Dealing with Photo Theft

With the explosion of web sites to share your photos, everything from Flickr and Facebook to self hosted portfolios, it become easier for someone to “acquire” your images for their own use. Of course if you really want to stop people stealing your images, then don’t upload them anywhere on the web, but for many photographers, they want to showcase their work and so its necessary to post at least a selection of images. One option to help deter non-approved use is watermarks. Smaller ones unfortunately can be quickly cropped off or removed. Larger ones distract and can ruin your photos. You can even create hidden watermarks. Its all a balancing act. But what happens when you discover that your images have been used without your authorisation? is a new free site that takes you through what you need to do to get one of your images removed from a web site when you haven’t authorised its use. It seems to be primarily US focused but should still provide useful information from those outside America.


The site is very simple to use. Once you find one of your photos being used (Google Image Search is an easy way to find these sites, if you only have a small number of photos) you just select the category for where it is being used and the site takes you through the steps, in increasing order of severity, to get the offending image taken down. It also covers making sure you’ve got proof of use.

It doesn’t cover every possible use but is a good start. The site has only recently launched so hopefully it will expand over the coming months to provide a useful resource. Of course protection and clear copyright are the first steps, but if you do find unauthorised use of your photos is a good place to check out what to do next.

More examples of analog photoshop

venice-thomasbarbeyI’ve posted a few articles recently about how the majority of things people do in Photoshop could also have been done in the dark room back in even the earliest days of film photography. I discovered another great example of what is possible with film the other day and thought I’d share it with you.

When viewing the image on the right or when you first view Thomas Barbèy’s gallery you might think you’ve seen it all before. Clever and witty manipulation of photos to create slightly surreal final images. Surely that’s something anyone with a reasonable knowledge of Photoshop could do, you ask yourself.

However, Thomas shoots on film and all the images are created not via digital post-production, but instead via analog dark room techniques. Inspired by artists such as Rene Magritte, M.C. Escher and Roger Dean,  Thomas Barbèy achieves his images through a variety of methods including in-camera double exposures, exposing two negatives sandwiched together at the same time and even re-photographing collaged images.

From his website:

I travel a lot to take photographs of different things and places. Sometimes I use an image several years later, but only when it fits, like the perfect piece in a puzzle, and completes my latest project. Some images are composed of negatives that are separated by a decade in the actual time that I had taken them and only come to life when they found their perfect match. it’s the combination of two or more negatives that they give birth to a completely unusual vision, but most of all, the title I give the final image is the glue and the substance of the piece.

So, if you tend to dismiss a photo that has been post-processed in Photoshop as not being a “real” photo – something from the good old days of film – then remember that Photoshop grew out of dark room techniques and there are many creative ways to process photos both via analog or digital methods.

What is a Photograph?

The argument rages on about what exactly is a photograph in this age of digital photography.

Over on Popular Photography a couple of winners in a recent competition were composite images and the magazine’s editor-in-chief Miriam Leuchter had to publish an editorial on this after the two photos in question resulted in some controversy. Then just after this, David Pogue (New York Times) also published an article about when can a photograph be classed as real?

Most of the arguments against “manipulated” images seem to fall into two camps – either the image should be a shot taken of real life, or it shouldn’t be a composite of several images. But both of these views have their own problems.

In terms the real life argument, what about a model in a chosen costume and pose, shot within a studio built set. This certainly isn’t real life but most would classify it as a “real” (un-manipulated) photograph. As for the composite argument, what about a panorama comprised of several images stitched together?

Finally, check out the sad story of the original winner of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest. Harry Fisch took the decision to clone out a distracting plastic bag to the right of his photo. Officially this turned the image in a manipulated one and something the rules clearly disallowed. As a result he was stripped of his title in just 72 hours. Strangely, if he’d cropped the image, or even darkened/burned the bag so you could hardly see it he would have been okay. Check out the story to see the photo with and without the bag and make your decision on whether Harry should have been disqualified.

So what do you think makes a photo? And what changes would cause you to classify a photo as a manipulated image or invented reality?

Design Tweaks

Welcome to 2013 everyone!

To start the new year I’ve made some changes to the design of my site. The reason for these was mainly to try to standardise some things. As the site has grown over the years (can you believe I started this blog in 2007!) things have begun to get a little frayed around the edges and attempts to integrate some social links weren’t working too well due to the age of the template I’m using. Also, with the rise of mobile devices I wanted to make sure the site works well on those platforms.

Hopefully you shouldn’t see too many changes other than a small increase in the page width on desktop devices. I’m aware old comments aren’t showing at the moment. Not sure if this will be fixed but new comments seem to be showing just fine. If you do spot any issues, please drop me a line via the contact form and let me know.

Before Photoshop

headless-7I always get a little annoyed by those who look down their nose at Photoshop exclaiming that something that has been post-processed in the software is not a “real” photograph (whatever that is).

I started my journey in photography shooting black and white on film and developing the negatives and processing the shots myself. The main reason I wanted to do this was because when I first started I knew even less about taking photos than I do now (which still isn’t a lot!) and so printing the images myself allowed me to attempt to correct composition (by re-cropping) and exposure (using dodging and burning) so the final image more closely resembled my original vision. Because of this I know that there are many things that photoshop does that you can replicate in a dark-room. Even going as far as adding or removing elements from a negative. Of course its not as easy as clicking a few buttons in Photoshop, but its still possible.

So it was great to see the site Boing Boing link to a collection of 19th Century photographs that have all been manipulated in the darkroom when printed to turn ordinary portraits into novelty headless ones!

19th Century Headless Portraits (via Boing Boing)