You have taken a great image. You want people to see this image, but you don’t want it stolen. Most people jump straight to the idea of watermarking an image. This is a fairly simple process with not much Photoshop know how needed and in fact watermarking is an old process dating back to the times of film. There has even been an app created for the IPhone market called “Marksta”. Are there other options available to protect your image and what is the best? Ideflex from Across the Board asked me a similar question so this is also for you.
I can understand people wanting to protect their work on line but in the end there is no way 100% to do this. There are ways to make your image more secure and harder to be stolen and used elsewhere.
Read Your Terms of Service
It is a long standing joke that people don’t read the agreements and terms of service for digital products and websites. This joke was reversed with the recent Instagram furore. Read the terms of service or licence agreement carefully fo anything that seems strange. There have been many people who have unwittingly given their images away. Make sure that the ownership of the image stays with you. This includes completions as well. Most of the big competitions will say that you own the rights to the image and they can use the image in conjunction with the competition. This could mean they may use your image in two or even three years time to advertise or promote the competition again. Other competitions are design solely to farm images, with a low but reasonable prize they make the money back selling your images
Some photo sharing sites will say that the you grant them a royalty free license to use the image how they want while others will say that the images are wholly yours and will not sell them. On flikr I know that you can set the level to which you want to share an image with a lot of opt ins and opt outs.
No Right clicking
There are a few ways that you can create a no right clicking solution. One simple solution for a photographer’s website is to add this piece of code into your website. <body oncontextmenu=”return false;”>
This is a good idea but some web browsers will ignore the code.
If you are a WordPress.org user (not the free version) there is a plug-in designed to help people protect their images.
Both of these solutions will stop a person from right clicking and then saving your image.
Embed the image in a flash file
If you are a user of Adobe Flash you could embed your image in a flash file meaning that the file cannot be saved as an image file. This also means that people cannot search for the image using Google image search as well.
Water marking is fairly simple and as a photographer you can brand your images. It is no longer static text across your image, the use of a logo as well as a nice font can be used. You can make the watermark work with you image by placing it somewhere unobtrusive, where it will not detract from the image. If you add a watermark on the edge of your image or even create a boarder for your watermark to be placed in then it can be easily cropped out.
Personally I don’t like watermarks. They are for me a distraction from the image itself. If I am looking at an image, I don’t want my eye to be drawn to a nice piece of calligraphy. Some people though do add water marks with style I will admit that, but for me they don’t work with the image.
Water marks can be removed with some effort, but they can be removed. I would say that watermarks are a good deterrent for people who may want to take your image.
Adding metadata to an image can help to protect it as well as make it searchable on the web. Metadata is also a great tool for you. When your library of images becomes too big just to wiz through and look for a certain picture, you can search for specific parameters using keywords e.g. Africa, Sunset.
Metadata is part of the image but beware. When an image is uploaded to a sharing site or if you save to web in Photoshop, the metadata can be stripped from the image. It is stripped to make the file smaller and quicker load on the site. So in adding all that metadata you lose it when you share it.
What is best?
Personally I am not sure what is best. I do add Metadata to my images but this is slightly futile, then again it is more for me. I don’t watermark my images because I am aesthetically against it. Maybe I am naive but I want to share my images and for me this is one of the reasons I like photography. I get a double gratification, first I feel good when I make an image and then I feel good when people like my pictures.
Should I protect my images more? Yes I should. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flikr not to mention my blog. I do make sure I have scaled down my images so they can’t be printed at a higher resolution without pixelization. I also use whatever options I can, when I am sharing an image. At the moment I want my images shared. In sharing my images I have to have a tiny bit of trust.
People can always steal an image by taking a screen shot and removing a watermark by using such Photoshop tools as, content aware fill.
My final words are this; if a “thief” wants to steal your image he/she (in the words of Dr Ian Malcom) they will find a way.