All photographer’s take notice: people will use your photos without your consent. That’s the bad news. The good news is Google has an incredibly easy tool that allows all of us to search quickly to find where your photo has traveled to – and who is using it. Some of your pictures may travel to happy places like Pinterest, others fall into other social media where users use your photo to gain likes without giving you credit. This article looks to help all photographers learn how to find your pictures on the internet, and to explain what you can do about it. I will of course give credit where credit is due myself first — I was passed this trick by Brian Donovan Photography.
How to Find Your Photos
Step 1: go to www.google.com
Step 2: Click on “images”
Step 3: Click on the camera icon just next to the search bar
Step 4: Upload your image you want to search for
Step 5: Scroll through the results, you can also check “similar images” to see if it comes up in any YouTube videos.
What to Do If You Find Your Photos
There are several methods here based on what you find…first thing I do is always contact the violator directly, whether it be through Facebook, YouTube, or their blog. From my experience 90% of the time the person will do as you ask — you can either ask them to take it down, or in some cases you may just want credit or a link back to your original source of the photo. In most cases I ask to directly take the picture down — since I spend a deal of time on Pinterest I encourage those repines – as long as the pinned keeps the source back to my blog site.
If your direct message doesn’t work – try playing a little tougher and sending a direct “cease and desist” notification to the party. At this point you can also let them know your rate for using one of your photos – making sure they know at this point to either remove the photo or purchase rights to it. (Note: if you are a photographer who is serious about your work and aspiring to go pro – I would recommend not selling your photo unless it is to a major magazine / distributor).
The two steps above will solve 99% of your copyright issues. However, in the rare case the person just absolutely ignores you or flat out refuses — your last step is to consult professional services to seek action. You can do a quick Google search to find plenty of resources for photographer’s on this topic, hopefully it doesn’t come to this point.
How To Prevent Your Photos Being Used
The first easy fix is to watermark your photos properly. I recommend using a watermark that is legible and difficult to Photoshop out. Be sure to place your watermark in an area that if the person tries to crop out your watermark (yes they will do this), that your image is compromised enough to deter copyright infringement. This is a fine line as you don’t want a distracting watermark — you want your image to stand out and not deter interested clients either. It’s your call here, each image is different and can’t be treated the same.
The second prevention method is to make sure you are sizing your images for web correctly. I typically downsize my images to approximately 650-800 pixels wide. I will also reduce my resolution. Typically with 650-800 pixels wide (depending on the image) this leaves for a picture large enough for viewing on the web, but small enough where your picture can’t be reproduced at a larger size.
As a photographer between researching, traveling, shooting, editing, social media, emails and my blog I understand we don’t have time to be on Google searching periodically for all of our images…but if you aren’t searching you are overlooking a growing problem with social media and screen captures.
About J. Lawson
Jared Lawson is an internationally published, award winning, photographer based in California. He travels around the United States and North America looking for different views of landscape and portraits. Jared built this blog as a resource for all photographers looking for tips on all things photography. Follow him on Twitter or Pinterest to learn more!