Friday, 14 December 2012

Simplifying Image Search - A Call to Developers

Anyone who has tried to do an image search using the tools described here will realize quickly that the biggest problem is how time consuming it is. Not to just invoke an image search, but to modify the image many times to create versions for each of the common search-avoidance methods. One has to flip the image horizontally, maybe vertically, convert it from colour to BW and then sepia, try rotating to the left or right, change the brightness, contrast and saturation, etc.

I don't have the time to do it, but an enterprising developer could probably find a substantial market for a tool that would simply modify a photo in all the common ways described above and for each instance, submit it to one or more image search engines. Optimally this product could be invoked with a right click like Google Image Search and Tineye could.

Another very useful feature would be to enable batch runs so that the product could be pointed to a folder of files and executed in batch, rather than one by one.

If anyone develops a tool like this, let us know. Better still, post it everywhere so that photogs everywhere can take advantage of it.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

How to prove it's yours

This will be expanded with additional information.

For now, consider some of these suggestions:


Remove all EXIF and XMP data from your photos before you make them available publicly.

EXIF data is data stored in you image file pertaining to the camera, its settings for this photo and so on.

XMP data details all the processing steps you took after the photo was taken.

You don't want this info to go out with your photo.

Here is another well-written and easy-to-read article about EXIF and XMP:

If the issue arises of proving that a photo is yours, you want the EXIF and XMP data to be yours exclusively, you don't want the other party to have it.

Or modify you EXIF data and keep a record of the modifications you have made, so essentially you will be posting a photo with bogus EXIF data, but only you know what those modifications are:

This software will allow you to display and modify a variety of data.

DO NOT do this if the reason you are including the exif data when you post an image is to help others understand what you did. NEVER EVER mislead your viewers.

Keep a record of your image processing

If you use processing software that uses multiple layers, keep the file copy that retains the layers. For example, in Photoshop, keep the  .psd files which have a record of all your layers and processing steps. But make sure you don't include the XMP data which records all this info. Even if you are using Picasa, always retain the Picasa.ini files that record your processing steps and use Picasa export to produce a lower resolution jpg for public distribution

Keep the highest resolution versions for yourself only

Keep your raw files, post lower resolution jpg or png or whatever format you want to use.

Here is an example of just a portion of the data recorded with an image in a jpg file, and most of this can be edited:

How about visible watermarks or copyright symbols

The short answer is they are effective only if they can't be removed without essentially ruining the photo. The smaller and less obvious they are, the easier it is to remove them. So yes, if they are so obvious the photo would be useless if they were removed, they would work. The downside is obviously that they would be of very little interest from a display/presentation perspective.

How about QR codes? 

The problem with QR codes is they are visible. A QR code less than 1 cm by 1 cm becomes hard to read. So they are visible, and if they are visible, someone can clone over them or crop them out. As in other types of watermarks, they are most effective if removing them destroys the image.

There are many free QR code generators if you would like to try out QR codes, here is just one example:

What about digital watermarks such as Digimarc? 

They are effective as long as the person copying a photo does not alter the image substantially. You can read all about Digimarc here:

and here is a broad overview:

And for some excellent white papers on watermarking and fingerprinting:

Keep all relevant information

If your photos include people, make sure you have all the appropriate release forms and that you have some system to relate the forms to the photos.

If you shoot scenes, keep notes on where each photo is taken. If your camera has GPS location capabilities, make sure it is turned on. Make sure your versions have the date and time. It is key that you retain information about the photo that is true, verifiable and that the other party does not have.


Please comment with additional ways in which a photographer can prove the photo is his/hers.

What if you don't want a secret admirer?

I don't want to re-invent the wheel on this one. I have read a lot of articles on the topic and I like this one because it is short, well written and to-the-point.

Please comment with any additional measures photographers can take to help protect their intellectual property.

Additional good background material:

Do you have a secret admirer?

All this talk of photo pairs might have you wondering if you, too, have a photo twin that you are not aware of.

Two of the most common free tools that can be used to start investigating if your photo shares significant characteristics with one more more others are Google Image and Tineye. Both compare a photo you submit to all the photos each tool has indexed. Based on the reports I have seen so far, Google Image appears to be far more effective.

To use Google Image, just go to this URL and click on the camera beside the search field. This will allow you to submit a photo you have on your computer to the Google Image search, or you can enter the url of an image directly into the search field.

The above shows what a Google image search prompt looks like. If you click on that camera on the right of the search field, you get this:

And you case see that you can paste the image url or upload an image from your computer.

Once you have done that, you will see a results screen like this:

Google will find partial images. So, for example, if you snip a portion of an image to exclude a copyright, Google will still find matches on the portion that you submit. These are all listed under "Pages that include matching images".

Google will also show you images it thinks are similar visually, in the section "Visually similar images". In this case, food - not that impressive. But if you go to the top of the page there is a search field where you can enter a description for the photo you are uploading. If I do that and enter "car", I get the following results:

Yellow cars! That is much more like it. Not the fabulous Willys Overland that Hera had, but still, yellow cars. 

Then the fun starts and you have to work your way through all the sites that have that same Willys Overland and start trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

But there is a wrinkle, wouldn't you know it! If the photo has been flipped horizontally then testing shows that Google will not find a match. Swiching from colour to sepia or black and white also seems to fool Google. Major changes in the tonality and saturation may fool Google. Rotating the image in either direction may fool Google.

If there is an expert on the use of these search tools out there, please feel free to comment.

Google Image is also conveniently available as a Chrome extension that you can get here:

If you install this extension you will be able to just right click on any image displayed in your browser Google Image will do its thing.

Tineye is the other tool that can be used. It is available here:

You will see this:

But the easier way to use it is to click on Use a Browser Plugin - there's one for most browsers - and that will let you right click on an image so that TinEye can see if it can find something that matches.

In the case of that incredible Willys Overland, TinEye yields this:

Not as many results as Google. You will have to try these tools to determine which you want to use. Or just use both.

To submit crops, use the Windows Snipping Tool (free Windows accessory) or Snagit or Faststone or any other screen capture tool. Or just use the most excellent free capture extension that Chrome offers. Snip the portion you want to test and submit it. Remember to also try flipping the image horizontally (vertically in some cases) and if you want to get exotic, rotating and changing tonality. Try a BW or Sepia version of a colour photo.

If you want to check if text accompanying your photo has been copied, use this tool:

If anyone has other information that would be helpful to photographers to keep track of their admirers, please leave comments.

Update from the Finns

Here is a very well stated update from the Finns:

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Example #26 Canadian, eh?

For those who have been following the remarkable exploits of our intrepid photographer, Hera Bell, you may   be wondering why no Canadians have appeared as Hera's "significant others". Those others have so far spanned the four corners of the globe, but no home grown examples. But do not despair:

In this episode of the Never Ending Story (Hera style), she tells us how she is the modern (wo)Man for all seasons. "As a commercial photographer, I shoot anything and everything. Here is what I mean." and yes indeed, what an impressive portfolio. Notice that she has included the Canadian west in her portfolio. What a wonderful canoe shot, how Canadian can you get, eh?

To emphasize how much she likes this photo, she has it as one of her Top 4 in the Canadian market (by the way, if the one in the top right looks familiar, see Example #3).

Well hold on to your hats, what are the chances that someone found that same canoe, tied to that same dock on that same lake with that same breathtaking background? I am sure you would say none, but hah:

Look at this wonderful shot by Greg McLemore. I am not sure if he shoots anything and everything, like Hera, but he sure knows how to capture a Canoe on a Lake in our great West.

For more wonderful photos from Greg, check this out:

Canoeing always make me wonder

Who shot this photo?

Inspector Clouseau was really Finnish

Just a little interlude to commend the sleuthing talents of the Finns, especially at
who have unearthed a veritable treasure trove of fascinating pairs of photos. What you see here is simply a visual representation of some of their findings. I would strongly suggest you visit their site. If you are using Google, just hit the translate to English button and you should be able to make some sense of the discussions. Plus, they have more material than what is displayed here. I recommend that they adopt the Pink Panther as their new emblem!!!

Ok, interlude is over, back to business!

Example #25 Hera, The Spoon Lady

Well, we have now hit a bit of a milestone since this is the 25th pair of photos we have to appreciate. Also, we can get back to the humorous side of all this. This is the silver anniversay example, so to speak, and Hera just outdoes herself on this one. Consider, for a moment, the incredible balancing act demonstrated by the oh-so-versatile Hera here:

Check out that photo on the right. I wonder how much liquid was used to get that shot. Honey, Hera tells us, how sweet! How many takes were needed to get this perfect balance, and think about it, the cleanup after each attempt. It's an image that really "sticks". That shows true determination. I guess determination paid off because Hera tells us that this was sold as three 20 x 20 prints to a client in Toronto. Good going!

But I wonder if her client might have gotten something a bit cheaper from this guy, after all, I am sure you will see the similarities:

Oh my gosh, he is even more impressive than Hera! Look! Look! 3 spoons. And there is more - 2, count them, 2, puddles. Even Hera would be impressed with this one.

If you like that balancing act you can check out more fine examples here:

All this dribbling is making me wonder

Who took this photo?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Example #24 A Tribute

I have tried to find humorous elements in all the pairs of photos presented here so far. But I can't find anything funny in this one, no matter how hard I try. I think it has something to do with the description from Hera and the context:

Note the warning in red "My photos are NOT OK to edit". On the site where this appeared there follow numerous posts advising that this photo be used for this very special occasion and heaping much praise on Hera. I wonder if these same posters heaped the same praise on this photographer:

I think he should have received as much praise. Maybe he did, I don't know, I don't know if he was invited to submit works to this competition.

You can see more remarkable photos from this person here:

Given the context, I cannot find anything funny about this, maybe the next one ......

Meanwhile, who took this photo?

Example #23 Awww, Little Girl in Rain, Too Cute!!!

The accomplished Hera Bell could probably spot this shot 10 miles away. How can you not fall in love with the picture of a little girl walking in the water:

Isn't that just the sweetest thing you ever saw. Hera thought so. So too did this guy:

Wow, now, isn't it toooo cute? And the guy who took this shot explains that what you see is not rain, the water actually comes from showers in the wall. Mesmerizing, right?

If you would like to be mesmerized even more, take a look at his brilliant portfolio here:

And please, someone, let ne know,

Who took this photo?

Example #22 Hera Bell, The Storm Chaser

We've seen Hera the cabbage photographer, the insect specialist, the industrial recorder, so why not the storm chaser? After all, here she is hard at work chasing very imposing storm cells:

Although I never realized they had these types of storm cells in Tuscany, but clearly they do, because her text is very clear about that. But it looks as though this storm made it across the Atlantic, because this photographer was able to capture the very same storm, right here:

Wow, what a coincidence! If Hera had been really dedicated she would have gotten into a boat and chased it across the sea so that she could have photographed it again in Fort Morgan! But I guess we will just have to make do with her Tuscan shot. If you can't see the similarity, just hold the above photo in front of a mirror.

If you love weather photos then this guy's photos will knock your socks off, prepare to be amazed, just click on View Gallery below this photo in the following link:

All this storm chasing has me wondering

Who took this photo?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Example #21 Hera vs the Bugs

It is clear that Hera excels in just about every conceivable type of photography. But how about bugs? Surely she would be too squeamish to get close to the creepy crawlies. But nope, our dedicated photographer has no reservations about getting really close to things with more than 4 legs:

Wow, look at the detail. Wonder if that's with her trusty Lumix, with but a single studio strobe, and available light and a long exposure ... oops, I am wandering off there,  must be the cumulative effect of the previous posts. But wait, the Chinese, who know a thing or two about high resolution photography, might offer some real competition. Take a look at this bug:

Gosh that's good, but look, again we have that left brain, right brain thing going on, or is it left or right wing political tendencies. Whatever it is, it is at play here again.

Ok, if that photo did not freak you out then you will probably be interested in this mind blowing exhibit here:

But even with all these bugs crawling around, I still want to know

Who took this photo?