So I was on the Today Show talking about images that have been taken from my blog. Most often images of my family (actually taken by other photographers), but sometimes, photos of my kids.
People have been writing asking what they can do in these situations. So I thought I’d share some tips on what to do when someone steals a photo of your child by answering my FAQs on this topic.
Q: How do you know if your photos have been stolen?
A: A few ways. Most commonly someone will tell me. My readership is wide and my family is recognizable. So when someone comes across an image of my family or my kids on a Facebook page, meme, or website, they’ll message me asking if I knew about it.
Also, for some of the popular images on my blog, specifically shots of my family together, I’ll do a google image search. Which is me clicking and dragging or copy/pasting an image I suspect has been stolen into the google search bar. I can then see where else that picture comes up. (They use this technique on Catfish if you want a demo… Or maybe I’ll do a vlog about this, hopefully that makes sense). If you’re wondering if some of your images have been used elsewhere, this would be the way to find out!
Q: What do you do when you see someone is using your photo on another website?
A: I ask them to take it down. In my experience people have been very apologetic saying they didn’t realize the photos were of a real family, and not just a stock image. Usually I write a message just letting them know that my photo is being used without my permission and ask them to take it down or face legal action. If I want to be more formal, I’ll write a cease and desist letter so they know I mean business before next steps. That is their warning.
Q: What do you do when you find someone is using your photo on Facebook?
A: I message them and ask them to take it down BUT… Facebook drives me nuts in that messages to people you aren’t connected to, go to their “others” folder, so that person may not see my request for weeks or months. So usually I report the photo, over and over and over in every capacity possible, then I comment on the photo asking them to take it down and friends in my feed who see my comment can also report it. Finally, I report it on Facebook’s Unauthorized Use of Photos of Minors form. Between all of these things I’ve always managed to get the photos removed and/or the profile shut down within a day.
Q: What will you do if a website or page doesn’t take it down?
A: Take legal action.
Q: But I’ve seen your photos on HuffPost/Babble/The Root etc. How come they haven’t taken them down?
A: Because they asked me permission to use the image and I gave them the OK. They also include a link back to my website.
Q: I want to keep sharing photos of my kids online, but I want to protect them, how can I do that?
A: On wordpress I have installed a plugin to disable right-click of the photos on my blog. So it’s not a simple right click and save to have the photo. You can also add watermarks to your images using a free program like PicMonkey.com. Of course these won’t stop people who are seriously determined. But it helps. If you put the watermark over the face, it makes it even less appealing for people wanting to use it.
On Facebook, make sure your pictures are set to “friends only” I even have some of my albums privacy settings set to “only me.” Double check your profile picture and cover photo albums. Past cover photos and profile pictures are automatically set to public. Unfortunately there’s no right-click disable on Facebook or other social media sites.
Q: How can I make it so people can’t save my photos from Facebook or Instagram like they mentioned in the story?
A: The Today Show story sorta meshed two tips together. “Manage your privacy settings on Facebook and Instagram. [Next, you can ALSO] disable right-click [on your website or blog.]” Unfortunate facebook and instagram don’t allow those options at this time, but hopefully it will come in the future.
Q: Are you worried about their photos showing up on some child porn site?
A: No. And if you’re worried about that, take extra caution to bathtub/naked kids pictures you take and might share. Sometimes sites like that will crawl (auto-search) the web looking for images of certain body parts. If you’ve already posted them, use the tip above to search and see if it’s anywhere else.
Q: Are you going to keep sharing images of your kids online after all of this?
A: Yes! I don’t look at the world, or the internet as this big scary place. You can choose to see it that way if you want, but I choose to look at it a different way. I love photography, sharing our happiness in making memories, and helping inspire others to document their family moments, regardless if they choose to share them online like I do. I’m not going to stop doing what I love out of fear.
Q: Well, will you EVER stop posting pictures of your kids?
A: Probably. Lil’ J and I have an ongoing conversation about the blog, she knows what pictures we’re sharing and loves being an active participant (she’s currently begging me for her own YouTube channel). We will just keep re-assessing the situation as my kids get older and become more private. I choose not to share my kids’ names. They can blog under her own names later if they want to.
Thank you so much for reading and reaching out to ask questions. Hopefully this helps you find out how to know if your photos have been stolen and what to do about it.
Let me know if you have any more and I’ll try to answer in the comments.