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What Every Photographer Should Know about Pinterest


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It’s the best thing since whiteboards in college dorms! It’s a breeding ground for copyright infringers!

Those strong statements sum up the debate currently raging like a wildfire among creative professionals. Two things are certain: neither Pinterest nor the debate about its value are going away. Just the opposite is true.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about Pinterest’s seemingly stratospheric social power. Nearly 1.5 million unique users visit Pinterest daily, spending an average of 15 minutes a day on the site. In January 2012, Pinterest drove greater traffic to websites than LinkedIn, Google Plus, Reddit, and Youtube — combined.

Why Creatives (Should) Care

Pinterest isn’t just a social network; it’s a creative ecosystem that’s sucking in consumers faster than a Black Friday sale! And not just any consumers. Women are the driving force behind Pinterest. And not just any women. Mothers are particularly passionate pinners. Fifty percent of Pinterest users have kids! That means Pinterest is a marketplace of ideas where mothers find inspiration that influences their household and personal buying behavior.

Marketers from big and small businesses alike are jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon, finding creative ways to get their products and services pinned to drive traffic, brand awareness and revenue. And it’s working!

Retailers like Nordstrom, Lands’ End and Etsy are adding Pinterest into their marketing mix. Michele Casper, PR Director for Lands’ End, confirmed that most pins link to products on the Land’s End website. “People get excited from the visual and then have the opportunity to purchase. It’s very engaging tool in that respect,” Casper remarked.

Meanwhile, Nordstrom took pinning upon themselves and created a board called ‘Holiday Sparkle.’ According to Social Media Manager Shauna Causey, Pinterest is “another way to engage with customers rather than marketing.”

So, what’s the big deal?

Why are some creatives charismatically calling Pinterest “potentially damaging to the photography industry?”

Some go as far as claiming that Pinterest is an enabler of illegal activity like Napster was in the late 1990s.

Acclaimed New York City photographer Christian Oth carefully composed his response in a post entitled, “The Wonderful World of Pinning and Infringement.” The full post is worth a read, and his decision to remove “Pin It” buttons from his website boils down to one principle: copyright.

“This is creating an entire network of photographers, designers, and other creatives who are seeing their work displayed without their knowledge or consent,” Oth said.

To be clear, Pinterest’s Terms of Service state:

By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services. 

And that statement raises some eyebrows. Many professional photographers’ primary concern with Pinterest’s Terms of Service stems from one simple word: SELL. According to the above statement, Pinterest can sell the content you upload to their website.

For that reason, Oth has decided to exclude Pinterest from his social media marketing strategy, stating that “until Pinterest makes changes in the favor of the artists on their website, I will not be participating as a member or be utilizing the Pin It option on my website.”

Is the sky falling?

Maybe not, but a lot of folks are having healthy debate about how to interpret Pinterest’s copyright conditions. Some are going as far as opting out of Pinterest altogether by adding a small piece of code to the head of any page on their site, which displays this message:

“This site doesn’t allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!”

Are All Photographers Boycotting Pinterest?

No way! As a matter of fact, some are embracing it. Wendy Roe, for example, sees distinct value in Pinterest as a part of her marketing strategy.

“Pinterest is a gold mine for photographers, especially wedding photographers, because brides-to-be are there, pinning images from their favorite websites to showcase ideas while categorizing their favorite wedding cakes, details, dress and even their ‘something blue’ for crying out loud!,” Roe says enthusiastically.

Byron Roe

Byron Roe

Other photographers like Leanne Marie Golish have shared step-by-step tutorials showcasing how wedding photographers can use Pinterest. And many are actively – and adamantly – using it!

To Pin, or Not To Pin?

Every photographer should carefully consider their social media strategy, especially when it comes to freely sharing their copyrighted works. As Oth asks on his blog, “when and where will all this end? If the internet itself has changed the very face of copyright, can we (photographers) really afford to object to all web-based facilities?”

And while photographers continue debating, consumers continue pinning. The irony is, the prettier the picture, the more it will get pinned.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!