Protecting Your Online Images

The online world has become a fantastic place to discover all manner of pictures and images.  People post them on all the different forms of social media – Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. – without a second thought.  However, most don’t think about where those images actually originated, nor whether they have the right to use them.  This gets trickier in the real estate world when you’re posting pictures of exteriors and interiors of homes, as well as the myriad other forms of images that real estate agents and brokers tend to publish.  How can you start to protect your online images from someone else using them?

Name Your Images

How many of you take pictures with your camera or smartphone and then upload them directly to your website, MLS or other online site?  When you do that, the image you upload is probably named something like DSC_34768 or IMG_5586 (see example below).

Protect Your Online Images by Naming Your Images Before Upload

Some sites may allow you to insert things like Titles, Alt Text and Descriptions of the image, which are also important, but the first line of defense is naming the image before you even begin to upload it.  Left-click on the image name until the cursor appears that signals you can make a change and rename the image.

Example of an Image That's Been Labeled Before Upload

If it’s a picture of a home, you can use the street address to name it, along with your name.  If it’s anything else, try to be unique and descriptive and use your name.  That way, there’s a greater chance of tracing the image later on if it gets reused by someone without permission (assuming they don’t rename the image).

Use a Watermark On Your Images

While individuals and companies who own images have been using some form of watermarking for years, it’s become more prevalent and necessary as the online world has proliferated.  However, there’s a line to be drawn when uploading images that need to be seen by potential clients.  How much of an image should be watermarked without destroying the image?  The best solution is to find an area of the image near the interior or in an important place, not near a corner where it can be cropped out.

Example of Watermarking: First Flight by Peter Brewer from

Here, Peter Brewer has placed his watermark in an area that doesn’t disturb the photograph but still clearly marks the photo as his own.  There are different apps out there for phones, tablets and laptops/desktops that you can use for watermarking, including iWatermark, which is compatible on most devices.

License Your Images

You may or may not have heard horror stories by now of people who have “borrowed” licensed images, especially from companies like Getty Images.  Getty uses a company called PicScout to keep track of all their images.  If you’re a prolific image taker, or consider your images a serious investment, PicScout may be useful for you.  However, the average real estate agent isn’t usually primarily concerned with taking photographs;  photos are a byproduct of the real estate business.  Another way you can easily and cheaply go about protecting them is by licensing their use through Creative Commons.  Creative Commons is an internationally recognized organization that provides 6 different types of licenses ranging from “I own this image but please use it as you wish” to “I own this and if I find you using it anywhere, in any fashion, I’ll sue the pants off of you.”

Descriptions of the Various Creative Commons Licenses from PageThe best descriptions of the six licenses can be found on Flickr’s Creative Commons page.  You can apply the license to your image directly through Creative Commons or designate it upon upload to Flickr.

These three ways of protecting your online images is only the start.  One of these (or a combination) should help you start to get into the habit of protecting your online images.  If you have questions about anything I’ve discussed above, please contact me at:



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