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What's the case for or against allowing a festival attendee to photograph your work? Is there a "standard practice" and/or proper etiquette in this regard? 

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While none of us like the idea of our work being stolen and we should do what we can to guard against it, I think some need to wake up and recognize that we are living in 2018, not 1995. Times have changed. Dori was right about something, most people are not taking a photo because they want to steal your image. We are living in a world were if someone likes something, their first reaction is to take a picture and post it on Instagram. There is not evil intent, it's just the way our society works now.

So you can get say, 100 people on a Saturday walk into your booth and take a picture. And say by some miraculous odds, one of those hundred actually does want to reproduce and sell your art. I think you can gain more exposure and sales through the 99 that you let take the picture then you will lose through the one who got away with it. What it one of those 99 happens to have 1 million Instagram followers? That's exposure to one million people because you let them take a snapshot of your work. And honestly, If our ideas were that groundbreaking, they would be in the Louvre or the MET, not an art fair.

Love it, Eric! People like your work, they want to share it with their friends, saying/implying look at this cool work, don't you wish you were here too? 

Yes, in today's world people can be 'experiencing' things by photographing them; I will let someone take a photo if they need to show their significant other the work, and they understand that the photo is only for that purpose. To both Dori's and Connie's point, which I understand, people love your work and want to share it. Great. When I am in a booth, in a sales situation, I cannot distinguish that from a person wanting to copy. I also have cards with a few select pieces on them that I hand out; that works for most people. I have now had people lurking for a few minutes nearby, then when I am busy, rush up, start taking photos, and then literally run away when I start to engage them in a conversation. 

So, a question: how many times have you had to enforce copyrights? About two dozen times for me, over perhaps 35 years. Largest company was, at the time, about $6B in sales, and surprisingly it was resolved in about 12 hours with an apology letter from the chairman of the board and termination of the employees involved. Smallest was some guy with a website, that took longer, about a week to resolve. One time I licensed something for many thousands of dollars; that alone has paid for all of the enforcement that I have had to do in 35 years. 

I have also had my booth used as a backdrop for models posing, I guess for a 'hip' shot, also other artists will stop in their tracks, come over to the booth and stare, so I guess the ideas are new enough for that.

As far as getting work into the Louvre or the Met, you have to usually be a) very good, and b) dead. I am working hard on the first part, and working even harder on avoiding the second.

We can go on and on with this conversation about free art vs copyright; I encourage every one to stand up for their own work, and discourage photos. If your work is good enough for someone to want to share, then it is good enough to not cheapen with endless photos.

And you have to balance that, moment by moment, with the desire to get your work 'out there'

Photography of my work is discouraged. 

The idea people have stated a bout it being beneficial to us (the original Artist), that people take unauthorized photos of our Photographic art work, then post it on instagram is FALSE.

A) Are they posting, with the picture "Sample of artwork by Artist JOHN S. DOE, Website: XYZ, Tel: 123-456-7890, Copyrighted, All rights reserved"?

B) Is the offended artist being given any monetary compensation for those "followers" on someone else instagram account?

C) Is the Artist being given a choice? I choose what shows, galleries, museums & venues my work may be displayed in. Once a person purchases my artwork they might then display it in places I am unaware of, however they PAID me for that ability. Even then they cannot, legally copy it or publish facsimiles of it without my permission. This is stated on EVERY piece of artwork I sell.

D) Once they put it on a social media site, it is being copied, perhaps millions of times, without monetary reimbursement nor permission of the artist.

mmmmm....not so sure..... with probably 250+ art shows under my belt, and I own two brick & mortar galleries in high traffic areas, I've probably been tagged on social media perhaps twice this decade by people taking pics in my booth/galleries.  And I have large signs in the booth/galleries promoting my social media handles.  People photographing our artwork simply don't tag the artist, even when the handle is prominently displayed.  Its an unfortunate fact.  So that person with 1M+ IG followers might show our work on IG, but without an @ tag, there's nothing that links to you.  The short-span hyper-consumption of SM makes it much more desirable to post (and consume) short text such as "out looking at art today", as opposed to "out looking at art today and found this amazing work by @_____ - check out their feed."  People with 1M+ followers would only tag an artist if they were PAID to do so. 

I even did an experiment at one art show - I let everyone, and even encouraged people, to photograph and post my work, and asked each of them to tag my handle.  Of the dozens who took pics, how many actually tagged me?.........yep - exactly zero. 

The only time people sometimes properly tag me, is when I'm hosting a swank event at one of my brick & mortar galleries.  Then, people are all dressed to the 9's, and people love to post that they were invited to a gallery opening. 

Therefor, the risk of copyright violations (and the fact that the social media platform now owns rights to the image once it's uploaded to their platform) by far outweighs the infinitesimally small odds that we'll be tagged, and a new client will find us in that manner.

Thanks for pioneering that experiment for me. I was thinking about doing that. However, I have had much different experienced with exposure on social media.

Without going into the details I will say that the only way I would have been able to come up with the startup cost for art shows is because someone I know shared some of my Instagram post with a friend. 

Love you underwater shots BTW

One of the biggest issues in this discussion is the differential between photographic artwork VS almost all other mediums.

I am NOT comparing anything about the mediums except:

Photography can be easily copied.

No matter how good a photographer I am, No matter how good a photo I take of someone's painting, sculpture, quilt etc,  I will NEVER be able to paint it, quilt it nor sculpt it.

I respect and admire their abilities and talent, to create what they do.

However a lay person can take a photo of my work, then send it to a lab and have a decent replica made.

Of course other mediums have their issues with copying the ideas and if the perpetrator has the artist talent to reproduce also. I'm only referring to the easy copying ability.

Second point:

For those that feel it does not affect sales.

I have already had the following situation occur:

I was busy in my booth, with other customers. 

I then approached a customer who was admiring a piece from my print bin. She then was showing it to her husband.

I asked how she felt about it. She said "I love it". 

I said "You can take it home with you for a reasonable price"

Her answer...

are you ready...?

"that's okay, I already have a picture of it." She then showed her husband the image on her camera.

I asked her to delete it. She refused and walked away.

Another time I caught a person taking pictures of my artwork. I nicely explained and asked her to delete the images. She did so, however she was very angry at me stating she "knew I would say that" that she wanted those pictures. I said "well they are for sale, you may buy them." 

She said "No, I don't want to pay that money, why should I" then left.

I am not just looking to see my artwork, all over the world, for free. It is important to make a living.

Ok, they can post my artwork, for free anywhere ONLY IF in return I get free food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, health care etc. This is my love, my passion and my JOB. if they don't work for free, don't expect me to. I wont steal their work & business ideas, if they don't steal mine.

You all make very good points.

I have a question. Has anyone ever made a sale after telling them they could not take a picture? I am very new to the art fair business. But just for business in general, telling someone they cannot take a picture is establishing an adversarial relationship from the beginning. I know for me, if I was interested in buying someone's art and they told me to not take a picture, it would end there. That would completely turn me off.

Just curious. 

A good question. yes, I have. When asked not to take a picture, I have had some responses similar to Larry's, others where they decided, after walking off, that they had to have it, and came back and bought it. And to larry's point, if someone is only going to 'experience' my artwork by taking a picture of it, and that is the end of their interest, then, why do I want to do that? 

That said, the customer is establishing that they like the work by wanting to take a picture, They need to express it differently, though by remembering and/or buying the work. 

Of course, the one thing you cannot stop, is when someone has a photographic memory. 

I have a photographic memory...

Too bad it is overexposed and out of film :-)

Also too low an ASA :-)

Wish I could figure out how to rewind.

It's color a B&W world :-(

Can't find the right filters for my lens (eyes).

Lost focus a long time ago.

When I attempt a long exposure, I get arrested.

Sorry Mark, I couldn't resist :-)


Yes, I have made sales, numerous times, after not allowing a potential customer to take a picture.

Often their reason is so someone else can view it to help make the decision.

A) In one case, the image was also on my website, so they had their significant other, look online and approve it.

B) One time the customer came back the second day of the art show, with their spouse and bought it.

C) Other times they either came back with the partner or I was able to talk with them and they decided on their own.

Sure I might lose some sales due to it. I believe I would suffer more theft and loss of revenues with the unauthorized images VS without. But it will be MY CHOICE.

I guess it is the sales ability of the artist.

My father ( great salesman) told me... "The mark of a good salesman is, the ability to tell someone to go to hell, in such a manner that you will then sell them a ticket to get there... one way of course but you will sell them that ticket" :-)

How we present the issue with our potential customers can belay the adversarial and turn it them into a partner in sharing our creation.


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