A while back, a piece made its rounds on the web about how Instagram the mobile photography is changing photojournalism. In terms of the progression of the photography world, this makes lots of sense. But at the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is a photojournalist–especially because it takes a lot more than just having a phone and a will to tell a story. However, almost anyone can be a photojournalist–though it brings up a lot of potential problems.
My biggest problem is one that I’ll get to in a little bit: but ones that can very validly be argued have to do with editorial neutrality and how trained photojournalists understand this vs specific framing of stories. Additionally, there are issues involving trained photojournalists being able to gain press access and knowing how to deal with folks who may potentially be a danger to the person. Just because you’ve got an iPhone doesn’t mean that you’re a photojournalist or specifically know how to create a wonderful image. And when this work is done by sanctioned photojournalists, it makes lots of sense.
Then there is the biggest problem.
The biggest problem about all this has to do with Instagram and the rights involved. Instagram, as it is, doesn’t really protect the rights of photographers. Anyone and their mother can use the image, Re-gram them, embed the post onto their journalistic coverage, etc. So to that end, photographers should be more careful about the photos that they put onto the service. But if Instagram were more interested in working with and satisfying commercial photographers, then they’d offer rights protection. Facebook essentially is the same thing–and photographers have to be very careful about the types of images that they put up.
Further, when a news website or any journalistic entity uses images from Instagram, they’re purposely doing it because they know that they can without having to secure rights, use permission, etc. However, those entities are commercial–and it’s not fair that the photographer isn’t getting a cut.
The huge difference here between Facebook and Instagram though is that Instagram’s entire business model is all about sharing images. But it’s also about the wide distribution of those photos. Something as simple as what Flickr does with Creative Commons, All Rights Reserved, etc could work very well and protect serious photographers (and photojournalists) from theft.
In some ways though, this is also very counter-intuitive. Some of the biggest Instagrammers are beautiful women, dogs, foodies, fitness gurus, etc. They want their stuff spread all over the web because their business model doesn’t actually revolve around producing images. Instead, it’s all about being featured. But at the same time, they often share images from photo shoots that they were paid for under a work for hire contract and essentially throw away the photographer’s copyright which they didn’t even license. If the image was just on their website then fine, but when an image is thrown up on Instagram then rights are thrown out the window.
Not exactly cool huh?
Something that photographers can do is be very careful about the images that they put on Instagram and save the rest for monetization of some sort; but even that becomes tough when someone uses your image for commercial reasons without your permission.