Protecting your images online
Hello and welcome to my blog. This time I will discuss the problem of theft of images, especially those online. For most photographers, it's not a major problem and policing your images online may be more effort than it's worth.
If you have a particularly salable image it's worth protecting it by not uploading at all, except to the library selling it for you. Our everyday pictures are different and we often like to place them in galleries or enter them in competition. There are ways of discouraging theft but a really determined thief will still get them. Here's the information that you need to know.
Metadata; Metadata is information that's included in the file of every digital image. The first part of this is implanted in the image file at the time of taking it. This includes details about the camera, it's make and model, serial number, lens used, etc. It also includes the settings you used to take the photo and details like whether the flash fired.
All of this information is permanent and can not be removed. It's useful to you, if you want to review a photo and see how to repeat an effect. The serial number of the camera is possibility the most important piece of information, if trying to prove ownership.
IPTC Core; This sounds very complicated and advanced but it isn't. This is the section where you fill in your own name and other personal details. At the bottom of this section there's a place where you can claim copyright and the terms of that copyright.
When you upload a folder of images, open your browser, Adobe Bridge for example and select all. Fill in the details in the IPTC Core panel and it will be applied to all the images. There is the option, under Tools, of creating a template for your metadata, which will save you having to fill in your personal details every time.
Start at the top and work your way through the various headings. There are a few that you won't fill in as an amateur, for example, job number but fill in any information that you can.
Keywords; The image above shows you the personal data that I've included with the image on the left. This makes tracing me, for permission to use the image, very easy.
Also included is a set of keywords, which makes finding any image, at a later date, very easy. If you enter keywords that are descriptive of the image and as many possible ways of describing the image as possible, the image can be quickly found by your browser, simply by entering some of the keywords in the search panel. I'm digressing a little but it's worth it.
If, for example, in five years time I was looking for this specific image, I could enter bollards, chrome and footpath in the search panel, at the top right in Adobe Bridge and this image will be found. Any one of the keywords that I entered, when filling out the metadata, can be used to recover this image. I may be looking for images that include paving bricks or that were taken in November and a simple search will recover this image and any others with similar keywords.
Filling in the keywords takes a few seconds and can save hours searching, at a later date. It also saves time when uploading your image to certain sites. Some online galleries require that you provide keywords with your image, to make finding it easier for visitors. You can enter the keywords manually but many sites can read the keywords that are already included in the metadata.
Finally, you can go back to your browser at any time and alter the keywords. When you edit the image, it's also possible to alter the keywords and other metadata. In Photoshop, this can be done by clicking on File and then on File Info. All of the same sections will be included in the pop up dialogue box, except this time they will be in tabs. Any information that can be entered and altered in your browser, can be altered here.
Using a logo; Many photographers place a logo or watermark on their images, when uploading them. This seldom works as a form of protection and is usually used as a way of advertising. Professionals place their logo on an image so that a viewer who likes it can trace the photographer and book him.
Unless you place your logo or watermark right in the middle of the image, it can be edited out by re-cropping the image or with a little careful work in Photoshop. If you decide to place one on the image anyway, Photoshop and many other editing programmes, have a filter for doing it. There are also a number of plug-ins which will do it for you, some are even free.
An easy way to create a logo file and paste it onto an image is as follows. Assuming that you already have a logo, open Photoshop and open the logo file. Then go to File, then New and select an appropriate document size. In the Background Contents box, make sure to select Transparent.
Click OK and a new blank, transparent document will open. Next bring your logo file to the front, click Ctrl+A to select it and Ctrl+C to copy it. Now bring the new blank file to the front and click Ctrl+V to paste your logo. Shape and alter your logo to suit your taste. It's now possible to use a Layer Style on your logo, for example, a drop shadow or outer glow. When you're happy with how it looks, click Ctrl+Shift+E to merge the layers and save to where you will find it easily and with an obvious name, for example Logo 2016.
When you want to place your logo on an image, open Logo 2016 or whatever title you gave it. Then click Ctrl+A to select it and Ctrl+C to copy it. Open the image you want to place it on and click Ctrl+V to paste the logo file. You can now resize your logo and place it where you want, within the image. Merge your layers and save the final image as a copy of the original. Always keep a copy of the image without the logo on it, you'll never know when you may want it.
If you don't have a logo, open the transparent document, as explained above. Type your name on it, using the font and style that you like. Then add any layer style you wish and merge the layers. Save this as your logo and use it in the very same way.
Care is needed; Be careful where you post your images. Some sites offer great protection, while others don't. Many online galleries, 500px for example, put a blank, transparent layer over your image. This means that when someone tries to save your image, they will save the blank layer instead. Others put the site's logo on the image, in a way that can't be seen while viewing on the site but will be very visible, once downloaded. Different sites have different ways of protecting the images uploaded to them. Generally speaking, the bigger the online gallery or photo library, the better the protection provided.
When you upload an image to a site that is not dedicated photo library or gallery, you usually don't have any protection at all. Indeed some will claim copyright over your image, once uploaded or at least claim the right to use if for free, even after you have deleted the image or your account.
Copyright; If you live in the USA, it's possible to register your images and your claim of copyright. I don't know how this is done, as I don't live there but it's worth looking up, if you do live there.
In Europe, you automatically own the copyright of all images you take, even when someone is paying you to take the photo. There are a few minor exceptions but unless you're taking commercial images, they don't affect you.
At the end of the day, if someone is determined to steal your image, there is little you can do. If you make it more difficult for them, many will move on and find another image. Filling in as much metadata as possible and making sure it's included in your files, will discourage thieves and help prove ownership.
If your image is stolen, you'll have to consider the costs of recovering it. Usually, the best you can do is have it removed from whatever site is using it but that can be difficult and costly, at times, although many will remove your image immediately. There are sites, Tineye.com, for example, that will find where your images are being used. It may be that someone has copied your image to a gallery of images he or she likes and makes no other use of it and even credits you. Do you want to tell them to remove it?
It could also be the case that it's being used to make money by a business, that's worth chasing down, most of the time or it may be that another photographer has claimed credit for it.
Sometimes, a photo editor or photographer will edit your image and claim copyright on the result. This breaks the copyright law in two ways. It is a breach of copyright to edit an image without permission and also to claim copyright over an image you did not create.
So, for example, if someone was to take the image above and crop it tightly around the flowers, without my permission but didn't claim copyright for themselves, that's a breach of the law. If they let the image as it is and claimed copyright, that's against the law also. If they changed some of the colours in it or made it black and white, that's against the law also.
Would any of the above be worth pursuing? That would depend on what it costs and what benefit would accrue to you, as a result. Only you can decide.
I've had one instance of a photographer putting an image by me up on an online gallery, under his own name. He had gotten several likes and a few comments but there was no means of him making money from it. I sent an email to him, first and got no response. Then I sent an email to the gallery controller and he removed it. Was it worth doing any more? I didn't think so. Had he made money from it, it may have been different, depending on how much. There would be no point going through the hassle of court cases and paying legals fees to recover a small amount of money, especially as he was in a different country.
When you put your images on line, it's a bit like the guy who places vegetable for sale at his front gate. Most people are honest and if they take something, they will put the money in the box but there will be one, every now and then, who will take a bunch of carrots and put nothing in the box. The gardener could stand by his table all day every day to prevent the loss of €2 once a week or he could carry on doing what he enjoys, gardening. Where he strikes the balance is an individual decision.
I hope that I've given you information of use to you and some food for thought. It's a complicated subject and much of it has to be decided on a case by case basis.
Enjoy your photography and until next time, take good care of yourself and those you love.
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