We need to talk about sharing images.

I know, I know. I have this reputation for being a bit uptight. And to be honest, sometimes it’s true. Especially when it comes to my photography.

Lots of photographers have a difficult relationship with Tumblr. The problem is, it’s a platform that encourages you to be pretty unethical. You see, if you want to add content to your Tumblr blog all you have to do is click the ‘reblog’ button (or whatever it’s called) and it just regurgitates it wholesale onto your own page. You don’t have to think about who created the original piece or if they had permission to upload those images and the content, you just click reblog, and it magically populates your own stream with interesting things.

I try to get around this to an extent by automatically reposting my blog posts both here and on LARP.GUIDE to their own Tumblr feeds, hoping that people will reblog content from those feeds rather than pinching the images from somewhere else and then letting them out into the world without any effort at credits.

I repost content myself on my blog all the time, but I make the effort to make it relevant to what I’m writing. For instance I wouldn’t just pinch someone else’s picture and post it with no explanation on my blog just because I liked it. I also wouldn’t just pinch someone else’s picture to use as illustration without asking them first. Especially if it had nothing really to do with the content of that blog itself. So, for example, if you’re writing a post on something random about LARP and you want to put a picture in – find one that is somehow relevant to your content and then ask the photographer if that’s ok. Don’t just think ‘I’m writing a post about making foam weapons, so any picture featuring a foam weapon is fair game’ because that’s not cool.

If you want to use a picture by someone else to illustrate an article (or a YouTube video, a quote from someone, anything really) then try to add something to the thing you are using for illustration. Discuss the point made in a video. Talk about how the photograph represents what you’re writing about. Comment on the quote you use or contrast it with a quote that someone else made. We learn to do these things while we’re learning to write essays at school – don’t abandon those lessons!

I photograph LARP because I love photographing LARP. I photograph it because I like the friends I have made and I have aspirations about shooting for film and TV one day. But I also photograph LARP because I feel that there’s a really strong community underlying the hobby and I like to help build up the community.

So you might be wondering why I have a problem with people sharing my images of LARP if I like the idea of fostering a community. The honest answer is, that pinching and using an image on your own blog without taking the time to chat to me first isn’t building a community. It’s just taking something that I made and using it without asking. Part of building a community is talking and having conversations – so have a conversation with me and tell me what you’re up to. Involve me to make the community ties stronger. If you don’t want to have a conversation with me then don’t bother using my images – it’s not a compliment if you don’t like me enough to engage with me on any level, especially when you’ve not even bothered to tell me where I can find my images online. I might just want to take a screenshot of your use of my images for my own records, so that I can look back and smile when I see that people have loved my images enough to use them. (As you can see from my writing portfolio, I love keeping track of where my work has ended up!)

A few people have suggested in the past that it doesn’t matter if someone takes my images down and puts them somewhere else, because I put my watermark on them anyway. Well, as I said above, firstly I like to see where they have ended up. That means something to me. But secondly, if people didn’t just pinch them and put them on their own Facebooks, their own Tumblrs, their own blogs, etc, without permission, then I wouldn’t have to watermark them in the first place. I watermark work primarily because I cannot trust the general public to not use my images without crediting them. I don’t ask for money for my pictures, I just ask for people to let me know that they love my work. And I don’t know what you love my work if you don’t tell me!

So please guys, if you want to use my work on your blog, don’t just assume I’m ok with that. Just reach out, send me a message and start a conversation. And lets see how we can help each other out. (And as it says on the side of this blog above the Patreon logo – if you like my work and you feel you got something out of it, please consider buying me a coffee. It takes alot of time, effort, love and money to make great photos of LARP. Don’t be afraid to say thanks.)