After I posted it, the upvotes slowly began to trickle in. Within the hour it had amassed around 4000 upvotes, peaking at around 6500 and holding the top spot for a long while. Recognition! Sweet, sweet recognition! It felt great.
For many aspiring enthusiasts, the notion of having even a single one of your photos get so many positive reactions is a worthy aim, and I admit that I would probably be jealous of anyone who had it happen to them. In fact, I already had been. That jealousy was likely the final catalyst in the decision to post it.
Normally I wouldn’t post one of my photos in that manner. The “Fuji shot” had already made a splash, having been licensed by Bing Japan for their background image of the day, in July of 2013. It had also been my first competition win, having won 1st prize in Getty Image’s national “A Moment Connecting – Japan” entry. With that came a little bit of a headache, as it meant that people were now able to download my image and use it as they liked.
It turned up on a few “foreign buzzfeed”-style sites, a couple of “free desktop background” offerings and had made the rounds on Tumblr. Nothing too bad, but at the time it felt like the crime of the century.
I spent about a week or so chasing up these sites in order to have credit noted or the image taken down, but after having very little response from any of the websites, I decided to admit defeat, and go with the notion that if the image was going to be shared, it was going to be on my own terms – and hey, I could enjoy a bit of an ego boost if it got popular.
Having learnt my lesson on being so liberal with my original-resolution jpeg, I uploaded a very low-res version to Imgur for the Reddit post.
Posting it meant it would be shared a lot more – that much was obvious, but I figured that no-one could do a lot with such a small image. Which brings me to the first important thing I learned from posting my photo to Reddit’s /r/pics:
#1. People will do a lot with a small image
After the post had sat at the number one spot for a few hours, someone notified me that a Facebook page belonging to “Distractify” (a media sharing site) had displayed the image.
I checked it out and true enough, it was there for all to see, with no mention of me or my websites. It had been shared 874 times at the time I found it, and there were close to 100 comments.
I added one alerting them that this was my image and to contact me immediately. What followed were various comments telling me that it was my fault for putting it online, that I should be grateful, and that my street-portraits were hosted online without the subjects permission, so I was just as bad (whole other can of worms).
With no response from Distractify, I PMed them on Facebook, e-mailed them and tweeted them. I didn’t get a response until I issued a DMCA takedown via FB itself, at which point I got a cheery message from Distractify saying “Thanks! We’ll credit you now or we can take it down – whatever works for you.”
Well, two things. Firstly, by this time (at least 12 hours later) their post had already been buried under numerous new ones. The damage had been done. Secondly, the post had already been removed. Not sure what happened there.
I am sure the image has been posted on a wealth of other “content” sites, but I haven’t the energy to check. The damage has been done. At least it was only a low-res image, though. Can’t do much with that.
Anyway, second thing I learned…
#2. People will get the full-res image anyway
Huh. So Flickr has some security leaks.
Even though I’d disabled access to my full-res image, Redditors soon began posting it in response to others asking for a desktop version. As some of you know, this is doable by viewing the page’s source code and finding the file. After that it’s a simple copy+paste job and a right-click to get it.
My wife was lovely enough to ask users to remove their links, explaining that it enabled the image to be used in ways I wasn’t ok with. Most of them complied within a good few hours. Some didn’t. Either way, the damage had been done.
#3. People won’t believe it’s your own photo
This one is relatively short, but I still found it bizarre. I’d say about 20 users posted results from reverse-google-image-search, such as screenshots of the results or my website and Flickr. They’d say things like:
Climbed Mt. Fuji, huh? So you are Kris J B, owner of THIS WEBSITE and THIS FLICKR who took this photo TWO YEARS AGO? Yeah right.
Y.. Yeah? The image is already online… Why is it a surprise that a photographer would post his images online? I don’t understand the karma-whore witch-hunt ethic. Karma is absolutely useless.
This third point is important because it taught me that I will get seriously stressed out if people start accusing me of photo-thievery. One chap was adamant that the image was actually from 2009, because Google’s reverse-search had presented the subreddit /r/woahdude, created in 2009, where my photo had been reposted.
He would not listen to reason. He accused me of lying through my teeth and that I was stealing someone else’s hard-earned work.
I didn’t like that. I got so stressed I had trouble sleeping. Gotta be careful to ignore the trolls.
#4. The recognition you gain will not be very fruitful
Here are the visitation stats from my website:
Outstanding! 20,000 people visited my site! Some people even messaged me asking if they could buy a print!
… I have not heard anything more. I did not sell anything.
Oh well, at least my other images got exposure…?
Not really. As you can see, nearly everyone who visited my site came for the original image, maybe scrolled once or twice through others in that set, then left. The shop page didn’t even make it into the top ten most-visited.
Now, I didn’t post this with the intention of making money, but after seeing the visit count I was over the moon. I thought to myself “If I make one sale, I’ll be a happy chappy!” but alas. No big deal.
If it’s taught me something else important, it’s that the site works well as a portfolio, not so much as a print store. That’s very useful information!
Oh, and my photography page on Facebook went up by 4 likes. I am considering that a win, no matter how small. I consider those 4 extra likes genuine fans. It’s a win.
It has made me greatly question the value of digital portfolios, however. I used to carry my portfolio on an iPad when visiting restaurants or bars with the intention of selling wall art, and had my heart sink as they idly swipe past each image without really looking. Luckily, however, I switched to a printed portfolio which ensures the audience gives each image reverence – and I made two sales from this method!
Why I probably shouldn’t have posted it
So I learned a lot from the last 24 hours. The damage has been done and I’ll probably see “that Fuji shot” posted on all sorts of Buzzfeed wannabe sites when I finally dare to reverse-google it… But still, those are some valuable lessons I learned. AND I had a lovely time talking with all the interested users, Fuji-climbers and photographers.
So why do I regret it? Because 30% of the 1000 responses that filled my inbox were just the word “illuminati” and it made me want to pray for a meteor strike. That is not a nice feeling. Oh my god, Reddit main subs can be annoying holy s**t.
Followup: Let it be known these were my 100% honest thoughts fresh after the nuttiness of the proceeding 24 hours after posting the photo to/r/pics, and that I have a much more positive outlook on the whole situation as of now.
It has, after all, brought great attention to my work, but more importantly it’s taught me a great deal about the nature of digital media and marketing oneself online, which is something I knew nothing at all before this (as it is embarrassingly clear from this writing).
About the author: Kris J B is a Kent-based photographer and a graduate from Canterbury Christ Church University, where he gained a BA in Film, Radio and Television in 2008. Visit his website here.