4 Things To Consider Before Uploading Photos Online


Things To Consider Before Uploading Photos Online

We live in a digital age. That is a fact. Statistics show that we upload more than 1.8 billion photos daily. That is a huge number. Of course, the numbers are significantly lower per person, but, as a photographer, you should be extra-careful when uploading images online.


There are number of reasons why this is important, but the main goal is to be safe and to avoid being exploited.

Why Photo Theft is a Problem for All Photographers

If a photographer says that none of their online photos have ever been stolen, either they haven’t reverse-searched their images, or they are lying. A photo or three will get stolen eventually, which is something you can’t avoid nowadays.

It’s not that people are cruel – it’s just that “borrowing” an image is so easy to do. All it takes is two clicks, right click -> Save as. But, people aren’t informed about copyright issues. Most people who “steal” your image aren’t really aware they’re stealing. Most of them assume that if they can save the image without any hassle, it's free to use.

To be honest, it is us photographers who are to blame for this. We haven’t invested enough time into educating people about copyright in order to avoid the hassle of chasing them down afterwards. Nor do we have any large bodies to fight on our behalf like the music or movie industries.

The moral of the story is: be careful which photos you upload, and where you upload them. Social media is an easy target for photo misuse and photo theft, so avoid uploading your best work there.

Don't Fall for Traps in Website Terms Of Use Agreements

When was the last time you read a terms-of-use agreement to the end, word for word, and then decided whether you would accept or decline it? Usage agreements are those things we agree to without even knowing what we agree to. However, the devil is in the details. There are so many things that can go wrong there. You’ll be amazed if you read most of the terms-of-use agreements on the sites where you upload your photos.


For example, 500px had a major issue with images on their site being distributed to other networks without photographers’ approval. However, 500px was protected (partially) by their terms of use, which, of course, hadn’t been read by 99.9% of the photographers who attacked 500px for releasing their work.

Therefore, if you want to know exactly what can, will, and won’t happen to your photos on a particular website, cloud storage or whatnot, read the terms of use. Yes, it is long and complicated, but it’s for your own good.

The Hidden Pitfalls in Photo Contracts

If you’re selling your photos through micro-stock agencies, you basically sign a contract with the agency itself. Therefore, if you sell your photo as an exclusive with one agency, selling it (or even posting it) elsewhere might be a breach of contract. These contracts can be breached even when you post on a social media site. (When posting photos on certain social media sites, you automatically agree that the photo can be used in adverts on the social media site for example.) However, with an exclusive contract at a micro-stock agency, there will be a conflict of interest, since the advertisement usage is not licenced via the micro-stock agency.

Can Watermarking & Resolution Save You?

In order to partially avoid theft, as mentioned before, and also to market yourself if the photo is stolen anyway, it is wise to watermark it. The watermark shouldn’t ruin the image, but it should be a tad hard to clone out so your image won’t be used commercially without your permission. And all the shares and reposts your image will get will lead towards you (if you include your website address in the watermark). Most of the photo sharing sites allow for automatic watermarking done by them, as a form of protection.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski

Posting images to social media with smaller resolutions is also wise, since nowadays small resolutions are basically useless for commercial use. And if somebody tries to sell your image or misuse it in any way, you can prove that the image is yours by supplying a larger-resolution (and RAW) file to settle the dispute.


The internet is a tough place, so you should always be aware of the risks and the benefits of putting your photographs in those waters. Be careful where you upload your photos, and be very careful with the terms-of-use agreements. Read them well, and stay up-to-date on any changes made to those contracts. It’s wise to have a spreadsheet somewhere listing every photo you’ve posted and its location, so you don’t forget or misplace any images.

About Author

Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and loves sharing his knowledge about it.

Anything online can be easily downloaded and copied. I wrote a couple of books. One is available for Kindle, the other is not – way too easy to copy.

As far as photos go, anything online might as well be regarded as free. I would not stress about piracy. Just don’t put up stuff you don’t care about being pirated. Any other approach is pointless. How

I agree with the commentator’s points. I wonder if he has heard about Adobe’s new website creation service offered to subscribers to their Creative Cloud, including the photography portion for Photoshop and Lightroom? They do not ask, as far as I can see, users to sign any usage agreement. I have seen nothing about terms of use or security of photographs that may be uploaded to the site(s) they allow one to create. Any thoughts? I have been using Adobe’s other site for posting photos one wishes to allow clients to review photos online that have been taken for them. These photos are accessible by using a browser and by merely inserting a unique URL to the sub-site. The photos can’t be directly downloaded, but, of course, right-clicking and capturing the lower resolution image is still possible.

If people really want to take your photo there is no way to protect it. Some ways make it harder to download but you can always do a screen dump and with today’s software it is easy to manipulate any photo.
I have gotten my photos stolen several times (I work as a photographer) and there is no good way to protect even with low-resolution. If you include electronic protection they use it for prints and avoid publishing on internet.
A very good article for the general public to be more aware of the rules( often international) when handling photos.

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