Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Dear Friends,

Recently I attended a lecture given by an expert in a field to which I am passionately involved. I was really looking forward to this lecture and I have on many occasions actively promoted this lecturer. To get to the point, I was stunned to recognize that the third photo into the slideshow was one of my own photos, and it was presented without acknowledgement. I sat stupefied listening to the rest of the lecture. I hoped that no other photos of mine were part of the presentation. Unfortunately that was not the case. One of the last photos presented was one of my best selling photographs and the audience was audibly moved by the photo. It would have been so simple at that point to say something like, “Thanks to Kim Smith, the photographer, who is here with us this evening.”

The following morning I wrote the lecturer a very polite email stating that I don’t mind sharing my work. I simply requested that he use any one of several photos that I attached for him, with my name discreetly added in the lower right corner. In reply I received a curt and condescending note from the lecturer stating he would delete my photos from his presentation and from his files.

I spent three freezing hours before a long workday in a windy wet field hoping to get that shot that the lecturer was using as part of his presentation. Taking credit, either by claiming it as your own, or by lack of acknowledgement is unethical, at the very least. I really empathize with people who experience more extreme cases of appropriation. Some may find this case to be relatively minor; I found it totally unnerving.

I love to share information and photos about wildflowers and butterflies—as my new friend Hannah says, “You are working for the butterflies.” I blame myself for not watermarking the photos, although I believe very sincerely that most people are honest, have integrity, and give credit when credit is due. For example, when Maggie Harper, the producer from the television show Chronicle, borrowed my Greasy Pole footage, they not only ran my name across the top of the footage, they also provided a link to my blog on the Chronicle website. Maggie had seen the footage on Good Morning Gloucester and contacted Joey, who graciously provided her with my contact information. From the Chronicle link, I received many thousands of hits on my own blog. As another example, when a non-profit national wildflower organization wanted to use several photos for their publication, I gladly said yes, and only requested that I receive a photo credit, which they did provide. I am honored and touched beyond measure that people enjoy my photos and films. My policy is the same as many artists in that I request that if someone wishes to use my work for presentation, that they would please let me know, prior to use.

Enough with all that. Many have written requesting information about this year’s Monarch Butterfly migration. I have been shooting daily hours and hours of video and still photos and will be sharing all. I have figured out how to add a watermark in photo shop, but am hoping to find a more efficient and faster method of adding a signature.

Monarch Butterfly Migration Gloucester Massachusetts 2012

Happy Last Days of Summer!

Many more photos from this year’s migration to come.


  • I agree Kim, what a slimy situation. For a watermark, use the copyright symbol © (option + g) before your name, and to be technically correct add the year the photo was taken. For example: © Kim Smith 2012. This way, you’re giving notice that this image belongs to you, and cannot be used without your permission. If some uses it anyway, you’ve got a legal leg to stand on. I try to watermark all my photos, but it does take a little time. There are programs available that can do it quickly. Anyone have a recommendation?


    • Thank you Fred for taking the time to write–very helpful information. I love the copyright option-done!

      The Monarch migration has been spectacular, albeit very, very brief this year. Perhaps we’ll get another passel or two coming through. We can hope! One year it lasted nearly a week. Because of my film project, I wished on every star for a good migration, and my wish came true!


  • I agree with Kim as well, the watermark on photoshop can be a real pain to do, Live Writer is easier but can not edit pics. People have also used some of my photos and because I have big mouth call them on it… Kim, your photos and information on the butterfly have been terrific and look forward to reading more..


  • Part of me wanted to leave and forget I ever came and part wanted to do as you have done and call him on it–so stunningly (and infuriatingly) awkward.

    Thank you Donna-you are sweet to say that. The footage from this weekend was simply unbelievable–I am so inspired to get to work on editing the Monarch film but will have to wait until the Black Swallowtail film is finished and for work to slow down–a great thing about New England winter months!


    • You did all photographers a service by calling this guy on his use of your photo. And others who casually grab a photo may also mend their ways after reading your post.


  • Where is the best place to view the Monarch Migration? Your photographs are stunning! Thank you for sharing them with us!


    • Thank you Zefra! The butterflies were everywhere this weekend. I took photos from dozens of different fields, meadows, and gardens. Wherever you find seaside goldenrod in particular, you will see the Monarchs during their annual migration. Also asters and ironweed. Usually they are quietly nectaring and if you just drive by a patch, it won’t look like much. Get up close and you will see!


  • Kim also make sure your meta data fields have your copyright information. Thank you for calling out the thief. It happens more than you would think!!!!!


    • When I was shooting for national and regional publications, such as InfoWorld and Yankee, every photo I submitted had the © notice.At that time, it was a rubber stamp – before the watermark days. I had a saying then: If someone uses one of my © photos without permission, I just send them a bill for the usage and notice of their copyright violation. Of course they paid. I never asked for an apology or anything, I just invoiced them. I worked every time.


    • Thank you Tom for your super helpful suggestion. I know nothing about meta data fields and guess I will be doing my homework tonight!


  • What a magical photo! Really beautiful! Sorry that you’re having to deal with the all too common problem of photo piracy!


    • Thank you Ann for your kind comment.

      Yes you are right–way, way too much piracy of all kinds. The internet makes is so easy, so perhaps through creating an awareness through the internet there is hope that it can also be mitigated.


  • So very classy of you to not mention any names (even though – really – he or she deserved to be outed as a poor sport as well as a poor scholar). Lovely shot of butterflies!!


  • I have a rather unusual Monarch butterfly migration story. A few years ago I was a paddock and grid marshal at the U.S. Formula One Grand Prix auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I was at the race track during the last week of September, stationed at a particular turn in the track. I watched a steady stream of Monarchs fly across the race track, one and two at a time, probably 10 – 15 feet up in the air, a butterfly every 10 minutes or so. They always approached from the same direction on the other side of the track and their flight path was amazingly consistent. When a race car happened to be speeding by at more than 150 miles per hour, the Monarchs would be blown up high in the air from the turbulence, then would collect themselves and continue flying, always in the right direction. I was astonished that they continued along their way unscathed. This went on for the entire 4 days of racing.


  • It’s very easy to imagine your story. The Monarchs follow an internal compass, guided by the angle of light and magnetic receptors, or so it is thought. They don’t actually flap their wings the several thousand-plus miles to Mexico. Their wings would be too tattered by the time they reached their overwintering grounds. The Monarchs take advantage of the tailwinds. When encountering headwinds, they stop and nectar and build their lipid reserves.

    Thank you for sharing your Monarch migration story!


  • Thanks for sharing your experience, Kim. As Fred pointed out, your post did ALL photographers a good service (as well as other artists, writers and musicians).

    It was the attitude of the no-name lecturer that seems even more hurtful than stealing your photo — and by your telling of the story it appears he knows you, making his contemptuous theft and showing of your photos — knowing you were in the audience — that much more insulting.

    What? He just couldn’t be bothered to ask for your permission? No, this case is not minor. Furthermore, his theft is a slap in the face to those of us who take great pains to ask permission and then, after we get it, to credit photographers and others properly (see one example here:

    This guy obviously knows the difference between a casual snapshot and your fine, artistic work. I like Fred’s idea of sending him an invoice. How many times were your photos displayed? In how many lectures? Was this guy paid? Seems like he owes you some $$$.

    At the very least I hope he read your post and is changing his ways. If you catch him at it again, you might consider publishing his name . . .


    • Thank you Vickie and Peter for taking the time to write and to share the credit page of the website. That credit page is Fantastic, so thorough, thoughtful, and professional–really a primer in how to give credit where credit is due!

      When people steal your artistry, it really knocks the wind out of your sails–but only temporarily. I didn’t mean to suggest it was so minor, just that we are all aware of a much, much more extreme case recently, and mine is much less consequential relative to theirs.

      I love the GloucesterMa website-beautiful, beautiful work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • Kim, that’s an absolutely wonderful shot–I know how hard you had to work for it.

    I have a question about using photos and copyrights and Pinterest. Occasionally, I see a picture in GMG and I want to share it, so I pin it. In the case of Kim’s picture, there’s a copyright notice. If you select the Pinterest button at the bottom of the picture on GMG, the picture is pinned with the copyright and also its source, GMG.

    My question, is that legit? How does everyone feel about using photos on Pinterest?


    • Hi Rosa–Frankly I don’t know that much about Pinterest although I often see people directed to my blog from Pinterest, which is a good thing. My understanding of Pinterest is that the source is always provided. Honestly I just assume its a good thing because our super-knowledgeable-about-all-things-techno-editor-in-chief-Joey has provided the link to our posts. Perhaps people who know more about the topic will share their opinions.

      Thank you for your kind words re the photo included in the post, although it is not the same photo that the lecturer had included in his post. The above photo is from this year’s migration. The other photo was from the migration of 2007, which was also a phenomenal year for the Monarch butterfly migration.


  • Thanks for addressing this situation head on and with class! T


  • This photo is just breathtaking. The butterflies are gorgeous. I am so sorry you had to deal with someone stealing the use of your photos. My husband is a fine art photographer and this makes me realize we need to put a copyright label on everything. Thank you. I hope that person learned a lesson.


    • Thank you Terry for your kind comment re photo-the butterflies are simply divine.

      I agree with you after having experienced the shock of seeing someone else use my work. Fred’s words really ring true, “Without the © notice, people will think they can use your photo, with it, they think twice.”


Leaving a comment rewards the author of this post- add to the discussion here-

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s