Carrie L. Lewis, Artist & Teacher

Helping You Create Art You Can be Proud Of

How to Protect Your Images Online

In the previous post, I asked the question “should an artist post images online?“There’s a lot of discussion about that these days, with a lot of people uncertain about whether or not it’s necessary and whether or not their images are safe if they do post online.

The focus of last week’s article was offering marketing alternatives to those who choose not to use the internet. The tips I shared are tips I used before there was an internet. They aren’t the only tools an offline marketer has available, but they are the ones that were most useful to me.

[Tweet “Are you like a fish in a barrel if you post art images online? @Horse_Painter”]

Fish in a Barrel

But what if you decide, maybe against your better judgment, to post images online? Does that mean you’re like a fish in a barrel, helpless against all the copyright infringers?

No. You need to be prudent in any marketing you do, but you need to be especially prudent in online marketing. Here are a few tips that well help protect your images and your copyright.

Tips for Protecting Your Images

[Tweet “@Horse_Painter shares tips for protecting images online.”]

Low resolution images. The internet is set up to handle high and low resolution images. If you put up high resolution images, not only are you increasing the loading time for your pages; you’re inviting the unscrupulous to download your images and print them. The best resolution is 72 dots per inch (dpi) to 96. These images load quickly, look great, and print poorly.

Small images. Image size is determined by pixels. An image that’s 300 pixels wide is smaller than an image that’s 800 pixels wide. Most of the images on this blog are 400 pixels wide. They’re also set at 72 dpi, so they display fairly large.

The advantage to smaller images is that they load faster and print small. When they’re enlarged, they become pixellated, which makes them unsuitable for printing for resale (or anything else for that matter).

Portions of images. You can always crop your image to show just a portion of the overall design. Depending on the work you do, this may or may not be an option. The cropped version may still be subject to cropping, so I don’t find it to be a very workable option for anything but thumbnails.

This is a full view of Always in Style.
Full view version of Always in Style

Here’s a cropped version.
Cropped, reduced version of Always in Style

The cropped version not only doesn’t show the entire image; it’s much smaller in size.

Add a copyright notice. Granted, this will only stop the people who already obey the laws. Anyone determined to steal your work will steal it no matter what type of copyright notice you use. But if you include a copyright notice on each image and make it prominent enough, people who might not be aware of the law, might take a second to rethink what they’re about to do.

The lines in white at the bottom of the image are my copyright notice. I used to include only my name, but added my web address after finding images copied with the copyright notice intact. This doesn’t keep people from stealing, but at least other people know where the images came from and can find me if they wish!
Full view version of Bart

A watermark is another way to protect your images online. A watermark may be a copyright notice or a simple logo. Usually, it covers much of the image with a semi-transparent logo or word that makes the image less useful without totally obscuring it. You can add watermarks with most photo manipulation programs.

Make it easy for people to contact you if they have a legitimate request. This might seem counter-intuitive, but if you make it easy for people to contact you, they’re more likely to ask for permission to use your work. You may gain a sale down the road. Even if you don’t want to give permission, decline politely and without creating barriers between you and a potential customer. You can also make low resolution images available at a low cost for people who want things like desktop or screen saver images.

Take action when you find a violation. Whenever you find someone using your work without permission, send them a polite email explaining who your are, that they’re using your work without permission, and asking them to take the work down. Most of the time, they will not be aware that they’ve done anything wrong and will do as you ask. Be polite, though. Give them a chance to comply before hitting them with both barrels and a nasty, legal-sounding email.

If that doesn’t work, have a lawyer send a notice. Most of those who don’t respond to your polite email or letter will most likely respond to a letter written on legal letterhead.

The Bottom Line

We live in a world in which people do evil things. The people most determined to steal from you will find a way to steal from you no matter what you do.

We also live in a world in which people think anything that’s online is free of charge and can be downloaded and used for whatever they want. It’s up to each of us, as artists, to educate the public to at least ask first before turning that beautiful internet image or their new painting into greeting cards.

[Tweet “When copyright notice may not be enough. @Horse_Painter tips.”]


Should Artists Post Images Online?


On EmptyEasel in February


  1. Thanks for this, good article. I’m new to displaying my work on the internet. Not sure how to make the resolutions smaller though. but will attempt to make sure my images have my website on too.

    • Linda,

      Thank you for reading and for your comment. I’m glad to have been of help.

      Resolution can be changed in the photo manipulation software you’re using. Photoshop allows you to change the setting for resolution and a number of other things in the Image menu. Check out How to Process Digital Images>Processing Digital Photos in Photoshop for more information.

      I use Irfanview and the resolution can be changed under Image>Resize/Resample.

      You can make photos smaller in the same process for both programs, as well.

      Thank you for reading!


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