3 Mar 2009

Protect Your Artwork

I’m going to deviate a bit from the actual mechanics of photography and talk instead about protecting your artwork on-line. There’s a conundrum that all visual artists face when we decide to share our work with the on-line community: how do we post our images without running the risk of having our art stolen (thought right-click downloads, high-quality screen shots, etc)? I’ve read a number of posts in the Etsy forums about this very topic – new artists always want to know how to protect their work.

Tip #1: Only upload small files at 72 dpi for use on the web.

While it is frustrating for photographers and other visual artists to see the low-resolution files on a monitor that don’t completely convey the true crisp images and saturated colors of the original file, it will prevent potential art thieves from printing your work in large format (the quality will be too low).

Tip #2: Watermark your images.

Another conundrum: do we ruin our work with a huge watermark splashed across the center of our image? One solution is to make your watermark very subtle:

or to move your watermark to the lower corner of your image:

Both styles allow the viewer to see the central image, but it requires some serious Photoshop skills on the part of a thief to remove or obscure the text.

Tip #3: Do not sell digital files of your original artwork.

I see this question frequently: people ask if they should offer digital files as an option for customers to purchase. Unless you are licensing or selling the rights to those images, do not sell digital files of your work. Once a high-quality, un-watermarked digital file leaves your computer, you no longer have control over the reproduction or distribution of the image.

If anyone has other advice to offer on this topic, I welcome everyone to post the information in the “comments” section – the more information we can share with each other, the safer it will be for artists to display and sell their work on-line!

Written by Michelle of MKC Photography


  1. Really good advice. I also try to keep the file size small, although I don't know if size is a factor. So I try to upload images smaller than 450 x 450 at 72 dpi. Is there an ideal size or does size even matter?

  2. I think this is a great size - a large file, even at 72 dpi, can still be converted to a higher resolution for printing. By keeping the dimensions small, you are doing an excellent job of protecting your work.

  3. great advice and something I rarely think about..
    I wonder if there's any way of finding out if other people have used your images for reproduction?

  4. Highland Fairy - I wonder the same thing myself...if you find an answer, pls. do let me know!
    BusyBeadLady - if you (or someone you trust) has Photoshop or a similar program, you can add text to any image (and you can change the font, opactity, location, etc. to meet your needs).


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