Tips and Advice for Protecting Digital Photos Online by Caroline Black
As a photographer, professional or otherwise, storing and showcasing your images are a large part of the process. However, it remains one that is often overlooked in comparison to the more creative element of photographing. Unfortunately, this can lead to disaster: either at the hands of cybercriminals lifting your pictures and claiming credit or original files and copies becoming corrupted, infected and lost forever.
This guide provides a summary of all the elements that need to be considered when using your digital photos on the internet. By carefully following these steps, you will be free to develop your photography skills, build an audience and never worry about the drawbacks of digital photographs again.
Licensing Your Photos
First things first: If you’re going to showcase your photos anywhere on the web, then you need to establish copyright. Failing to do this means your images are automatically classed as part of the public domain, and any reproduction of them comes under fair use.
The simplest way to claim copyright is by adding a tag to your image; this can be as a watermark or as a text attribution below. The format for this goes as follows:
©/Copyright Your Name, date
There is room for variation to account for aesthetics as long as all the essential factors are included. Doing this ensures you will receive all damages if an infringement is taken to court; but if you wish to sue potential thieves for more, then you also have to register your copyright with the government.
Although copyright legally protects you when displaying your own photographs, there are often times when you have to afford permissions to others. Particularly for career photographers, selling, renting and contracting out your pictures is an essential part of business. If you don’t establish the right license for these transactions, if your photos are misused, then you won’t have any legal standpoint.
This great article by DIYPhotography is a great way for beginners to learn about the intricacies of photo licensing.
Displaying Your Photos and Protecting Digital Photos Online
Unfortunately, even if you are stringent about the licenses and permissions you give to your photos, often this is not enough to deter thieves. Particularly on the internet, where a stolen photo is difficult to trace and even harder to prosecute, your work can be reproduced without you even knowing it’s happened. However, there are a few key tips that will limit the likelihood of your creative property falling into the wrong hands.
Watermarks – This has already been mentioned briefly, but it’s worth repeating. Although putting watermarks on your photos will alter their aesthetics, it means the photo can never be shared without credit coming back to you. If you include your website, any photo theft will simply result in free advertising. This is an especially useful tactic if you’re displaying your photos for sale; you can then provide the buyer with the unaltered version after he or she has made a purchase.
Low Quality – Another way to make your images as undesirable as possible is to host them online in their lowest possible format. Doing this will make very little difference to the way they appear on the website, but it will prevent them from being blown up any bigger or transferred to print for use.
Right Clicking – If you own your website to showcase your pictures, it’s possible to disable the right-click function that allows viewers to save images on their desktop. Although it won’t stop the most eager of photo thieves, it will make their life a lot more difficult and will certainly deter those who maybe didn’t realize they are committing a crime. This how-to guide provides easy code you can copy and paste onto your site in order to disable right click.
Tiling – An alternate tactic is to upload your picture as several different images, tiling them back together once they’re online. This means if anyone tries to save them, he or she will have to take each photo and reassemble it offline. It may seem like a lot of effort to orchestrate this, but in theory, that’s the reaction thieves will have, and they’ll find another photo to take elsewhere.
CSS Images – Perhaps the safest way to protect your photos is to embed them in the CSS code of the website. A see-through square can also be placed on top so, when downloaded, all that shows up is a clear image.
Storing Your Photos
Protecting your photography online doesn’t just refer to the way we showcase it to others; although this is probably the most pressing issue, it is by no means the most destructive. Real disasters come when you fail to consider the security of your photos in storage. Most people today rely on cloud storage service for backing up large amounts of work and, with first drafts, editing files and final copies to preserve, photography usually requires a large amount of space. Unfortunately, these online systems don’t provide 100 percent security, and it’s what happens when they are infiltrated that causes photographers to lose entire catalogs of work.
Here are some of the vulnerabilities in your cloud storage you need to consider:
Passwords – Your password is essential to keep out hackers. Brute force attacks are a common type of hack where cybercriminals use software to try as many different combinations as possible to get into your account. This means the more complex your code is, the safer you are. Try to include different characters, including capital letters, numbers and punctuation. Avoid common words and phrases, and make it as long as possible.
Public WiFi – Public networks are extremely handy for working on the go; however, they’re also notoriously insecure. Because they leave your data unencrypted, passwords and login details can be easily intercepted by anyone else connected to the hotspot. The only real way to get around this is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which encrypts your information and allows you to browse safely. Secure Thoughts is a leading review site that can give you more information on this.
Sharing Permissions – Finally, it’s essential to check your sharing permissions whenever you store online. This may seem obvious, but many people overlook this element and simply assume the default settings will cover it. Unfortunately, often they do not and are set to allow access to anyone with a link. Failing to ensure all is set correctly is basically the equivalent of letting hackers into your files!
Worrying about security should never take up too much time. If you can get the basics in check, then you can concentrate on focusing on making beautiful, unique and exciting new work. Look over this list, and make sure you’re not lacking in any elements now!
About the Author: Caroline is an entertainment and technology blogger, freelance writer and photographer. She knows the potential perils of working on the internet and is always keen to help others protect themselves and succeed in their online endeavors!