PHOTOS AND BOATING – Are you infringing on someone’s copyright without knowing it? By Angela Greenwell of THE UNBORED LIFE

{EDITOR: I first had the pleasure of speaking with Angela after announcing our latest contest at Dirt Bag Paddlers, a photo and video contest of the week-long Ain’t Louie Fest boating (the contest itself, with a prize package of stickers from DBP and our friends from around the paddling community, wraps up Tuesday). One of her images from Baby Falls on the Tellico River, one of the most photographed places in the Southeast, had been entered by the boater in the picture. This shot was one of the best Wallaces we’ve seen, and the paddler is a friend, so like we frequently do we scooped up the shot (shown below), edited in a funny WALLACE cartoon print, and made it our temporary cover photo on the Dirt Bag Paddlers Facebook page (we cycle through two or three images each week). 

Angela noticed this “borrow” the next day, politely asking about the picture, “Your cover picture may be actually mine.  Take a look at The Unbored Life… Seems exact to me. Could you look into it? I just want to be credited for my pics.  That’s all. And I’m annoyed someone would share them in a contest without asking. You’re welcome to use it. If you could give credit to me and The Unbored Life, that would be great. Thanks again.”
Well. I’d never thought of it in quite this way. In fact, I learned from Angela that some of the suppositions I and other boaters have about photography and rights were wrong. The education was enlightening, and Dirt Bag Paddlers made the appropriate fix and made a super cool friend to boot! We asked, and Angela was so kind as to write this article on the proper etiquette for both paddlers and photographers. Enjoy this mARTch feature, and remember to respect our artists and their work. Cheers!}

Did you know that when a photographer takes a picture of a boater, they exclusively own the image and copyright under the  Federal Copyright Act of 1976?  This means that the picture can not be copied, printed, scanned or shared without their prior permission. It is easy to assume that if you are a boater in the picture that you own it too.  This is not the case, unless the picture is a portrait of you.  If the picture is editorial, meaning that the image tells a story, such as a boater paddling a rapid, then the boater has no legal rights to the picture.  As most whitewater images are action sport photography shot candidly, they fall under editorial and not portrait.  What does this mean for dirtbags who love sharing shots of themselves?  Here is my take on how to keep both the photographer and boater happy when it comes to our whitewater world.
For boaters
Realize first that good photography is hard.  Although everyone has a camera these days and everyone is a photographer, it takes countless hours of shooting, culling, and editing to produce great images.  Just as you invest most weekends and your own skin to be a better boater, a photographer invests money, time, and energy to perfect their camera skills and art.
Next, let’s all admit that we are narcissistic!  You love having pictures of you.  Photographers love having their efforts recognized.  It’s a perfect match.  So when you want to use or share a picture, tell the photographer “Great shot,” like their image, and then ask permission.  If they say yes, please make sure you give them credit every time you use the image.  If they say no, then the answer is no because the image is theirs.
With regards to prints, I beg you, do not print images directly from the web.  Nothing is more heartbreaking for a photographer than to come across a crappy, low-res, off-color reproduction of your work on cheap drugstore paper.  At best, the people who will see it will be indifferent, at worse, you are damaging the photographers reputation.  This is where you need to do things right.  Ask the photographer for permission to print the image using a hi-res file that is edited for printing, then ask their advice on how to get a great print.  They may tell you no, ask you to buy a print from them directly, or charge you for the digital file.  If you like the image well enough to print it, do it right, and if need be, pay for it.  
One last note for the boaters: If a photographer doesn’t watermark their images, it doesn’t mean they don’t want credit.  It may just means that they think a watermark detracts from the image itself.  It isn’t a valid excuse.  There is never a reason to not ask permission and not credit an image each and every time you use it.   

For photographers
When you are shooting personal work, although it is legal to take any editorial picture on public property without giving credit or obtaining a model release, no boaters equals no boating photography.  You need them and they need you.  Where possible, try to give your athletes credit.  I would suggest this as especially important when your photograph is recognized by another organization, is entered into a contest or is printed in an article.  If the boater asks to use the image or would like a copy, give it to them.  They are your biggest fans so why not?  We all want to make money from our work but personal work is personal work.  No one tells you what to shoot.  No one pays you either.  On the flip side, if a boater doesn’t like a shot of them, take it down.  You don’t need a reason.  Just do it.
As a reminder, when you are on a paid assignment that will be used in an advertisement rather than an editorial piece, as a professional photographer you should know the deal.  Athletes need to sign a release and they should also benefit from the work.  If an image from your personal work is later used for an advertisement, same deal.  Get permission and compensate your athletes.
I hope this helps everyone on how to tread the copyright waters with ease.  For more information about copyright for photographs, you can read the following:
If you would like to learn more about me and my whitewater photography, you can find me on: 
Instagram (
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on the web at 

{ EDITOR: Angela also forwarded these awesome shots from the OUT race last weekend. We asked her to tell us about shooting at one of the most colorful spots in American boating, where the Wallaces come fast and furious, and the race happens spontaneously. }
I arrived at Ain’t Louie Fest (ALF) with no idea on what to expect.  The brief memo I had was “Canoes racing Tellico,” and that was it.  I loved the element of surprise.  Even with no details, I could tell there was something special about ALF, and everyone was excited.  I wondered,  is ALF like the Green race for canoes?  Hmmm… sort of.  In a canoe kind-of-way.

My photography style as of late is tight closeups.  It is such a challenge to track a boater with a tight zoom trying not to chop off their head while keeping the image sharp.  But when you do, it is awesome!  I opted to stand in line with Baby falls, having a good view of the approach, the eddy and the falls itself.  Although I had all three cameras out and firing, my preference was a 70-200mm zoom, shooting at 10 fps and 1/1000 sec.
Trey was kind enough to join me on the tiny ledge, shooting the exact opposite style with a fisheye lens.  He was a great wingman.  We talked photo geek for a while, then he gave me an insider’s view on what canoe boating is all about.  During the action he was my second pair of eyes, calling out approaching boaters so neither of us missed a shot.  Much appreciated, Trey!
From the moment that the first safety boaters arrived, there was a show going on.  I’m not one for glorifying carnage, a bit afraid of being the show myself, but you could not get away from it.  The day consisted of divorced boats and boaters running the falls, costumes, enders, minor beatdowns, missed eddies and a whole lot of smiles and fun.  The Boof Sisters had a great Spice Girl theme going on, and the party in the eddy below Baby, with as many people in the water as in their boats, seemed like as good of a time as it gets.  Swimming just seemed like a thing you do when you canoe, or at least when you race at ALF.

Read the rest of Angela’s account along with more of her epic shots!

0 replies on “PHOTOS AND BOATING – Are you infringing on someone’s copyright without knowing it? By Angela Greenwell of THE UNBORED LIFE”

Thanks for the images you made of me. I'm almost always on the other side of the camera — you made and posted more images of me on one run of one drop than the sum total of all the other images I know about! And thanks to for this post. I've seen uncredited versions of my images pop up all over the place, including on the website of a well known national magazine. This despite the fact that I always post them with the request that re-posters ask my permission first and that if they want to print the images to request a high resolution version. I've never turned anyone down . . .

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