Letter to the Editor: Please Credit Photography

Posted May. 25th, 2016 by Daniel J. Cox

Please Credit Photography

This blog post is the first of what will be an on ongoing campaign to point out publications, editors, and others who seem to have forgotten that it’s photography that sells their publications – magazines, books, newspapers, web pages, and the like. For the past ten years or more I’ve noticed a trend, by publishers of all kinds, to ignore crediting the creators of the images they publish. I did a blog post some time back on this very subject titled: Selling Editorial Photography? Demand a Credit Line! The photograph below was the inspiration of that post. It was shot by Markus Varesvuo.

This fabulous image of a gull attacking an eagle was published in an airline magazine and was my first post on the subject of magazines not crediting photographers properly. As the image shows, this photo was credited to Nature Picture Library. This practice is as much the fault of Nature Picture Library as it is the magazine that published it.

One of the biggest offenders are the stock photography agencies who are supposed to be representing the best interests of their photographers AND buyers. Even so, very often the agencies are accepting the policy of publishers crediting only the agency. Today, agents seem to be only interested in representing the best interests of their buyers. It has to be mutually beneficial to all or eventually everybody loses. Thankfully, the largest of all stock photo agencies, Getty Images, has noticed that times are not going well for the


stock photographer and recently put out a video highlighting this issue. This public service video they produced takes some of the problems into account, but unfortunately they say nothing about the subject of photographers needing a credit line.

For those new to the photography industry, one thing you may not know is the importance of a credit line that’s traditionally published alongside all editorial/non-commercial images. A credit line is a text attribution next to or close to the image that tells


Town Cryer magazine from Scotland.

Toun Cryer magazine with credit line for writer and photographer.

the reader who took the photo they’re viewing. Why is this important? Quite simply, no editorial clients with the exception of Natioanl Geographic, have ever paid the money that’s required for a photographer to make a real living. Giving the photographer a credit line has always been a way for publishers to escape the real and actual costs associated with quality photography. By including a credit line next to all images or at the head of a story, the photographer receives something of

Town Cryer magazine story with credit for the writer but to the photographer or possibly photographers.

Toun Cryer magazine story with credit for the writer but not to the photographer or possibly photographers.

value in exchange for publication fees that are less than what producing the photograph actually costs. That something is a credit line. A credit line is a little piece of advertising for the photographer that other publishers and potential clients would look

Another story with no credit line for the photographs.

Another story with no credit line for the photographs.

for, thus improving the visibility of the photographer’s work. This credit line “subsidy” is generally only offered for editorial work as opposed to commercial work. For this conversation we’ll stick with the issue of no credit lines in the editorial market.

In this first post under the heading of Letter to the Editor: Please Credit Photography, I want to highlight a very small publication in Scotland called the Toun Cryer Magazine which the photographs of the pages shown above came from. I often find publications that are following this new trend of not crediting photographers as I travel around the world producing photography. The Toun Cryer is a wonderful little publication that features a series of interesting articles

Amazingly, on the Toun Cryer's home page they state, "Toun Cryer is Scotland’s favourite free Bi monthly magazine delivered door to door and combines beautiful photography with features on the county’s people and places". Imagine a publication that sells itself on "beautiful photography" not caring enough to credit photographers in several of their stories. They don't even mention their amazing writing but they doc credit the writers.

Toun Cryer’s home page does suggest they appreciate good photography by stating, “Toun Cryer is Scotland’s favourite free Bi monthly magazine delivered door to door and combines beautiful photography with features on the county’s people and places”.

about the local area. A couple of the articles that appear in the Spring issue actually do include a credit line for the photographer but there are a couple of other stories that have no credit line at all. The ones that do offer credit include Building A Dream, Words: Mairi MacDonald Photos: Douglas Gibb. Another story titled More Than Meets the Eye, also has credit for both the writer and photographer, Words: Tim Siddons Photos: Roy Summers. But there are several other pages with fabulous images that go completely uncredited. One story, Scotland on Film credits only the editor, Tim Siddons, for the words. Another story, All Natural, makes sure the writer is credited with Words: Lynn Stewart but no photo credits of any kind.

I hope this blog post will convince the editor of Toun Cryer, Tim Siddons, to rethink the magazine’s lack of credit lines for photographers. If you want to add your voice, gently ask Mr. Siddons to kindly start crediting his photographers. Mr. Siddons can be reached at tim@touncryer.co.uk. I think if we all reach out to publications who are missing this important tradition of quality publishing, maybe we can make a difference. Remember, keep it civil wth a gentle voice and kind heart and maybe we can change the world.  Below is the text from the email I recently sent Mr. Siddons.

Dr. Mr. Siddons,

I’m writing on behalf of all photographers. I recently became aware of your lovely publication Toun Cryer during a trip to Scotland where I was leading several photo workshops, teaching the craft and business of photography. I noticed your magazine is not crediting photographers for the images that grace your pages. Not all the images but many had no credit lines, such as those in the story Scotland on Film and All Natural. I find it a bit surprising the Home page of your web site promotes your use of beautiful photography suggesting you understand the benefits of quality images, yet the magazine fails to give the photographers the credit they deserve. As I’m sure you’re aware, the rates virtually all publications pay are nowhere near what it takes to produce arresting photos. Most publications offer their hard working photographers a credit line in exchange for less than adequate payment. I’m guessing your publication is no different since all magazines today are having difficult times. In a show of good faith to your talented shooters I would like to suggest Toun Cryer start leading your industry peers in crediting the talented people who help make you successful. I noticed this is the case for the writers who supply the text, yourself included.  Thanks for your time and I look forward to your continued success. 

PS- As a teacher of all things photographic I’ve written a Blog about the Toun Cryer to share the trend of publishers not crediting photographers with my many readers. We would love to have you stop by and join the conversation at Letter to the Editor: Please Credit Photography




Add Your Voice!
There are 7 comments on this post…
  1. DC Professional HeadshotsOn Sep. 13th, 2016

    Such a great article. Thanks for sticking up for all the photographers out there. Sadly, this is something we deal with on an all to regular bases. Thanks for shedding light on such an important issue.

  2. John KellyOn May. 29th, 2016

    Just discovered your article Daniel, very good, thank you for highlighting this issue. Have to agree with everything that has been said. Personally I always ask for credit with images that are paid for and images that are used free with my permission, usually get credit line no problem. If I became aware of an image being published without credit rather than asking for removal I would request some sort of re-imbursement, if that failed then I would ask for removal using cease and desist. I notice a growing trend that companies or there employees seem to think it is ok to use images on facebook & twitter without so much as an acknowledgement or link these images are not images I have published on social media so thay have gone to web site and taken it from there to publish on their social feed, I’m in the process of working out the best way to deal with this sort of thing. Any thoughts or feedback appreciated, maybe a topic for a future article Daniel? Thanks again for sharing useful information and reminding us to keep on top of this.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 29th, 2016

      John, If I find anybody using my work without compensations I either ask them to take it down or hire an attorney to go after them. If it’s a corporation who should now better and they’ve used m image on their web site or Facebook pac I will bill them for usage. Ofter times 3-5 times the normal rate I would have billed had they asked. If they don’t pay then my attorney is called in. I do regainer all images I shoot so I make sure I’m on slid foundation to start with.

  3. Jurriaan NijkerkOn May. 29th, 2016

    Ther’s a lot of BS going round in discussions like this.

    Under the Berne Convention and under the legislation of countries which has ratified the treaty, there is an obligation to indicate the name of the maker.

    It is not ‘Please credit the author’, it is ‘You have the obligation to credit the author’. No contracts needed for that.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 29th, 2016

      Not sure who’s side you are on by the tone of your message Jurriaan. Also not sure of your confidence in some law that doesn’t seem to have any teeth since I see photographs not credited all the time. My since is I don’t deal with publications that don’t credit purely but stock agents don’t seem to care and do it all the time. Nt sure how to make publications change other than to stop dealing with the ones that don’t offer a proper credit line. That said, the agencies would have to do the same. My hope by making this an issue is to get photographers to start requesting proper credit and to point out the ongoing publications that are not giving credit lines.

  4. Bill BurkholderOn May. 26th, 2016

    As a project manager, I have to point out that photography for hire is generally worthy of a written, signed contract that includes terms of use. Putting copyright limits, photo credit requirements, and compensation terms in the contract can practically eliminate such annoyances. It’s a PITA to deal with contracts, but they protect everyone from misunderstandings.

  5. DeanOn May. 25th, 2016

    Thanks for sticking up for those of us who are fortunate enough to get a photo published. I have always made a “photo credit” a condition of usage and have demanded removal of any of my photos from the Internet (can’t do much about non-electronic pubs) that do not include a photo credit. Keep up the pressure (you have far more clout than 99.9% of the photographers out there) on offending publishers. It’s not easy policing the vast number of offenders. Hopefully, your efforts will be productive!

Add your voice to this conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In an effort to combat spam, your comment may be held for a brief moderation period.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.