A Guide to Social Media Credits for Photographs

Adding effective image credits to photographs on social media

Image credits in social media

Image credits in social media

It's 22˚C outside. Sticky city hot. But no sun because this is, after all, Manchester. I have a coffee (always), a new table to work at and 30 minutes downtime to put some thoughts down.

As my blog posts often do, this relates to test shoots and is less relevant for commercial work. It's about the currency of credit rather than that of Her Majesty.

Basically, we all test for three main reasons. Creative itches, speculative pitches and maintaining social visibility. The first is easily satisfied. The latter is easily frustrated. So here's a handy cut-out-and-keep* guide to how to do the small things that keep everybody happy and feeling warm inside. Because believe me - nothing creates quietly festering resentment in somebody like giving a day to creating something beautiful and then being socially erased from the end result. Rarely will the person actually say anything incase they come across as a diva. They'll just remember it next time you ask them. 

It's largely just education - people aren't maliciously omitting credits. It's equal parts a product of the speed of social media and people underestimating its power. Post it directly from your phone, wait for a few likes, move on. Rinse & repeat.

My process for a test generally goes something like this…

Find a free weekend ➝ Choose a concept ➝ Arrange a like-minded team ➝ Shoot ➝ Retouch ➝ Think about submission ➝ Decide against submission ➝ Distribute images to the team…

Revolutionary, I know.

When the images are distributed that's it - they're out there into the wild. No longer under anybody's control. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Pinterest. Tumblr. Behance. Flickr. Google+. LinkedIn. Okay, so maybe not the last two. 

Why Credit The Team?

Why not? Basically, social media is driven by links, nosiness and followers. Followers are legitimate currency. Quality links are, at the very least, SEO currency. Image credits are as close to bona fide real 'credit' in social media terms.  Retweets, repins, shares...a great image will spread organically. An amazing image will spread like wildfire. You never know who will end up seeing your photograph, your styling, your makeup, your face. Which brand. Which art director. Which creative agency.

As the owner of the images - it's up to us to educate on why full and proper credits make sense. Nobody else is going to do it. The number of people that will post your images is quite significant - and each one of them that doesn't credit the team is letting down the whole team. Even for a 'small' test the people that might post the images to (multiple) social networks include...

  1. The Photographer
  2. The Stylist
  3. The Makeup artist and...
  4. ...their agent
  5. The Hair stylist and...
  6. ...their salon
  7. The Model
  8. The Model's agency
  9. Any of the brands that the stylist might have pulled from, and
  10. ...their PR company.

On larger tests you can add in art directors and assistants to each of the above...that's a lot of potential social media exposure that can be absolutely worthless if nobody bothers to credit.

There's nothing worse than an orphan image (there probably is - like famine and stuff - but lets pretend). How many times have you seen comments like "Amazing Hun - who shot it?" or "Love the makeup - who did it?" or "Who's the model?".  It becomes anonymous - public domain - far more quickly if there are no credits at the source, never mind a dozen reblogs down the line. That's the key. At source. Here's why...


Image credits on Facebook

Image credits on Facebook

Yes, Facebook has had its day. We've been saying that since 2010. But I bet 99% of people reading this still have a profile or a page. The odd few will be busy being an 'odd few' and making a personal statement to sound cool at dinner parties by 'not being on Facebook' but most people in the industry will at least maintain some kind of business page.

The easiest way to attribute is to tag the people in the image. That way Facebook automatically puts a "With X, Y & Z" note into the comment. Doesn't tell you what people did, but it does at least add in some credit.

But the best way is to tag them in the image and also give proper written credits in the comment...

Photographer: Jay Mawson http://www.jaymawson.co.uk
Stylist: Natalie Armin http://www.nataliearmin.com
Hair & Makeup: Paula Maxwell http://www.paulamaxwell-makeup.com
Model: Ksenija @ Industry People http://www.industrypeople.co.uk

Then copy & paste it into each image you upload. Yes, it takes a couple of minutes to check people's links etc, but it takes a lot less time than was spent retouching, pulling garments, organising props, designing makeup looks and going to the gym to keep in shape. 

Facebook will automatically create a hyperlink from any full URL, so you don't have to worry about that. Links from Facebook are ignored by Google rankings (apparently) so it's useless in SEO terms but it at least takes any prospective clients or interested parties to the right place. To your shop window. 

The order people are credited in is fairly standard as above, although I always struggle with which order 'hair' and 'makeup' should go in when there's two people involved. Sometimes the stylist will go at the top of the list, but that's usually reserved for superstar stylists or superstar egos. The order frankly is the least important thing if you're actually making the effort to credit in the first place.

By having these details alongside the image then whenever anybody shares that image to their page all the details are shared along with it. If you add them in a comment below, then they stay on your page and everybody loses out on any additional interest that the share might generate.

And - best of all - everybody feel appreciated. Good vibes. Karma. Shalom.


Instagram Tags

Instagram Tags

Again - most people in creative industries run some form of Instagram. Even if they never post to it. Instagram differs significantly from Facebook for the moment in that images are not shared - they're just enjoyed. Nice and simple.

There's two subtly different ways to keep everybody visible:

The first way is to follow everybody involved so that you can easily tag them in the upload. People like the image, click to see who was involved and then go and check out their pages too. By just posting the image with no other people tagged is saying "hey, I created this all by myself with nobody else of importance present". Doing it this way also adds the image to the 'Photos of 'X' tab on people's profiles, which is nice.

The second way is to '@' everybody involved in the 'write a caption' field before you post. This actually seems to drive more people to the other people's Instagram stream than tagging them in the photo (it's more visible when people scroll - they don't have to touch the little icon to 'reveal' who's involved) but it doesn't add the image to the 'Photos of 'X' profile tab.

Either way works, and again, warm feelings and world peace ensues. And breath.


Image credits on Twitter

Image credits on Twitter

Twitter used to be a bitch. Fitting everybody in 140 characters is excusably impossible so. But now Twitter lets you tag up to 10 people in an image. Problem solved. Excuse removed. Next...

Pinterest & Tumblr

The whole point of Pinterest is to pin - and share - images. And Tumblr images get reblogged hundreds of times. So why wouldn't you put full credits? Again, it takes a little bit longer than just posting the image itself - but it's worth it. And you have to do it on upload - because as soon as it's repinned or reblogged then that's it - game over. Everybody who repins or reblogs from that person does so without any attribution. And if they have significantly more subscribers than you then off the image goes into the ether with a hundred wasted opportunities.

I've covered the main social media sharing sites. The rest are largely more industry based (Behance, Flickr, LinkedIn) and so users are usually better informed in etiquette. But it's broadly the same. Take a moment to credit, and make sure you credit fully.

I said at the beginning this relates to tests. Most professionally run magazines will run full credits against an editorial. Most commercial work would look ridiculous with a full rosta of credits against it...although again, there's no harm in putting the credits on if you post your commercial work to social media.

There are other benefits - with the rate at which images are stripped from social media for commercial usage it makes it easier for the more scrupulous to find out the image's origin and formally request usage rights. It helps to mitigate against the implications of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

And the exception? When you have a bad day at the office. Or when somebody in the team does. The internet remembers. Everybody is haunted by a fully credited image they dislike that pops up via search engines at the merest hint of your name. Usually near the top. Luckily, most social media allows for you to untag yourself, or control what appears on your timeline. But then there's the whole other dilemma of offence by pretending a shoot you took part in simply doesn't exist. The social equivalent of closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting 'lalalalalala'...

So next time I distribute the final images from a test, they'll be accompanied not only by the usual 'No filters please' statement, but also a short summary of this post. Hopefully it'll make a little bit of difference and take back a modicum of control of our work in the digital realm. Everybody wins.


* Please don't cut your screen.