Debate | Should Visitors be Allowed to Photograph Artwork in Galleries, Museums and Art Shows?

I received the following email from a reader, and artist and studio owner:

Hi Jason,

Love your Red dot blog!

Here’s a topic that I would love to see addressed:

Ours seems to be the age of phone cameras, selfies, and instant gratification, and I wondered how artists/exhibitors/galleries should handle this. We have a studio/gallery that has some public hours. We do have a sign posted that photographs of the art are not allowed because of copyright issues. Yet I am often confronted with visitors sneaking photos of everything they like, or just expecting that they can, and feeling indignant when they can’t. Also students come in working on projects, needing the photo of the art for their essay. Just this afternoon I allowed a high schooler to take photos of two of my entertainment scenes related to his jazz playing…but then I was left wondering just what his project was, and if my art is just going to be part of some visual mash-up.

I am happy to email medium files of art to interested collectors, but that is a time-consuming follow-up process. And many visitors just want it now, at their own convenience, and don’t even want the formality of giving an email address to get an image.

I also notice that in public spaces such as libraries, museums, people expect to snap away. What if you are a contemporary artist in a museum show – do you have to resign yourself to allowing everyone take high resolution photos of your art? They don’t have enough staff to police anyway in most smaller museums.

How does Xanadu handle this? Other exhibitors in arts festivals etc?

I’m in a quandary because photos from receptions, with people with the art, do seem to be helpful for publicity, but then where do you draw the line? Hard to say you can photograph the people, but not the art straight on. How do we balance access, the public’s enthusiasm and involvement with protecting our art from being used without recompense?

Love to hear your and Barney’s thoughts,



My response

Thank you for the email Karen. I’ve taken the approach that people in my gallery taking photos are helping me market the gallery, primarily to themselves, but sometimes to others through social media. I don’t really see this as a copyright issue. Even though smartphone cameras are hi-res, the likelihood that someone is going to get an image that would be high enough quality for reproductions without using a tripod and professional lighting is pretty low. It’s also likely that only a very, very small percentage of people visiting your gallery would even have the desire to violate your copyright. So what you are doing by having a strict no photography policy is irritating the vast majority of visitors to your gallery in order to protect yourself from a very small risk. Though only you can make the calculation, I’ve decided it’s just not worth the cost in terms of policing a policy like this, especially when you will end up being one of only a very small number of venues to do so.

We try to use photography in the gallery as a sales opportunity. When someone starts taking photos or asks if they can, we are very accommodating, even encouraging. We also offer to email them a photo of the piece they are interested in, letting them know that the email will include the size, price and artist name.

I would encourage you to rethink the policy and turn it from a negative into a positive.

Let me know if there is some other consideration that I’m not seeing.


What Do You Think?

So what do you think – should people be allowed to take photos of art in galleries or other venues? Have you ever had an image misappropriated by a viewer? How do you handle this issue when showing your work?

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Good question. We have the same policy in our gallery as you do, Jason. People aren’t capable of getting quality photos of a piece. They mainly do it to remember that they were interested in a piece. The other day we had an amateur artist take a picture of a piece she wanted to copy. She could simply copy it from an image of it on the artist’s website so I didn’t see the harm although I felt uncomfortable saying it was okay. She could have snuck a picture. I was grateful she asked.

    1. I am an artist. I do not like it at all! A graphic image can easily be copied, pasted, and manipulated with the software available. Some of these images are hard-won. Creating hand-pulled prints is a laborious process. The investment in framing and presenting is made by the artist.

    2. I personally love to take pictures in galleries and tend to avoid those galleries that don’t allow picture taking. I find my photos very inspirational to my own work and thought process.

  2. I have no problem with it. As Jason points out, they are not going to get something they can then print out and put up on their wall that will in any way resemble the quality of the original work. Further more they share their images. They might share it to its next owner. Yay!

    We really do need to stop being so concerned about sharing our work and losing out on some unlikely potential capital. Sharing can lead to income but even if it doesn’t making a positive impact on someone’s life is also a good thing.

    However, they should not be using their flash as that can cause damage to some paints, inks, dyes, papers, and so forth.

    1. Concur 100% Patricia. Ignorant people think if someone has a low res photo on their cell phone they wont buy the $45,000 painting. The 2 just can’t be compared. The cell photo devotee may not be able afford to buy the item, nor may they even want to. The serious collector does not want a cell phone photo… they want the real thing.

  3. I agree…it is too hard to police and everyone ends up disgruntled. I first encountered the issue, when I visited a craft fair years ago. No photos was strictly enforced because in my state everyone is a crafter looking for ideas to make money. But that said, when I first moved to Utah, everyone was an artist too! Now I embrace the issue. Yes you are an artist, and yes snap away…just don’t be pushy with other viewers.

  4. When people come into my gallery and ask to take a photo, I typically respond with: “I would rather send you a better resolution of the work, which will include the information as well.” This gives me the opportunity to obtain their e-mail address in which I can also follow through with additional e-mails of the artist’s work which they are interested in. It is pretty much near impossible to stop people from taking photos unless you are policing them 100%. As Jason says – The chance that they are going to get an image which is highest enough in quality to reproduce anything is pretty slim. A lot of times I find artists taking photos for inspiration or such, but just let it be!

  5. I’ve had mixed experience. Once, while gallery sitting at a public venue where I had a solo show, a woman took pictures of one of my paintings and flat out told me that she intended to go home and paint it herself because she liked it and didn’t want to have to pay for it. (Good luck with that.) It happened at another venue as well – a bald-faced intent to steal intellectual property. I’ve seen people at festivals go around with high resolution DSLR cameras snapping pictures of all my works, not just a selective few. I usually intervene with those. The sincere people who really just want to show a painting to a family member “because it reminds them of where they grew up” or “this looks like my friend’s dog” or someone who wants to show it to a spouse for potential purpose … those people I don’t mind. And a number of those photo-ops led to significant sales. Here’s another thing I’ve observed. The people with honorable intentions don’t do it on the sly … they ask and usually say “I want to show it to my wife …” or “I’m posting on facebook about attending this show” or “this is one of the paintings I’m considering for purchase.” It’s the ones that are sneaky about it that I don’t like. So, I guess I’m saying I consider it on a case by case basis.

    1. Hi Karen, I just took a few screenshots off your website so I can copy your paintings. JUST KIDDING! Your work is gorgeous, and I am particularly enamored with “Twin Oranges”, because I paint so much citrus myself.

      We do live in a very thoughtless era where people think they have the right to anything they see. Case by case makes the most sense, and pre-thinking responses to various situations will help.

    2. I admit, I copy a lot of works, partially as a learning experience, partially because I want to be able to see them without having to remember which file folder I put them in. I also have several cameras, including a DSLR and a pocket digital. I’ve used both for photographing my finished works–handheld, available light. (In other words, just like if they were at a gallery.) Most of the time, I can get reproduction quality–if I ever got the funds to do prints.

      1. Yes, this is true. Smartphone cameras are remarkably improved over what they were just five years ago and can produce high enough res images to reproduce commercially. I also do all my own documentation and competition entry photography with a handheld DSLR camera in studio lighting or outdoors in natural light.

        When I replace my very old smartphone, I will be able to get most of what I need most anywhere using available light. I don’t worry about it a lot, though, as it takes more patience than most people have.

        It’s also good to remember that slightly distorted edges can be removed digitally by recropping with any photo software. Who’s to know if they’ve never seen the original?

        And yes, copyright violations have been made using images from handheld cameras. Internationally known watercolorist Ted Nuttall had to shut down an active website selling prints of his portraits as though he was the one getting the money. He told us this himself during a workshop he was teaching 10 years or so ago, so it is more possible than Jason thinks.

        Still, I agree with Jason’s final conclusion. How many people actually do this, and how many disgruntled viewers might have become buyers or willing “advertisers”?
        Just be aware of anyone who’s being ultra-careful to get the perfect pic while photographing too many paintings and intervene.

    3. YES….. I agree, it needs to be a case by case situation as you DO get people in who are wishing to profit in some way from the artist’s creativity….but not a thought of buying. I have been painting and mounting exhibitions for 50 years and find the general ” respect” for artists’ effort and creativity has slipped. It is up to we artists to ensure this is not allowed to become a real problem.
      People who blatently wish to “copy” another artists’ work are in my estimation, lazy and selfish. An artist friend of mine recently received a phone call from a mutual friend to say she has seen a copy of her work for sale in a gallery in another State. When confronted, the copyist was a bit shocked to be found out but pretended innocence of any wrong doing.
      Yes is it up to us to be lenient whenever it is a win-win situation but to continually educate the general viewing public ….in the nicest chatty way possible.
      I put discreet signs up at my exhibitions which usually sorts the sneaky from those with good intentions …who then ask. And I can spot a sneaky quite quickly.

  6. I think someone who is willing to try to take a photo to reproduce to put on their wall is definitely not your customer anyway. Not letting people take photos is irritating and make sales people seem snobby or overly pushy. As Jason points out, it is not something worth worrying about and much more detrimental than helpful.

  7. Agree with you totally. We have a guild show once a year. Well attended and I see potential customers taking various photos and discussing it on the phone with another. That sharing usually results in a sale.

  8. As an artist myself, I am sometimes emotionally blown away at seeing someone else’s beautiful masterpiece and want to capture the moment on photo for fear I might never see the painting again in the same light. I know, I sound silly, but it’s true. If someone might feel the same way about my art and wants to take a memory photo, it’s a complement as far as I’m concerned. Most times they ask permission. I try not to get my nickers in a knot over it.

  9. I let people take photos of my paintings at festivals and shows. Sometimes it’s done to help a couple or family decide on a purchase, mostly it’s just harmless fun. I’ve never known anyone to do it for the purpose of making reproductions and violating copyright, and the conditions under which the photos are taken are not conducive to that anyway. Mainly I want everyone to have a positive experience viewing my work and I don’t want to police any more rules than I have to.

  10. I agree with you Jason, if they’d like a picture go right ahead…why would I stop them and annoy them when the truth is they could go to my website and get the picture from there if they wanted to… I just take it as a compliment that they like the work enough to want to take that pic, they may just like it, they may want to keep it in mind for a future purchase and if nothing else yes its more marketing for me ! lol

    1. Since several people have used this argument, I think it needs to be said that low-resolution website images are actually too small to reproduce as reasonably sized prints, so artists can protect themselves somewhat by making sure that they do not post any high resolution images of their work anywhere online.

  11. At shows I don’t really mind if people take photos of my wool area rugs. I do appreciate it when they ask first. Mostly they want a photo to share with a friend or spouse who might be interested in purchasing. Sometimes they want to view the photo in relationship to their decor. The likelihood of someone copying and executing one of my rugs is pretty low.

    1. But a wool area rug doesn’t normally end up on a wall where people admire it. And photos don’t normally sit on the floor for people to walk over. With paintings, anyone whose only objective is to make a wall prettier without caring if it’s original/limited or open reproduction is driving down the price of art for everyone to the point where only a select elite can make even minimum wage doing it.

      1. You are really off base with this. Do you sell your paintings to the same audience as your prints? Are your prints that bad that poor reproductions are their competition? I think of it kind of like gleaning. Do you really intend that only those who can afford your paintings and prints should be able to see even a poor rendition of them.

        I suspect that people who make repros of photos taken at a show or exhibit are likely to change them up fairly often as they are not looking for anything more than some short term color on their walls. Most people are not doing this to make money off your hard work. And if they are, those are the ones to watch out for and they will be taking much better pictures than snapshots even from a DSLR.

    1. There’s nothing truly original, only original interpretations of what’s been done before. I take a lot of inspiration. I’ll take the basic composition, or study how a particular artist tackled an element I’m having problems with, or cross it with other images for a new composition. That’s all as old as art.

      And then I worry about my “jailbirds”–paintings that are 90% or more copied that I painted simply because I loved the image, painting it the same as if I had walked up on the scene in nature. I mark the source, but I still wonder what will happen to them if I’m not around/able to say their copies. Will they go out in to the world with people believing they’re entirely mine?

      1. Re your “jailbirds” – it’s insensitive to the original artist who took the time and expense to go to a distant location, buy gas, lodging, food and other expenses to gather the material (either painting en plein air or taking photographs) from which to compose and paint paintings. The fact is, you didn’t walk up on the scene in nature. You let someone else hike to the top of a mountain so you could have the experience of making a copy from a photo of their work. If you want to go to remote places to paint that you can’t travel to, I suggest you try Google maps street view. Or use public domain or creative commons photos. Or use royalty free photos from some photo libraries. Or copy the old masters, not living artists. Those are some practical alternatives to intellectual property theft.

        To respond to your last question yes, probably people will believe those paintings are your work unless you clearly write “Copy … after (name of artist)” on the back, and cite the name of the original painting and the artist. The most honest, kind and respectful thing to do, of course, is to ask permission up front from the original artist.

        1. ..but what if she’s just painting them as studies so she can learn from them? I agree, as long as she writes that it’s a copy, and cites the artist, that’s okay; but it doesn’t sound like she’s passing them off as her own.

  12. I think that I am okay with it in commercial galleries but in the much larger context of major art museums e.g. The Met, MOMA, the Guggenheim etc. in the USA and institutions worldwide e.g. The Hermitage, the Louvre, The National etc. I am dead set against it. First of all the taking of selfies and photos of works in these art museums more often than not is a major distraction for the visitors who are there to see great art. Secondly, in the context where art has seemingly become a commodity, the taking of selfies and photos, simply extenuates this process. And, lastly the taking of photographs and selfies with art intrudes on that person’s simple enjoyment of resting one’s eyes on a great work.

    1. I’d be the other way around. Much of the work in major museums is technically public domain, but museums often act like copyright owners when it comes to their images. And courts have decreed that straightforward copying of a work doesn’t create a copyrightable derivative work. Plus, the creators aren’t around anymore to reap the royalties, which is who copyright law is SUPPOSED to benefit.

      Galleries, on the other hand, more often carry in-copyright work by still-living creators who can be financially harmed by the dilution of their work with cheap reproduction.

  13. At shows I have come to not mind people taking photos of my handwoven wool area rugs. I do appreciate if they ask first and always thank them for asking. Mostly they want a photo to show to a spouse or friend who might be interested. Sometimes they want a photo to take home and look at in relation to their space and decor. It is often a good dialog starter. I highly doubt that anyone is likely to try to reproduce one of my rugs on their own.

  14. My concern is more about the fact that viewers are more interested in taking “selfies” with the work than actually viewing the work in detail. I have taken many photos of pieces I love, just for the sake of memory, but that means I might have to wait until there is an opportunity to get a good shot and often photographers actually ask viewers to move away from the artwork for their picture! Im not sure if there is a solution, but perhaps discouraging “selfies” is a start since they are more abut the person standing by the piece than the piece itself. As an artist, I am more interested in exposure that copyright infringement, but I understand that more famous artists may feel differently.

  15. I do let people take photos and Jason has some very salient points about cell phone cameras. Sometimes it is annoying. I had a young man come into the gallery talking about a website he was setting up for Tucson artists. I let him take my picture and pictures of a few pieces of art. That was months ago and still no action on his “fabulous new website.” Sometimes it is just annoying but most of the time harmless. The people who have taken the most photos are some of the ones who have purchased the art. I get the feeling that Jason is right about it being an advertisement.

  16. I don’t have my art in a gallery (yet) but I am active on social media and I showcase my art there often, have a dedicated FB Page and so on. Lo-res scans do very well on FB. I don’t plaster pictures with stuff like a copyright watermark; they aren’t reproducible. Even if they get shared around, that’s just good advertising! But I also am on an 8 volume dog breed coloring page project, and I don’t use the coloring pages on FB. Those are too easy to reproduce; I use them either as a “come-on” (give me your email and I’ll give you your breed’s page) — or I just tell people to buy the book.

  17. This old California girl doesn’t mind photography in galleries and shows. But, what I object to is for these photographers to be pushy and in your face about it and taking up too much space and energy in the
    gallery, etc. The phone camera is a nuisance in the wrong hands. Often there is too much and it is
    impossible to see the art for the photographers. Here in Easton Maryland we have two big festivals and
    almost too much photography, I don’t think there is harm in it, but I think there is too much of it going
    on….especially with “selfies and groups”. When a . viewer can’t enjoy a piece in a show because there
    is a photographer with a cell phone bouncing around it becomes annoying and out of line. Early on
    when it first became apparent I was dead set against cameras in galleries and shows. Now, I am
    OK with it, but with courtesy and patience. Anne

  18. I know some people grab images of my art off Facebook, and that’s rather the same thing. Some people use them as screen shots; I imagine some make prints and frame them. I too take the approach that I can’t really stop it and might as well view it as social media going viral. If I do learn of someone who is, for instance, using my work as a screen image, I write to them and ask if they’d mind giving me credit. And they have been gracious so far.

  19. Life is too short to try and stop picture taking, they do it no matter what. The thing I would be more worried about is the posting of any photos on Facebook. Read Facebook’s terms and conditions, you might want to consider what you are giving away by doing so. Post a link to your image, not the image.

    1. It isn’t just FB. Too many posters don’t read the fine print, or don’t care. I’ve been waiting for somebody to make a major case of one of the web giants claiming copyright on an image that the uploader didn’t have the copyright to in the first place.

      1. Most all social media sites, including Facebook, do NOT own our artworks’ copyrights. Instead, by agreeing to use their sites, we grant Facebook and others a very broad license to reproduce our creative works we post/share on its platform. Platform users might be able to include/share our painting images on their platform pages–for anything else, the user would need our permission/license.

        As someone prudently wrote, only provide your Facebook page with LINKS (so fans can view your art on your specific website) rather than upload painting images directly to Facebook.

  20. I frequently encounter this issue. My response is to approach the customer with our business card and ask that in return they go to our Facebook page and give us a “thumbs up”. I’ve had some customers get a bit shirty, and in agreement with Karen & Jason, it’s not worth the trouble to get into it with them. Those that have asked, I encourage them as I also totally agree that the exposure from an appreciative viewer is priceless.

  21. So when I visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe this spring there was just a couple of paintings that could not be photographed. I photographed many paintings with my Hi-Res camera and every time I look at them on my computer I remember exactly how I walked through the museum etc,etc. It was a great experience and when I look at them I think about buying one if I can afford it someday. How is that for marketing. There were no tripods or flash allowed so no chance of a pro image taken.

  22. Very interesting point of view. I too think it is a compliment if someone wants to take a photo of my work. I actually had someone do this at an art show last year, they came back and bought the painting a day later. Since then they have visited my website, then called me and purchased four more of my paintings.

  23. Jason, I believe you have discussed this previously and I took your advice then and don’t have a strict policy on photography. I encourage guests , as you once said you did, to have the person in the picture – sometimes I put my hand in the photograph and I definately encourage them if they want a photo of the whole Gallery. It has also helped me sell works of Art – lots of people on holiday here want to go home and measure the wall they have in mind for the piece. Then I get a call in the dead of winter – viola – a sale.

  24. I had to laugh one day when an old gentleman showed intense interest in both landscapes and a painting of 11 draft horses I’d done, the lighting was good and he had a DSLR, he lined it up directly in front and let slip something about painting horses himself. I knew he wanted to copy it as he certainly didn’t have the money to buy it. But there is no way, without having the original reference photo or the original painting that he could possibly come close to replicating it. So many brush strokes would simply be lost in his snap shot. I have many other photographing my very unique plasma cutting art, thinking they can do it at home. We simply have a sign in the gallery asking people to respect that the work is copyright, and please tag us with the following tags for social media.

  25. I always think good practice is to credit the artist with a pic of the wall label or tagging them, and telling people what gallery and tagging the gallery if possible as well. It’s free advertising. When I ran a gallery it was the best thing they could do as a patron. I also really, really don’t believe art stealing is an issue at all. It’s incredibly hard to make reproductions of my own work with a talented screen and giclee printer as a partner, let alone a phone picture off a gallery wall.

  26. I don’t have a problem with it, however I was at Giorgia O Keefe Gallery and was scolded for taking photos. I just wanted to look closely at the way she blended color and her brush strokes., who in their right mind would try to copy her and even if you did it takes a lot more for the world to accept a piece of art. Like you have pointed out, it’s 50 % good art, 50% business which includes the marketing.

    1. Hi Charisse,
      Her work is simply amazing! I glad I was there on the right day. I had my DSLR with a large lens and I am a fairly experienced photographer but I still did not get sellable images. You have to have a tripod and lighting to do that. But from an artist point of view it is nice to be able to study how the artist did things and color combinations etc etc etc. If people are taking pictures of my work I consider it a complement and free marketing!

  27. My problem in the gallery is they also take a photo of the artists name and price. We don’t hear from them again…and how do we know they didn’t just research the artist and buy direct -especially the limited edition sculptures. Its up to the artist to refer them back to the gallery where they saw the original artwork but I know from experience that doesn’t always happen. Paintings I am not as worried about.

  28. Sounds like a lot of people forget how hard it was for them to set up their galleries and start selling art. It’s not easy to set up shop selling someone else’s art. It’s usually not the art that sells so much as the reputation of the gallery/artist. Take that out of the equation and what’r you left with? I wonder how many of these folks have Pinterest boards with tons of other people’s work saved for inspiration lol

  29. I’m still really torn about this particular issue, actually, so I fall firmly into the case-by-case camp.

    First, I’m a fine art photographer and digital artist, so anyone who walks up to one of my exhibited pieces with a DSLR and a tripod is likely to get a chilly (maybe even ICY) reception from me. BUT someone shooting it with their cell phone or a handheld DSLR isn’t going to get more than a welcoming smile and an offer to email them images they are interested in showing to their friends and family. They’ll never get it tack sharp and properly lit handheld, so I don’t worry about reproduction efforts at all with handheld shots.

    Second, I HAVE had a painter walk up to an exhibited photographic piece, carefully take a more or less decent photo of it, and then later proudly send me a print of the PAINTING they made from my exhibited piece. They were offering both the prints and the original painting for sale, and told me with delight that the prints were some of their best sellers.

    Needless to say, I was very prompt to reply, advising them that they had explicitly violated my copyright under Canadian copyright law, and that they were not permitted to sell the painting or the prints unless they paid me for licensed rights to use the image.

    Turned out that they were completely unaware of even the most basic copyright or intellectual property rules in this country or any other continental Western country, and that they’d done the same with numerous other artists’ work.

    I educated them as unemotionally and clearly as I could manage, and finally got them to see that what they were doing was intellectual property theft, and got their agreement IN WRITING that they would not be selling unlicensed prints or paintings made from my original photographic work now or in future, and then let it go.

    Ignorance is not an excuse for anyone to rip off artists through reproduction, but education is more important than compensation: when they came back months later to shamefacedly say that they would now like to arrange licensing with me around a different photo, I didn’t get punitive with them. We worked out a deal that paid me a tiny royalty from each print and ensured that the prints would include a “painted from the photograph by Leah Murray” and my email address and website as a notation on the border. I’ll never get rich off the royalties from that, but I do now get a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t be buying photography visiting my web site and checking out the digital art while they’re there.

    A little polite but firm education and unemotional handling of the situation made all the difference, and the emerging painter in that transaction has grown exponentially in their skills and their understanding of the business side of the arts since. We have remained cordial acquaintances, and they still regularly visit, sometimes to arrange licensing of an image in my stock library and once, to buy a piece of my digital art.

    So case by case it has to be from my point of view.

  30. COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT: If you want to ENFORCE your copyrights against infringers who photograph, copy, or reproduce your paintings without a license and payment (assuming the use doesn’t fall within Fair Use), you MUST “register” your copyright claims with the US Copyright Office. Without having your copyright Certificate of Registration in-hand, you have NO “standing” (no legal right) to pursue copyright infringers in federal court.

    If you “timely” register your copyrights within THREE-months of first-publication or BEFORE the copyright infringement occurs, you’re eligible to pursue statutory money damages up to $150,000; the infringer may also be liable for all your attorney fees and legal costs (at the court’s discretion).

    Without “timely” registering your art copyright claims, you can ONLY pursue “actual damages” (typically the money lost from the painting) and any profits the infringer made (if any!); you’re NOT eligible to pursue your attorney fees against the infringer if you didn’t timely register.

    Importantly, it’s very challenging to pursue infringers through a federal trial, as your attorney fees will out-strip any actual money damages you receive from the court or settle (out of court), making litigation not an economical legal option.

    If you just want to get an infringer to simply remove the infringing work from a website and don’t want to be compensated for the infringement, you can issue the infringer’s ISP a DMCA “take-down” demand notice.

  31. I love watercolour; but discovered it’s wasn’t my medium when I returned to university. I tried to create and experimented by studying works of favourite artists. My work progressed and developed only after I rediscovered my medium (I painted years ago in oil) and began by painting what was in my environment, my world. The results were more meaningful, very personal. Some people photograph my artwork at shows. It’s fine as long as they credit me when sharing on social media. If people choose to copy the art for their own use, or to learn, that’s one thing. But I saw a website selling cheap knock-offs of one artist’s collection. That is disgraceful. The images on my website are good enough to see some detail but are very low resolution. I want visitors to get excited about the work and enjoy visiting my site. The images are not really good enough to make descent prints; probably ok to copy. But let’s face it, the energy won’t be in the work, nor will be the nuances of layered colour etc. I don’t worry about it, at least not now.

  32. Jason Horejs: Please consider supporting this important congressional legislation. The creative community has spent over ten years to get this important legislation to a vote.

    The CASE Act (“Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019”), if passed, will help painters, sculptors, mixed media artists, photographers, authors (writers, bloggers, poets, etc.), musicians, filmmakers, and other creatives to ENFORCE their creative rights without having to file a pricey and protracted lawsuit in federal court that could cost $100K or more in legal fees.

    CASE was specifically drafted to help independent/freelance creatives who don’t have funds to pursue copyright infringers in federal court.

    In short, the CASE Act will be a small-claims-type venue that will provide creatives with a streamline and more economical way to enforce their copyrights. Creatives will get their day in court WITHOUT having to hire an attorney—creatives can represent themselves!

    Most all professional creative art associations, including ASMP, GAG, the Authors Guild, Nashville Songwriters Association International, and the Copyright Alliance, eagerly support passage of the CASE Act.

    To support artists’ rights and this bi-partisan legislation, visit and fill-out its on-line template letter. Though this link is organized by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), ALL creatives are welcome to use it. The system will automatically send letters to each of your three congressional representatives. It’ll take about two-minutes to complete.

    Additional information:

  33. Public art galleries in Britain have started to allow photos in recent months. It’s a pity, because one is often blocked from looking at an artwork by the hordes of people snapping away on their phones. At the recent Van Gogh in Britain exhibition, I saw countless examples of visitors taking photos without ever looking at the original, stunning art on display. Philistines.

  34. I think that that the fear about someone photographing your art work comes from that fear of something being stolen, as if the original work has a special uniqueness that is the property of the artist and taking a photograph is tantamount to stealing some of that uniqueness. But a photograph is just that, a photograph, and the original is just that, the original.

    Also the fear of someone taking a photo of your art work is about someone else making money off your original work without permission or sharing the profit. But if lots of people are snapping phone or digital camera images of your art works then can you really imagine them being able to sell copies of these to other buyers? Highly unlikely unless your name is Picasso.

    About it being annoying, I don’t find it that way. I have had many people take pictures of my work at shows and often that is the prelude to a very pleasurable discussion. Often I will ask them what appeals to them about the work and I learn a lot from hearing their response. And sometimes it even gives me new ideas for new works with different variations. If you are going to get your work out there at shows or art events interacting with the public is often times the best part of it.

    It really is all about how you think about it and if you see someone photograph your work as an opportunity to interact with people about your work, or as a nuisance. For me it is always an opportunity.

  35. This topic is current in the craft show arena on several FB pages. The consensus is that folks take the picture, and then send it to someone in China, the picture is duplicated and sold for a fraction. Also there are some whose work is plagiarized by manufacturers and images are not given credit.

    1. Ah yes, and these people are making a bundle from the Chinese made copies and selling them. But you don’t need to send images to China to get cheap photo prints of anything, you can get them online at multiple sites in the good ole USA.

      Come on, really! This is just more fears of others making and selling copies of your art for their profit. And as you know anything you read on FB is certainly true.

    2. I believe this is true. I have seen a few people go through my outdoor shows and methodically shooting every single picture like they’re on a mission. Not a casual viewer taking a picture here and there of one they like or want to send to a friend, or post on FB as part of a “how I spent my Saturday” story. We’re talking careful, machine-like documentation with high end equipment. When I see it I stop it cold.

  36. Yikes!! lot’s of comments on this. I checked with my attorney about this subject and the answer was mixed. The only real reason to insist on a no photo policy is if the photo is used without permission in a published piece. Personally, I simply want to be sure that attribution is made and is correct. As Jason noted, there is bad-will created by insisting.
    Students have been copying art work in galleries and museums for centuries.

  37. My thoughts about people photographing my work. I do Fine Art Shows across the US, and if someone has spent time looking at my painting, and visited with me about what they like about them, or don’t like, and IF THEY ASK if they may photograph certain paintings, I usually let them. Several times, I have found where a prospective customer has taken a photo of certain paintings, and in a few days, weeks sometimes even a month down the road, have contacted me to see if it or prints are available. I like to think, them having that photo on their phone helped them decide they liked it well enough to spend the money. That being said, if they don’t ask, it does kind of “piss me off” and I will tell them I don’t allow photos. Or, if they have a fancy camera and seem to be looking for an easy buck I usually request they not take photos. Through the years, I have found a few of my Mountain Man Paintings on Yahoo photos of Mountain Men. In a way it is kind of uplifting to know they liked my work well enough to post it. I have tried to print a couple off the Yahoo Photos, and they are not sell able quality at all.

  38. I had a booth at an art walk in Phoenix a few years back. I was totally surprised because I sold a print almost a year later just because I allowed a person to take a picture of my work. Right now I have a piece in a gallery in California. At the artist reception, people were taking photos like crazy! I think it develops a fan base. You will see the benefits down the road, if not right away.

  39. In this day and age, it would seem trying to stop photos would be very difficult and give those wanting a snap a bad vibe. Photography is the norm. If someone can afford a piece they love, they may buy it, if they cannot afford it, why deprive them of the joy of having a pic?

  40. How about just ask that when posting or forwarding a photo you tag the artist and gallery. That way it really is a marketing help.

    A sign in the gallery with this request would be great! Maybe even a sign they can photograph with artist name and gallery that they can include in the post. Make it easy to market!

  41. Was approached by an unscrupulous artist in a park, he didn’t tell me he was an artist at the time. He was excited about my painting so I let him take a picture of it. Later I was reading the arts section of the newspaper and there was the man with an exact copy of my painting and he was calling it his original
    painting. I was so upset but what could I do he was known artist I was not!!

  42. Hello,
    I am an artist and I “screen shot” with my iPad every beautiful painting I admire. The quality is great. This is not done because I want to copy. I do it to enjoy the paintings.
    The ability to get good photos of artwork off of the internet is endless. The battle against this is over. I agree with Jason. Just go for the publicity.

  43. I have one word, Instagram. I have discovered and seen more on Instagram than I would care to admit. People take pictures and post and let’s face it advertising is expensive so why not get it for free and possibly have your work seen by who knows.
    I’m a bit of a romantic and believe that things happen in organically kismet ways, it’s happened to me. And if you do reproductions of your work then you know what is involved and you know that’s not going to happen with a smart phone.

    Besides it’s not good to live in fear, it’s tight and restrictive, it’s when you relax and open up that the good stuff happens.

  44. I do not think it is bad as long as people ask permission of the gallery person. I think it’s ok. After all many museums allow pictures to be taken as long as they do not use flash


  45. FYI…. There is a program where you can import a photo of your art and it will search the internet for anything similar.

  46. I’m OK with it, as I too regard it as them marketing my paintings. Sometimes they ask if they may take a photo, and I commend them for that and say I appreciate their asking and “please go ahead”.

    There’s no way to stop them, after all, without alienating them.

    One thing I can do is to offer to be in the picture, and then I make sure I cover part of the painting (a part that does not have my signature).

  47. I agree with Jason completely on allowing photos. I feel the crooks are going to get their photos one way or another but that is a very small percentage of people. I believe most people have innocent intentions and could be future customers if not turned off by the attitude of the artist or galley representative. I feel sometimes when I’m in a gallery and I see signs of no photos allowed I’m a little put off like if I have a camera in my hand I’m being viewed as a potential crook and the gallery as maybe a little snobbish. As an artist I don’t normally buy other peoples work, but I enjoy seeing what others are doing. I feel I can always learn something from seeing other works up close. I think most people are more like me in that I would never even think of copying somebody else’s art to make money or to pretend it’s my work. At a recent art competition I did take photos to see what competition I would have if I was to enter the next one, the photos only go to my computer for me to see. I didn’t even think anyone would be offended. If somebody wanted to take a photo of my work I would always go for the positive and treat them as a possible customer and make sure they had the info they would need to buy. When I first started painting I did copy some photos I got off the internet for practice, I make a note on the back that it is a copy and I don’t sign it like I do on my originals.

  48. I’ve been represented by one gallery that didn’t allow photography of the art and I saw it create disgruntled customers who wanted to share the image with a spouse or partner to get their opinion. You are in essence preventing sales with this policy. The gallery did change this policy when they decided many of the local museums allowed photography and they were becoming the odd man out on a somewhat outdated way to thinking. After all most of us artists have websites where people can steal our images that are actually square image.
    There is a small risk that someone might try to steal an image, but seldom do you see anyone trying to line up their camera accurately to get a reproducible image.

  49. Interesting, this just happened to me, twice, at an art festival I did this past weekend. One person asked permission to photo the art with the price and took my card so she could contact me later, and I told her of course! and thanked her for asking! The other person just took the photo, up close with her cell phone, and as I approached her she turned quickly and walked away without even speaking to me. I thought that was so rude! I agree, the risk doesn’t seem too high, so I always say it’s ok. The 2nd person though, could have at least been friendly about it….that’s what bothered me.

  50. I agree with Jason’s response as to marketing opportunity vs irritating gallery visitors. An additional idea I can offer… it might be worth adding a banner under each work with your gallery name and a note encouraging viewers to share images on their social media that include the gallery info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *