Why Having A Popular Photo On Reddit Can Be A Bad Thing

Why Having A Popular Photo On Reddit Can Be A Bad Thing

When it comes to generating ridiculous amounts of traffic, nothing much beats hitting the front page of Reddit. Whether you’re promoting a blog post, software or in this case, a photograph, Reddit is your best chance of spreading the word. There are some caveats, of course, particularly when images are involved, as photographer Kris J B recently (and unfortunately) learned the hard way.

Body photo by Kris J B

A good rule of thumb when it comes to the internet is if it can be copied, it will be copied — usually without credit. It’s a sad, nigh uncontrollable aspect of putting your work online, so you have to take the potential of generating massive amounts of attention with the equally large odds that your stuff is going to be flogged around without your knowledge or consent.

You might also have to deal with some strange, unjustified comments from complete strangers, but again, that’s life on the internet.

Over on Petapixel, photographer Kris J B recounts his tale of reaching the #1 position on the /r/pics subreddit with one of his pictures: this striking shot of Mount Fuji in Japan. It did well, collecting over 5000 points and a 98 per cent upvote ratio.

Expecting that it could be shared around, J B took the precaution of using a low-res image, though one still large and clean enough to be impressive. As J B writes in the article, he had been taught a valuable lesson when he was previously more “liberal” with a high-resolution version:

The “Fuji shot” had already made a splash, having been licensed by Bing Japan for their background image of the day, in July of 2013. It had also been my first competition win, having won 1st prize in Getty Image’s national “A Moment Connecting – Japan” entry.

Unsurprisingly, the high-res photo started appearing in places J B did not expect — “‘foreign buzzfeed’-style sites, a couple of ‘free desktop background’ offerings” as he explains. Trying to hit up these outlets for credit proved a fruitless task. Hence the more cautious approach this time round.

Except it came with several new problems — including not creating as much exposure as he would have liked. The most depressing (and ironic) issue J B ran into was being accused of taking false credit for the photo, thanks to internet sleuths and the magic of Google’s reverse image search:

I’d say about 20 users posted results from reverse-google-image-search, such as screenshots of the results or my website and Flickr. They’d say things like: “Climbed Mt. Fuji, huh? So you are Kris J B, owner of THIS WEBSITE and THIS FLICKR who took this photo TWO YEARS AGO? Yeah right.”

He ends the piece by pointing out that he did get a spike in traffic, but that’s all it was — a flash in the pan. I personally don’t find this remarkable, but if you’re looking at Reddit to get hits on your portfolio, you might want to think twice about your approach… or whether it’s worth it at all.

Things I Learned After My Photo Hit #1 on Reddit, and Why I Probably Shouldn’t Have Posted It [Petapixel]


  • I’m currently grappling with the “how to post a collection of photos online” question. Not specifically on reddit, but in a more general case. I DON’T want my work to be stolen and used for money-making by others. I did the work specifically to share some images with the public, FOR FREE, just for fun, and anyone making money isn’t part of the equation. It’s a case of wanting to distribute “free as in beer, for non-commercial use, forever” rather than “free as in most open source”.

    But I also don’t want it to sit on my hard drive for the next 20 years unseen, especially because I did the work I did, specifically because I wanted to post it to the net.

    One of my concerns is the number of “books” being produced by people and sold on ebay and Amazon, that are based on content they source from the net.

    People told me, use watermarks. First, I don’t really want to scribble on my photos. Second, software that can remove them exists anyway. Third, if you watermark in an unimportant area of your photo, people can crop it. Fourth, if you watermark in an important area of your photo, you’re obscuring the image. Decision on watermarks: No.

    Then people told me, use low-res images. This seems like the best way to go, because there’s nothing preventing me from putting the gallery up at approximately VGA-ish resolution and offering higher-res images to people who request them via email. The downside I can see to that is that the photos won’t necessarily look that great/impressive at such a low res, but my initial goal wasn’t to produce great art… just to document a series of events. And then of course, as the writer of the article points out above, probably unless you are careful to keep your full res images in a completely separate, locked account, or off the net entirely, people might find a way to get a full-res copy of your image, anyway.

    Of course, I have a copyright notice in my EXIF data, but someone who wants to steal an image might be smart enough to take that out as well.

    Does anyone have a better idea on how to post photos, besides using low-res photos with EXIF data?

  • If it can be seen, it can be copied. The best way is to build an audience like Matthew Inman has, then your audience will hunt, name, and shame the pirates for you.

  • Same thing happened to me about six months ago. You’d go mad chasing all the people who can and will rip off your photo so I in the end I just went with it. The photo ended up in all sorts of cool places including someone’s published PhD thesis, on the ABC and I sold a few prints too. 🙂

  • Hi, Kris here.

    I would like to emphasise that this is only an account of the immediate 24 hours after posting the image to reddit, and that things have started moving even beyond upvotes since. The story isn’t over, so don’t think theres only one side to this coin.



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