The world we live in can be pretty harsh, and often even more so online as everyone is anonymous (for the most part). As cap collectors, we are often excited about our recent purchases and growing collection, and the most common method for us to share this passion is visually via social media sites such as Instagram. While this is an exciting avenue to share and see what fellow collectors and enthusiasts have around the globe, this also presents a problem – image theft. What this means is other people stealing an image that was captured by another user and reposting it without their consent, or in worse cases, claiming it to be their own original work. As the number of images shared worldwide surges, so too does this issue, and while some may take it as a twisted form of flattery, for most people it’s an unacceptable act of theft.
As a professional photographer, I started my Instagram account with 2 primary goals to achieve –
1) To use it as a visual portfolio in hopes of connecting with major companies and contacts within the fashion industry
2) To share my passion for caps with the world
Although I have a website to showcase my works in full, Instagram is essentially my livelihood and bridge to professionals and companies where I would otherwise never have had the privilege to collaborate with. So for a single image stolen, it can be potentially harmful.
For many months I toyed with the idea of watermarking my images, but ultimately decided against doing so, even after finding a minor theft here and there. My reason was that I wanted to let hat fans around the world enjoy and see my photos as I had intended, unadulterated by any corporate markings. While this was successful for the most part, it all came crashing down a few weeks ago when an unknown user created an account and stole literally over 40 of my images, including text and even hashtags word for word. Thankfully I had a fantastic community who not only kept my head afloat during a chaotic work morning with words of encouragement, but they also intervened by discouraging the thief. As the posts on the stolen images were continually deleted and users banned by the faceless being, he/she eventually bowed down to pressure and deleted the account before Instagram officials intervened (which normally takes 24hrs).
So with my seasoned experiences, here’s a list of tips which I hope you’ll be able to relate to or find helpful in some way should you be a victim of image theft.
1) Try to not panic. I know this is easier said than done when caught in the moment, but remember you have a community of cap appreciators and collectors who are ready and able to support you.
2) Before you tell ANYONE or take ANY action, copy the Instagram share link directly to the stolen image(s) and save them in a document. You may find this within the app when you click on the options tab on the image or I prefer to do it on a desktop to view the user’s entire page onscreen.
Reason for this is as soon as you tell someone and intervention is taken, if the thief blocks you/your help or switches their account to private, it simply adds a level of unwanted difficulty which you can really do without in these unpleasant circumstances. If a block does occur before you’re able to obtain the URL, find someone who is able to request a follow (and doesn’t look obviously related to you or your interests) and have them seek out the URL for you.
3) Kindly ask the user to remove the image as it breaches your copyright OR to at least credit/tag you if you don’t mind them using it.
4) Should that fail to yield a positive result, call for help. Tell the community what has happened and be as detailed as possible. The more info you give, the easier it will be for others to support you appropriately – whether it be reporting the theft or posting things to encourage the thief to delete the post(s)/account. You should never have to feel alone and helpless as there are good hearted folks out there ready and willing to help if you ask.
5) Add this bookmark to your Favourites bar. Now. - https://help.instagram.com/contact/391888707564685
This is the direct link to the online form where it will take you just a few minutes to file your copyright infringement case to Instagram directly. What’s good to know is that Instagram take your cases seriously and will almost always intervene within 24hrs. I have used this many times (unfortunately) with faultless and punctual success each time. A good time to fill in this form would be parallel to informing your community and while they assist in intervening on your behalf. To keep things speedy, I have multiple windows open for convenience – one for the form and at least one additional for the thief’s account for an easy URL copy and paste into the form.
6) Watermark your images!
Yes, I’ve finally learnt my lesson. There’s a smorgasbord of apps that can achieve this effectively from the basic PhotoGrid to the versatile iWatermark.
For the 2% of photographers who are as picky as I am and want to retain the highest quality for viewing on tablets and smartphones, I highly recommend a 2 step process via these 2 apps –
a) InstaSize - this app will allow you to post full size commercial camera images without the standard IG square crop or any size of your choosing while also retaining hi-resolution at 2048×2048 pixels output. This resolution ensures optimal quality on tablets.
b) iWatermark – Once the file is resized using InstaSize, open it using iWatermark and simply add a preset or custom watermark using its very user friendly interface. What I like about this app is the ability to upload custom PNG/GIF images with transparent backgrounds which is ideal for my needs AND also retains a hi-resolution output! Once this is done, you’re good to go for a Instagram post with premium quality and image protection.
For the other 98% who aren’t as fussy, basic programs like PhotoGrid will allow you to add text over the image which means you can customize a text-based watermark and crop within a single app.
That’s it! No one has to experience such unfortunate events, but in the case where it does, I hope this guide proves to be useful for someone out there and for everyone else, at very least a heightened awareness to the realness of image theft.
‘Til next time, stays fitted and look out for one another as most often enough in these circumstances, power in numbers will move mountains (and don’t be shy in asking for help)!