November 5, 2019 By SnapSentry

Who’s the best person in the world to ask how to stop online photo theft?

Grandma, of course. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Most photographers don’t have the resources to find a criminal mastermind who steals photos and resells them as his own. Plus, what’s the likelihood you get a nickel out of him if you do find him and take him to court?

It’s better to spend your time and energy on these four steps to protect your photos from being stolen in the first place.

1. Watermark Your Photos

Watermarks will not stop an online thief with specialist Photoshop skills. But it may be your best way to prevent the casual image snagger. When you put your logo, name, or website on your shot, it is a simple way to associate your photos with your brand and business. New and experienced photographers alike use this method to deter opportunistic copyright infringers.

Often, someone sees your picture and thinks it’s the best way to add flair to a blog post, slide deck, or Instagram post. But they can’t easily get around your watermark, so they move on to another source. Many people don’t understand that “Right Click->Save As” is theft.

2. Publish Photos In Low Resolution

Most photographers know that uploading high-resolution files online is a no-no. The Internet is still the wild west. If a person has your high-resolution file, then you’ve pretty much given away your recourse for original work.

The exception to the rule is sites that take your high-resolution files but show lower-resolution ones to clients. Sites like Zenfolio and SmugMug come to mind. They help you generate revenue by letting your customers print photos from your gallery.

Some photographers swear to never go above a specific pixel limit. The idea is to give a decent view of the shot but not so good that it’s print quality. If a customer wants a print-quality photo, they can pay you for it.

Many people don’t realize you can embed copyright information right into the JPEG file using a photo editing program like Photoshop. Once you open your program of choice, look for the ‘metadata’ of the photo, which contains a description of the contents, author information, and other information about the photograph.

While metadata provides some value, it isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, as the metadata is easily removed. Online platforms like Facebook and Instagram strip metadata in the compression process automatically. Smart thieves get around this too. But the person snagging your photo for a business report or other commercial interest most likely will leave it attached — just one more way to prove that someone else took your image.

4. Finding Infringing Images

Say you didn’t use any of these tactics and want to see if your photos have been stolen.

Use one of these search tools to check for any unauthorized usage:

These services will scour the Internet for your images. Are you going to do this for every image you have? No, that would be ridiculously time-consuming, but you can do this for your best work, anything that’s buzzworthy or a signature shot. These sites are often an excellent first step before legal action.

Protect Photos Online with SnapSentry

Photo theft is wrong, cheap, and frankly, too easy. But if you’re in the business long enough, it will happen. Why not take steps to protect your photos today?

Use SnapSentry to quickly watermark your photos for free. You can watermark a whole album of photos in just a few clicks.

A final piece of grandma’s advice “when life gives you lemons, throw them at cyber thieves.”

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