Why and how to identify your digital photos as yours.

Whenever you post a photo for public viewing it becomes available for other people to use. With the growth of social networks fuelled by Facebook and Twitter, and the ease with which people can share images online, we felt it was time to look at some ways in which you can ‘mark’ digital photos to identify them as yours.

While this may not matter to some photographers, it’s irksome to discover that one or more of your images has been hijacked by someone else without your permission ““ and worse still when they’ve used your shots commercially without paying you for them. If you don’t believe this can happen to you, check out this report on the Luminous Landscape website: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/they_are_stealing_our_work.shtml.

To prevent such situations, images posted online (including those in your Facebook, Flickr or Picasa accounts) should be ‘marked’ to help you track any that have been misused. But, even then, images can still be hijacked without your permission; marking them simply makes it more diffi cult for the thieves.

The most popular methods of image marking are copyrighting and watermarking. Each has advantages and disadvantages, although neither is totally fail-safe. In this feature we’ll look at how easy each method is to implement, how it can affect your photos, and how easy it is to remove.

Method 1: Embedding Copyright Information.
For maximum security, a copyright notice should have three elements:

1. The © symbol, which consists of the letter C in a circle, or the word ‘Copyright’ or abbreviation ‘Copr’.

2. The year of fi rst publication of the work. This protects images against copying via derivation. (A recent case in the UK set a precedent for actions in this area.)

3. The name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognised.

Many recently-released cameras provide copyright embedding facilities, usually in the set-up (tools) section of the menu system. Once you’ve entered your details in the camera, copyright information is automatically embedded in every photograph or video clip captured with the camera, saving you the trouble of marking images later.

The illustrations here show the menu screens from the Canon EOS1100D, one of the first entry-level DSLRs to support copyright embedding.  


The Copyright information setting in the camera menu.  


Most cameras provide an alphanumeric ‘keyboard’ in the menu. Information is entered by selecting characters using the camera’s arrow pad.  


Make sure you also enter ‘Copyrighted’ in the Copyright details area.

If your camera doesn’t support copyright embedding, many popular image editors allow you to mark image fi les as part of their metadata editors. Simpler editors only let you enter copyright data into individual image files, while more sophisticated applications (such as Adobe Photoshop) support batch editing, enabling you to add your name and copyright information to the metadata of all your images as you import them.

Editing software also lets you embed IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) Information Interchange data, including the name of the photographer, copyright information, keywords, subject codes, captions and other descriptions as well as usage conditions. Metadata embeddedin images in this way is stored in JPEG and TIFF fi les and can be easily encoded and decoded by most popular photo editing software, and is widely accepted worldwide.


In most image editors, selecting File > File info from the drop-down menu opens the metadata editing pages.  


The Description page enables you to add a title and the photographer’s name to the image file, along with a description of the shot. You can also rate images, add keywords to make it easily searchable and enter copyright data.  


The IPTC page lets you embed your contact details in the image metadata.

Method 2: Watermarking
Watermarks are faint logos or words superimposed on images to prevent people from using them without your permission. There are plenty of ways to do this, including lots of dedicated watermarking applications (some of them listed in the box on page 45).

Popular image editors like Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop include facilities for creating and applying watermarks. Here’s how to do it in Photoshop.  


Step 1: Open the image you want to watermark then create a new Action by opening the Actions palette (circled in the illustration on this page). Click on Window > Action or press Alt + F9 (Win) or Opt + F9 (Mac).  


Step 2: Click on the New Action button (circled) on the lower edge of the Actions palette. This opens a New Actions dialog box. Enter the name for your action (Watermark) and, if desired, specify a shortcut key. Click on Record to start Photoshop recording every step you take.  


Step 3: Move to your image and select the text tool and click anywhere on the image. Type your watermark text, setting the size of the font and the colour (white works best). You can adjust these parameters as you work and also resize the watermark with the Edit > Transform > Scale setting in Photoshop.  


Step 4: When your watermark text is correctly sized and in position, click on the Stop button (circled in red in the screen grab above) to stop recording. You will be able to see all the steps taken to create the action and your actions will be saved for future use.

The next time you want to watermark an image, simply open it in Photoshop, open the Actions dialog box and select the Watermark action from the dropdown menu. Position your cursor on the image and click on the Play button (circled) on the lower edge of the dialog box to apply the watermark to the image.


How Good is the Protection?
Generic text watermarks that don’t connect images to you, such as ‘Protected’, ‘Preview’ or ‘Do not use’ do little more than indicate the image belongs to somebody. Watermarks with your name mark the image as yours and if the copyright symbol is included, indicate you own the copyright.

If you choose to watermark your images, you must also choose whether you want to watermark them invisibly, which means signing up to Digimarc, or visibly. With the former the image looks normal, even though it’s been watermarked. Visible watermarks cover part of the image and anyone who uses your image sees only the watermarked version.

Experience shows that most of the time, people who ‘steal’ other people’s images from the web don’t edit out visible watermarks. And, of those who do attempt to remove watermarks, few can do so without signifi cantly degrading the image itself to the point of making it unusable.

Photographers concerned about unauthorised use of one or more of their images can utilise a neat ‘reverse image search engine’, known as TinEye (http://www.tineye.com) to fi nd out if this has occurred. It can reveal where an image came from, how it is being used, if modifi ed versions of the image exist, or if there is a higher resolution version. The creators have partnered with leading image collections from iStockphoto, Getty Images, Masterfile, Photoshelter, Wikipedia, F1 Online and others, and TinEye has a growing index of more than two billion images in its database.

TinEye’s system works with XML Imagemap fi les. The website provides details of how to add your images to the TinEye index, which can be searched by either uploading the fi le straight from your hard drive or using the image’s URL address.

Copyright Protection
Copyright protection is automatic each time you press the shutter button on your camera. Implied in this protection is your right to control how the image is used, and sell usage rights to third parties.

Under Australian law, photographs are protected from the moment they are taken and remain in copyright for a period of 70 years after the photographer’s death. Unless taken under commission (by a client) or as part of employment, the copyright belongs to the photographer. This is why it is important for images to be appropriately marked.

Internationally, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (which was last amended in 1979) provides a minimum protection that, for photographs, expires 25 years from the creation of the work.

The Convention also provides for ‘moral rights’, including the right to claim authorship of the work and the right to object to any mutilation or deformation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the work which would be prejudicial to the author’s honour or reputation.

Unfortunately, neither Australian law nor the Berne Convention can ensure you will get paid every time someone else uses your photo.

However, the Australian Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) established an Illustration Fund in 1989 to manage changes to the statutory education copying licence (which is a source of income for rights-holders in photographs) to facilitate rights payments. A PDF data sheet on Copyright for Photographers can be downloaded from the agency’s website at http://www.copyright.com.au

Publishers live by copyright and usually have established rates they are prepared to pay. However, they must be able to track down the owner of the copyright to do so ““ and that’s why you should identify images with a copyright symbol and digital watermark.

Watermarking Software
If you’re looking for a dedicated watermarking application there are plenty to choose from among both freeware and for-fee applications. The following are well-regarded programs, selected for their versatility and value for money.

Digimarc for Images (www.digimarc.com) lets you embed invisible watermarks in your images and comes as a Filters plug-in for Photoshop.
Users have to register with the service to obtain a unique identifier, which is embedded in images via a ‘writer’ program. A ‘reader’ program (available as a free download for Windows) allows the embedded identifier to be disclosed. The service provider scours the internet searching for images containing these digital signatures and reports to subscribers when images are located. The fee charged depends on the number of images you watermark.  


Watermarking image files with Digimarc.

iWatermark Pro (available at http://plumamazing.com/store for US$20) is a versatile application that works on a wide range of operating systems, including Mac, Windows, iPhone/iPad and Android. As well as applying visible watermarks, iWatermark can resize, rename, add IPTC and XMP metadata, create thumbnails and fi lter incoming photos. Batch processing is supported and you can share watermarks with colleagues, family members and friends.  


The user interface in iWatermark Pro

PicMarkr (http://picmarkr.com/) is a freeware application that is available online and can be used online to watermark photos as you upload them to Facebook, Flickr or Picasa accounts. It includes resizing facilities and provides plenty of options for creating watermarks with individual styling. Windows users can also download a ‘Pro’ version to use offline, enabling them to watermark batches of more than fi ve images (the limit of the online application).

Visual Watermark (http://www.visualwatermark.com/) sells for only US$20 and is available as a free 30-day trial download. It also supports batch processing and resizing and provides some interesting text effects, shown in the illustration.  


Some of the text effects available in Visual Watermark.

WinWatermark (http://www.winwatermark.com) is Windows only and comes in two versions:  Standard and Pro. The Standard version is priced at US$39.95, while the Pro version is US$69.95, although both were discounted when we visited the company website. Free downloads are available and the site provides some useful ‘how to’ articles to help beginners.

Watermark Software (http://www.watermark-software.com)  offers separate applications for watermarking photos and videos. The Photo Watermark Software is priced at US$24.90, while the Video Watermark Software is US$334.95. Free downloads and online tutorials are available for both applications.


This is an excerpt from Photo Review Issue 52.

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