Good Ideas for Protecting Your Images

After my last entry, Bad Ideas for Protecting Your Images, you might be thinking that I am against the idea of artists protecting their work. Absolutely not. I am only against bad ideas that either won’t work, are likely cost far more than they are worth, or will irritate your audience and potentially drive potential collectors away. Most of the methods I criticized earlier have some sort of negative impact on the audience. They take away from a viewer’s ability to enjoy the work while giving them nothing extra in return. The image protection methods that I would encourage make life easier for viewers.

Best of all, my recommendations are fairly cheap, quick and practical.

When I am looking for inspiration, I like to browse art websites and download many of the samples provided, so I can look at or analyze them later on. Problems emerge when I download multiple files named “01.JPG”. First of all, I’m lazy, so I will typically rename these “01a.JPG”, 01b.JPG” “01c.JPG”, and so on. This slows me down and frustrates me; it takes my mind away from enjoying the art and makes me focus on computer file-management stuff. That’s not why I’m looking at art. This naming scheme also makes it very hard for me to identify the artist in the future. When the artists name is included in the file, I will remember that, and I might look for more of their work in the future. I am more likely to remember them, talk about them, or recommend them to others who are looking for cool art.

If you check out any if the images in my own gallery, you will notice that the filename is usually something like this: “k_clements_paintingname.jpg” This way, my name is attached to the image, so if it does get passed around, at least their is a good chance of my name being remembered and passed around with the image. This, along with proper use of EXIF data turns file sharing into free word-of-mouth advertising.

Embrace EXIF Data!
EXIF is a little piece of metadata that is attached to your image files. It should be added automatically by a digital camera, or by any newer image editing software. Things like the time and date, camera settings, camera brand/model, and some other information are contained within the EXIF data. Be warned: devices with GPS functionality might record information about the location where the picture was taken. For privacy reasons, you might want to erase that part.

My Nikon is programed to add “(c) 2010 Kyle Clements” to each image that I take. (Well, actually, it’s programmed to add “(c) 2008″ to my images. I should probably get around to updating that.)
With good EXIF data, even if the downloader chooses to rename the image for some reason, my name and a link to my personal site are still attached to the file.

You can’t print what you don’t have. Print quality is limited by image resolution. Work simply cannot be reproduced or printed commercially if the resolution is too low.
Therefore, if you are really worried about your images being downloaded and re-printed, only display low-resolution images on your site. My images are usually around 600 X 400. These sizes load fairly fast in a browser, even on slower connections, yet they are are big enough to allow the paintings to be seen clearly. They are also too small for prints larger than 3″ X 4”. It’s a simple, free, and easy method for preventing my work from being printed out, and it makes life easier for the audience, because they don’t have to wait for a massive image to load.

New ideas and technologies will inevitably emerge, quickly rendering any list specific examples obsolete, so adopting a simple, technology-neutral attitude that can adapt with the times is critical.
Before implementing any sort of image protection, ask yourself, “will this enhance a viewer’s experience, or will it just get in their way?”. If the answer is the latter, pass on it, and look for something else.

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Kyle Clements

Kyle Clements is a Toronto-based artist and nerd. During his thesis at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Kyle began working on his Urban Landscapes series, a body of work that aims to capture the energy and excitement of life in the fast-paced urban environment. After graduating from OCAD in 2006, Kyle spent a year living in Asia to gather source material and experience in a different kind or urban environment. His work is vibrant and colourful. Whether painting the harsh Northern landscape, or capturing the overwhelming buzz of life in the city, his acrylic paintings hover between representation and abstraction.

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