A practical guide to protecting your mobile photos online
Most photographers post their photos online, using social media channels to aid exposure, create contacts and hopefully get paid. But with this promise comes the great challenge of how to stop your precious photos from becoming re-purposed, stolen or even orphaned (no longer having your name attached).
Mobile photographers face particularly difficult circumstances as sharing photos becomes ever easier but protecting photos requires a conscious decision and some pre-planning. In light of this, here are a few ways that mobile photographers can help protect their photos before they post them online.
Add a watermark to your photos
While a bit ungainly, watermarks remain one of the most effective ways to ensure your name is literally attached to your image. Make sure that your watermarks don’t distract the viewer by using plain fonts, blending them into the image with a transparency and placing them away from the subject/action within the image. There are a number of apps that you can use to add watermarks on your smartphone including Marksta (iOS), Add Watermark (Android) and Superimpose (Windows).
Add your name to the photo metadata
Several apps let you add your name, details and even usage rights into the EXIF data of a photograph. This data can be added by editing the IPTC metadata, named after the International Press Telecommunications Council who devised a standard file structure to add text to digital images that could be shared between news organisations.
One of the most advanced apps for editing the IPTC fields is PhotoForge 2 for iOS — although following Yahoo's acquisition of its developer Ghostbird Software last week, you'll no longer find the app in the iOS App Store. If you already had PhotoForge 2 on your device, it will continue to work but you will no longer see updates.
In terms of other platforms the popular Photo Editor (Android) offers basic EXIF data editing. For those using EyeFi cards to transfer photos to Android phones and tablets the MoPhotos app provides IPTC editing including batch tagging capabilities.
It’s important to be aware that some editing and sharing apps, including Instagram, strip all metadata from your photos. This link from the IPTC also provides information on how different social media and photo sharing sites handle photo metadata.
Reduce the size of your photos
While it won’t stop people from reposting your photos online, reducing your photo resolution before you post can reduce the likelihood of them being used in print. I find that resizing your photos to 1,200 pixels on the long edge provides enough quality for online viewing.
One of the better apps for batch resizing is called Reduce which provides pixel dimension, file size and preset options. The Image Shrink app for Android and Image Resizing for Windows also offers similar functionality.
Use reverse image search
Reverse image search is a simple way to see how your photos are being used online. Google offers the most powerful reverse image search engine. The third-party Google Search by Image is one of the few stable Android apps that offers this functionality. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any apps on iOS that were stable enough to recommend. The mobile version of Google.com does not offer the function. However, there is a workaround on iOS if using the Chrome for iPhone app.
Step 1: Open the app and load the Google.com homepage, open the setting and click on Request Desktop Site.
Step 2: Go to the Images tab and click on the small camera icon on the right side of the search bar.
Step 3: Either upload a photo or search by hyperlink. Here I’ve inserted a hyperlink of the lead photo from my India, Instagram and a smarphone Connect article.
Step 4: Google provides a list of locations where the photography is being used.
Do you have any other tools or tips that you use to protect your mobile photos online? Let us know in the comments below.
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