Please Don't Post Your Grad Photo Proofs to Facebook

Update: Newschool Photography sent me a response to this post. I admit that the arguments I used below are flawed, but at the end of the day what matters is that we support the content creators that provide value to us – whether they are photographers, software developers, musicians, or filmmakers. The text of my original rant follows.

Disclaimer: IANAL.

Several students in my class recieved their Grad Photo Proofs today. You know how I know? Because a whole bunch of them posted their proofs to Facebook, verbatim. That bothers me. I received my proofs too, but I don’t intend to publishing them to Facebook. Why? Because I think that using proofs for anything other than ordering prints is stealing.

I understand that some of you don’t have the highest respect for the photographers that came to the University to do your grad photos. Maybe it’s sticker shock – top-tier packages for photos in elementary school probably didn’t cost over $300. Maybe it’s because you had difficulty booking your grad photo session because the site always ran out of slots. Maybe it’s because you re-used a password on the grad photo booking site (tsk, tsk) only to find out (THE HORROR!) that they store the password in plain text (and send it back to you by e-mail, to boot). I get that.

But, as software developers, and potential engineers-to-be, many of us rely on others to pay for our software, so that we have a bed to sleep on and food to eat. The idealist in me would like to rely solely on open source, but the reality is that I use a lot of proprietary software (GitHub, Dropbox, Pushover, Remember the Milk, Google Music, XBox Live, Halo 4, FEZ, ilomilo, and – as much as I hate to admit it – the odd copy of Windows 8 and Microsoft Office). I make a point to only use proprietary software if I have a valid license for it. If I don’t own a valid license, I either buy one, or I don’t use the software. To do anything else would be hypocritical. I expect that my classmates, some of whom may seek out their P. Eng, operate under similar principles.

Similarly, I would expect professional photographers to properly pay for licenses for software they use in their trade. A single license for Adobe’s Creative Suite 6 Design Standard costs roughly $1300 USD. Adobe’s Creative Cloud for teams costs $840 USD/year/seat. (Remember, these are professionals, not prosumers. I am going to assume that they’re not going to use an $80 USD copy of Apple’s Aperture.)

The resulting conclusion? I think it’s a big problem to take proofs from a photographer and put them on Facebook, and then turn around and expect them to pay for software. We need to compensate photographers properly for the service they provide. They sat in that tiny room in the Davis Centre all day, despite the many people who decided to cancel the morning of their appointment. Plus, they had all those lights, the camera, the sash, the gown, and that strange backdrop machine all ready to go so you could be in and out in ten minutes.

The photographers I know wouldn’t want you to display proofs publicly. They optimize the process for creating proofs so that they can have a fast turn-around time. That usually means using a bulk editing script, linear (not cubic) interpolation, and waiting for an order before doing touch-ups.

What drove me over the edge, and led me to write this post at 3 AM, is the one person – someone who I otherwise deeply respect, technically – that chose to crop the watermark out of their proof and set it as their display picture. First, the cropping completely ruins the framing and composition of the photo. Second, the whole point of the watermark is to deter you from using the proof for unintended uses – such as, putting it up as your profile picture on Facebook. Could you not have waited the four weeks for paper copies and scanned one of those? We don’t even graduate for another 11 months – posting grad profile photos can wait.

By the way:

  • Copyright law allows the photographer to prevent you from using the photo in ways that they don’t want, because the photographer owns the copyright to the photo.
  • Moral and publicity rights allow you to prevent the photographer from using the photo in ways that you don’t want. (IIRC, moral rights are a Canadian concept and do not exist in the US.)
  • Under Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, subsection 2.1 reads, “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos … you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use [the photos].” Because you don’t own the copyright, you can’t grant this license to Facebook. So delete those photos from Facebook, until you have the copyright transferred to you in writing.

P.S. If you hated dealing with the grad photo booking and ordering systems at least as much as I did, consider rebooting your Fourth Year Design Project to build a more usable and secure system for grad photo booking and ordering. Even if Newschool Photograph decides they don’t want to be your customer, you can probably find some professional photographer who is savvy enough to appreciate the help of a few software developers. We have almost nine whole months until symposium. We are all in fourth year. If you’re not going to build something technically interesting (“cool”) – damn the bureaucracy – you may as well build something that will make people’s lives a little bit easier.