Birth is unlike any other type of photoshoot. Birth is intimate. Families invite us to document one of the most life-changing moments of their lives. We go on-call for these families for weeks on end…willing to leave our own families at any time of day or night. When we enter the birth space, we enter a sacred space. We are documenting real, unscripted moments that cannot be replicated.
When you share a photographer’s work on your social media account, website, and blog, you may be helping to build their business by sending new followers their way. But when you aren’t intentional about some basic etiquette, you might accidentally attribute their hard work to someone else, inadvertently steal their images, or take away from all their hard work by editing over their art. Much of this is specific to Instagram, though a lot of this information is relevant if you share an image (or images!) on any other social media platform, your website, or in a blog post.
Here are a few suggestions to take into account when considering using a photographer’s work in your feed:
Ask for permission
Before pressing the Share or Repost buttons, send them a quick message to tell them who you are, why you want to share, and confirm that they’re okay with it. Chances are, they will be! But it never hurts to ask.
Tag the artist in the caption AND the photo
Seeing our photo credit buried at the bottom of a text block amid dozens of hashtags can feel like erasure. Visual art is powerful, so give credit where credit is due! Mention the artist whose work you were so drawn to right at the top, please.
Share from the original account
When sharing a photo, take a moment to read the caption for the photo credit, find the account which originally posted, and share the image from their page. Especially in stories, this allows followers to recognize the photo credit without reading the caption and eliminate the maze they have to take to get to the photographer’s work.
Bonus: When sharing a post to stories, be sure to share from the original poster, and tag them in the story so they can engage with you and see where their work has been shared. As artists, it’s such a thrill to see our photos make their way around the world.
Never crop a photographer’s work
You wouldn’t quote a writer and then change their phrasing, would you?
And definitely don’t add a filter to their photo
After we complete a photo session, we spend HOURS tweaking our images to perfection. Please don’t invalidate all of our hard work by slapping a filter onto our photo.
Text belongs in the caption, not on top of the photo
Again, this has to do with respecting the integrity of our artwork. For many photographers, seeing a block of text on top of one of our lovely photos evokes similar feelings as if you were cropping or editing the image.
Planning to use the image in an ad?
Then you should pay the photographer for being a part of your ad campaign. Whether it’s a simple one-off #sponcon post or a larger influencer account, using their image to promote a service or course of your own warrants a financial exchange for their work. Additionally, the photographer and birthing family may not want to be associated with the product you sell. Just because you feel like their image is a good fit for your product…we might not agree. For example, a birthing person who has exclusively breastfed all of their babies may not want to be part of a formula ad. Additionally, birthing people may not want ANY of their images to be used to sell products. When they agree for their photographer to share their birth images…it is largely because they want the world to see the beauty and power of birth and NOT because they want a stranger to sell more of their product/service.
Want to use the image on your own website?
You should definitely pay the photographer! When you use someone else’s image to sell something of your own, you are using their image for financial gain and that necessitates payment, not just “giving credit”. This is especially important when you are not local to the photographer. Think about it this way, if you are a midwife in Atlanta sharing an image that a photographer in Detroit took – your clientele is not going to hire the Michigan photographer. There will be no financial gain for the photographer. Additionally, most photographers are reaching out to their clients each time to ASK permission for their birthing body and image to be used on your website. Again, this takes time and energy, plus our clients might not want to advertise their photos on your website/business.
Offering payment upfront or asking our rates makes us feel like you take our images and artwork seriously. Payment for images can range from $100 per image to thousands depending on usage, the size of the business, and the campaign’s visibility.
The ethics of using a photo out of context.
One of the most frustrating things that happen to photographers (and real birthing families) is when an account uses a birth photo to further their own agenda or beliefs about birth without consulting the photographer or the person who actually is in the image! For example, many photographers have had their hospitals images used by natural birth accounts in an effort to display everything they think is wrong with medical birth (ie. look at all the wires, look at how the provider is handling baby, etc…) This is incredibly hurtful to the person who was willing to share such an intimate moment with the world, and it is BY FAR the most damaging action you can take with a photographer’s work. If you are using a birth image, please consider your intent. Are you sharing the image because you think it is beautiful, powerful, or encouraging? Awesome. Or are you sharing to prove a point and/or disparage a certain birth choice? NOT ACCEPTABLE.