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The Other Side: A Moral Dilemma

Occasionally, when I have very specific ideas for the content of a photo, I'll end up on the wrong side of the camera.

Buffalo Military Park and Marina, NY

One of the many problems I'll run into is my laziness; I have never brought my tripod with me, even if it's just from the second to the ground floor of my house.  So instead I'll ask my unlucky companion of the day to be my "stand-in tripod" (will be credited as c/o - courtesy of).  I'm not entirely sure if this term already exists (although a quick Google search would answer that question) but I choose to use this term because of another issue I ran into a while back, when I was compiling photos for my album and blog. 

Along with a blog, I had wanted to create a watermark for my photos.  The concern was with whether or not it would be right/morally acceptable for me to slap my watermark on a photo where I did not physically click the shutter button.  After many inquiries to my other photographer friends as well as the /r/photography community, these are the conclusions I came to:
The photo is yours if:
  • you are the creative mind behind the photo
    • this includes the concept, the framing, the posing, the camera settings, the editing, and etc.
  • the photo taken can be easily replicated if the person taking the photo were substituted with a timer and a tripod
    • this implies that the photo does not require significant skill to take
Other more legal aspects mentioned by the /r/photography community include:
  • if you have a contract or if you have it in writing
I think for the most part, since my substitute tripods have been family or close friends who have used "stand-in tripods" of their own (myself included), such fancy legalities are unnecessary as we have mutual understanding.  To be safe though, I always make sure to ask before posting a photo that was taken c/o someone else.

Let's take the photo above, of me sitting on the bench, for example.  Prior to this shot, I had taken an identical shot of just the scene without me in it.  Then I showed my mom and pointed out exactly where I wanted to sit.  I then ran off and waited for her to take the photo, then ran back to review it.  I flipped back and forth between the photo I took and the one she took to show her the differences, then I lined up the camera for her, and ran off to sit on the bench again.  Later at home, I reviewed the photos, cropped and edited it to my liking, and felt absolutely certain that this photo was mine.

There were a few people that were firm in their belief that the photo belongs to whoever clicked the shutter.  While I have much respect for their strong moral fiber, it's hard for me to accept that something that I poured my energies to is so easily given to someone else.  I've been told I won't make it far in the corporate world because of my inability to allow others to take credit for my work.  We'll see how that turns out ;)

It was harder in the beginning, using my older camera that didn't have a display during shooting (the display was for review only) so it was more difficult to guarantee what I see through the lens will be the same as what my stand-in sees.  There would be a lot more running back and forth, comparing photos and pointing out the differences to convey exactly how I wanted the photo taken (I definitely have some obsessive compulsive tendencies; hence, my unlucky companion of the day).  My new camera has display shooting which means we can see the same image at the same time.  While this has made things a lot easier, I find that the best stand-ins are the people who have known you longest and have seen your previous work.  They tend to have a better understanding of the directions you give.  It also helps if they're around the same height, so you know you're both seeing the same angles and perspectives (or if they're willing to crouch down, that's cool too).  

I want to take this opportunity to thank the lovely Anita (again, I owe you so much!) and the ever-crouching John (just pretend you're doing squats) for patiently bearing with my OCDness and helping me bring my visions to life!  Thank you for never once complaining or telling me to just bring my tripod, I am super grateful for your understanding of my laziness.

Vintage Camera
c/o Anita
Mustard Skirt
c/o John
These photos and more can be found under the new The Other Side tab on the navigation bar, I hope you'll check it out!  The Mustard Skirt set of photos will be featured in tomorrow's post so they will be uploaded then.