The online reality

First of all we need to establish the sad fact that any photograph you serve to your clients online has the potential to be stolen. Not all clients steal, some do it without realizing. We are well aware of how much it hurts to find your photographs all over facebook and no paycheck. Even though there is no way to be 100% sure that your photos would not be stolen, there are ways to minimize the risk and impact of image theft. Lets discus the 5 most important things you have to do to feel and be safer.

What you as photographer need to do:

1. Legal consequences

Make sure everything related to your photo proofs and final images is written in a contract with your client. There has to be a clear outline of what is OK and what is not OK when it comes to your proof and final photo sharing.

2. Move proofing earlier in your digital workflow

If you allow your client to choose their favourite photos before you retouch them, you will reduce the value of the digital files significantly. Some of our clients apply a dull grayscale preset to their proofs. State clearly that these are just boring proofs and that the finished photos will look way better. Fully process a few shots the way you normally would and include those as a teaser. Educate your client to choose favourite poses and expressions.

3. Resize the photographs

To further reduce the value of proofs, they should be small in size. Some PixyLike photographers go as low as 500px on the long side. This makes your photo file basically unprintable. Choose your photo size according to the situation and gut feeling, just remember- the bigger they are, the more value is in them.

4. Make sure right-clicking is disabled

What ever online proofing service you choose, make sure their client section has right-click disabled. This is not a guarantee that the client would not be able to save the file to his/her computer. As the matter of fact as soon as the photos are loaded into the clients web browser, they have already been saved on their hard drive. However disabled right-click means you decreased theft potential a little more.

5. Add your watermark

Make sure the image files contain your watermark. This is easily done while batch processing all of the images from RAW to resized jpegs. Just have it as a standard operation for the batch job which is preparing your proof files. The bigger your watermark the harder it is to remove it. However, the really big ones tend to annoy honest clients. You will have to work out the right size for your watermark.

Here is a short video on how to add watermarks in Adobe Lightroom

Sadly none of these methods can guarantee you anything. Someone person might not be bothered by the watermark; another will go all in and crop/clone out the smaller watermarks. But a watermark on a small and not retouched photo proof is already quite good motivation to finalize proofing and order photos. Combine that with clearly stated legal responsibilities of your client and you have much better chances of getting paid!

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