Home Uncategorized Why you should never edit another person’s photo

Why you should never edit another person’s photo

by Clare Mansell

A friend of mine who is getting married in a few months was discussing wedding photos recently and more specifically her plan to create an album using images supplied by her official photographer. She casually mentioned she’d “probably make a few black and white and crop them” and I was horrified. Messing with someone else’s photos is never ever an acceptable thing to do, but to be fair to my friend and to most people reading this, I simply don’t think that people realise this.

editing other people's photos

Before I explain why it is so wrong, I want to clarify what I mean by “someone else’s photos” because most people reading this will know by now, that you should only ever be using images you have permission to publish on your blog. Not something you found on Google, or borrowed from Pinterest, something you have specific (written usually) permission to publish. So the kind of thing I am talking about might be…

    • A photograph another blogger took which you are using to reference their blog or a particular post
    • Images commissioned by you and taken by a photographer (whether a friend or professional)
    • Photos supplied by a brand
    • Pictures taken by a sponsor at a blogging event for bloggers to use

So what do I mean by messing with? When it comes to editing photos, some crimes are worse than others, but all are wrong. The worst offences are altering the overall finish and colour of an image by adding an Instagram type filter, overlaying effects or changing an image to sepia or black and white. Just as bad, but more forgivable are doing things like overlaying text or cropping a photo.

Why is it wrong? Firstly it’s always disrespectful to mess around with someone’s work without consulting them, but with photographers it’s a much bigger deal because they will have a particular style and a particular highly polished look that they have spent many years learning and a great deal of time perfecting on each and every image.

Every photo they take is part of their portfolio, a way potential clients decide if they want to hire them (even if it’s only hanging on your living room wall.) If you alter or add to that image you are harming their reputation or (just suppose you actually make it better) misrepresenting their work. A thing like making a photo black and white might seem simple to you, but it’s not. Photographers spend hours discussing the finer details of stuff like this, of which images work well as black and white, which software to use, their settings and contrast levels.

Altering images is (most of the time) not a legal issue, it is about doing the right thing and showing respect to photographers. If in doubt work by this rule, never alter an image in any way without the permission of the photographer.

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15 comments

Donna February 12, 2015 - 8:18 am

Each photo is a piece of art so I personally think making it in any way how the photographer didn’t envisage it or edit it is just plain wrong x

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claremansell@mac.com February 12, 2015 - 8:25 am

I stopped short of saying :artist” or “work of art” because I thought people might think I was being pretentious, but I totally agree.

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Carie February 12, 2015 - 9:22 am

I think it can depend on the context and the format; if we’re talking about publishing someone’s photos on your blog then I agree absolutely but I’m not sure I’d be so clear cut when it’s someone’s wedding photos to go in their private album and live in their house.
If there’s one photo that I wanted black and white to go on spread of black and white shots I’d probably ask the photographer first if they could make it black and white but if they couldn’t or wouldn’t I think I’d probably tweak it myself. The counter argument to saying that you are a walking portfolio for the photographer is to say that you have purchased their skill in photographing your wedding, the photos they have taken are yours and you get to decide what to do with them, just as if I want to add a bit to a work of art on my wall I can, because I own it.

I think the distinction comes in the description. If I scribble all over a painting on my wall and then still say it’s by the artist without explaining my additions that’s not OK (and if I try to sell it it’s fraud). If I were to alter a photo and publish it on my blog without similarly explaining then I think that’s not OK either. But if I’m showing my wedding album half the time no one asks who the photographer was and if they do and you explain it was XYZ but a couple you tweaked to make them fit the album then I don’t have a problem with it.

Sorry, that turned into a bit of a ramble, but I think it’s a really interesting topic 🙂

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claremansell@mac.com February 12, 2015 - 1:37 pm

No need to apologise, it was a very interesting ramble! 🙂

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Emily Knight February 12, 2015 - 9:57 am

I agree: editing a professional photographer’s photos – especially if you’re crediting them too! They’ve taken the time and effort to create something that they think is perfect – if it were me, I’d be pretty annoyed that an “amateur” had tried to change things!

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lisa prince February 12, 2015 - 1:32 pm

and this is why you should just take the pics yourself or if possible hire someone to do it as you would like it to be x

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claremansell@mac.com February 12, 2015 - 1:36 pm

Very true! I am lucky cause I have my own pics, but also my sister is a great photographer and I regularly borrow from her! 🙂

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My Family Ties February 12, 2015 - 2:23 pm

I do agree with you as so much time and effort goes into not only taking the photo at the right settings etc but carefully editing them as well. It does seem quite disrespectful to then change them yourself after all that care.

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Em @ snowingindoors February 12, 2015 - 4:05 pm

Such a good post, and so true, if I found someone had altered or edited my photos I’d be so annoyed and upset.
If you pay to have photos taken you can always ask for the photographer to change some to b&w if that’s the look you’re after

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Jaime oliver February 12, 2015 - 4:10 pm

Its surprising how many folks think they can just use an image regardless of getting permission .. its so sad as it really does upset .. even if it was without intent.

Great post and fab subject to highlight

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Mina Joshi February 12, 2015 - 4:51 pm

I must say that I wasn’t aware you would be able to alter pictures taken by a professional. Having said that- I wouldn’t like people cropping or photo shopping the pictures I took.

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Hannah Staveley February 12, 2015 - 7:43 pm

Wow very interesting topic and no thought about it much as dont edit other people I only do my own .x

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Liska @NewMumOnline February 13, 2015 - 1:00 pm

I don’t tend to use stock photos. I always use ones I have taken myself, but if I did, I would only ever overlay text or crop (if that) and thankfully you have outlined those as nearly acceptable things to do. Phew. Great post btw xx

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Cass@frugalfamily February 13, 2015 - 6:07 pm

I completely see where you’re coming from although personally if I took a photo that another blogger had asked to use for a post then I’d have no problems with it being cropped or a filter adding. Maybe that’s because my photos aren’t great to start with 😉

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Kara February 15, 2015 - 10:45 am

Our wedding photographer edited all our photos to come in colour, sepia and black and white so it wasn’t an issue. I do edit others photos for y blog though, normally cropping bits out or emphasising an area that I want to highlight. I do get their permission though

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