Stolen and Misleading - A Photography Post

Let's say I create a really swell sugar scrub. I mean REALLY awesome. It smells of all things divine! Chocolate mousse, vanilla, fudge brownies, gooey marshmallows, and cherry pie filling. The fragrance is positively edible. I figure it's going to be a pretty hot seller. I get my listing on Etsy ready, I write a fabulous description, I package up my jars to perfection, heat seal them, and publish the listing. Perfect routine, right? Well it would be, but for this example, I left out a detail that ruins my once perfect sugar scrub listing. I use the photo below for my product photo.

There are so many things wrong with using a photo that isn't of your actual product, but let me highlight just a few below.

1. This is not my product. - It's not my product. I could say that fifty times and never feel satisfied. When I use a picture of chocolate cherry cupcakes for my photo of sugar scrubs, it's called product misrepresentation. I am misrepresenting what I am selling. It wouldn't be too extreme that "misrepresentation" dances on the line of lying and manipulation.

2. It confuses customers. - Let's be real. You see that picture and what do you think I'm selling? Why, a big fluffy scrumptious cupcake, of course! Why? Because that's what the picture is of! So imagine the surprise when a potential customer reads the product title and description and sees that the listing is for (1) 10 ounce jar of vegan sugar scrub. If I were that customer, I would immediately be suspicious about the integrity of the shop. After all, if they aren't willing to display their own products, what else might they be "misrepresenting"?

3. The photo doesn't belong to me. - The photo above is someone else's handiwork and as far as I know, could be their most prized picture! It's theirs. Me taking it is stealing. STEALING. I am using somebody's property for my own personal gain. And guess what? If you don't own the photo (unless it is under creative commons, public domain, or you have written permission from the original photographer), you may be breaking copyright infringement laws.*

It doesn't matter
- If you didn't know it was wrong
- If you provided a link back to the original photographer
- If you have a disclaimer on your website
- If you add words over the original photo
- If you take down the photo after receiving a DMCA notice
- If you got the original photo from somebody else on social media

None of the above releases you from liability. You CAN be sued, regardless of whether or not it is likely that you will be. This applies to anywhere you might be posting photos like a website, blog, YouTube video thumbnails, Etsy listings, Facebook posts on a business page, and Business Instagram Pages.

*note - I'm not a lawyer, but I can read. Please look at the external link provided to see for yourself.

As you can see, those are some pretty darn good reasons to steer clear of using a photo that isn't yours. Honesty with customers should be one of the highest priorities you have for your business, whatever category you may be in. You, as a business owner, don't want potential customers to see "representations" of your products, even if you don't have stellar photography skills or a fancy camera. An iPhone photo of your product is better than a stolen, misleading picture.

I hope you lovelies found this post informative and helpful! Please feel free to share with anyone you think would benefit from it!



  1. Love this !!! A company that uses misleading photos only makes me not want to buy from them, even if their products are good.

  2. Yes, yes, yes, yes!!! I'm such a control/perfection freak sometimes, and while beginning blogging, I started reading into legal stuff. I had one blog that I did put stolen pictures up, but those went down as soon as I realized what I had done, and I took down the entire posts as well. That was when I was 14, and it's been a few years since. I'm lucky/glad that I didn't get in trouble for that (and I'm not sure they could or would sue a minor), but it's no excuse to have done that in the first place. Since then I've been very adamant about researching legal matters on anything. I try to use things I've created myself, and there's only been a few times I've used other's works, but I've always made sure they were free for public use beforehand.

    It makes me so nervous and angry when adult bloggers promote stolen goods, especially fonts. /: To not take the time and find the creator and just make sure something is free is horrific, especially from blogging "role models"! It's always so good and refreshing to see these reminder posts. (: I'm glad you're spreading the word and helping people stay in the clear!!!

  3. Perfectly written! May I have your permission to share a screen shot of point 3 on my instagram page? With credit, of course. This is a huge problem for nail artist like myself. People steal my photos, filter them, and then tag me like I should be happy about it. :(

    1. Absolutely you may! I'm awfully sorry you have been a victim of this crime. I know that some of the people who share this honestly don't know they're doing something wrong and sharing the truth is, I feel, a must for us artisans. :)

  4. Thank you for making these points! I've had my photos used without permission on ebay listings. One of the sellers scribbled out my watermark and told me she didn't see what the big deal was when I asked her to take it down. You can bet I reported her to ebay (and they actually removed the listing).

  5. Thank you!!! Somebody finally said something!!! You wouldn't believe the lengths people go through!!! My photos are hard work. I severely dislike it when people steal my work. How do I report or stop this?


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