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20 June 2011

Theft of images and how to find them

There is now an excellent way to find out how many of my images are being used illegally and without permission from me. It's called Google Image Search. While there may be issues with the TOS of this site, it is still worth a try. I have downloaded the Chrome extension (Firefox extension also works) so I can right click my images on my website and hey presto, up comes the image and the location/website of same. Always check "All sizes" of the particular image because sometimes they show there and not in the Google pages. I have found many on Facebook without attribution or permission, hundreds on blogs which I don't really have a problem with but I have found a lot on commercial websites around the world. I have over 4,000 images on my PBase site so it will take a fair amount of time to find them all. The most ironic to date was to find one of my images of a silhouette of a bicycle being published on a UK police website about stolen bicycles. I pointed out to them the irony of finding an image on their site which was actually stolen from my website and that images should have the same protection as cyclists! I also noticed that a brochure on this website also had the same image on the front cover so it would appear that it was infringed on a hard copy publication rather than website use. It will be an interesting read when I get a response. I have also found one of my images of the Sydney Opera House on the blog of a UK television personality (who was once a resident of Sydney) but have yet to received a response from him. Another found on a religious surfer website and I pointed out that I thought one of their commandments was Thou Shalt Not Steal and received an immediate apology. Yet another on an Australian television station website which has a "foot in the door" approach to shonky tradesmen and who has since apologised for publishing an image of mine illegally on one of their webpages. And so the list goes on. I did get a positive response from one dentist in Hollywood who offered to pay (and did with 24 hours) for two years use for one image of mine and hopefully will renew the license when it expires. A pic of mine of the Richmond bridge in Richmond, Tasmania seems extremely popular with travel agents specialising in Tassie who seem to have group memory loss as to where they may have purchased the image as it was not from Tourism Tasmania (as a couple of them stated) as I have checked with them and they are horrified that their name is being used as a source. A real estate company in Sydney was most indignant that I sent him a "ridiculous" (according to him) bill for $120.00 for use of one of my images of the Rocks and offered me 10%. Sigh. It does not seem to dawn on those who nick images that it is theft, pure and simple.


  1. Hi Sheila,

    Good for you for collecting at least some of the money that's owed to you.

    After seeing the post on alamy, I'm starting the slow process of trawling through my images and sending out invoices. I feel it's going to be a long day...

  2. Just posted a blog on copyright theft and how to find your picture on the web using the new Google app and Tineye

    see MyPhotoSchool

  3. Hi Sheila,

    well done for going after the infringers. The more we do it, the more people will start to realise it is illegal theft that is taking place. We have a long way to go in making people understand this. I'm currently chasing an infringer in Aus (im in UK) who has a website which links to Flickr images using an API. He is linking to All Rights Reserved stuff including mine, but seems quite oblivious to the fact he is both in breach of the law and of Flickrs Ts & Cs! If he doesn't pay the bill I've sent him, I'll need to get a lawyer in Aus. Do you know of any who deal with this sort of thing there?


    Alan Spencer

  4. Hi Alan

    Email me ssmart at and I will give you the name of my IP lawyer in Sydney who is assisting me (along with a US IP lawyer) in pursuing a breach of contract/copyright infringement case.



After Topaz

Using Topaz Spicify, the image has been enhanced in both colour and "pop". This may be a tad OTT but when printed out, it looks rather good (even if I say so myself!!).

Elderly gents

Image enhancing filters

I have recently been experimenting with different filters for post processing images. Topaz has been one of them. Using the adjust filter, one can change rather dramatically an image which may (or may not) need enhancing. Purists argue that one should not enhance or change an image but in this era, we are bombarded with enhanced movies so it seems a natural progression to enhance still images. The pic directly above is the original image (shot RAW and converted using Adobe Camera RAW).

Rather boring shot of Sydney Harbour

I am going to show how a somewhat boring shot of Sydney Harbour (if there ever could be one!) can be turned into something a little more spectacular. Below is the original shot (shot in RAW format with my Canon 5D) and taken off the back of the Manly ferry.

Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour
Rather boring shot of Sydney Harbour


Using Adobe Camera Raw ("ACR"), I converted the raw image with parameters: Blacks 7, brightness +31, Contrast +61, Clarity +77, Vibrance +7, Saturation 72 and a bit of Curves which brought me to the below image.



Flood filter conversion

I then produced a "reflection" using Flaming Pear flood filter. For those unfamiliar with this filter, it gives the image a perception of a reflection (poetical!) and I see it often in publications and I find myself examining ALL images with reflections to see if the photographer had used this very handy filter. I have details of the conversion if anyone is interested but to post it would be a tad boring. Flaming pair flood filters can be found here


Sydney Harbour reflection using flood filter

Sea of Hats

I was on my lunch hour when I was strolling around The Rocks area of Sydney when I saw a group of private schoolgirls on an excursion. As soon as I saw their hats, I knew that there was a good opportunity to get a good snap. As luck would have it, they started to cross the street to where I was standing. I knew in my head the image I was looking for and I had to be above them. With an enormous amount of good fortune, a ramp up to a shop in this old area of Sydney was a few metres away. I raced up the ramp and shot this image. It was taken with my Canon 70-200 f/4L at f/5.6 which gave me a shallow depth of field leaving the centre hat in sharp focus and the rest of the hats out of focus. I submitted this image in late 2005 to the Black and White Spider Awards and it won Outstanding Achievement - People and also won me the Photographer of the Year 2005 - amateur. It really is nice to get recognition of one's work and even though I am now a professional, it still gives me a warm feeling when I look at my certificate!

Sulphur crested cockatoo in flight

This is an image on which I have added a "flood" filter. It is quite effective and quite a nice shot in any event. Flood filters can be found here and they are worth every cent. There is always a debate regarding "Photoshopping" images but as long as one is honest about the origin and digital changes to the image, I think its legimate. The original image, taken in our garden, of the cockatoo actually landing on the lawn, had a piece of its left hand side wing missing so I "replaced" it in Photoshop CS4. Cockatoos actually dislike water and when they start attacking the timber balustrades on our verandah, all I have to do is get out the spray bottle and walk towards them. They are endearing creatures, very intelligent but are enormously destructive. They are very long lived (up to 80 years) so don't even think of buying one unless you plan to outlive it and put up with the high decibels of squawking! I really hate seeing them in cages and they must long to be free when they see a large flock passing by.

Surfing the storm

Late one afternoon, I was snapping at Avalon Beach, Sydney, when a storm approached. This did not stop a late surfer. This image is available as a print via my RedBubble site. Click on image which will take you to the print site.

Sydney Opera House abstract

An abstract look at the famous icon. It is very difficult to take any pics of the Opera House as everyone and their brother has done it before. For this particular image, I used Optikvervlabs filter.

Leopard seal

I took this shot of a leopard seal exhaling bubbles at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. This is, apparently, one of the few leopard seals in captivity. Apparently it was found injured awhile back and is happy in its huge enclosure at the Zoo along with its mate. Through a stock library, this image is to appear as a full page in a textbook.


A portrait of an elderly lady
This is one of my favourite images of Alice, an elderly aboriginal lady who sadly is now deceased. I would occasionally see her at Circular Quay in Sydney and she would often smile at me. I used a Dragan filter to bring out more texture to the image. I am often asked if I have ever been challenged when photographing candid subjects. Only on one occasion, I was asked not to take a photograph of a female street performer which was odd as that is where they often make their money. So, of course, I acceded to her wishes. Many buskers or street performers expect payment for taking their photograph and its something I always do as its their living, as taking photographs is mine. One of my most popular galleries on my website is one of Sydney Aborigines and I have many kind comments on my work. I did have one person, a Sydney academic, who actually called me a thief as she was under the erroneous impression that I was selling images of these colourful folk without payment which in fact is not true. I have model releases from many and I have made subsequent payments to them.

The smoker

The smoker
An elderly man puffs on a cigarette

Mudda Mudda

Mudda Mudda
My favourite subject
Mudda Mudda (aka Cedric) is an aboriginal busker who is often found at Circular Quay, in Sydney, accompanying other aboriginal buskers. He has such a great face and this image won me a UK award last year for traditional portraiture here