How to check if a photo is stolen


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If you’re posting your images online with any sort of regularity, they’re probably being stolen from time to time—it’s an unfortunate reality of the digital age. And so, photographer Anthony Morganti decided to create this video and share 3 basic ways to search for and find your stolen photos online.

Morganti doesn’t break new ground here, but his video offers a solid overview of some basic methods that will be especially useful if you’re a beginner who is starting to deal with image theft for the first time.

1. Google and Google Alerts

The first is the most simple, but probably still underused, way to find your photos online: Google yourself and your website. Better yet, set up a couple of Google alerts, and Google will email you every time someone mentions you.

This is a great way to keep track of mentions and link-backs online, but it’s also a good way to find the places where people are “borrowing” your images with credit, but not permission. In the video, Morganti shows you how he created his Google alerts and offers a basic (but important) tip to make sure your inbox isn’t flooded with irrelevant alerts.

How to check if a photo is stolen

2. Reverse Image Search

The most-used and still probably most-useful free way to find your images online, Reverse Image Search is an indispensable tool.

In the video, Morganti covers three different options. You can search by Image URL, you can upload your images one by one to Google Image search, or you can right click on an image (only available in Chrome and Firefox) and select “Search Google for Image.”

It’s a basic approach, but to quote the movie Anchorman, “60% of the time, it works EVERY time.”

3. Invisible Watermarks

The final approach Morgani discusses is a bit more advanced and, as a result, it costs money. Using a paid service like Digimarc, you can add “invisible” watermarks to your image. We put invisible in quotes because pixel peepers might be able to sniff it out in Photoshop, but otherwise it’s extremely difficult for the human eye to detect.

How to check if a photo is stolenCan you see the watermark? It’s there…

“But what good is a watermark if it’s invisible?” you may ask. Digimarc uses these invisible marks to find your images online with their own special reverse image search, generating a report that shows you everywhere your photo has been shared with and without permission.

True, it’s a paid service, but if you’re serious about keeping track of your images and finding infringers, this approach is hard to beat.

There are many ways to keep track of your stolen photos online, but these three methods will cover you pretty well without eating up all of your time or covering your photos in ugly watermarks. Check out the video up top to see each method demonstrated, and if you like what you see, you can dive deeper on Morganti’s YouTube channel.