Don’t Be Rude. Create or Credit, Dude.


It’s a familiar scene. It’s your mom’s birthday and you’ve planned everything, from top to bottom. You cooked her favorite dinner, you arranged the decorations just so, and you picked up the purple silk scarf she was eyeing at the mall last month. You’re actually surprised at how smoothly everything’s coming together.

And then your sister walks in.

She’s got one hand reaching for into her purse which can only mean one thing: she’s going to ask to split the birthday with you.

“I didn’t have time to pick up a present, but here — let me give you some money and we can throw this party together!”

You stand there, teeth clenched, thinking back to that self-help book you read once, and wondering if this pulsating rage actually qualifies as the “small stuff” that you shouldn’t sweat.

But you can’t help it — YOU planned the meal. YOU spent hours DIYing the decorations. YOU were thoughtful enough to remember the scarf.

And selfish or not, YOU want the credit for it.

Ever been there?

The credit problem on social

In our digital culture, not giving credit where credit is due is a huge epidemic. Of the images I see in my social media feeds, only one in about — ohhhh I don’t know, a jillion? — credits the original creator. It’s become commonplace to right click, save, and upload the image as your own, without a second thought to the person who slaved away to create it.

And hey, I’ll admit it, I’ve done it myself. We all have. But I feel like I did after watching Food Inc. for the first time. My eyes have been opened and I’m ashamed of my wrongdoings and I just want everyone to know the truth, man!

You see, I recently stumbled across the #createorcredit movement while clicking through the creative wormhole that is Instagram.

It’s a brilliant philosophy rooted in one very simple idea: either create your own original content, or credit the person who did.

How non-crediting hurts creators

When your sister swoops in and steals your thoughtfulness, it feels awful. Like frustration mixed with anger mixed with indignance. Posting someone else’s image without crediting them feels the same way for creators.

Graphic designers, photographers, stylists, calligraphers, typographers, creators invest a lot in the images they produce. They use their specialized skills, their creative gifts, their physical and digital resources…not to mention their precious time to create a piece of content.

They deserve to be acknowledged for all that work. Every like and comment should be connected to their name. But when you share their content without crediting them, you take away any chance of that acknowledgment.

And that’s just not right.


How non-crediting hurts your audience

When we don’t see credit, we generally assume that the sharer is the creator of a work.

Being honest and authentic is Rule #1 in building a genuine connection with your audience. So if you haven’t created your content, you need to be upfront about it.

This is especially true if you’re posting something industry-related. If you’re a health coach sharing a gorgeous vegan dish you order at a restaurant // if you’re a graphic designer posting a cool illustration // if you’re a photographer sharing a beautiful shot, you need to credit if you didn’t create it.

If not, your audience will likely think that you created the masterpiece that you’re sharing. And maybe that’s what you want them to think because it makes you look good. I get it. Your cashew mozzarella never comes out this melty and perfect! But deep down, you know that I’m right and that the honest thing to do is be upfront about it. Otherwise you’re not being transparent with your audience.

Easy ways to credit

Okay, guilt trip over. Now that you understand why crediting is so important, how do you actually do it? Luckily, it’s super easy. Here are a few quick ways to keep your social profiles kosher:

Facebook & Twitter

– Link to the website where the original content is found, or
– Tag the creator in your post, or
– Edit the image to include the creator’s name


– Use the ‘Pin from a Website’ option and link to the original website, or
– Pin using the Pinterest browser button to link to the original source


– Tag the creator in your caption (I’m partial to the ol’ camera emoji + colon + @creatorname option), or
– Edit the image to include the creator’s name and/or Instagram handle

Your website

– Link the image to the original source, and
– Include copy like “Image source:_____” underneath the image, linking to the original website


But like, what if I don’t know the creator?

The beauty of the internet is that content spreads like wildfire. Unfortunately, that’s also the big problem when it comes to finding the original creator of content.

Here are a few ways to track down a creator:

Follow down the rabbit hole

If someone has regrammed, repinned, retweeted, or shared, follow the path to find where it started. Click your way backward through those links and tags and accounts to see if you can discover the original creator.


If someone shares an image without crediting anyone, comment and ask if they created it or if they know who did. You can say something like “Love this image! I’d love to share it and give credit — did you create it?”

Use free (or very affordable!) images

There are tons of image-sharing sites out there that don’t require payment or credit. So make them the first place you look for images. Some of my favorites are Pixabay, Morguefile, and Unsplash. (You may recognize this very blog graphic if you go digging!) If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, give DepositPhotos a look. It’s my go-to paid stock photo website and their prices are very affordable.

Reverse-image search

Betcha didn’t even know Google had this handy little capability, huh?

1. Go to Google images.
2. Click the little camera icon.
3. Type the image url or upload the image directly.
4. Browse through the links until you find the original source. is another great website to help with reverse image searching. I’ve found some images on Tineye but not Google, and the other way around. So they’re both worth a look!

As a (very) rough rule of thumb, the larger the image, the more likely it is to be an original. It’s hard to increase the size of an image without it getting grainy or pixelated. So if there are a ton of responses, start by weeding out the tiny files.

Follow creators

One of the best way to find great images to share is to follow creators directly. Gather your own list of amazing artists, photographers, graphic designers, stylists, etc. who share their own original pieces or credit others.

Following quality accounts is like shopping at the farmer’s market. You know you’re getting fresh content right from the source, without having to read through every single label looking for sketchy ingredients.


Be honest

There will be times when despite your best efforts, you can’t find the creator but you still really want to share.

If social media experts were watching me give you advice right now, I’d say you shouldn’t share it. Because if you want to get black and white with it, you probably shouldn’t.

But. Let’s be honest, I know you’re going to share it anyway. So I’ll just say this: go the classy route and cop up to it. An honest comment saying something like “anyone know this image’s creator? I can’t find the original but I’ll happily give them credit” goes a long way.

When in doubt, don’t be a d*ckhead

Creative credit is an extremely gray topic with very few clear boundaries. Nobody’s perfect and the internet can make it very confusing and difficult to find original sources.

So just do your best.

In 7th grade, a kid in my study hall ran for vice president under the slogan “Don’t be a d*ckhead. Vote for Kevin.” (What can I say? I went to public school in New Jersey.)

It’s a little crude, but I so love that line. There’s such beauty in the simplicity of it. It’s got all the meaning of “come on man. It’s pretty obvious what you have to do here and you’re kind of a jerk if you don’t. So just do it, wouldja?” in seven little words. Don’t be a d*ckhead. Vote for Kevin.

So when it comes to crediting, all I’ve got to say (lovingly, of course) is:

Don’t be a d*ckhead. Create or credit. 🙂

over to you

What are your thoughts on #createorcredit?
Is there ever an instance where it’s okay not to credit?
What about copy?
What about ideas — at what point does someone else’s idea become yours?

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© Whitney Ryan LLC

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