Image Credit: bogdankosanovic via iStock
It's just a fact of the matter that in today's world, people will try to steal the images you work so hard to create.
Even more common is when people use your images without your permission, not because they're trying to pass your work off as their own, but because they simply don't understand that not every photo online is free game.
So, it's a problem of easy access and not enough education about image rights.
The question is, what can you do about it?
Here are a few tips that will teach you how to protect your images online.
Copyright Your Photos
Image Credit: D3Damon via iStock
The moment you take a photo, it's copyrighted as your work.
However, many people don't understand that fact.
This is where an educational component comes into protecting your work.
By adding the © symbol or the actual word "Copyright" followed by the year of publication and your name on or near your work, you're informing anyone that views it that the image is yours and that it's protected work.
In many cases, that will deter the folks that don't understand that images aren't simply free to use from using your photos.
But for people that purposefully steal other people's images, you might need to take the copyright thing a step further by registering the copyright.
In the U.S., that can be done through the U.S. Copyright Office for both published and unpublished photographs.
By registering your copyrighted images, you have a pathway to take any infringements upon your copyrights to court.
For example, if you find that a company has used one of your images for their marketing materials without your permission, you can pursue a lawsuit against them for copyright infringement.
At the very least, you could have an attorney send a cease and desist letter to the offender and point out that the image is copyrighted and a registered work. In many cases, that will resolve the issue without the need to go to court over it.
Identify Your Work as Your Own
Another primary means of deterring theft of your images is to simply identify your work as your own.
I know what you're thinking, too...
Photography watermarks have been the go-to means of identifying photos forever, but the problem is that watermarks can be both ugly and distracting (like my old watermark, shown above).
So for a long time, the choice we had as photographers was to slap an ugly watermark on our images to try to deter theft or go without a watermark to have a better-looking image, and just hope that no one stole the photo.
That's different, now.
There are a number of companies that work with photographers to create gorgeous photography logos that you would actually be proud to have on your photos.
I personally use Photologo, because after a lot of research, I found their service to be the most desirable.
For starters, their signatures are completely handmade by artists, so you get a 100-percent unique signature to place on all your images.
There's no cut and paste signatures here - you choose the style of the signature, the folks at Photologo create it, and you get a gorgeous signature for your photos in as little as 48 hours.
Perhaps even better, if you're not completely happy with the signature, you get a free revision to make sure it's exactly what you want.
On top of serving as an additional hurdle to your images being ripped off, a signature on your photos is a great way to advertise your work and create a brand identity for your business.
Think about it - you can sign each and every photo with your digital signature and make that digital signature part of your larger marketing efforts.
Put it in the header of your website, on your portfolio, in your blog, and so forth, and you'll have a beautiful identifier for your business!
Additionally, Photologo charges $39.99 for your signature - a signature that's yours forever and that you're free to use as you please.
As you can see in the images above, the difference between an old, ugly watermark and a handmade photography signature is night and day!
Disable Right-Click "Save As"
Image Credit: webphotographeer via iStock
One of the reasons why people steal images online is because, quite frankly, they're easy to steal.
You can make it less likely for your images to be stolen by disabling right-click "save as" on your website or online portfolio.
Even if you aren't hugely tech savvy, reading up on how to disable right clicks will give you enough information to make the needed changes to your website to add another layer of protection to your photos.
Be Diligent About Searching For Your Images Online
The fact of the matter is that even if you copyright your images, put your signature on all your photos, and disable right clicks on your website, if someone desperately wants to steal your image, they will find a way if they work hard enough at it.
That means that in addition to putting as many hurdles in the way as you can, you also need to be diligent about searching for unauthorized uses of your images online.
Doing so is easy with programs like Tin Eye, which does a reverse image search based on either a photo that you upload or a URL that points to your photo online.
Using things like neural networks and artificial intelligence, Tin Eye will find any instance of the image you search for, that way you can track down unauthorized uses of your images.
It's just another layer of protection to ensure that you're recognized for the work you create and that people that use your work without permission can be confronted about their actions.
Are these methods 100-percent failsafe? No. But will they deter many people from using your images without your permission, absolutely!