Photographers: 3 Steps to Protect Your Work

This is for those of you who are being serious about your craft, who have decided to uplevel as professionals. Forget that tacky watermark. Know about this.

Release forms.
If you’ve got grand plans for a shoot and it involves a person, a private location, or a unique piece of property that’s not yours, you need to cover your ass with release forms, whether money is being exchanged or not. Release forms protect you from potential lawsuits or other conflicts. A standard release clearly states the permissions that you or the client you’re shooting for have in regards to the usage of a person’s likeness, usage of property as the setting for your shoot, and usage of distinctive decor.

EXIF Data.
This is a file format that contains annotations embedded by recording devices. It’s bare bones metadata that includes file type, date of record, length (for sound and video), copyright notice, and sometimes location. It’s information that you can input and control. If you shoot with a digital SLR, here’s a few tasks for you:

  • make sure your time and date settings are correct
  • if your camera has GPS capabilities, make sure it’s up and running accurately
  • customize the default filename prefix in your settings (ex. instead of “IMG_9038”, I changed mine to KRFT_9038)
  • add a copyright notice in the appropriate menu (ex. “Copyright 2018 Alexandria Boddie, All Rights Reserved”). Don’t forget to change the year on the next January 1st!

Metadata is data that describes other data; hence, the “meta”. Those descriptors – creator, sublocation, tags, persons shown, description, copyright, release info, licensing info, and more – are usually not automatically populated within your image file; you have to add it in. I suggest getting a copy of Adobe Bridge for this reason (and others). When you import photos from your card to your computer for editing, make metadata and file organization your first task. Within Bridge, you can edit and add all sorts of information that will make your images rank on Google. And if anyone tries to snag it online and claim it as theirs, the metadata won’t lie.

In the early days of the 2000s, it was a bit of a wild wild west online when it came to attribution of photos and illustrations claimed online. There were no real standards, and every time a creator shared something, they were at risk of being copied or straight ripped off. While there’s no 100% guarantee at the moment that someone won’t at least try to claim your work as their own, you can make it harder for that to happen with the steps listed above. I think that blockchain will be the next big thing for the attribution of digital media online. Check out if you don’t believe me.

As always, keep your eye on tech news, but remember to stick to the basics of having a clean photography practice by using release forms, exif data, and metadata to protect your work.

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