Is That My Picture? What to do if your Instagram Pictures get Stolen

We’ve all been there at least once – scrolling through Instagram when you spot a familiar looking picture.

Have I been here? Yes I have! Actually, I took a picture just like this. Wait a second, this is my picture!

Or maybe someone tags you in a picture, crediting your photography, that they’ve posted on their Instagram. Only it feels a bit off because at no point did they ask if you minded.

Of course, what could be seen as the most sincere form of flattery is often a little annoying, especially if that picture is stolen by a bigger account that doesn’t direct much traffic to your account, whether they credit you or otherwise. Especially when your Instagram represents a blog or brand.

When it happened to me recently, I was angered because it was by an account with over 17k followers, run on stolen photos. Clearly they’d never been caught out before (a few people were even thanking them for the feature), and they ignored me when I stated the facts and sent them a private message letting them know the law. The whole concept was so unethical – why gain followers using genuine, hard created content when you gain followers using ripped off content from other users? Me and my small follower count were pretty unimpressed!

So what can you do? It’s been spinning around the internet for years that once you upload a picture to Instagram it belongs there now. Instagram owns the photo, the rights and anyone who wants to use it very well can. But that’s not true and I’m going to tell you why.

When take a photo, you are instantly awarded the copyright of it, and that lasts for 200 years. It doesn’t matter if you post it on a public forum where people can see it – the rights of use are yours and yours alone. It’s the same as displaying a physical copy of your work in a gallery – just because people can see it doesn’t mean they can take it off the wall and walk off with it. That’s theft, and so is screenshotting someone else’s photo to use for yourself. And once the original photo is up on Instagram, you still own it and retain all rights. Anyone that uses it without permission is breaking the law.

Sadly, with popular social media sites like Pinterest and Tumblr, where reposting (admittedly fully sourced photos) is key to success, many people who use social media for fun don’t know this isn’t the case in all forms of social media. So, what do you do when you see your photos on someone elses Instagram feed?

First off, contact them. Politely tell them that using that photo without your permission is actually breaking the law. The majority of culprits are people that don’t know they’ve done anything wrong, and will likely take it down, apologizing and grateful for the information. It’s also worth noting that breaking copyright laws is against Instagram’s terms of use, and most users won’t want to be reported! In the case they are rude, or don’t want to take it down, or just flat out ignore you, there are other options to continue on with. But make sure you contact them first! Chances are they don’t know they’ve done anything wrong!

The Official Route

This is for use if you want swift action, and is best used in the case of ignorance, or if the offending party doesn’t have any available contact details, as really you have no other choice. Screenshot your photo in it’s original post, including the time-stamp, and then screenshot the copied image, again including the time stamp. Then click here to report the copyright infringement. You’ll need to provide the links to the offending post (using the three dots over the post). Please note that this form is time consuming, and the guilty party will not get their account removed. They will also be provided with your contact details if Instagram favours your argument, in case they want to dispute the claim. If Instagram believes your copyright has been infringed, the offending photo will be removed from the thief’s profile. They will also be given an official warning. However, if they have ignored your request to have the post taken down, or been rude about it, chances are they know they’ve done wrong. When I’ve gone down this route, I’ve never heard anything again. And it does have an end goal of seeing the stolen photo removed.

After this, block the thief so they can’t access your profile and use your photos again.

The Monetary Route

If a brand uses your photo without permission (it happens!), or a rude party insists on keeping the content on their site, or a more polite party wants to keep using your photo, create an invoice and send it to them. The amount should cover the damages done, time spent on the profile unchecked, and a fee for continued use. I’m no lawyer, or accountant, so I can’t give you full details on how to do this. But if the offending party doesn’t take down the content at once, you can make a little money on the side!

Avoiding Photo Theft

There’s no concrete way to avoid having your photos stolen, but there are a few things you can do to limit the damage:

  • Water mark your photos – Not a complete stop, but does offer an extra cropping stage if someone feels the need to post your photo. This may discourage people from stealing it.
  • Keep your account private – Not ideal if your Instagram is for a brand or a blog, but the only sure fire way to stop your pictures being stolen by strangers.
  • Put a note somewhere – either in your bio or on every picture, make a little note telling people to ask before your using your photos. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but does give you more to stand on when someone claims your posts are public and therefore free.

But at the end of the day, the photos you post on your Instagram are yours, and no amount of rude, ignorant behaviour is going to stop that!

Have you ever had an Instagram post stolen? How did you handle it?

Rachel xxx

Follow me!

Facebook: @WordofRachel

Twitter: @WordofRachel14

Instagram: @wordofrachel

Bloglovin’: @wordofrachel



  1. September 5, 2017 / 9:05 am

    I still can’t believe this happened. Espcailly a picture of this gorge little pup.
    This post is great! I wouldn’t know what to do if some one stole my images. So this has been such a great read!
    Em xxx

  2. September 13, 2017 / 9:17 pm

    Some people on Instagram just don’t care… And it’s scary! I’m glad Instagram are really quick at taking pics down when reported.

    I’ve never had pics stolen, but someone I know had her photo of her shoes taken by a well-known brand and used in their advertising. The worst bit was that the shoes weren’t even the brand’s but they pretended they were! She sent them an invoice and they refused to pay. So rude!

    • September 13, 2017 / 9:20 pm

      It’s ridiculous, isn’t it! I’m amazed at how many brands seem to think Instagram photos are free advertising, but one stealing your friend’s photo to pass off as their own is the worst I’ve heard, especially seeing as it wasn’t even their product! I’ve had a brand refuse to pay as well and it’s so annoying!

Anything to add? Leave a comment here!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: