Posted by: mew | August 30, 2009

we’d better have this conversation now

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

– Albert Einstein

Oh, boy.  I think I kinda screwed up.  See, I thought it was obvious that I’m no photographer.  I just found out what a macro lens was two days ago, and that was by accident.  A fluke, really, while I was oohing and aahing over pretty pictures of hummingbirds.  And I’d only been reading about them because I’m starting to develop a strangely personal relationship with our visiting ruby-throats and wanted to know if it is normal for them to be quite so curious about a human.

Oh, and of course, I was also reading to procrastinate on my deadline.


(I did not take this photograph — although I highly respect the person who did!)

When I first began this little blog adventure, I read some articles with fascinating titles like, “Tips for New Bloggers,” and “So you’ve decided to start blogging.”  A few of them suggested using visuals to spice up your page.  They gave links to spots on the web where one could download, for free, what are called stock photographs.  The important thing was to use one of those sites and make sure the image was royalty free, so you didn’t dig into some other artist’s livelihood or incur bad karma or get into legal trouble.

I went and did as told.  Easy as pie!  (Although whoever invented this expression never made really good pie.  I don’t think it’s easy, especially if you make it from scratch using good-quality ingredients, and the kitchen always ends up a total mess.  Maybe they meant “easy as eating pie.”)

Anyway, downloading images that photographers all over the world have generously provided to stock sites is easy as eating pie.

Only problem, I then started using my own images in other posts.  Only in posts where I’ve specifically referenced the fact that I’m taking photographs for a challenge or I identify personal details in the photo that make it obvious that it comes from me, from here, from now – or as close to now as I can get.  And I guess people began to mix the two up, even though I explain all of this on the copyright page.

I realize I’m going to have to fix it quickly.  Yesterday I got my second reader comment that complimented my great (and non-existent) photo skills.  I’m not taking it personally.  I don’t even have a camera capable of performing such feats, and if I did, I’d probably be defeated in about 30 seconds by all the various buttons and complicated features.  As mentioned in an earlier post, with regard to technology, I’m no wunderkind.

After the macro discovery, F. and I had a conversation about cameras which ended up with me saying, “There are cameras out there that cost thousands of dollars?”  Hey, it was news to me.  The one I use to take my shots is F.’s digital camera, which cost a pretty penny in his book and is way beyond what I would have shelled out for a camera.

(Although if I’m honest, my artist child did start to daydream about what she could do with a fancy camera, since she’s having such a blast capturing the glories of the garden for my other blog lately.)

So it’s definitely not personal.  But I do feel badly for the photographer, who is not getting credit.  One of my best friends is a photographer — and made her living that way before she had kids.

However, going back and linking every single stock photo to its source is going to be time-consuming.  Perhaps impossible.  I just stuck all the “safe” photos in a folder to keep track of them.  I can promise you that from now on, it will be obvious when the photos are not mine.  It is a bit disappointing, because I like the bare look I have going, and linking the photograph results in either an ugly caption box or a thick red-brown frame.  Like zees:


Okay.  So that was a really bad example.  It’s linked to my other blog, a photographic journal of my kitchen/victory garden.  I mention this because at the other blog, all the photos are mine, directly from my garden, sometimes posted minutes after being taken.  But I think that’s crystal clear since it’s a photographic journal.

My other option is to include a credit line at the bottom of each post.  Something like:

Thanks to for the free photograph — althought that sounds so formal, ruins the impression of whatever last thought I’d wanted to leave the reader in the final sentence, and doesn’t give credit to the actual photographer.  Often their name is not provided.  And as I said, I haven’t been keeping track of any details other than these being the kinds of images you can use freely on non-commercial websites.

Anywho.  So now you know.  I think hiding your sources is lovely — if you’ve created something brand new from the materials.  But inserting someone else’s work into your blog, even if it’s pretty and enhances the design, does not qualify.  Sorry if I’ve disappointed you.  I just wanted to get that straight.

(Royalty-free photo provided by Stockvault. Vintage poster, public domain.)


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