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Shoot to Thrill: Protect yourself and your work with a watermark

Every day I log on to the computer and read things posted by people I may never meet, and some that I have known for years. I see photos of complete strangers’ families, and learn personal things about people who, without the Internet and more specifically, Facebook, I would most likely never have the opportunity to get to know.

Stacey Huston. Photo by Hawk Huston.

Facebook is a great tool for social marketing. It gets your words out to a world of people that you might other wise never meet. Without social media, I may never have sold my first cover photo. I would never have met some of the great people that I have been blessed to meet. There is a world of good on the Internet, but as with anything, there also is a world of bad sitting back waiting to capitalize on your hard work and to take credit for what you have done.

I remember years ago watching a video online. It was an exciting and unique video. Two rutting white tail bucks were locked in a fight to death and both animals were clearly exhausted. As the video proceeds, the cameraman and another gentleman speak about what to do to remedy the situation. One man walks out into the scene with a rifle, pulls up, takes aim and proceeds to shoot the antler off of one of the bucks releasing them both to run off and hide in the brush and recover from what would have otherwise been a very sad and slow death for them both. Life moves on, and throughout the years I forgot about this video. I never knew the name of the amazing marksman whom I saw in this video.

Last winter I logged on to Facebook and on my screen was a photograph captured on a trail cam. It was a gorgeous and unique photo of a bald eagle on a carcass. The girl that posted it was very proud of the photo she had taken, because where she lives they don’t see many bald eagles. Something compelled me to message her and I asked if the photo was hers. She told me it was and the story behind it. I wrote her back and told her that she really should watermark or put her name on the image some how so that people wouldn’t feel obliged to steal it. She thanked me for the advice and basically I forgot all about he image.

Most of us have seen how certain images can spread overnight across the globe, and how the stories change and morph. I am going to bet that most of you have seen the photos of the golden eagle fighting with a fox over a deer carcass and most of us in the West saw the images taken in Yellowstone of a very wounded bison being chased down the highway by a  grizzly bear. But how many of you know who took the photos? Or better yet – the real stories behind them, not what someone online made up?

I have watched more time than I can stomach people online take my husband’s words and repost them as their own; most people actually didn’t mean harm, they just thought the quotes were cool. But there is always that handful of people out there who have convinced themselves that they actually came up with the wording and ideas.

This photo illustrates the importance of "branding" your photography. Photo by Stacey Huston.

In 2010 my husband spent some time at a ranch in Texas and met a very interesting and entertaining man named Rattlin Randy. Randy has a collection of videos that he and his wife have put together over the years on the ranch he manages. Most are comedy videos – but as I sat in my living room watching the videos he had sent home with Hawk, one of them really caught my attention. It was the video I had seen online so many years ago of the two white tail locked together.That is when I got to thinking about the importance of watermarking, aka copy writing, your intellectual property, and when you share something of someone else’s – give credit where credit is due.

I logged in to Facebook one morning and noticed friend requests from a list of people, and as I always do, I went directly to their photos to get a feel of what kind of persons they are. One man in particular had a pretty impressive collection of wildlife photos. The falconer in me was drawn to the album named Raptors and I clicked on it and was amazed at the beautiful photos he had captured, and then the next image opened; one I had seen before, a beautiful and unique image of a bald eagle standing on a deer carcass. I scrolled down to the comment section and saw where people were telling him what a great photo it was. His reply was ‘thank you.” One person asked how he got so many amazing pictures, and he said it took lots of time spent out in the field. 
 I immediately messaged the girl who had originally posted the photos and gave her his name. She called him on it and as far as I know, he never removed the photos or confessed that they weren’t his; he just blocked her and is still out there to steal others’ work and use it as his own.

I am a wildlife photographer. I love sharing my work with others, but I also love looking at other people’s photos. I would never feel compelled to post or share something that didn’t belong to me without giving proper credit. I have more than one photographer friend online who has work stolen and published without permission. I have found my work at odd places online, but lucky for me, anymore I watermark anything I post online that I don’t want used without permission. I have seen a few of my photos cropped to remove the watermark and I have even had people message me asking me if I could remove the mark, because it is “distracting!”  I have seen pictures of my friends’ children stolen and used as profile photos for fake anti-hunting sites, and wonder if they would have bothered to take the images if they had been watermarked.

There are several inexpensive and easy ways to mark your images as your own. Most people already have a program or two on their computer that will work.

Paint

Open your image in Paint. Resize to a reasonable size that will post easily online without destroying the quality of the image.

Or  …

Open a text box on your photo and put (c) with your name. Quick and simple. I personally use Photoshop Elements – a fairly inexpensive program that gives me the ability to be creative and create logos, layer them over the image and adjust the color and opacity.

To see more of Stacey Huston’s photography or to read her blog, visit A Focus in the Wild.

  • About Stacey Huston

    Stacey Huston is an outdoorswoman to the core, and would much rather spend time in the high country than in the local shopping mall, and feels more at home in heavy timber than in a salon. She is an accomplished photographer. She resides in northwest Wyoming, the state she has called home for more than 22 years. Stacey hunts with longbow and rifle, and written articles for online outdoor companies and print magazines. You can find her photos in Traditional Bow Hunter, Turkey Country and Primitive Archer magazines. Her work graced the cover of Primitive Archer Magazine for more than a year, as well as 2 issues of Schnee's catalogue and an issue of Successful Hunter Magazine. Stacey is on the field staff for Prois Hunting and Field Apparel for Women.

     

The Conversation

3 Comments
  • Steve says: October 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Stacey,

    There is a fairly powerful and free program out there for editing photos called GIMP (for Gnu Image Manipulation Project). It can do watermarks and a lot of other things for those who are interested.

  • Nancy Jo says: October 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Great article, Stacey. I mark the photos I think are vital but don’t usually do the photos of things that are not photos I plan to use in the future in articles. I am always surprised as to how easy it is to download photos on Facebook. It is almost scary—especially since it is now so easy to edit photos. Thank you for such a great article.