4 Tools to Find Who is Stealing Your Photos

Who is stealing your photos?

Photographers don't make any profit when someone steals their copyrighted images.  So, most photographers work hard to protect their images from getting ripped off.  However, there are 255 million websites on the Internet, and it is literally impossible to manually monitor them for infringement.  To that end, this post reveals the four most successful ways that I have found to find infringers.


TinEye is a free service that allows photographers to upload a picture and then search for the same image across the Internet.  TinEye has been a useful tool for quite some time for photographers, but it usually only finds 1 in 20 of my photos even when I know for a fact that they are publicly accessible online.

Google Image Search

Recently, Google added the functionality to Google Images for photographers to upload (by dragging and dropping your image file into the search bar) a photo and then it will search for instances of that same photo on the Internet.  I was quite impressed with how well this worked in my test.  Although it did not find every instance of my photos, it performed significantly better than TinEye.


ImageRights is a company that works to secure your rights to your photos.  The service has both paid and free plans, in which photographers upload their photos and can choose to allow ImageRights to help with registering the copyright (for US photographers), searching the web to find violators, and they even work to achieve legal settlements with violators and then pay you about 50% of the money from the settlement that they work out.  ImageRights is a valuable service for photographers who need the most protection possible.

Change the file name and EXIF data

I have found more violators by simply editing my EXIF data than any other method.  When I edit my EXIF data, I simply put the copyright information and also my name in the comment field.  Then, I set up a Google alert for my name.  This works perfectly for me because I'm about the only Jim Harmer in the world, but it obviously wouldn't work if you have a common name.  When someone posts one of my photos without altering the EXIF data, it often comes up on a Google alert if their CMS is set to use the comment field as a caption, which is quite common.  I find a violator with this method about once per month.

20 thoughts on “4 Tools to Find Who is Stealing Your Photos”

  1. Jim, this is a really helpful post. Can you expand on the last one a little bit? I know how to set up a google alert for news items and blog posts, but is it possible to set up one for images in a google search?

    PS- I picked up one of your e-books for my Kindle, the one on HDR. I love it! I especially like the chapter on black and white. The whole book is a very good read. Although it’s not long, I think it has more info than many other instructional books on photography.

  2. Rick, it is not possible currently to set up a Google alert for an image; however, by including your name in the EXIF and even the filename, you’d be surprised how often the infringer doesn’t even edit the EXIF or change the filename. So, I have found that I catch quite a few this way. Obviously, it’s easy for people to get around, but many of them simply don’t edit the picture, so it works.

  3. I reco adding a 5th service to the list – DigiMarc. Using it’s Photoshop plugin, you can add an invisible watermark that remains readable to the service even if the images is cropped or altered. The service then scans the Internet for infringements.

  4. First of all, thank you very much for the post and I will test those tools out. It’s good to check out who’s stealing your precious pictures, but I think it takes a lot of time to check out every single photo one has out there.

    1. You’re right that there are a couple Jim Harmers in the world, but not many! In fact, I’ve had that Google Alert turned on for two years and have only received a result for someone other than me a handful of times.

  5. nice list, i will check out some of them later. i don’t mind people using my photos as long as they give me credit. several people have asked before using and i’ve never said no. on flickr, i upload small files and recently was told to reduce the dpi. stealing, profiting and not giving credit is wrong.

  6. Cool – topic. I get emails at least once a month from other photographers who are informing me that my work has been stole… I find it as examples of other photographers work on Facebook and on their websites. SO – how to prosecute after we find it. I Tried once, cost me 7,000 in legal fee’s to get 1,000 settlement. (was worth it because that 1,000 hurt them more than my 6,000 loss).
    Another on Facebook just “vanished”

    Others have paid small settlements, the largest being 3,500.00.

    I’m getting so use to it, it doesn’t bother me anymore. I figure… how are they going to deliver when someone says “I want one like that!”.

  7. Just wanted to say, brilliant article. I was sceptical but dropped one of my pics into Google Image search for the laugh and bing up it popped on two websites! There will be words! 🙂

  8. Dear Jim
    How and where do you enter the EXIF DATA?
    Thank you and look forward to exploring your site and you tube

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