Tips Tuesday – Foggy Issue

Since I am feeling a little grumpy due to my squirrel battles, I thought to pass on a tip or more precisely, an untip. It goes out to the bloggers that comment on using photos not owned by the blog author.

This has been going on as long as blogging has been popular. I am guilty as charged, because on rare occasion I post images I receive by email,  so that my readers can enjoy what I find to be funny, beautiful or educational. Most of my images are my own work and not retouched.  And those I can credit, receive the acknowledgement and thanks.

These emailed images frequently have no blog to link to and are not signed or copyrighted. Copyright law seems a bit foggy when it comes to blogging. The transient post may only last hours on the homepage. Yes, it lives on the blog and web for as long as it is on the host server, but I digress. That is not my main point.

Where this piracy is most prevalent is in the interior design blogs. Without using images from the web, magazines and books, most of these blogs would be without their main tools, photographs of beautifully designed spaces. Without the images use, blogging would almost be dead as a door nail. Some of these images I have seen scores of times, jumping from magazine to web, blog to blog.

Since I have been reading these blogs longer than garden blogs, I have seen the many sides to this issue. I have heard from magazine editors and photographers. Photographers ask for permission and credit. Editors ask to credit the shelter magazine who have paid for the photos.

Most of the time there is no problem since bloggers are an important means of promotion. And what I learned from podcast discussion on this subject, this has been to court. I do not know the outcome, but the argument was blogging is educational. As long as it has no monetary gain and remains just a source of information, the use of images originally found on the web did not pose monetary loss to the owner. Well, I would love to have the real answers on this from those in the know. Like the interiors crew, I have many images of landscaping I would love to critique.

I listen to a very popular interiors blog podcast. It is called The Skirted Round Table. I love this blog and the individual blog authors.

This is where I hear these issues of blogging etiquette and photo use debated. These woman designers interview top names in the industry. And I am talking the very best designers, architects, and shelter magazine editors in the country. These woman are very knowledgable and good interviewers. Between them, they also have varying opinions on this subject. But guess who has the more popular blog between them? The one that routinely uses photos from books and magazines.

Only in the last year or so, has this very large group of bloggers started crediting. Not all of them do it, but many more are stating an image source.

And for all the bloggers who take offense to other’s using borrowed photos, I wonder how many of them enhance their own images. Very many I am sure. With big name photo editors out there, that I will not name, it is a one step process to upload an image and use a an application that has a series of effects and filters all bundled into one great algorithm that is one stop shopping for the casual photographer. In goes the mediocre, out comes the fabulous.

The above image is not the shot taken. It is a Photoshop retouch using an action I created and called Foggy Day. Many steps went into making this action, but by creating the action, it is just like these online photo apps. I start the action and any photo I want instantly looks like a foggy day.

In fact, I created the action and image today just to make the point in my post. What you see is not what actually was. With some more needed work, I can make the fog image pretty darn good. But it served my purpose as an example.

This is the original, un-retouched image below, not one of any particular value or even good photography. My point is not whether the fog image is better or worse, it is not the original. A make-believe of sorts.

And many images that you see in magazines have similar effects applied. So is that the photographer’s real image or has it been worked on by masters of editing?  I can easily see how this issue would get foggy in any court of law or public opinion.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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21 Responses to Tips Tuesday – Foggy Issue

  1. One says:

    Each of us will have an opinion on what’s right or what’s wrong. Many a times, situations are just shades or grey, neither black nor white. Your ‘foggy’ photo depicts a ‘clear’ message that you wish to convey. It is a pretty darn good foggy photo too.

    • Thank you for seeing my point. I know many disagree on using images other than their own, but I think that is why the Design blogs are so popular. They create a dialog about a particular design from a recent magazine. I love reading these blogs. Whether they are designers or not, the critical look is always interesting. It makes you see things in a different way, sometimes even a hundred different ways.

  2. debsgarden says:

    My favorite feature on my computure is the crop tool! this allows me to focus attention to a particular view, while eliminating unsightly weeds or other

    My personal policy is to use my own photos, although I have very rarely used a public domain photo and identified it as such. I don’t like to turn my photos into something they weren’t to begin with, but one of my favorite features on the computer is the crop tool, which allows me to focus on a particular view, while eliminating extraneous or unattractive elements. I also like to sharpen photos that are a little out of focus. Just as careful editing improves writing, it can also improve a photograph!

    Having said that, your foggy photo is lovely and perfectly illustrates the point of your post. So I think it all depends on context.


    • Deb,
      Thanks for the reply. Almost all photos need some editing. Almost all need sharpening if taken digitally. It is just having the time to do it. I would do it to all images given the time. Cropping is a great tool. I use that often, more for formatting in the blog than removing unwanted scenes, but rarely have the time to do much more. I also batch crop, which saves time and blog space.

      Thanks for thinking the fog image is good. I did that really fast to support my story, so if I wanted a production image, I would have spent about an hour tweaking the photo. I am NO photographer and I understand using other’s images without permission, but crediting seems the way to go. For a good discussion, sometimes a Google search brings up the perfect shot to describe and support the story and text. The Design blogs do this so expertly.

  3. debsgarden says:

    OOPs! That above comment needs editing!

  4. The use of other people’s images was something I thought long and hard about when I started my blog. My decision was to use only my own images, and on occasion the images taken by friends or family, and credited as such. If there is an image that I would like people to see, that I feel is pertinent to what I’m writing about, and yet isn’t my property, then I will link to it rather than having the image appear on my page. This obviously means people need to invest more effort to see what I think would enhance their reading experience, but it appeases my sense of ethics of not using other people’s work without permission. I could credit the photo I guess, in my mind it’s no different to a bibliography at the end of a thesis, but I had enough of that at university and so choose an avenue that doesn’t require it now!

    I can absolutely see the importance of having a readily accessible image of a space if what you are doing is critiquing the design – and this is where the ethics do get a little foggy.

    An interesting post, Donna – as always you’ve made me think!

    • The post is getting interesting comments. I am so glad others are having an opinion. I commend each and everyone who uses their own photos, but I found, having such a tiny yard, I had to travel to find topics to talk about. Of course, these are my own photos, but working at home does not always get me out of the house. I would probably post less if I did not get these emails from friends with the cute animal images and the like.

      I have a friend in Finland who travels a lot. I asked her if I can post her images. She gladly said I could. So I have many photos for those cold months ahead, all of beautiful mountains and lakes in Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Finland. Some gardens too, but not like we have here.

      I just thought to bring up this topic because the Design blogs rely so heavily on borrowed material and I never saw it on garden blogs. Was wondering if that had something to do with their popularity. One blogger I mentioned gets over 71,000 hits a month. That is popular.

  5. fairegarden says:

    Hi Donna, interesting point you have brought up, and I love that fog! All of the photos on my blog are mine, and most have been tweaked in some way to improve them, but not all, for I am not that good a photographer. But I believe they should not be borrowed without my permission. When I first started blogging, I was horrified to discover my posts and photos had been stolen and used without my knowledge. It was then that I began putting my name on all the photos. If they are stolen, Fairegarden will still be on them. It can be cropped out, but I try to place it so that would cut up the image, most of the time.

    • I know you shoot all your own images. They are some of the best on the web, even though you say you are not a good photographer. I love visiting your blog because not only are the photos beautiful, the writing is always interesting.

      I have tossed around making and putting on a watermark for my images. But, I looked at it this way, kinda the same way as two of the magazine editors do. It is exposure. As long as it is used in way like they do on design blogs, I am OK with that. I like running across one of my designs, which I have, and see the talk generated. I am not a good photographer so that may not help out my cause, but it is still fun, none the less. The other reason I don’t watermark is, it is incredibly easy to Photoshop it out. There is a better way by putting in a digital indicator directly into a pixel which gets kicked back to the image owner. It is a service that you pay for, but is great for professional photographers.

      • fairegarden says:

        Gosh, that sounds like a great thing to have, the kick back! Thanks for the kind words. It is the stealing of entire posts that I am trying to prevent, others passing off your hard work as their own. With my name in the shots, people might wonder who really wrote the post and took the photos.

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Donna, tweaked or not, the fog shot is fantastic and so is the un-tweaked one, you are a great photographer.

    I haven’t used anyone else’s photos on my blog yet, I guess I’m too narcissistic. In fact, I was having a panic attack thinking some of the photos I took at a sculpture park would land me in hot water, but so far, no repercussions….so far….and I do use a free photo-editing program sometimes for cropping. I’ve tried to edit and improve my photos once in awhile, but the time it takes is more than even I have, so most of my photos are straight out of the camera. I guess I’d have increased readership if I tried a little harder, but I’m lazy. (And I don’t have to worry about people pirating my photos…who would want them?)

    I’m very appreciative of the talents of others, though, and thank you for an excellent and thought-provoking post!

    • I fell the same way as you. I know I can increase readership by having better images and paying more attention to my photo composition and lighting. My biggest problem is the time of day I am out in the field photographing. I hit noon time way to often. Never very flattering light at that time.

  7. I still say asking is the way to go. It means that you may have to wait a few days to put up a post, though. So you have to teach yourself to resist the temptation of having to publish RIGHT NOW.

    • I was hoping you would weigh in on this issue, because you are a pro in the industry. I knew you would have a very knowledgeable thought on the matter. Asking is the best way to go, like I did asking my email pen pal from Finland, but what about all the images sent via email that have no one to credit? Stop the image just once in a matter of maybe a thousands of transmittals?

      There must be some way of finding the owner. I have a friend from the Design blogs who has hunted for days to weeks to credit an image. Then she decided that this was too time consuming and posted anyway. She also is at the top of the hits list with over 35,000 per month.

      The funny thing is, that most of these images are from high priced photographers. Someone paid a lot of money for the image and it shows up on blogs maybe a hundred or more times. I have seen where images appeared before the magazine went to print. Now that is a real crime.

      After the magazine has hit the newsstands and mailboxes, hundreds of thousands copies of an image is already out there. Then it hits the web and this tally jumps exponentially. Someday there will be a definitive answer, but till then we just have to make up our own minds how we want to handle this delicate situation. It all goes back to can you actually make a good post based on your own work and keep it fresh and interesting, without resorting to using other images to critique or showcase.

  8. Wow the comments on this post are very interesting and I’ve enjoyed reading and thinking about the topic as well. I’m relatively new to blogging and at this point have only used my own photos (with the exception of my 10 things I love post – my girlfriend gave me the photos and said I can use them in any way).

    I have struggled though with using other images as my MIL sent me some images that are amazing and I really wanted to post them. They are not her images and I did try to find ownership of them on the web with no luck. I ended up not posting about them because I felt uncomfortable not being able to give credit to the photographer.

    Personally, if someone would like to use my photography, I would like credit for taking the picture and so do put a watermark on my images. I realize they can be cropped out or erased completely but this does take an extra step that I hope most will avoid.

    It is quite a foggy issue and I’m glad you brought it up. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how I feel about it entirely, but for now, I think I will just use my own images and if I need to share an image from someone else’s blog, I’ll link to their post.

    Btw, I like your fog. I need to learn photoshop better. I like playing around with it but am very much a novice.

    • I posted this as a last minute thought. I was working on a post for Wednesday and forgot about a tip for Tuesday. I have one on the deer problem for next week, but it is not ready. I went to the farm to shoot (with the camera) deer today.

      So what pops in my head… Why can the Design blogs do this and the garden bloggers not? It is not as if it is not done, just not religiously like the Design blogs. I too am new to having a blog, but not to reading them.

      I thought about joining the Design blogs because of my background in architecture, but I realized, as OK as an interior designer as I am professionally when doing commercial work, it does not translate as well to residential, and I do not have the command of textiles that I need.

      Since I design landscapes often and am a Master Gardener, I joined the garden bloggers. So this question has been bugging me for a while.

      My thought on the email pictures is, they came to you. You did not hunt them down and steal them. Somehow they made the rounds on the web. Every time I get a set of these, almost each day, there are at least 50 to 60 people in the email batch forward header. And the person before them had that many at least to get to them. And by all the forward bars down the side of the email, sometimes about ten or so, these images have been all over the country. When I posted the ones I did, I was really thinking I am putting this out and everybody probably already seen it.

      And too, when you only get about a hundred or so hits on average, you are barely getting the images to much more than if you emailed to all of them.

      • Yes, I see what you’re saying and it does seem like quite the double standard. Maybe it has something to do with a lot of the design photos being professional whereas the gardening blogs/photos are more personal. And I don’t mean that disrespectfully, what I mean is there is a certain sense of personal “ownership” among the gardening bloggers. It’s kind of like stealing from your neighbor instead of “the man.” Most everyone likes to stick it to “the man” but not their neighbor…

        I’m not accusing you of stealing either, I’m really just kind of thinking out loud and playing devil’s advocate here. Again, this is a foggy area and there will most likely always be two camps that don’t agree.

        You make a good point about the emailing of the images and how that can be seen as any different than posting the images on a blog. It doesn’t seem much different, does it? We could just dance round and round…I must go feed my children! 🙂

  9. Artie says:

    Hey Donna,

    Of course, you know that I have an interior design blog, and I often use images, crediting the designer, not the photographer – and sometimes not at all … if I can’t find a direct credit to designer or photographer.

    More often than not, when I pull images to illustrate a point about design or decoration, or even fabrics, or furniture – I use bing or google image searches, and find what completely and correctly illustrates my point. Sometimes these images are from a designers portfolio – which makes it super easy to credit, or they’re from books that I can pull info from the Glossary, but what I find is the norm is that they were already used on a blog without credit.

    There are times when I have to double check myself about posting an image – and usually, I don’t. There have also been instances when I’ve been emailed and asked to credit the image to a photographer – as was the case with my feature on Samantha Pynn. Her photo copyrights were owned by her photographer, and she was nice enough to email and ask me to credit Virginia. Which I did without question.

    I’ve never had anyone email me and ask me to remove an image, or email me even remotely upset about having an image of theirs posted on the blog. I think that it’s flattering to have someone admire your work, and share it with their followers and readers to illustrate their own unique view.

    Like I said before, the blogs that I sometimes pull images from are damning the designers, and I think they’re fabulous … so it’s all in the hands of who posts. The glory, I suppose, of self publishing. No editor saying: “did you copy this?; did you credit this?; did you spell check” etc. And in the grand scheme, a blog is really just that.

    No editors have been banging at my front door asking me to print the first issue of Artie-Weekly! LOL!

    So my personal view is this: So long as you find images that can be credited directly to the designer or photographer, you should credit them, and link back to the source of the image. If you are taking from a blog that shines a similar view on the image, credit that blog – but if you need an image to illustrate a point you cannot clearly communicate on your own – professional, semi-professional, and amatuer photography of spaces mediocre to fabulous are a wonderful resource to the blogger.

    Of course, I could post my own photography – as amatuer as it is – and collect a group of followers who love looking at my home. I certainly don’t have a problem posting about my interior design portfolio, and do that often, but there are times when I blog about ideas or trends, and I can’t illustrate that with pictures from my house – or anyone elses house that I know I can take photos of.

    Like you, I do believe that the quality of your photographic content on blogs contributes to people following, but what’s more than that – is finding your voice, and creating a personal relationship. I know of interior design blogs that have absolutely gorgeous images pulled directly from magazines and books – but they have no following. Others who use only images from thrift shops and crooked photos of their own work that have 1.000’s … it’s all about who connects to you as the writer.

    Gosh – I wrote a book. LOL!

    • Artie,
      Thank you so much for illustrating what I was trying to say, only far better. I am glad to hear from a designer and blogger on this issue.

      I feel that since your blog is extremely popular and you have been doing this for so long, you have a great handle on this issue. Far better than many. I was trying to impart that in my post, that these images are very important and can be blogged about in a very respectful manner, such as you do on your blog. And credit if at all possible.

      I have been doing this except with the email images, having no way of getting back to the source. In fact in my post on Pruning, I actually did find the original source of the video. I did not post the video, only because I did not know how, but I did locate the original post.

      And all you GWGT readers, please stop in to see Artie’s blog,

      It is very well done and the writing is superb. Artie is very talented and knowledgeable in his field.

  10. Garden Sense says:

    Although I’m a latecomer to this discussion, and an extreme newcomer to blogging, I’ve found it very interesting. For what they’re worth, here are my thoughts. I’ve used my own photos so far, which isn’t saying much (I’ve been blogging for a month and don’t post every day). If I would use someone else’s photo, I would want to gain permission or give credit, where at all possible. The issue of editing photos seems to me to be an entirely different matter since I’ve made no claim that my pictures are straight out of the camer. I do some editing of my photos in Microsoft Office Picture Manager. Frankly, I don’t have a great camera and like you, Donna, I usually find myself taking pictures at the wrong time of day. I hope that this doesn’t offend others. My goal is to make the pictures easy on the eye and enjoyable.

    • No problem being late to the party. Glad you can join the discussion. I am glad that garden bloggers are going to get to read how the design bloggers feel about this issue. I am hoping a few more check in. Great to use your own images. I would love to get the time to photograph more. I like to post daily if I can, and doing it so often, I will throw in supplemental images to make a stronger story. In one case almost all the images were borrowed, but also credited.

      Most of what I post is my own work from drawings, illustrations and most photography. But, now and then I get something so good I want to share. As you may have read in the Color Between the Lines comment, so do many of these big name bloggers. But it is great we all have different views because it makes for interesting comments.

      Editing is fine. I am pretty sure many photographers use Photoshop or Lightroom to enhance an image. After all, you want your best image out there. I rarely have time to make images better with editing. I usually sharpen or unsharp mask an image if needed, since most digital images need a little work. But further than that, it takes too much time, because I am ususally working while I fit in my blog. I hope you did not take what I said in the post the wrong way. I was talking about drastic revision like I illustrated. My point was after a change to an image like I did, who’s photo is it then, the photographer or the person making all the photo editing.

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