Ever Had Your Food Photo Stolen?

Stolen

In last few weeks, we’ve come across an astounding number of food photographers who have had their food photos stolen. Big magazines have done it. Big hotel chains are stealing food photos. Even famous chefs have used food photos without permission and not compensated food photographers.

We at LFP HQ would like to help you share the stories with fellow food photographers. Here’s how to do it.

Can you help us by doing two things?

1. Share the Experience

On this page, in the comments below tell us:

  1. Have you or someone you know had this happen to you? Has your food photos been stolen?
  2. Tell us the story.
  3. How did you find out about the stolen image?
  4. What did you do about this situation?

Share your details in the comments.

2. Share This Post With Fellow Photographers

Please share this post with fellow food photographers. The more experiences we can learn from, the better for the community.

We’ll compile these responses and add what we’ve learned based on our experiences.

  • It’s only fair that I start first.

    Here I’ll mention just one incident. It’s not just the photos it was also the entire blog post. Some seemingly “famous” food photographer (not sure if he is around) started scrapping the entire blogpost including the food photos, some of our own and some from our guests and started posting on his blog.

    We reached out to him, asked why he was doing it. He told us he wasn’t aware of it. His “web guy” was doing it. His web guy never told him what was being posted on his website? And he never checked what was being done to his website?

    Well, after we reached out to him, the posts came down and so did the photos. That was it. We didn’t initiate any legal action, the blog was only few months old, we didn’t have time, resources or the energy.

    That one was easy.

    For someone else, who had some big shot steal there photos, this entire experience can be very emotional and stressful.

  • It’s only fair that I start first.

    Here I’ll mention just one incident. It’s not just the photos it was also the entire blog post. Some seemingly “famous” food photographer (not sure if he is around) started scrapping the entire blogpost including the food photos, some of our own and some from our guests and started posting on his blog.

    We reached out to him, asked why he was doing it. He told us he wasn’t aware of it. His “web guy” was doing it. His web guy never told him what was being posted on his website? And he never checked what was being done to his website?

    Well, after we reached out to him, the posts came down and so did the photos. That was it. We didn’t initiate any legal action, the blog was only few months old, we didn’t have time, resources or the energy.

    That one was easy.

    For someone else, who had some big shot steal there photos, this entire experience can be very emotional and stressful.

  • Shifa Khan

    i run a food blog! Not famous or anything, but one of my photos got onto weheartit, and I found it all over the web after that. I never got it taken down from weheartit itself, but whenever I reached out to people who had used it as a stockphoto, they took it down or gave me credit.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience Shifa.

  • Michael Ray

    I received a random email one day saying that the emailer found my images on another guy’s website, and sure enough, the guy stole about a dozen of my images directly from my site ( http://www.foodportfolio.com ) and had them on his site!!! I guess he thought that because he lived in Brazil and I lived int eh USA, no one would notice. I emailed him and told him that he better take them down or that I would email every Art Director in his city telling them, what a dishonest asshole he was. He removed them.

    Michael Ray
    mike@foodportfolio.com

    • Thank you for your comment Mike!

      It’s amazing that photographers do this to misrepresent their work… Also its a good way to twist an arm. How would you find Art Director in his city, is there an online listing somewhere?

      Ever had similar experience commercially? With a magazine or a company stealing your images?

  • Trishnanta

    Not just a food photo, someone claimed my entire food blog was written by them to a prospective employer. I was fortunate the employer had common friends with me and contacted me to confirm if the blog was mine. When I reached out to the person she said it happened by mistake (I don’t know how people claim something like that by mistake). My blog is not a famous one but I became extra careful about adding my bio and twitter feed after this incident.

    • wow!! It is unbelievable to see what extent some will go…

  • Szakaly

    Sometimes I see some of my pictures on FB – send an friendly email and they remove my pics. Had never a big problem.

  • Soma Rathore

    Where do I even start?! Happening everyday. Usually in minor incidences like facebook, I fill out the copyright violation form and they have been removed in less than 24 hours. I have tried but do not bother to leave comments on it anymore. When it comes to other bloggers doing it, I will leave a comment in their post asking them to remove it. I add my link to the photo/text and give them two days time, mentioning that I will have to take other actions if they do not remove it. If they don’t I file DMCA complaint with Google Blogger or WordPress. So far they have been removed. If it is an independantly hosted site, it becomes a tought job.

    Need to mention 2 big incidents. BBC Good Food India had used my photo without permission. I found out in their facebook update. I had asked help of a lawyer friend and sent out registered letter to their law dept in UK. along with email to both UK and India, asking for compensation. It was a legal procedure. They wrote back, removed the image, apologized but did not pay me anything, Instead offered me a free hamper, which I refused. It was insulting.

    Second one: found a restaurant used my image in their website and printed menus in my own town. Called them, wrote to them, waited for 15 days. No response from them and they did not take down anything. Again took help of the lawyer friend and sent a registered legal letter. The images were removed in a few days. But they never responded to me and obviously never received any compensation.

    It is just talking one case at a time.

    • Hey Soma! Thank you for sharing this.

  • turmericnspice

    Neel,
    It is very disheartening to see your images being used by someone without your permission, other than a letter of apology and a startling revelation of wonder as to how something like this happened…..there is never anything. When a big company does this and not only do they remove your watermark but add their own, what can you say. Someone who can afford your services. It’s time we have a forum to represent bloggers and we do something about it. Hope you can lead the way – Neel.

    • I think removing the watermark and posting the photo is perhaps the absolute level of theft. Someone has intentionally stolen this.

  • Karen Schmautz

    One time I saw one of my vineyard photos on a local wine tasting company’s advertisement on Facebook. I happened to receive their Facebook feed. I contacted them and they said they found it on the internet and because there was no watermark, they thought they could use it. They offered to pay until I told them how much I normally charge for internet use. They argued with me saying that they took it down as soon as I contacted them, so they shouldn’t have to pay the entire amount. I thought about getting angry about the whole thing, but because they are a local company, I offered an exchange of one free tasting for my husband and myself in exchange for use of the photo. They agreed and everyone was happy.

    • Hello Karen, good to see that you were happy with the outcome.

  • Farrukh Shadab

    Hi Neel,

    Hope you are in best of your
    health J

    Prepare a recipe, cook, dish out,
    garnish, compose, click…..not satisfied?? OK re-compose and re-click different
    angles, strain your neck and back till the time you get best shot, post process
    it, watermark it, and then post/share in good will. World sees it, appreciates
    your work and efforts giving you a breath of satisfaction. Every food blogger
    and food photographer goes through this process. How painful and disheartening it is when you
    come to know after few days that your
    food images has been stolen, watermark has been cropped and used as their own images.
    The worst part is if its done by a well-known highly respected celebrity chef and
    his team. Yes, this incident has happened to me twice and unfortunately it was
    done by the same celebrity chef both the time. First time they stole the image,
    cropped the watermark and posted it on his website and FB page both without any
    due credit or link to the original image source. Thanks to one of my friend who
    brought this to my notice. All my friends and followers supported me to take it
    down by bombarding their site and FB page with messages about the shameful act
    and mentioning that the picture has been taken from my site. They took it down within a day BUT not even a
    single word of apology.

    It did not end there, second time
    again they did the same thing but posted only on their FB page which was
    brought to my notice by few of my other
    good friends…..Rightaway, I filled the form and reported to FB for IP
    violation. FB disabled their post and link after verification.

    There are many more of my food
    images which has been stolen by restaurant people in Texas and India, we
    contacted them through messages and emails, reported too, but they were not
    even bothered to revert back. Without any shame they are still using my food
    image and living happily. L

    These are only few instances that
    has come into light, there could many more websites and closed FB groups where
    the photos might have been stolen and used.

  • Aparna

    I think that almost every food blogger/ food photographer at some time or the other has had their images used without permission.
    I’m no different and this is something that annoys me no end. I must re-iterate that to me, it does not matter whether you are a professional or an amateur, or whether you are “good” at photography or not. What matters is that someone uses your work without your express permission to do so.
    The worst offenders are those who can afford to pay for images yet continue to “use” your work without your permission. When you approach them about this, they will make silly excuses or try to pass it off the blame on to someone else.
    People are constantly using others images this way on Facebook, and even personal blogs, but I have found that both FB and Google usually deal promptly with such offenders on genuine complaints.

    The Indian Express newspaper for example, regularly uses images without permission and it is next to impossible to get in touch with anyone from the paper. Phone numbers are not available and e-mails are never replied to. They have used my images at least 4 or 5 times to my knowledge. Only once could I get them to remove the article and image from their online edition.

    I have had Good Housekeeping use one of my images without my permission, and when I wrote to them about it, they told me they “found it on a Google search”!
    Then they tried to blame it on some intern in their organisation, but after a couple of months of my pursuing them by e-mail and on the phone, they finally compensated me (they first told me they didn’t have a budget for such situations!) when I told them I wasn’t open to negotiations for “theft”.
    They also printed a detailed apology in a subsequent edition of their magazine.

    Another instance was the use of another image of mine and two other food bloggers by a well known South Indian movie star in his restaurant. My e-mail got me no replies and a call to the manager had him blaming some local agency who supposedly handled their ads, banners, etc. The person from that agency sounded like a thug and it was difficult to carry a conversation with him, so I couldn’t pursue it any further.

    Somehow the legal procedures involved in this is not very easy to follow through in India. A friend whose images were used by a well known grocery chain on huge banners in their stores, tried to talk to the people concerned about it. She was told by them to go ahead and do what she could and that they would see how she stood up against their team of lawyers!

  • I find my photos mostly by Google Image Search when I happen to use feature “search photos like this”. I’ve found a big website used my photo. Contacted them by email, requested to take the photo down and asked for compensation, and they only took photo down.

  • My photograph got stolen by ‘FoodHall’, a gourmet food chain in Mumbai at Palladium Mall. They used it as a backlit hoarding in their main shop. When I complained all I got was a visit from their legal staff with a concealed warning that I would have to go in circles and that my formal complaint would be met by their ‘legal team’, and they did not fail to mention how I am a working women with hardly any time to go through legal hassles.

  • James

    Having your images used for commercial gain without contract permission is theft. Belated attribution by the guilty (caught) pseudo slick web jockey to satisfy content for his or her restaurant client is not a free pass. Try paying for your groceries with an email apology and an attribution from the thief, who did get paid. Right.

    Can felony theft be charged? If within the USA and with jurisdictional support, absolutely.

    After an experience where a host of my images were pirated by an aforementioned content clown (who I later sued with his co-defendant the complicit restaurant owner
    and WON a judgement against), the issue is real, and remains rampantly pervasive.

    How do I know if my images are being used without permission?

    What can I do to point a finger at the content clown before he thinks about skimming my images?

    First of all, you need to take a little initiative and stop being a victim. Seriously. Ready?

    Step One:
    Nothing new here, Gorilla owns the universe, (sorry, meant to say Google), we simply pay rent. Start by searching for your images you have already licensed (justifiable love for your metadata inclusions people)
    1.) Open your Gorilla browser
    2.) Right mouse click on ANY image(s) in question
    3.) “Search Google for this image”

    Who’s using it? Any surprises?

    Is this going to work for all electronic uses of your images? No, but it’ll sieve 90+%
    Nor will it show who has hacked low quality web .jpg’s for print either.

    Step Two:

    However, let’s also point a finger directly at the content clown when they go skimming for content. How? When an image is to be used for electronic web content for your client, include two critical pieces of visible attribution on every completed image.

    Nicely done and not like a house on fire, discretely include your own small watermark in a less important lower corner, and just above it, a watermark sign banner of the restaurant client you created the image for.

    Think of it like one of those home security “ADT” stickers you see on a house window.

    “I might not get busted, but then again they are taking measures to protect their (intellectual/image) property, so, I think I’ll pass on this one and try somewhere else”.

    Your restaurant client has had to sacrifice untold resources to pursue their passion in life. Sounds alot like you too doesn’t it? Together you are unified to celebrate what you both love doing, and do not need to apologize for protecting yourselves from those that think what you both have worked so hard for, is free, and theirs for the taking.

    Stand up shooter, be proud of your work, and protect your work. You earned it.

    James-

  • Hey Neel ,
    I see , constantly you share different informative post about food photography . Really you are so brilliant and more brilliant about food . I think this and am i right here hopping .