Trey Ratcliff is Right About Pinterest

Trey Ratcliff is Right About Pinterest

“I look at my photography like this. When I make an image it belongs to me. It belongs to me while I take the photo. It belongs to me while it sits in my camera. It belongs to me while I process it on my Mac. It belongs to me while I let it sit in an archive folder waiting to be uploaded to the internet.

Then I upload it to the internet and it’s like I’m taking a bird and opening my window and letting it go. Off she goes. Her song to be enjoyed by the entire world — certainly no longer mine.” — Something I wrote about my photography a while back.

My good Pal Trey Ratcliff has a post out this morning about the hottest new site on the interwebs, Pinterest.

In his post Trey makes the case on why Pinterest is good for artists. This part resonated the most with me:

“A pure artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world.

Sharing your artistic creation with one person is better than zero. Sharing your artistic creation with 20 people is better than 10. And so it goes.”

I’ve been on Pinterest for almost a year now (thanks Lotus Carroll!). The way I probably describe Pinterest to people most often is, “it’s what Flickr’s Galleries should have been.” Pinterest is one of the best curation tools on the web today. Using it is super easy. You just put a bookmarklet into your browser and click on it on any image on the web that you can share. That image is then presented on one of your boards as sort of an oversized thumbnail that links back to the original page that you are sharing from. TechCrunch says it’s 97% women. Well hello there ladies and Trey Ratcliff.

Being able to aggregate all your favorite images from around the web and share them in galleries is pretty cool. In Trey’s post he also makes what is I think a pretty accurate statement, “As this future becomes more and more plain to me, I see a rapture of sorts, where old-school photographers clinging to the old-fashioned ways of doing things will be “left behind.”

Alot of old-school photographers are upset about sites like Pinterest and another popular sharing site Tumblr. I see photographers complaining about their images showing up on these non-commercial sharing sites and getting all wound up in knots. Some photographers spend all their time scouring the web using tools like Tineye and Google’s Reverse Image Search to find every possible unauthorized use of their images and then run around the web grumbling about this.

As for me, I’ve always loved the curators, collectors and fans out there. I love it when people find one of my images and like it enough to want to share it on Pinterest or Tumblr or Google+ or wherever. I think that’s just awesome — as an artist it is my goal to have my work touch as many people as humanly possible. I want more and more and more and more people to see my work. I want people to think about it and react to it and appreciate it and share it.

Long ago I recognized that part of putting work on the web comes with authorized use and unauthorized use both — especially lots and lots of unauthorized NON-COMMERCIAL use. Sometimes people don’t even credit me per my Creative Commons license. Would I rather people credit me as the creator of the image? Sure. But you know what, if they don’t I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. Because I got over that sort of negative way of viewing the world a long time ago. It’s better for your soul to just let it go. If someone uses your image in a blatant commercial way against your license, there are resources for you to pursue. But especially when people are using your images in non-commercial ways, life is just too short to worry about the little things like that.

I, for one, welcome our new world that includes great new sites like Pinterest. I love that a vibrant new platform is emerging on the scene that celebrates beauty all around us. I’m honored that some in that community find beauty in my work and want to share that to others and so I’m a huge Pinterest fan.

Are you on Pinterest yet? You have to have an invite to get in. πŸ˜‰

You can find me there here.

32 Replies to “Trey Ratcliff is Right About Pinterest”

  1. Very well articulated post Thomas. As a writer, photographer and blogger there is much food for thought I found here.

    I think you nailed it with these words:
    “I think that’s just awesome — as an artist it is my goal to have my work touch as many people as humanly possible. I want more and more and more and more people to see my work. I want people to think about it and react to it and appreciate it and share it. ”

    There is a reason why Trey Ratcliff is possibly one of the most recogniseed photographers in the world – it’s because of the shareability of his photos that are now going places. And sites like G+ and Pinterest.

  2. Sure, all image uses on Pinterest are non-commercial, but yet aren’t they in violation of Creative Commons Attribution, since they appear without credit ? Does that mean that the CC terms do not matter ? By the way Farrukh Naeem, it is not because of the shareability of his photos that Trey is so recognized. It is because the images are instantly recognizable.

  3. The 97% women argument sold it. But sharing photography would be nice too πŸ™‚

    If you happen to know anyone with access to invitations, would you mind sending one over to the adress I’m posting this from?


  4. Total warm and fuzzy feeling when someone re-pins one of my images or pins one of my images for the first time…makes me feel like I actually created something worth looking at…

  5. All we need now is a single place to upload our pictures and share to all these sites at once πŸ™‚

    And…I’m so using this quote

    “A pure artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world” Trey Ratcilff

  6. Very nice perspective. The only caveat for me is if someone tries to use my image to make money. That… I don’t like. But, in the cases that I’ve seen this occurring, the artist’s supported ripped the thief a new one. You have to pick your battles….not go around picking fights.

  7. Pinterest makes me a better house wife…in my mind. If only I can break away long enough to actually do the dishes.

  8. I agree, yet I have trouble seeing it as anything else than a trend… or a niche tool.

    Most of the people joining now that are following me… well they have not pinned anything, or if they have, it was when they signed-up and nothing since then.

    It is a great tool for various niches in the “creative” fields, from photogs to painters to art lovers to.. DIY people. But I just cannot see as mainstream as some might do.

    But then again, Pinterest might evolve into something a bit more segmented, facilitating various uses, such as wishlists, “ownership-lists”, etc. But as of now, it relies quite a lot on people’s own creativity to make their boards (Oh, I’ll make a wishboard, and a “colour”board, and a…), which is the great flexibility aspect of the site, but also the very thing that makes it feel like an ocean you dive in to others: “Ok, I can pin images, but… what do I do with them”.

    What do you think?

  9. LOL @ “Well hello there ladies and Trey Ratcliff.”! I’m sure Trey chuckled, too. I’ve always appreciated his approach about his work: For enjoyment or to inform (e.g. my blog posts about HDR), you’re free to use it. If you’re making money, contact him. That approach has lead more people to his door and ultimately helped make Stuck in Customs the business it is. It also frees Trey from chasing down his work all the time – it is like trying to put out a forest fire by running around with a broom.

    My wife is on Pinterest, but I haven’t checked it out yet. Guess I should get with the program!

  10. I agree that sharing is great. I want as many people to see my photos as possible. I’m not a photographer just for money. I also do it because I love it and it’s my gift. Like you said though, the minute someone tries to make money off my images and doesn’t pay me I take note. That’s a whole different ball game.

    One thing that does slightly concern me is the president this will set in the future. These kind of applications are teaching people to take things that aren’t theirs and just disseminate them at will. I can see in several years copyright infringement skyrocketing, like it already does in some foreign countries.


  11. Love pinterest so far. Was invited this morning and threw up a several photos on it. Very nice visually to look at.

  12. “Because I got over that sort of negative way of viewing the world a long time ago. It’s better for your soul to just let it go.”

    (1) Wonder if you’d feel the same way if they similarly just “used” your car or your dog or your camera. (2) If you make your living from photography, I assume your landlord, etc are as mellow as you.

  13. While I understand your point (and would agree for the most part) I wanted to point something out.

    Most of the artists I know that have a problem with Pinterest, have the same concern, not that their work is being shared, but that it is shared so often without attribution.

    It’s really simple courtesy, if you post items that do not belong to you, take the time to give credit to the artist. Better yet, ask them first if you can…

  14. I suppose my hesitency & confusion in all of this is not in the “lack of sourcing.” Lack of sourcing may be a problem, but it is a user error not Pinterest’s error. I am concerned with the inconsistency between the Pinterest terms( and Pinterest Etiquette ( Pinterest clearly states to avoid self-promotion. Pinterest’s terms of use state: “making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, *modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

    I do not want to be granting Pinterest permission to use other people’s work. Am I misunderstanding this? Is there no inconsistency?

  15. Nice post and I don’t believe anyone should be worried about copyright. My concern comes at the creation of all your own boards and filling them with a minimum of 9 images in each.

    I posted today about one of the important parts that Pinterest outlines in it’s own Etiquette is to avoid blatant self-promotion.

    I was saddened last night to open Pinterest on my iPhone and the entire feed of mine was all you pinning your own images. I had to unfollow because it was nuts. The same activity that Trey was up to as well.

    Here is my post:

    I note in the post that I liked how you used it in the past with the 500px board.

  16. How interesting that we’ve all come to the same conclusion about Pinterest. I didn’t realize it was on your and Trey’s radar too, but I’ve been staying up to the wee hours with Pinterest myself for the last few nights. It is so addicting to me, probably because it’s all visual. BTW, I absolutely love what you wrote at the beginning of this post about letting your photos fly off into the world like birds. They bring beauty wherever they alight.

  17. It’s interesting, TH, that at every opportunity you will dog Flickr. Meanwhile, I disagree that Pinterest is what Flickr galleries should have been. It’s what should have been. I love(d) ffffound and wish it could have been as robust as Pinterest.

  18. Marya, there is no “dogging” flickr. Flickr Galleries and Pinterest at heart are about the same thing, curation. One has succeeded wildly and one has completely floundered.

    Flickr limits your galleries to 15 items. That’s just dumb. Pinterest does not.

    Other than manual staff promotion/curation of galleries on Flickr, there is no way for galleries to be promoted or highlighted. There is no central place to find interesting galleries. I cannot follow people’s items that they add to their galleries. Except for being notified when an image of mine is added to a gallery, galleries may as well be invisible on Flickr. Because of this galleries lurk in obscurity on Flickr.

    Pinterest meanwhile has developed a way to promote interesting curators to allow curators to follow each other’s curation, etc.

    If Flickr is going to do curation, they should have done it right, like Pinterest has, not the half hearted crippled unsuccessful feature it’s become on Flickr.

  19. Pinterest is about collecting and gathering any and all images or pages from the larger web for collection (different than exhibit or gallery in the purest sense). That is why I equate Pinterest to ffffound and not Flickr Galleries. You can gather anything from anywhere on the web: recipes, posters, shoes to buy, etc.

    The fact that people use Pinterest as a gallery is a hack (and a good one), but it is just a small piece of what Pinterest is.

    I agree that it would be nice to have better ways to promote and find galleries on Flickr.

  20. I figure the way Trey and others got to be known was that one image was shared then more and more and his name got to be a buzz word. Now more people are grabbing the buzz and things are sky rocketting for him and others. But it was all started by him sticking his neck out and putting that first image on the web for all to share. Isn’t that what Social Networking is about? It makes our world that much smaller and intimate.

  21. It is really nice when people love your artwork. It is a great feeling. And Pinterest is an indicator of how well artwork is received. However, I’m afraid that for many artists the story doesn’t end there.

    I am refering to artists who spend quite a lot of time creating their artwork with the intention of selling it online.

    During multiple repinning, links to the artist’s stores can be lost. Then nobody knows who the artist is. Unless there is a watermark on the image. Watermarks tend to discourage sales. So it’s a catch 22 situation.

    I used to pin images thinking attribution would always follow. Over time I realized that is not so. So I deleted several beautiful boards and am updating others using a reverse image search (via Google Chrome) to find the originating artist. If I can’t find them I delete the pin.

    I can only speak for myself in saying that my artwork is very painstaking. Some pieces take a long time to create. They are complicated digital drawings done in Photoshop with brushes and filters and shapes cut out by hand. I feather the edges of a piece to fit just right into a space. I use bits of fractals and create airbrushed misty areas to seam them together. Sometimes I have well over 100 layers of transparent pieces to get the right effects.

    I also paint in oil and acrylic. Without special tools, just a small set of brushes and paints.

    I am not the best painterly artist out there. But I do put a lot of my heart and soul into my artwork.

    And I do want to utilize Pinterest to my advantage, but do not know exactly how to do that. Or if it is technically even possible.

    Plus, I am still trying to grasp the Pinterest TOS which seem to say any image uploaded to the site becomes their property to do with as they please. Does that mean I am not allowed to promote and sell my own artwork on Pinterest lest my images become their property? Or does it mean that at some time they can sue me for selling my own artwork if I pin it? Or take commissions? And what about other people pinning my artwork?

    I don’t know yet. For now I am still purging my boards and updating individual pins.

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