Pinterest Pitfalls

Last time I shared some information about the latest in the PLA/RLA/LLA saga. Today, I want to send out a few thoughts about Pinterest. Here’s where this came from:

A project I worked on at a previous employer won an award. I saw photos of this project pop up on, which was a bit of a thrill, but it also raised some questions. You see, that employer and I have an agreement that I will not put images of work from that firm up on the (publicly accessible) internet due to the larger privacy issue with individual clients and their homes. I am, of course, free to include images in my printed portfolio (which is not publicly accessible) as a representation of my professional experience while under the employ of that Landscape Architecture firm.

So what does one do when this happens, I wondered. Total strangers can pin “my” project, why shouldn’t I? Should I make a board of awarded projects, and start re-pinning like mad? Is Pinterest another portfolio-type opportunity? Maybe Pinterest is a job searching outlet?

I decided not to use it for self-promotion, and I’ll tell you why:

First off, there are some grumblings about Pinterest’s User Terms, and this post makes a completely valid point. I’ve extrapolated the issue to this situation: suppose I work on a garden for Mr. and Mrs. Client while working at Employer Landscape Architecture. That garden is photographed (with the client’s permission) and earns an award.

Mr. and Mrs. Client gave Employer permission to photograph the project and submit it for the award. Nobody gave me permission to take credit for the work (especially in any capacity outside my role as an employee of Employer’s firm). The Photographer may be willing to sell me the rights to use the photos that Photographer took, and will ask me to sign an agreement stipulating how I may use those photos, but unless I have permission from Employer and the Client as well, I should not risk it.

  1. The work and the award belong to the Employer (I’m gonna list it in my portfolio!)
  2. The property belongs to the Client.
  3. The images belong to the Photographer.

I enjoy Pinterest, I really do, and I am sticking to using it for exactly what it is; a gathering of visual inspiration that I can share with friends and clients. Pinterest is a fun place to go to look for portfolio inspiration as well as pretty pictures of gardens, shoes, and food. I strongly recommend avoiding using it as a portfolio opportunity for work you did at a design firm unless you have the permission of the Client, Employer, and Photographer.

Here’s a primer on using Pinterest: What it is and check out #3 on the Pinterest ettiquette.

So, the question remains – to pin or not to pin? What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

UPDATE: after writing this post, Pinterest sent an announcement about their updated terms of service.

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