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Why Don't the Architectural Digest and Dwell Websites Give Photo Credit to Photographers?

Published: 08/02/2018

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Craig in Virginia asked:

I've noticed that seemingly legitimate websites like AD and Dwell are featuring MANY homes using photo citations such as "Photos Courtesy of Coldwell Banker" or "Courtesy from listing on Trulia." One in particular from today (1/30/18) is this one.

These are full feature articles written by staff writers of prestigious magazines. Why can't do the work to look up and see who the photographer was? Never mind that they are potentially using them without proper permission. Is there any way for me to force these journalists to give credit where it's due?

My guess is that the writers are just not taking the time to find out who the photographer is because, for the most part, as long as the photos are from a currently active listing, they are licensed to the listing agent for use in selling the property and the article they are publishing can be considered marketing for the listing agent. But I agree, it certainly would be nice if they gave credit to the photographer!

I asked Dwell about this issue but they have not answered my email.

Larry Lohrman

17 comments on “Why Don't the Architectural Digest and Dwell Websites Give Photo Credit to Photographers?”

  1. I'm surprised to hear Magazines are using RE photos in feature articles without payment to the photographer - i don't see a magazine feature editorial is the same as a 'house for sale' ad. Advertising and editorial use is not the same. When I was a newspaper photojournalist for 25 yrs magazines sometimes wanted to use our images and always paid proper rates based on usage - full page, half, quarter. Only the back of AD in an ad would be the same as a listing.

    If a magazine feature article was considered 'selling' the house then any magazine should be able to use a photo of any entertainer or politician etc and consider it
    selling that person to the public, directors - getting them jobs. After our current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected one of the papers I worked for ran a photo
    I took of him on his 25th birthday with his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau - it was a formal birthday portrait - many publications and several TV
    stations in north america and other countries used the image and most called, texted, or emailed me first for my rate and permission - they all knew to look inside
    the image data for my contact info - those that didn't contact me first paid after I sent them an invoice (I probably missed some).

    Over the years I've had images turn up in magazines - most often shots I took for the entertainment or news sections and then sold to the singer/actor, politician (or whatever) their manager, director, etc. who then submitted them to a publication. Every time I called a magazine about one or more of my images (eg People, Variety, Time, Newsweek etc) I've always been told to submit an invoice and was then paid (only exception was a reporter at an Australian magazine who called me directly for one of my images and then sent it to National Enquirer (gag) without my permission - and they were paid for it by NE. I reported it to the editor of that magazine and
    the reporter was fired. I've been lucky to only get burned once or twice (that I know of).

    Stand up for your rights and make sure your info is in your images and if you see your images published without permission or payment call and
    politely ask to talk to the editor of that section of the publication (not the reporter), negotiate a fee/ask their editorial rates - ask who to address it to if not them.

    Perhaps we should have our clients sign an agreement about usage that outlines the difference between newspapers/magazines and sales vs editorial.

    What are others thoughts on this?

  2. i have a project that was featured on their website, not a real estate listener no but a tiny spaces feature and it was credited to my client ... he was surprised when i told him they did not credit me as he is very good at ensuring the web blogs etc have my credit included as part of our agreement... we regularly contact users if the credit is not appropriate and they usually change it... we are currently contacting AD to have them credit me and will update here when we do...

    i think it’s laziness — they will just credit the company or designer who supplied the photo and ignore the correspondence but usually online mags and blogs are quick to fix and cordial about it

  3. Sometimes what looks like an article, is really an AD. This is quite common these days, and you never see credit given in ads. Not saying that this is the case in this situation, but sometimes the "article" is print's version of an infomercial.

  4. Magazines frequently use submitted photos as they save money for the publication. Usage is arranged by the submitter. Attribution is sometimes granted to the photographer if they are asked or if the client is considerate.
    I have been asked on occasion if I would like, or if I insist on photo credit. I always appreciate it but unless it is in my contract and the client has the rights usage they are under no obligation to credit me.

  5. I agree with Kelvin. Many "articles" are actually puff pieces paid for by ads taken out by the subject. Others are merely reprints of press releases.

  6. I think well-established magazines such as the ones cited above do typically give credit for editorial usage of photos for online usage as well as print. However, usage of photos to illustrate real estate listings in magazines is really publicity usage, not editorial. Traditionally, photo credits for publicity usage have been much less routine than for editorial usage. Also, with newer online publications, giving photo credits seems to be rather hit and miss, even for editorial usage.

  7. Since the company was the source of the image, it could have been a work-for-hire assignment and the photographer has no copyright to the image or it could be a staff photographer. AD usually credits the photographer on the title page of the story.

  8. Craig,
    Thanks for bringing this up.

    Larry & other SMEs in this topic,
    Lately, I was wondering what will it take for MLS listing process & sites like Zillow to include a Photo Credit section. If we want to propose photo credit to all listings (any work flows), what needs to happen?Any thoughts?

    Thank You,

  9. FYI to all, traditionally, photo credits have only been routinely given for editorial usage, not for marketing usage. I have occasionally seen photo credits for advertising, collateral and publicity usage, but you generally have to negotiate this with the client and cannot assume a credit will be given with such usage.

  10. I think almost everyone here is confusing a "feature article" in Arch Digest with AD's social media account (same thing for Dwell and others). There's a HUUUUGE difference. Your photos will never appear in the print edition of either AD or Dwell: even if you shoot at that level (which in the case of AD is a shockingly low bar, often), it is exceedingly rare for them not to go back out with their own photographer and re-shoot.

    Dwell is pretty good at crediting photographers in their social media feeds. That being said, no one looks at credits except other photographers.

  11. I think this has to be looked at a couple of different ways. Since very few photographers register their work, it's almost zero risk for a company to just rip off the images or be less than diligent about getting permissions. If you send a letter to them to complain, they can safely ignore you unless you state the Copyright for the images has been registered and can give them a registration number. If they do have to settle with a few photographers each year for a premium price over what they might have been asked to pay for a license, they might still be way ahead of what it would have cost to keep track of licenses and pay for them too. It's like speeding on the freeway; We all do it because the chances of getting a ticket is fairly low if you aren't weaving in and out of traffic in a red sports car. We do it less in town since the ratio of cops to cars is much higher.

    A photo credit of "Courtesy from listing on Trulia" is a good indicator that the images have been ripped off looking at the page linked by the OP. Towards the bottom there is a paragraph that starts "According to Trulia, " which sort of confirms that somebody at Dwell just cobbled together a "story" since there is no mention of the listing agent or broker's office. One would think that if Jennifer Baum Lagdameo was a professional journalist, she would have talked with the agent selling the home and confirmed a proper credit for the photos and noted the agent and office. There was no "Courtesy", the images were stolen. BTW, the images were low res syndicated versions from the looks, so quality isn't a factor when it comes to infringement.

    @ Scott, stolen photos may be less likely to be used in a print edition since a judge could rule that each printed copy is a separate infringement leading to a very massive payout where a web page might only be considered as one infringement per photo. In either media it's still an infringement and that's why it's so important to register images. I find it strange that a company like Dwell that has lots of experience in publishing would expose themselves to potential suits in this way. Even if they are outsourcing their online presence, I would think that there would be some oversight. While not many people are looking at credits, they are important if you are keeping a portfolio of your work, especially print. It's also an indicator on where your images may have come from if they were used improperly.

  12. Ken Brown:"...stolen photos may be less likely to be used in a print edition since a judge could rule that each printed copy is a separate infringement leading to a very massive payout where a web page might only be considered as one infringement per photo."

    I am not a legal expert, and neither, I believe, are you. In my opinion as a non-legal-expert, I believe this assertion is utterly unfounded, at least if you are referring to the number of copies from a single print run. Perhaps multiple print runs might be viewed differently, however. In any case, I suspect that the number of copies printed might factor into the amount of an award from a lawsuit. When charging fees for print usage of intellectual property, it is not uncommon to take into account the number of copies that will be printed.

  13. "There was no “Courtesy”, the images were stolen."

    You simply have no idea what you're talking about. The majority of the RE listings featured on and similar websites are submitted to the site by the listing agent. The link to the listing is usually in the first sentence of the "article." There's even an email address at the bottom of the Dwell page where you can submit your listing for consideration.

    Do you tell your real estate clients that they're forbidden from using the photos they hired you to create to market their listing for sale on high traffic websites like Dwell and AD that cater to the specific demographic who might be interested in viewing/purchasing their listing?

    I see in Dwell's real estate section that Wayne Capilli has had a RE listing featured on Maybe he can add some useful insight on this topic.

  14. @ David Eichler, I have seen presentations from prominent Copyright attorneys that have stated that on tangible items, the award can be based on the number of items produced. Iran Watson had this come up when a company ripped off an image of his and used it on a run of calendars. There have been several instances where an image was stolen and used on T-shirts. I am convinced from articles I have read and presentations I have seen that awards can be based on the quantity of an item. I do admit that I have no idea on whether an online infringement of a photograph is considered a single infringement. Notice that I use words such as "could" and "might" since there is no knowing what "could" be awarded by a judge or jury. When I license an image for a book, the fee is partially calculated on the number of books to be printed. Magazines are a bit different in the way they will pay, but I'd ask for a larger fee from a large circulation magazine than a niche specialty magazine. So, there's my foundation and I'm sure that it wouldn't be too hard to do a little searching online to see that I "might" be correct. Since most infringement cases don't go to court, finding many public records and slogging through all of the legaleeze could be a project.

    Kelby Copyright video:
    Jack and Ed at B and H:

    I'm pretty sure it was Ed Greenberg that I remember commenting on damages being "per infringement" and that possibly being defined as each tangible item.

    Also look at

  15. "I have seen presentations from prominent Copyright attorneys that have stated that on tangible items, the award can be based on the number of items produced." This is not the same thing as individual infringements for each copy from the same production run. This not just a technical difference. It has a bearing on the maximum potential award, since there are limits per infringement. As I mentioned, I suspect that each copy from a production run would not necessarily be considered a separate infringement. Perhaps it would depend upon the nature of the copies, i.e print copies of a photo versus three dimensional objects made from a design. I don't know, and neither, I believe, do you. So, I suggest leaving this kind of advice to legal experts, unless you happen to have an actual case to which you can refer for illustration.

  16. @ David Eichler, I have sent the question in to my attorney and hope to have a more definitive answer back within a few days. I will comment as I please based on things I have learned and I don't expect anybody to be taking what I write as official legal advice. The only thing that I'll carve in stone is that somebody with a legal issue SHOULD talk to their attorney. Mostly, I tend to write things down as questions or write "I have heard/I have read" and other equivocations meant to give somebody the questions to ask their attorney. I do spend a fair amount of time reading up on Copyright, contracts and release issues as they apply to photography so I do consider myself much better informed than many other people in the photography business to keep from getting screwed or stepping into traps myself.

    I spent some time last night looking for the reference and when I find it, I'll add it here if I remember. Watch the B and H video with Jack and Ed. Ed, the lawyer, makes the point that if you see you have been infringed, finding out to what extent your photos have been used is very important. If it didn't matter how many places the infringed photo was used, it would be good enough to just have proof of the one instance. If you want to bash what I am writing, at least review some of the information I am using to formulate my opinion.

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