The Terrible Truth about Photography

UPDATE:  Now that TinEye is in Beta, an invitation is no longer needed to try the service.  Still no charge, and worth the time to register (also free), so make sure you stop in and sign up for this today!

The truth?  That’s right, this post is all about the truth in digital photography.  “What? Is there a hidden truth?”  I know, that’s what you all are asking, but no, it’s not hidden, just something we don’t take into account too often and that is the use of our images either without our permission or consent.  For many photogs, the use of their photo can elicit excitement:  “Hey look, I floated up to the top of the Flickr Explore thread!”  I myself got a little excited at the possibility of having my images used in a magazine  (They never were selected, but that’s another story…)  Meanwhile, others may find their images start popping up on questionable websites, where their images are used to sell everything from cars to prescription drugs and homes, and all sorts of stuff.  I know, these trolls are just a painful part of the internet age…but we’re talking more than trolls here.  Legitimate websites are starting to use web crawlers to pull images from various sites to use in their own online marketing.

There was a well-publicized case last year I think about a cellular company in Australia that culled images from Flickr for a marketing campaign.  After some outcry, they pulled the images, and photographers were compensated.  Well, it’s now hit the U.S. too – Toyota recently caught some flack over the same issue.

So, what can we do?  Well, the efforts of the Flickr faithful kept this car company honest with the outcry, and it looks like they are coming clean – but that’s just one site.  How could you possibly troll the internet for mis-use of your images?  You can’t, but TinEye can!  What’s Tineye, you ask?  It’s pretty cool, and is the subject of this weeks software review:

TinEye is very much like the web crawlers in that it crawls the web, looking for nothing more than images.  The text on websites?  Doesn’t care…  The CSS, HTML, JS, PHP, and all of the rest of that jibberish code on websites?  Doesn’t matter…nope, it’s just images.  But, what makes it cool is that Tineye will look at those photos in comparison to ones YOU PROVIDE!  That’s right, simply upload an image to Tineye, and the beta web application will scan more than a billion images online to see if your matches any in use.

While a great idea, even a billion images is  mere drop in the bucket by todays standards, and if it grows as it could, this could become a very useful way to look up not only photo uses, but also seek out copyright violations, and et photo buyers in touch with those of us selling photos – the photographers!  Here’s how it works:

  1. Find someone that can give you an invite.  (They don’t have a lot of invites – I have 1 of two left…so you will likely have to ask someone that already has it to give you one of thiers..)
  2. Once you are invited, simply register, and then download the plugin for your browser of choice – they have them for Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari.
  3. Then, if you want to see your image usage online, grab a photo of yours and upload to the Tineye scanners – within seconds, they will find any other uses.

Here’s a few screenshots of what things look like once you are registered:



So, here’s the upper right corner of your screen once you are invited and logged in.  Now, just navigate to toe homepage, and use the dialog to upload an image and search:

Upload Diaog

Upload Diaog

Homepage Dialog

Homepage Dialog

So, basically, click the button and select a folder off your computer or use a URL to a specific image, and then click on the “Search” button…then let Tineye do the rest.

I tried two different images, and one came up as in use on the internet (my own site, so Phew!), and the other returned no results.

Screen shot 2009-11-10 at 10.43.26 PM

Photo Usage based on Tineye

Not in use

Not in use

So, this means that (for me), it seems like no one has appropriated or taken anything without permission..yet.  Do you want to put your images at risk?  With the simple addition of a browser plugin for FF, IE, or other browser of your choice:



So, find an invite, download today, and keep a list – it just might save (or make) you a lot of time and frustration using other techniques to protect your images online with things like copyright graphics, embedded EXIF and password information, and all that jazz.  I’d highly recommend this software even though it’s still in beta – simply because of the reward vs consequences it can offer.  Remember though, this is just my thoughts on this software – others could differ greatly so make sure you do your research and know wht kinds of limits this has (all software has limits it’s just a matter of keeping current with updates – if you are a pro photographer, you may want to consider using additional methods like watermarking and entering EXIF data).

After all, this is still in Beta and not to be used in lieu of adding copyright, exif, and contact information to your photos – actually, it’s meant to encourage it, simply because it can save you a lot of grief and headaches down the road.  Think I’m wrong?  Disagree?  Agree?  Sound off in the comments – would love to hear your thoughts as well!

In the meantime, couple contest nuggets here you:

The Scott Kelby Digital Photography Book Vol.3 book giveaway is the latest comment Contest frenzy to hit the blog so don’t miss out on our chance – make sure you enter today!  Good luck to everyone!   The other is the November Fickr Photo thread, feel free to upload here just make sure you are saving our images as low res and to the correct pix sizes!  Good luck here as well…in the meantime, keep on taking good shots  – hope all yours are good ones!  See you back here tomorrow!

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4 comments for “The Terrible Truth about Photography

  1. November 11, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Here I am, decaf not even brewed, and you blew me away for the morning. I’m wide awake, even if I’m looking scruffy. Tineye, what an amazing find Jason!

    I’ve actually found out several times in the past 2 years about illegal usage of my images. One organization went so far as to use an image in a mailer with a poet’s poem next to the image. A friend received the mailer and contacted me to make sure I had taken the shot, not the poet. The company in question apologized, compensated me, but thought I would have appreciated the attention. My point? They didn’t even credit me for the shot……

    Extremely cool!!!
    .-= Rich C´s last blog ..White Pocket Lessons: Bet you thought I’d forget! =-.

  2. November 11, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the TinEye mention. I just wanted to let you know that while there is still the option to create an account, registration is no longer required for TinEye since it went into open beta.


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