Why I’m Begging You To Steal My Interior Design Photos

Alright. There’s something that I really, really need to get off my  chest.

It’s about interior design photos.

And it’s about the interior designers who own the photos, myself included. And this goes for anyone with a website who posts photos, so even if you are not a designer, this may apply to you as well.

All of us post photos of our work on our websites and social media for potential clients to see so that they can get an idea if they might like to work with us. And we are the owners of those photographs. They are the fruition of our creativity and hard work and they belong to US. Right. We already realize this.

The question comes up frequently on interior design forums if it’s alright to post interior design photos that are someone else’s work.

There is much debate about this, because in the olden days, NO, it was not alright. And we only have to go back about 5 years at the most to get to the “olden days.”  At the risk of sounding like a completely patronizing asshole, there are still some ignorant well-meaning folks who righteously cautiously tell us that we are in danger of getting our ass sued.  While not wrong, they are also not completely right, either.

I’ll explain.

These days, not only does every interior designer have a website, most of us are heavily engaged with social media. [whether we want to or not]  Therefore, we put up photos of our work there too. And once they are on there, oh boy… if they are good— look out. I’ve pinned [on pinterest] from two people’s blogs, photos that are not theirs but are credited to their rightful owners. The first one had about 500 repins in two hours! That’s right. I thought it had to be a mistake, but by the end of the night, it was up to 1,100. It’s had well over 1,700 now in only about 4 days.


Rebekah Zaveloff  via

And then there’s this beauty which has gotten nearly 400 pins in one day.

lee-ann-thorntonLee Ann Thornton  via

Here’s the thing. If we understand the deal [which I’ll get to in a sec], we should WANT other people to “steal” our work. We WANT other people to post our images on their own blogs, pinterest boards, twitter, fakebook, houzz, google ++++++++, etc.

But… there’s a caveat and it’s a big one too. There must be attribution via a link BACK to the OWNER’S website.
Here’s why we should want other people to post our interior design photos with a link back [aka: a backlink]

The google god absolutely creams his jeans when his crawling henchmen finds a link back to our blog.

googs’ crawler reports back.

“Hey googs, ya know that Laurel Bern bitch that we slapped back to page 27 last year cause she had 15 google+ accounts and 6 websites? Well, I was just trolling around and discovered that badass Loi Thai likes her stuff and has linked his blog to hers. Since Loi is getting like 50 million +/- hits a day on his website, that means maybe we need to rethink Laurel’s placement. And there’s more. Her work is showing up an awful lot on pinterest and people are talking about her on facebook and twitter, and by golly, dude, they are reading her ferkakta blog too. She’s been workin’ our crazy-meant-to-confuse-and-demean-system. [hehehehe] So, she deserves some credit for that. Don’t you think she should be on page one?”

[Hey, I think I like that creepy crawler!]

Of course, it’s not in any way personal; it’s all completely calculated and as cold as a salmon stuck in a Swedish iceberg in January. However, the point here is that dumbshit uninformed designers who do not want anyone else posting their interior design photos are totally, completely, thoroughly and entirely screwing themselves big-time and missing an incredible golden opportunity for:

  • FREE marketing
  • FREE publicity
  • FREE boost in internet rankings

And all of that translates to more people being able to find out about the person who owns the interior design photos. It increases the possibility that some of those people who would not have found them in any other way will contact the owners with the view to hiring them which means more $$$ in the owner’s pockets!

Still don’t want anyone but YOU posting your pics?

Fine, then get your ass off the internet and go and live back in 1985.

Okay. I know what y’all are thinking. You’re thinking, well… that’s a dumb move, Laurel. You’re posting other people’s beautiful images and therefore, you’re funneling business away from yourself!

Possibly. But in that case, they weren’t going to hire me anyway. In addition, I can only handle so much work. ;]

And furthermore, I am also trying my damnedest to show the world that we’re not ALL a bunch of opportunistic freaks who are out to filch you out of every nickel you’ve earned!

Yes, some of your nickels. :] But, most of us are doing this because we love beauty and love helping other people live in more beautiful dwellings, not to get rich or rip you off.

One last point I’d like to make. Please, please, please watermark your images. [it’s soooo easy on picmonkey] Lee Ann’s is watermarked as that one actually belongs to House Beautiful. House Beautiful WANTS us to pin their images as they have kindly given us a pinterest button and avenues for easily posting on FB and Twitter too.


photo by Laurel Bern

The other thing to pay close attention to is your alternate tag.

What the hell is that? I once asked that question too. When you see someone’s photo and you see something like dcp.img.003.jpg that’s the alt tag. It’s what get’s picked up by pinterest or your website if you don’t save it as something else.

You need to save it as something that’s going to benefit you. Something like this:


That way, IF someone pins your image directly from your blog, THAT is what will show up under the description of your photo on pinterest. More free advertising and in addition, having those key words in your alt tag is going to work in your favor.

Well, Laurel.. all of that is all well and good but still… you should really ask for permission.

In a perfect world, that would be nice, however.

  1. I have done that and am usually ignored.
  2. I am using the photos to express a point of view; I am not in any way shape or form intimating that they are my work! [someone did this to me once by using one of my rooms for an ADVERTISEMENT! My wasband gallantly went out and verbally {in his gentlemanly way,} bitched-slapped that *&%!$(%&^!  Thank you for that, Shimon!]
  3. Do I really have to ask permission to say that I love you, I think that your work is amazing and I think it’s so incredible, I’m going to tell thousands of people about it and give you free marketing, advertising and tons of traffic back to your website?

No one has to ask me nuttin.

PLEASE!!! I am BEGGING Y’all to STEAL My Interior Design Photos.

Place them on your blogs, pinterest boards, twitter, fakebook… wherever… just give me back the f-word link and if you’re on wordpress, I’ll get a little notification and then I’m going to come running over to f-word thank you!

I mean, other designers in the know have come over to thank me. It’s a nice day when that happens.

I like it so much better when we as design community support each other and elevate our profession in a good way.

win/win situation.

It’s an abundant world. There’s plenty, plenty to go around!



9 Responses

  1. Thank you for this post. My wife’s work does get a lot of reposts on all social media and your suggestions to watermark photos is a great idea. That butlers pantry which was featured in House Beautiful gets a lot of nice complements from all over. We are launching a home collection within weeks and I like the idea of watermarking… hmmm just another thing for me to do!!

    Happy Holidays



    1. Hi Thomas,

      Thank you so much for stopping by! I love Lee Ann’s work–soooo talented, she is! (but you already know that!) :]

      Yes, it’s all very time-consuming and can be overwhelming all of the stuff we have to do these days.

      Here’s another tip and that is, when you save an image that’s yours, be sure that you name it with descriptive keywords and also put Lee Ann’s name on it. Usually, they come out of the camera with something like IMG_1439.jpg. I see this all the time. It won’t help with SEO and it won’t help people credit you, either. Yes, they can go in and change it, but most people won’t remove a name. When I save an image of someone else’s that I want to use for a blog post, if the name isn’t there already, I put it in and the photographer—if I can find it. That way, it’s a reference for me when I go back to my links in and it also helps out the person whose work it is. I just checked and yes, I saved the image as lee-ann-thornton.jpg If I were doing it now, I might save it as lee-ann-thornton-blue-lacquer-butlers-pantry-house-beautiful.jpg

      Google picks up on this and if someone were looking for butlers pantries, this one might very well pop up.

      I don’t think you need to the dashes, I have also seen some people use underscores and sometimes the + sign. I know that for an alt tag, you don’t need to do anything but just plain writing. The alt tag is very much like naming your photo file as I just showed above.

      I will look for your new home collection. How exciting! Regards to Lee Ann and Happy Holidays to you as well!

  2. haha! yes, fakebook! One of the things I love about you Loi, [amongst many] is that you’re NOT on fakebook, not on twitter. And YET, you have a HUGE following. There’s a lesson there and I think the lesson is to devote more time to creating something that people WANT to see either because they are learning something they desperately want to know more about or it’s the eye candy we crave that just feels so good. That’s pretty much it. And it’s knowing WHERE your audience hangs out. I remember, the first time I saw your blog. I kinda fell over in my chair. It was like— WHERE DO I SIGN UP? I DON’T WANT TO MISS A THING HERE BECAUSE IT IS ALL AMAZING!!!

    I love it when, I go to comment on a blog I’ve never seen before, and shortly above my comment, I see that you’ve already been there. xxxooo, L

  3. Thank you for saying this far more politely than I could Lauren. Occasionally I get an email from some fool asking me to remove a photo from my tumblr blog. Really? 2000 hits a day and you don’t want the exposure? Oh, you don’t know how to watermark an image? And you are a photographer? Really?

    One other BIG key to success is to convert images to LOW Resolution, or dpi. Most pics are taken at 300dpi (dots per inch) which is the minimum requirement for quality printing. The internet only requires 72dpi. Adjust your camera setting to low image-resolution or adjust the image afterward in editing software. I shoot in 300dpi because I want the option for both print and digital communication – I edit, waternarj and save one at 72dpi and the other at 300 dpi. I never NEVER EVER post high-res images anywhere on line.

    Two huge advantages:
    1) If someone were to download one of my low res 72dpi images they wouldn’t be able to print anything bigger than a postage
    stamp with it.

    2) The images load fast – really fast. You know those images that take forever to download or some pages and links seem to take too long? Its the resolution on the images – too high. Keep your followers engaged with quick-loading images. If they’re like me I get board in 1/10th of a second an am on to the next new distraction, likely never to return.

    Lauren – we should do a seminar for image posting on social media. I think the technology and social media have been around so long that many folks are embarrassed to admit they don’t know how it works.


  4. I love the way you think and especially love the colorful way in which you express yourself! Seriously, I can relate, I just don’t write it down anywhere. Keep up the good work.
    Your devoted follower,

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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