Today, with digital photography having replaced film photography, and the use of the Internet becoming ubiquitous, for most people, fewer and fewer prints or slides are being made, even at home. Photos are now viewed and shared in online galleries, and often by email, messaging, and cell phone transmission.
While some make their galleries private, most users never utilize their gallery's privacy and security tools, so their photos are available for anyone in the world to see, and if desired, copied for themselves.
These days, photos are often viewed by unintended gallery visitors and many are appropriated without the photographer's permission, sometimes for stolen profits.
Should you protect your photographs? Absolutely!
- Your photos may show a private moment.
- Your photos may show children who the photographer may want to protect.
- Your photos may reveal aspects of your life which you may prefer to remain unknown, etc.
- Whether and amateur, beginner, or advanced enthusiast, the photos you create belong to you, and should be prevented from being “stolen” by others, for their use, profit, and sometimes even attribution.
There is no way to make your photos completely safe from being viewed or used without permission once they've been posted on the 'net, so if you “absolutely” want to ensure your photographs aren't used without your permission, don't post them on the Internet.There are many ways to protect your photos posted online, but all will take some extra time and effort. To me, it's worth it.
Online galleries have features you can use to keep your photos private, and prevent others from copying or using your photos without your permission.
- Gallery passwords: Most online galleries provide this feature. When I take personally identifiable photographs of family and friends, especially if children are in the photos, I put them in a password protected gallery.
- Unlisted galleries: This is a terrific feature, not available at all online photo galleries. Normally, when you first enter an online gallery, you are presented with a listing of all individual galleries there. The unlisted gallery feature allows you to hide an individual gallery from view, so general gallery visitors won't have any way to know a particular (hidden) gallery exists. To enter the hidden gallery a viewer must know the address (URL) of the individual gallery. Unlisted galleries can be set to prevent search engines from finding and listing them.
- Gallery site password: You can require anyone who wishes to view any photos on your site to have a password to enter it.
- Unlisted site: This feature permits you to prevent search engines from finding and listing your entire gallery site, including all galleries.
- Internal search block: This feature permits you to prevent your host's internal search engine from finding and listing your gallery site and its individual galleries.
- Disable “right-click” or the copy command in the edit menu: In most Internet browsers there are two ways of copying a photo, via a right click menu or by using the edit/copy command. By disabling these you can prevent most viewers from copying your photographs.
- Photo Cloaking: This is an interesting method which can be employed on some personal web galleries to protect images from copying. A transparent GIF image, the same size of the original photograph is placed on top of the original image. When viewers copy the image they only save the transparent GIF, ending up with a blank saved image.
- Wrap photos in Java and or Flash: Embedding images within a Java or Flash framework will prevent many users from copying your photos, but it's really not that hard to extract the photos from their cache.
- Limit image resolution, size and quality: This won't stop viewers from copying your images, but it will severely limit their use of the copy. You can beautifully display a photograph on a screen with a low PPI (pixels per inch) value, which will limit its ability to be printed.
- Watermark: Placing semi-transparent text and or graphics (e.g. your business name and logo) in the middle of the image can rendering it useless for those wishing to copy it. Watermarks can be removed by some photo editing software by some users.
- Put a copyright notice on your photos: This puts viewers on notice you care about unauthorized use, and will make it easier to take action against theft of your images. The official copyright notice has three parts: the © , and/or the word “Copyright,” or its abbreviation, the year the work was first published, and the name of the copyright owner. My copyright notice looks like: Copyright © 2010 NSL Photography, All Rights Reserved.
- Put a copyright notice in the exif file of your photos: Placing your copyright notice in the metadata of your digital photo files helps protect your photographs under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. There are three methods you can use to insert your notice; use software like Photoshop, to insert your copyright notice in the appropriate field in your exif data, use your camera to insert a “comment” in the exif data, which is your copyright notice, and some cameras, like mine, can be set to automatically embed copyright notices, as each photograph is saved in the camera.