Tired of Photographer’s Brand Coming Second

So, a week ago I get this email from PhotoShelter Support. It started off with:

“Greetings from PhotoShelter! I am writing you today as it has been brought to our attention that all of your live images have personal information () listed in the ‘Credit’ field. And there is personal information in the Caption field for images… [image identifiers removed]

I’m sure this was just an oversight on your part, but as you may know, we technically prohibit the inclusion of personal contact information in any of the meta-data fields that are made public to buyers.”

Followed by a request to remove all “personal information” from the images by today.

Well, I just completed their request. And now I’m sharing my experience with the great photography community.

Lately, I have been scrutinizing the Terms of Service (ToS) documents for all web sites/services that I use, especially ones where I am placing my photography assets. When you look at the PhotoShelter Contributors Agreement, the following section can be found about half way down the document (right before the section labeled “Taxes”):

“PhotoShelter prohibits the use of Contributor and user contact information obtained from the Website to complete transactions outside of the Website, the use of the Website and PhotoShelter Service to offer to sell any Contributed Content outside of the Website, and the removal of Contributor Content in order to sell the same to a user who became aware of the item through PhotoShelter. A statement by a PhotoShelter user as to where they first found an image shall be conclusive evidence as between the Contributor and PhotoShelter as to whether the image was found via the Website, and you shall pay PhotoShelter 30% of the sale value within 20 days of receipt of payment for any such sale. This clause does not apply to commissioned photo shoots that may have resulted from exposure on the PhotoShelter.com website.”

As far as I can recollect, I don’t think this was in the ToS document back in October when I signed up. (If that was the case, I would have expected PS to have emailed all contributors to alert them to the change.) according to the above, I was in breach because I changed the PhotoCredit to “Greg A. Lato / “. (Never mind the fact that originally the photo credit wasn’t just my name, but also included “PhotoShelter”. Which, as far as I can recollect didn’t have anything to do with the taking of any of my photos. So why are they giving themselves credit?)

The reason I did this was simple, there are a lot of images that PS hadn’t accepted of mine. And, PS provides no way for me to include my personal photographer brand or website as part of my profile on their site so interested parties can find my other work. In the case that someone would might want to see my other work, this was the best way to enable that. (Not that they wouldn’t be able to find me within 5 seconds using a Google search, the top page for either “Greg Lato” or “latoga” is 80% me…the other 20% being my evil twin the musician and my Filipino distant “cousin” šŸ™‚ ). I just hope that my name or business name isn’t soon considered “personal information” by PS…

Now, I can understand why PS would put that language in their ToS, they are trying to run a business. As am I. Exposure is part of that business. And the whole point of the Internet is that the rising tide raises all boats through the power of the link. PS is more than happy to have us all link to our portfolios on their site or use their widgets with their corporate brand all over it. But they are not willing to help out their contributers by providing a small token of love back.

That kind of arrogance from the big stock houses was what created the rift with photographers originally that enabled PS to get to where it is. It is what I remember hearing Allen and Grover (founders of Photoshelter) talk about to all us photographers during their publicity showcase as it traveled across the country last year. But now….

If someone was to contact me directly about a photo that I have up on PS, then I’m going to tell them to go buy it from PS. First, it’s the right business thing to do. Second, it saves me time and I’m willing to give the 30% to them for it. That’s the entire point of the service. But, based upon the wording of the current TS, the first thing I will ask anyone who calls me is “where did you first see my work?”. And that will get recorded in my notes for that potential customer. And I advise all photographers to get in the habit themselves.

Rule number one in business: the business comes first. When you are the business, it’s even more important! Photographers forget that their brand is their business. Controlling that brand is as important as taking the photos that help define that brand.

(PS: no links were provided as it is my new policy to “prohibit the inclusion of personal contact information” for those who don’t return the honor.)

6 Replies to “Tired of Photographer’s Brand Coming Second”

  1. Greg I’m assuming this is in relation to PhotoShelter Collection and not PhotoShelter Archive. If so then the exclusion of personal information is quite standard for firms or services selling stock photography. This helps in client development and customer service in having prospective buyers maintain a level of consistency as they pursue image licensing that will likely span multiple photographers.

    I’m curious to learn more about the details of your situation before going into this too much more.



  2. It strikes me that if Photoshelter wanted to exclude certain metadata, they’d be in a position to do so by filtering all uploaded pictures through some kind of metadata stripping process. They could also embed new metadata associated with Photoshelter in these images prior to display.

    It seems a lot of worry about nothing, however, as your name and company name is available on the photographer profile.


  3. Sounds like insecurity to me. If they have a good client relationship with the buyer then there is no need to fear anything. Besides, what is to stop them from googling your name? I don’t even use my name on another stock agency I’m with, I just use my URL and the images are published as such.


  4. With the industry changing so quickly, I have wondered what happens should an agency go belly up. What happens with the licenses they have outstanding? And – what if a client wants further usage beyond the initial license, with no agency to support them. Seems the only recourse they have is to go direct to the photographer, and having that metadata in the file may help in that contact.


  5. I belong to this big stock house called “the internet”, which has these clever chaps called tee ceepee and eye pee. And then along came Tim Berners Lee with his friend aich tee emelle, and contracts of adhesion became a distant memory (thanks to my other friends, Sergey and Larry — but let’s not forget that the essential architecture is provided by tee ceepee and eyepee and aich tee emelle).


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