Image hosting and keeping your pictures safe

Posted on April 12, 2010


An inspiring local photographer recently wrote about her perspective on image hosting sites. Where to locate my photographs has always been a huge debate of mine, so I’d like to voice my own opinion as well. Now before I begin, I’d like for you to understand that this entry is about finding a somewhat safe place to store a lot of image files, and how to prevent people from taking, using, or redistributing your pictures without permission. This doesn’t exactly tackle the best places to display your gallery or portfolio, so please don’t be confused! There are several excellent gallery and portfolio hosting sites available on the internet, but this is about having a simple and organized location for all of your picture files (where you may share them with friends, family, and other communities).

There are several image hosting sites on the internet nowadays, including Photobucket, Flickr, and Deviantart to name a few. The problem with most popular picture hosting sites is whether or not your images are safe on those sites. In my opinion, Photobucket is the least reliable when it comes to keeping your gallery safe. There are “picture predators” out there that you may not even know exist!

I have been apart of several graphic design forums in the past where people of all levels in graphic design would make photomanipulations on request. Over the five years I was apart of such communities I found that there are several people (artists if you will) out there who use other people’s artwork as stock without permission. My photographs are not stock. They are my own form of artwork. However, that alone doesn’t seem to stop some people from using pictures regardless of the credits and copyright laws. If someone were to ask for my permission to use my art to create a photomanipulation, I may very well be okay with it.

Unfortunately, not every artist respects another artist’s work and we (as photographers) must be aware that “picture predators” exist, and may just be using your work without your knowing! And all those popular image hosting sites like Photobucket, Flickr, and Deviantart are just a few of the most commonly used tools for these artists. I’m not saying all of them will steal, but I imagine that there is still a large number of people who carelessly use non-stock photographs for their photomanipulations.

Ways to prevent people from stealing your images:

  • Put a watermark or credits on your photographs to discourage thieves.
  • Be sure to state that it is NOT stock and shall not be used without permission.
  • Put a copyright on or near the image. This doesn’t always stop people from using your pictures as stock for their graphics and photomanipulations so all you can really do is hope that they respect the rules.
  • Upload small sizes only. People are more likely to take/use your pictures if they are large and high quality.

As far as choosing a reliable image hosting site goes, you’ll want to consider the ones that give you options that help enforce copyrights. Photobucket does not prevent people from using your pictures, and in my opinion is the least preventative. Deviantart gives you options to place a watermark over the image and also gives you size and download options. Flickr also gives size and download options, but does not give you the option to place a watermark over your pictures (you would have to do that yourself).

I have used Deviantart for the longest time, off and on. I’ve paid for the membership and everything, but I have found Deviantart to be less organized than Flickr. When I first stumbled upon Deviantart I found it very confusing and it did take some time to figure out how to properly navigate on the website. I had the same problem with Flickr, but once I figured out how to use the sites, I liked both of them. However, I have had the worst time organizing my Deviantart. I tend to upload old images from time to time and personally I like to organize my work from oldest to newst or newest to oldest.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my overall gallery will never be quite as organized as I’d like, but the photo albums or sets/collections can be entirely rearranged. So on Deviantart, the pictures within my albums are organized from newest to oldest while the pictures in my Flickr sets are in order from oldest to newest. Personally I have come to like Flickr more than I thought I would. From now on I upload mostly smaller images and I am given the option to allow specific viewers to preview larger sizes (so I can allow friends and family to view larger sizes and guest viewers may only see the smaller previews but still enough to see the detail and such).

Another incredible thing about Flickr is the advanced search options. Back when I was creating photomanipulations, I would use the advanced search options on Flickr to find stock images – pictures that artists allow to be used through the Creative Commons license. If your Flickr uploads are not under the Creative Commons license, they will not appear in the search.

The only problem with Flickr that I had in the beginning is that the only way to enjoy Flickr is to pay for the membership, otherwise you can only upload a limited amount of files each month (you only get like 10 or 20 image uploads… It’s stupid). With the membership you are given unlimited space and unlimited monthly uploads, and if you’re like me… You upload in bulk after a big day of picture-taking!

Posted in: Just Thoughts