David Riecks Photography

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Protect image files with this Photoshop action

Here is a simple way to use the File Information box in Photoshop to take every advantage of the copyright laws. Remember that you gain additional protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by providing notification to viewers of your work. This also prevents your images from becoming Orphan Works.

This should not be done as your sole means of protection. I would also suggest using a "visible" watermark (such as that described in this About.com tutorial) that includes, at minimum, the copyright symbol and your name. This can be placed as a layer above the image and ghosted or embossed into the image. This is a simple task with programs such as iView Media Pro, or Breezebrowser, and can be done as a batch process.

You will obtain the best quality by working with files that are in an uncompressed or lossless format such as TIF rather than jpeg. Performing this action on jpegs will subject those files to another round of "lossy" compression which could lower the quality of your images. At minimum I would suggest observing the original jpeg to the twice-saved jpeg to make sure that quality is acceptable.

You may also find the use of utilities such as the Image Info Toolkit, or PhotoMechanic better suited for embedding metadata into jpeg files.


How to create an action in Photoshop (I used Adobe Photoshop 6, but this should work in most other versions as well).

1. Open any image in Photoshop.

2. Under the window menu choose "Show Actions".

3. On the right side of the actions palette you will see a little triangle. Click and choose "create new action".

4. Name the Action (example, "Copyright 2007")

5. Choose a set from the pop up menu (you could have created a new set if desired like one named meta data or copyright). If you wish you can map your function keys as a shortcut (for example, Mac "Command + Shift + F8" or pc, Ctrl+Shift+F8).

6. You are ready to start recording, go to your open image and choose File, File Info.

7. In the Caption box, type in 2007 (photographers name), All Rights Reserved. If you wish, add your phone number, address, etc.
( to get the symbol use Option + G [mac], or hold down on the Alt key while typing the 0169 from the numeric key pad* [windows]).
See the asterisk point below if you are using a windows laptop.

8. There are several sections under the toggle bar depending on which version of Adobe® Photoshop you are using. For version 6, look under the "copyright" section (Command + 6, Mac; Control + 6, PC), in version 7 this is in the "general" section. Check the box labeled "Mark Copyrighted" and place 2003 (photographers name), All Rights Reserved. (this is so you are fully covered in any countries that are signatories of the Bern Convention). Since not all IPTC readers work the same, I also suggest putting the same info into the "caption" field as well.

9. If you wish, add your website URL in the field provided below. However, as noted above this may only be visible if the client opens the file within Adobe® Photoshop, so you may wish to also place this within the caption field as well.

10. Choose OK- You will notice the copyright symbol is now in front of the image name on the top of the image window.

11. Go back to little triangle at the edge of the actions palette and choose "stop recording" from the menu or click on the little black square at the bottom. If you wish to use this as part of a "batch" process as mentioned below, you will need to add a "Save As"** step before you stop recording.

12. You now have an action for inserting this data into every image by simply running this action..

You may wish to backup this action at this point. See your help file or manual for specifics on how to do this.

Just Automate it!

If you want to make this process even easier, set up a batch process so that you can process many images at once with this action.

1. Create a folder on your desktop, you might call it "copyright". Move the files you wish to protect into this folder.

Note: This will overwrite any existing data you have in your "file info" box, so use carefully or only place copies of your files in this folder. 

2. Under the "file" menu choose "Automate" and select "Batch".

Choose the copyright action (it should appear automatically if it was the last action you ran), select a source folder be sure to check the box labeled override action "Save As"** commands and choose play.

Then sit back and watch, or use the time you saved for more production purposes.

*If you are on a windows laptop and can't easily use the numeric keypad, try using the "Character Map" program (read your help file if you've never used this). You can find it using Start >> Programs >> Accessories >> System Tools >> Character Map.

**Please note that you should only use the "Save As" command. All current versions of Adobe® Photoshop will "strip" out the IPTC info if you use the "Save for Web" option as this gives the most compact file size. See the Metadata Manifesto for other details on how you can use metadata effectively.

©2007 David Riecks, please do not distribute without permission from the author.

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This page last updated: 3-23-2007