Friday, December 28, 2018

Here’s What to do if your Photo is Stolen

With the advent of the internet came a means for photographers to get exposure for their art in ways that were never before possible. Unfortunately, pretty much immediately after that came about people began stealing photographs and not paying or crediting the owners for their usage.

This can understandably put a major damper on any photographer’s celebrations to learn that potentially thousands of people have seen their work, but those viewers may have no idea that they are the artist. While the whole experience can make you feel pretty helpless, there are some steps you can take to protect your intellectual property, and in this article, we’ll show you how.

How do copyrights work for photos?

Step one to protecting your works is knowing how copyrights work for photographs. Knowledge is power, and knowing your rights under the law can help you to better fight for what is owed to you. The law states that an artist’s work is protected as soon as it is created. You will own this copyright for your entire life, and then 25 years after that as well.

Anyone who wants to reproduce, display, sell, distribute or create their own work using your photograph must have your permission to do so. The only time where you would not own the copyright to your photos is if you were engaged in a work for hire deal. In this case, the person who hired you would own the photographs.

Should you formally register your photos with the copyright office?

While you don’t technically have to do this, it’s a good idea to do it anyway. If you don’t register, then you would have the right to sue only for your normal licensing fee. If you register a copyright though and a company with deep pockets tries to rip you off, then you could end up getting a lot more in legal damages. It also provides solid proof that the photograph is really yours, and this peace of mind is worth the nominal cost of registering your photos with the copyright office.

For $55 you can register up to 750 photos, and you can avoid getting taken for a ride not just by thieves, but also by those who are partnering with you. Richard Reinsdorf learned this the hard way when he tried to sue Sketchers for using his work outside of their agreement, but was denied his claimed damages of $250 million dollars, because he failed to register his works with the copyright office.

What can you do if your photo is stolen?

Okay, so your photo has been stolen. This is unfortunate, but in most cases, if you know who’s distributing it without your permission you can easily rectify the situation. Here are a few methods that you can use to get yourself some justice as a content creator.

Try emailing the site

If you’ve found a website that is using your works in a way that you don’t agree with, then the first step should be to send them an email. You can request that the image is taken down, you are credited or that they pay for a licensing fee. In some cases, the webmaster might not even know the photo is stolen. It’s entirely possible that they purchased it from someone else claiming to be you!

If this is the case, then you’ll also find out some valuable information about who’s actually distributing your work and stealing your money! Give the website owner at least a few days to respond, and if you can’t work things out, then it’s time to move on to step number two in our photographer copyrights protection plan.

However, if you really want them to know you’re serious, then you could spend some money to get your lawyer to send a formal cease and desist letter. Getting a letter from a lawyer is scary, and it will likely spur them into action a lot quicker. While this may not be worth the cost if they are simply using one of your photos in an article, it could be worth it if they are actually trying to sell stuff using your photos. The cost for this will be somewhere in the ballpark of $100-$300.

If you don’t really have a problem with how the content is being used, then simply asking to be credited and that they add a link to your website will likely be far more valuable to you. This could lead to traffic, sales and even higher search engine rankings for your website. Most webmasters will be happy to comply with this request.

File a DMCA takedown notice

If you’ve given the webmaster ample time to respond and they have not made any attempts to rectify the situation, then the next step is filing a DMCA takedown notice. Every website has a web hosting company, and those companies do not want illegal material on their servers. This includes music, videos, images or other works which are used without permission. So, if the webmaster has ignored you, then you’re likely to get what you want by contacting their host. Here’s how to do it.

Get proof of the infringement

Step one is to get proof of the infringement. All you’ll really need here is a screenshot of where the person in question is using your work. Keep copies of this in case you need to pursue further action later.

Find the website’s host

You need to send the DMCA notice to the website’s host. That means that you need to actually find out who the host is first. You can use a tool like this one to do it, but that doesn’t always work. Many websites are actually using services like Cloudflare for DDos protection now, and that hides who their true host is. However, you can also submit an abuse notice to Cloudflare, and they will attempt to notify the website owner or the host. Web hosts that are not in the United States don’t technically have to comply with DMCA takedowns, but many of them do it anyway.

Find the copyright agent

Once you know the web host, you need to also find the copyright agent. This is the person who is in charge of managing infringement cases for the host. This can be a pain to find sometimes, and while you can often find it by searching around their legal or terms and conditions pages, the easiest way is probably to use the agents directory.

Create your formal takedown notice

Most websites should have a form that you can fill out for claims, but if they don’t you’ll need to create a letter to the agent to submit your claim. The letter needs to contain the following information to be a legitimate takedown notice in the eyes of the law.

  • Provide your signature to identify you as the copyright owner
  • Identify the work you believe is being infringed upon
  • Provide the screenshot, the webpage and anything else relevant to the infringement
  • Include your contact information where the agent can reach you
  • Provide a “good faith” statement that the infringer does not have a legal right to the work
  • Include a statement that the information you’ve submitted is accurate
  • State that under penalty of perjury that you’re authorized to speak for the copyright owner

When should you sue over your copyrights?

The final step to protecting your works is seeking legal action. This is the last step because it’s expensive, and you need to ask yourself if it will be worth the trouble and cost to pursue legal action. If the site in question is an amateur blog, then the answer is likely no.

However, if a large website steals your work, then it’s possible that it could be worthwhile to sue. Daniel Morel was one of the first photographers to capture images of 2010’s devastating earthquake in Haiti. AFP made the mistake of thinking they had the right to syndicate these images just because they were on Twitter, and Morel was awarded 1.2 million in statutory damages by the court.

In order to seek statutory damages you’ll need to have registered your copyright, gather evidence of the infringement, prove that the infringer had access to your work, note the date of the infringement, document the income that you’ve lost due to the infringement, and then hire a copyright attorney to evaluate your case. The more information that you can bring to your lawyer, the better chance you have of a good outcome and your lawyer will be realistic with you about your odds of winning the lawsuit.

How can you prevent thefts from happening in the first place?

If you’d like to prevent unauthorized usage in the first place, then a watermark is a good way to go. Most would be photograph thieves won’t want an image with a large watermark, and they’ll be forced to pay for the full image if they want to use it for their own purposes. It’s a cost-effective strategy that should be a part of every photographer’s tool bag when seeking to protect their intellectual property.

Water Marquee is an online photo watermarking tool. We hope you'll give it a try.

Friday, December 21, 2018

How to Create Your First Photography Portfolio Online

In 2018, we saw more photographers than ever living their dream by showing off their photographs online with stock images and the like. However, if you want to get your work noticed, you really ought to start thinking about making a portfolio.

Looking at some of the bigger photographers out there - or even perhaps some of the smaller ones that you follow on Instagram - there’s one theme that runs through. That’s the fact they have clean, fancy, minimalistic websites that promote their best work, contact information, and occasionally a little bit of personal information.

You see, online photography portfolios are a combination of branding, self-marketing, and staying behind the camera. A photographer’s portfolio gets to, first and foremost, show off their work. It’s almost like the age-old adage of “a picture says a thousand words” is actually true in this case.

With all that said, it’s not actually all too hard to create a decent and cool-looking professional photography portfolio. You just need a little guidance, is all.


Every cloud needs a silver lining and every website needs a hosting platform.

There are free platforms out there that are much more advanced than they were back in the day, and we’re not talking Flickr or Picasa either. There are also simple paid services on which you don’t even need to know a lick of HTML or CSS in order to make a great looking photography portfolio.

Hosting options for your new photography portfolio

If you’re genuinely looking to expand your photography into a career or a business, you should probably think about moving to a hosting platform.

Many hosting providers such as HostGator, 1&1, and BlueHost have WordPress integration options and Squarespace, as you’ll know if you listen to podcasts, is its own brand of magic.

That said, bigger, community-based websites like Flickr do have their SEO benefits, as well.


Easily the most used hosting platform around these days, there’s a WordPress template and plugin for just about any kind of website you’re looking to create. You don’t need to learn a lick of code. Although if you’re looking for a straightforward photography portfolio, it might not be worth the $4-or-so to buy hosting and a domain name.

Then again, having a domain name is always going to be a benefit for you and your brand.

Price: Free, although you will have to shell out money for the hosting and/or domain name via a hosting provider.


Squarespace has a handle on the current streamlined, high-end aesthetic that most brands and individuals are going for these days. Their layouts are simple, elegant, and really easy to put together. Their themes are actively stunning and if you want a luxury theme that looks the part without needing to put a lot of work into it, then Squarespace might be worth considering.

Price: $12/m up to 20 pages, $18/m for unlimited pages, but this does come with a domain name and discounts if you’re paying annually.


Lesser-known than either WordPress or Squarespace, Wix is a platform that's easy to use and features that are exclusively designed with professional photographers in mind. Wix offers up an abundance of modern templates and an incredibly easy platform on which to do it. Recently, the company has also implemented the use of AI to help you build the website you want by simply answering a few questions.

It's a simple builder for busy people that still looks and works great. On top of this, you can also use some of the tools that also make it impossible for anyone to steal a photo.

Price: Free, however, you can choose to upgrade to a Premium plan starting at just $5

How to Make Your Portfolio Stand Out

Once you have your website and layout sorted, it’s time to think about how you want your portfolio to look. Although it is ultimately your choice, two of the facts we really like to stand by are that you should watermark your work and you should also keep it as minimalistic as possible.

Most photographers choose only a few of their standout photographs to display on their portfolios; the shots that say, “This is my style, this is what I want to do, and if you want to see more, hire me.” However, even amateur photographers can think about doing this. Don’t make people search for your best shots - give it to them.

As for watermarking, it’s incredibly important to ensure that your photographs actually get attributed to you. With sites out there such as Pinterest and Tumblr, the idea of royalties goes out of the window. Having a watermark on your work is a clear, classy way to say, “I took this, isn’t it great?”

What you need on your photography portfolio

  • An ABOUT section: Give a quick summary on you, yourself, and what you’re about. 
  • Select PHOTOGRAPHS: Pick photographs that highlight your style of photography and your expertise.
  • CONTACT information: Contact information like an email address, socials, etc, are important for networking. How can somebody tell you they’d like to commission you for some work if you don’t have any contact info available?

Everything else - even blog sections - can be read as static.

How to know which photos to highlight

We get it. It’s as hard to be as proud of your photographs as it is to pick one when they all seem good. That said, the pictures you choose to show off as part of your portfolio should be the ones that show off your expertise, your skills, or even your vibe.

A good way of selecting shots is to look at it as though you’re putting together an exhibition. Technically, although it may be an online exhibition, you are. Your portfolio is your exhibition, and you want photographs that will always be relayed back to you.

A photography portfolio in a nutshell

The great thing about having an online portfolio is also that, if you’re proud of it, you never really have to visit it again yourself unless you want to. Like if you’re updating information or gearing up to switch an older shot for a newer one.

All that means is you have more time for doing what you love: actually taking the photographs.

Friday, December 14, 2018

7 Tips for Etsy Photos

For Etsy entrepreneurs, great product photos are crucial. They say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but when was the last time you bought or clicked on an online product with an a bad photo?

You might offer the best-quality items, but if you’re serious about growing your business, the power of good images shouldn’t be underestimated. The photo can make or break a sale.

Creating a perfect product image can seem a bit overwhelming for those just starting out. Here are 7 tips for great Etsy photos.

1. Consider the purpose of your photos

This high-quality photo by ZwoodZ attracts attention, gives a great sense of texture, color and size, and has a minimalist look.

You want your photos to attract attention, present a clear view of the product, and highlight your brand image. When planning your next shot, it’s useful to remember the purpose of the finished result.

The photo is the first impression your potential client gets. It has to attract enough attention for them to click and find out more. If the photo quality is low, chances are people will simply overlook your product.

The photo is also there to give the visitor a good sense of the product. Online, you can’t get the same perception as holding a physical item. Your picture thus needs to convey all the details. It has to clearly show the texture, color, size, for your potential clients to make an informed choice.

There are many styles of photos, and yours need to match your product, brand image and industry. Do you want a minimalist aesthetic? A vintage one? Bohemian? Spend some time looking for inspiration and figure out what vibe you want for your photos.

2. Lighting

The natural window lighting by JasmineSupply highlights the look of the product and creates a light, cozy vibe.

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of a good photo. It can completely change its look, and enhance your product in different ways. While investing in professional lighting equipment can make a difference, you can also make the most out of your existing equipment using various techniques.

Make sure to look into the appropriate lighting conditions for your preferred photo aesthetic. For a clear, clean, and minimalist look, window light is a great tool.

If you’re taking outside shots, the ‘golden hour’ can create warmer, softer tones. Take your photos either right after sunrise or before sunset.

3. Close-ups and Details

The close-up photo by YesterdaysGaze of the vintage alarm clock shows its details and scratches, which only add to the vintage look in a positive way.

Give a better sense of the texture and details of products by including close-up shots. The details of intricate items such as handmade jewelry can only be captured by a quality close-up.

Close-ups also help you be honest and transparent when it comes to scratches or irregularities of vintage or handmade items. Creating a realistic expectation is better that obscuring these details and risking to disappoint your client.

4. Backgrounds and props

The props and background enhance in this photo by BuffaloGalOrganics, of a makeup product, highlighting its natural ingredients.

The type of your product and your brand image will be reflected in the style of your photo. For this, the product itself is not the only aspect that matters. Complete the picture by considering your background and props.

If you’re selling colorful ceramic mugs, you might want to create a cozy scene. For a natural makeup product, you can add some of the natural ingredients used right next to the item.

5. Scale

Using the apple as a prop in HopscotchLondon's photo, together with the candle, not only shows scale, but also highlights the product’s scent.

It’s important for potential clients to know the sizes of your products, and for certain objects, the dimensions aren’t always clear in photos.

For products such as art pieces, toys, bowls, candles etc., it’s important to offer a sense of scale, by placing your product next to objects with a standard dimension.

6. Editing & optimizing

After you take your photo, editing is a great way take it to the next level. You can adjust the lighting, contrast, or remove any imperfections such as dirt. You can crop the image and slightly rotate it if necessary.

Be careful not to overdo it. Too much editing might give an unrealistic image of your product, which can bring you unhappy clients.

A significant amount of traffic nowadays is mobile, which should not be overlooked. Make sure your photos are optimized for mobile, and look good on a smaller screen.

7. Watermark

You have your perfect photo. Before you upload it, you might want to consider watermarking.

Watermarking is a great way of protecting your images and preventing others to use and claim them as their own. Additionally, it can also help you increase brand recognition. By adding a form of digital signature, your products and images become more identifiable with your brand.

For effective watermarking, get creative and match the watermark to your photo. Avoid watermarks that create a different focal point. The product, not the watermark, should grab the attention.

Water Marquee offers a high-quality, free watermarking service. The watermarks are fully customizable, providing multiple templates, as well as allowing you to choose your fonts, colors, add logos, and more.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Why Realtors Should Watermark Their Photos

According to 2017 statistics from the National Association of Realtors, 51% of buyers found the home they ended up buying on the internet. If you’re one of the two million or so licensed real estate agents in the US, this means your internet listings need to be strong, professional and compelling.

The best internet listings have high-quality photographs which highlight the outstanding features of a house, include accurate information about the home and neighborhood, list clear contact information and profile the real estate agent’s expertise.

Pictures, as they say, are worth a thousand words. In real estate, they can be worth thousands of dollars.

How Does Real Estate Photography Work? 

As any realtor knows, selling a house requires beautiful photographs. While you may consider yourself an expert at smartphone photos and filters, you need better quality photos if you want to make a sale.

When you hire a photographer specifically to take photos to use on an internet listing, whether as a full-time employee or as a contractor, first review his or her portfolio to ensure that the quality meets your standards. Then make sure you have a carefully worded contract. In addition to the regular legalese listing the parties, property location, number of photos, payment terms, etc., this contract should also include specific wording around who owns the photos and how they can be used.

Unfortunately, in the competitive world of real estate, photos that are posted online are often stolen and used by other parties to advertise the same listings. However, there are ways to protect against this, and they should probably be detailed in the contract so both your and the photographer’s businesses are protected.

Why Watermark Photos?

One of the best ways to protect your photos is to put a watermark on them.

A watermark is an image or text placed on another image to make it harder to copy or duplicate. Watermarks are typically transparent, so you can still see most of the image underneath the mark. They can be large or small, but either size has the same goal: protecting your assets.

Watermarking your real estate photos sends a clear signal to other parties that they cannot use these photos without your permission. Watermarks also help build trust with potential buyers as they show authenticity.

If other parties do try to use your photos, buyers will likely be suspicious of a company that is using images that they clearly do not own. You may even be able to pursue legal action if you discover your watermarked photos on another site.

Best Practices in Watermarking Photos

When it comes to watermarking photos, there are some best practices real estate agents should follow.

Before watermarking, makes sure your listing portal and local MLS allow watermarked photos. If they don’t, there are still ways to protect your images through copyright filings. Although watermarking is relatively simple with online tools, it’s important to check the listing rules so you don’t waste your time.

Where Should the Watermark Go?

Place your watermarks somewhere on the photo where the main content of the photo is not obscured. The bottom right corner is a standard choice, however anything that is near an edge of the photo can easily be cropped out.

Placing the watermark near the center of the photo is more prominent and can’t be cropped out. It could be removed by someone with advanced photo editing skills, but that’s time consuming. One downside of center placement is that it you risk obscuring the beauty of the house you are trying to sell.

How Bright Should the Watermark Be?

The colors of the watermark should strike a balance between to opaque and to transparent. If it’s too opaque, then you won’t be able to see the photo’s content. If it’s too transparent, then you won’t be able to see the watermark. The watermark should be visible but tasteful, and it may take some experimentation to get it just right.

What Should Be Included in the Watermark?

Since the watermark is a claim of ownership, it should include the name of the real estate agent. It should also include contact details, such as a website address, so anyone who sees the image will know where to go for more information.

Next Steps for Real Estate Agents

If you have any existing listings, it might be worth adding watermarks to those photos and re-uploading them to the site. With online tools, you can add watermarks to multiple images fairly quickly.

Even if you don’t have time to update your existing photos, it’s worth taking the time to develop a watermark to place on future photos. In this highly competitive field – which gets even more competitive during market booms – adding this image may make the difference between you or another agent getting the sale.

WaterMarquee is an online photo watermarking tool. Get started free.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Why it's Important to Watermark your Vacation Rental Photos

The following is a guest post from Vacation.Rentals - a premiere website designed for homeowners and property managers to list their homes for nightly rent. 

Scammers are having a field day – with your home!

One of the most successful, replicated, and continuing scams going around right now is vacation rental fraud. The process is simple enough – scammers locate a home on a listing website like Zillow, open an account on Craigslist, copy the images, write some text, and upload a bogus contact.

To unsuspecting travelers looking to cash in on a too good to be true deal, they unwittingly send cashiers checks, wire transfers, perform a PayPal transaction and in some cases even personal checks.

Once the scammer has the funds, they disappear like a Nigerian bank account of a long lost relative.

Craigslist is a great tool – for products

If you go to Google and type in “Vacation Rental Scams” you will receive somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million plus results. The scammers are relentless and will stalk every single nook and cranny available to them to list “their” vacation property. Craigslist is the perfect venue for such a thing. No cost, no identification, no problem. Used by literally millions upon millions of people each day – Craigslist provides the perfect venue for scammers.

To be fair, Craigslist does have legitimate listings as well and it is because of this that Craigslist is reluctant to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Taking reasonable steps by watermarking your property photos is one method that can thwart and frustrate scammers out of targeting your vacation home.

What is a watermark?

Watermarks are digital imprints overlaid on existing images. Generally, a watermark is unobtrusive and normally transparent (to not obstruct from the overall image)

Here is an example of a plain image with no watermark.

Here is the same image with a watermark and no transparency.

And this is a watermark with 20% transparency.

As you can see from the 3 images above, the last 2 have an indelible mark on them that is easily identified and virtually impossible to correct. In other words, you have now made it very clear to anyone who sees this image that you are the owner and can easily identify and flag content that is yours.

Always watermark

When we set out to create our website, the absolute first thing that we implemented was automatic watermarks. We handled this through coding on the site and would guarantee that the photos that were uploaded to our server were digitally stamped with our branded logo and provide some authenticity to the images displayed on our site.

Craigslist doesn’t have this feature and the scammers know and love this. If they can get their listings past the flagged bots, they are half way through their mission. Now all that is left is to convince an unsuspecting Joe Traveler that this is the deal they cannot miss out on.

When you watermark your vacation home for rent images you provide a sense of “ownership” to them and give credibility to yourself and to your clients.

Work smarter – not harder

There are numerous methods to watermarking an image. If you are handy with Photoshop, you can even go so far as to write a script to automate the process a bit. For us, the easiest method by far that we found was

Rather than go through all of the headache of setting up watermark scripts, placement, sizing etc. Water Marquee made the process fluid and professional all in one session. The best part of the process is their batch execution handles everything regardless of the image size you upload. Simply point the logo (Ours is in PNG format) to the section of the photo you want, resize, set the transparency you want and press save. 15 photos take roughly 2 minutes to do. Upon completion, Water Marquee will even combine everything into a zip file for you for easy transport on your hard drive.

Ruin a scammers day

Scammers look for easy pickings. For what amounts to 10 minutes of time effort on your part, you can thwart and prevent a scammer from an easy target. Because Watermarquee is so affordable and easy to use, you owe it to yourself to try them out and take preventative steps to protect your vacation rental photos.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Adding Your Phone Number to Your Watermark

If you run a photography business, it may be important to add your phone number to your watermarked photos so that potential customers know how to reach you.  Here's a quick guide about how to get that done.

Upload your Photos to Water Marquee

Head over to Water Marquee and click on the "Select photos to Watermark".  A File Dialog window will open up and you can select one, or more, photos to upload.

Add Your Watermark

If you have an existing watermark, you can go ahead and add it now. If you use a logo for your watermark, click on the "Add Logo" button and select your logo.  If you use text as your watermark instead, click on the "Add Text" button and type in your watermark.

Add Your Phone Number

You can add multiple watermarks to a photo. Just click on the "Add Text" button and type in your contact information.  You can modify the font, opacity, and color to best match your image.

When you've got your photos watermarked with your phone number, click on the "Save" button to save the new images to your computer.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

First Watermarking Video Tutorial

For a quick overview about how to add a watermark to your photos using Water Marquee, check out the video we just posted.

We'll be uploading videos covering other features such as using and creating templates, using your company's logo as a watermark, and more in the near future.