I am going to be cutting kits the next couple of days, and I am sure that it isn't what I would call 'fascinating' blog material. I will certainly keep you updated, but today I am going to talk about something else that may be helpful to some of you that read.
I have many friends and readers who are fellow designers in both the painting as well as the woodworking industry. Many of them use social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest to promote their designs and reach new customers. In order to do this, we all post photos of our latest creations. It's kind of a 'no-brainer'. If people can't see what we do, then they won't buy it. It allows us to reach a worldwide audience in ways that were never before possible. (Technology is amazing! Isn't it?)
However, there are some individuals in the world that are unscrupulous. Not only do they steal others' designs and claim them as their own, but some of them are so bold as to use the original designers own photograph when doing so. This is appalling to me, as I am sure it is to most of you. I have seen this happen over and over again not only with my painting friends, but also my woodworking friends.
Yesterday I came across another example of it. My long time (and very talented) woodworking friend and her partner have an upcoming design in the next issue of a popular scroll saw magazine. The issue isn't even on the news stand yet. However, in one of the scroll saw groups on Facebook, someone from another country posted the project and claimed it as his own. To top it off, he even used the exact photograph that my friend had previously posted. (It is really easy to tell – especially with wood, as the grain pattern is like a fingerprint – no two pieces are the same.)
He didn't even speak English, yet his translated defense said something like "my wife did it". He was banned from several of the groups he was a member of, but that still didn't take away from the fact that there would be other places where he would be free to show this and claim it as his own. We all know that pursuing copyright infringement is expensive in terms of both time and money and beyond the means of many.
So what can we do?
While there is really nothing we can do to stop things altogether, one effective way of making sure that no one will use your photographs in this way would be to watermark them. By watermarking, I mean placing a stamp with your name or some claim that the design is yours. Below is an example of one of my own watermarked photos:
You can see the faint "Copyright Sheila Landry Designs" over the center of the photo.
One thing I figured is that the type of people who steal photos are generally lazy, and this may be just enough of a deterrent to them so they let your photos alone and move on to something else.
Applying watermarks is easy. I find that the most difficult part about doing so is remembering to do it in the first place. I have taken to watermarking all the photos I present here in my blog, because I have seen them show up in other places, such as on Pinterest and others' sites, and it really galled me. As much as I try to look for good in people, sometimes it is just frustrating how little conscious people have. In the case of my friend's situation, even after the guy was called out for stealing her design, he continued to deny it. If the photo was watermarked, he wouldn't have a case.
There are many free watermarking programs available online. For my own photos, I use Adobe Photoshop, so I don't feel right recommending any of the free programs in particular. Perhaps those of you that have had good experiences with one or another program could share it with us in the comments. It will help out others.
To watermark photos in Photoshop (or any photo software that supports layers for that matter) it is a very simple process. I am sure the steps are similar across the board.
1 – Open your photo in the program.
2 – Add a layer on top
3 – Type your 'watermark' on the new layer (it may be Copyright, your name, your company name, or anything you wish) I use light text for darker photos and dark text for lighter photos. If there is too much of a mix and the watermark gets lost, I use grey.
4 – Adjust the transparency of the new text layer. This is up to you as to how predominant you want your watermark. I like mine subtle. After all – I am showing my design, not my watermark. But I want it pronounced enough where it can actually be 'seen'. I want it annoying enough where people (hopefully) won't bother to swipe my photo. I usually use a transparency anywhere from 20 – 40 percent, again depending on the photo. This only takes a second to do.
5- Finally, you save the photo AS A JPEG. This will 'flatten' your image and merge the layers together, making them impossible to separate. When in Photoshop, as soon as I add the second layer of text, the file is converted from a JPEG to a PSD (Photoshop) file, which will preserve the layers. Not only are the PSD files much larger (because they preserve the individual layer properties) but they are saved as separate layers which means the original photo can be extracted from the file. It is for this reason, you want to flatten and merge the layers together and save them under another name. I always keep my original, unmarked photo and save the watermarked photos with a "wm" in the file name or something similar. That way you always have a clean copy of your photo if you ever need it.
While I can only speak from experience with Photoshop, I know that most photo-editing software that supports layers should work pretty much the same. Check into the ability of the software that you use or check one of the free watermarking programs if you want to try this out. I am sure that some of the software for watermarking can even apply the watermarks to large batches of photos, so you don't have to do it individually on each photo.
It is better to be safe than sorry. It is a shame that we even have to do something like this to our photos. As artists, we like to present clean, beautiful images of our work. But unfortunately, there are those who want to capitalize on our talents and we need to protect ourselves as much as we can against it. I hope that this article at least gets you thinking about watermarking if you don't already.
It is a damp and rather grey day here in Nova Scotia. Lightly raining and windy too. A good day to crank up some music, make some sawdust and get lost in happy thoughts.
Happy Thursday to you all!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"