the internet offers creative people the affordable chance to display their work in the hope of building a career. Unfortunately, there are those who prey on the trusting and naïve and exploit the time and money photographers invest in producing desirable images.
Often it is impractical or unrealistic to resort to legal action to recover a reasonable reward for all the hard work involved. The thieves know any potential legal settlement is insignificant compared to potential legal costs involved. Some crooks even boast they would rather steal because they have more money than you do and they are prepared to outspend new photographers in never ending legal battles rather than pay a fair price for the work.
Then there are those using community organizations as part of their own business ventures who will steal images. For any bona fide body, the usual practice is to provide images in return for a thank you in line with all the other donors.
One scary development is using the stolen images on the cover of a publication. An image used inside the publication as editorial content does not require a permission of the subject. However, as one of the functions of the cover is to entice people to buy the publication then it is considered commercial use. Then the fun could start if the subject decides to take legal action. One result could be an argument in court between the innocent photographer and the thieves, where the thieves claim the photographer supplied the images and said they were suitable for commercial use.
Adding a Watermark
One way to make your display images less attractive to thieves while still displaying them effectively is to add a watermark. The polite copyright notices in the corners of images do not work; thieves simply crop the notices off. A much more effective deterrent is to place a large copyright notice right across the middle of the image so it is in the primary area of interest of the photograph. This of course detracts from the attractiveness of the image and may deter honest browsers. The compromise is to make the large watermark partially transparent so the quality of the image is on display while the copyright notice is still clearly visible.
Adobe Photoshop has a very useful automated section for creating web photo galleries. Included as one of the options, is the ability to create a large central watermark with an adjustable transparency. Now Photoshop will create the whole web gallery for you, generating the HTML code with all the navigation and presentation requirements. There are a number of options in the dialog box menus or you can dig deeper and customize the standard options. This facility is in CS2 and CS3 and may be in older versions.
The automated system in Photoshop creates a resized image suitable for the web with the optional watermark. This gives an option to use Photoshop to create a dummy gallery and use the resized and watermarked images elsewhere.
Watermarks are not absolute defense against thieves, but they make life harder for them and require more work if they are to successfully steal from you. Here is an example of watermarking by Segda Photography to protect great shots.
The example photos the product of the Adobe Photoshop tool that took large TIFF files and produced suitable size JPGs with a watermark set at 30% transparency.