Getting your photography published is it always a good thing?

As photographers there are many things that give encouragement or motivation, whether it's praise for a picture you've captured, getting a new client from previous work you've done, or even just a passing compliment. As a breed we're probably one of the most self criticising group of people around (at least this is the case for myself) so it's always nice when complimented. 

However, all those things aside I think when you are approached by someone outside your circle, that requests to use your work is close to as good as it gets. This is something that happened to myself and as you can imagine 'made my day', however it also highlighted a problem to me that I wanted to share. Hopefully this will ensure the same doesn't happen to yourself if the situation ever arises.

One of my clients was approached by a publishing company (black dog publishing), who were putting together a book on materials and the diverse ways in which they're used (it sounds boring but it's actually quite interesting). Anyway, the work I had done for them was product shots for their portfolio, their range consisted of adhesive tapes and proved to be a difficult but wholly gratifying experience, "taking a photo of a roll of tape and making it look semi interesting is a challenge to say the least" (the clients words). Anyway, the picture they requested to use was of copper tape (image A), my client asked if I was ok with this (which, needless to say - I was!) and the go ahead was given. 

So I can hear you thinking, surely that's a good thing.... Where is the problem in that? Well, like you I didn't see any problems at all and keenly awaited the book to be finished so that I could get my hands on a copy and beam with pride...

.....So the book was published (Material matters - New materials in design by Philip Howes and Zoe Laughlin), I got my hands on a copy and couldn't wait to see my work in print. I proceed to read the book and get to the section about copper and flick through the pages.... nothing there..... maybe it's further in the book, I then flick through the whole thing and then return to the section on copper thinking 'they must have decided to not use it' .. it's at this point that I take a little longer examining the copper chapter and then I stumble across a section headed 'Copper Tape' and sure enough I see a roll of copper tape but wait a minute that's not my image.... is it?! Then it hits me, as I look closely and compare this image to mine I can see that they have used my photograph but not in it's entirety, they have edited it (BADLY), rotated it sideways (which looks odd) and also attempted to remove the black background.

Now typing this doesn't make much sense so I'll put the images below so that you can compare what they received and what they printed, ordinarily I would never advocate ripping pages out of a book. However, on this occasion I'm going to show the book publishers the same amount of respect they have shown my work (besides it'll be much easier to scan if the pages are loose).

So let's begin with the image they requested to use:

Image A - The original image requested!

A roll of copper adhesive tape Now as you can see, this image is clear, well lit and without any distracting backgrounds.... a perfect product shot!

Next up, is the scanned page that illustrates how they incorporated it into the book:

Image B - The butchered use of:

Bad use of a good image in publishing

Now ok I have to admit that I'm not into publishing and as such not qualified to give a qualified opinion, however as a photographer I have an eye for what is aesthetically pleasing to the eye....... this I'm afraid to say is NOT! As a publisher wouldn't they want things to look as good as they can?!

Forgetting the obvious lack of editing skills and the fact that the roll is on it's side but the lighting was coming from above (with roll stood on it's side), the roll doesn't even look round, it looks squished as they have deleted some of the roll form when removing the black background.

What's worse is they never even bothered to ask if there was a version on a white background (which there is), ok I realise I'm rambling a bit and you may be thinking that they only wanted to use images where the product was cut out as above....?! Nope, as you'll see below when you turn the page in the book the images are once again normal framed images

Image C - Why not use the original image in the same way:

These images above look acceptable, and the page layout looks altogether more professional.

So, to sum up... if you're ever lucky enough to find yourself approached by a publisher or other body asking to use your work, by all means allow them to but ensure they use your work as provided, or at the minimum check with you if they make any alterations before going to print!!!! 

As for me, I'm just happy that my name was not displayed in the book against the image (the clients name was)... Now I just await the next time I get my work published and I can ensure it's up to my standard.


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