Deter image theft with FHOP via
At my old church, we used to host quite a few non-religious {secular} community groups and meetings in our facilities throughout the week. It was part of our community outreach. And, invariably, our Bibles would end up missing from our meeting rooms. Now, this infuriated some church members because they really couldn't get past the whole stealing-at-church-thing. And I get that. And so did our priest's wife who also worked at the church and was always {and still is} full of some powerful wisdom.

And as we were talking about the theft and the reactions to the theft she mentioned that it's just part of our outreach and that if they needed the Bible so badly that they'd steal it, then let them have it for goodness sakes. {She's from Monroe, Louisiana so you should infuse THAT dialect and additional syllables into her words too. Awesome.}

And that particular conversation memory is the exact reason I changed the original title to this blog post from Blogging Genealogy: Stop Image Theft

Because that's impossible. Folks have been taking things from others for, like, ever. I mean, it's one of the Big Ten No-no's right between adultery and lying.

But for many it can be frustrating when the image of your ancestor which is in your physical possession ends up on someone else's website without any attribution or permission being sought. But? I've encouraged you to use images in your blog posts because no one wants to read all the time. Sometimes they just wanna look at pictures. {And also it's a great way to share your blog posts on image-centric sites like Pinterest and image-centric-wannabe-sites like Facebook.}

Personally, I don't get upset about it. I don't put stuff out on the Internet that I don't expect to be stolen. {And if you Google me, you'll find that I share a lot.} But that doesn't mean I don't do stuff {Occassionally. 'Cause I tend to be busy and don't have the time sometimes to do this when I'm blogging.} to it that labels the image as being different than a typical scan. 

{And in case you were wondering, this is NOT another blog post about copyright of images for genealogists for research and blogging. I think Judy does an awesome job on her blog, The Legal Genealogist with it. So check her post out on that.}

But? For those who'd like to deter folks from taking the image, this 'different' that I'm talking about can also serve to deter folks from taking it. Why? Because many times, people just want that perfect scan of an image. So change it. Make it not perfect. 

And if they do take it, it's not the end of the world because it's gonna be labeled. {And don't for a minute think  we didn't label our Bibles at church with our church's name, address, and phone number. Our priest's wife was smart like that. And still is. =)}

There are many ways to do this. I used to use Photoshop Elements {PSE} all the time {Okay, I still do}, but it's not always quick enough for me. I can certainly use PSE or any other photo editing software to add a watermark to my images, to change the image's appearance, and to add info about the image before uploading to the Internet, like on my blog. And a good example of this would be a collage I made of my husband's maternal Richardson family line on my personal family history blog, Family Stories. It's a collage of folks and then I watermarked a copyright thingy on it.

But? The technique that I'm going to share is much quicker and easier. {Being lazy with an overwhelming technology addiction leads to some great workarounds. ;) }

I use my iPhone and at least 2 photo editing apps to make my images for all my blogs - personal and business.} And instead of searching my gazillion scanned photos, firing up PSE, and editing, I just use this technique.

Now, the one caveat is that this technique only works if you have the original or if you've taken photos of the old photos, or scanned them, with your smartphone. And that may not always be the case.   {And, really, you should take Judy's sound advice about copyrights and old images into consideration as well when going through your photo selection/share decision-making process.} 
Deter image theft with FHOP via
To the right is a good example of one I did with an image of my Big Paw Paw. I just took his photo, snapped a picture of it with my iPhone {And might I add a non-perfect-angled picture snap?}, then ran the image through the  Etchings iPhone App where I applied the 1854 filter on it. {Because why not take a photo from ca.1940s and give it an 1854-old-newsprint feel?}

Then I saved that image to my iPhone and then ran that image through the Phonto app where I added the word "Secrets" and's URL. And then I emailed it to myself, saved it to my hard drive, and then uploaded it to my blog. {And there are multiple ways you could add an image from your smartphone to your blog. This is just one of the ways I do it. It depends on a lot of variables. And my mood. Sometimes it depends on my mood. ;)}

Deter image theft with FHOP via
Click on the image for a larger version.
As another example, here's an image I scanned back in 2009. In PSE, I cleaned it up digitally, made a digital design with it, and then identified the image of my husband's great-grandparents on his mother's Richardson line. {Click on the image for a larger version of the image.}

Deter image theft with FHOP via
Today in 2012-almost-2013, this might be how I'd share that photo online. And not as a deterrent from someone taking it, but as a time-saver, if anything. Plus,  my inner artist really loves those photo editing apps.} An added bonus of this particular image is that it shows I have multiple photos of John & Belle Richardson so maybe a potential cousin might contact me...for a better scan, for info, to meet, or something. {Who knows? Stranger things have happened.} But? I think it can make a good cousin-catcher technique. A bait-laced trap, if you will.

Steps for this sharing/deterring technique:
  1. Snap a photo of an old image with a smartphone or use one you've already taken from your smartphone's photo library.
  2. Use a photo editing app {or 2 or 3} for your smartphone to do something different with it.
  3. Use a photo editing app for your smartphone that allows you to add text to the image and add photo info and your blog's URL address and/or copyright info.
  4. Upload to your blog.

All I'm saying, really, is that sharing your old photos online in this manner might deter someone from taking it. And if not, at least it's labeled with the image info and URL back to your blog or website. 

And when {not if} someone takes it? Well, you can do whatever. I'm not going to tell you how you should or should not react.

But me? I consider it my Family History Outreach Program {FHOP}.

12/1/2012 02:09:46


Very good advice for those who are so concerned about thievery. I also like the touches you give these photos that make them more artistic.

I don't want to necessarily start up yet another conversation regarding ownership, etc. But my view is this. Many of my 100 year old photos I didn't take (obviously) and I didn't know that they even existed up until a few years ago. I frankly don't care who uses them. To me copying and reposting is just another way to get the word out.

Now if someone slapped a big caption or label on the photo with a name of the wrong person I might be annoyed.

I guess I just don't get this concern. If someone is so worried about Internet thievery then don't post photos and one would have nothing to get upset about.

My two cents.

Caroline Pointer
12/1/2012 22:15:49

Thanks Kenneth! I can understand if perhaps you've done a digital design like I did up there in 2009 or even what I do now because those are artistic interpretations. But then if I didn't want them stolen, I wouldn't put on the Internet without a big fat watermark on them. Or just not put them out there at all. Kind of like I don't keep my car unlocked because I don't want it stolen. I don't have to like the idea that I must lock it. But I do it and I don't complain about it nor do I lecture that stealing I'd bad.

But that's just me and what I do.

Thanks for reading & commenting, Kenneth! :)


12/1/2012 21:42:38

This is such a great idea, Caroline ... thanks for sharing the process. How about listing some apps for Android phones? I know a lot of them are available in both formats, but are there any that you would specifically recommend?

Caroline Pointer
12/1/2012 22:31:45

Mary Beth,

As I tend to have Apple mobile devices, an actual recommendation on an app on one that I've used on an Android device is hard.

I did Googl for you and found a Top 10 list from September 2012. Hope it helps!

Thanks for stopping by and reading!


12/1/2012 22:38:36

Caroline, you are a technological whizz and I am grateful for your tutorials and advice :-) Jo

12/2/2012 01:56:42

Love your suggestions, Caroline. And appreciate that you shared your process from start to finish (the easy way) for those of us a little less tech savvy. I do think this might encourage people who want a better version of the image to make that all-important contact. Thanks!

12/2/2012 21:01:44

Good ideas. I put my old photos on - hoping someone will "borrow" them. Then I look to see who took them, and check out their tree to see if the picture they borrowed is in my direct family line. If so, I contact them. I'm looking for all descendants of my great-greats for an upcoming reunion.

12/2/2012 23:57:01

Super advice. (I also believe in FHOP). So let me see if I'm getting this:

Right now I'm scanning many images with my Flip-Pal (600 dpi) and putting them into family folders on my desktop. That's where my scanned photos live.

So if I want to use an image in a blog, first I email/save it from family-folder desktop to my iPhone, then use the Phonto app on iPhone to add text to it and my blog address. Then email the changed photo back to myself and put it in a folder of, say, "Blogged Photos," from which I can upload it to my blog.

Is this right? If so, this is a terrific bonus for me! I've seen texts on other people's photos and wondered how they got it there.

Caroline, you have shepherded me through many tech improvements. Don't know what to say except thank you, thank you, thank you.

12/3/2012 00:43:16

Thanks so much for the kind words, Caroline -- and I love your ideas about adding text to the images to invite people to get in touch!

12/3/2012 03:55:01

I love it! Thanks so much for sharing your cousin catching techniques and your very artistic re-dos of your family pictures.

12/23/2012 21:21:17

I really hadn't thought about the sharing issue. But I love your creative uses of photos. So, perhaps I'll employ some of these tricks. Thanks for the post that got me thinking.

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