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Protecting Your Photos Online, Pt. 1

November 01, 2007 by
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Using vector shapes to add a watermark
Using vector shapes to add a watermark

One of the many challenges facing today's photographer is how to protect their photos online; that is, once the photo has been uploaded to a gallery for viewing on the Internet. We don't live in the safest of worlds these days, especially when it comes to being online, and it's frighteningly easy for a thief to download your photo from your very own web site and try to sell it as their own. I know it's shocking but people really do steal... often.

The fix is to add a digital "watermark" to the image before posting it. This won't stop a would-be thief, but they'll have one hell of a time trying to erase the watermark. Another good idea is to embed copyright information within the photo itself. Both solutions are much easier than you think.

This week we'll cover creating a simple watermark and adding copyright information, then next week I'll show you how to customize it and automate the process with a Photoshop action. If you're submitting to a stock agency, they'll most likely do all this for you. If not, you're own your own which is why you're reading this tutorial. Read on!

Custom shapes to the rescue!

Step 1: Click the Custom Shape tool from the Toolbox (circled below, it looks like a star). From the Options bar at the top of your screen, click the Custom Shape pop-up menu (also circled below) and click the Copyright symbol once from the resulting palette of shapes.

Step 2: Click and drag to draw the shape onto your photograph. Don't worry about what your foreground color chip is, or what color the shape ends up being because we're going to make it see-through shortly.

This is what we have now:

Step 3: Press T to select the Type Tool, click within the document and type your name in a font size that is fairly large and readable. Again, don't worry about what color the text is.

Make it see-through

Step 4: Over in the Layers palette, select the custom shape layer that you just created. Using the blending mode pop-up menu at the top of the palette, choose Soft Light. The shape should now become see-through. Do the same thing to the text layer too (unfortunatey you cannot select the both and change blending modes at the same time).

Here's what we have now:

Step 5: To make the watermark more subtle, lower the Opacity of the text and shape layers to about 50%, as shown below.

Here's the finished product:

Embedding copyright information

Step 6: Choose File > File Info.

Step 7: In the resulting dialog, enter your own information as shown below. If you don't see these fields, make sure Description is highlighted on the left. Press OK when finished.

From now on, this information will travel with the photo. Take a peek in the title bar of the open document and you'll now see a copyright symbol next to the file's name.

Now see? That wasn't so bad. Be sure to check back next week when we look at how to use a custom shape of your very own, and automate this whole process with a Photoshop action. May the creative force be with you!