Hey Photographers! Pinterest is Not for You

Hey Photographers! Pinterest is Not for You

You’d have to live in a world with no Internet to not have heard of Pinterest by now. Although the service has been around in various incarnations since 2008, it’s really caught fire in the past month. And it recently made claims to the title of “Fastest to 10 million registered users,” allegedly beating out Instagram for that title.

So I’ve watched with interest as various conversations have played out on forums and Facebook amongst photographers, and whether they should 1) protect their copyright and insert code in their website that prevents people from pinning their photos, or 2) embrace the new world and start participating in Pinterest. And in my humble opinion, the answer is neither because Pinterest isn’t for you.

What? What sort of rabble rouser am I?

Here are some facts gleaned from Google AdPlanner:

  • Pinterest drives a ton of page views
  • 82% of visitors are female
  • 79% fall between the ages of 25-54
  • Under “sites also visited” are such places as chef-in-training.com, foodgawker.com, the-girl-who-ate-everything.com, apartmenttherapy.com
  • Under Audience interests are “Fashion Designers & Collections”, “Fashion & Style”, and “Crafts”

In other words, the Pinterest audience isn’t so charmed by your photography because they are too busy pinning clothing, crafts and interior design items. Pinterest is an aspirational pin board for women. The “Likes” and “Repinning” help to validate a user’s curatorial skills. And like every social media site in the world, the service is a tool of self-expression. Let the people express themselves, it’s therapeutic.

Pinterest is an awesome marketing tool for retailers. In fact, for one of the retailers I advise, it is the top source of referring traffic. You can’t buy that kind of free marketing.

But for photographers, it simply isn’t a good referral source because it doesn’t lead to sales. So worrying about the rights-grab and whether it’s skirting copyright law is moot. And Pinterest hasn’t shown itself to be a good referral mechanism for service-based offerings (e.g. hiring you for a wedding). And if you compare the number of repins for the fashion category vs. the arts category, you’ll begin to understand that spending time on Pinterest as a marketing activity simply doesn’t pay off for photographers.

So while I am a proponent of Internet-based marketing and copyright control, photographers are missing the point when they whine about Pinterest. It’s not going out of business any time soon, it will continue to be a popular service and retailers/brands will find new ways to exploit it, but the best use for photographers is to pin that fashionable pair of photographer pants you want.

Can’t get enough Pinterest? Read Round 2.

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Allen Murabayashi is the co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 108 comments for this article
  1. Michael at 11:27 am

    Huh. Until now, I’ve never heard of Pinterest. Doomed to fail in the end is my guess, but I am occasionally wrong about these things.

    There are plenty of places on-line to waste time. It would be a waste of time to catalog them all!

  2. Greg West at 12:06 pm

    Allan, I have to disagree with you. While the good folks who are using Pinterest don’t represent potential clients, the T&C currently claim the right to sub-license and sell content uploaded/posted to the site. This should be a concern for everyone.

    It’s not so much about users stealing/posting images, as it is about Pinterest stealing use of the images for future commercial gain. If they change their T&C to eliminate this clause then I could see supporting them, but not until then.

    I floss too. 🙂

  3. Alistair Scott at 12:49 pm

    I joined Pinterest a few weeks ago, on someone’s recommendation, but rapidly lost interest.

    As you note, it seems to be mostly fashion items, jewellery, cars and food. A crashing bore. I saw no point in ‘pinning’ anything and haven’t been back. Leave it to the fashionistas.

  4. Chris Boese at 12:50 pm

    How nice. All photographers are MALE and they only think about MALE important things, because those things define the Known Universe, and everything else is beyond the pale. Even women photographers must make their work appear MALE, because aesthetics are purely a MALE domain for IMPORTANT PEOPLE, not those marginalized, invisible, unimportant… um, who are those people again?

  5. Allen Murabayashi Author at 12:50 pm

    @Greg, I think it’s highly improbable that Pinterest would seek to resell a thumbnail. The image is too small, and a VC-funded company can’t risk a class action lawsuit on behalf of copyright holders. Just not worth it.

    Keep up the flossing!

  6. Allen Murabayashi Author at 12:53 pm

    @Chris, I think you’re missing the point. I never claimed for a moment that all photographers are male. I’m saying that the audience on Pinterest skews heavily female, and the type of stuff they’re interested in is decidedly not photography. The proof is in the analytics. This isn’t a sexist position. It’s a business one to say that your time is better spent in other channels if you’re trying to improve your photography marketing.

  7. Larry Thompson at 12:53 pm

    I guess it depends what kind of photographer you are. If you are a wedding photographer this is a beautiful tool. Here’s why. You create boards that are a reflection of your style. Then, it’s just another way for people to see what you stand for, what you respond to, what you say yes to in this life. It’s another way for potential clients to get to know you. 82% of users are women? That’s who is hiring a wedding photographer. Many big companies are using Pinterest in very smart ways and having smashing success, now, getting more traffic referrals from Pinterest that any other source. Is it for everyone? How should I know. I don’t know everyone. But is it for photographers? It is if you are a wedding photographer and are interested in cultivating a stronger brand.

  8. Allen Murabayashi Author at 12:57 pm

    @Larry, I certainly agree that the wedding photographer hiring decisions are being driven by women. However, I’m haven’t seen Pinterest being used successfully to drive the sale of service-based companies. I’d definitely be interested to know if photographers were being hired as a result of Pinterest.

    • Jarek at 7:32 pm

      It doesn’t need to bring you customers but you can build an audience, gain traffic to your FB Fanpage or website, as well as build up a BRAAAAND!

      So.. No! Pinterest is definitely for photographers, artists, designers… you can use Snapchat or Instagram to get clients man… just do it… not talk that you can’t without trying by yourself.

      And just to wrap it up – you can pin to your Pinterest one picture that can change your entire life… any medium is good to promoce good, valuable staff and be noticed by this one person who will hire you or share this photo with someone who can hire you.

  9. Jamie Bosworth at 12:57 pm

    I agree that Pinterest is not the marketing nirvana that some people label it but it is a very handy way to collect the trending aspects of weddings. For me it is a good way to share ideas with clients and vendors.
    I imagine that this would apply to things other than weddings as well.

    As to the usage/stealing issues, I’m not sure we will ever get that control back.

  10. Marc K at 1:00 pm

    While I think that this article is well-written and timed for generating buzz during the rapid ascent of Pinterest’s user base, I believe it may be a bit premature and possibly very myopic. Many/most online services get going riding on a particular demographic (e.g. Facebook -> college students, Twitter -> tech geeks) on their way toward wider adoption, popularity, and diversified usage. How many people looked at Facebook or Twitter and said “what the h#$% am I going to use this for?” in the early days? Some of these people waste more of their time on these services than the early adopters now. I hope that your readers take your advice with a grain of salt; it seems that there ought to be some important caveats in your article that I’m not seeing.

  11. Jim Goldstein at 1:02 pm

    I gave up on Twitter after 2 weeks thinking it was useless. I came back a few months later and found great use in it. The lesson learned is that you can’t judge a service by its initial form. I don’t disagree in the least with the post, but I will say that its important to be open minded and to keep a watchful eye on the service as it evolves. What Pinterest is today may not be Pinterest in the future. Social media web sites are malleable both in how the founders shape them and how end users creatively use them. The future could be equally bright or dim with Pinterest, but I like to think half that equation falls on the photographer using the service. Photographers need to be creative in other ways beyond the camera..

  12. Larry Thompson at 1:03 pm

    @Allen I’m not suggesting that people will see your boards and say,” Oh my goodness, he likes Rodney Smith, too, I want to hire him.” Not every marketing effort has a direct correlation to a sale. (I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know). But it’s an accumulation of a number of different tactics. And, Pinterst can, if used in smart ways, just be another very valuable tool in your marketing toolbox.

  13. Jamie Lawrence at 1:07 pm

    Oh, I forgot to say that it’s a false dichotomy to say that photographers can block Pinterest or they can participate. Quite simply, you can happily ignore Pinterest and let your fans use it. If it drives traffic to you, or helps your fans and potential customers remember your images, then that’s all good. If not, then there’s nothing lost.

    Blocking your fans from pinning your images on Pinterest is unbelievably stupid though.

    Now, let’s go take some great photos (and floss)

  14. Erin at 1:19 pm

    I thought I’d add my two cents, however much its worth.
    I think all of you have raised very valid points and this article certainly caught my attention.
    I fall right into Pinterest’s target market. Female. 25-54. In need of some therapeutic outlets, and when it comes down to it, I like pretty things. So maybe for that reason alone I love it, call me text book.
    I also own a photography business.
    I think of Pinterest in this light: Pinning is kind of like shopping, but it’s free. That’s why I love it. That’s why my brides to be love it. I have to admit, I never thought of using Pinterest to try to sell my photos. In fact, that never crossed my mind. I use Pinterest as a value added service for my clients (and yes, my female clients). I pin interesting wedding ideas, wedding gowns, flower arrangements, cake topper ideas, wedding DIYs, make-up and hair tutorials, wedding blog sites etc…
    I also use Pinterest as a constant source of inspiration. I am constantly pinning ideas for photos and use them as inspiration in my own work. Its like a creative kick starter. Pinterest makes it easy because you can access your inspiration on-the-go.
    A lot of my clients follow me on Pinterest because its a one stop place for ideas …. call it not-so-retail therapy, if you will. Is this the only value added service my business provides? Of course not. But its another way to make my business more than just about selling photography. In this industry, its about selling a personalized experience, not just photos.
    Besides, as I mentioned earlier, I fall right into Pinterest’s target market, so I am pinning anyway. Might as well pin for a reason – right?

  15. Richard Wong at 1:29 pm

    I agree Jamie. You can block the pinning of your images, but people can just right click save the image and upload it anyway so why bother? If you watermark your stuff and don’t upload full resolution images then who cares. If there are future business opportunities available then great, if not, cool too.

  16. Caroline at 1:48 pm

    I’m a pinterest user and I use it (among other things) to pin interesting photography I’ve found on the web. I click through on other people’s pins to find the source of an image if it’s something I like – that often includes figuring out who the photographer is. I like Pinterest because it’s a visual (rather than verbal) tool. Bookmarking with pictures, if you will. You can use it to curate whatever you want. And yes, I think the post does dismiss Pinterest’s user base awfully quickly. It implies that women’s interests are frivolous and that there is no connection with photography. I like looking at pretty, compelling, fascinating, beautiful, informative – pick your adjective – images to do with fashion, nature, architecture, current events, etc. And those images would not exist without the photographer behind the lens.

  17. Andrei at 1:57 pm


    I was about to write a response very similar to Erin above. Brownie points for me for reading through before opening my mouth 🙂

    I think you were looking at Pinterest the wrong way, as a direct marketing tool and something that would directly generate leads. I see it more as an added value, the way Erin does. If one uses it on a personal level, one might as well link it to their photography brand, to give a more complete view of personal style and what can be expected.

  18. Erika Szostak at 2:01 pm

    I just have to reiterate the above comment regarding the use of Pinterest for mood, inspiration and style boards to share with clients. I use it that way to share with wedding clients; I also use Pinterest, and its collaborative function, every time I’m organising a styled shoot to share a sort of storyboard & ideas with my cast & crew. It’s a brilliant tool for that.

  19. Jasmine DeFoore at 2:04 pm

    I am fascinated by all this pinterest talk everywhere. Allen you bring up an interesting point about demographics. Yes most people are pinning home decor ideas and recipes and crafts, but since most of the people on pinterest are women, and most photo editors and art buyers are women, maybe there’s something to be said about getting your images in front of them in the place where they are spending lots of time?

  20. Will Pursell at 2:06 pm

    I booked 1 wedding from a bride that found me on pintrest (i never even heard of it at the time, someone pinned some of my images) so i guess it was worth it for me. does it help with SEO? I was checking my analitics and it was the #4 referral site after google, facebook and tumblr

  21. Michael Hodson at 2:06 pm

    What an amazingly shortsighted post. (1) The assumption is that the current demographics will stay the same forever. Given the massive increase in membership in the site lately (which is still only in beta), that’s just a completely unwise assumption. (2) Pinterest already drives more traffic to actual websites than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined. There are a lot of eyeballs there and they will be going somewhere — to think that is a static list of topics is again… shortsighted. (3) And hell, the easiest rebuff is to point to one of the more successful web photographers right now — Trey Radcliff just wrote a post about Pinterest — he did 15% of his total pageviews via Pinterest click throughs, which accounts for more than 100k pageviews.

    Photographers are free to stick their head in the sand about Pinterest, but it is here and here to stay. I’m always amused by people that seemingly don’t want people to discover their material, which is great. More eyeballs for those of us that actually want people to find our stuff.

  22. Rebecca at 2:46 pm

    Pinterest is not the most useful tool for self-promotion for photographers. But it’s not meant to be a self-promotion tool. It’s more like visual bookmarks or even inspiration boards like we used to make by tearing pictures out of magazines. It’s a pretty cool way to make an inspiration board as a photographer if we need ideas for an upcoming shoot (of course not to copy, just for inspiration). It’s a great way to collect recipes or decorating ideas or craft ideas. Twitter and FB fan pages are meant as good ways to promote yourself. That’s just not the point of PInterest.

  23. Pingback: Pinterest – Seeing Beyond Your Own Nose » JMG-Galleries – Jim M. Goldstein Photography
  24. Allen Murabayashi Author at 2:50 pm

    @erika: Agreed. It’s a great mood board tool. The people who are using it this way seem to be post-sale. They’ve already been hired, and now they are using Pinterest as a way to communicate with the client. Am I wrong?

    @caroline: At no point did I say, nor imply that women’s interest are frivolous. I have my own Pinterest, and I pin clothing — and no one loves shopping more than I. I am reporting 1) on the demographic spread, and 2) my observation of what the most active categories are.

    @jasmine: it’s a valid point. But I’m reminded of Google+. Tons of photographers on there with tons of activity, but I’d be hardpressed to name an editor that uses it.

    @michael: Picking one hyper successful photographer to prove the validity of Pinterest for all photographers is fallacious. One of the benefits of being able to see the aggregated analytics for 70,000 photographers is that we can see the % of referral traffic from Pinterest, and it’s not even close to 1%. So I’m happy for Trey, but his results are not representative of the average photographer.

  25. Allen Murabayashi Author at 2:58 pm

    @Rebecca: I agree that it is a virtual pin board. There is no disputing that. But retailers are using it to drive sales. I’ve seen it with the company I advise. It is the single largest referrer of traffic and that traffic converts into sales. So when photographers tell me that I’m not getting it, I beg to differ. I am seeing how the most successful industry in terms of monetizing Pinterest is succeeding, and I’m providing a comparative analysis with photography.

  26. Adm Golub at 3:04 pm

    I’m interested in what you think about Pinterest as a niche marketing tool for the soul purpose of driving traffic to a site. Let’s say I’m a cycling photographer or a food photographer. Do you think Pinterest would be a good tool for driving traffic if say the photographer pinned their work along with other intresting items within their photo niche?

  27. Mimi at 3:19 pm

    At least on Pinterest, it links back to wherever the person found it. UNLESS it goes to a tumblr blog. Almost none of the images I’ve seen there link back to the original source. I even saw one tumblr blog where the owner stated flat out that she would never credit any source because “you never know who the real owner of the photo is”. So why the shouting about pinterest while tumblr allows stuff like this?
    And to say that what these woman are pinning shouldn’t be of interest to photographers is forgetting something else about them. What are women between the ages of 25 and 54 doing that they might need a photographer for? They are getting married, having babies and raising children. The last time I checked, wasn’t that a big market for photographers? Seems like a few pins of previous business might drive some business to your site. It’s the ultimate “word of mouth”
    As a user of Pinterest, I would be pretty PO’d if all of a sudden the “everything” page started getting junked up with commercial interests pinning their own stuff. But if I was really interested, it’s there for me to see and if I was, say, planning a wedding or having a baby, that might a place that I would go and click through if I saw something that I loved.

  28. David Riecks at 3:28 pm


    I agree that from a target market perspective it makes little sense to participate directly at this point in time. That could change in time… but IMHO there are other issues at play that prevent me from endorsing this service.

    In regards to your comment, “I think it’s highly improbable that Pinterest would seek to resell a thumbnail” it’s important to note that Pinterest “thumbnails” are in the 600 pixel wide size. To me, that’s a preview, not a thumbnail.

    See http://pinterest.com/pin/68961438013787674/ for a sample.

    In addition, they strip all embedded information (such as IPTC photo metadata) from these “thumbnail-previews” (see image above as it’s part of a survey to see which social media services actually “preserve” your photo metadata).

    The attributions on “re-pins” are problematic as well, since they only note which Pinterest user posted the image, not where the image came from originally.

    With their Terms of Service, they are building a large collection of potential “Orphan Works” that could create many legal entanglements in the future. I’ve not put the code on my own site to prevent pinning yet, but am considering from a moral rights perspective.


  29. jodie at 3:55 pm

    I have to say that Pinterest has helped boost my business almost over night! I am a photographer that does mostly book clients in Pinterest’s target market but what it’s done for me mostly is gotten my name out to other photographers. I love that you can see exactly what people are pinning from your site, how many repins there are and what people’s comments are. If you blog for your business it gives you an insight into what people find interesting, and ultimately, the more popular your blog is, the bigger your name and the more clients you’ll book. For us it opened up even larger opportunities with commercial work who found us on Pinterest. And like a few others mentioned, we use it not to give our clients ideas but I now ask our portrait clients to start “family photography” pinboards so I can see what their style is. We had one client tell she loved our gritty urban images that we’re known for but then every single image she pinned was soft afternoon light in fields. Being able to see what she was actually drawn to was such a huge help in planning her session and ultimately giving her what she almost unconsciously wanted. I guess I feel that it can be used uniquely for each business BUT to say that it’s not for photographers is just too broad in my opinion because it’s been so great for me.

  30. Jasmine DeFoore at 3:58 pm

    @allen Google+ is different though… It’s too repetitive with what is happening on twitter and facebook for some creatives to fit it into their digital lives. But I bet a ton of (mostly female) photo editors and art buyers are on pinterest, precisely because it offers an experience that is totally different, fun to look at, and inspiring.

    Think about this scenario: I’m a photo editor and my boss has just told me to start working on a spring fashion story. They give me some direction but I head to pinterest to start gathering more inspiration for art direction. I stumble upon boards featuring products, locations, books and some pretty cool photography. I click on the photos, I explore, I head to peoples’ sites… I don’t know, I can totally see that happening. I could see it leading to hiring someone.

  31. Allen Murabayashi Author at 5:05 pm

    I think this is a great, level-headed discussion, and I appreciate the different views and experiences. I agree that the service can and will evolve and that we can’t predict how it might be used in the future. I’m still standing by my guns based on analytics that this isn’t currently a potent marketing tool for photographers. If your goal is to find a social media-based mood board, it’s a great tool.

    Keep the info coming if you have real success stories of promoting your photo business through Pinterest.

  32. Tracy at 5:14 pm

    From what I understand, while Pinterest is huge in the United States for women 25-55. In the UK and other European Areas, it drives men 25-55? Kind of interesting the difference. Why? that I have not heard….yet!

  33. Patricia at 5:25 pm

    Why let all the product marketers have all the fun? Make Pinterest another way for clients to love and get to know you. For an intimate event like a wedding or baby portraits, you want someone you can relate to. Go where your clients are. AND make it super simple. Create a section on your website or folder on flickr of images you want Pinners to enjoy. Use plenty of keywords and create a watermark border that someone can see your name and your geographical base (even if you are a destination photog. List a city so potential clients can meet you.). I have boards that show what I think are beautiful poses for women and boards that highlight clever / cool social media profiles. So you can teach your potential clients how to dream big and take chances so you can take more compelling portraits you’ll love.

  34. Rebecca at 5:31 pm

    This post is totally confusing. As someone with a design background (who currently works in marketing and PR), and as a Pinterest lover, I know for certain that art and photography play a huge role in those industries…

    I’m not sure why you would say Pinterest is great at driving traffic (attention), but then claim out of nowhere that those people don’t convert because it’s a primarily female audience interested in fashion and design (WTH?). After Pinterest refers someone to your site, it’s not Pinterest’s job to convert visitors or drive sales. That’s your job (you, being the photographer). Your site should be set up to engage visitors, initiate relationships and drive conversions. Set up an email collector with a compelling opt-in, stay in touch with people, build the relationship. Or if you have photography to sell on your site, think about your sales funnel. It’s your job to convert the traffic you’re getting and Pinterest is a great driver of traffic, not to mention can be a great relationship builder as well. The referrals can and will grow if you use and embrace the tool.

    And it’s good traffic too. I can’t think of another site that would give you more qualified and primed leads than Pinterest. Women are excited and inspired by beautiful images and want to make those part of their own lives. Not to mention, they’re the primary decision makers for household purchases. You’re saying they can buy a purse off those images, but not a piece of artwork or service? Bizarre.

  35. Allen Murabayashi Author at 5:47 pm

    @Rebecca: Pinterest creates lots of page views on their site. For certain industries, it creates referral traffic but not all.

    This isn’t a women argument. How many times have you seen a great photo, and then bought it impulsively. It doesn’t happen. People have to consider framing, where to hang, whether it matches their decor, etc.

    This is different buying behavior from a bath mat or a tea kettle or a shirt. I’ve bought all three of those items impulsively, but I’ve never bought a photo impulsively.

    I completely dispute that the traffic is qualified *because it is women*. That’s a flimsy argument. Are all those women looking to purchase photography? Are all those women looking to hire a photographer? The answer is only a small percentage are, therefore, the traffic is not “qualified and primed.”

    This is a discussion about how a product’s current demographic interacts with a tool. I stated my position based on analytical observations, and I’ve gotten a few anecdotes in response about why it is wrong. But no one has provided analytical evidence that Pinterest successfully supports increases sales in aggregate.

    Brazilians love the social media site Orkut. Saying that Americans are missing the boat on Orkut misses the point that it’s simply not a tool for Americans.

  36. Katie at 6:29 pm

    I don’t have any analytical evidence that Pinterest converts sales, but I will say that just a few hours ago I was reading Jasmine Star’s blog, and I notice she’s added an “add to Pinterest” button beneath her photos on her blog. I thought to myself, “Ah! Clever woman!” Jasmine is showing her followers and potential clients (yes, mostly women between the ages of 25 and 54) that she gets them, that she gets how they use the internet. She is giving them a tool with which to bookmark her photos, add her photos to their collections of inspiring photography, and share her photos with her friends. I have been using Pinterest just sparingly since I joined it about 6-8 months ago, yet I have noticed that it indeed is a very social tool. Pinterest users have the option to log into Pinterest with Facebook, find their Facebook friends on Pinterest, and share their pins on Facebook. One of my friends recently found out I’m expecting because she saw that I was pinning nursery design images on Pinterest. I would think that if I were pinning wedding photography that inspired me, that same friend would take notice of what I was pinning. Incidentally, saw my 20 year old sister over the weekend, and she was gushing about how she and her college friends adore Pinterest and that it is the #1 place on the internet where they spend their time these days. In a few years, these college girls will be brides who are cruising the net for a wedding photographer. I think that’s something relevant for photographers looking to convert those brides to keep in mind, even if it’s just to show these girls that you speak their language.

  37. Wesley at 9:43 pm

    That Pinterest currently skews as it does both demographically and behaviorally points to opportunity for certain types of photographers. Erin, who commented about her current use of the site, has a really interesting opportunity, and there are thousands of other photographers just like her.

    I completely agree with Jim Goldstein’s comment – it’s far too early to judge whether Pinterest holds value to photographers. It’s just now hitting mainstream, it will evolve, and it will make sense for certain business models and strategies. Think how much Facebook evolved as it gained momentum? Marketers were scrambling for years figuring out how to use it to their benefit…and still do.

    But, I also want make the point that valuing a social media traffic source solely on its ability to drive leads is exactly like saying the sole value in, for example, a visit from paid search is a lead or sale. It’s simply not the case and organizations like Facebook, comScore and Nielsen have spent a lot of time and money proving this case.

    Claiming a traffic source has no value because it doesn’t drive leads disregards how people purchase online. It’s not a simple case of search, click, buy. A journey occurs that involves research, social validation, and eventually (maybe) a purchase.

    In real-world terms, if Pinterest drives a visitor to my site who subscribes to my blog or joins my social stream (where I have a great opportunity to educate and inform about my photography and/or services over time), that’s a win equal to a lead or sale. If it isn’t, why participate in social media marketing at all?

    The last point I want to make is, with all due respect, this post makes a massive mental leap between Pinterest visitor demographics/psychographics and its ability to drive leads. I see in comments where you reference the aggregate analytics of 70,000 photographers to make your point. Supporting the post with this type of data would be useful for readers.

  38. Kelly at 11:13 pm

    As a photographer as well as a former employee in the hospitality industry, I have to agree with the several statements about Pinterest being an ADD-ON value. If Photographers provide a service then we WANT as many value add-on services as possible, and Pinterest is the MOST convenient way. And as I read this article I nearly choked when I read the writers dismissing of the demographics. As someone that has a sales and marketing background, and now working as a photographer, I mean….HELLO!!! This is your target market!!!! I get that not everyone will like or ‘get’ pinterest. I pin everything from photographic inspiration, recipe’s, interior design, ideas on how to HANG PHOTOS in your home and incorporate it into your interior design. I have even seen photographers showing outfit designs from Polyvore (I know you haven’t heard of that site either lol!) for ideas to wear for family photo shoots. One thing I have found from my clients is that they come to me for ideas of what to wear because they want to look their best in photos, they want everyone to more or less match and for some interior design, hanging pictures or deciding what to wear in your next family photo shoot is not everyone’s strong point. In fact, I can bet there is a whole @*$ load of potential clients that opt NOT to have family photos because they feel they won’t look as good as the families they see on Facebook posts and websites of photographers. I don’t know maybe it is just a female thing and if other photographers don’t get it and opt not to use it….but it’s pre-mature and irresponsible and does sound somewhat sexist sounding to say that photographers are wasting their time with Pinterest as a marketing tool for all the reasons listed. It may not be for all types of photographers….but since female photographers are taking the industry by storm and suddenly having baby photos and family photos is BACK….and we are filling our homes and photo albums with beautiful photos and memories……just leave Pinterest with us and we will do just fine on our own thank you very much. 🙂

  39. Allen Murabayashi Author at 11:17 pm

    @kelly: thanks for your insight. i think viewing it as an adjunct service that supports your core offering is a good way to position it within your marketing activities.

    contrary to your opinion, i’m wasn’t taking a sexist position, and i’ve known about polyvore for 3 years, and have introduced many women to that service.

  40. kelly at 11:32 pm

    @ Allen – Thanks for your comments back. I didn’t mean you specifically about polyrvore, I meant ‘you’ the reader in that so many seemed to have not known about pinterest and polyvore is even less known. I appreciate that you have clarified in previous posts that you weren’t taking a sexist position….that’s good. The concern would be that it could be construed as such because of the market we are talking about and traditionally who has been behind the camera until say….the past 5 years. No we don’t know and can’t predict the stats on how Pinterest may or may not drive traffic to our site and be an immediate buyer, and as I said….it’s far to early. I joined up last April when the site was still in it’s infancy and my only motivation was to use it as inspiration and now as someone with a marketing background I see the possibilities. And I am willing to take the risk. I didn’t expect anything from Twitter at first but to my surprise, I did get a booking directly from Twitter that launched me from hobbyiest to pro, and I became a believer. And if it’s a risk, and it’s only my time I choose to ‘waste’ on Pinterest finding inspiration. It’s just like any social media for business…..if you’re not going to use it, then don’t bother with having an account at all.

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  42. Per-BKWine at 3:49 am

    Two points:

    1. It is a very curious argument you put forward: since Pinterest is not an interesting marketing tool for photographers and is mainly used by “aspirational … women” then we should not worry about copyright infringements.

    Does not make sense to me. At all.

    2. The user profile you describe is apparently very specific for the US. Pinterest users are of very different categories in other countries, from what I read. (And btw, it is also used by e.g. the US Army)

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  45. Greg west at 9:08 am


    Mr. Riecks is correct in his analysis. The T&C do currently give Pinterest the right to SELL photos that are uploaded to the site. Does anyone not see that as a problem?

    The discussion about whether it is a good marketing tool or not are irrelevant to my market. Their T&C are relevant to every photographer who has images posted there.

    BTW, my PS Archive site is blocked. http://gregwestphotography.photoshelter.com/

  46. Tinc at 3:23 pm

    I guess it’s a YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) thing. Trey Ratcliff http://www.stuckincustoms.com/ says his site gets about a 3rd of its traffic via Pinterest.

    He also admits he uses a lot of different mediums to promote his work and is always looking for more.

    So it could be a matter of having something worth “pinning”.

    I also agree with previous comments that Pinterest is a developing thing that is still evolving and who knows where it will settle?

  47. Jessica D'Onofrio at 3:34 pm

    I agree that as photographers we can’t rely on Pinterest for referrals. BUT! It is an amazing resource to SHARE information and ideas with our brides.
    I’ve been trying to utilize Pinterest for my business, as it’s obviously an amazing way to gather inspiration for brides. I’m using it to create individual inspiration boards for engagement competitions, for suggestions on what to wear to an engagement, props to bring, etc. It really creates a fun, useful, and ATTRACTIVE way to present these ideas to brides rather than sending them a generalized list in an email.. plus it’s interactive. And as much money as we spend on branding, it’s another lovely way to give this a nice presentation.

  48. Julie Watts at 7:40 pm

    As the founder of the first ever pant designed especially for women photographers, Photopantz, I squealed outloud when I read your last line. Unfortunately, you weren’t talking about mine. Guess I’ll have to get my Photopantz pics up on Pinterest! lol

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  50. Christine@TheCupcakeBandits at 8:10 pm

    I’m a statistic and I love it. I loved it before there were a ton of people on it. I love it because I don’t have to talk to anyone…since I’m a blogger that’s what I do. The people who follow me are people who like my shiz…who like what I pin. As a blogger I get a ton of traffic from it. (much better than stumbleupon tyvm) I agree with Erin. It is like window shopping for free. I live out in the boonies so with Pinterest I’m exposed to things and ideas I wouldn’t have had otherwise. However as a blogger I’ve had my work infringed upon as well. HOWEVER, if I were a photographer I’d look at like free exposure. Not necessarily for a sale but just for people of all economic statuses to be able to appreciate your work. Isn’t that what we all want? Some sort of validation? While not all women are there for the photography I am..I love photography. I wish I had your guy’s talent. When I see a photograph that takes my breath away I pin it. When I have a bad day…. I look at those photos. It’s not always about the $$$.

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  52. Norman Maslov at 4:51 pm

    I’m a photo agent and pinterest just came up his past week during a creative power session. We sat with several creative directors from some very hot Ad agencies discussing marketing for photographers i.e. websites, directories in both physical and digital form, direct-mail, social networking , blogs and so on. Several of the creatives said that the top place they are finding new ideas and talent is from pininterest and that photographers should jump on sooner than later. Just passing this along…

  53. christopher at 11:49 am

    I have never viewed Pinterest as a marketing tool for my photography business, rather I use it to garner inspiration and ideas for future clients, its an electronic storyboard. On my own account I have a following of several photographers, whom I have no doubt have the same ideal. See what others are doing and photographing, it increases our own creativity taking perhaps three ideas and forming a new one of our own

  54. GS at 11:58 am

    Photography is being used (stolen) to build up yet another valuable company that will probably be sold. In the same way that YouTube was built on the back of millions of illegally uploaded TV shows and then sold on to Google.

    No doubt they’ll say: “hey don’t worry folks, look there are no ads on the page where your stolen photo is, we aren’t profiting.” While waiting for the right moment to sell.

  55. Paul David Drabble at 12:08 pm

    How can rights-grabbing and skirting copyright law ever be moot. Its undermining the principal of copyright and should be taken to task on that point. whether to get involved because its the right or wrong target audience is an entirely different argument

  56. Angel at 12:17 pm

    I beg to differ. Just started pinning this week. I think it’s a great way for photographers, especially art photographers, to draw people to their website. Isn’t that why most of us photog’s spend our time using social media sites? Watermarks are on ALL of my photos that are posted to ANY blog/social media site. Like Twitter and Facebook, I feel that Pinterest is another visual medium to get our work looked at and drive more clicks to our websites. We will just have to wait and see….

  57. Anthony at 12:22 pm

    Surely the point is that pinterest is for photographers – by finding retail clients who want to use pinterest to advertise their products in the social media and getting paid to take photos of their retail products ?
    Retailers trying to use pinterest as an advertising medium will want good product photos no ? – better than their ebay ones !!

    As for the copyright issue, if someone else gave someone my belongings without permission then both parties are breaking the law and the same goes for my photos.

  58. Nissa at 12:39 pm

    I think it’s strange to write something off that is still so new. Nothing stays the same. Who knows what people will be using it for this time next year. Pinterest is a fabulous tool for people to create online collections, and while your data says people aren’t saving photographs – I know that everyone in my Pinterest stream is. I’m not looking for every single Pinterest user to like my photography, but the types of people who are pinning photographs are likely my key demographic – people who care about photography. I have to tell you, I would MUCH rather someone pin my photograph to Pinterest than right click and save it to their desktop.

    I think it would be more helpful to accept that Pinterest is here to stay and push for correct and complete crediting through Pinterest’s interface. It’s absolutely NOT okay for Pinterest to sell or make other use of our photographs (I assume this is worked in to the terms so that they may sell space for advertisers on posts – not sell prints of our work) and we definitely need to fight for rights. I just think it’s worth it to try first, before writing something off as horrible and worthless.

    Or, write a code for your website that disallows pinterest pinning, if you really don’t want anyone sharing your photos there.

  59. Gene at 1:20 pm

    I have been watching Pinterest for a short time. I agree it seems to be a female, retail user base. Which I could see being useful to wedding photogs, if for no other reason than to get some sample shots linked in yet another social network.

    I have started a account based on the fact there are so,so many pin boards with titles like “places I want to go”.. “my dream vacation”.. Etc. These mostly made up off travel landscapes images. I am about to launch a new photo tour & workshop schedule, and my hopes are this may.. (may) help get a few people to my site. I don’t worry too much about stolen images, as I link the smaller pinned images to my overall “travel” site, not to a hires version of the images.

    Not sure it will make a big impact on my success, but since my target clients are travel & photography enthusiast…. Not pros, I don’t see a big downside. As I say, just getting started, but my main board can be found here: http://pinterest.com/gene8696/gene-inman-photography-travel/

  60. Emma at 4:45 pm

    I have booked my third wedding in a month from a toup of images that someone had pinned of mine on pinterest. So no advertising on my part but over $10000 in sales before it comes to the albums. I think I will be sticking with pinterest….

  61. Lisa at 6:55 pm

    Facebook could also have been dismissed in 2005-2006 when it was targeted to college students. I’ve pinned my own photos to Pinterest (links from my site) to draw people to my website. What about all the Photography boards and commercially successful photographers using Pinterest as another avenue of increasing audience to their work? It may not replace the social media and marketing that Photoshelter teaches, but why not include it? All this argument to not provide a Pin It button for the Share options – but Google + and LinkedIn were added.

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  64. Mitch Labuda at 5:44 pm

    What of the TOS and members owning content that they share and upload?

    Attribution gets lost, google images is the owner of content? It sure says on Pinterest.

    And what of the embed code that allows content to be modified, sizes and then shared?

    Other social media sites copy and share with no modifications and attribution.

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  66. alexandra at 5:32 pm

    I haven’t read through all the comments, so I apologize if someone has already said this. I’m a writer and a photographer. I write a lot about social media netiquette. I also happen to have my photo site hosted by PhotoShelter.

    I agree with much of what Allen says about what photographers have the potentialto gain on Pinterest, but I’d also like to thank PhotoShelter for creating a platform where my images aren’t easy for people to lift. Pre-Pinterest I appreciated it, and I still do.

  67. Todd at 3:18 pm

    I don’t understand what all of the big controversy is over Pinterest. It’s just another social bookmarking site… similar to any other image search engine, even google image search – something that takes a thumbnail of your image in order to bookmark the page that the content is on. If you heavily watermark all of your photos, and don’t post high-res, then it’s not a problem. If you want to be super safe, only pin or repin things you own the rights to.

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  72. Brian at 8:39 pm

    to me it’s a hot new social network, it’s visually based. It’s fun for me, I like food and places part anyway, like to expose myself to new fashions and have found a lot of photo inspiration there. If some business comes about great! http://pinterest.com/newwebtalk/ is my board over there! 🙂

  73. Donna Nettis at 7:11 am

    The reason I am so hooked [addicted] on Pinterest is that I can’t get enough of all the great photography on there. There are a lot of artists and designers who use if for inspiration, not just people into crafts and recipes, and they use it to fulfill their visual and intellectual cravings for great images. Besides code to not allow pinning of your work, there seems to now be code to automatically insert your name in the description. Someone can just as easily take one of your images off your website as they can off Pinterest. I say you may as well allow your work to get out there. I have discovered so many artists and photographers on Pinterest that I didn’t even know about before.

  74. Dara at 11:53 am

    Nice post, but I heartily DISagree. Pinterest is for photographers because it helps build awareness, buzz, and ability to connect with “like” minded people. I believe sales will be generated due to the sheer volume of possible views and repins. Pinterest certainly should not be a photographer’s ONLY marketing tool, but it should be included in the priorities. And….it’s free.

  75. Scott at 10:21 am

    I agree that Pinterest is not a great place to directly attempt to market your work. I do think it’s a great way to help your existing clients with their marketing and branding efforts and for them to see that you are clued in to current trends. Take a close look at Pinterest as it relates to your client base and find ways that you might suggest new brand specific images for your clients that will generate interest on Pinterest. We are all in the business of supplying compelling images to our clients and Pinterest is just another great way to help our clients stand out and reach their audience.

  76. Esther Beaton at 10:51 pm

    A refreshing article. I loved it Allen. You really helped me slide off the fence onto the “no thanks” side. But I’ll keep my eyes on Pinterest because it will be changing in the near future, I’m sure. The reason it will change is because it is a phenomenal resource for referral-based marketing.

    I’d like to point out that “service-based industry” is probably not the best term in this case. Wedding photographers are service industries yet Pinterest is perfect for reaching their type of customers.

    But you’re right about the target market. Those who need to find editors and other photobuyers are not going to reach them via Pinterest – yet. This is the business-to-business (B-to-B) photographer who wants to reach only a few highly specialized individuals who buy repeatedly. For the time being, Pinterest is best for the B-to-C (business-to-consumer) photographer who is reaching for a very broad market of occasional, irregular consumers.

    But people are smart. Facebook was a social chat site but look at all the business conducted on it now. People will figure out ways to make Pinterest work for their service-based, highly targeted prospective buyers.

  77. Michael at 4:15 am

    From a fairly new photographer’s perspective: Pinterest? What? Are you kidding me? Social media is FB & Twitter to me, since that’s where all the eyes are. G+ for interacting with other photographers. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Pinterest a phenomenon? I actually don’t get how you guys have any time at all for photography, or a walk, if you are looking at & using all this online content. Don’t your eyes start to hurt? Doesn’t your butt hurt? Don’t you get fat? C’mon, give me a break. I need to shoot shoot shoot or I’ll start hating this in a month. Allen is right, why waste time on something with nil for true marketing potential, currently of course (the only timeframe that counts). Why would you waste a bunch of time on something that MIGHT turn into something real?

    Maybe if I was a Jasmine Starr for whom pinterest is a natural add-on to her “brand”, and who has the entire day to blog & whatnot. But for the great majority of photographers? Allen is 100% correct, no caveats. And last (semi-relevant) rant: Call me what you want (I’m not actually that old) but I think it is truly bizarre watching an army of zombies (seemingly formed overnight) walking around staring at a little device in their hands. For me, that is far from creative, much more like a machine in fact. I’m sorry, I won’t be joining the exodus from humanity.

  78. Brian at 12:21 am

    Didn’t read all 100 comments so I don’t know if it’s been covered. I think it’s worth noting that many successful photographers make up a substantial percentage of their profit from hosting workshops, mentoring and speaking engagements, product endorsement, etc. I believe that Pinterest may be a wise time investment, especially for women entrepreneurs, who wish to gain notoriety and prominence in their industry. It’s sort of an accreditation… Like a modern day PPA certification. Plus, it’s helpful to compare the images of other admired photographers to get a sense of where the bar is set for your work. I found many great photographers on StumbleUpon (like Pinterest, but more gender neutral) whom I have invested in their products/workshops/advice/etc. Just wanted to throw that out there for some accomplished photographers who are trying this approach.

  79. TNC Photo at 3:19 pm

    I’m still undecided on Pinterest, but I do know this, some of the photos on there are amazing and inspirational. I’m sort of honored to have a few of my photos on that site. I also feel that I’ve got to be willing to sacrifice potential sales due to people just grabbing the photos any time they choose. I’m just going to have to wait and see how this all turns out.

  80. Alistair Cotton at 9:47 pm

    Don’t know if this has been mentioned yet . . . but the main reason why all photographer’s should participate in social networking sites has little to do with winning clients from the site per se – but everything to do with search engine optimisation of their own website.

    Website SEO optimisation is not an exact science – but one thing is pretty clear – having backlinks from related websites is critical. So, Google trundles along to this site, sees this blog post and finds a backlink from my profile to my Durban Photographer site. That’s a backlink from a site with a PR6 page rank with a subject very much related to photography.

    Similarly, I’d expect backlinks from a site like Pintrest – which is photography related – back to your own website to be valuable. I have no idea how valuable from an SEO perspecive. That’s why it’s inaccurate to look at a site purely a sites from a taditional media perspective (LSM etc). Is it important to be on Pintrest – if you have a website, absolutely.

  81. Theresa Rezler at 8:18 am

    I use Pintrest all the time and as a photographer I don’t like my pictures stolen or copied so I watermark them just like I do on facebook or any other social site. I use Pintrest for getting ideas like poses, photography tips and more. There are quite a few of photographers on Pintrest and they all share ideas, and not only that but it brings more followers to your sites.

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  83. Donna at 9:03 pm

    Pinterest is way more than jello recipes and crafts. I’m an illustrator who also loves photography and there is an unbelievable amount of really great art and photography if you find the right boards. I don’t know the purpose except that as a visual person, I could look at images all day, and I am always finding new artists and photographers I didn’t know about. For an idea of what’s there you can check my photography boards: http://pinterest.com/dnettis/

    Copyright infringement is a problem but it’s not limited to Pinterest alone. I don’t think it’s any greater danger than someone being able to pick up an image off your website. Even if you have that imbedded thing preventing people from copying an image on your website, all someone has to do is take a screenshot. To me, the big problem is that a lot of people don’t care about crediting the artist or photographer whose image they’re posting. Then your work is out there hopefully being re-pinned, but without your name. But there seems to be something now where you can have your information, like your name and anything else you want, already included in the description when someone pins one of your images.

  84. Nikolay at 12:39 pm

    It’s funny today I registered with Pinterest as I thought that it may be of any use for the business. But after reading your post I don’t plan to spend much of my times on another social media.
    Thanks for the info.

  85. Andrew Prokos Photography at 6:56 pm

    I joined Pinterest and have had my images pinned and repinned over 10,000 times now. How hard is it to pin images to boards? It drives good traffic to my site and I have read that Pinterest users more than any other social media site actually end up buying things that they find pinned. I also use my boards to organize images of places and things I want to shoot, so it’s useful in that way.

  86. hilary at 8:44 pm

    I have had heaps of issues with pinterest recently with their puritanical terms on nudity. As an artist and a photographer. Pinterest keeps removing pins of mine that have nudity and contravene their terms. I see HEAPS of nudity of their site, some much more ‘graphic’ than anything i pin, so why are they targetting me?? The nude human form has been painted, drawn, sculpted since the dawn of time and NOW they think its something that should be censored!?? WTF!!

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  89. andrea at 11:01 pm

    Was searchingon this exact topic, and so glad I found it. Was getting a lot of pressure from friends who aren’t photographers to put my photos up there.

    Now I can save myself the time. Thanks for the help !

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