Thursday, May 16, 2013

Preventing Image Theft

Also in this issue:
  • Studiozaloon Portrait - Behind the scenes
  • The Road Ahead
  • Seminar Schedule
  • Preventing Image Theft

Studiozaloon Portrait -Behind the Scenes

Say hello to "Uncle Chin", owner of the Studiozaloon Sony Pro Shop, the store that sells more Sony Alpha equipment than anyone else in Malaysia.  Uncle Chin credits his success in this space by employing good customer communications both before and after the sale, and has been responsible for producing an army of loyal followers.

I wanted to take a proper "Environmental Portrait" (a portrait showing a person in the environment in which they thrive) of Uncle Chin using my now infamous Five Dollar Studio - one wireless flash and one large diffuser, with some volunteers acting as light stands.

At the very last second we decided "Hey, why don't we video the process of tweaking the lighting until it's just right?"  And so that video appears below -- no preparation, bad light and sound on the presenter, guerrilla camerawork.

For this shot I put the camera into manual exposure mode, and adjusted the exposure for the ambient light by putting the flash DOWN (so Live View would preview the ambient light properly) and adjusting the f/stop and shutter speed until the background looked darker than normal.  Then I put the flash UP (to control the wireless flash with full TTL) and composed my shot.  Notice that with the flash in the up position, the viewfinder got brighter -- that's because the camera wants to make sure you can see your subject and can compose your shot properly, even when it's really dark.

Frequently Asked Questions About Using this Technique

Q: How come when I adjust the f/stop and shutter speed for the background to be darker, the light from the flash doesn't get darker too?

A: The great thing about TTL Wireless Flash is the camera will always tell the flash how much light to output, and if you make your f/stop smaller the flash will simply put out more light to compensate.

Q: So why didn't the first test exposure come out the way I wanted it, with a dark background?

A: The flash bounced everywhere, and lit up the background more than I thought it would.  I fixed that by cutting back the ambient light even more.

Q: Hey!  This flash exposure looks spot-on.  Yet in the past you've stated that newer Sony cameras tend to overexpose the flash by about 1 stop.  How did you handle this?

A: I had the A99's flash exposure compensation permanently set to -1.

Look carefully and you can see the A99's 0.4s wireless flash delay at work.  In this scenario it didn't affect the shot negatively, since I was still able to capture the spontaneous and natural smile before it dissipated.

Seminar Schedule

Surely you've heard of the Friedman Archives High-Impact Photography Seminars by now!  Although they were originally targeted at beginners to help them overcome the learning curve, photographers at almost all skill levels have since attended and have raved about it, generally along the lines of "your approach is different and intuitive and fun" and "I"ve been shooting for 30 years and learned several new and important things!".  Perhaps the most heartwarming feedback I've received over the years has been "You've given my creative muscles a jump-start!".  I'm happy to help spread the joy.

Here's the seminar schedule for the rest of the year.  If you're a member of a photo club, and would like me to conduct a seminar just for your membership (photo club presidents usually say that such a seminar re-invigorates the club for several months thereafter!), give me a shout.

Seattle and Gibsons (near Vancouver) are happening next month!  Sign up now! 

Seattle, WashingtonJune 22-23, 2013Learn more and sign up!
Gibsons (near Vancouver), British ColumbiaJune 29-30, 2013Learn more and sign up!
Brisbane, AustraliaSeptember 7-8, 2013Click here to register interest for Brisbane
Sydney, AustraliaSeptember 14-15, 2013Click here to register interest for Sydney
Wellington, New ZealandSeptember 21-22, 2013Click to register interest for New Zealand

Preventing Image Theft

My most ripped-off shot according to
Dear Gary,

I read with interest your article in Cameracraft regarding your Chinese experience. I was particularly interested by the part where you talk about the "thumbs up" picture and the copyright issues you had. [note for those who haven't subscribed yet: I also talk about it here - scroll down to "Image #1- Four Thumbs Up".]   It's not that I have other pretensions than having fun when taking photos, but I would be peeved if someone "stole" some of my shots that I post on the blog, Facebook and the Dynaxdigital Forum. I have started adding signatures on the shots and of course my metadata has the usual verbiage re copyright.

I probably don't read enough photography legal stuff, but I was wondering if an article by you of "how to" protect one's pictures wouldn't be welcome by all the people that look up to you. Your experience matters!  -Marc Pecquet 


Hi, Marc!  Great to hear from you. [Other preamble deleted.]  As for your question on how to protect your images from unauthorized use, I think my magazine article pretty much says it all -- YOU CAN'T.  (Or at least I can't.)  Unless you keep your images off the internet to begin with, you're always subject to having your images used improperly.

Now before you get yourself stressed with worry, let me ask you two questions:

1) How much do you think you would be able to earn with your images?

2) How much is your time worth, per hour?

3) What's the break-even point in terms of investing time to enforce image violations?  (In my case it's 0.0002 hours.  (After that, I'm losing money trying to enforce my copyright.)  :-) )

4) What is the likelihood that someone in Chad will be able to afford your licensing fees anyway once you've tracked them down? :-)  (Keep in mind that it's likely that someone who would copy and use your image is not a person who would be able or willing to pay your rates, so you can't treat it as lost revenue.)

Generally speaking, unless the violators have deep pockets, it just doesn't pay to try to track down and enforce your rights.  The best you can often hope for is to send a "cease and desist" letter and have the content taken down.  Not much revenue from that.

There IS something you can do to help identify violators, however.  (I don't use it because of the reality of the above analysis):

1) There are services out there that can help you identify your images being used on the web.  Photoshop comes with a plug-in called Digimarc for Images ( which embeds and invisible and difficult-to-erase fingerprint in each of your images.  You then subscribe to their service which combs the web looking for your images and gives you a report, although their "webcrawling" mechanism is not highly regarded.  There's also a service called TinEye ( who offers a similar service called MatchEngine.

2) If you find a violator using these or other tools, AND they have deep pockets, you'll want to hire a lawyer to negotiate a settlement on your behalf (don't do it yourself; it will eat up your time and emotions, and having a lawyer gives you a psychological edge sometimes).  One such lawyer who specializes in "Serving the photographers' legal needs" is Carolyn Write at  Some words of wisdom from her website:

"Check your options for dealing with infringement in my article here: and the damages available  for infringements here:  We encourage photographers put their name, copyright notice, website information on the photo (in the bottom corner is fine) because it provides for a DMCA claim if the infringer removes the watermark"

I hope this helps!  I've learned that the free advertising you get when someone tweets your image (you have your copyright or website superimposed on top of your image, right?) is worth a lot more than the negative karma that comes with chasing down poor violators.  (The music industry is just now figuring this out, after a decade of suing everybody.)



The Road Ahead (my road, not Sony's...)

I'm an avid reader of  From him I learned that some very high-level Sony managers descended onto the Alpha division and changed a lot of their new product plans.  "No more incremental upgrades!" said they. "Any camera we introduce from now on must be a game-changer!".  And so the planned A78 was cancelled, as were some other rumored full-frame cameras.  The NEX-7 successor was postponed presumeably so it could be more different (perhaps more "seveny-er").  In short, this is going to be a very light year for interchangeable lens camera introductions from Sony.

I'm actually relieved, as before that decision they were coming out with cameras faster than I could write about them.  And now that I have a little time to breathe, I can now spend time working on projects that I wanted to do "someday".  These include:
  • Edit and package video from last year's London seminar, and figure out a way to not have it cannibalize my seminar business.  Finally people living outside of major cities can benefit from a different approach to teaching photography.
  • Work on a "25 Ways to Wow with Wireless Flash" e-booklet.  Flash can be a boundless topic, and if I wrote a comprehensive book covering everything you needed to know about wireless flash (a sample outline appears here), it would be huge and intimidating and it would send the message that "If you don't master all this stuff, you can't possibly take good pictures" which of course is hogwash.  (Plus it would have to be updated constantly to include new flashes and new user interfaces to those flashes.)  So instead, I'll cover the basics but keep the theme of the e-book to, "Just put everything on Auto, move the flash off the camera, and get creative!  The camera will handle the rest!"  (Then I'll have to talk about taking everything off Auto almost immediately :-) .)  This approach makes the project finite and manageable.  
  • My wife Carol has been after me to create an advanced seminar so we can have an excuse to go back to places we enjoyed visiting for previous seminars.  "Someday when I have time!" I said.  Well, this is the year for that.  But the subject of photography can be boundless and I'm not sure what advanced topics are of interest.  So, if you're a previous seminar attendee and you're reading this, please send me an email at Gary at Friedman Archives dot com and let me know what advanced topic YOU would like to learn about!
  • A "Best of the Blog" e-book, because for all the great things there are about blogs, reading a years-long blog in its entirety is not a pleasant experience.  This book would consist solely of my most popular articles, without all of those annoying commercials for my seminars.  :-)
  • A New Direction -- Mike Hendren, who co-authored the book on the NEX 5R and 6 (which came out last month) enjoyed the experience tremendously and said, "Hey, Olympus is coming out with the PEN E-P5 soon which looks pretty cool.  How would you feel about branching out?"  Tony Phillips, who co-authored several books with me in the past, is asking the same thing.  So now I begin the slow transition from being a writer to becoming a publisher, and it is up to me to ensure that the quality of the writing and the clear communication of the ideas is up to my standards.  Hopefully it won't take long for my reputation for thoroughness and approachability (and my tendency to make up words as I need them) to spill over into other camera brand circles.  

Until next time..
Yours Truly, 
Gary Friedman
Me and the Studiozaloon team

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  1. There may not be many new Sony models coming out this year, but might that not be because All Sony Alpha A-Mount Cameras Going Mirrorless in 2014?

    At least, that's what I read in Eric Reagan's Photography Bay Newsletter last night. If he's right, wouldn't they need the time to get the new technology right? And if he is correct, I hope they can improve on the AF, especially for indoor sports. I've got the Sony Alpha lenses, like my A57, but can't say it works well for basketball.

    JJ Semple

  2. About "Preventing Image Theft
    Great analysis and wise recommendations Gary... from now we will have this note on our galleries:

    "All our images are ®Copyrighted, have multiple and imperceptible watermarks and hidden data, but anyway... you might use them for free only as long as keeping our logotype and address on them..."

    I think that instead of being absurdly egoists and avaricious, it is a great way for sharing, spreading and promoting our works meanwhile getting free advertising in as many places as possible.

    Thanks a lot.

    1. I think you understand the kind of enlightened attitude I've had about my own images for more than a decade. You can anguish, or you can harness the natural behavior to get the word out about your work. GF


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