Are your photos being stolen from you?

It’s a catch 22. You want to share your God-given talent online with the world but don’t want to risk your images being stolen and used without your consent.

Many photographers will tell you the solution is not to post your images, but that’s not the answer. How can you expect to market your photography business and your work if you don’t put it out there? Sure there are traditional means, but your audience spends more and more time online looking for what you have to offer and if you’re not there, then what happens? Exactly! Here’s some tips:

Photographers often watermark their images, but is that enough to stop unauthorized use of those images? If your water mark is placed in such a away that it doesn’t interfere with the image for the viewer and off in some corner somewhere unobstructed, it can be easily cropped out. Even when a watermark is placed strategically, anyone with Photoshop and a little patience can remove a watermark from a photo.

Adding a copyright infringement message to all images posted online might stop that person or someone who just doesn’t realize that using or copying your image is wrong. In fact, most photographers I know add the word ‘copyright’ directly beside their watermark. Nothing deters theft better than possible legal action.

Size Matters
Be sure to post the smallest image size possible making quality reproduction an image close to impossible.  You can always put a statement online that high resolution images are available upon request with your contact info. Makes a great call to action for clients doesn’t it?

Image Tracking Tools

As a professional photographer, the Internet is a key way to promote your work and here are ways to help you track how your images are being used online.

  • TinEye is a free service that allows photographers to upload a picture and then search for the same image across the Internet.
  • ImageRights is a company that works to secure your rights to your photos.  The service has both paid and free plans, in which photographers upload their photos to allow ImageRights to search the web to find violators and can assist you with your legal rights.
  • By simply editing your EXIF data and the copyright information along with your name in the comment field can be effective. Setting up a Google alert for your name is another way to detect unauthorized use of your images, (provided they dont alter the EXIF data).
  • The one method I most recommend is to visit the mighty Google Images page. Where is unmatched for searching textual data, Google Images is the king of pixel based searching. Google Images utilizes a special algorithm to find imagery that is exactly your work and imagery that is visually similar.Simply copy/paste the URL of your image from where you host it. When you first enter your image’s URL, you may find Google telling you it can’t find the image. Actually, Google Image Search assumed that the text you entered was a keyword, so naturally, it cannot find a keyword that looks like an URL.  Look closer, however, and you’ll find the line that says “For matching images, try Search By Images” right underneath the search field. Click that link and it’ll use your image to scan for other instances across the web.

There are other tracking tools out there – some free, some complex, some for a small fee. We’ve heard reports on them all and find Google Images to be the most widely used and reported most effective. What tools do you use? Please share your favourite online tracking tools in the comments below.

About the Author
Deanna White is owner and publicist for storylinePR, exclusive PR firm & marketing agent to Ottawa’s most talented fine art photographers. “Because we know instead of marketing your work, you’d much rather be creating it.”


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