Generosity and Thievery

CP 8144 splitting the uprights
CP 8144 splitting the uprights

I’ve always thought that photos are for sharing. I’ve never seen the point of taking a photo, then keeping the negative (or digital file) to yourself and never showing it to others. If that’s your thing, great. It’s everyone’s choice, but my choice is to share.

Sometimes, though, sharing can backfire. Here are a few stories.


I was recently approached by a non-profit organization looking to use some of my photos for their outreach program. I fully support this organization’s mission and I agreed to share some of my photos. I won’t name this organization.

However, while we were in a negotiating state, they went ahead and used one of my photos without credit.

I never thought any malice was involved, but I was angry that said photo was used without any credit, despite being assured that credit would be given for all photos used.

I emailed them, they emailed me, and the misunderstanding was cleared up, but their share and my initial reaction were both poorly done and the damage was done.

I’ve learned a lesson from that, and it’s this: approach these situations with generosity in my heart, rather than miserliness.

Every photographer has been offered “credit” for use of their photos, rather than actual payment, but in some cases, credit is all I want. I’ve shared photos and stories with a few Canadian rail magazines with the understanding that I will be paid nothing, other than maybe a free copy of the magazine.

Anyway, I was in the wrong, and I messed up a chance to work with an organization I respect. I have to earn that back.

CN 2315 at Newton, MB
CN 2315 at Newton, MB

Outright Thievery

I’ve written more than 2600 posts on Confessions of a Train Geek and a dozen or so here so far. My posts have been stolen a few times. In the past, sites have taken the lead part of the post and posted it on their own site, with a link to my site. I think that might have helped them with Google at some point, but now it doesn’t.

You may have noticed that some of my previous posts referred to a certain Australian site, who copied several dozen of my posts in their entirety, and posted them on their site, photos included. I’m not linking to that site or any articles, because I don’t want to give them any boost in Google.

I tried reaching out to them to politely ask to have them taken down. I emailed, I messaged on Facebook and on their own site, and I even called and spoke to someone in friggin’ Australia. Nothing happened, and every message was been ignored.

What finally worked was commenting on my posts on their site. Their administrator messaged me and we had a short conversation. They agreed to stop reposting my articles but they haven’t taken the old ones down. I’m still not happy but it’s not worth my time to pursue it further.

By the way, mine was not the only blog they are stealing. The excellent North Country Trains is another, and so is Model Railroad Hobbyist.  I’ve reached out to both of them to let them know.

Generosity, Rebuffed

A railway company recently reached out to me to ask for permission to use one of my photos on one of their web pages. My normal inclination is to ask for a payment for use of the photo, as I believe if my photo is used for profit, I should be paid for it. In this case, I decided to be generous and not ask for money… just credit.

I said I would be happy to allow my photo to be used for this web page, as long as I was credited somewhere on the page with a link back to my site. No money needed to change hands, just a little credit.

I was told that wasn’t possible, but that I could enter their photo contest if I wished.

I don’t generally enter photo contests, because the rules of most photo contests stipulate that they can use your photos for any purpose they like, without compensation. See my rule above about for-profit use of my photos.

Needless to say, I asked for compensation, and they went with another photo instead.

Generosity, Accepted

Recently I had another request to use a photograph of mine. This was from a specialty magazine, basically a non-profit or not-for-much-profit magazine, and they wanted to use one grain elevator photo to illustrate an article.

I made the same offer to them that I did to the railway company above, and the magazine agreed to give credit including a link to my web site, and they’ll send me a copy of the issue it gets used in. I’m happy.

It’s Not All Bad

I don’t want to sound like I’m ungrateful for the opportunities that come my way. I’m grateful, but I want to be treated fairly.

It’s not all bad. You can read about some of the “good stuff” – including my first physical print sale – over at one of my other blogs, Photography Side Hustle.

Late last year, I was contacted to license several of my YouTube videos. That was new to me and the funds went toward my new drone. That was nice!

The Future

I’m going to continue to share my photos and videos, with a spirit of generosity. I’m sure there will be more thievery – it’s the Internet, after all – but I’d rather share and take that chance than keep my photos hidden on a hard drive.

Thanks for reading.

6 thoughts on “Generosity and Thievery”

  1. That’s the worst part of the internet. Once you release that photo it can turn up anywhere. Even on totally unrelated subjects! I’ve tried lowering the resolution but I’m not happy with the results so now I have several groups of photos. Some I’ll release to the internet but my best I keep to myself or to specific “trusted friends”.

    • That’s the Internet, all right – put something up and it can be copied everywhere. It’s funny sometimes where my photos end up. Some forums have these games where people post photos containing numbers, in consecutive order. Some of my locomotive photos end up there because its number was next in sequence!

  2. Thanks Steve- this is well written. I haven’t got around to contacting “” yet, but will this week. I wouldn’t object to them posting my posts if they asked me first and gave me credit.

    • They were REALLY hard to get in contact with. Your best bet to be heard is to create an account on their site and comment on “your” posts.


Leave a Comment