The inevitability of life as a digital photographer is that, at some point, you will come across a website with at least one stolen photo from your collection. This is possibly one of the single biggest frustrations of photographers worldwide and rightly so. Having someone take and use your image is no different from someone walking into a store, and stealing a product. Then they sell it or claim to have made it themselves. Even if they didn’t sell or use that stolen item it is still theft. Learn how to find stolen pictures online.

Find Stolen Pictures Online

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HOW TO FIND STOLEN PICTURES ONLINE?

There are instances when copyright images are stolen by well-meaning enthusiasts who would be horrified to be thought of as a thief. These are the people using stolen pics, usually with full credits and a website link. They publish your photos in a blog or article in which they are lauding praise on you and your fellow creatives. They are amazed by your accomplished use of light or just because they love your image. It turns out that there are a lot of people who don’t realize they should check for copyright first.

Sadly, there are also not so innocent instances of a picture’s copyright being ignored too. These are the people who are trying to pass off your copyrighted pictures as their own and the so-called companies making a profit from selling or ‘leasing’ your photos. A profit that you will not benefit from.

There are 400 million active websites in the world. You might think that trying to keep track of your images is impossible. Thankfully, some tricks and tools can help you stay on top of who is using and stealing your photographs. It is also possible to check where your stolen pics appear. Here are five ways to track stolen pictures online.

MAKE PROTECTING PICTURES A HABIT

Let’s start with best practice. Whether you are a professional earning a living as a photographer or an amateur photographer in your spare time, you should value your work enough to want to stop it from being stolen. Protecting your income and protecting pictures from your portfolio requires regular photo tracking. This can be done either manually using reverse image search sites and tracking every picture you publish online. Another option is to use an image protection service.

Where many photographers go wrong is that they let their picture tracking efforts slide when they get busy. Which is understandable, when you work for yourself, you have many hats to wear.  It can be hard to stay on top of the administration side of the business as well as the client and creative sides of things.

To stay on top of how your copyrights, create some habits to help you. Use a diary or an excel sheet to note when and where you publish each of your photos. Also, note any permissions you grant for photo rights. Set a monthly reminder for the start of each month to run searches for all your online images. Make sure to give it a priority and to follow up with anyone due to come back to you about removing or paying for your stolen pic they are using on their sites.

If your portfolio is vast and your plate is full already then look at how we can help you. At PhotoClaim we find stolen pictures online and protect your photos.

find stolen pictures online

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LOOK YOURSELF UP

We’ve all googled ourselves before today just for the fun of seeing what will come up. For you, it is the first step to find stolen pictures online. A search for your name or studio name online should reveal everywhere you would expect to find your photos, plus any and all sites that used your work and failed to check copyright details.

When using this method to protect pictures, check more than one search engine (that’s right, Google is not the only one!). Though Google generally has the most accurate results, other search tools can bring a different result. As well as checking the main feed of results for your search, also check the image, video and news tabs as each one will have a different result.

When you come across one of your photos in the image search results on Google and notice that it has been edited somehow, it is possible to then search for that version too. A deviated versions of your photos, for example, a filter added or it the image mirrored, are still an infringement of your photo rights. When you find them, right-click and choose ‘Search for this image on Google’ to wheedle out every place it has been shared.

find stolen pictures online

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SET UP ALERTS

There is also the option to set up alerts that will come to your email account using Google Alerts or a similar search engine tool. You can choose if to set these alerts up for just your name. These can be set up also for your photo names, or both. You could also set up alerts for combinations such as your first name and last name plus ‘photographer’ or ‘photography’. We recommend adding in your geographical location, your name plus Las Vegas for example.

There are no limits to how many alerts you can set up using search engine alert tools. For better time management, you can even select how often you want to receive them – as they happen, weekly, daily, or monthly. A useful tool for helping you manage your time and protect pictures you have worked hard to produce at the same time.

find stolen pictures online

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USE BASIC BOOLEAN STRINGS TO IMPROVE SEARCH RESULTS

When setting up alerts on Google or any other online alert tool, it is advisable to use what is known as Boolean or a Boolean String. A Boolean String is a combination of symbols that, when used with your keywords, will bring up more accurate results. Without using Boolean in online searches or when setting up alerts for your name the search engine will bring back every tenuous and mostly irrelevant result. So, if your name is Gloria Smith and you set up an alert for your name with no Boolean, you will receive specific alerts. These will be for every mention on the world wide web for ‘Gloria’ and separate alerts for ‘Smith’.

To minimize irrelevant search results and avoid wasting hours trawling through tenuous search results, apply Boolean using quotation marks as follows – “Gloria Smith”. This will guarantee that you only receive alerts when the two names are used together and in this order. As our names are rarely unique, it is helpful to use Boolean with relevant keywords. Use the word AND (all uppercase) between the keywords to create a Boolean String. For example “Gloria Smith” AND “Photography” or “Gloria Smith” AND “Las Vegas”.  Try a few combinations in a search engine to get a better idea of what will work best for you.

find stolen pictures online

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WATERMARK YOUR IMAGES

There are pros and cons of using watermarks.  Photographers tend to either love them or loathe them. Digital technology has transformed how we protect photo rights. The ability to add both visible and invisible watermarks to our images can prevent photo rights from being infringed. The upside of both types of a watermark is that they are deterrents against photo theft.

How you watermark your copyright images is up to you. For some, a simple addition of semi-transparent text added using any number of photo software programmes is reassuring enough. This is usually done discreetly in one of the image corners or right across the image multiple time in a tiled effect. The problem with homemade visible watermarks is that they can be easy to get rid of with a little photoshop know-how. For more complex watermarks, there are also apps that can be used to add visible watermarks to images which are harder to remove or disguise.

WATERMARKS DISPUTE

Visible watermarks are disliked by some photographers, and photography fans, because they ruin the image. This is easily understandable, who would want to display or view a photo gallery of watermarked images? For the likes of Adobe Stock Images and similar stock libraries, including those hosted withing design software like Canva, the visible watermark works as less of a deterrent and more of a reminder that you must pay. The authority of these sites is usually enough to deter thieves. The disfiguring watermark is not as much of an issue as the image is a product not for display.

You can add invisible watermarks by using special software and plugins that place watermarks within the pixels of your images. These watermarks are invisible to the naked eye which means that your beautiful creations remain unnspoilt. When someone uses your image, with or without your permission, the invisible watermark acts as a tracking device. Not unlike a GPS tracker on a car. The software then compiles reports to show you exact website with your images used.  If you are keeping a diary or excel sheet of where you have used your images then you can quickly cross-reference that list. You can also lookup the report to identify any sites and find stolen pictures online.

find stolen pictures online

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⇒ USE REVERSE IMAGE SEARCH TOOL

There are several free reverse image search options online that are useful to find stolen pictures online. The most well known being Google’s version which works best on Chrome. There is also a version on Bing and a plugin for Firefox, if these are your preferred search engines.

To use a reverse search tool to track your copyrighted pictures can be a slow process, but a necessary one for protecting pictures. Nearly every reverse search tool allows you to upload an image. Some will also allow you to drag and drop (from your website for example) or to search using the image URL. For each photo that you wish to check it is advisable to use variations of size and effect. This will help Google to home in on adapted versions of your image.

There are several free reverse image search options online that are useful to find stolen pictures online. The most well known is Google’s version which works best on Chrome. There is also a version on Bing and a plugin for Firefox, if these are your preferred search engines.

To use a reverse search tool to track your copyrighted pictures can be a slow process, but a necessary one for protecting pictures. Nearly every reverse search tool allows you to upload an image. Some will also allow you to drag and drop (from your website for example) or to search using the image URL. For each photo that you wish to check it is advisable to use variations of size and effect. This will help Google to home in on adapted versions of your image.

find stolen pictures online

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THINGS TO CONSIDER

When it comes to tracking images using reverse image search tools and the like, keep in mind that this is an imperfect science. Thus it is advisable to use a combination of methods for protecting pictures. Some sites, such as Facebook, use Firewalls which Google’s image search tool cannot penetrate. This means that there some sites simply will not show up in its search results. To counteract this, consider using the visible watermark option when posting to such sites as part of your marketing efforts.

In the instance that you find a stolen photo of yours you have a choice of how to approach this. You can, of course, reach out to the site and ask that it be removed or paid for.  But our experience shows that it is a long and winding road to get back what or you deserve.

We created our service to help photographers and we do not charge anything until we get back the money for you. Working with us means less administration work for you and more chance of being paid for your images being used.

Though it is not necessary to copyright images with any state body (your photos are copyrighted to you as soon as you take them) it can make the process of claiming photo rights much easier. For details on how to copyright photographs go to our homepage. Once you are there download a guide on how to do it in 5 steps. In some countries, such as the USA, it is necessary to register your work in order to sue.

find stolen pictures online

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CONCLUSION

Getting paid for your photos being used is your legal right as a creative professional. Avoid letting your images be stolen for free and find an easier way to have your rights protected, by signing up here for free.

When you come across one of your photos used without your consent and are unsure of your rights, let us know at service@photoclaim.com. Help other photographers protect their rights too by sharing your own experience on all of your available channels, as well as the options available for photographers seeking help.

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