I'm a amateur photographer, often volunteering at events. I befriend other volunteers and visitors to these events on Facebook. I would often take pictures of everyone, the volunteers, visitors and entertainers. Event rules and laws rule that I own full copyright to the photos I take and I'm allowed to share them on social media and I am not allowed to hide the photos behind a paywall. I am not allowed to sell the photos. I always fully comply with these rules. I will always be careful not to share potentially embarrassing shots. I will share 'behind the scenes'-photos with volunteers only and shots that put the event in a good light will be accessible to the public on my (Facebook) wall.

The problem

I have noticed various acquaintances (often non-photographer fellow volunteers) set my photos as their profile picture. I love that. I’m generally okay with that, even if they re-upload it.

Some other acquaintances will download and re-upload the pictures, as if they were the owners. These are pictures I took, I created them. They seem oblivious to the fact that their face being on the photo does not mean they can use it everywhere.

Now, I don't intend to sue. These are friendly acquaintances that I intend to stay on a friendly basis with. I merely wish to receive credit where credit is due (the photos are licenced under CC-BY-SA). I do not receive or want to receive money for my services, I enjoy taking photos at events, but I also do not appreciate someone just taking what is technically mine. The exposure is what enables me to do my hobby. They do it to other photographers as well. One has a profile picture with a big watermark saying SAMPLE, looking like it was taken at a paid photoshoot.

What I want to achieve

I don't want or need money, but I certainly like the social media recognition. That exposure is what gets me invited to events. I would like to receive credit where credit is due and for my acquaintances to stop re-uploading my photos.

Assuming I found out that an acquaintance reuploaded a particular photo, how can I talk to them about them unintentionally damaging me and ask if they can give me credit without this situation turning awkward?

  • 1
    Are we talking about recent pictures being downloaded here? Or are they older? People may have saved them, encountered them and then uploaded them? Do they actually have the technical knowledge to understand the difference and how to set someone else's picture as a profile picture?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 14:09
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    @Belle why don't you want to add a watermark to the photos? Is it because you don't have a logo, because you don't want to waste the time or there is another reason? As for your question to Hagen, licensing is the formal way to say other people "I want you to do this and that with this photo, but not these other things". You say "download for free if requested"; by who? What are the terms of your restrictions? What are the CC licenses you can apply to your works? If you can define formally a license, write it in the description on the social media advising what other people can or can't do
    – frarugi87
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 15:26
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    @Tinkeringbell I agree with your last bit. Most of the people I know that use facebook would have no idea how to properly attribute these to the OP, so if they don't have technical knowledge, muddling through it by saving the picture might be how they go about it. See if there's a misunderstanding of technical knowledge first, and go from there.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 16:59
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    I'm removing discussion of the legal aspects here. We're not a legal site. The OP isn't attempting to take legal action. They just want to ask people they know to give them credit for their images. If you're interested in the legal side of things, feel free to post a similar question on Law.
    – Catija
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 19:21
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    @HagenvonEitzen That doesn't affect the OP's question. It doesn't matter whether someone is required by law to credit them or not. They want to know how to ask someone do to so.
    – Catija
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 19:54

6 Answers 6


Well, you could try contacting each person in turn, and asking them to give you credit by following the steps you described in your post. You shouldn't bring them stealing your work into the conversation at this stage, however, because most of them will likely not have thought of the situation in those terms, and will likely cooperate with you.

Some of these people, however, are downloading and re-uploading the pictures precisely because it will look as if the picture is their own, and they will likely ignore your requests. These are the people with whom the "you've stolen from me" conversation should be had, however they're also the least likely people to give a damn.

This may lead to some drama - I'm not saying that you couldn't try to push them to give you credit, but it's likely not worth the effort. It's simpler to never again take/post pictures of that particular person, and simply keep track of those who steal your work as best you can.

Realistically, however, how many people can you keep track of that way? How long before you've had that conversation way too many times?

The best way to ensure that everyone knows a picture you've taken is your own is to watermark/sign it. It doesn't have to be a crude watermark which is displayed across the whole photo. A simple, discrete logo/signature in a corner would suffice.

Those who go out of their way to delete that logo you can simply never post pictures of again. Anyone else you don't need to get in touch with, because - by virtue of leaving your logo in - they're giving you credit. This seems like the most practical way to achieve your goals.

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    There's some valuable insight in here. Thank you.
    – Belle
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 14:18
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    @Belle I've seen some classy watermarks that are subtle. One of my favorites is to throw the watermark in a text layer in Photoshop, then add a glow or bevel layer effect and set the layer's "Fill" to 0 -- leaving you with just the bevel/glow. Keep it far enough from the edge that it can't just easily be cropped out and large enough to be legible, but avoid obscuring the subject(s) or making it too large, too.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 16:31
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    The watermark seems like an elegant solution without going over the top. I'm sure many people download and reupload the image because they aren't as computer savvy as others. Cropping out the watermark is pretty damning for proving that this person is really trying to take credit, and did not make an honest mistake.
    – brenzo
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 18:07
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    Watermark was the first thing I thought of too. It can be especially nice if you have a distinctive logo -- but make sure it says your name or company as well.
    – Stephen R
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 22:23
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    Not everyone will be cropping out the watermark because they want the credit for themselves. Some may not care about credit but prefer the look of the photo without the watermark. It's perhaps a shame that facebook doesn't provide a field for photo credit.
    – bdsl
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 23:13

There's a less sinister reason than you might think for them to download and re-upload: It can be easier. This is especially true if they want to crop them* to highlight their own involvement, or to use on another network. This is understandable as many people use something like a headshot for a profile picture, and you were shooting the event, not a portrait session.

I've done similar things myself with friends pictures. I don't usually start from a pro's volunteer work, though my profile pic on bicycles.se

me on bicycles

is pretty much that, taken from the event's facebook page, cropped and re-uploaded (the photographer wasn't credited by the event). This may even be problematic if they've ruined your composition, though as event shots you often can't compose quite how you'd like if you were posing everyone. In the example above, I've removed some clutter, but also the charity event's branded flag, just to concentrate on the picture of me.

So what can you do about these people?

I suggest you simply ask them to credit you. Would a link to the original/your page in a comment be enough?


"Thanks @ChrisH for the lovely photo"

(taking some more of my stuff as an example. In this particular case you could also add "available at Wikimedia commons under a CC-BY-SA license")

This maybe isn't as visible as you'd like, but IMO profile pictures are largely ignored once they've been up for a while, unless there's activity on them.

Unless you watermark across their face, which I don't recommend, it may well not appear.

*Yes, you can use a clunky crop tool on facebook, but not on the mobile website last I checked.

  • 5
    BTW I baked the cakes in the second picture as well as shooting it; when friends reposted pictures of their own creations at the same event I offered them the full-res versions to do with as they pleased, but I don't get paid for my photography, so don't need the recognition
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 15:31
  • This is a good answer, though I imagine a lot of people (especially those who only use the internet for social media) wouldn't have the first clue what the CC-BY-SA licence is, so I think that would be of limited use.
    – Pharap
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 0:11
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    @Pharap I'm sure you're right. My remark about licensing was really there to indicate that this approach can easily be extended in that direction as well as linking to the event page or equivalent.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 7:24

Assuming I found out that an acquaintance reuploaded a particular photo, how can I talk to them about them unintentionally damaging me and ask if they can give me credit without this situation turning awkward?

I'd go with a private message first, start with expressing your gratitude that people actually use your picture (and seem to like it), then explain what you did to us: you're dependent on exposure to ensure future work/events, then ask (don't tell) whether people would mind editing their post a little (or reposting, if editing isn't possible) and include a reference to you or your site as the photographer. The private message has a benefit that you aren't calling someone out in public for stealing photographs.

Such a message is the most polite and hands-off approach. If you want something a little more passive-aggressive, you could comment on the post (if that's possible), and leave a message that expresses that you had fun photographing them, that you really like it that they like your picture so much, and that if people want to see more photos from the event where it was taken, they can go to your profile (insert a link :) ). This is more dangerous than the private message, since it's public. Try not to accuse people, instead just promote yourself next to their post. It may not stop the reuploading of photos, but if your acquaintances notice this, they might just start including links back to you next to reuploaded photos. Could you live with that?

Now, this might always turn a bit awkward, if not for you, then for the other person. Maybe they are not aware of the copyrights on these photos, on the fact that you're dependent on them for exposure so you can go to more events. There are many factors here, they might lack some technical skills and be unaware that they're removing a train of links and sourcing. That's why, if you want to do get as much people on your side as possible, you need to educate, be patient and not accuse people.

You said in the comments "I'm not that interested in educating them, as long as they stop doing it.". I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you here, but without 'educating' and explaining why exposure is so important to you, you won't get people to stop without awkwardness or making them angry. Imagine someone stepping over to you and telling/yelling at you to stop photographing, while you're under the impression you're not doing anything wrong, and the other person not explaining why. It's frustrating at the very least.


Something like:

Hey, I'm glad you liked my photo. Could you credit me/retain the credits when resharing it on social media? I rely on exposure for [building my photography career/however you want to describe that].

While you may be legally, or in your view morally, entitled to accuse people of "stealing", or demand they stop using, photos you've taken, nobody likes that photographer. It comes across as an attitude that you think you're superior to other people who aren't "real photographers" and who don't mind when friends reshare.

  • 6
    It's true, rightly or wrongly "that photographer" will get into arguments and maybe get slagged off online, or even in person. The nice photographer described above will probably get what he wants without drama and may even get some gigs/contacts out of it. Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 23:44
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    Good point. They probably don’t realise how what they did affects me and accusing them of stealing will only make them think bad of me. I had thought about them going on the defensive, but not how that potentially makes them think about me.
    – Belle
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 8:24

You are taking photos of people, and then uploading them onto social media (along with some description of the event and when you took them). Then, the people in the photos come along and take a copy of your photo, and use it for their own social posts / sites. Correct?

Your agreement which states that you own the photos, are allowed to post them on social media, and are not entitled to make money from them, is with the event organizers, rather than with the people in the photos, right?

So, it is perfectly natural that people see themselves in the pictures and get a sense of ownership, given that they are in the pictures. In short, they simply assume they can use the pictures as they see fit. They don't have an agreement with you, and therefore they (in their minds) are not doing anything wrong. Obviously, a healthy portion of respect for other people and other people's things, is missing, but that is so common nowadays that it is pointless to fret about it.

When you share the photos, why don't you include a non-threatening footnote?

Here are the photos I took at the event last week. If you like them and want to use them, I would really appreciate if you mention that I took the photos, because every bit of advertising counts. Thank you!

  • @Belle I agree that it is copyright infringement. However, you ask the average person what they consider to be copyright infringement, and they will be happily unaware that it covers things like photos, documents, and other things they found online. Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 12:34
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    @Belle - Thank you. The ambiguity was subtle, but I have made a small change that hopefully fixed it. Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 12:43

How can I get the message across without this situation turning awkward or without resorting to watermarking my photos?

You can't. Either you make the situation awkward or you'd have to resort to watermarking your photos. There's no other way around this conundrum as people don't have too much respect for copyright when it comes to their own Facebook pages.

So pick the lesser of evils and go for it.

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