren’t interested in buying photos, it’s time to stop thinking that they’re the root of your economic engine.  Photos are link bait.  Something else has to pay the bills.

    I still register my photos with the Copyright office and use Digimarc to identify them.  However, I can honestly state that I have less stress now that I don’t worry about looking for infringements and I can see how the change to CC bumped my views higher.  It keeps growing, and that’s a positive sign.

  • Derek K

    I found it hard to let go of watermarks until I realized this: unless the marks are so invasive as to completely undermine the photo, they can be easily removed by any semi-competent Photoshop user, and anyone willing to steal the photo and make money from it will not be stopped by a few incongruous pixels that can be cropped or cloned out. The only solid reason I can think of to ID photos is when you place a photo in a position without any link back to your profile or website, and you want to give people some way of finding you if they fall in love with it. I don’t know if we’re at the point yet where Google can trace an image back to its original location, but it’s unlikely that the average user will know how.

    Your arguments make sense, so I took the plunge and have stopped watermarking my pics except in some specific situations. And I’m going to give Pinterest a whirl as soon as they send me an invite…

  • loving pinterest, loving looking at your photos on there! I’m an enthusiastic amateur photographer (learned HDR from you), alongside being a full-time indie folk musician. I pin about things which inspire my music and inspire my life. Thanks for sharing! http://pinterest.com/natemaingard/

  • Anonymous

    “amuse-bouche” …indeed!  
    I thought Google + was a turning point but pinterest is the larger turning point.  Full speed ahead into the future.


  • Just signed up, check it out 🙂    

  • How very enlightened. Its refreshing.

  • Anonymous

    I started playing with Pinterest this weekend and came to the same conclusion. It’s a fantastic platform for photo sharing – yours and everyone else’s.

    Trey – my only questions is this: how are you planning to differentiate your photos from other photos that you repin? Or do you care? I think it matters to some degree – photographers have not had a way to so easily share the works of other photographers. It’s important to distinguish between “I’m sharing this because it’s mine and I want you to see it” and “I’m sharing this because another photographer took it and I like it.”

  • I have also decided to embrace Pinterest – for me personally I love being able to assemble images easily that I admire and am inspired by, and the traffic to my own work is a significant source to my blog.  The main downside comes when people pin images from sites that do not give credit (I’ve found such is often the case on Tumblr and We Heart It) rather than pinning the photographer’s original site – then the photographer doesn’t get any credit and the image is just another homeless photo lost on the interwebs.  So I think it’s very important when people pin and repin images, to do so responsibly and make sure the pin comes from an original source in order to credit the photographer.

  • Yes! I love Pinterest! I just joined early last week and have already had a few of my pins “repinned”. The ones that were repinned were links to my Society6 prints. So now the link to purchase my prints is being spread around…for free. Just like that. On top of that, I’ve made a board for all my favorite shots on Google+. I had wished G+ had that feature in the past, but now I can use Pinterest to do just that. And then other Pinterest users discover the photographers I pin, and the cycle continues. It’s great!


  • Julius Eisenreich

    just because youre one exception and this kind of sharing works for your doesnt makes you a priest or a messiah. you have no right to tell the “whole stupid world” how things should be done. this is a very arrogant behavior and i can see this more and more with you. think of yourself as extremely lucky, you have created a niche for yourself, you got the money rolling and you let us know every single day, how fast the money is rolling for you. i mean, showing off your house and asking if anyone wants to buy it? seriously? just shift down a gear and be happy, but dont mock us with your pseudo-wise jabbering.

  • One of the 3% of guys…give me a follow y’all http://pinterest.com/ipbrian/  

  • Pinterest is a fun place to hangout and share valuable information. Here is my Pinterest address if anyone wants to connect. 🙂 http://pinterest.com/ekine/

  • I’m in love with Pinterest and it has driven traffic to my sites. I am the 3%!

  • I would love an invite so I can see what all the fuss is about.. any takes? [email protected] (my email) 

  • irishswtangel87

    I for one have grown to love Pinterest. I love that you joined Trey! Just one more place to access your beautiful photos. 

    If you so choose to follow.. I pin a lot (like way more than I should) and a wide variety of things  http://pinterest.com/ethug/

  • Trey, you inhabit a categorically different world than most of the rest of us.  I, like you, intensely dislike watermarks and borders…signatures and the like.  They take away from the image…they pull me out of the experience.  I don’t use them. 

    The rapid acceleration of social sharing, the internet, the sheer rate at which things pass through us these days is mind boggling and through all this noise I wonder constantly if what I am doing is worthy.  Most of the time I wish someone would steal my work…at least it would indicate some minor degree of attention.  That’s what I mean by your categorically different world.  Always know how blessed you are to have an audience.

    What I know if that HDR speaks to me in a way that is unlike any photography I have done in the past.  It transcends simple representation of a scene and approaches more how I remember a place…how that place feels.

    What I have found is an “if you build it…they will come” strategy doesn’t work.  No one will come.  At this point, I don’t even know what I am doing wrong and what I am doing right. 

    For now, I continue to do the only thing I can.  I keep producing work.  I try my best to get better.  I hope someone will enjoy what I do and share it with others. 

  • Jim Ferreira

    Yeah I’m jealous as well but I don’t make a fool of myself showing my ass. Have a nice day.

  • Invite coming your way Chris! 

  • Anonymous

    Great post Trey! I’m using Pinterest and loving it…would love to connect with others http://pinterest.com/720MEDIA/

  • Jeff Brint

    You make a really good point about trying to link your pins to the source so that the author/photographer gets the credit they deserve.

  • Jeff Brint

    You sound a little bitter!

  • Jeff Brint

    Pinterest is pretty addicting.

  • Julius Eisenreich

    Thing is, everybody knows its true.

  • Anonymous

    Trey, I have been following your philosophy about photo sharing and I am inspired. I believe that our ability to survive as a species is based on our ability to cooperate and share at a high level with each other. Fear is it’s own reward. I really appreciate the fact that you have taken this theme and continue to expand and develop it before your audience. A new paradigm is in the works. May we all come to participate and embrace new more powerful and gentle modalities of being in the world, and inside our own skin.

  • Crystal Samson

    I love Pinterest…and thanks to this article and the comments, I have new people to follow 🙂  Embrace the change……

  • Shane Stenhjem

    Truth in this matter is in the eye of the man throwing rocks. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. Your post is for your own glory, no one really wants to heard some one talk down about someone they admire. Take some time and look inside yourself and think of why you found it necessary to try a belittle someone you have never met and on his blog which most people look up to or appreciate his work. I must ask, if youou dislike Trey’s philosphy why are you here? Why are you reading? Mostly why post? 

  • Shane Stenhjem

    I like Pinterest. I have not spent much time on it yet, but I will. I am a very forgetful person and am planning on using this as another way to try and hold onto those great ideas I come across and my wishlist of props and equipment.

  • I agree completely. I follow your boards and I have seen where people that follow mine have been drawn to your photos also. I, too, put my photos out on Pinterest and I love having people pin them and share them. I am just beginning my photography career, so to me, the more interest in my photos the better!


  • Anonymous

    I have a food blog and lately there is nonstop whining about Pinterest. ‘Someone put the entire recipe in the comments so no one will ever click and come to my site for that pin.’

    My question to them would be, ‘Are you still seeing an advantage as a result of Pinterest?’ Cause if so? Quite yer bitching.  It is a HUGE part of my daily traffic; toggling between 1st and 2nd place with StumbleUpon. I’ve seen particular posts (typically one of the cocktails I post each week) get huge traffic, like tens of thousands of views as a result of it. So I love it for that reason and if someone doesn’t play by the rules…so be it. I don’t have the desire or time to be the web police.

    I also love it because I’m a visual person so categorizing and visually bookmarking things I see makes so much more sense to me than a text bookmark ever did.

    It is considered good etiquette to ‘mostly’ pin others work but I do have a couple of boards for my own, especially those cocktails!

    Mine is here:  http://pinterest.com/creativculinary and now I’m following you!

  • Really appreciate your views on this Trey – been a big topic of discussion lately.
    On pinterest – but need to get busy:

  • Jim Ferreira

     Another Thought, The guy must be doing something right if he is hated as much as you say.   

    I applaud his way of making a killing, He uses the old way’s of making money this is called good marketing and selling in volume. Sure you don’t make as much “per” unit however instead of trying to nit pic every penny out of a handful of products you sell a hundred times more for less and actually make out better.  Problem today is all this greedy falsified (potential loss) mentality. You know what they weren’t gonna buy it anyhow so making it seem like you’re losing this potential “false” revenue is just fooling yourself not others. 

    OK enough of this I could go on and on all day.  Peace Out

  • I love pinterest!!!! I wrote a whole blog on why it would be a great platform for photographers 🙂 I totally agree with you Trey!

  • For as much as I tried to get into G+, I didn’t find enough of my target audience used it – I was busy shouting into the wind, and not getting any traffic or business.

    Pintrest interests me more – it may be a better fit – so I’m asking the question:

    How do portrait photographers feel about Pintrest? I shoot mainly women, many of them are in the bellydance community (as was my wife – who doesn’t use or “get” Pintrest herself, so there goes my resident expert) – I’ve been following the “traditional” model of selling cheaper sitting fees and making it up on print costs, but have been considering going the other way – higher sitting fees, then “giving” the digital full res files away afterwards, through Pintrest, Facebook etc


  • Alright Trey, you convinced me. I took the Pinterest plunge today. http://pinterest.com/dpasillas/

  • Anonymous

    Three topics, actually. Two really related, third – not so much. To summarize:
    -Artists sharing. Home run! Great credit to Trey as one of the rare modern artists who realize that with making art comes sharing art and tries to promote and teach that. In historical times that was almost ingrained in art community. Since Disney, this crucial part of art have been terribly eroded in exchange for the Almighty Copyright.
    -Easy and full access to art online as a driver of artist income, again home run. People who do not understand that (and avoid any site, including Pinterest for infringement fear) definitely do not understand modern economy. Also, they do not understand the first topic and sharing as a part of living art community.
    -Pinterest itself. Unrelated to two issues above. Yes, it is one way through which artist can share and promote. However, it is just ONE way to do it. More appropriate advice would be: go check Pinterest. See if your intended community and/or existing community meshes with it. See if you feel good there. Than decide. Just because it is good to share and expose work on the Internet doesn’t mean that it is most efficient and desirable for everyone to do it everywhere. That part is important too.
    Related to the last is the scientific, not artistic mistake (hence greatly forgiven): “..15% of this traffic came from Pinterest. Amazing! If Pinterest didn’t exist (a reality some photographers would prefer), then our traffic would be 15% less. …”
    Sorry, but unprovable after the fact. Maybe in some future you’d be able to analyze traffic in more detail and find out if those are people who knew you from Twitter, G+,… and would have arrived anyway just this time coming from Pinterest or genuine “new people” harvested at the Pinterest. 

  • I share my photos, no watermark and size reduced only a bit (for upload and download as well as blog storage space). My blog is happy about any traffic: http://trans-pond.blogspot.com/ 
    I measure my success with my blog through the view numbers a lot (not only, though). That is why I try to keep it interesting and flowing and varied. I guess, working in photography on a hobby basis makes it easy for me to say: All fine. I do not need to sell prints. I do not need to live of it.PINTEREST is a GREAT site, it seems. I only found it today through your post, so the sharing thing goes back from you to them (that’s what networks ARE about) and I asked for invitation right away.

  • Oh, for anyone who knows: I signed up for an invite to Pinterest. How long do I need to wait (on average)? hours, days, weeks?
    Or can anyone send me an invite (like on HDRspotting.com?)

  • Anonymous

    Again I hear about how awesome Pinterest is – I’ve seen some traffic from it – but not nearly enough to consider it a worthy time investment for my page. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’d love for people to Pin Phogropathy’s photographs, but I can’t justify putting the time and effort into another social network at this point in time. 

    I’m glad to hear that SiC is growing though! Nice work Trey! 🙂

  • Gary Purvis

    Another great article Trey and thanks for including the Google talk as I’d not seen it before.

    I’m on Pinterest too at http://www.pinterest.com/spionkopred

  • The very nature
    and timing of this article is great linkbait. I’m sure its intention was well
    served. I think your comments that cast all photographers that don’t let their
    work be used freely without regard for copyright are wrong are off base.
    Everyone has different goals for how to use their work and to make a living. In
    your case using 500k followers on G+ and other avenues to market photographer
    tutorials, reviews as a revenue stream. For SIC it makes sense to market in this
    matter. For other photographers it may not be.

    We use our
    photography to market travel and rely on people coming to our website to get
    travel information. If there was no branding on the images we certainly can’t
    expect people to place links to our website. I’ve found many of our images on
    pinterest without proper attribution but your fighting a losing battle if your
    work is on the internet so you need to figure out ways to capitalize on it.

    Here’s one
    example OT but still relevant. By freely sharing your work without copyright
    how is one to find who owes the image so they can properly license it? most
    businesses using your images do not give you proper attribution.

    this seo crafted site uses your image “ranks high in google” and get
    Google traffic to monetize on their site.

    I’m not saying your approach is wrong but we all have different goals and most photographers can’t expect to 
    monetize their work how you have done. Keep up the great site and debate.


  • Steven Marra

    Months following him on G+, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the way Trey handles dissemination of his work =P

    I honestly believe sharing for personal use is a great idea, but keep looking to see how the model works for people with far smaller portfolios and followers =


    Hey, if anyone has a spare Pinterest invite… plastic.avatar[at]gmail.com


  • Traci Spencer

    Great article Trey!  I personally love Pinterest and feel it’s a great way for all to share.    Though I’ve also been involved in conversation with those who get bent out of shape when they see Photographers posting their own work.  “They shout, “that’s not what Pinterest is for!”   My response is, I’m thankful some photographers choose to upload their work, I wouldn’t have been able to Pin It otherwise.  Many portrait photogs build their Website or Blog in Flash or other form where we are unable to Pin directly from their site/s.   Pinterest  is addicting though so I time myself…  pinterest.com/bearfootliving

  • Greg Vaughn

     Invite sent.  I’ve got a few pins at http://www.pinterest.com/gregvaughn

  • Derek K

    Invite sent. Have fun. 🙂

  • Derek K

    I’m sure I or someone else can send you an invite, but we’ll need your email address.

  • I would probably class myself  ‘old school’ because I’m a believer in not fixing something if it doesn’t need fixed and although I may not like it I have to accept that technology dictates our world now and is evolving at a very fast pace – i’m fine with that. But what upsets me and makes me a bit grumpy is being told one day that the way i work and the equipment or methods I use are no good/use anymore. I used to feel inspired and encouraged coming on here to comment every day – but haven’t been feeling that very much lately. Sorry for being the negative one here folks but just thought i’d say…..

  • Patrick Mc Donnell

    Whatever works for you. You are preaching your message though (controversy  as a method of driving discussion and traffic?). Others, like me, do not share your situation. I am an amateur of 30 years passionate experience with no desire to sell my images .  Using Google+ or pinterest to ‘market’ my images is of no interest to me – I’m far too busy with making images (I am a photographer, I have no choice but to make images!) and trying to have a real life to spend my valuable time marketing my work when my objective is to make good images and have fun doing so.  I share my images on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmcdonnell/ if anyone wants to have a look!) but at 1200 pixels on the longest side and with a discrete copyright notice.  If anyone wants to use something commercially without licensing it they’ll have to show intent by  cropping out the © or by photoshopping it out which means that they’ll not be able to say ‘we didn’t realise it was copyright material’.
    Trey – love your photography; don’t necessarily share your philosophy!

  • oh great: fgimpel @ gmx.de (without the blanks, of course)

    thanks a lot!

  • Mandy Jones

    Trey – Love your photography philosophy it’s very fresh!

    Here’s mine: http://pinterest.com/mandytpb/

  • Very well said, a good argument against. I would also like to add that by giving access to full res images, how would you stop or monitor people downloading and printing your images and putting them on their wall, or even selling them on?

  • Calling myself a photographer because I own a camera would be kin to calling myself a race car driver because I drive on the autobahn so I don’t have a horse in this race, but I am certainly happy that you have been sharing your work on Google+ & Pinterest otherwise I don’t know how I would have seen your work.  Your photos ROCK!!! I’m just getting started on Pinterest

  • Lisa Hall

    How ironic that I came across your post regarding Pinterest, right after reading this post by a fellow home and craft blogger: 
    http://www.livinglocurto.com/2012/02/letter-bloggers-pinterest/ .
    I was glad to see your take on this issue, as I found the latter to be a bit overboard on the side of  “protection”.I think I can see both sides of the issue, but I lean more towards your view Trey. I strongly agree with giving credit where credit is due, but I think you are right on when you talk about a new way of communication and the job of digital artists to “inspire and share”.The world is changing so much and like it or not, we have to get on board or get left behind.I absolutely do not believe in anyone “stealing” another artists work and using or selling it as their own, but the creative commons, Non-commercial license that you talk about, I believe is a wonderful way to “share” creations without necessarily losing potential profit from them.I will admit that I am not as creative as most of the crafters, artists and photographers that I follow, but I am so inspired by them and have had my own creativity re-awakened because of them!That is why I started a blog of my own, so that I could share with friends and family and hopefully other crafters my love and passion for these things.I am a SAHW & Grandma, who doesn’t get much “social” inter-action, so for me this is a way to communicate with others, who share my passion and it gives me a sense of community and friendship.I have made and showcased several crafts or ideas that I have found on Pinterest on my blog (lisastuf.blogspot.com), but I am always careful to give the credit to the original creator and never claim projects or photographs as my own if they are not.I really love Pinterest and have found it not only motivates me to “create”, but has led me to many purchases from items I have “pinned”, so I do agree that it can be an awesome tool for driving traffic to your website and possibly a sale.
    When I blog, I try to “promote” whatever site or product that I have used in my project by including links to these various sites.
    Thank-you for sharing your beautiful works of art, your knowledge and your time here. I am so happy I found you!

  • Trey, you are such an inspiration to me. I feel blessed to have found you and your work. Your philosophy on life and art so closes aligns with mine it’s uncanny. I’ve always been told I dance to the beat of a different drummer, I’m happy to know I have someone else dancing with me! Thank you for being you :).

  • I love pinterest, primarily because it’s so visual. Thanks to these replies I’ve found a bunch of photographers to “follow.” I love it that more men are embracing the concept. 

  • Ronna Langley

    Free traffic leads to real revenue? I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to buy a print of a photographers work and couldn’t. So yes, people do want the photographer to get credit/revenue from their work. Most people are good that way.

  • Dale Estes

     I kind of agree, but maybe not as  passionately.  The site, over the last couple of years, seem to have really gone “commercial”.  I think it’s great that he can make a living out of the site, and realize that are the things you have to do order to do so. But it used to be in the earlier years, you could come here and look at his beautiful images without being bombarded to subscribe to or buy  something in the beginning of almost every post.

    Again, not criticizing, I just like the earlier days.

  • Fully agree on your open sharing, but then suing for breach of Creative Commons License conditions defeats your message of trusting people and then some. What I do disagree with,  is any message that  reinforces the idea that any image on the internet is in the Public Domain.  Pinterest discourages the use of the platform as a tool for self promotion, yet this is what you seem to be doing. It encourages members to go out and Pin material from around the web. It is only when you look at the TOS that you learn that you must only Pin material that you own or have permission to Pin. Pinterest can make some changes to make sure that only material meant for sharing can Pinned easily using the “Pin It” button. If someone doesn’t want their photos shared on sites like Pinterest, then their wishes should be respected. PS Have how many times have you looked at a photo on Pinterest and been impressed enough to look for the original source and found that either it took forever or that there wasn’t one identified, just an expired link on Google images?

  • Forgot to post mine – 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t disagree Trey.  But rather than focusing on traffic alone I’d be more interested to hear if that 15% jump in traffic could be mapped to any revenue.  Traffic is nice. Revenue is better. 

  • Anonymous

    Great post Trey. Sure got me thinking. If anyone can spare a Pinterest invite, please send to gozobond at gmail dot com. Many thanks.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    To me, it’s just more people walking into the store… I see about 1% buy something – so having more people browsing is a good thing – yes?

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Thanks for the interesting discussion everyone 🙂

  • Trey Ratcliff

    I still register my images with the copyright office.  This means I can sue anyone that uses the images in a commercial manner.  

  • Trey Ratcliff

    I agree

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Yes – super visual – that is why I like it too 🙂

  • Anonymous


  • Trey Ratcliff

    That’s okay – it’s good to disagree…  

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Sure well OF COURSE people will do stuff like steal it and print it out…  but, it’s a pretty low number.  Most people are good people and they will gladly order a print or support the artist if it is easy.

  • Anonymous

    Anything that drives traffic to your site should result in increased revenue. 

  • Hey Trey, I’m trying to post a comment. Tried three times and it never appears on this board. Does DISQUS blocking it or something?

  • Lisa Hall

    I’m having the same problem as Dmitrii. I’ve tried twice and it appears as if my comment has posted then it’s gone.

  • Cool I would love to check out this pinterest thing as well if anyone has spare invites. 

  • Anonymous

    Must. Get. Pintrest. *cough* paulternate[at]gmail[dot]com */cough*

    Seriously though, I completely agree with your points about the way of the internet, and it’s something that most just don’t grasp yet. There WILL be people who steal your work, there WILL be times when you don’t receive proper credit; It’s the nature of the beast. The fact is, there are still more good people than bad in this world, although it may be tough to see it that way sometimes. My philosophy is this: The more places your image shows up, the more chances you have of your name being recognized.

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I liked you better when you were “stuck in customs” on Flickr and I discovered your work… Eventually I found out your name and considered you one of my favorites modern artists, in the past few years, since you jumped on the social network scene your ego has inflated 100 times over.. perhaps because now there was a voice to those photographs. 

      You were the first ever flickr contact I added, according to Flickr, and lengthy 58 months ago. After following you on Facebook, and then G+, and pintrest you became exceedingly undesirable.  I stopped following you on Pintrest as soon as I realized you were only using it to market YOU.  Pulling stunts like that is what RUINS great ideas like Pinterest. That admiration I once had for you melted away.  Comparatively to you being an athlete turned wife beater….  You’re  no longer just a cool photographer with an amazing understanding of the HDR technique, you’re a machine.

    I started to actually look at your pictures (most recently) and  considered your attitude and realized they really aren’t that great. If you take away the fancy photoshop, and photomatix, you have nothing but a silly old snapshot that anyone with at least one finger could produce with enough money to travel, and a team to control the “business”. 

    It’s great that you like to share your work, but to flaunt your “team” and use the word “sue” so much, really takes away from the decent person I thought you were. Now, I realize you found a niche and you will bleed that niche dry until it’s stone cold like every other corporation on the face of the earth. You are no different, you’re ideas aren’t ‘fresh”… they’re played out.  Hats off to you..  That the stay-at-home soccer moms and “dumbed down” citizens follow your flashy colors like drones. You shouldn’t encourage anyone to give their time and creations away because they , most likely, have not been as Lucky as you.  You’re just one mean old corporation that wriggles it’s self into the fabric of our lives and ruins all that we consider “holy.”  It’s about progression right? All you are doing is using someone else’s hardwork for FREE to booster your own personal gain — and you are encouraging everyone else to do the same, disgusting. 

  • Stephen Bridgett

    John, I completely agree and couldn’t have said it more succinctly. I have no problem sharing and appreciating what others share. What is the big deal about adding discreet watermarks? It allows me to appreciate the author not just the poster, or should I say imposter 😉

  • Stephen Bridgett

    I like Pinterest in principle but after an initial foray into creating a board my initial thoughts are as follows. I like the picture browsing capability. I am a pretty picture junkie. With a Chrome extension to hover and zoom it makes picture appreciation a breeze. But, loading images one at a time (have I missed something) is too tedious first, and second; do I really want to duplicate my G+ efforts (I’m not in it for the money). I must say it made consuming your pictures a joy Trey…surely you did not load them one at a time.

  • Lisa Hall

    I apologize for the terrible formatting of my last post. I had tried previously to submit this post 3 different times and because I had copied and pasted it from my original post, it screwed up the format when I tried to repost. When I tried to clean it up, I couldn’t get it to post, so I just submitted it the way it was. Hope it’s not too annoying! LOL!

  • You can use the word “fear” to try and tilt readers into taking your point of view (“Oh, those silly dinosaurs – they fear the unknown, ha ha ha”).  However, you’ve missed addressing several things.  A: the fact that Pinterest specifically asks you not to self promote, yet you have multiple pinboards of your own works (which if you followed, you may not see so much traffic) … B: Pinterest is using your work for commercial gain – it uses your work, and other infringed works to build its social network, which in turn brings in more revenue from things like the skimlinks that users click upon.  And C: Your view isn’t necessarily the right one.  It is still, afaik, the work’s creator who has the right to decide when and where their copyrighted art may be used.  Many don’t want to participate in Pinterest’s thefts, yet you want to drag them along, and discard their concerns or desires as “fear”.

  • Anonymous

    Brian, I know what you mean. I put a photo on G+ and invite comments and see nothing. Feedback is always helpful. It gives me direction. I know what people like and what they don’t like. 
    I haven’t determined yet whether I like CC or not. For know, I don’t know if people like my photography enough to want it anyway (I’ve kept full Copyright protection until I decide). I just keep taking photographs because it is something I enjoy doing. 

    I like Flickr because even if someone doesn’t comment or favorite a photo, I can at least see if they have looked at it. I can’t see that with G Plus. I just put a few of my best photos on Pinterest to see if it drives traffic. Repins would be nice because they introduce my work to a wider audience. 


  • Aaron Reed

    Ok, I’m biting.

    First off I found it humorous that you talk about open sharing but just the other day I saw a post where you were handing out a verbal lashing to someone who didn’t link your work in the way that you saw fit. It was funny how arrogant  it sounded actually…like how dare you put my link way at the bottom of your post instead of under the image like I demand that you do.

    That being said, I DO want to respond to this post that I honestly find ridiculous and damaging to photographers out there who don’t know any better. Sure, if your product base is made up of eBooks and Tutorials than it is a great idea to generate as much traffic as possible to your site and it doesn’t matter if you give hi res copies of your images away for free. If you were trying to generate a large portion of your revenue from print sales and licensing then this idea would be nothing short of suicide. Websites like Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr and the like do not care about you or your work. The people sharing your images do not care about you or your work. If the “linking” is any more difficult than right clicking on the image, 75% of the people on those sites aren’t going to do it. In fact, they will right click, save as and they post your images without a link or even worse, as if they were theirs.

    I am confident that it must be difficult to remain humble with so many followers but if you honestly cared about the photographers you hope to inspire (if you do care about anyone besides yourself) then maybe you would consider sharing both sides to the story, explaining some of the benefits and pitfalls of each path one could take. There are thousands of overly eager “new” photographers out there who look up to you simply because you have a million followers on G+. Insulting one group of photographers, while potentially leading another group of photographers astray speaks volumes about your humility.

    Tell them the truth Trey. Tell them you became this popular by being one of the first photographers to ride the HDR wave and by being very good at marketing. Don’t tell them that if they start today and share all their images freely that they can make it because you know as well as I do it will never happen.

  • That would have been a fantastic point to make in your original post.

  • Gino Barasa

    Hey Aaron – 

    Why are you here?  Actually, a better question is what brought you here?
    Trey has a methos to his madness.  It works.  You’re here.
    I do agree that the first guy into the market has the first shot at defining the market, and Trey nailed HDR to the wall with his name all over it.  He is the unquestioned  Godfather of HDR.  So yeah, he has a certain cashe that you and I and 7 billion other screaming jerks don’t have.

    That said, what sort of advice is he suppose to hand out?  Advice on how he didn’t do it?
    I may be Trey’s original fan.  I started following him before SIC went Double Platinum.  I say this only to point out that how he talks (The advice he gives and the manor in which is gives it) hasn’t changed.  Trey has a unique view on life and business that is very counter intuitive and organic. And the dude 100% believes everything he says.  And so far he aint losing.

    I have yet to find anyone in his position that gives back to the extent that Trey does.  From photowalks to free tutorials to constant advice on how he thinks about the business of photography – Trey gives back to the community as much as anyone ever has.

    I have been following Trey, learning from him and taking advice from him and my photography business is growing.  Today I sold a large piece to a Law Firm her in Austin that contacted me after they put up a post asking if anyone knew who the artist was that had their work hanging in a local establishment recently.  Someone saw it, and told them it was me.  I have no idea who that person was that pass along my name, but they didn’t make a dollar and never thought they would.  They were just being helpful.  You throw your bread upon the waters and you might be surprised at what you get back.

    You can disagree with what he says, but to question his humility and out right say that he is harming photographers shows a lack of depth of understanding on what Trey is all about.

  • Julius Eisenreich

    “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.” So if I not worship him like a messiah of photography, I am not allowed to articulate my thoughts? Is this north-corea of Photography or what? But youre kind of right. Some of my comments have been deleted without any warning by the stuckincustoms staff, and they have never included rude stupid hate, always constructive criticism and true feelings. I wrote emails why they do that, and i NEVER got an answer.
    i am not a hater, I used to love treys pictures, his style, his art. But the focus of this blog sadly evolves from the photography to the marketing things. So the quality of his art gets worse and worse, sometimes I think he just spent 10 minutes creating a picture in a hurry, just to upload one.

  • Julius Eisenreich

    “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.” So if I not worship him like a messiah of photography, I am not allowed to articulate my thoughts? Is this north-corea of Photography or what? But youre kind of right. Some of my comments have been deleted without any warning by the stuckincustoms staff, and they have never included rude stupid hate, always constructive criticism and true feelings. I wrote emails why they do that, and i NEVER got an answer.
    i am not a hater, I used to love treys pictures, his style, his art. But the focus of this blog sadly evolves from the photography to the marketing things. So the quality of his art gets worse and worse, sometimes I think he just spent 10 minutes creating a picture in a hurry, just to upload one.

  • Julius Eisenreich

    Aaron: very well said.

  • At first I was a bit hesitant, another site to suck away my sparse time. But I caved in: http://pinterest.com/pahles/

  • So I assume you wouldn’t mind if someone stole your website and your intellectual property? Don’t worry though – you can just label the thief as an innovator and it’s all OK.

  • “Why are you here?  Actually, a better question is, what brought you here? Trey has a method to his madness.  It works.  You’re here.”

    Actually, a related Google search brought me here.  I’ve never heard of this blog owner before.

    “Trey talks a lot about “good people”. He trusts that good people will
    try to do the right thing if they can. And people who intend to steal
    your stuff will do that as well. But those people were never going to
    pay you for what they intend to steal anyway. So that’s not lost
    business. It’s business you were never going to get.”

    That’s false, actually.  The ease of use of iTunes has wrought many a dollar away from me that those artists weren’t going to get.  I may have the slight inclination to hear a certain song or album, but I’m not willing to take the time (or I’m away from home) to dig in the basement to find the cd, nor drive to the store to buy another.  However, I am willing to spend $1 for the convenience.  That’s money I really wasn’t going to spend, but because it’s so darn easy, I’ll spend it to satisfy my slight need for the music.  If it wasn’t there, I wouldn’t care that much, but it was, so I used it.  Anyways, your quote above doesn’t justify the fact that the majority of Pinterest users are stealing content from creators.

  • “I still register my images with the copyright office.  This means I can
    sue anyone that uses the images in a commercial manner” ….But….you Cannot sue Pinterest if they chose to use your images in any way shape or form, because by YOU personally posting your content on their site YOU have given up the copyright to your art and handed it over to them.

     THAT is what I as an artist have a problem with, I license my art to other companies and get credit and royalties for it.
    When I give another company the right to use any of my images I post on their site without expecting to get credit or royalties for it, I am hurting my relationship with my other licensing partners.  Why should I allow one company to use my art for free, but expect others to pay for it??  That hurts me and my brand as an artist and I’m simply not willing to do it, something for any other artist wanting to license their art to think about….

  • mylifewithmonkeys

    http://greekgeek.hubpages.com/hub/Is-Pinterest-a-Haven-for-Copyright-Violations  This article is against Pinterest. And it links to you as the opposing view…Now I have found your wonderful photography! And wise words. This was my response on that website:

    I support Trey Ratcliff’s position on this subject. It’s time to think differently about the web and sharing and the opportunities it brings. If you are going to make yourself crazy over it, maybe it’s best not to post full sized photos on the web. I know there are copyright laws, and I do my best to respect them, but I ALWAYS assume if I post something it is in danger of being violated on the web. There are laws against purse snatching, but if I leave my bag out in the open in a crowded shopping center, it’s going to get taken. I know there are issues with the fine print on Pinterest, but there are issues with the fine print on most of the social media websites, and they are a part of every day life. Think of the out cry against youtube and tumblr and even facebook…these things have been appropriately sorting themselves out in fair and reasonable ways as the web evolves. I suspect Pinterest will do the same.
    I have found amazing blogs and artists and bought off of Etsy and now follow all kinds of websites on the internet because of what I have seen on Pinterest. Most people I know who use Pinterest have done the same thing. I have more traffic to my blog because of Pinterest. I think the gallery owners, record companies, publishers, and movie makers have more to be afraid of than the individual artists…social media is the door to new opportunities for people who would have not had a chance to make it otherwise. I am not going to be afraid of the new way of doing things in this modern world!

  • Aaron Reed

     Actually Gino, I am only here because someone asked me my opinion about this post. After I read it, I felt inclined to share.

    Photo walks = exposure. Talks = exposure. This post = exposure. Not because he cares about you. Talk to me 2 years from now and let me know if your business is still growing after following the Sheppard here.

  • “I still register my images with the copyright office.  This means I can sue
    anyone that uses the images in a commercial manner” ….But….you
    Cannot sue Pinterest if they chose to use your images in any way shape
    or form, because by YOU personally posting your content on their site
    YOU have given up the copyright to your art and handed it over to them.

    THAT is what I as an artist (fine art/painting) have a problem with, I license my art to other companies and get credit and royalties for it.  When
    I give another company the right to use any of my images I post on
    their site without expecting to get credit or royalties for it, I am
    hurting my relationship with my other licensing partners.  Why should I
    allow one company to use my art for free, but expect others to pay for
    it??  That hurts me and my brand as an artist and I’m simply not willing
    to do it, something for any other artist wanting to license their art
    to think about….

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Why would I sue Pinterest?  Currently, all they are doing is increasing the traffic to my website by 15%.  I like that.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Yes – you have to pick your partners on the web… I go with companies like Google, Pinterest, etc etc — the very nature of the web is sharing and traffic-flow…  so, I embrace it all.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    This doesn’t make any sense.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Aaron – you don’t have to go the way I did.  You can try NOT sharing your images online if you think that is a better strategy.

    Just like with all my editing techniques, I also talk about my sharing techniques.  I’m not a dictator — I’m just sharing how I do things because others tend to find it useful.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Aaron, if you feel like a better method for the future is to keep all your work private, then go for it.  Obviously, I choose to share my work on FB, Google, Pinterest, etc etc.  Also, you seem to have not properly interpreted the situation.  eBooks and stuff is a very small part of our revenue.  A big part is licensing images, which is not weakened by this strategy, but in fact strengthened. 

    I notice that people see-what-they-want-to-see and it seems the same way with you.  Again, I’m not making anyone follow my lead… I’m just telling them what I do.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    I put up boards with my own work and others, yes.  But the reason I use my own work is to get-out-ahead of other people that may link my images to 3rd-party sites.  So, it’s not against the “spirit” of Pinterest.  What they don’t want, for example, is Ford making a Pinterest page that links only to their own cars.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Man – what’s up – yuo seem kind of upset… I don’t get it…

    All this activity has led to a new show where I bring in new people every week to expose them to the world, and I’m using Flatbooks to bring attention to many other artists who are producing great work.  I’ve also spent a ton of money (a big loss) on HDRSpotting.com to promote other HDR photographers.   Anyway, it makes me angry when I read these kind of comments.  To say I am “killing the craft” is, well, almost unworthy of a response.

  • Not sure why people get so upset over copyrights etc.  I’m no photographer but it’s a hobby of mine and I try to put whatever work I can online to get exposure more.  If someone abuses it, welcome to the internet… stuff is stolen and abused daily. 

    If I want to get my name out there, I would be putting my material on every social media network out there.  G+, Facebook, Twitter and now Pinterest.  

    Let the opinion of others spread your ability to do art.  To my knowledge, the majority of these websites compress the hell out of these images and the people that truly appreciate it and want to purchase, end up finding out the authors website to do so.   To me, the web for photographers should be embraced (although I understand it can be frustrating to see people abuse your work)… 

    I’d like to know the statistics on how often someone abuses your photos versus the vast amount of people who view them in awe.  Something tells me the later number out weights the abusing ones.  

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Cool – followed you Patrick ! 🙂

  • Once upon a time, I watermarked all my photos, made double sure that my copyright info was embedded into the image, and I even made sure to disable right click. I was constantly worried about who was going to steal my work. One night it hit me. I’m a huge support of open source code (I’m a web guy) and I thought, why not my photos? Creative Commons is where it’s at IMHO. 

    I now release most of my images under a Creative Commons. Take it, use it, please just don’t change it or use it to make money. That’s all I ask of people. Since then my stress level has gone down, my traffic has gone up, and I get many more compliments on my photos. I make sure to provide a full size image download link so that people can enjoy what I love so much.

    For the record, I signed up for pinterest due to Trey’s post. My girlfriend has been on for awhile but I always just thought it to be a craft/recipe site. I now see it is and can be much much more. 


  • After joining (http://pinterest.com/qtluong/) I am not sure how being on Pinterest help you being seen. I’ve noticed that before I joined, there were already hundreds of my images that were pined by others, so how will my presence add anything, esp. since according to their etiquette you’re supposed to be light on self-promotion (and therefore not pin hundreds of your images) ? Case in point, after noticing I got an enormous amount of traffic from Stubleupon, I joined the site as I was curious to see what caused it, but I couldn’t even figure it out 🙂

  • Anonymous

    All right.  I really hate doing this, because I fear it will come across as self serving, but I will tell you something that happened at the last ‘walk’ I saw Trey at.  I knew he was leaving Austin and moving away, so I told him how much I appreciated his input over the years and his kindness.   He kind of paused and then said, “Hey Gino.  I hope you know I really appreciate you too.”   He could have just rolled on and accepted my praise, but he wanted to make sure he passed some back to me. 
    Now that’s not some mind blowing interaction or life affirming statement.  But it shows that your whole “Trey is just trying to help Trey and doesn’t care about people” take is just off base.

    As for getting back to you in a year and telling you how my business model is doing …. It’s been 1 year and 1 month since I printed my first image and put it up for sale.  1 year is nothing.  In 1 year almost no one even knows you exist.  But every month I am getting more and more traffic and more and more contacts.  I put my work out there and even give it away at times to people that seem to like what I do but cant afford it.  I am already very successful because I am making money, and making contacts and having a lot of fun.  In the past my equipment never paid for itself.  I didn’t get to write off travel expenses and photography related expenses.  The last year has been so much more than I ever thought it would be.

    And it all started with Trey motivating through his posts and website and a few personal interactions from time to time at Photowalks.  Trey isn’t a personal real world friend.  I just know him the same way you do.  So he hasn’t gone out of the way to help me out.  But WOW – he has really helped me out a lot.  His methods of trusting in your work and just putting it out and not fretting over ever lost pixel have really helped me out and freed me from fears that can cripple momentum.

    But – hey – feel free to keep your work under lock and key and only let a few people see it.
    Why dont you get back to me in a year and let me know how that works for you.

  • Anonymous

    My point, that you glossed over, was that people who steal content are not buyers anyway.
    I could not let anyone see my work and HOPE that SOMEHOW word got out about what I’m doing.  
    Instead I have chosen to follow in the path of someone who has made it and made it big.
    You? – I never heard of.
    Maybe someday I will.
    Maybe someday you’ll know who I am.
    Who knows?  Anythings possible, bro.
    In the meantime – take care.
    See ya’ ’round the old Web.

  • “I stopped following you on Pintrest as soon as I realized you were only using it to market YOU.  Pulling stunts like that is what RUINS great ideas like Pinterest.” 

    Trey this is where I would have to agree. I think I’ve seen you say something like you’re going to share 50% your own work and 50% others. Looking at your profile on Pinterest it’s all you. 

    I posted on my blog today about this and your influence is what makes your activity there so dangerous.  I don’t seriously care if you want to upload 1000 images overnight there but think about those early people that did opt to follow you. 

    Feel free to read my post: http://www.nuwomb.com/photographers-please-avoid-self-promotion-on-pinterest/
    It was in the making but recent activity made me get it out today.I don’t care much about the copyright shit but I do care about how photographers intend on using pinterst.  It’s not about self-promotion.

  • After joining (http://pinterest.com/qtluong/) I am not sure how being on Pinterest help you being seen. I’ve noticed that before I joined, there were  already hundreds of my images that were pined by others, so how will my  presence add anything, esp. since according to their etiquette you’re  supposed to be light on self-promotion (and therefore not pin hundreds  of your own images) ? Case in point, after noticing I got an enormous amount of traffic from Stubleupon, I joined the site as I was curious to see what caused it, but I couldn’t even figure it out 🙂

  • Hey Traci,

    It’s not that it’s terrible to upload or pin some of your own work. Pin some of your own work from time to time but what’s happening is photographers are crazy and want everyone to see everything they’ve ever done. Pinterest is an interest graph and if you continually pin all o fyour own work is masturbating.  Put up your 9 best images – become forced to edit your photography work.  
    Do photographers need to upload their own work on this curation site just because they can? There must be some underlying fear that no one will pin their work  if they dont.

  • Yeah, and record labels and film companies should let me download their stuff for free too. I mean, it will just make me go see more of their movies and listen to the radio more.

    You don’t do this for a career do you? Why would someone hire you if you’re giving it away for free?

  •  Congratulations.

    How much of that traffic is turning into palpable business?

  • Hywel Jenkins

    You haven’t given anything remotely like copyright by posting to Pinterest at all.  Where did you get that idea from?

  •  Of course it doesn’t make sense. You don’t understand copyright and its importance.

  •  I’m not here because he shared photos. I’m here because a bunch of my photography friends pointed out a guy who is giving away his work for free.

  •  You’re making this a black and white issue. Either you’re putting it online, or you aren’t. The difference between what you do and every other photographer does is you think 15% increases in web traffic equate to more business. But they don’t. MAYBE you get a couple sales from them, but how do you know those people actually came here because you give away you’re work.

    It’s not as black and white as you’re making it.

  • Rian Hall

    I’d be interested in getting an invite from someone. [email protected]

  • Trey Ratcliff

    I do make my living from this; we have about ten employees, part time and full time.  We license thousands of images all over the world.

  • Done.

  • Pinterest already uses images in a commercial manner. It’s got affiliate links generating income for the site. Pictures shared by users are the bait to help it make money through those links. As a commercial model, it’s an improvement over annoying banner ads and popups, but it’s naive to pretend Pinterest isn’t commercial at all.

    Moreover, that’s only what it’s like now, at the start. Its Terms of Use say that when you pin content, you are granting Cold Brew Labs a perpetual royalty-free license to “exploit” and even “sell” that content. That’s a lot of trust to give a website, when you don’t know how it’s going to grow and change. Not everyone is willing to make that leap of trust.

    More importantly, thousands of Pinterest users are already using the embed codes provided by Pinterest to embed images found on Pinterest to drive traffic to their money-earning blogs and websites. So pinned photos are being used in all sorts of commercial ways. 

    For you, that may not be a problem, and I laud image-makers who are willing to take the plunge and the risk and share their work. The web will be the richer for it.However, I am not comfortable with making that decision for OTHER artists and photographers, without knowing their situation.  I do not have the right to grant Pinterest and its users a perpetual, royalty-free license to exploit and make money on someone else’s work. The content owner should make that choice, not me!

    Unfortunately, Pinterest removes that choice from the copyright holder and puts it in the hands of thousands of members who (a) don’t understand copyright, (b) frequently misattribute and link images to the wrong person, and (c) think nothing of embedding those photos on their money-earning sites. As far as they’re concerned, it’s pinned, so it’s available. For some artists and photographers, these issues are not a problem, and Pinterest is an ideal platform.  An Etsy shopowner may not find any great value in a picture of their product except as a way to promote it and get people to buy it. Whereas for a stock photographer making money by licensing high-quality photos for people to use on their websites, it could be detrimental to have everyone pinning and embedding those photos on websites for free. 

    I wish that Pinterest enforced its terms of use and made them a philosophy, instead of just a way to cover their butts in a legal dispute (if anyone sues, they can point to their terms of use and push liability onto members). I would like to see it as a place where people DO proudly share their own work and let it out into the world, so that the people doing the pinning have chosen to say, “Here, use, take, share!”  (A little like Creative Commons, something I support very strongly.) Unfortunately, Pinterest is a strange contradiction: its terms of use say you cannot pin content you don’t own or don’t have a license to share, yet its members are discouraged from sharing their own work. If one followed both policies, the site would cease to exist.

  • Anonymous

    Trey, Your words have merit. 

    In 2006 I started posting on PanOramio before it became part of Google. I loved the fact that I could Pin my images into Google Earth and was able to see all the places I’ve visited. 
    Soon I began recieving requests to buy my images for web useages and some printed media.    At that point I decided try and make some side cash off the hobby I loved to do in hopes that it would support my hobby..   I created a web gallery http://www.sacred-earth-studios.com, I connected to FB, Twitter, LinkedIn and was already on PanOramio.

    In 2010 I stopped posting to PanOramio.
    Because in the agreement to use their services I had to allow PanOramio the use of my images in their API’s. This was not a big deal in the begining. I was just happy to see my images out there and watching people comment on them.   However when I discovered sites like:
    Mappery, Oregon Lakes and Rivers, ViewPhotos, Streetviewandmaps, DBCity, xdestination  and other travel services using my images to promote their business by use of PanOramio’s API.   It really bothered me. 

    Here was my work being used and I wasn’t even being asked permission to use my images, I wasn’t even being cited and definitely not being paid…  Very disapointing..   (By 2009 I was able to add a line for my web address but the API only allowed it to link back to PanOramio)

    Now here is where your words have merit..

    For me 100% of the income I have recievd has been through PanOramio……   Not my web page, not FB, not Twitter. No referal sites.  All from  buyers emailing me when they found my images through PanOramio and Google Earth…

    I am going to have to take a new look at my rule to not post on PanOramio and look into using Pintrest as well..

    By the way here is my PanOramio link http://www.panoramio.com/user/128746

    Thanks Trey for your years of sharing your work and skills with us..  I’ve been a long time fan.


  • irishswtangel87

    You know, I’m seeing a handful of people commenting on how Trey is “self promoting” on Pinterest and it being against the etiquette. But I know for a fact after having followed him since he first posted about pinterest the other day that he does in fact post many things other than his own work. 

    What I want to know, is how is Trey posting one of his photos each day (after an initial upload of a bunch of his own, but that’s just building initial content) any different than say a chef or a blogger posting their own recipes or DIY projects that all link back to their own blogs? Seems like the same exact thing to me. These other people also post other things as well, but a majority of their content does in fact link back to their own blog, just like Trey’s so what’s the difference? Are all of these people shameless self promoters as well?

    I for one love that Trey has joined Pinterest, if not for getting more exposure to his photographs then because I seem to have very similar interests and like seeing what other cool things he’s posting as well (for example an awesome multi-level apartment style fish tank he posted yesterday).

    I also re-pin many of his photos (which I pinned even before he joined) and it makes me excited to see many of my other friends re-pinning them and getting exposure to Trey that they hadn’t had before because not all of them use G+.

  •  Michael, I think your situation is an excellent case for watermarking with your name and a link to your site. This way you still have the visibility on Panoramio and the credit (and possible referral business) on third party sites. That’s why I use watermarks myself http://bit.ly/ApEt5h

  • From its Terms of Use: “By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

    Technically, one is not ceding all copyright to Pinterest when one pins a photo. One is simply giving Pinterest the right to exploit that photo commercially (or in any other way). Also, Pinterest provides an “embed” button so that OTHER people can exploit said photos by embedding them on their own websites. It’s not quite as clear whether Pinterest’s Terms of Use imply that one is granting permission for third parties to embed pinned photos, but that may fall under the “through or by means of the…Application or Services” clause.

  • irishswtangel87

    Julie,  another thing to try,  since I just clicked over to your Pinterest page, make sure to categorize your boards. I’ve found that gets a lot more exposure too because then when somebody goes to view a category say “Art” if you have recently pinned things they will come up in that public view and get some more exposure. I’m not an artist or anybody trying to get exposure or views, I’m your average person that just pins things I like. But I noticed a lot more people starting to follow me and repin things from me once I set categories on my boards.

    Good luck!

  • Rian Hall

    Thanks 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for introducing us to another method of displaying our images Trey, I’ll take a look and no doubt love it and you’ll see me on there soon as well! From the few comments I’ve scanned it looks like an invite is needed (hdrspotting, g+ all over again….!), if anyone can spare the time I’d be grateful, thanks. [email protected] is my email.

  • Aaron Reed

    I am certainly not suggesting that anyone hide their work. No one would ever see it if that was the case. I am merely suggesting that watermarking your images and protecting your copyright is in a photographers best interest. I had a look at Pinterest after I read this article and many of my images are already there which of course I am thrilled about (lol) and most of them were linked from flickr. Underneath the image, instead of saying linked from Aaron Reed it says just that, linked from flickr. How is that supposed to help me? Yes, if you follow the link you will make it to my flickr page but with this site specifically I sincerely doubt that any business would come from it. I am curious why a company would want to license an image that everyone else can have for free. No company that was going to use one of your images in an ad campaign or in association with their product would want that same image in 1000 other social sites across the internet. That is why many businesses choose to license their images through Getty. They want to be assured of some exclusivity. If you are a successful photographer at all, your pictures will end up on some of these sites no matter what you do. We both know this. Why would I want to make it easier for them though? The fact is that I have lost business, including a couple of potentially large licensing fees because the lawyer for the company did an image search as a precursor to making a deal and when they found the image all over the place, they backed out of the deal. Now, all that being said…. I may have come across as a jerk and I’m okay with that. I do appreciate the fact that you do not moderate your responses. That is very rare. I was merely suggesting that the “power” you have with some of your followers might be used differently by posing both sides to the story instead of simply pumping up Pinterest at the expense of less knowledgeable people. Someone told me many years ago that if I priced my images at next to nothing they would always be worth next to nothing.

  • Aaron Reed

    My work isn’t under lock and key, it is just simply connected to me directly whenever possible by way of watermarks and links. I don’t need to get back to you in a year because 4.5 years ago I had never taken one photograph. I caught the bug and since then have turned this info a full time business. I license 10-20 images every month. I sell out workshops. I outfitted entire businesses with 15+ print orders  based entirely on the quality of my work and my skills at marketing all in the last 3 years. I am currently working on large business deals with multiple retailers across the US.  It is working great for me. My point is simply this….giving away your work for free will NOT make you successful when your goal is to SELL your product. 1, 100,000, or 1 million followers is meaningless as far as product revenue is concerned. You know what it will get you? Deals from companies like pinterest. They will help finance your business in turn for you helping to drive traffic to theirs. That’s all this is about. I’m not saying Trey can’t be helpful or inspire you….I just hope you don’t listen to him when he tells you that your images are worth so much that you should give them away freely.

  • This is my way to go.  Please visit and pin at: http://pinterest.com/vikpin/

  • As an artist of sorts, painting and fine art photography, I never give my work away. I stick a few photos on FaceBook at 50 dpi of insignificant events and such, but my exhibition work is in a gallery when I get the chance if I am fortunate. However, once the photo is sold, if I am lucky, it can be removed from the frame,  scanned and then prints can be given to friends and family and I have no way of finding out.  Digital has messed up everything.  I haven’t been contacted for a wedding in over a year, and yes, I am very reasonable, because Uncle Bob can get a cheap digital camera at Walmart, photograpoh little Jane’s wedding free and zip to the local drug store kiosk and make prints.  When we used film, we kept the negs and charged for reprints, that was how we earned a living.  Xerox cooies sucked back then too, so we were safe.  Not today, folks.   I am also not really a fan of self-promotion or self-importance,  so I am not inclined to have my photos zooming around in Digi-Land.  Just my point of view though.

  • “how is Trey posting one of his photos each day (after an initial upload
    of a bunch of his own, but that’s just building initial content)
    any different”

    “different” is irrelevant.  The site “etiquette” says “no self promotion”.  It doesn’t say “no self promotion, unless you’re some guy named Trey”.  Although, it is understandable, how, if one is ok with any other members doing whatever they like with regard to the rules, the rules don’t apply to them either.

  • I’m confused. If it is against etiquette to pin your own work then I am wondering on their take on Pinterest’s terms of use (http://pinterest.com.terms) They state that if you upload content to Pinterest, then you’re giving Pinterest permission to distribute, sublicense, and sell that content:
    By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, *modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.

  • “Not sure why people get so upset over copyrights etc.  I’m no photographer”

    Apparently.  Try to respect the wishes of the people who do not want their art taken and used without compensation or permission and yet are verily being forced to when it comes to Pinterest.

    “To my knowledge, the majority of these websites compress the hell out of
    these images and the people that truly appreciate it and want to
    purchase, end up finding out the authors website to do so.”

    Afaik, there is no compression.  It is a straight copy.  It would be no different from another blog stealing from your blog and using it for their gain.

  • I’m confused. If it is against etiquette to pin your own work then I am wondering on their take on Pinterest’s terms of use (http://pinterest.com.terms) They state that if you upload content to Pinterest, then you’re giving Pinterest permission to distribute, sublicense, and sell that content:
    By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, *modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.

  •  Trey, I’ve been quietly following your work for a while now… While your comments are interesting, I have a problem with the fact that on one hand, you’re saying you offer images free for non-commercial, and sue commercial infringers; but on the other hand you’re posting your images to pinterest when the terms clearly state they can license/sub-license/sell your images thereafter.  You haven’t answered (unless I missed it somewhere) how you feel about these terms?  Are you openly allowing pinterest to use your work commercially, without any compensation?

  • alvaro sanz

    I don’t really like HDR, Trey, and still I write my watermark in all my pictures. But believe me, you’ve got a fan. Congratulations for your work and way of thinking…

  • Anonymous

    Only in a vacum does 1 million follows equate to zero sales. Using that logic, 1 million people walking into a brick and mortar would also be worthless. No business would turn away 1 million potential customers.
    And you did more than say Trey couldnt help my business. You said his advise was actually harmful. I think you are naive since you seem to think your watermarks and secure site can save you from having your work ganked. But whatever. I hope your business actually is doing as well as you claim. [Who knows]. I run/own 2 companies that keep me busy and I can’t drop a 6 figure income to chase a photography dream right now. That’s not fair to my family and employees. But at an organic pace with almost no real effort put into it I am constantly amazed at how much business I am driving. More than money is at play here though. The minset is freeing. For example, I don’t feel the need to chase other artists around posting on their site about how dangerous their business model is. Just saying.

  •  most people dont bother to locate the original artist this is why its offensive  and pinterest doesn either the change the links so they can make money of others works  does this also give me the right to download free music  since nobody cares about copyrights anymore

  • harj k


  • While I am on pinterest and do share some images. I would never share images I want to use commercially. I think it sets you up to spend a lot of time chasing copyright infringement.  My work is represented by Getty Images and I still have to deal with people stealing my images. I have a guy right now selling Tshirts with one of m images on it, as his original work. I am happy to put some things out there, but I think you have to select very carefully. You can’t get them back once they hit the web.

  •  This may be true, but Christopher has a point. When is the last time anyone paid for a screensaver, or a image to put as the background to their phone. Maybe 1%. And the same would happen to music.

    What really is needed is a way to determine whether an image being used has been licensed, whether its in use on a phone or the internet. As someone said, trust but verify…you are trusting, without verifying. And trying to verify without some systematic computer driven way will drive anyone insane, or broke.

  • I’m all for sharing my creativity on Pinterest. It’s frustrating when some pinners only pin the image file. Then there isn’t a clear way back to the actual source. This was troublesome on Stumble too, especially with a photographer’s work. I’m not a photographer, I’m a craft and food blogger, so Pinterest accounts for a lot of my traffic too. Following you on Pinterest now, glad I found you. what a talent!

  • demon

    Copyright Theft is theft, good old fashioned theft, that is why it is a criminal offence – you may feel you can give your images away, that is your right, but it does NOT give you the right to accuse us that rely on it to pay our mortgage of being ‘Old Fashioned’ or at risk of being ‘Left Behind’ because the way we licence the use of our images is pretty much the same model that most software companies use to sell their software – it is rights managed.

    Just because we are now in a Digital Arena, does not mean long trusted business practices need to change wholesale – creative commons is now available and those that place no value on copyright and want to use it, that is their choice, their decision, in the same way those of us that choose not to use it.

    If I burgled your house, stole your car, took money from your wallet, I have no doubt you would be on the phone to the police demanding I am arrested – well, stealing my copyright is also theft and theft is theft no matter what is stolen.

    People are all too often these days prepared ‘blog away’ to up their search ranking and toss off other peoples methods of working because it doesn’t suit their interests to work in the same way… tough, get over it, as a Photographer with 30yrs experience of travelling the world with my camera and paying the mortgage with it, I see no reason to change!!!!

    The way I read this article was that you appeared to be more concerned about how many ‘views’ you have had and how many people are ‘following you.. personally, I would rather have 100 people following me and booking my services than 1M people following me, who 99.9% of the time never read your new blogs etc….!

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sold on the watermarks answer either…  I guess in all things there are trade offs..  Thanks Quang-Tuan

  • Because they decide to put ads to your competitors on pinboards featuring your work that you have freely licensed to them?  There’s one reason anyways.

  • Sorry, I didn’t gloss over it.  I pointed out how a system that is very convenient turned me from a non-buyer to a buyer.

    You may not know me, because I don’t dabble in HDR or whatever happens here.  I’m one of the top stock licensors on iStockphoto.  See, we can each be “famous” and not know each other, lol.

  • Sorry, you are just interpreting the “spirit” as you feel it benefits you.  It’s not up for interpretation.  It says “Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a
    photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use
    Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.”  It doesn’t say “Ford, don’t do this…”.

    Of course, since they are all for breaking the rules about copyright and ownership, there’s no reason we shouldn’t break the rules they put up as well.

  • Keep it up Trey – great post. I find it interesting that your biggest detractors in this comment thread are the ones who just stumbled in here from google or wherever. Then come to a world view conclusion about the type of person you are from one post. Classy.

    I dont know anyother photographers as famous/successful as you that would take the time to read each comment, write and re-write tutorials, host photowalks, actively communicate on twitter/G+, and host a weekly netcast.

    Hats off to you man – 

    Apparently some of these commenters are a little too stuck in customs… 😉

  • Anonymous

    Why does anything Trey says get you this worked up dude.
    You say you are secure and doing great but your anger seems to imply that you are worried he is right.

    If Trey is right, then he is right and you should have paid attention.
    if he is wrong then your world will stay the same happy place it is right now.  Right?

    So why all the anger?  You’re harshing my night dude.

  • Anonymous

    I think what you just said is pretty much the point.  You are represented by getty.  You don’t even post images you intend to use commercially.   And you still have people ganking your work and selling it as their own!  

    It’s kind of just a lot of wasted energy and striving after the wind IMO.

  • Anonymous

    How is Pinterest forcing anyone to do anything?
    How is Trey’s advice forcing anyone to do anything?

    Use it or don’t.
    Listen to him or don’t.

    You act like people are just Lemmings and Trey is leading them off the edge.
    Lemmings will always fall off the edge anyway.  Might as well get it over with.

    Everyone else can think for themselves and make choices themselves.

  • Ben Ashmole

    It’s really interesting how many people seem to have taken offence to an opinion that was clearly formed objectively. Each of the posts views and claims are backed up by evidence and reason from what I can tell.

    A bit of perspective needs to be drawn for the people reacting overly negatively i think. Unless Trey is directly impacting your business why all the angry replies?

  • I guess everybody has the own way to market the own work. I believe Trey is doing a great job the way he is doing, he is got 10 people to work for him, so he is creating job positions, which is quite a rare thing nowadays. Because of that all the respect mate!! That is the financial view of course. This is the Trey way, it may work for somebody else as well, it may not. It’s definitely a new way and only in 5-10 years we can say what is right. 
    Trey photos are just amazing. What I love a hell of a lot is what is able to take out of them, even when subjects or composition are pretty common. You have seen so many time Ankor Wat (Cambodia) for example, the same composition of Trey, but the post processing, which is the arty side of the photo, it just pulls the photo out from the average photos around. 
    What I wonder sometime of Trey is the social side (FB, G+ and now P). I “liked” Tray on FB a long time ago, but sometime it is like a virus with so many photos and links posted, re-posted and posted again. Is it too much? Is there a way to filter only the daily photo and that’s it? Sorry Trey to say that as I know you are putting a lot of effort on the marketing side. However I think that the “too-much” can work against and not in favour. 
    About Pinterest, that is another one that make me wonder. Posting link of FB of photo uploaded on Pinterest. That is a bit of spam. Moreover I really thought that on Pinterest you are not supposed to market yourself with your uploaded photos etc, not 50% not 30% and not 10%. If I misunderstand Pinterest, and I do that with my photos and everybody does that with the own work, does not Pinterest become a FB clone, as G+, of course different interface which helps every system to grow. 
    But than thinking back to what you say, you get a stunning 15% traffic from Pinterest, I am sure 100% that Pinterest owner is highly happy about having you on board after your results with G+ and FB, so they don’t really care about the 50% or whatever % you actually load, and probably they offered you a different interface to make the upload easier 😉 . At the end is traffic they have and they did not have before. I assume the people that come to your site from Pinterest love you photos, so it’s really a no brain exercise, it’s a win win for everybody. There may be a small group of Pinterest fans that don’t like this and they find sponsoring the own work as been not ethical with Pinterest basic rules….but I guess the large numbers are with Trey and Pinterest.

  • Callie Ferman

    Wow – that’s a lotta hate towards Trey.  I get the feeling that he’s not your real target and you are writing about a whole bunch of other people/groups/things that have been pissing you off. 
    It’s pretty rude to write the things you just wrote, to someone you don’t even know personally, on a public blog!  Think before you post next time.

  • Trey don’t let these hateful comments bother you- a certain percentage of people will always have something nasty to say, even if what YOU are saying is completely logical and sound reasoning.
    In regards to this whole bruhaha over marketing yourself – I think that what you are doing is super successful.  When you see a photographer whose work is EVERYWHERE, like yours, you recognize that photographer’s style.  So even if someone doesn’t see an attribution here or there, they may still recognize your work.
    Also, with Google reverse image search, it is very easy to find out who actually created an image, and find the creator’s site if you want to contact them about it.  So if an art director saw some image (without attribution) from you- and wanted to use it for a book cover or an ad, they could quickly do a reverse image search and they would instantly find your site and be able to get in touch. 
    I think you are right when you talk about “good people”.  Most people are!  Everyone has their bad days (like some of the commenters here), but most people are generally good.  Only a small percentage of people are truly evil and people like that wouldn’t be openly critical of you on your blog.  If they really wanted to do harm they would be much more deceptive about it and slide under your notice.

    So thanks for all of the great images that you openly share, the tutorials and the marketing advice!    

  • I can understand the different responses people are sharing. 

    By nature, Pinterest kind of changes the game a bit, sort of like what happened in the music industry. Pinterest is sort of like the YouTube of images in that it allows people to very easily upload and share content. That said, from what I’ve seen, YouTube does try to make it clear that when you upload something it should be content you have permission to upload (I’m not sure if this was also the case in the early days of YouTube). 

    From what I’ve seen, at the moment Pinterest doesn’t make it clear that, to abide by the terms of use you agree to when you sign up, you should only upload or Pin content you see on the web if you have the appropriate permissions. 

    So I can understand why some people are bothered by Pinterest (and similar services). At the same time, I also understand why so many people enjoy Pinterest (and similar services), and, like YouTube, I can definitely see how such a service can be helpful to many people (not just artists). 

    I feel that a nice approach to this is to, together, consider how we can all build and improve systems and services that embrace new ways of thinking while still operating in a way that is considerate of the great diversity of preferences out there. I don’t have all the answers, but it’s not about having the answers, but about seeing what we can do and create; more of a positive approach.

    Deep down, most people have a reason for doing things the way they do. It’s easy to categorise something as good or bad, but the more I live life, the more I see that there’s more to it than that–sort of like the scene from Batman Begins [spoiler ahead] where you see Bruce Wayne steal food so he can eat, while also passing some to a young boy who, like Wayne, is living on the street. 

  • Very well said Trey. Pinterest really helps a lot to everyone’s business especially for what you called the free traffic that leads to real revenue.

  • You may want to read the comments more thoroughly.   We are addressing the issue at hand, copyright infringement, yet you have shifted the discussion to “your detractors”, as if non-fanbase comments are only attacks on the blog host.

  • Actually, Pinterest is effectively “forcing” artists whose work is pinned without their knowledge, to participate in Pinterest.  If people want to provide permission for Pinterest to copy their works, that is one thing (copy, and “exploit”, don’t forget).  We are  talking about works that are copied and being used without their owners’ knowledge.

  • Amy Locurto

    You need to be aware of what is happening. When you say the link goes to the originally pinned location… that is not always the case.

    What we are seeing in the creative and food blogging community is people find and download our photos from Pinterest, upload them to their blog… then PIN THEIR BLOG POST in hopes to get traffic to their blog with our “Popular on Pinterest” photo. Many are making a lot of money with this concept. “Inspired by Pinterest” blogs, webisodes and YouTube channels are being created to make a profit from the popularity of Pinterest.

    I really don’t see anyone taking landscape photos and doing this in the creative and food blogging community. So you as a photographer with this niche might not have to worry about what is going on. But many other photographers, foodies, bloggers, designers and artists will. 

    Photo sharing and idea sharing has been going on forever, but it’s very odd at how much people are abusing and trying to gain a profit from the popularity of Pinterest. We are not seeing “Google Image Inspired” or Flickr Inspired” websites popping up everywhere now, but we sure are seeing a LOT of “Pinterest Inspired” ones. 

    Please take this into consideration when telling Photographers they should not be worried. It really, really stinks when someone uses your photo for a profit without getting permission. Pinterest is opening this up for millions of people who think it’s okay. When you are on Pinterest long enough like many of us creative bloggers have been, you can see the mis-use of photos by Tumblr website owners. They are becoming hugely popular and probably making a lot of money by using your photos on their sites with no credit back to you. 

    Pinterest is great, as long as people use it the way it was intended, as a personal inspiration board. There needs to be more education on how to use it correctly. Hopefully someday Pinterest will address this issue and make some changes soon.

  • Amy Locurto

     Pinterest’s terms of use state that if you upload content to Pinterest, then you’re giving Pinterest permission to distribute, sublicense, and sell that content:By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, *modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.

  • Aaron Reed

    Here is a REAL email I received today from someone I contacted about using my image illegally. Look what they had to say…

    This is in reply to your email in which you write that I have used an
    image that you claim is copywrite,

    Please be aware that I downloaded the image from a site called Pinterest.
    Information on that site gives one the option to imbed images from there 
    onto a blog.

    I was unaware that the image in question was copywrite. It apears that the
    image was downloaded to Pinterest from another site which was also not your

    The image I downloaded was not used for “promotional purposes”, but
    only used to illustrate the subject of my blog writings on that day.

    I do not use the work of others to promote any business or make any money.

    I regret and apologise if I have inadvertantly used your image without concent.
    That was never my intent.  It has been removed both from my blog and from
    my Pinterest boards.

    Enough said. Pinterest = BAD.

  • Not everything is rainbows and unicorns, Callie.  These are adult craftspeople debating important issues related to their livelihood, the future of the medium, and copyright in general.   You’re not Trey’s mommy, and his skin is thick enough to take on legitimate criticism.

  • Ok, I caved. Mostly because I’m curious to see what effects pinterest will have on my future traffic/web presence. Thanks for the post! 


    not much there yet, but there will be!

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Hehe cool – hope you have fun Daniel 🙂

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Well, the guy took down your image… most people are reasonable.  And I would say that Pinterest is neither good nor bad – it is what it is. And, well, it’s not going away.  And neither are the successors to Pinterest that allow everyone to mass-copy digital things.  It just is what it is.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    I think I see what you are saying — but the point is larger than me.

    I’m simply showing the way of the internet – the flow of the future.  Pinterest is HERE.  It is NOW.  It is neither good nor bad – it just is what it is.  You can’t hold back the wind.  Technology and the flow of information always change business.  Yes, ways of copyright work great in a paper-based world of finite goods.  

    I’m simply telling you what I have been doing and my attitudes towards sharing.  I could keep all my methods on using the internet a secret, if you prefer.

  • Aaron Reed

    Can I get an invite so I can start contacting people using my images illegally? I can’t even comment on that damn site without one.

  • Aaron Reed

    Can I get an invite Trey, so that I can start asking people to remove my images? Hook a fellow up please.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    BTW – with Getty taking 70-80% — it’s not that far off from 100% piracy…  !!

  • Trey Ratcliff

    What yo’re saying is not really intellectually consistent.  No one is saying that commercial use of an image without proper licensing is okay.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Adam – you have to choose who you’re going to “get into bed” with on the Internet.  Google has the same sort of terms.  Essentially, I don’t really think that Pinterest is going to be selling my images to third parties.  Yes, Pinterest is “using” my images.  In exchange, however, they are sending me tens of thousands of visitors to my website.  That’s a pretty good exchange… and how the internet works.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Yes – I think I am within the spirit of the site… if you look at what I pin… I think I mostly pin other people’s stuff that I think is interesting…  now, I DO post my own stuff, but that is part of a strategy of making sure the original source of my work points back to here instead of somewhere else.

    For example, I’d rather not have people pin my stuff from Flickr… I’d prefer this blog to be the source.

  • Trey,
    While I do enjoy having you as a pinterest friend, as well as a friend on my other social networks, your excessive pinning clogs my feed, lol. I never get to see anyone else’s pins! Can you slow down a little, as a friend of course. 

  •  I love Pinterest and I am a photographer who has some stuff on it http://pinterest.com/sarahwphotograp/

  • Anonymous

    Pintrest sucks because their mobile interface sucks. If you HAVE TO download an app to view a link someone tweets about, that link doesn’t get viewed. You can’t see photos full screen on Pintrest’s website if you visit it on your mobile device.

  • Thank goodness for someone finally saying something sensible about Pinterest. 

    To be honest I’m thrilled that most photographers are hiding their pictures away for fear that someone uses them noncomercially without permission. To adapt Tim O’Reilly’s quote “The real problem for most photographers isn’t piracy, but obscurity.” The more photographers that choose to remain in obscurity, wasting their time worrying about stuff like this, the better for the rest of us.

  • Would love for all of you to stay here and defend your antiquated paradigm…forever.   With your cameras collecting dust.   

  • They’re not forcing anyone.  If they images are online, what’s the difference if it’s on their blog, facebook, google+, pinterest etc?  

    Why wouldn’t a photographer be HAPPY to have their work spread across the internet and let people gain knowledge of what they do and who they are? 

    If you don’t want to see your art work spread across websites, then you shouldn’t be putting it online in the first place.  

  • Jennifer Bailey

    Umm, who invented this “etiquette” because if you login to Pinterest it clearly *asks* you to upload your own work and create content to share.  

    I think people just get butthurt and whine.   Like everywhere else on the internet if they aren’t popular.

  • Why do you feel this is non-commercial use?  Not only is Pinterest using the infringed works to build its network, which builds its income from things like Skimlinks, and probably, sponsored ads in the future, but many “pinners” are using the works of others to try to build their own businesses.

    If you’re happy giving the rights of your works away that is your choice, but calling people “obscure” or “antiquated” for their choice to control their works as they see necessary for their business, is unfair.

  • my story is a sad one. I;m on the fence about Pinterest and here is why.
    about 2 years ago i changed careers to become a travel hdr photographer, thus far i’ve made no money from it. I’ve tried all the social networks, fb, twitter, panoramio, redbubble, flickr, smugmug and g+. I post and link my images to smugmug where i have a pro account. yet no one has ever bought an image from me. i read the erms and it scares me when i read that they can license, sell and modify my images. it makes me feel like i’m handing over my work, my dreams to a businessman i’ve never met before. how would i feel if pinterest sold my picture for $25 and I who took it, got no word of this nor any kickback and now i think what if they do this to all my pictures?

    when i share my pictures on other sites, i retain my rights and that website business, say for example, facebook, cant sell my picture just because its uploaded to my account. yet Pinterest, says it up front, upload that picture and its MINE, forever. bye bye sucker.

    i routinely post new pictures and share, just like trey does. i spend alot of time putting details about it, making sure it has gps info and a valid exif
    do my images get used, do ppl save n print them out themselves? i dunno.
    i work really hard at learning photoshop and taking alot of time to perfect my pictures.
    I dont have the money to travel alot alas. but when i do its all about photos and I myself have met Trey. He is a genuine human being, he is always super nice to me and actually talks to me. I can assure you he does not brush me off as a crazy fan despite the fact i love his work, his attitude and the fact he helps alot of ppl. i listen to his google hang outs, i’ve read and bought all his ebooks. i would love one of his pictures but i cant afford em. I’ve met him twice now and will again at the SWSX and you know what i bet he will recognize me again.

    To me Trey is an inspiration, success story and a model to follow. I learnt from his tutorial and its this that got my ball rolling. reading his ebooks gave me greater insight and every once in a while i look at the pictures in his hdr book. some day if i can make a book like that i think i could earn something back. So whatever works for Trey is cool but you gota realize it may not work for myself but i gave it a shot.

    did his method of madness work for me…hard to say with only 2 years into it but i think not. it feels like i’m a drop in the well. there are so many landscape and hdr photographers out there already.

    so i’m still clueless as to how to make money from all this hdr stuff, i’m very much struggling. the camera, lens, bags, airplane tickets, hotels///it all ends up real quick and in a year of doing this i can spend over $20k, and yet i’ve seen no return on my investment as of yet.

    For 2012 i made some wall calendars that i gave to my best friends. I’m trying all i can to spread my website, work, pictures but in the end it may not work out.
    but everday comes new hope, I wake up thinking today i’m gonna get that picture that will set my name in the clouds. all i can do is hope and try.

    if i see one day my picture up on a bill board and this is news to me, i think i’d just stand there with a smile and tell everyone around me, i took that picture,a  sense of pride would come but my wallet is so skinny and flat.

    I’ll be going to burning man 2012 where I look forward to meeting Trey again. He is my hero.

    my website on smugmug

  • Sean – I read your article on Pinterest too so I’ve listened to your side of things but I’m afraid I’m with Trey on this. And “obscure” is not an insult. It just means unknown and, as I said, I have no problem at all with anyone remaining so.

  • Lauren Smith

    I’m reading this post and all of the comments with great joy and amusement. I am a software developer and so I am keenly aware of how copyright issues can affect one’s ability to eat and sleep in a warm bed. 

  • Chad Townsend

    I have been reading this same debate for 10 years between Newspaper cartoonists and Cartoonists who strictly give away their content for free on the web.

    Web Cartoonists have learned that by giving away content they generate more viewers and earn money off Merchandising. Newspapers are dying off and those cartoonists are panicking. they accuse the webcartoonists as being guys in their parents basements not earning a dime, when the truth is some of the top cartoonists on the web are earning a substantial sum from merchandise. Book’s, Tshirts, toys games etc. One comic strip was quoted as having earned 500k last year…. not bad for giving content away for free.

    Social networks are the way to get your work out to the world. all it takes for someone is to earn from 5% of their fans. and that market could be such a small niche. But you have a the opportunity to grab the attention of a small % out of the entire world. that’s a huge opportunity! you know how many people there are in the world?

    If YOU ARE GOOD then no matter what your work is gonna get spread around the web. if you are happy toiling in obscurity because it’s cool to you…. go for it. or….earn a living at it so you can do it all the time.

  • Lotus Carroll

    Actually, it does not say “no self promotion” – it says:

    “Avoid Self Promotion: Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.”

  • Paul Lawley-Jones

    What it actually says is “However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.” It’s that ‘purely’part that is important.

  • I wasnt referring to the honest opposing view posts. I find all this very interesting. I was referring to the “biggest detractors” who were taking personal shots at Trey as a person, and not Trey’s idea on pinterest or digital photo sharing in general.

  • Aaron Viljoen

    Trey is an idea’s man, just about everything I’ve ever read about him or by him has confirmed this, he thinks/lives ‘outside the box’ (Need proof, do a search for his post about meeting Hans Zimmer, then objectively get a feel for the ‘tone’ of the post), it goes without saying that people like Trey will cause ripples, and face opposition, how can they not, they are challenging things that are established, it is what it is, Opposition is not a bad thing, it provides a chance for healthy debate.

    I love the hope in Trey’s way of doing things, I think he’s spot on when he mentioned a “poisonous fear-of-loss” I believe most of the arguments I have heard have a base in this, in fact I don’t think I’ve really seen a CONVINCING objective argument against it. I have watched countless businesses, industries, and people fade into obscurity because of ‘Gollums Folly Syndrome’  or the failure to move on and adapt, to embrace what’s new and learn how you can use it to your benefit and help others to benefit from it, like Trey said, “it’s happening NOW”, your fears not going to stop that.

    As for him becoming arrogant, you really think an arrogant person would leave these up for the world to see??: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/category/travel/malaysia/langkawi/

    Just getting started, but here’s me if your interested…

  • I went and looked at what you’re doing, and I think your work is wonderful. I have found that when I am on the verge of giving up on something,it’s usually about the time things are going to break through. I haven’t made any money yet myself, but I really am just getting started. I just opened up SmugMug Pro myself and started blogging a couple months ago. I would suggest that you offer less choices in print sizes. The more you offer the customer, the harder it can be to make a decision. I’ve integrated my WordPress blog and my SmugMug via Photography Blogsites, and I look forward to the future. If you want to see what I’m doing, please go to http://modernzenphotos.com Good luck to you!

  • What do you say to someone  like John Chandler’s post who seems to making an honest effort in exploring new avenues?  Maybe Trey is the exception because he was a 1st generation user and he is making money off of people like John who are paying for his knowledge; he obviously is a lucky man. Not everyone can be a celebrity.  They’re is a  lot of hype and deception in the internet world & not everyone is born with a computer in their hand. Not everyone has an endless income stream to throw into the virtual wind without seeing results.  These are strange times and difficult for many.  I for one, am making a honest effort to study communication in the modern age.   We had a thriving business and global forces beyond our control, including how business is done now and the internet, lead to it’s demise.  Don’t be so quick to dismiss antiquated technology.  I have an appreciation for things rare and beautiful.  I love things that you can touch and hold, that create comfort and beauty. I am sadden by ancient knowledge and culture being crowded out by new technology- yet I can still appreciate it.  On the other hand I also appreciate the works of Michelangelo and structures such as the Great  Pyramids and the ruins of Ancient Rome.  Should those give way to Comic Books and Condominiums just because they are contemporary? I would hope there is room for both.  Do not disrespect the legacy of such modern creations.  Besides, if  “the cloud” ever evaporates due to a new Carrington Event or a Nuclear Bomb your circuitry will be melted and all you will be left with are real photos not your digital files. All of these sites are a work in progress being fueled by the energy of the masses.  Remember Friendster, MySpace?   Groupon should have taken the money and run.  There are no guarantees, my friend.

  • http://pinterest.com/joeynavarrete/

    I discovered it a few weeks ago, but I love it. 

  • Head for cover.  Sh*t Storm coming.  DUCK!!  
    Copyright issues are still up in the air.  Just keep that in mind when you post/pin.  Think of what you do as public with the thought of selling something “unique” to a corporate client or individual in the future.  That’s my take.

  • Replying to potential clients is what I call great customer service.  Just found out about you Trey.  Do you sleep? 

  • It’s true.  The Winds of Change are irresistible but, that doesn’t mean you can get hurt badly by the incoming storm. There’s going to be collateral damage and although the technology is helping many, it seems geared more to those who are starting out and have “nothing left to lose” (Yeah, that’s freedom.)  If you have spent a lifetime building a castle, you can bet that you are going to do everything in your power to protect what you have – that is until the castle is destroyed.  That is disruptive creativity in the modern world.  How you feel about it might have something to do with past standards, what they have meant to you (the business culture) and where you lie on the spectrum of change.  There are winners and losers.  Life is sometimes unfair.  It seems a lot to ask, to expect people with mature careers to throw everything out the window and start anew – sometimes without the resources they once had.  I was raised to respect my elders and those that came before me.  Let’s be a little humble if we’re sitting pretty.  Guess what – you may be the next to fall.  Life can be strange. (Not directing this necessarily at you Trey, but some of the people on this comment thread)

  • Great tip.  Download your images in low res if it’s a problem.  Didn’t think of that but I am not a photographer per say but rather a person who is trying to archives their ideas.  I’m hoping that my internet activity will raise my digital presence and perhaps lead to a job in Marketing, Home Decor or a collaboration of some sort.  I’m a Lifestyle Specialist and I find most good ideas are derivative of something else.  It’s a big Cosmic Soup.  So far no nibbles, but I’m meeting many interesting people – only reason that I’m here 🙂

    Here is a post that I originally wrote in March of 2010.  Do you see me twisting in the wind?  It was not pleasant http://lisalinenlady.blogspot.com/2010/03/truth-about-luxury-linens-revealed.html .  In the end I am real person-not virtual and so was my store.  I believe in items of distinction and quality – treasures that you touch and feel – adn I loved offering that to the public; I was providing a service :http://lisalinenlady.blogspot.com/2010/02/technology-and-value-of-beautiful.html
    Replying to these posts are therapy.  I’ll take my comfort where I can now.  

  • “Why wouldn’t a photographer be HAPPY to have their work spread across
    the internet and let people gain knowledge of what they do and who they
    are? ”

    Who are you to assume what any other person’s goals are, either in business or life?

  • Tami McVey

    I’d like to give you an example of some other guy that ISN’T named Trey.  Take a look at “Rock Recipes” on Pinterest…  I realize it’s a completely different genre, but please explain to me how this guy has such a great following (including myself), and oops… his name isn’t Trey.
    If you take a look at what Trey is actually saying, rather than harbouring your issues against him, I think you’ll find his information is helpful.  He’s giving you tips on how to grow, and how to adapt to the next generation… as he stated in a previous post, he COULD just keep his mouth shut.  Thank you Trey, for the work you do to help others reach out, and possibly build their OWN successful internet presence. 

  • Tami McVey

    Trey, Pinterest increased traffic to a brand new website for me by 40%.  The website is only two and a half months old, and has a few search terms appearing nice and high on Google searches and Bing, but Pinterest has driven most of my traffic so far.  I realize it’s a bit early in my progress to hail all to Pinterest, but as you say….it is what it is.  It’s totally driving this new beginning for me, and I’m certainly not going to knock it…

  •  John.one of your problems may be all of the distortion in you photos. Perspective distortion because you aren’t using a shift lens, i.e. you tilt the camera up instead of shifting the lens, to see tops of buildings. Barrel distortion from improper use of wide angle lens.

    One of the problems of the ‘net is that many people will praise your work even when it sucks. There’s some good work on your site, but most of it sucks because of distortion.Distortion can be used creatively, but your distortion looks like lack of knowledge.

    Forget HDR for a while. Go out and learn more about composition and the effect of lens choice.

  •  Reading comprehension. I’m amazed at all the people who reply to something that was not said. I have no problem with people not liking something I said. I have a Big Problem with people who don’t like What I DIDN’T SAY. Reading comprehension is very important folks.

  • Michael Flaherty

    I agree with most of what he says but don’t really like the “spin” he uses in describing those who disagree with him.  It’s always about fear and fear-mongering, instead of the reality, which is people have concerns about devaluing their work.  But I understand wanting to increase traffic by being more confrontational, like I understand (but don’t like) commercials.  Same goes for the over-the-top HDR-heavy photo style, which is consistent with his writing, and rather repugnant for me.  This guy’s style is not my style, but obviously it works for many.

  • Lauren Smith

    I can’t help but point out that your examples do not further your point. We can appreciate ruins of Ancient Rome (sic), like we might appreciate the mechanical beauty of an old-fashioned plate camera on display. We don’t, however, continue building our structures out of stone and marble and we don’t continue to shoot pictures using plate cameras.

    Also, I don’t see many people here (least of all Trey) dismissing antiquated technology. He is, to some degree, dismissing antiquated ways of thinking as being, well, antiquated. There’s a new way to do things. You don’t have to like it, and you don’t have to participate in it, but people want Pintrest, so Pintrest exists. The point I see Trey making is that as long as this is true why not involve yourself in it and reap the rewards, rather than stay away out of fear?

  • Michael Flaherty

    Just took the time to watch his talk at Google, and he’s cool (when he’s not blasting  so-called old-school stuck-in-the-mud photographers).  I even saw a lot of images that are truly awesome, with a lot of HDR but not overdone.  With the alpine lake image above I don’t like the processing, but he’s clearly a very talented photographer who thinks much like I do both when shooting and traveling.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Thank you Michael…. I’m not really “blasting” ALL old-school photographers… hehe and you don’t sound like one of them.  I’m mostly talking about all the bitter-old-creepy-uncles that are more negative than positive about digital/web changes

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Thanks Chad !  And you are one of the great cartoonists out there for sure! 🙂

  • Trey Ratcliff

    John – thanks so much for the nice message – I am sorry things aren’t working out for you… but at least keep up the photography for the pure joy out of it…  don’t fret about the money, if possible.  Like Money said while painting with arthritis in old-age — the pain will go away, but the beauty remains.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    hehe what?  No no… well maybe… hehe – I am pinning about 20-30 a day now.. half my stuff half other people’s stuff ! 🙂

  • I also think the web has forced professionals to further differentiate themselves since the quality of work people can find has gone up too. 

  • Interesting article I might have to give this a try. I would love to hear about the process you use to register your photos with the copyright office. I looked into it years ago and it was a major pain but seems I remember they where changing things to make it faster and easier.  Correct me if im wrong but im sure you dont post your images until you have registered your copyright? 

  •  I agree with you.  Sure you can be upset with pinterest, you can try to wish it away, try to fight its existence.  But I think that trying to see if you can make it work for you might be the best overall action.  I dont know if pinterest will remain, heck something better or worse than it might take its place.  But i think things like pinterest are here to stay for sure.

  • Agreed, the blog host is all about marketing and that seems to be “in your face” type posts.  But the more eyeballs brought to posts, the better the income.

  • Anonymous

    I wrote a comment, but I don’t know if it ended up getting posted.  I’m both excited and nervous about Pinterest.  I think most new technology is that way.  I don’t really know what I see my interaction with it is.  I’m nervous about if i pin things giving up copyright, or having to eventually “compete” with pins of my work from other people.  If all pins drove traffic to the artists work then it would be great, i mean then the artist would receive compensation and credit but a lot of the things drive to tumblr blogs and google image searches, etc.  I also worry what companies like pinterest will treat the images and ownership in the future when they mature more, or if they are hurting financially and need to find other revenues…

    But then I also think you know if people didn’t share their work, I wouldn’t have anything to compare myself against.  I would have photos to inspire myself with.  I am not a great photographer, although I do take great value in my photography.  And I do have a hard time giving up my work but at the same time I want it to be seen and I truly believe my best is yet to come.

    With any technology you have options on how you handle things.  You can ignore it (hope it goes away), fear it (complain, litigate, run, whatever), or embrace it (jump headfirst, try to use it in a way that works for you, etc).  I think I fear it slightly but want to embrace it more.  I know I cannot nor do i have the time, energy, or desire to try to fight it.  Maybe pinterest will go away, but the concepts behind it i think will remain.  I would rather try to engage the system and hope to dictate better how my work is shared. 

    The people who wish for the old ways of doing things are fooling themselves I believe.  People feared tapes, VCRs, DVRs, etc…but they are still here.  I feel you are best served with understanding and figuring out how to obtain value with the technology.

  • Eric Leslie

    I spend some time reading through all the comments, you’ve really struck a nerve with many. My personal journey down this road is short, but I’ve taken the Creative Commons direction and I can safely say that EVERY sales I have made was due to sharing on the internet. I’m not sure how people can look at licensing with Creative Commons equates to not caring about my copy right. It’s very important to all of us, we just have much lower blood pressure because we’re not chasing people who just enjoy our photography and share it themselves and counting it theft.

    I’ve found most businesses are willing to license images that are shared non-commercially for free. You might loose some that might want exclusive rights, but I think the vast majority of people/businesses don’t mind, simply wanting to use beautiful imagery. I think this mindset of requiring exclusive rights to an image is shifting before our eyes as well.

  • Julie Bernstein

    Jeremy, the ASMP has an excellent tutorial on copyright here: http://asmp.org/content/registration-counts . With their new pilot program you can register up to 750 photos taken in a single calendar year in one batch for $35. Note this applies only to the USA.

  • Julie Bernstein

    The Pinterest ToS says that you’re granting them a non-exclusive license to use the content, but that doesn’t mean you’re giving up copyright. In the USA, copyright is conferred the moment you press the shutter on your camera, and must be given up explicitly (such as in a work-for-hire contract). You still retain the right to license your content to others even if you put it on Pinterest.

    Now, whether Pinterest has the right to use content from photographers and other artists whose work was pinned by others is another matter entirely, which is why they put in their ToS that you can only share content that you have the rights to. Even though that restriction is obviously being ignored by virtually all users, it helps cover them legally.

  • I’ve managed to created a profile on Pinterest a couple of weeks ago and I have to admit that is the best photo-sharing website on the internet. Why I’m saying this? mainly because its very easy to use and its very easy to share.

    I’ve pinned a couple of my photos… so if somebody would like to check them out, here is the link to my profile: https://pinterest.com/mrshadow05/

  • Anonymous

    I’m now on Pinterest too, http://pinterest.com/lucyhilluk. I noticed a useful section in the help menu for those concerned that people could “pin” photos from their website to Pinterest without their permission:
    What if I don’t want images from my site to be pinned?

    We have a small piece of code you can add to the head of any page on your site:When a user tries to pin from your site, they will see this message:”This site doesn’t allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!” Perhaps that will be useful for some people. It doesn’t stop people finding images another way and repinning them without correctly linking back, but hey, it’s a start :)Have a good weekend all

  • Scott Wylie

    You wouldn’t believe the backlash I’ve been getting when trying to explain to photographers that if they try to stop epeople pinning their work then those same people will just download it and re-upload to Pinterest with no link to the source.

    All my ‘work’ is creative commons and although I haven’t made much  from photography the two magazine articles I’ve been paid for have been interviews around work that was found through a creative commons search. It’s possible the same will happen when people see my stuff that has been pinned to my pinterest page.

    (no pinterest link as my comment isn’t here just to pimp my pins!)

  • Anonymous

    I wish Trey would respond to this. The Pinterest-reserved right to RESELL is really at the heart of this discussion. Another aspect is all liability may be held by the poster, not Pinterest, even though Pinterest decides to go “commercial” in the future and sell user posted content. http://zite.to/xXPClU

  • Love Pinterest, love photography, am happy to share my own. Without it I wouldn’t have found you now would I?
    If it’s good enough for Zen Habits to share it’s okay with me.
    PS if I pin something I like I don’t spend time checking the site to see what kind of copyright there is on the image, I just press “PIN” hate to burst your bubbles. I only pin images I totally love and want to share, if something came up that stopped me pinning I would respect that and move on.
    ciao lisa

  • Anonymous

    Great article and I’m glad Mari Smith shared it on Twitter. I love your photos and you site and will be following you on Pinterest. You can check out ours if you like http://pinterest.com/poshports/  

  • Anonymous

    I don’t have the time to look through 222 comments to see if this has already been discussed, but answer me this.

    You say you’re happy to have your work shared.

    Would you be happy for me to host it on my blog, without any attribution or acknowledgement that it was your work, and stick it on Pinterest?

    How about if I then sold copies of your work. Or gained significant advertising revenue from the site visits I got via Pinterest.

    You’d be happy with that I presume?

  • Anonymous

    I think more importantly we need to start understanding Pinterest’s Terms of Service and what it means to our copyright. I’m not worried about others taking my work. I’m worried about Pinterest taking my work. Food for thought.


  • Anonymous

    Worth noting:

    If you issue a DMCA takedown notice directly to Pinterest, they will remove the infringing “pin”, but do not remove the image from their servers.

    Which is rather naughty.

  • Terms of Service and what it means to our copyright. I’m not worried
    about others taking my work. I’m worried about Pinterest taking my work.
    Food for thought.

  • Thank you for this great information. I just got set up on pinterest recently, but I’ve been conflicted about the copyright issues. I really like your attitude about the issue and I like what you are saying. Thanks again!

  • I register my images with the US Copyright office. I certainly don’t have anywhere *near* your following and I’m generally happy to license to anyone who *asks* – depending on what the intended use is, we’ll negotiate compensation, but for personal/non-commercial use the simple courtesy of asking is generally quite enough. To my knowledge, I’ve never been ‘poached’ for large-scale commercial offshore use. If I don’t want it redistributed, I don’t post it on the internet. Some of my image uses require a license with fairly explicit terms (medical/academic publication!!) but even those are not unlimited/forever/exclusive.  Even they don’t bring me any income to speak of (though I *may* get a copy of a slick $300 medical reference book).

    TOS notwithstanding I suspect bad faith behavior on the part pinterest, FaceBook, ad nauseum would still fail under US Copyright law. I don’t have the energy to search appellate rulings right now, but I’m sure there is case law to be found.

  • Trey – How does a Pinterest user legally get around this point while sharing other peoples work?:

    “Federal copyright laws give the author of any copyrighted work (which includes photographs and copyright attaches automatically as soon as the work is created) the sole and exclusive right to publish and reproduce such work.  So, basically, when you see a photograph that you love, you do not have any right to publish or reproduce that photograph unless you took the photo or got consent from the photographer to use the photo.”

    As I understand it, the posting of one’s own images is frowned upon by some, but posting (pinning) other’s images is publishing their images. I would imagine most of theses images are published WITHOUT explicit permission. Even if YOU feel it’s ok to publish other’s work (a violation of copyright law), isn’t it really up to the individual creators?”

    In several places in Pinterest’s Terms of Use, you, as the user, agree that you will not violate copyright law or any other laws.  And then there is this: “YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR ACCESS TO AND USE OF THE SITE, APPLICATION, SERVICES AND SITE CONTENT REMAINS WITH YOU.”  (yes, this is in ALL CAPS right in their TOU for a reason).
    And then, there is this:
    “you agree to defend, indemnify, and hold Cold Brew Labs, its officers, directors, employees and agents, harmless from and against any claims, liabilities, damages, losses, and expenses, including, without limitation, reasonable legal and accounting fees, arising out of or in any way connected with (i) your access to or use of the Site, Application, Services or Site Content, (ii) your Member Content, or (iii) your violation of these Terms.”
    This “defend and indemnify” stuff means that if some photographer out there decides that he or she does not want you using that photogs images as “inspiration” or otherwise and decides to sue you and Pinterest over your use of that photog’s images, you will have to hire a lawyer for yourself and YOU will have to hire a lawyer for Pinterest and fund the costs of defending both of you in court.  Not only that, but if a court finds that you have, in fact, violated copyright laws, you will pay all damages assessed against you and all damages assessed against Pinterest.  OUCH.  Oh, but it gets better.   Pinterest reserves the right to prosecute you for violations. Basically, Pinterest has its keester covered and have shifted all of the risk to you.   Smart of them, actually since the courts are still deciding whether the site owner or the user should be ultimately responsible.  Rather than wait for the decision, they have contractually made you the responsible one.  And you agreed.  (And by “you” I clearly mean “we”).”


  • Trey,  this post has really touched a nerve! I’ve never seen so many comments.  For what its worth, I completely agree with you. Pinterest is attracting a huge following and like any commercial venture have set their T&C’s out to protect them from legal action arising from abuse by their users. I see it as another shop window. The more photographs I have out there, the more I will sell. Simple.

  • Anonymous

    If indeed there were links back to the source of the image, all fine and well. The problem that I’m seeing is that things get re-pinned and re-blogged so often that there is no link back to the original source. There are also disquieting legal considerations. See this post: http://ddkportraits.com/2012/02/why-i-tearfully-deleted-my-pinterest-inspiration-boards

  • Martin Liebermann

    I make  most of my photography sales through “shared” images.  But  not through people who found and loved my images and got a license. They account for less than 5% of my internet sales.Instead, I have to send invoices to commercial copyright infringers (I’m not a copyright troll that sues private bloggers or users). I don’t like it at all  run my business like that. It doesn’t even pay much, not if I count all the time I spend on researching, documenting, contacting and reminding all those people. Trey  writes :

    Despite what fear-mongers have told you, everyone will not steal your images. Most legitimate companies will work out a proper licensing arrangement with you. 

    Sadly, this is contrary to my own experience.Almost any time I do a reverse Google image search, some new commercial user comes up. Coaches and lawyers, catholic orders, large churches, political groups, psychotherapists, online shops, newspapers, software companies, magazines, book publishers – they all feel entitled to freely use “unattributed” images, and most of them even don’t want to pay after I have contacted them.The usual excuse is: “Oh, but I only found that image on the net. It had no copyright information”. Or,”It was an intern that did it”. Another favorite: “If I had known I had to pay, I would have choosen another image – so I have replaced yours now.” Half of these companies doesn’t even reply to my copyright complaint.  Despite this, I’ve started to share my newer images under a CC-BY-NC-SA license. In a few cases, this works, with people acutally attributing images to me. The problem with the Non-Commercial part is: There’s no clear definition of what “commercial use” is. In my experience, this has led to an increase in commercial use by content leeches and advertising farmers – people that  generate bogus websites and blogs with nonsensical content used to generate revenues from advertising, or to hide SEO farming. I was never paid by one of these parasites; with some luck, I can get a Take Down Note fulfilled, or even better, Google Adchoices stops advertising with them. I still am trying out the CC approach – I don’t see any alternative to it. 

  • Demon Lee

    Trey, actually, it is not about you or the internet, it is about me and other Industry Professionals that have a tested and proven methodology of working as Professional Photographers or Creatives that have the need and the desire to stop PRIVATELY OWNED PROFIT MAKING companies making money from our works.If someone ‘pins’ my work to Pininterest, Pininterest can SELL MY WORK – that is ILLEGAL and recent articles are now coming to the fore raising serious concerns about the Legality of their website and terms….. If I post a link to a film on my website, it is illegal, it is not mine and I cannot claim the rights to sell it –  and I am quietly confident that the owners of the film and their legal team will be popping a summons into the mail asking me not only to remove it but also asking for large sums of money from my Bank Account.Yes, Industries have changed, however, that does NOT give anyone the right to demand that I give up MY RIGHTS just so they can practice a version to suit them and their way of doing business.

    If we had n0t protected our rights as Professional Creatives, then there would not be an Industry today, nothing would be created as no one could earn a living from it – this would then apply to patents, etc and the whole sheebang would grind to a halt.

    If copyright did not exist, then it is likely half the technology we enjoy today would never have been created in the first place and since WWII actually, nothing has been invented that actually BENEFITS mankind, just loads of stuff that is claimed to make our lives ‘easier’, when in fact, it creates more issues than we know how to deal with them.Change is good, I would agree with that every day of the week, however, you cannot have change for changes sake, there needs to be a justified purpose for the change and devaluing creatives works is not beneficial, it is detrimental.

  • Demon Lee

    Amanda, you are a Craft and Food Blogger and a Blogger by nature needs the exposure and benefits from it, for creatives, pininterest is just theft of others work, pure and simple.

    For me, Blogger reads Blagger!

  • Demon Lee

    …. and getty still lose millions every year, why, because they devalued photography and sell stock images for a pittance of what they used to be worth.

    Every Tom Dick and Harry with a Camera is likely to have a website www(name)photography.ext, a FlikR account and supplies crappy boring stock images to Getty et al.

  • Demon Lee

    One has to ask of course with all these business interests, how much photography Trey actually produces….!!!!

  • Demon Lee

    Owning a Camera, a Facebook Page and a Twitter page gives me reason to believe you are NOT a true Professional Photographer earning a full time living to pay your mortgage, pay tax, own PL Insurance etc etc etc…. have you tried the FB Group ‘No, you are not a photographer, you just own a camera’

  • You don’t have to wonder. 🙂

    At least one photo a day for most days for years now.  That’s processed and released photos – he still shoots well more than enough to keep himself busy.

  • Ha! I think I get what your game is now… write photo-related, controversial hot button pushing articles to drive more traffic. Smart. 🙂

  • Kirsty Hall

     It’s very short-sighted. I’m a keen Pinterest user and recipes are one of the things I pin. I tend to follow the pin back to the original site, save it in Instapaper so I can find it later and on more than one occasion, I’ve even ended up subscribing to the blogs RSS feed. I didn’t have a single food blog in my RSS feed before Pinterest.

  • I think your new school could use some lessons from old school though. You purport picture views as if that were a form of currency. However, with stronger copyright laws, and successful rights management, photographers were more successful financially. Like many today, it seems the lull of attention trumps all. 

  • Dianna McIntosh

    This is an excellent point.  If photographers posting photos on the internet are so worried about their copyrights then they should implement appropriate html coding to stop pinning, sharing, saving, etc… of the images.  Sooner or later someone is going to violate the copyright, even if it is just for personal use because they thought the image was pretty and wanted it as their wallpaper.  You shouldn’t put an unprotected image on the internet if you don’t ever want someone to gain access.  When you consider how easy some of the coding solutions are it makes me wonder why more professional photographers have not already implemented them.

  •  I am a follower for your talent, your business ethics and today for your leadership in progressive thought. Thank you, Trey.
    Keep up the good work and keep your mouth open!

  • Brilliant point of view Trey! I think the fear factor of doing things in a whole new way, scares the crap out of a lot of people. I’ve embraced the open approach and actively encourage people to use my images in ecards, wallpapers, blog posts, etc… If anything, it’s brought me more traffic (and sales). As you said ” think of it as a hyperlink that just happens to be a visual thumbnail”. Exactly!

  • Brandon Plunkett

    so, I’ve been reading through these comments, and i have been noticing a common theme to a lot of posts regarding Trey. People seem to think his views on copyright, the ability to sue if used improperly, and his open approach, contradict each other    People seem to not understand that his work IS Copyrighted, while it may not be in the same way a majority of people copyright their stuff, it is copyrighted. 
    Creative commons non commercial is a copyright, and it is breaking copyright law if you don’t link back to the original photo, and it does give him the right to Sue a company that decides to use his photo commercially. No, he would not be able to sue Pinterest, because he did clearly, and KNOWINGLY give up that right as soon as he signed up, and I’m positive that he realizes that, and I am also sure that he isn’t worried about ever needing to sue pinterest. 

    Open source programmers have fully embraced this method of sharing their work since the beginning, you are free to use, change and share their software, but you can not sell it, or claim it as your own. If you do, there are measures put in place for the creators to take legal action, it is no different than what Trey is embracing by using creative commons. 

    While pinterest can legally use photos people posted on their site for their own gain (I.E. selling them and such) i think the creators realize that doing something of the sort would destroy them as a company, people would stop using them. In them realizing that, the likely hood of them actually doing is low, there is a chance, but i don’t think they would risk it. 

    For anybody that doesn’t really understand what creative commons-Noncommercial means, go to their site and read up on it before, saying Trey is being hypocritical. (i didn’t see that phrase exactly, but that is essentially what you are implying) http://www.creativecommons.org/About

    I have a lot of respect for you Trey, you are one of the few people that is willing to share your views, and that isn’t willing to CHANGE your view, just because other people do not agree with it, and seem to get quite angry because you won’t change your view.  Keep up the great work, you inspire many people (including myself) not only with your art, but also with your personality. 

    and, if anybody would like to invite me to pinterest, i would greatly accept your invitation 😉 [email protected]

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry you haven’t made much from photography. I earned half my living from it for 15 years and if you’d been around in those days perhaps you could have too? I note that Trey hasn’t revealed how much he has made from his “commercial licensing”.  

    My experience over the last 15 years has been rampant theft of my photography by commercial businesses.

    Unfortunately there is no pot of gold at the end of this. On the whole, giving away your work for free doesn’t lead to respect – just to more demands for free photos. Of course there will be one or two exceptions. 

    A link or credit has never been payment for commercial use of a photo. The benefit is way below even a basic fee. 

    Pinterest is another business which is being built on the back of stolen content and creative peoples’ hard work. Watch as the owners of the site sell up and take the money and run.

  • I have been a follower of your work for sometime and like what you do, however, the comments and bashing about “old school photographers” you have made are insulting and disrespectful. Let me remind you that you have a job today because of the “old school photographers.” They were kind enough to pave the path for you so you can do what you do today. Be more grateful for the “old school photographer” and learn something from them. Interesting thing, one day you too will be an “old school photographer.”

  • Fraser Smith

    I’m totally with you on this Trey. All of my photos on Google+ are uploaded at the full resolution allowed there and are free to download for anyone who so wishes. 

    I had a Pinterest account, but I deleted it, not over the Copyright issues that most people have picked up on, but, on the single clause in the Terms and Conditions that grants Pinterest the right to sell my content. As I said, my photos are freely available, I don’t have to make a living out of photography, but, equally, I don’t grant anyone else the right to sell my work either.

    There have been other posts comparing Pinterest’s terms to other sites (they’re remarkably similar) but none of the other sites claimed the right to sell content. If they removed that one word, I’d be back like a shot, assuming I could get another invite. 

  • You obviously read into the article what you wanted to read into it. If you read it, all the questions you pose would be answered.

  • texaseve

     When  see that someone has pinned a photograph I took on their Pinterest board, I feel happy.  I take photos to make myself happy, and if someone thinks it is good enough for their boards or walls then I take it as the highest compliment.  I do sell some along the way, however, I feel that the further you can reach out with your work, the better.  Trey, you are smart – although I did get to Pinterest before you! : )  Your work is so awesome! 

  • I am a record producer / songwriter and my industry has suffered tremendously under the enforcement o the “old / traditional” model of doing business. We have learned every lesson the hard way unfortunately and hopefully it will serve the photographic industry to help you avoid making the same mistakes. We used to pay $1,000,000.’s for the kind of advertising that open sharing provides – now it is virtually free. How hard is that to understand? And yes, in addition to pop records, national commercials and network television, I have worked with Hans Zimmer and was a part of his complex in Santa Monica for several years. BRAVO TREY RATCLIF for helping to pave a course into our digital future!!

  • Darlene, that is one of the most helpful comments I’ve read in a long time. You’re very generous to spend so much time making comments and giving advice…

  • He will only be an old school photographer if he fails to adapt. Simply being old doesn’t make one old school.

  • Dear Trey,

    The ability to share your images has greatly enhanced 8 Women Dream and we are so grateful to your sharing strategy  that allowed us to use your images with our dream stories which create such poetry on our site, which we hope with all our heart has added to your success.

    For the same reasons we share our dream stories in the hope that we touch people in a way that they will stop living a life of mediocrity and
    start living the life they were meant to live.   If we share our dream thoughts then maybe people will start thinking about their dreams and go dust them off and live a better, more satisfying life.

    You are s true visionary and we are your most ardent fans.

    Catherine and the girls of 8 Women Dream

  • Todd Mikosh

    Yet again, I will stand up to  represent the voice of dissent.  Is the success of this openness based on Trey’s pre-existing fame?  Or the marketability of his print sales could be based on the EXTREME high quality of his work, coupled with the availability of exotic locations?  This success is based on the revenue generating reach–Trey’s images come from places his customers cannot go, because Trey cant afford to travel anywhere, everywhere, and all the time.   AND his travels for photobug jaunts are funded by his revenue which justifies the cost of travel for photography purposes–because it’s what his business does.  Those of us who are not established in such an industry cannot easily justify such extravagant expenses for a hobbyist’s activity–because if it doesn’t generate revenue, it is only a hobby.  As a narrative blogger, I can say that I am a successful blogger because the costs of my hobby are only involved in the electricity I would already be using to maintain my home and internet surfing habits–the blogger website is free, so the cost of membership in my industry’s community is nonexistent.    My success has nothing to do with my ability to produce posted entries, or my talent as a writer, or my experience in research, or even the size or scope of my audience.  My success is determined solely by the fact that my costs in doing it do not exceed the revenue that it generates.   Trey’s success is based on the fact that the costs of his losses do not exceed the scope of his revenues.

    On the other hand, I am reminded that most artistic industries are based on the fact that it is success which generates revenue–it takes money to make money.  But most artists who have no artistic revenue cannot be successful because today’s work environments do not permit the time involved in artistry without losing that precious non-hobby revenue which supports the development of that portfolio.  I continue to support Trey’s work because he has an unfailing eye for color vibrance without cheating on realism (except when he wants to), and the supportiveness of his staff–when discussing questions of Creative Commons Licensing, they made every effort to answer my questions with educational guidance to help me understand the licensing issues better.   But again, these bennies are provided by the revenue afforded by Trey’s success as an established artist.  I was torn about posting this lecturey comment, but I didn’t see anything but praise here, and while I support Trey in this perspective, I wanted to make sure that the opposing argument was at least available for your readers.

  • Claudio Estrugo

    Trey, I think you’re really misinformed about Pinterest. Every time you upload one of your photos there, you’re giving them irrevocable, for-ever, complete rights over your work. They can do whatever they want with it, even sell it and earn lots of money with your work. You better read carefully their licensing terms. One thing is sharing, other thing is feeding the vultures.

  • Trey I appreciate this post because there are two reasons. There are lot of people playing sexism with pinterest. Lot of people are yet to realize the power of pinterest.

    You’re one of the rare photographers I have seen. You’re a secure person but not really everyone. What artists must concentrate that they should be able to distiguish and make their photos identifiable without a watermark. Last day I demonstrated my friends about new full screen mode of facebook app. It was using your photos.

    I had shown the some beautiful photographs to my mom. I think she sat checked almost all of your photos with her one eye (other eye is blind). Thank you so much!

  • 和道 平島


  • Trey, the #1 reason I stopped using Pinterest was the fact that I’m put at the front of the firing line should another photographer want to start copyright infringement proceedings for something I repinned. It’s not a matter of what we want to do with our copyright but what others do with theirs. I’ve looked at the Creative Commons Machine Readable meta data format, I think it’s far too complex for many to set up and a much simpler license.txt file that humans can understand and edit would get people making their content legally pinable faster.

  • Trey…I got involved with Pinterest because of you and you work.

  • Trey’s right – Pinterest is really just a collection of bookmarks or pictorial links, and if you follow the link back to the original image’s website, that site’s terms and conditions still apply.  Vive la Pinterest!  Follow me at http://pinterest.com/frmurph1/

  • Wow, not getting anything done. Taking this part of my life and dedicating to your YouTube presentations. Right now doing the Variety Hour #27

  • Manuel Alfonso

    I,m sure you,re right Trey.
    Perhaps the only point was that if Pinterest doesn,t want to sell “pinned” images, it was really easy to remove such a right from the terms of license. Why include it?
    Nice to find you there 🙂

  • Mandy Keathley

    I know I’m behind the times reading these comments, but wanted to say about this:
    “if they try to stop epeople pinning their work then those same people will just download it and re-upload to Pinterest with no link to the source.”
    Yes!  That.  Whether it is right or wrong, that is exactly what people are going to do. This morning I found an image I liked, but it wouldn’t allow me to pin it. So I posted it to my tumblr (which it WOULD allow) and then pinned it from there. Now I still linked to the source material (if you click through far enough) but there are ways around sites that don’t want you to pin them…

  • amberflew

    I just find it interesting that you are so into free sharing and the universe and giving back… yet you don’t even bother to follow back people that follow you in various forms of social media.  What that says to me: You have an ego.  You are not all about giving and sharing.  You like being followed.  You wouldn’t share if there wasnt something in it for you.  That being said, don’t give hard working photographers a hard time if they choose to not do what you do.    I can give you ten examples of images that have gone viral in which the photographer got NO credit.   Nothing came bake to them in that wishy washy universe mumbo jumbo.  They just got hosed out of royalties and recognition because someone ripped off their stuff.  
    If this works for you, fine.  If it doesn’t work for the next guy, don’t be a jerk and tell him its his fault.

  • treyratcliff

    Amber – you think I have an ego because I don’t follow people back?  You want me to follow back 1.8 million people?  That makes no sense.   And how can you say I am not about giving and sharing?  I give 365 hi-res photos per year, countless tutorials, videos, and tips — all of it free.

  • amberflew

    You missed the point and only saw the part of my comment that pertained specifically to you.  So yes, by your own response, that certainly equates to an ego problem. 

  • I am going to jump in here.  Wow!  I found this post via another post about Pinterest (the other side of this issue).  I have had so many photos stolen from my website (it was dedicated to all things rodeo).  I spent a lot of time finding these photos on the internet and it really sucked because of the fact that people were not crediting my work back to me.  I worked hard to get that image.  I have a lot of photographs of cowboys.  I have found them on all kinds of websites.  I recently found two of my images on Deviant Art.  The person actually copyrighted them as her own and is selling them.  That was tough to handle.  I have a friend who understands copyright law and is helping me sort through this nightmare.  

    I can see your point, but for the little artists like me, who don’t have a team of people and a business dedicated to marketing their work, their art is all they have. And when it gets stolen, well, it’s gone.  On one hand, you have to use the internet to get traffic and all that.  I wouldn’t even know what to do if I didn’t have a friend who understood the legal stuff.  I created a Pinterest account to reclaim my photos. Big mistake.  I thought it would help me sell some of my photos at my Artflakes online print on demand gallery.  I have had no positive impact on having my photos “appreciated” on the internet.  It makes me want to take all my photos off the internet.  But I created a website (with rodeo and cowboy photos) in the hopes of creating a name for myself as creative, artistic photography.  Instead, I had to take the website down because of the photo piracy.  I uploaded high resolution photos.  Nobody asked permission to use my photos and nobody linked back.  Well, some actually did on Pinterest, but ended up linking back to a site I had to take down.  It is nice to know other photographers are fighting for some regulation — otherwise, it is just people claiming art is the fact they like it.  I can appreciate someone loving people’s art, but the relationship between art and art lover has gotten out of control.  It’s like saying a Picasso painting is amazing and hanging it in your house, but having no idea who the artist is.  That is where the true relationship of art comes from — the artist and the art appreciator.  We live in a shallow feed me what I want now society.  It’s just out of control and I am too old school to figure all this technical stuff out.  I could go on and on, but I have to figure out if I am going to completely delete my Pinterest account in fear of doing to another photographer that has been done to me.  Too often, beautiful photos get credited to google.com. That’s like saying a Monet painting was not a Monet!  And let’s face it — photographers’ art is fueling the frenzy on the internet.The other side of all this (for me as a right brain person, who really is trying to figure out the left brain stuff) is I can take all my photos off the internet and not share them.  Then I would be all alone with my art. Back to the relationship of the artist, art, and art appreciator — art needs someone to look at it, or does it? 

  • carlosterly

    It’s quite an interesting time to be a photographer isn’t it?

    On the one hand the communications medium of the Internet is allowing both amateur and professional photographers alike to create and distribute compelling images at an unprecedented rate.

    And on the other hand the communications medium of the Internet is also allowing other people to take advantage of a photographers work without any commercial compensation or credit at an unprecedented rate.

    Over time I’m starting to see that I’m starting to align myself with Trey’s view more and more.  You can spend your time fighting every potential form of theft of your images by every potential visitor to your sites/social media platforms, or just expose yourself to the widest audience possible in the hope that as a numbers game you will gain more than you lose.

    One message that I’m getting from the comments left here is that content theft by organisations and individuals who should know better is becoming more widespread, leaving many budding and established photographers spending a great deal of time and energy chasing up what they are owed. For some this outweighs the actual genuine enquiries that they are receiving making
    it harder to stay operating in the first place. I can sympathise with those who might be sceptical of Trey’s point of view.

    I’m curious to know if there are any people out reading this article, that share Trey’s view, and are actually doing well from the process of giving their images away (with restricted commercial use)?

  • With any new (information) age, there is a paradigm shift in reality, which changes the mechanisms controlling how things works.  Just as many people remained agrarian, during the industrial revolution , you can remain “industrial” while the rest of the world goes “viral”.  Yes, it is be painful to adjust to change but it can be more painful not to.  You can choose to align your business interests with the new paradigm or you can try to force the world to (cling to) exist within an old (reality) paradigm.  Amber, you mentioned ego but I feel that most of your inner turmoil (conflict) is about you wanting the world to exist within a dieing paradigm bubble.  In one generation, your mentality will be extinct.  Like it or not, Trey did not create this reality, but he is adjusting his outlook so that he my co-exist (or thrive) within it.  That’s not ego…it’s called evolution.   Don’t be bitter.

  • I have read this before and understand what you are coming from, I just made my website and have been debating on using a watermark or not. I  have had my pictures taken even before I got into photography, used on e-bay to sell merchandise. I don’t think a web address on the corner hurts my image, if a company is serious about using it I think they can see past the address. Not only that, it drives traffic to my site. If someone wants to steal it, sure they can still crop or clone it, but at least I tried. I guess you Tray make enough money with your images not to worry about someone stealing them, but I guarantee you are being taken in. Because you upload full size and great quality, for the last couple years, I have taken your photos, made a calender out of them, get business to buy add space at the bottom, than sell boxes of them to the business in many different city’s to hand out as gifts to customers. Did I pay you? No. Will you ever get money from me? No. Do I make good money off of you. Yes. And that’s just 1 way I make money with your photos, so Thank You for you quality pictures!!

    When I read “Most people in the world are good people.” I went speechless, you must be living on cloud 9, because if most people in the world were good, our world wouldn’t be so corrupted. I could go on all day how messed up and bad people are, even people that clam to be good and usually bad and I have a billion examples.

    You need to protect your images I think, just like moves and music, it’s all free game now days and people are making profit off others creativity.

  • hi trey, i do have a question: if you are licensed with a creative commons noncommercial, i’m not sure what you mean by licensing images to the copyright so that commercial use without permission can be sued. could you please specify? thanks!

  •  Hi Arthur,

    Creative Commons Noncommercial basically expands the allowed use a little bit so that people are free to use the photos, as long as it is not commercial in any way (not used by a business, as part of advertising, paying someone else to make a print, etc.)  Copyright protects the work so we are able to pursue infringements – people who use the photos commercially without permission and a license fee.

    Does this answer your questions?

  • have the t&c’s changed…
    going through pinterest, i see nothing about them being able to sell any graphic content thats uploaded there

  • In my lifetime as an artist (pastelist, photographer, graphic designer, jewelry maker) I cannot BELIEVE how many people (friends, relatives, or strangers) expect me to GIVE them my work. Art is seldom viewed as work, it seems, and that is why so many (churches, non-profits, companies, etc.) think they can just TAKE it. I recently designed some lovely necklaces and one woman (head of non-profit company) responded with, “Oh, we should sell them in our boutique to raise money.” In other words, she wanted me to give them to her, so SHE/THEY could make money from my work (supplies, time, art). I was astounded.

  • Hi Trey,

    What are your views on using your CC images as placeholders in say, commercial website templates. As in, if a template is being sold, your images are just there on the demo page for visitors to get a nice feel of the template. Your pictures aren’t actually being sold. And in every case, the buyer of the template will want to put in his own images. Basically your images are used to make the wordpress/joomla template look good when its being sold. Does this constitute as using your images commercially?

    What if you were attributed very clearly, with a link back to your site/blog/google+ page? I asked you a similar question on G+. I guess this blog post if the best place to ask it.

  • Even if the images aren’t being sold, if they’re being used for business purposes, they’re involved in a revenue exchange, so it would be commercial use. Generally we allow a designer to do this on a private password-protected site for a specific client, if they’re in the process of pitching Trey’s images being used on the site. However, just using them generally to attract clients needs a paid license, as the images are being used to generate revenue for the designer, even if they don’t generate it every time. There’s obviously a compelling reason to use Trey’s images instead of low-quality royalty-free stock images … they’ll sell more design jobs! So we ask for a fee in exchange for that.

    If you have any more questions or want to discuss some rates, drop me a line at [email protected].

  • Thank you for your well thought out and rational post. I’m tired of people ranting about copyrights and pinterest, It’s like putting your work in a gallery, many people will see it, and just look at it, but there will be buyers out there, and if it was never in the gallery, no one would buy or even appreciate it. I’ve used the same approach as you and it work well for me. Many people who are reluctant to start sharing their work are going to limit and eventually eliminate their chances of survival as an artist in the digital age.

  • Well, I am not an expert photographer, so maybe my views on the matter don’t matter. But I do take a lot of photographs, and although some are “licensed” by creative commons, and some are in the public domain, I take pictures because that’s what I love doing. It’s a hobby of mine. I, in no way, will ever hunt people down or nag at people who use my photographs without my permission (unless, of course, they were of me). But since I don’t make money from my photography, my opinion may be moot.

    I believe that pictures of someone’s house, or pictures of nature, or pictures of a rock, etc, really does not belong to anyone. And people should be able to use them any way they darn well please. It is different if it is a picture of something you made, or art that you yourself painted/drew/crafted.

    But I get shocked when people are upset when their artwork or photographs is used without permission, and they don’t sell their artwork, or do anything at all with it besides post it. I can understand if their artwork is stolen and sold, but not if it is used on a blog.

    It’s all just so confusing, especially to me, because I am a writer and have to dig deep to find usable photo’s for my books that are either in the public domain, or able to be used commercially.

    It’s tiresome.

  • This world needs more photographers like you.

  • Tested and proven methodologies have a habit of being steamrolled by new technologies…. How’s the buggy whip business doing lately? How many huge brands have fallen by the wayside because they failed to adapt?

    A business that continues to thrive is one that can recognize the winds of change and adjust their sails accordingly, not the businesses that dig in their heels and try to shoehorn new tech into the existing model. It’s the ones who examine the model and ask, what do we need to change about the tested and proven methodology in light of this new force.

    While certain studios can continue to operate as boutique shops offering portraits and wedding coverage, stock photography has already been fundamentally changed in the last decade. Trey’s model won’t work for all genres equally, but every genre MUST reevaluate the way they do business in light of new technologies or watch as the world passes them by.

  • Those would all be copyright violations under the CC license his images are covered by. How does this differ from someone doing the same things with standard copyright?

  • Fascinating but frightening idea. But I’m seeing examples of this actually working more and more across the internet. Give away your best stuff–in specific contexts–and the people who want to buy will come buy. But that big What If–what if they steal my stuff and nobody buys anything–is terrifying. It’s a fear I must overcome: I agree with Trey that sharing is profitable.

  • I’m with you 100%!

  • Christine

    Pinterest can SELL others’ work? I don’t know if I read that in their terms. Using it for their own advertising, I could see, but I don’t think Pinterest can legally sell others’ photos and art. If they can, that’s news to me, and directly violates copyright law. I would like to know either way, as I am considering joining, but am hesitant now.

  • Christine

    I think people are speaking of two different terms as if they are one term here. Demon Lee and demon, I totally agree with you (not sure if you are one person). Yes, brands and items and products and technology changes. This does NOT (and should not) change the moral code of the law. The law is ideally put into place to protect people. This is why copyright law was created. Yes, the WAY art, photography (‘works’) are traded is through new and constantly changing means. That does NOT take away the right of the creator on whether or not he or she can continue to make a living from them.
    I saw a documentary about ‘memeing’ or ‘memes’ and how, basically, a bunch of non-working twenty-somethings thought they were entitled to everything. They essentially stole logos, images, etc. and ‘shared’ (sold, gave away, whatever their daily definition was) with the world. Considering that truth needs to extend throughout an argument even when variables change, by this ‘logic’, as Demon Lee says, I should be able to just ‘have’ electric and gas and just take a house (and yes, people have taken others’ houses by just moving in and squatting!) without paying for it or exchanging cash or other means for it. This is socialist. Now, I’m not going to get political, because I hate that, but the basic thing Demon(s) say is true: these people feel entitled that ‘the world’ should experience art and photography their way. What happened to a person working and saving so they could acquire, say, an original Trey print, or a piece of fine art? Now, not only has a piece lost its value and been overexposed and the brand weakened by someone who stole out of the hands of its creator the decision of what happens to that ‘work’ or how it is sold, they have taken money out of the creator’s pocket. I know because this happened to me with an image I created years ago.
    If you’re a hobby artist or photographer and just want to create and share for ‘likes’, fine. But if someone puts a piece up online, max res and no watermark, and expect that no one will grab it an use and sell it, it is equivalent of leaving a canvas painting outside on your doorstep while you go to work, so that people can admire it. Don’t expect it to be there for you to sell for its full worth.
    I don’t know you Trey, but I commend your success and your work, and I respect your opinion. It showed me a different side of this issue, but I have to default to: is it a profession or a hobby? I believe this mode suits you where your career is, but I can’t say I agree with you. 🙂

  • Christine

    You’re so right, Lisa. It is very disheartening and frustrating, considering the amount of time put into our work.

  • The devil is in the details – there was concern about terminology in their terms allowing for commercial use. In commonsense practice, it was clear that the text was in there to protect them in cases where they might use screenshots, etc, in advertising. However, because of the nature of the site, many photographers were/are concerned about issues like this and felt the language was too ambiguous. It’s a hot debate for sure, but really Trey’s stance (which I agree with personally) is that you do not stand to lose. Today’s landscape is much different than the early days of the internet, and it’s pretty clear that this is sort of the new paradigm now.

  • Engel Nyst

    I don’t think this is correct: “Open source programmers have fully embraced this method of sharing their work since the beginning, you are free to use, change and share their software, but you can not sell it, or claim it as your own.”.
    Namely, the ‘sell’ bit. Open source licenses (as listed by OSI) allow you to sell the software. The “non-discrimination against fields of endeavour”, from Open Source Definition, comes into play here. That it’s not going to happen in practice, it’s obvious, since users can get it for free anytime. So they’re not going to buy from you, unless you do add value, other than the software as it originally is.
    On this particular bit, other fields, such as photography, and generally creative content, are different than software. Commercial vs non-commercial use matters, it’s codified in CC licenses, and it’s entirely normal and fair to be so.

  • Engel Nyst

    You’re confusing copyright and license. The author owns the copyright, and he licenses his work under a CC NC license, which is NonCommercial use only. Because he owns the copyright, he can license it any way he pleases, including multiple ways, and he chooses to: share for non-commercial use, and charge for commercial use.
    Because of this license, you’re in violation not if you re-share his work (you can do that, respecting the terms), but if you re-share a non-commercially licensed work for commercial purpose.

  • I’ve had this bookmarked for months to watch your Google speech. I finally got to it today. I was feeling down and looking for a distraction. What you said about looking outside of “your bubble” was exactly what I needed to hear. I agree with everything you said, just needed a little reminder/motivation.Thanks!

  • The images that appear on Pinterest are stolen from copyright holders all over the world. Recent reports estimate that more than 90% of the images on Pinterest.com were put there without the permission of the image owner.

  • I’d be interested in reading this report – I see a lot of “statistics” like this thrown around, but I wonder if you included correctly-attributed CC photos that number might be much, much lower.

  • It’s a mindset, sadly, Christine. 🙁 And it persists.

  • Shiree McCarver

    I found you through Pinterest and all I can say is a big THANK YOU. Some of us can physically travel, but most of us in this world virtually travel because we either can’t afford to, afraid to fly, or any numerous of personal reasons. I’m an Indie writer of Interracial romances and your pictures inspire me. I sit and stare at your photograph on Pinterest and I imagine lovers meeting in such a place and a story blossoms. Now, in my idea life I would be able to hop a flight to the pictured destination and use all my senses other than visual. However in reality, my finances and health reason do not make being adventurous an option for me.
    You, Mr. Ratcliff, through your craft, have allowed me to mentally venture out vicariously using your body and eyes I am right there in whatever photograph that catches my attention. I thank you for giving us descriptions of the location because it allows me to surf the internet and gain more geological information that I could use to set up scenes and background for my stories. I have a great love for Japan and manage to implement it so well in my stories people assume I have actually been there, when in fact, it is on my bucket list.
    You putting your work out here for the world to experience is the same way I feel about my books. A reader will tell me they saw my book on some random site free for download. Well, that doesn’t bother me, because most of the time I gain new readers who don’t have access to all of my books for free, or they realize if they want to keep me writing, they have to buy it so I can maintain a living and do so.
    I built my fan base on free reads that I later turned into selling books. If the story is good, people will buy it to keep it and treasure it, or better they will tell others and with my not being able to afford advertising, word of mouth and giving it away to those who can’t afford and ebook pays off. You never know who you are impacting with your craft and for the most part I have found the majority genuinely wanting to be supportive either through loyal postings about me on their blogs, and social networking, or though making sure they buy every book I put out even if it’s not in a genre they are use to reading. Sorry about being so longwinded, but I had to let you know how appreciative I am as a fan of yours. Thank you again.

  • north

    Photographers, writers, musicians, painters, movie makers all need to make a living if they want to create full time. All need supplies, space and time to make their creations. If you take away their avenue of income, how do you expect them to continue to create? If you want to snap 1000’s of snap shots and put them up on a website, go ahead. But those for those individuals who spent hours, days, weeks and even years on a creative project, they should have the freedon to charge for it and not get ripped off by unethical people or companies.

  • Larry Grey

    Obviously anyone can write anything online today,but this guy figured out how to make a good living of what tons of people like myself love to do and that’s photography.He’s able to wake up everyday and do what he loves,and a lot of people should be envious of that.I’m the same way all I do is copy what other people are doing and try to measure up to their success.If it wasn’t for people like him,people like me wouldn’t be living their dreams either.I started out small with just a basic camera,now I own a full studio and own my own business and I love it.If anything you should be asking this guy how he got to the point where he’s gotten and try and do something similar yourself.All i’m trying to say is to do what you love and if that’s photography that’s awesome because not only do I own my own studio,I make money selling my photos all over the places such as art shows and online.If you want to know how you can sell your photos for money go to http://instagramimpact.com

  • Scott Gilbertson

    Has anybody noticed that the IOS and Android Pinterest apps no longer show a “Via” name? That means if I upload a photo, and somebody repins it, an app user has no way of finding out who posted the photo. Pinterest support told me they have no intention of fixing the problem, although they did not completely discount my suggestion to link to the original uploader’s board when you click “uploaded by Pinner”. Right now, the re-pin gives the false impression that the re-pinner is the original uploader. Clicking the link takes you to a photo cache site with a gobbledygook URL.

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