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.
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.
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.
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.