To Pin or not to Pin? That is the question.

I admit it, I love Pinterest. Part of my daily ritual for the last few months has been to browse my favorite photography sites looking for inspiration. Then a post in one of the photographers groups I belong to made me stop and think.
Pin / Thumb Tack
The photographer in question stated that:

“I cannot support a social media site that does not respect photographers rights.”

Quite frankly I was taken aback. My thoughts went;

Surely she’s misread their Terms of Service. I’m not stealing your photographs, I’m simply looking at and sharing, in a controlled environment which ones I like.

I reasoned, Pintrest couldn’t work if they were violating your rights.

I thought nothing more of it until this week, when on another forum, the subject came up again. This time there was an interesting long and detailed blog attached to the post. You can read the blog post here:
Pin / Thumb Tack

This blog also suggests that Pinterest Etiquette says that you don’t pin your own work. Click here to read the Pinterest Etiquette Guidelines. I read this carefully but can see nothing that says or even suggests you can’t pin your own work. Infact, Pinterest has a page devoted on how to set up your Brand! You can find Brand Best Practices here.

Then I did something I should have done in the first place, I went and read the Terms of Service for myself. (Yes I know we all should read them fully at the time we sign up but how many people actually do?)

Terms of Service

The Terms of Service have actually changed since I originally signed up by the important parts can be found in part 1. ii

“To third parties. Pinterest values and respects the rights of third party creators and content owners, and expects you to do the same. You therefore agree that any User Content that you post to the Service does not and will not violate any law or infringe the rights of any third party, including without limitation any Intellectual Property Rights (defined below), publicity rights or rights of privacy. We reserve the right, but are not obligated, to remove User Content from the Service for any reason, including User Content that we believe violates these Terms or the Pinterest Acceptable Use Policy. It is important that you understand that you are in the best position to know if the materials you post are legally allowed. We therefore ask that you please be careful when deciding whether to make User Content available on our Service, including whether you can pin or re-pin User Content on your boards.”

OK, so the onus is on me as a Pinner. This is good news!

I repopulated my boards using only my own and my daughters works then adding friends work, and finally repining those images with a Creative Commons license, from Yahoo and Flickr. (The amazing photographer Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs has his own boards (with a creative commons license) on Pinterest so I have been quite happily repining his work.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons allows others to use your work with some restricrtions:

Here is an example of a Creative Commons image. You may use it for any non-commercial use as long as you attribute me as the photographer and link back to this website.
A cast of a dinosaur's skull
Creative Commons License
Dino Skull by Lyn Tuckwell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

There are six different levels of Creative Commons Licenses. Creative Commons is a different form of copyright allowing the photographer, artist, musician or writer to state what the consumer can do with their creative work and make allowance for how their work can be shared.

So what you say is the flip side of the coin? What about all those photographers who didn’t want their images pinned. Well they have two choices first of all they can take one of two small piece of code available from the Pinterest website telling people that they do not want their images pinned. You can find the code here. Secondly they can report the misuse of their images to Pinterest. If your image has been used without your permission click here for the procedure.

I see both sides of the argument but of all the sites out there, I still think that Pinterest is the most innocuous and the best for positive feedback. Pinners, for the most part, are looking for inspiration and photos that make them feel good. If my photo or artwork fits that slot I’ve only won as long as all the Pinner is doing is sharing.
The problem of course comes when someone abuses the system and, as we all know, people will abuse the system. If someone wants to steal your images they will; Flickr proved that.

I believe the big picture (excuse the pun) being missed here is the huge opportunity for photographers to show their work to people who would otherwise not only not have bought from them anyway but would not have known of the photographers existence.

There is a reason why Pintrest has taken off. In North America one of the fastest growing hobbies is scrap-booking. (Right behind Genealogy and Ornithology /Birdwatching). Pinterest is simply a form of scrapbooking on line. What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below.

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Oh, and yes you can…

I’m a Control Freak!

Following on from last weeks blog, Where do I build my Portfolio you’ve looked at the options of hosted sites but you have decided you want to do it yourself.

Building your own website.

You’ve looked at the options and decided you want complete control over your website but….you don’t know where to start.

You have choices, in fact probably too many. Don’t worry let’s look at your options.

First of all:

  1. You can hire someone, ie a Web Designer
  2. You can do it yourself

But wait! Even before you make this decision you need your own domain name.

Choosing a domain.

Your domain name is your brand. (What you want to call yourself and how you want to be known.) Even if you are hiring someone else to do the work for you I strongly suggest you register your own domain name. In fact, even if you are hosting your site at one of the photography sites mentioned last week, your own domain name is always a good idea.


About ten years ago, before I knew better, I found myself in the situation where the designer I had hired for a company I was with, allowed the registering company to register our domain in their name. It took several months to get our name back and then only because the designer was being nice and had other clients in the same position. You may not be so lucky.

When possible your name should be short, easy to spell and descriptive. This is probably the most important decision you will make. Remember you are going to have to live with this. If you already have an established name by all means use it.

Buying your own domain is relatively easy shop around as deals and special can change weekly.

Try any of the following:

If you have the option, go for .com but don’t be bullied into getting the .net, .info, .name etc that will be offered unless you know that you actually want to use them.

The exception to this might be if you can’t get the name you want but you can get your country. For example: your name is John Smith you try but it already belongs to someone else, try, for example:

  • if you live in the UK
  • if you live in Canada

The other exception for buying multiple names is if you have a name that is commonly spelled more than one way., and would be an example of this. You can have the wrong spelling set up to point to the other site.

At the time of writing You should be able to get the name of your choice for under $20.00, in most cases under $10.00. It is a good idea to add privacy to your listing but you don’t have to if you don’t want to at this point.

You do not have to host your sight where you buy your domain although this can be a good idea. (If you subscribe to the Creative Cloud domain hosting is included for up to five domains.)

Hiring a professional

There are lots of good reasons to hire someone to do the work for you but don’t expect it to be cheap and don’t expect that you’ll be completely off the hook for as far as making decision are concerned. A good web designer can be worth their weight in gold. If you’re not technically inclined and you don’t want to do the web work yourself, (and you have the budget) by all means hire someone and concentrate on your photography.

Expect to sit down and discuss, colors, styles, logos, fonts and feel. Look at sites you like for ideas. Be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours talking to your web designer. Ask your designer what he/she has done before and ask for references. (Just because you don’t like some of the sites a designer has done you shouldn’t rule them out if they have good references; their client may have wanted lime green with fluorescent pink and orange spots. Your choices may seem quirky to others too.) Don’t be frightened to get more than one quote but don’t necessarily go for the cheapest option.

Ask for a breakdown of services and costs before you start. Make sure that you will be able to change and add to your images. If you are going to sell from your sight look at the options for shopping carts. Make sure that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is included.

Hiring a Student

No, I’m not talking about your next door neighbors ten year old (although they may be really good). Schools and collages often have students that will make your site for you at a reduced cost as part of their curriculum. Expect to go through exactly the same steps as you would with a professional web designer but expect the process to take longer. Make sure that the Teacher or Professor will also be available if they run into problems.

Doing it yourself.

I’m going to presume that if you have got this far you are fairly comfortable with the idea of either coding, using templates, including blogging platforms such as Tumblr or WordPress or using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor such as Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage.

There are literally thousands of templates that you can download for free or a small fee. Places to start looking are:

Most hosting sites also offer templates/themes as do and Tumblr.

With the launch of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscribers can now host up to five websites. Depending on how many photographs you have this may be an option for you. If your subscribing to the cloud you also have access to Dreamweaver and Muse for designing your site.

For tutorials on web design and html coding try, Web Monkey, IWA/HTML Writers Guild, and, of course, the (World Wide Web Consortium).

With a little research, you can find your comfort level and soon have the site you want.

Where do I build my portfolio?

I see this questions again and again in the forums. “Where do I build my portfolio?”

There are so many places to choose from that the choice is simply mind boggling. As with so many things it really depends on what you want to use your portfolio for. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I want to:

    • Sell photographs?
    • Book portrait sittings?
    • Make prints?

    • A canvas print, framed print and an art print.

      Prints and Greeting Cards

  2. What are the features I’m looking for?

    • Do I want a slide show or do I want static images?
    • Can I have control over who sees which images?
    • Am I selling from my site, do they have payment options for my clients or do I have to set that up myself?

  3. What are my associated costs?

    • Will a free site work for me?
    • Should I host my own site or use a subdomain?
    • If I have my own domain do I have to have a third party source to monetize my site?

    • NOTE:

      A subdomain is a site that is hosted under another sites domain name. For example:

These are just a few of the questions you should be asking. Remember that you don’t have to have only one portfolio, you can separate your images depending on what you want to do with them. (I have several different portfolios for different kinds of images and different clients.)

Looking at the options.

So let’s look at a few of the options out there.

Pay Sites:

If you are a professional or serious photographer I suggest you look at these options first. Pay sites do a lot of your work for you. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is built in as are shopping carts for products, (but do watch their markup). Do your homework. Decide what you want. Set up an excel spread sheet with your must have options and then decide what’s best for you.


Again and again in customer service satisfaction surveys SmugMug comes in either first or second place. You can try them free for two weeks and then you have the choice of three levels of membership Basic, Power, and Pro. Starting at $40.00 a year and going to $150 (monthly payment options between $5 and $20) this site has all the bells and whistles.


Photoshelter and SmugMug usually battle it out for first and second place in the favorites game. They also offer a two week free trial and have three levels of membership basic, standard and pro. Photoshelter has a month to month option starting at $9.99 and going to $49.99


Also has a free 14 day trial period and you can upgrade to one of four plans. Their Basic Plus starts at just $30.00 a year, Unlimited at $60, Premium at $120, and Premium Business at $250.00 per year.

Start out for free with the option to upgrade.

So… by this time you’ve looked through some of the options and your mind is completely boggled. You love the look and feel of the paid sites but you don’t want to commit. There are good free sites out there. Don’t overlook sites that you already belong to. Don’t forget that you are not committed for life.
Yes that’s right, create your free Adobe account at and you have also have a free web gallery with 2 GB of storage. You can upgrade later if you need more storage.

Have a LinkedIn account? You also have access to create a free portfolio and show your work on LinkedIn.

Deviant Art and Deviant Art Portfolio

Deviant Art is a social site for artists and photographers where you can display and talk about your work. Aimed mostly at a younger crowd it does have a free portfolio site for members at

Other sites to consider.

Fine Art America

Fine Art America sometimes gets overlooked by photographers. Start off with a free site and upgrade for only $30.00 a year. Sell your images and set your own price.
They have lots of tools at your disposal and the chance to interact with fellow photographers. A great place to start if you are on a limited budget.


Carbonmade is a nice easy to use site. When I first started out with graphic design this was the site I used. I still use the free version for demonstration purposes.

Sample of portfolio at Carbonmade
You get up to 5 portfolios and can use up to 35 images for free. Upgrade to 50 projects of 500 images and 10 videos for $12.00 a month.

What about Flickr and Picassa?

Absolutely have an account on both but don’t use either of them for your professional photography. Why because if you read the Terms of Service both Yahoo (Flickr) and Google (Picassa) have the right to do what they want with your publicly accessible files. So go ahead and make private albums to share with your family and friends, photo groups and clubs but keep control of any image you might want to use exclusively.

Conclusions or Confussion.

These are just a few of the options available, and I’ve mentioned them because either I am now or have in the past used their services, and because these are the sites that again and again come up in third party recommendations. What if none of these are right for you? You want to do your own thing and have total control. You’ve been told that WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogger are the sites to be on. Well next week I’ll look at the options for setting up your own site from scratch.

Footnote/Disclaimer: All prices quoted are in US Dollars and were correct on the 17 May 2012. It is the readers responsibility to check current pricing and terms of service.