Should a photographer honor a takedown request?
We all have them, over the last year I have had three people request that I take down the pictures I took of them. Generally they might be because the pictures are crappy (which happens), or they have some other reason. Let’s look at each of the three requests and then ask yourself how you would handle them. On all of these, I did honor the request, and will explain more after I get done with the examples.
Public Protest Pictures – one young lady was at the Annual Slutwalk and was captured in four pictures I took at the walk. Her office workers found out that she was part of the event and started harassing her. She was not just caught by me, but caught by a major news outlet as well and posted all over the newspaper. That is probably what caught the office workers attention. She is a rape survivor, but the actions of her office workers started triggering bad events. The e-mail that was sent to me to take down the four pictures was impressive, and for what I thought was a very good reason. She is getting harassed by her office workers for talking about surviving rape and participating in Slutwalk which is a major anti-rape event/protest here in Seattle. I took the four pictures down, and never heard from her again.
Model Shoot – model revised the paper contract so that she could control what was posted online from the modeling shoot. Model refused to release any of the pictures because this was the first time she had pictures taken of her in underwear. I am not talking a small shoot here, but because she was an awesome model and I didn’t notice what she had penciled into the contract (that is my mistake), I spent a significant amount of the day taking her picture. When the model refused to release any pictures, I was stuck with three hours of lost time, and a couple hundred pictures I could have used. The objection was not to the pictures, but that she was in her underwear. The pictures were taken down because my lab assistant countersigned the contract. My assistants no longer have the ability to sign contracts on my behalf (didn’t realize they had them before, and this might be a way to scoot out of the whole mess), and I moved over to electronic copy for the model releases that cannot be modified by anyone but me.
Event Shoot – a performer of the event was so concerned about her image that she needed to approve any picture posted online from the event. She requested a take down, but since technically I don’t own the pictures, the event does, asking me to take down the pictures rather than the event organizers asking me to take down the pictures made this one highly unusual. The event eventually decided that it would be better to take them down rather than have an upset artist.
The only other issue with pictures over the last year was a gallery name and how the model perceived herself, which is a quick easy fix and no loss of imagery.
Each one of these is a different circumstance I have had with models, needless to say yes I do keep a black list of models or event performers who ask for a take down and will not take their picture again in the future. Like all cities, this is a very small town, so I figure I am on a couple of models and event performers black list as well. Fair is fair, if the relationship is not working with the model or performer then it just will not work. The first one though is unique, I have never before or sense seen anyone in a protest march ask for their picture to be taken down from the internet. I have no idea how the newspaper reacted, but the pictures were missing from the news site a few month later. Other than being seriously annoyed that someone would use a protest picture to harass a co-worker, that one was probably the most legitimate reason to take down a picture I have seen yet.
If the photographer has taken crappy pictures, tell them that they are crappy. That you don’t like them or that they do not portray you as you wish to be seen by the public. Don’t go all copyright on them, don’t go all ‘but I am in my underwear’, look at it realistically. The photographer spent time on those pictures. It is unlikely that they ripped them off the camera and posted them, they went through some kind of post shoot process that meant time with the shoot far beyond what you saw. The photographer has an equal investment in time, and would much rather hear the pictures are crappy than pulling some kind of bone head maneuver about copyright or underwear. Most photographers are going to be cool about it, and would much rather deliver a picture you are happy with along the way. Realize the photographer is also an artist in their own right, so an argument like this just fails:
“It isn’t just about quality of photography. I like to be in control of my art just like any other artist.”