6 Ways to Prevent Theft of Images from Your Customers

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Have you wondered how you can prevent my clients from printing the digital files I share on my website or blog? I get multiple emails about this every week.

Here are 6 ways to prevent theft of your images from your customers plus pros/cons of each.

  1. Reduce the resolution and size of the images – 72ppi and at a lower jpg quality.  The problem with this – is they still can copy and save them.  And they may share them on the web.  They might also decide to print them despite the low quality setting.  Then if they share the images with others they will not be seeing your best work.
  2. Use MCP Magic Blog It Boards – Web Sized Storyboard Photoshop Actions.  Not only are these non-standard print sizes so they would be harder to print, they are low resolution – and pictures are smaller since many go into one blog it board. Only downside is if you did not want a collage. These come with branding bars and may also be watermarked.
  3. Watermark your images – you can use the FREE Watermark Photoshop Actions here and add a watermark anywhere on the photo (in a corner or more obviously across the image).  This way if they do share or print, you get full credit.  The downside is that your photo has the distraction of a watermark. You can even offer to give low res images with watermark and website branding for the sole purpose of using on their Facebook, My Space and other social media. This may just get you more business.
  4. Right click protect your blog or website – or use flash.  This makes it harder to steal pictures.  But… do not fool yourself.  It still can be done.  There are many programs that can be used to do screen captures that bypass right click disables. You run into the same cons as number 1 then – as the images would print poorly, but that may not deter the customer.  Then you may look bad.
  5. Make digital files available for purchase.  This is very controversial but is growing in popularity.  You could offer low and/or high res files to your customers.  Do not sell yourself short though.  If you opt for this option – make sure you sell them at a price where you are making the money you need to run your business.
  6. Make sure your customers know the rules.  Some people honestly do not realize that they cannot just share the pictures, print them off, or post them without permission.  They may feel that they paid you possibly hundreds of dollars for a session fee and they “deserve” to share or print a few. If it is not ok with you, they NEED to be told that.  Consider having that as part of your contract with them – explain your terms and conditions.  Have them agree to these.

I would love to hear how you deal with theft prevention of your photos. Please comment below to share your ideas and thoughts on this subject.

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 6 Ways to Prevent Theft of Images from Your Customers

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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21 Comments and 0 Replies



  1. 1
    Catharine says:

    I use a combination of low resolution and watermarking. I find the benefits of people sharing though outway the threat of stealing. I don’t advertise much and social networking has become my bread and butter. I also give the files on cd after a couple weeks of sharing them on facebook and blog. I am considering changing this, but I have also had so many comments about clients wanting the files for many uses.

  2. 2
    Brendan says:

    Overcoming a right click is even easier than you imagine. No programs needed. A quick google search can give you a link to a very simple javascript command that will enable the right click.

  3. 3
    MCP Actions says:

    Right Click software helps (but only a little) – with the screen capture software available these days right clicking is no longer even needed. As such, I do not bother with it.

  4. 4
    hibou says:

    Since my clients pay me to take their photos, I do not consider their using those photos to be “theft.” Theft is taking something without paying for it. (I suspect this is also how my clients see it). It is the internet, and posting images online while also expecting them to remain 100% under your control is both idealistic and unreasonable.

    My workaround: sharing photos on my blog first, watermarked. Since this is the first look clients get, they tend to make these photos their facebook profile pictures. Instant advertising = Good for me.

    My contract also specifies what can be done with the photos, which is pretty much anything short of re-selling them. I have turned it around in my head a few times and can’t seem to come up with any earth-shaking tragedy that would occur if my clients used the photos they paid me to take.

  5. 5
    Sarah Cook says:

    On Screen Capture….On a PC, all you have to do is press the “PrtScn” button, open PS, Ctrl+N, Enter, and paste. I may start putting watermark copyright across the center of mine hate to do it, but seems like the best way to protect my work.

  6. 6
    Brendan says:

    I hate watermarks and they can be photoshopped out if someone really wants the photo. Your best bet is low res.

  7. 7
    Brendan says:

    I have been hearing a lot about TinEye lately. http://tineye.com/ It is a reverse image search tool. It’s an interesting tool to locate your images around the web.

  8. 8
    MCP Actions says:

    I will have to check out that tineye site.

    I do have to say though – low res may not stop you – I mean it will if the print is blown big. But try printing a 4×6 from a web image (low res). It works – I tried it recently and while not as crisp as high res, it was pretty close. I may have to experiment with bigger to see how high it can be pushed.

    Educating your customer is a terrific idea and if they are honest people they will respect your rules and guidelines, but they do need to know them. If they are not honest – KARMA can get them.

  9. 9

    [...] 1 votes vote 6 Ways to Prevent Theft of Images from Your Customers Have you wondered How you can prevent my clients from printing the digital files I share on my [...]

  10. 10
    Jen says:

    i have often struggled with this one. i went back and forth about offering CD images–i no longer offer digital files @ this time. i also do not offer prints smaller than a 5×7 unless printed in a spiral bound flip book with a texture applied.

    and of course, they have to sign an agreement with the understanding that they know reproduction of my images will not happen without my written consent.

    as far as stealing through the web. i always watermark and keep it low res, but like the above have said, if they want it bad enough they will take it regardless.

  11. 11
    mary says:

    I say why fight it. Provide clients with what they want, that is a successful business model. You can sell someone a print and they can just scan it and reprint it,post it online etc, how do you share your own personal images? online of course, email, social networking etc….why deprive your clients of doing that? Why put yourself in the position of being the “bad guy” when you have to contact them that they can’t use that image on FB? It’s possible they may remember that little bit of negativity more than anything else.

  12. 12
    bdaiss says:

    No matter what approach one takes, if someone is determined enough they’ll find away. I knew of a gal who got proofs back from her wedding, promptly scanned them all in, ordered what she’d agreed to from the photographer, but then made a zillion more prints from the scans. Yeesh.

    Since I’m not “in the biz”, I’ll just add that I favor folks who offer me the option of digital prints or getting a cd for future use. But I also budget and plan to buy any prints I *know* I want from the photographer. Just like I expect someone to pay me for my product/work. I like the option of digital prints for future use such as scrapbooking where I may be cutting/cropping the photo or using it in a digital layout. I’d never dream of printing 30 of ‘em and sending them out. Or posting them on the web for all to see. I also expect that if I’m going to buy digital/cd versions I’ll be paying a premium for it. Only seems fair.

  13. 13
    Wendy Mayo says:

    I use a variety of these methods. I have made my site so can’t right click and save. I watermark every image (except personal stuff) and I make them 72 ppi. I also offer my digital files for sale. They are a bit pricey, but still, available.

    That being said, I still have people steal photos.

  14. 14
    Loraine says:

    I was told to keep images at 72 ppi, but also to make sure the pixels are kept down (eg. 500 x 750).

  15. 15
    patricia says:

    I use a combination of watermarking and low res. I know my clients have taken the images and posted them on their facebook/myspace pages, but I have also have clients because they have seen my work on there friends pages. I do offer a low res disc of there gallery as a free gift when the clients make a min order.

  16. 16
    Jo says:

    My best marketing comes from the images off my blog. I tell my customers that they can feel free to copy images from the blog for web use only. They will put the images to their own blogs and facebook. Because I have my watermark on it I get lots of hits to my webiste and lots of referrals. Plus my clients love to hear comments from their friends on facebook. Love it and I feel it’s a great tool if clients are willing to stick to the rules. :)

  17. 17

    Jodi,

    I just experienced this. This past week I went to a home that had my small watermarked files blown up to 8x10s and framed in someone’s home. It was absolutely horrible to see my work displayed so poorly. I hate having to put a watermark in the middle but I guess if you don’t want this to happen to you it’s what has to be done.

    Thanks, for sharing!

  18. 18
    JodieM says:

    Before we shoot, I share with my clients my copyright policy and have them sign that they understand. I also follow up with how nice I am if they just ask. I’m always glad to give a watermarked image to a client for web use or to enter in a contest, etc. and I tell them so. I let them know that printing my web quality prints represents me poorly and will cause me to have to raise my prices.

  19. 19
    Marci says:

    I agree with JodieM about the importance of educating the client and having them sign an specific agreement regarding copyright (they sign a model release now, but I will have something on scanning/facebook.) I guess I don’t understand the blasé attitude of those who say ‘it’s not a big deal or it’s not stealing’ when someone prints off copies of an image they purchased… so if someone prints out fifteen 5×7′s instead of buying them~ that’s not taking away from your business? I can think of a few things I’d buy with 225+ dollars, including Jodi’s actions! If they weren’t told, maybe that’s one thing~ but if a client does it after signing an agreement, I can’t say I’d be anxious to do business with them again. Just my opinion.

  20. 20
    Christine says:

    I was suprised one day when I logged into Facebook to see practically all the images I had posted for a client in their gallery, copied and uploaded. I was rather perturbed at first, and still am frankly, but I did get a few inquiries from that, which was good, but I would have rather them not do this. Next time I’ll make it a point to be very clear with the policies (repeat it over and over!) before I post a gallery!

  21. 21
    heatherK says:

    From a customer point of view, keep in mind that the photos are part of your clients’ memories – the wedding photos, the family portraits, etc, are precious moments in time of loved ones and/or events. Clients don’t see the photos as just products they pay someone to produce; instead they see them as treasured possessions and are very emotionally attached to them and feel ownership over them.

    I think another part of the disconnect is that most everyone has a digital camera where they can take photos themselves and print those photos cheaply. When they hand over a huge check for someone to take the photos, it’s understandable how they would feel some ownership over the resulting images, especially when they’re of themselves and/or loved ones. And it’s hard for them to wrap their mind around the fact that they have to pay hundreds more for a few prints, and they don’t have the freedom to post or print them as they want.



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