“PhotoClaim cases have shown, that companies who want to steal a photo won’t care about that and simply remove my name from my photos.”
Manuel Becker, landscape photographer and the founder of Locationscout, shares the insights into his professional career and experience with image theft.
PhotoClaim: How old were you when you had the camera in your hands for the very first time?
Manuel Becker: I must have been around 19 when I first tried a digital Canon Ixus from my father, that he didn’t get back for the entire holiday because I kept photographing everything that I could find. I used other analogue cameras before but being able to see the result immediately changed a lot because you could immediately learn from mistakes and simply try out a lot of things without wasting film by film.
PC: Was it love at the first sight or… how did your relationship with a camera begin?
MB: Definitely. Especially with the first digital camera. It took me quite a few years afterwards to get my camera, which was a Canon 300D and I simply photographed anything I could.
PC: Just a hobby or a way of life? How and when did you realise that you want photography to become a part of your career?
MB: In 2010 I was visiting my brother in Toronto and during this trip, I created a website to share my photos with friends and family. This was the first time when I recognized that I received a lot of positive feedback and that my photos could become a lot better if I would start investing more time into this to not only understand photography in general but also how to retouch my photos.
PC: The first photo you were truly satisfied with?
MB: The first one I did print was this one from Toronto. It’s where my true passion for cityscapes started and I still remember standing there and enjoying the view towards this breathtaking skyline.
PC: Your first steps in the photography industry? Where did you start?
MB: After Toronto, I decided to invest a lot of time to improve my skills and become a better photographer. That’s where more and more friends asked for prints. I even started an annual calendar that I gave away to friends and later to customers for free.
PC: When did you realise that you can make money on your pictures?
MB: After giving away prints at cost price to friends, more and more requests came in and even medical practices or lawyers did buy my photos for their office space. This shifted more and more towards digital sales, where my photos were licensed for photography magazines, advertising and much more.
PC: How was Locationscout born?
MB: The idea was born at Kirby Cove, San Francisco in 2011 already, the first version of the platform went live in autumn 2014. Finding beautiful places to photograph was a problem that I as a passionate photographer had myself. Since there was no real solution to this issue, the idea of Locationscout was born. Without meeting and talking to a local by accident in the early morning at the Golden Gate Bridge, I would have never known about Kirby Cove. This recommendation was by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced and I didn’t know any platform that would share personal favourite places like that.
PC: How do you combine your passion for photography and web design?
MB: Locationscout is the biggest outcome of this combination. It’s simply awesome to be an experienced web designer because you can reach and create real value for so many people with a platform like that. My photos helped me quite often for clients as well, because every design mockup looks better with good photos.
PC: What about editing? How important is it in your photos?
MB: I did study Computer Visualistics, which is basically where I learned how to code Photoshop or Lightroom myself and all the algorithms behind software like that. This didn’t only give me a deeper knowledge about editing but also raised my interest in using more techniques to understand the outcome of what I learned from the very technical perspective.
PC: When and how did you find out that your photos are getting stolen?
MB: I am extremely naive when it comes to something like that and it was at Photokina in Cologne where I met Nico at the startup area and where I listened to a talk. I was 100% sure that my photos were not stolen and that Photoclaim wouldn’t find anything anyway. But I was curious as well, so I gave it a try and was truly shocked about the number of findings and brazen usage of my photos.
PC: How do you enjoy working with PhotoClaim? What has changed since you started the cooperation?
MB: I simply love that PhotoClaim isn’t just a platform. I have a personal assistant that I can share my thoughts and issues with to find the perfect solution for every situation. There are simply so many different cases and questions that can’t be solved by clicking a simple „this photo was stolen, do something“-button.
PC: How aware of image theft are the photographers in your surroundings/community?
MB: I would say that a lot are aware of the issue, which is shown by huge logos or copyright hints on photos getting shared on the web. While this is understandable, this form of copyright doesn’t only protect you but also will destroy the experience another person has while seeing this photo. My PhotoClaim cases have shown, that companies who want to steal a photo won’t care about that and simply remove my name from my photos. Instead of destroying the entire experience for viewing beautiful photos on the web, it’s, therefore, more important than ever, that people start to understand the copyright. Especially private persons (that I never sue for ethical reasons) often don’t steal because they disrespect me as a photographer but because they simply don’t know better since sharing a photo became so easy on the web today.
PC: What is your definition of success?
MB: Being 1% better than yesterday and creating real value for other people.
PC: What has been your most memorable moment, the real highlight, in your career so far?
MB: The launch of my app and so many people who already subscribed to it to support me and Locationscout. I appreciate this so much and I am therefore working hard to make it 1% better each day.
PC: What is your drive for taking pictures? What do you enjoy shooting the most?
MB: Definitely, sunrises because I really hate standing up early. But when I know that I will stand up for photos, it’s suddenly extremely easy for me to stand up. A lot of the most beautiful experiences I had were all in the early morning when the world is still silent, it’s cold outside and the warm sun rises above the horizon. That’s pure happiness for me.
PC: What’s next?
MB: I just launched a new big Learn Section on Locationscout and just decided on a challenge for this year to implement 12 bigger features or improvements to the platform / the app over the year.
A destination I would love to visit again soon is the Azores which has stunning places like this one above the clouds or an entire playground for any photographer who likes flowing water at places like this one.
PC: One dream you wish to come true?
MB: Seeing my son grow up and knowing, that my wife and I did everything we could to grant him a happy and successful life.
PC: Your call to action for the photographers who might not be aware that their photos are getting stolen?
MB: I hate to sue people and I think it’s always the best idea to talk to other people to resolve issues like that. My experience in image theft from the last few years taught me though, that whenever I tried to be the nice guy, I was the one who got blamed and threatened. 80% of companies who are stealing my photos knew what they were doing and they are earning money with something I put a lot of money and effort into. When I received my first list of copyright infringements from the PhotoClaim team, I was truly shocked how many people use my photos in ways that I would never have expected like printing them on cups, shirts or even gallery prints to sell them online. Or big hotel chains advertising for their rooms by using my photos from places nearby.
Be the nice guy and inform private people about removing your photo if you don’t want them to share it, but don’t let big companies earn money with something you put a lot of effort into.