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Canon UK's Instagram Account Caught Messaging Photographers Asking for Free Image Use

In newly released screenshots, Canon UK’s official Instagram has been caught messaging photographers in an attempt to use their images free of charge. The verified account admitted that Canon “regularly gathers images to potentially use on [their] social accounts.”

The post appeared in a Facebook group designed for photographers to seek advice from industry peers. The photographer who shared the information, who I’ve chosen not to name, has posted a screenshot of a message from Canon UK’s Instagram.  The message also requested details of the image in question, such as where it was taken, what camera and lens were used, and the shutter and aperture settings.

Quite why a company of Canon’s standing feels the need to message photographers on such an informal basis remains a mystery. I’d like to think – being a camera manufacturer and all – that Canon would have adequate budget to acquire such images or to pay to shoot their own.

Commenters of the post have suggested it may be the work of an external social media company. One drew particular attention to the phrasing of "We found this work and absolutely love it," suggesting it seems reminiscent of a contractor tasked with finding free content for Canon. Others took a more light-hearted approach, writing “Free Exposure in exchange for a Free 1Dx Mk ii please :-)” and “We found this Canon camera and absolutely love it, we wondered if you’d be happy to share it?”

It’s somewhat of a catch-22, because many photographers would undoubtedly allow the usage, because they’re honored to have received recognition from the manufacturers of the very camera they’re using and undoubtedly because they’d hope that allowing such usage could potentially lead to some kind of partnership with the brand. Of course, it’s likely fair to say most will never end up hearing from Canon again.

Should photographers receiving this message be quoting a usage fee?

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51 Comments

Alex Cooke's picture

At the very least, offer to send some Canon swag like a t-shirt and one of the nice CPS straps or something.

JT Blenker's picture

I have two of those straps! They're pretty dang nice.

Alex Cooke's picture

Same! It's my favorite strap.

EL PIC's picture

Camera Manufacturers do not value Photographers work.
They only care about equipment purchases and still want free photos.
And the Beat Goes On ..

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Apple, meet Oranges.

ANDREW WILDER's picture

weird anti-Sony flex in a story about Canon, but ok.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Jeah, well. Business as usual for some people. Bashing Sony as your lifework.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Steal? They're telling you up front what they may intend to do with them.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

What are you, 8? You're the one that posted the Sony disclaimer which explains what they intend to do with.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Lol, you just keep going in circles.

In other words, the agreement button is on the same page as that part of the disclaimer. I'm glad you understand that now.

John Tyson's picture

But you'll get so much exposure having your photo on Canon's feed...

L Bakker's picture

They don't guarantee that it will be used on any feed. "...to potentially use...".

Tony Clark's picture

Good for the photographer for posting their note. This from the company that reneged their shoot with one of their own Lighting Ambassador because she didn’t have enough Instagram followers. They also seem to want to recoup all their R&D expenses from their new mirrorless within the first year. And they’re trolling for free content?

Mikalai Bachkou's picture

My photos in the same way were published in Russian and Belarusian instagram Canon accounts.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Remunerated? Get an influx of the clients?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Someone/something big (companies, celebrities, etc), yes, I would quote a usage fee.

Guy Incognito's picture

"One drew particular attention to the phrasing of "We found this work and absolutely love it," suggesting it seems reminiscent of a contractor tasked with finding free content for Canon."

What difference does that make? If Canon is "tasking" contractors to find free content then they are still guilty of trying to freeload. Well, OK, I guess they are not only guilty of freeloading but being too cowardly to do it themselves and outsourcing the task.

When the camera companies themselves don't even value photographer's hard work it isn't difficult to see why so many in this field despair for the financial future.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Contractor has to deal with the payment if asked for I guess? A friend of mine was asked recently to sell a picture to a third party for a company's ad. They din't want to pay more than half. My fiend didn't review the price and ended ignoring the contact after a couple texts. Then the third party paid him in full when he realized that it was the only way to get that image.

Guy Incognito's picture

They didn't approach the photographer in a way which implies they are interested in acquiring the image through a conventional purchase or licensing arrangement.

Given the amount of content floating around online, if the photographer asked for payment the little weasel behind the account would just continue messaging people until they found some schmuck willing to part with their work for free. I doubt he'd have to look for long.

Black Rock's picture

The #1 camera manufacturer is stealing photos ? Oh gosh, ...

Anders Madsen's picture

I’m all for a bit of Canon-bashing, but equating “asking for permission” with “stealing” is downright idiotic.

Jonathan Brady's picture

If Canon wants free images, maybe fstoppers could do them a favor and direct them to unsplash

user 65983's picture

Yeah because Fstoppers likes to use Unsplash photos

Pink Ninja's picture

absolutely Canon should pay. There is a prevailing idea surrounding digital files that they are merely a click.

Phill Holland's picture

Slightly dubious of "exposure" I've seen accounts with huge followers directly mentioning others, and I haven't seen massive follower explosions in those accounts mentioned.

If a brand had built a strong image of being incredibly picky and having excellent standards of quality I'd have a second thought about exposure, if they could guaranteed their exposure would lead to X result, or the last person they exposed became as famous as David Bailey.

Julien Jarry's picture

They’ve sent me this exact thing and reposted a few of my images just like everyone else. What’s the big deal?

ANDREW WILDER's picture

IMO, if they are just reposting to instagram something you already posted to instagram, it's just more exposure (i know, the E word!). But, if they want the original file and are going to use it for anything else then it's kind of shady and deceiving. Just my .02

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Remunerated? Got an influx of the clients?

Spy Black's picture

Get used to having your shit ripped off. All the major corporations are getting hip to the fact that they've become so big and powerful, they can do whatever they want and get away with it (and that goes beyond the photo world). Only a small percentage who sue for having their pics clipped are successful, and those payouts are chicken scratch for big corporations.

Canon is trying to look cool by asking if you want to be "in with the in crowd", but this is just a new wrinkle in an old game.

Greed never sleeps. Never forget that.

Simon Patterson's picture

I don't see the problem with this transaction. Isn't the way to respond to this "Hi Canon. I'm sure we can come to an arrangement. What is your offer for use of my image?"

Francisco B's picture

Unfortunately this strategy works really well for big companies, as most people on social media are just craving recognition.

Ironic that a camera company doesn't think it should pay photographers for image use.

Michael Borisenko's picture

This seems to be a common practice. This is likely about getting a formal contest to just share on social networks and nowhere else.
About a year ago I received an almost identical message from a big Australian hotel network. I allowed it, they featured my image in their Instagram feed, and that was it. The image received hundreds of likes, but I didn't receive a good exposure at all.
I wouldn't mind to get another image shared on Canon's Insta, it wouldn't hurt but wouldn't make me famous either.

Brian Pernicone's picture

They're asking for permission and, I would hope, adhering to the decision of the photographer who grants/denies said permission. Why wouldn't Canon ask photographers, many of whom are totally agreeable, to provide them with free content? It's up to each photographer to determine whether it's worth to grant Canon unpaid usage of their images. No judgment to those who pass or those who oblige. Everyone has their own business strategy. What's the issue here?

Noah Stephens's picture

The issue is the request is exploitative. A company with millions of dollars is asking someone to work for free.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Nahhh, they're equal opportunity bashers. Grow some skin already.

Francisco B's picture

As Noah said, its exploitative. The implication is that you might get some recognition and high visibility since its a large company using your content. Whats to stop companies like these from asking online photographers to do larger jobs for free, under the guise that its "great visibility and press for the artist"? The whole thing just sets bad precedent for the photography community, economically speaking. And the fact that photographers are "totally agreeable" to this practice is a problem.

Noah Stephens's picture

Multi-national corporations have billions of dollars. Make them pay a licensing fee for that image they “absolutely love.” Fotoquote is a great resource for pricing information.

Brian Pernicone's picture

OK, but I still haven't seen a decent reason why Canon (or any other brand) shouldn't ask for free content. Why would any business pay for content they can get for free? Realistically, the only issue should be with those photographers who provide their content for free.

Simon Patterson's picture

I agree, I thought that's how our monetary system works. One side makes an offer, the other side accepts rejects or negotiates. Why would anyone initially offer anything above "free" when "free" is the common rate?

I don't even take issue with those who give their images away. If they don't value their own work then who am I to tell them they have to sell it?

Jon Winkleman's picture

Are you serious? FStoppers posts article after article criticizing celebrities and companies that steal amateur and pro photos for use on social media without permission or acknowlegement. A large camera company of course would like to share good photos made by actual customers using their cameras. Canon UK is doing the absolute right thing and respecting photographers by asking before posting. Does Fstoppers pay everyone whose photos they post? I am a Nikon guy but if Nikon asked and would give me a photo credit on Instagram I would probably say “yes” and more importantly I would thank them for ASKING.

Also when exceptional pro photographers use Canon, the company does pay them or give them free gear and hire them as ambassadors. It is incorrect to suggest Canon or Nikon do not value the work of photographers and are freeloaders. However the photographers who become top brand ambassadors have a large body of work Canon wants to share and are working pros who already have large national/ international corporations as clients. The people Canon UK is contacting are those that have taken a great photo or two to share but are not yet established or have the body of work to join those top brand ambassadors. A number of suggestions on this thread are rather silly. Someone has a single photo that Canon would share on Instagram and they demand an exposure guanrantee that would lead to big commercial gigs? A non professional has one interesting image to share and they should get a free Canon 1D? Either say yes and give limited permission to only use the image on Instagram or politely say “No."

Victor Delgadillo's picture

"The photographer who shared the information, who I’ve chosen not to name, has posted a screenshot of a message from Canon UK’s Instagram...."
Ironic, isn't?

Marco De Maio's picture

canon italia sent me the same message just a few hours ago, the funny thing is that he had already asked me a month ago to publish the same image 😂

Heath Holden's picture

Don't seem so surprised, this is happening within the whole IG and FB world, tourism boards and camera manufacturers etc have been doing it for years.

aaronjenkin's picture

When they asked me, I asked them to direct licensing enquiries to my email address. This was their response.

"Hi Aaron, no problem. We source user content on Instagram to post with credit to the photographer rather than licensing. Thanks very much for letting us know though, have a lovely evening!"

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