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Every once in awhile, people will ask me if I’m on Instagram.  When I tell them ‘no’, they understandably look confused.  After all, I’m a photographer and Instagram is a photography app – sounds like we should be BFFs.  But we’re not and I’ll never join, for a couple of reasons.

As a photographer, the protection of my images is very important to me.  Im aware that if someone wants to steal my photos online they probably could, but I don’t want to make it easy for them.  My gallery is supported by Smugmug and all the images are ‘right click’ protected and I feel secure there.  When I post on Social Media, I post lower-res images that are double watermarked.  My logo is usually placed in a lower corner but the entire image also has a subtle fill over it, so if the logo is cropped out the image is still protected.  I’ve been accused of having a heavy hand with my watermarks but in the end, I have to be comfortable with what I post. It’s tricky finding a balance between showing images online and protecting oneself.

At one time, I thought about joining Instagram.  But I read a great article on the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) website that changed my mind.  Simply called ‘The Instagram Papers’, the article makes a compelling argument that Instagram’s Terms of Use or Service is too far-reaching and photographers rights are being abused.  A summery of the Instagram Papers can be viewed here while the complete Instagram Papers can be viewed here.  ASMP, an organization with which I have membership, sent an open letter to Instagram in January 2014 (here) which has yet to be answered.

Since January 2014, Social Media has gotten more prevalent and it seems in my circle of photographer friends, more and more photographers are joining Instagram.  Again, I thought about signing up and reached out to ASMP to see if there was an update in the Terms of Service.  Since the publication of the Instagram Papers, the Terms have not been updated, which is disappointing.  Instagram can still use any photo posted however they wish, including sublicensing or third party usage of the images without permission or compensation to the photographer.  This is totally unacceptable to me.

My primary focus in photography is concert photography, which is a tricky gig.  Use of images and compensation has been hotly debated for years and recently became the forefront of conversation with different artists’ photo release policies, specifically Taylor Swift’s.  But where is the moral outrage against Instragram’s policy, which is much more restrictive than any artists’ policy?  There is none because people tend to equate popularity on social media with success.

Instagram isn’t the right choice for me, but it has been the right choice for many people.  Some photographers have gotten jobs, publicity and sales through Instagram.  But I prefer to have as much control over my images as I possibly can, especially online, which is a difficult enough task as it is. I don’t want to make a deal with the Devil to be popular.  I don’t want to be a hypocrite by demanding payment from a musical act for my concert photos, but then give them away on a popular social media platform. Until Instagram addresses ASMP’s concern about their Terms of Service, I will stay away from it.