Use of Photo Proofs

This is kind of a random question, but I’m wondering what you guys think about use of watermarked photo proofs on websites and online advertisements? I know sometimes folks will just use a proof as a digital version for a photo they’ve already ordered, but I assume this is often not the case. Personally, whenever I see this it seems unprofessional and tacky. There also seems to be a bit of a double standard with digital v print advertising. I imagine if someone tried to use a watermarked photo in an print ad, the publication wouldn’t allow it, so why is it “allowed” in digital ads? I guess there could also be the argument that a clearly watermarked photo just serves as an advertisement for the photographer anyway.

Most of my firmly held objections are for aesthetic reasons. But I’m curious what others think. Is this usually considered acceptable?

6 Responses to Use of Photo Proofs

  1. leslie says:

    It is never acceptable. I’m a member of the Equine Photographers Network, and there are many ongoing discussions there about this very topic. If it’s watermarked, it’s watermarked for a reason, and the reason isn’t advertising. A watermark is supposed to compel people to actually pay for the final cropped, full-sized, signed image. Unfortunately, people just really don’t care now and will screen capture every image off a photographer’s website to post on their Facebook pages.

    Some photogs are starting to post their proofs with warnings across them in place of the usual watermarks. You’ll see some that say things like, “If this image is on any website other than, it is stolen and should be reported to the photographer.” It’s really sad that it’s come to that.

    I think you’re right about print publications. The breed magazines have a working relationship with most of the show photographers, so everyone knows the drill. But if people are just lifting proofs off the photographers’ websites to put on their own sites or post in online classified ads, there’s no intermediary there to stop them.

    It’s a hot button issue, for sure. I don’t know how anyone makes a living as a photographer these days.

  2. leslie says:

    For the record, wordpress automatically hyperlinked the URL I meant to use just as an example. Turns out it’s a real (sort of) site. Best not to click it.

  3. Vintage_Rider says:

    Leslie is more than correct. It is not only “tacky” but illegal. In a prior life I worked for an advertising agency… the use of a professional photograph without the photographer’s permission is a HUGE no-no

  4. somedaysue says:

    Once I contacted a professional photographer about being able to use a photo I had purchased at the show and also some proofs on my personal website. He gave me permission to use the one I had purchased but not the proofs. In fact, he said that he had purchased a “snooper” program, or some such thing, that would allow him to search the internet for improper use of his photo images.

  5. StacyGRS says:

    that is correct. What people don’t understand is that the photographer owns the image and you own the copy you buy…only. It’s like buying a poster. you own that poster, but the photographer still owns the original image and any others that they took that you didn’t buy.

  6. Trisha says:

    I also find it really tacky. Also on a practical level, you CANNOT see the horse well in a low resolution photo with writing all over it. I get a little disgusted when I see someone asking $10,000 for a horse and they can’t even purchase a $50 photo… Whether or not that is actually the case, that is what it looks like.

    If you ASK permission, some photographers out there will send you a lower resolution copy of the photo you purchased if you need it for advertising before it will arrive by mail.

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