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.
10 thoughts on “Is Your Photo Ever Safe Online?”
I hear you…and I agree…I’m a real beginner at photography & posting online and when I first began posting my photos in October I didn’t us a watermark…I knew anyone who understood a program like Photoshop could find a way to remove the watermark…but once I began working with PhotoScape I found I could do a watermark very simply…so I did…I don’t think it will protect me, I do it because I can. as you mentioned, we have to have some trust in fellow man…
Thank you Heather,
we do need some trust in our fellow man, but as i have seen recently in the news; media organizations taking images from social media claiming they are fair game, it does make me think twice about my own stance.
really? I didn’t see that, I will read your latest post on copyright…it says a great deal about the people running those particular media corporations…obviously they’ve lost their sense of respect for others…you know I think sometimes I’m too trusting…people often disappoint me in their actions! may I ask how small do you make your photos when you publish…I generally begin with 600 and they the software fits the rest…I hate to go to small, as I find the larger the nicer it looks???
When i resize my image the first thing i do is sample down the the image to 72ppi from 240ppi and then resize the image to 500px on the longest side. I then save the image for web.
This gives a rough print size of a standard 5 by 6 inch photograph. If the image is enlarges even by 150% it becomes pixelated. The post about the media organizations taking images was written today and can be found here https://aperture64.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/judge-rules-on-infringement-while-getty-hands-over-images-to-google/
Great post that covered alot of bases – though I already fill in the metadata I will be looking through WP.com for a plug-in – should be something seeing I’m paying a yearly fee! It is so true about people finding a way to appropriate one’s work if they really want it – I leave it up to photographic karma to get them back!
Nicely written and agreed it is a slippery slope. I’m of a like mindset to you in that if someone is going to steal it they are going to steal it – there will always be ways. I’m of the mindset that if someone steals one of my pictures and shares it as there own then that is something in them that no disclaimer was going to prevent – more of a character flaw in them personally.
Alternatively, I don’t worry about someone stealing my work – my hope is that they become a regular blog reader and may visit back from time to time. When I created an image I did so with the thought that they would be viewed and shared and while I do hope for ‘credit’ I think eventually someone else that has been in contact with the thief will stumble upon my humble blog see that it was mine originally and become a regular reader themselves.
Maybe I’m naive but I didn’t get into photography to make money but rather I did it for the art and the fun of it. Hopefully people enjoy and appreciate my work and the thievery is really somehow a compliment?
Anyways, too much rambling – great post – very thought provoking.
I very much agree with you on all those points.
There was a post I read but can’t find again about photographic Karma. If someone steals your image and tries to pass themselves off as something they are not, when they are approached for a commission they won’t be able to match what they say they can do.
Ramble away it sometimes is the way to make the best points.
Thanks – glad I actually made a point I was just typing away and hit ‘send’ hoping it made sense. Photographic karma for sure – to each their own I suppose but while I admire (and sometimes may copy a location) I always give credit to the person that inspired me to take the shot. Often times while on location I try to find ways to make it a different shot and post that one instead – leaving the copy to the throw away pile.
I think that seeing an image and wanting to try and replicate it is actually part of learning and not really copying.
You see and image you like and you try to replicate it. It will never be the same even if you use the same camera and settings because the light in that moment is unique.
Also when you are out on location or in the studio you may see something different, maybe an angle or perspective and this becomes the image from the shoot.
My first photography teacher said that to copy was the sign of a student becoming a master, and to be a master is for people not to know you are copying. I sometimes say the same thing about Photoshop.