Imatag: A Better Way To Protect Your Photos

Posted on 4/6/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

A visible watermark on your photos distracts from the impact a non-watermarked photo might have and may discourage people from using it. However, the real problem arises when the photo is actually licensed to a customer. Customers are only interested in using un-watermarked photos on their websites. When someone else sees the photo, and decides they would like to use it, they can easily copy and paste it to their own site.

Imatag offers photographers a better way to protect their images. They will insert an “invisible watermark” into the pixels. Customers can still crop, color correct or reverse the image without the image losing this identification.

The process for a photographer is to upload their photos to their imatag photo library. Typically, the images would be JPEGs but imatag supports PNGs, TIFFs, etc. Imatag then inserts a unique invisible watermark into every image. They also import any and all information provided in the image EXIF/IPTC/XMP metadata (including copyright and license information). Once the photos are in the library, they can be organized, and their metadata can be viewed and modified.

For distribution to customers, the protected photos may either be downloaded by the photographer and sent manually to the customer, or a sharing link may be sent do the customer enabling them to download the photos directly from imatag. Either way the customer receives JPEGs (or PNGs, TIFFs, etc.) as they used to and do not have to change their process at all.

Photographers can download their watermarked photos from imatag and upload them to their own website. One of the unique advantages is that the same photo can be uploaded twice (or multiple times) and each version will be watermarked with a unique identifier.

At this point the photographer could post one version of an image on his own site, another version on Pinterest and supply a third to a stock agency. If someone were to grab one of these files, used it and the use was later discovered, it would be possible to determine which source the image originally came from.

Of course, the stock agency might have licensed a use to a customer. If some third party later grabbed it from the paying customers, and used it on their own site, it would only be possible to identify that the image originally came from the agency, not which one of the agency’s customers it was stolen from unless the agency uses imatag’s services as well.

For convenience, imatag also offers an option to append a credit line below the image but this is only informative and not intended as a protection measure as it can be easily cropped.

If someone finds a photo on the internet with no attached information, or untrustworthy information, they can submit the photo to the imatag reverse image search engine and locate the image creator.

If a photographer finds an unlicensed use of their photos and wants to prove ownership, they may simply use the dedicated reverse search engine to determine if the imatag invisible watermark is present or if this is just a visually similar image. The web crawler looks for visually similar images.

The Imatag web crawler regularly searches the web for imatag protected images and notifies users when it finds one. Users can then determine if the use was properly licensed or if it is unauthorized and proceed as appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

Photographers interested in testing imatag can submit up to 1 GB of image files for tagging and have free access to all imatag services and functionalities, without limit of time. For those who want to tag a larger collection imatag’s Premium service is available for 10€/month for a portfolio of up to 100 GB of imagery. Subscribers to the Premium service have access to an analytics page with all similar images found on the web. A similar un-watermarked image use may occur as a result of access to a version of the same image before it received an imatag identification.

Finally, imatag invisible watermark technology could be compared to Digimarc technology that has been around for a number of years. However, it is much more robust than Digimarc. (By its own admission, Digimarc says that its protection is not robust enough to be found if the image is uploaded to Facebook.)

Copyright © 2018 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Thomas Wiewandt Posted Apr 7, 2018
    One of the biggest issues with Digimarc is that their watermark protection vanishes if the photographer allows his/her subscription to lapse. In other words, you become their captive, even if you don't utilize their tracking feature. So I would like to know if this is the same model being offered by Imatag, or if their watermarks become a permanent level of protection for the life of the photo regardless of the photographer's subscription status.

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