The only digital photos that are 100% safe from being used without your permission or stolen are those that you don’t actually put up on the internet. But, obviously this doesn’t work for people like us who want to share our work with others via forums and other photo sharing sites. So, here are a few ways that you can protect your digital images. Some of these may work for you, some of these may not. It’s an entirely personal decision about what you want to do to protect your photos.
Option 1: Visible Watermark
One of the main ways to add a watermark is to make it visible to anyone looking at the photo. This can discourage people from taking your photo, but if a photo can be edited once to add a watermark, it can be edited again to remove it. If nothing else, this puts an extra barrier there that will make most people think twice before taking your image.
Making a custom brush: This is a simple technique that you can use to create a brush that basically stamps on your watermark. The good thing about it is that it allows you to change colours and opacity so that you can make the watermark work with whatever picture you’re adding it to.
- Create a new file with a transparent background.
- Type out your copyright information.
- Add a drop shadow and lower the opacity of the layer.
- Crop the picture so that there isn’t a lot of extra room around your copyright.
- Save the file as a brush.
- Use the brush to stamp your copyright over your picture, change the opacity or colour if you need to, then save as a new file and upload it to the internet however you want.
Adding a border: If you don’t want to put the watermark over the image itself, you can always add a border to your image and place the watermark there. One easy way to do this is to:
- Create a new file in your photo editing program of choice that is larger than your photos dimensions (it’s up to you if you want to make it equal on all sides).
- Fill the background in whatever colour you prefer, you can add other decorative elements like a thin line within the border if you want.
- Using the copyright brush you created or even the add text tool, type your copyright information somewhere on the border.
- Save the border as it’s own file if you want to use it multiple times.
- Paste your photo into the border and make sure that it’s aligned properly. Save this as a new file and upload it to the internet however you want.
Software for Mac: My favourite piece of software for doing this is actually called PicMark because it lets you add a watermark and / or border to a batch of shots and save them to a new location. It’s basically an all in one tool for the above ways of adding watermarks. I really do recommend this software if you’re running a Mac.
Option 2: Editing the exif Data
First, let me start out by saying that there are lots of software programs out there that will let you edit your exif data. These are just a few that I’ve used, they aren’t an endorsement or anything, so it’s up to you to decide which programs you like and want to use.
On the PC: Microsoft’s Photo Tool lets you generate a copyright notice that is embedded into the photo’s metadata and does not change how the picture appears at all. It is a very simple way to put your copyright information into your digital file.
On the Mac: I haven’t found as simple of a way to edit exif data like there is on the PC, however, PhotoToolCM (located near the bottom of the page) allows you to create a contextual menu so that when you right click (or Ctrl+Click) you can edit the photo’s exif data. Here, you can add a comment which includes your copyright notice. It’s still pretty simple though.
Option 3: Doing it In-Camera
Not all cameras have the option to add a comment or copyright info, but for those that do, a very easy way to make sure that you don’t have to add copyright data to your exif info is to make sure that you’ve entered your copyright info in your camera’s comment field. Some cameras even have a field specifically for copyright or author. With my Nikon D50, I’ve entered (c) My Name and E-mail. This way, I know that the information will be on every picture I take, and since it’s not something that’s visible like a regular watermark, and you can put it in your camera and forget about it.