Weighing Risk Against Exposure

I hate watermarks, I can’t think of anything worse to spoil a decent photo. But when I started displaying my shots on social media networks I did create a watermark and then I thought, where would I place the watermark so that no one could claim the image as theirs? There is only one place effective enough, across the middle. It looked horrible, it ruined the image and I then realised. What was the point in me trying to display art when all I was doing was ruining the image by trying to protect it? This brings up the debate in my head between weighing the risk of my work being copied(or used without my consent) and gaining exposure(excuse the pun) for it.

So, if someone wanted to display their art and be seen by millions, it would need a high platform on which to view (The Internet) and then avenues to display the work(Social networks). There are of course many photography communities which protect the image rights and not allow the images to be downloaded. Such as Flickr and 500px, both of which I use, but they are photography communities not necessarily social networks, or anywhere I would get much business from.

I am talking mainly about the social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook, the largest in the world, both of which are used by myself and millions of others. If I want exposure, I will have to use these networks. What has come to light recently is the contracts we agree into on use of these sites. The agreements do not affect our copyright(which is automatic) but they do give Facebook & Twitter the right to use our images royalty free.

The Twitter Terms of Service  state that

“You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

The Facebook Terms  are similar, stating that you (the Facebook user) own "all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings." In addition, for content protected by intellectual property rights,

“you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).”

So even if I did have a watermark on the pictures I place on these social networking sites, they still are able to copy reproduce and modify that image. But if I don’t, I am limiting my audience. Am I concerned about Facebook or Twitter stealing my work without my consent? No. I don’t think it will ever come to it, but these agreements are worrying.

My Advice

Anyone who wants to display their art on any of  these sites, should really think about uploading an image with smaller dimensions, just big enough to display it on the timeline(Facebook) or full screen. If someone does decide to click the download button they will end up with a smaller saved image and therefore are limited to anything they might want to do with that image. Which should deter many.

Excellent page for Facebook image dimensions:


I highly recommend Adobe Lightroom for processing images this way, I use it for all my processing, as I usually make two copies of each photo, one for the web(low res, smaller size, JPEG) and one master copy(TIFF). Lightroom makes it easy to batch process images while keeping the original image intact. You may also want to include a link to a photography site with the a higher resolution image, this way you get the best of both worlds, exposure to more people and a link for anyone who wants to check your art out in its full form.

If you do worry that your work is being used on another site without your permission, you can drag and drop an image into Google Image Search and it will bring up images that match it.

Hopefully these social networking sites will realise that people are trying to run businesses and will amend their agreements. Until then I will always be weighing the risk against exposure.