Why I don’t post my photos online anymore

My first trip through Thailand and Asia I was a prolific photo taker. I love those photos and that trip. Some of those photos we’re really good and I still reference back to them. At the time I posted a most of my best photos to Flickr so friends, family and strangers could enjoy them along with me. That experience was priceless and I wouldn’t take it back.

For years afterward though I would also get requests to use them from various entities. My stated policy was they were copyrighted and you needed to ask to use them. My unspoken policy was pretty simple, if someone wanted to use a photo for commercial use, they needed to pay for using it. If someone wanted to use it for non-profit use I’d make a decision on a case by case basis. A few did actually got permission to use photos like this one:

Fortunate are...

Which was used by: “National Council for Geographic Education (, an non-profit, educational organization for geography teachers.

Today I was searching for photos and links to share with a friend about Haad Yuan, Koh Phangan, Thailand (my favorite place on earth). The first link that came up was this site:


Which stole my photo from here:

That’s a photo I took in 2006/7 of my friends Andrea and MK walking onto the bamboo board walk just below Bamboo Hut Restaurant and headed toward Haad Yuan. Ironically, I’m actually headed to just that spot in 2 days to SEE that very same amazing Andrea and SparkCircus for the first time since that trip.

Obviously you can easily find a bunch of my fire dancer photography I took on that same trip appropriated without my consent all over the internet as well. Often in collection like this one (attributed at least, but linked, and not with my permission) http://wwwXfunzugXcom/index.php/artwork/captivating-fire-dancing-photos.html. I actually think the attribution here is because I a while ago I contacted a site with a collection much like this (I think Hong Kait) and they added the attribution and link. I suspect this site just copied that site and stripped the links.

So…  all this to say that, THIS, is why I stopped posting photos in mass online.  I keep saying that I’ll find a way to easily watermark them and upload them, but it’s such a hassle and keeps me from doing so.  I’d really like to retroactively watermark everything I uploaded to Flickr in the past, but I’ve never found a way short of manually replacing the photos.  It’s not that watermarked photos won’t get taken without permission, it’s that they’re less likely to be taken and even if they are taken there is “something” tying them back to me.  It’s not “control” but it is some small thread of connection to the source that makes them not feel quite so completely lost into the digital turbulence of the internet.

Do you care about repurposing of your images?  Do you have stories to share? Do you have a magically way to retroactively add watermarks to Flickr?


  1. is a for-profit domain registered through and hosted on Report ’em to the DMCA – that’ll get their attention.

    and yeah, it sucks, not much else you can do!

    • Yeah… If the particular image had commercial value I’d contact them and then DMCA them. In this case, it more amusing that I came across the image when I did than anything else.

  2. I’ll bet a lot of people don’t realize how much of their images are being used elsewhere on the Internet. Recently I toyed around with PhotoDropper plugin for WordPress, and discovered that it pulls images based on keywords from Flickr, and displays images that anybody can use based solely on the Creative Commons license. I’ll wager that a lot of people haven’t set their license correctly and would be surprised to find out that their work is being shared via a free plugin.

    Enjoy Haad Yuan!

  3. Dosn’t your camera imbed a copyright into the digital coding. I know that my images have my info written in. Not that that would keep anyone like this from using them but it’s easy. Otherwise downloading and editing with a watermark might slow the pilferage down.

    • The copyright embedded on the image is just metadata. It’s easily stripped out and in fact many image size optomizers will stripe it out to save on file size (PhotoShop save to web, etc.). Further it’s rarely surfaced commercial image viewing application so very few ever notices/sees that metadata.

  4. People ask me about this all the time. It’s a personal decision for each of us. For me, there’s a greater cost to my personal brand if I don’t post my photos, so I do. Some are Creative Commons, some are All Rights Reserved. I’m pretty thorough with my metadata, for what it’s worth. I know it’s easily stripped. I don’t watermark. I think it ruins the photo.

    I approach this with the assumption they probably will be stolen, but I hope they won’t be, and for the most part, they haven’t been. I take an offensive approach rather than a defensive one, and share widely when I do share, and hope my friends 1) see it, 2) reshare it widely and 3) let me know if it seems to be used in some uncool way. The philosophy is the more people who see it and know it’s mine, the better. I share the best stuff on my blog, so people know it’s mine if they see it, though I still use Flickr as a repository. More often than not, people do ask permission or offer to pay me.

    As I said, the alternative is not sharing, and I can’t afford that. The benefits outweigh the costs in my case.

    • I think that’s a sensible approach and certainly agree with it all. Better to be recognized than anonymous. The big difference for me personally is that I no longer “share in bulk”, but I still share selected images on my blog or elsewhere. Overall it certainly makes me and my images harder to recognize though. All together it’s not as important to me as it once was since it’s no longer my profession but I still don’t like my images being used outside my control like this obviously.

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