Publishing your photographs online comes with the real risk that will you discover your images used on other websites and publications without your permission. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right but sadly, it happens. There are a few small steps you can take within Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to add a few additional levels of protection for your images that will help deter bloggers and publishers from using your photos without permission.
Finding your Images with Google Search
Firstly if you are curious to find out if one of your images is being used by other websites, head over to ‘Google search’ and click the ‘images‘ tab on the top right of the screen. You will be directed to the ‘Google Image’ search page where you will find a little camera icon on the right hand side of the search box. Click the camera icon to enter the URL of the image or to upload the image you want Google to search for.
You an use this tool one of two ways. Positively, I often use Google Image to search for the cover of my photography eBook (The Long Exposure eBook) as it can be interesting to find new sites who have reviewed the book. Negatively, on the other hand you can use the service to find images being used without permission; this can be frustrating but there are a few options that offer some protection for the images you publish online.
Adding Copyright Information to Image Metadata
When importing images into the Lightroom catalogue there is the option of automatically applying both a developer and a metadata preset. Click on the metadata preset dropdown and select “new“.
The following window will appear with Lightroom highlighting the important copyright information fields in red. Once complete click “create” for the new preset to be added to the dropdown. The next time you are importing images from your camera or memory card just make sure this new preset is selected in the appropriate dropdown.
The good news is you only need to add this information once ad the metadata preset can be applied to each subsequent import of images. Note: It is good practice to update your copyright information each year with the correct date e.g. © Copyright FlixelPix 2014.
Now when you share your images online this new copyright information will be embedded directly into the photo’s metadata. Unfortunately this process isn’t fool proof as unfortunately some social network sites strip metadata information from images and there are a number of websites out there offer the ability to strip metadata from any uploaded image.
Adding Watermarks to Images
Lightroom also comes with a built in watermarking service. Click the Lightroom menu (on the top left hand) and select “Edit Watermarks“.
The following screen will appear offering two different forms of watermark, 1, a simple text system or 2, the ability to use a specific image. If you want to use an image be aware that a transparent PNG file is recommended and that Lightroom doesn’t import the watermark image but actually references the original file from its current location. This means if you move or delete the watermark image Lightroom won’t be able to use it.
For text watermarks Lightroom offers full control of the style, size, opacity and location of the watermark. Simply add your text to see a preview of how the watermark will look. Using PNG images as a watermark can look a little more professional, you can toggle between the two varieties at the top.
The position of a watermark is a crucial factor and it is a fine balance between protecting your and completely ruining the the entire feel of the photograph. In the screenshot I have gone for an extreme example with the URL blazing across the image to the point the photo is actually difficult to look at.
There is no doubt watermarking images is one of the most reliable ways to protect your photos. Getting the balance right can be difficult, if you place your watermark along the bottom then it is easy to crop it out in Photoshop! if it is too large it will destroy the look of your image online.
Exporting an Image from Lightroom
When you export an image make sure you tick the watermarking option and select the appropriate watermark from the dropdown menu.I also publish online images at JPG quality 70 and 70dpi, this is fine for screen viewing but isn’t a good resolution for print.
These are two basis steps towards deterring the publishing of images without permission but be warned, I’ve had situations when the metadata and watermark have simply been ignored. Personally I have gone with the metadata copyright information and look out for my images being used on other websites from time to time. I did experiment with watermarked images using QR codes but it offered very little benefit so I now only tend to watermark music and a few key images.
Image copyright protection is a struggle in the realms of digital publishing, the only way to protect your images is not to actually publish them online but we all love to share our work. Use the tools provided in Lightroom to add a few additional layers of protection.
Disclaimer : These are the tools I use to offer a level of protection and are not definitive or fool proof. If you have any tips you recommend then please feel free to add them to the comments.