5 Ways To Protect Your Images Online

Sep 2015

4 mins read

The internet has made it very easy for photographers to share their work, but the age of internet sharing is also the age of online photo theft. It’s easy to steal a photo off the internet, downloading with just a few clicks. The ease of image theft online prevents some photographers from even sharing their work on the internet at all. While keeping your images off the internet is a surefire way to prevent online image theft, you’ll end up losing out on all the exposure the internet has to offer.

So what’s the best alternative? Is there a way to safely share your images online? While no online image is totally protected from theft in the first place, these five tips can help keep your images safe online.

watermarks - protecting your photosWatermark

Adding your name or logo to an image not only makes it easier to identify as yours, but it also discourages image theft in the first place. Yes, a watermark might distract from the image, but that’s exactly why it discourages website visitors from taking the image in the first place. Typically, image thieves are looking for an image that’s easy to reuse. A watermark can be removed by the best Photoshop artists, but most won’t go through the extra effort.

Often, image theft occurs accidentally by people who don’t realise it’s not okay to share any image online. Adding a copyright symbol to your image is a way to prevent that. While it is a good idea to copyright your images, you don’t have to copyright them to use the copyright symbol. They’re still protected by law, there’s just not as much you can do if someone steals your image.

Protect your images onlineUse metadata

Metadata is hidden information inside of an image, like when a camera embeds the aperture and shutter speed data inside the digital photo. But metadata can also be used to identify the photographer, and it’s easy to use. To add metadata to an existing file, open the image in Photoshop and navigate to File > Image Info. Click on the description tab, then add your name to the Author and Copyright fields, then save.

You can also add your name to the metadata in-camera, so you can do it once and not think about it again until you use a different camera. The steps are a bit different depending on which camera you own. Try looking in the menu for an option that says copyright or metadata. If you can’t find it, consult your owner’s manual.

Disable the right click download

Making it harder to download your image won’t keep your image protected for certain, but it will discourage a lot of web browsers from nabbing it. Sure, there are ways around it, but making it a bit harder can go a long ways.

If you share your images on your own website, a simple HTML code will prevent visitors from being able to right click and use the “Save Image” option. It’s a bit difficult to do if you’ve never looked through code before. However, if you’re familiar with a tiny bit of code, simply locate the code for the image (it starts with “< img” mark. Some website builders also have plug-ins that do the same thing without the need to understand basic HTML code.

In the U.S., filing for a copyright on your images isn’t as complicated and expensive as it sounds. If you do it online, you can file for copyright on as many photos as you want for $35. You can’t mix published and unpublished photos in one batch, and it’s recommended that you copyright published images (including those published online) within three months of publication. Professional photographers, then, could easily do a batch copyright four times a year to cover all their published images.

Stealing an image is still illegal even if you don’t obtain a copyright for it. But what a copyright does is allow you to take legal action if someone does steal your photo. Most lawyers won’t take an infringement case without a copyright on file. With a copyright, you’re also eligible to receive more from a legal case and also to be reimbursed for your legal fees if you win.

Remind website visitors that your photos aren’t up for grabs

While some image theft is intentional, many people simply don’t realise they can’t download your photo and use it somewhere else. Adding that watermark helps, but so can a simple statement. Remind website visitors with a sentence stating that all images are property of the photographer and cannot be used without permission.

It’s also a good idea to state what’s okay and what’s not okay when sharing on social media. For example, stating that images can be shared, but that you must be tagged in the post. Draft up a simple statement, then save it and add it into the caption of all the images you share.

Online image theft is an issue nearly every photographer faces. While the only surefire way to prevent online image theft is to keep your images offline, there’s a few simple steps that can help prevent image theft. Many image thefts are accidental, from website browsers unaware of copyright laws. Adding a watermark and a website statement helps. Adding metadata, registering for copyright and disabling the right click option also helps to discourage online image theft.

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