How to Protect your Photos from Online Theft

How to Protect your Photos from Online Theft

Image theft is nothing to joke about. In fact, the statistics are quite alarming. According to a report by Copytrack, 2.5 billion photographs are being stolen on a daily basis worldwide.

This represents a real concern not only for professional photographers, but for all of us who upload original images online on social media, on our websites and blogs. We strive to provide the best possible visual content for our visitors and followers, only to discover some of our quality photos on other people’s profiles or work projects.

This is not something new, it has been happening ever since the internet has made it possible to share pictures with so much ease. Unfortunately we can’t just put an end to theft, but we can definitely strengthen our defense and make it more and more difficult for thieves to steal our authentic photography.

Here are a couple of methods you can implement in order to protect your images from online theft.

Add a Watermark to your Images

How to Protect your Photos from Online Theft

One of the ways you can discourage content thieves is to add a watermark to your photos. By inserting a copyright text (your name, company name or website) or a logo you publicly claim ownership of those pictures and implicitly make it clear they can’t be copied without your prior authorization.

In order to watermark your pictures you can use two types of software. You could go for a powerful, all-round program like Photoshop, but it’s advisable to take into account its complexity and cost. Another option is to opt for a lightweight tool specially-built to serve this purpose, like our own PhotoMarks.

In comparison to Photoshop, PhotoMarks is quite budget-friendly and significantly easier to use. Practically the process is as straightforward as it gets: add your photos, apply the desired watermark and select the output format and folder. Next the program will automatically apply it to all the selected photos.

With PhotoMarks you can insert both text and logo marks and completely adjust them to your preferences. This means you’re free to position, rotate and resize them how you want, change their opacity, spread them across the entire image if you’re looking for complete protection or apply special effects like stroke, shadow and bounding-box. A truly useful feature is the fact that you can save your watermarks as profiles and just load them in future sessions, without having to perform the same operations again.

Opt for an Invisible Watermark

Inserting a visible watermark into your pictures is an efficient method to discourage image theft. Unfortunately it does not guarantee that your photographs won’t be stolen. With the aid of photo editing software, a tech-savvy user will be able to remove your text or logo from the picture. In this situation, an alternative would be to opt for an invisible watermark.

An invisible watermark is something that can not be perceived by the human eye. It contains a specific pattern, code or certain symbols hidden in the image file that will instantly help identify the copyright owner. Because implementing the private information implies a change in pixels, you’ll need high-resolution images with a high concentration of pixels to avoid degradation.

An invisible watermark can not be removed and can still be detected even if the pictures has been compressed or cropped. You can resort to a service like DigiMarc or ImaTag to add such a watermark to your photos. Just take into account that this method is not designed to prevent theft, rather to find out who’s been illegally using your images and to take legal action.

Register your Photos for Copyright

In theory, you become the owner of the rights for an image from the moment you capture it. Therefore, when we see a photo on a certain website or blog, we have to assume that it belongs to someone and it can’t be copied and used without asking the original author’s permission first. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many individuals shamelessly steal others’ work. A more formal way to prevent it is to register a copyright with your government.

Getting an official copyright protection is an ideal solution particularly for those who make a living out of selling their original work, such as professional photographers and designers. The process is simple, but not exactly affordable: all you have to do is to file an application (preferably online) with your photography and then pay the required fees. At the moment, the US Copyright Office charges $55 for a registration of a claim in a group of published photographs.

At the same time, according to section 504 of the US Copyright Act, the statutory damages you’re entitled to vary in general between $750 and $30,000 per work.

Embed Copyright Info Directly in the Camera

One of the practical ways to ensure image protection is to input copyright information directly into your camera. There’s a major advantage of inserting your personal data into the EXIF metadata: even if someone crops or edits the image to look different from the original, your personal info won’t be erased, since it’s coded into the image metadata. Therefore, in case of copyright violation, you can easily prove you’re the original author.

The majority of digital cameras offer the option of adding information like your name, website, home or office address, as well as certain keywords and copyright details. Just make sure you enable the option in the camera’s settings, in case it’s turned off.

Edit Image Metadata

How to Protect your Photos from Being Stolen

If your camera doesn’t offer the feature of embedding personal info into the EXIF metadata, there’s no need to worry. You can still accomplish this task after you’ve transferred the files to your computer. You can do it in specially-built EXIF editing software if you want to enjoy more possibilities, but you can also do it in a basic way on either Windows on Mac.

On Windows, all you have to do is:

  1. Right-click the desired photo and select Properties.
  2. Go to the Details tab.
  3. Insert metadata in the desired section. In Description you can add a title, a subject or tags, in Origin you can add the author and copyright details, in Advanced photo you can add specific info like the lens maker and model or camera serial number.

On Mac, you can embed various metadata with the built-in Photos app. Just make sure you first import the pictures into the app. The advantage is that you can add information to multiple images at once. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Import the pictures in the Photos app
  2. Select the images, right-click them and choose Get Info.
  3. Next insert the data you want. You can add a title, description, diverse keywords or perhaps the location.

Disable Right Click

Think about it, how do most people save an image? They right click on it and then select “Save image as”. This is a textbook procedure for all those ill-minded users who wish to copy other’s original content and implement it in their own projects. Fortunately you can disable this form of direct downloading with ease.

If you’re using WordPress, it’s good to know there are numerous plugins available to serve this purpose. You can opt for plugins like Envira Gallery and No Right Click Images, which will disable right clicking on photos. Another option would be to choose the WP Content Copy Protection plugin, which will disable right clicking on all content (both text and photos).

Disabling right click can be efficient, but unfortunately this is the case only if you’re dealing with users with average computer skills. Tech-savvy users can resort to other means to download your photography, such as viewing the source code or simply taking a screenshot and cropping out the unwanted parts.

Copyright Notice on your Website

Another way you can deter evil-minded users from stealing your authentic work is to insert a copyright notice on your website. For instance, a simple “Copyright © 2005-2023 Bits&Coffee™” will let everybody know that all the pictures available on your website represent your intellectual property and can be further used only with your prior permission.

Of course, this is not the most powerful method to bulletproof your images against theft. It is rather a way to discourage those who are feeling doubtful about what to do. If they see that copyright notice, they should understand that the content is not free and therefore can’t be copied and used for their personal needs.


All in all, it’s important to do as much as you can in order to protect your creative content. After all, this is the result of your hard work and no one should take the credit for it. Do a little bit of analyzing, see which protection methods suit your needs and preferences and take measures. You won’t be able to completely put an end to image theft, but you’ll most surely make it more challenging for thieves to thrive.