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How to Protect Your Images with Metadata in Photoshop

Monica GalvanLauren Hooker11 Comments

Have you ever worried about sharing your images on the Internet? Anytime you upload something to the web you risk the chance of your work being used (without permission!) by another.

When you share information on the web, it's always best practice to give credit in the form of a link back to the original source so the reader can find out more information. Taking credit for photography or graphics you didn’t create or pay for is plagiarism and should be taken seriously.

How to Protect Your Images with Metadata in Photoshop - The Elle & Company Collaborative

If you’re a photographer I’m sure you’re even more concerned with the copyright of your images, but designers or creators in general should consider adding copyright in the metadata of their images too. That way if an image is ever taken from your site the copyright information (the photographer or creator of the image, the website source, and any other contact information you wish to add) will always be embedded within the image.

You’ll even see the © copyright symbol when you open the image up in Photoshop, as you can see in the screenshot below.

What is metadata?

First, you may be wondering what metadata is and why it's important. You may have already heard all about the amazing benefits of adding metadata to your photos but have never tried adding any yourself or even know where to begin. Today’s post will help clear up a few of those confusions.

Metadata is data that describes other data. It helps you organize and retrieve vital information on your image and makes the file searchable on the computer and/or Internet.

Metadata can be created manually or automated by a process (like the one we’ll show you today). A few examples of automated metadata you may already be familiar with are date created, date modified, and file size. These fields automatically populate themselves.

If you take a look at the metadata of a photograph you might be amazed by how much information is captured and stored! You can find out which camera created the file, exposure information, and descriptive information like keywords.

How to add copyright information by creating a new Photoshop action

Before we get into the step-by-step tutorial on how to add your copyright information to the metadata of your images, you want to be sure to create and start recording a new Photoshop action so you only have to go through this process once. That way once you press “Play”, the Photoshop action performs a series of recorded steps.

The purpose is to create a sequence that can be applied repeatedly, giving you the same results every time without having to go through and alter the process. We want to eliminate tedious, repetitive work by automating as much as possible. It would be time consuming to add these steps to your editing workflow each time you create a new image in Photoshop for your blog or website.

If you’ve never created or used Photoshop actions before, don’t worry; we’ll go through it one step at a time. By the end of this tutorial you’ll be glad you took the time to set up the workflow and probably look for more ways to use Photoshop actions to save time in the future!

After opening an image in Photoshop, go to Window > Actions. The actions tab will pop up on your screen. Click Create New Action to start a new workflow.

Under Name, enter a title for your new action. In this tutorial we named ours “Copyright” to quickly remind us of its purpose. If you want to increase the automation process by a notch, you can choose to assign a Function Key to use to start the action.

When you’re ready, click the Record button to start recording your Photoshop action.

Note: Anything you do from this point on within Photoshop will be recorded in the action, so it’s important to only perform the required steps for this workflow. The point of a Photoshop action is to create a workflow that can work on any image without interruption.

Next, go to File > File Info. All the fields in the dialog box should be blank since this is a new document.

Under the Basic tab fill in your name or company name under Author, change the Copyright Status to “Copyrighted,” add a copyright notice, and insert the Copyright Info URL. Take a look at the example below to see how to personalize with your information.

Quick tip: To add a © copyright symbol on a Mac press the “alt” or “option” key while typing “g” on the keyboard; To add a © copyright symbol on a PC press the “alt” key while typing “0169” on the keyboard.

Notice the Creation Date, Modification Date, Application, and Format. These are examples of automated metadata we mentioned earlier. You aren't able to modify these fields.

Next, choose the IPTC tab. You’ll notice the Creator field populated itself with the same information you added in the Author field in the previous tab. You can get as detailed as you like by adding information into the fields. If you’re a photographer and want others to know the location of your business, you can add a business address, city, state/province, postal code, and country.

The most important pieces of information you’ll want to add are your email address and website URL. That way if someone finds your photo online and falls in love with it, they can contact you and possibly hire you if they’re interested!

If you scroll down to the bottom of the IPTC tab, you’ll notice the Copyright Notice also populated itself from the information you entered in the Description tab. Under Rights Usage Terms, add All Rights Reserved.

You may want to skim through the other tabs within this dialog to familiarize yourself with what’s available, and you can be as detailed or brief as you like. But for the purpose of this tutorial, we’re only adding copyright information.

Once you’re done adding your information to the fields click OK. Then click Stop on your Photoshop action tab and you’re done!

Now that you’ve gone through this process once and created a Photoshop action, you’ll never have to do it again for any of your images in Photoshop. The next time you create a graphic in Photoshop you click Play on the action to automatically go through the workflow.

It’s a good idea to test your new Photoshop action a few times with other images to make sure everything runs smoothly. Open a new photo, click the Play button of the Photoshop action or use the function key you assigned if you specified one. Now you can easily add copyright information to the metadata of all your images with a click of a button.

Photoshop actions can be a huge time saver and encourage consistency!

Have you ever used or created your own Photoshop actions to help speed up and automate a workflow process?

About the Author

Monica Galvan is a visual storyteller who helps creatives find their visual voice and become more confident behind the camera. She is also the creator of Fall in Love with Photography, a free 7 day photo challenge to kickstart your photography. 

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