One of the things I recommend that brides ask bakers they interview is whether the pictures in their portfolios are actually cakes that they've made or not. People who aren't in business for themselves probably don't think about it too much, but the unauthorized "borrowing" of other bakers' photos is pretty common.
I had put off watermarking my photos, thinking that it wasn't a big deal, until a customer brought me a picture from my website to show me during a consultation. It was printed on glossy photo paper, and I realized how easy it would be for another baker to do the same thing and use my photos in their portfolios. I bought a watermarking program and spent a few hours switching out the pictures on my site. People still print out the pictures, but when they bring them to me they have a nice big http://www.acaketoremember.com/ watermark on them.
It isn't just cakes, either. I've heard from professional photographers who said that they've had people tell them that they printed photos off of their sites to give to their friends. Not only is that just plain rude, it's also a federal copyright violation.
The openness of the internet gives people the feeling that everything should be free and available to them for any reason they want it, but that's just wrong. I find it interesting that many people say that you should just ignore that kind of thing until it happens to them, then their attitude changes. One wedding forum that I read has banned discussion of stolen photographs because it gets everyone so angry, they start to bombard the offender with nasty emails.
I've seen websites that have photographs of cakes from books in their galleries, with no mention of the fact that the baker didn't do the work. I've also had people take watermarked pictures off of my website (which just proves that nothing is foolproof) and put them on their websites in their cake galleries. Some websites are so well-known for doing this, bakers will check them periodically to make sure that none of their photos have been stolen.
Claiming that you did the work in a photo that isn't yours isn't just unethical, it's false advertising and often gives brides the impression that you can do work that's better than what you can actually produce. Many people try to get around this by posting somewhere on the site that the photos aren't all cakes that they've made, and that they're included for "inspiration" or to show what can be done. The problem with that is, how do you know it can be done? If a decorator can't show you a photo of a cake they've made in that style, you might end up with something off of Cakewrecks in the "what they ordered/ what they got" category, like these: http://bit.ly/7jMfaL
So if you're a bride, make sure to ask. If you get any kind of answer that feels slightly weird to you, you might want to take a closer look at that baker's work. If there's a wide variety in the quality of the photos, or if some of the cakes look markedly better than others, it's possible that the photos were taken from other bakers. If you're still not sure, make sure to ask around for references from people you know, or from your other vendors. If a baker has a huge portfolio of beautiful cakes, but nobody in town has heard of them, something might not be adding up.
If you're a baker who has other peoples' pictures on your website or in your portfolio, there's no excuse for that. Just go take them off, and stop claiming that someone else's work is your own.
Next in the series coming soon: Designs
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.biz and http://www.acaketoremember.etsy.com/