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creativity, coincidence & credit

Instagram is – for the most part – a really brilliant place. It has great communities and is full of inspiration and encouragement. BUT every now and again there are situations that aren’t ideal and I wanted to talk a little about my experiences and perhaps how (not) to deal with the odd bit of nonsense. Some situations I haven’t dealt with well so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes too. Let me tell you some stories about creativity, coincidence & credit.

Not long after I started using Instagram, maybe only a couple of months, I had a comment left on one of my photos which said ‘my idea, your gallery’. My heart sank. Literally. After a small conversation with the person in question (there were no DM’s at that time so this was all on my photo) it turned out that we had had exactly the same idea, posted the same photo except for colours, and she thought I had copied her. I hadn’t, I hadn’t even heard of her never mind seen her photo which I explained. Then in a moment of stress I blocked her. She blocked me. She left a comment on the hub who had featured my photo (that was how she found it) and it was just ugly. Pressing that block button I’m sure made me look guilty of copying even though I hadn’t. Thinking about it still makes me feel uncomfortable now…

I’ve thought about this situation a lot since. How should I have handled it and what would I do if it happened now? You see coincidences do happen, often actually.

At the end of last year I had taken a photo for a campaign I was running only to see exactly the same composition posted a few days later (before I had posted mine) in a beautiful gallery with a LOT more followers than I had. I mean exactly the same, even down to the props we had used. It was difficult to be rational about this coincidence as I had to post on a certain date and we had interpreted the brief in exactly the same way. You couldn’t have made it up. I handled this one differently, maybe slightly better, but it still makes me cringe… I had conversations with a couple of good friends who are Instagrammers – who were brilliant I have to say – they reassured and calmed me down a little. I messaged the other Instagrammer who also said don’t worry about it. I took the photo again with rearranged props but still to fit the brief and posted it on the date scheduled, then the first comment left on it was suggesting it was the same as the other Instagrammers photo. This I knew. I had spent a couple of days worrying about it, had messaged the brand whose campaign it was and had cried a lot. But that first comment upset me. I tried to reply with enormous ineptitude and cried some more. The photo was on borrowed time from the moment I posted it because of all this even though I loved it, it is now long gone.

There have been countless occasions when people have re-posted my photos, more often than not without asking, sometimes with added filters which I detest or text overlaid. This feels not just like theft but also like they have defaced my photo as if drawing a moustache on a portrait with a marker pen. A long time ago this used to bother me so much that I would meticulously report each one I came across, would ask to have photos removed by Instagram. Oh they must have rolled their eyes every time I filled in the copyright infringement form… I don’t often fill them out now unless someone is using several of my photos in their gallery without credit, claiming them to be their own, or there is a very specific reason why I want it removed.

On a side note I think it’s important to mention another aspect of credit. If you are so inspired by another Instagrammers compositions or style that you take a similar photo deliberately, please credit them as inspiration. Just a mention in the caption or even perhaps consider asking if they mind (I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t). Not that I am suggesting you might and my ego is not big enough to believe that you will be inspired so much by my photos as to re-create them, it has happened to me in the past so I can say from experience that there is an awful feeling that accompanies seeing a copy of your photo appear in someone else’s gallery without even a mention of you as the source of direct inspiration. It is copying at best, feels like theft at worst and could be so easily rectified by a couple of words inspired by @xyz

And then there have been situations much closer to my heart which I find really difficult to talk about and won’t go into in much detail as they are not for public consumption. Sometimes it has been personal, from people I considered friends and a huge wake up call to the fact that it is very difficult to know people online. I have met – in person – so many people through Instagram and some are now great friends, but there have been the odd few who made me feel uncomfortable. I would stress that I haven’t always been perfect and haven’t always reacted the logical way, it’s impossible to be rational all the time. Speaking to people online takes away reference points such as tone of voice and facial expression and things are easily misconstrued.

I have invested a huge amount of time over three years into this app. It has been a life changing, opportunity bringing thing for me and I absolutely adore it but it isn’t perfect. I have learned to step back a little and take it all a bit – a lot – less personally. So I’ll share some advice and will try to keep it short.

– Keep things in perspective. For the most part you don’t know the people you chat to every day, not really. It is incredibly easy to misinterpret things online, if needs be try and get to the bottom of a situation before deciding on which course of action to take. This applies whether you are dealing with a friend or stranger.

– Unless you have a really good reason to request they be removed, let the reposts go. It’s a back handed compliment of sorts. If you are lucky enough to be credited by the person who shares your photo then you have to weigh up whether it is worth making a fuss. Many people repost images, I guess in the way that we retweet on Twitter or pin on Pinterest. If you come across a re-post that hasn’t credited you then there are a few things I might suggest. A DM to them asking them to credit you/remove it would be the first step. Many times this does the trick and no-one worries any further. If not and you particularly want Instagram to take the photo down you can fill in a long and scary sounding form, search the help pages for copyright infringement and follow the steps. As I said though you have to make a judgement about whether it is really worth your/their time. Remember your photo is in your gallery first. The way I look at it is that as soon as you post a photo to a public account it is out there, no longer for private use but in the public domain.

– Remember, as I have said before, Instagram is a photo sharing app. World peace does not depend on it. If you have had a similar idea to someone else, or they to you then see the humour where possible. If we all look at similar photos every day inevitably we find ourselves inspired in similar ways. The photo I mentioned at the top of this post was a hundreds and thousands heart, oh so many of them have graced the galleries of Instagram, possibly even hundreds or thousands. It was not a masterpiece I spent hours creating, it was a 2 minute photo. If that. What I should have done was laugh it off and let it go…

– To block or not to block…? Let’s keep this really simple. The only reason to block someone is to send them a message that they are not welcome in your gallery. Remember that your photos can be seen on third party platforms and you will not be able to block other Instagrammers there. Blocking isn’t a solution to very much really. I have been known to block people, particularly those who consistently take my photos without a mention of me as owner of the image, but I am realistic enough to know that it won’t actually prevent people from using my photos if they feel the need to.

– keep in mind that the negative few are just that. A few. And thankfully they are far between. I hope you never have to deal with the nonsense and if perhaps you do, that you can remember that Instagram is one of the most positive online communities out there. Surely this outweighs the odd moment of silliness? Coming across the odd person who wants to leave a negative comment is just a fact of the app. You can delete any comments on your photos should you wish…

I have deliberately chosen the photo at the top of this page because I know my friend Emma will humour me, we had coffee together, we styled this table together, she has already posted this photo (well the one she took) on both her blog and Instagram account. Sometimes we take the same photos / have the same ideas / share similar blog posts, not just Emma and I though. Parallels run across this online world, often unintentionally on my part at least. Instead of seeing it as a negative, perhaps it simply means we have a thought in common and we are inspired by similar things. This photo is a little nod to my own ridiculous reactions over the years and a lot of a nod to a coffee and a chat with someone who gets the behind the scenes ‘stresses’ of Instagram. And tea and cake always help…

I hope you can learn something from my mistakes!

Julia x

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