Artful Resources: Protecting Images of Your Artwork Online

This is a sequel to our recent post, “Artful Resources: Using Flickr to Share Your Art.”

If you’re on Facebook, Flickr, or a blog to promote your artwork, you hopefully also have some images of your work. That’s great! In the low-attention-span world of the Internet, photos are the best way to grab someone’s attention — especially someone looking for art.

But what about when someone wants to steal your work? Most of the friendly people who find your site won’t even think of doing it. But some might, and while there’s no way to prevent a determined thief, there are easy ways to make your image less attractive to them. The only surefire way to keep your images to yourself is to keep them off the Internet — a valid option, but then no one would be able to see your work!

Here are two of the best options — and see the bottom of this post for links with more information:

  • Use low-resolution images: You can try to find a happy medium between an image that’s large and clear enough to convey the sense of the artwork, but small enough to prevent people from getting a clear image if they hit “print.” While you’re editing images for your site, try lowering the resolution to 72 ppi (pixels per inch) instead of the 150 or 300 that your camera might save. Then, you can decrease the dimensions to whatever size you see fit: maybe 500 or 1000 pixels across in the larger dimension. Here’s where to change the image size in Preview and Photoshop (on a Mac):

    In Mac’s Preview application, go to “Tools” and then click on “Adjust Size…” below.

    In Photoshop, select “Image” from the top toolbar and then click on “Image Size…” below.

    As always, don’t forget to save your changes to a new copy so you don’t overwrite your original! For directions on resizing using Microsoft Paint in Windows 7, click here.

  • Watermark your images: This can be a painful option, since it mars your image, but might be something you want to do to prevent theft — especially for photographers, whose work can be more easily replicated off the Internet. Watermarking is fairly easy to do with an image editor like Photoshop, and there are also online tools to do it — see below for a link. Note that someone skilled in Photoshop can still reconstruct your image — even if it won’t be exactly the same, it might be good enough for their purposes.

Here’s another trick: if you’re wondering whether your images have been taken and posted on a different website, you can do a reverse image search. Go to Google Images, and inside the search box, find the camera icon and click on it. (You can find full instructions here). Google will find all the pages on the Web that use your image! Some of them might be people sharing your work, crediting you or linking back to your website. Others might not be as honest about the source of the image.

More resources on sharing and protecting images of your artwork:

  • For an overview of different perspectives on how, why, and whether to share your images online, read this post from the Scientific American “Symbiartic” blog. It’s all about the tradeoff between the value of publicity and the (probably small) risk to your income and brand.
  • While you’re thinking of protecting your work, you should also consider making it easier to find! This Abundant Artist post has three ways to do that. People interested in commissions or buying one of your pieces might be searching for “family portraits” or “abstract stone sculpture,” so you should be associating those keywords with your images.
  • From Skinny Artist: more ways to protect your images, and how to watermark them.

Do you share images of your artwork on Facebook, Flickr, a blog, or somewhere else? How do you edit them first? Let us know in the comments!

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