1Image SizeLimit photos to 1,024 pixels wide More
2WatermarkVisible info over of the image More
3FrameA visible credit area below the image More
4File NameContact info within the file name More
5MetadataInformative text in the header file More

3. Image Size


By limiting your file sizes to 1,024 pixels or less, you reduce the risk of your photos from being used in print products.

WHATKeep maximum image size to 640 pixels or 1,024 pixels
HOWUse an image-processing program such as Photoshop.
WHOMicrostock companies do this.
PROEffective at limiting print use.
CONRequires some discipline.

By Andrew Hudson Published: May 25, 2012 Updated: February 1, 2017

An easy and effective way to keep your images seen but not used is to limit their resolution. Web browsers typically display 640 to 1,024 pixels for a full-page image, whereas printing on paper requires many more pixels — 3,000 for a 10-inch print at 300dpi. A 1,024-pixel image shows as full-width on a typical web page, but 3.4 inches in print (at 300 dpi).

Why 640 pixels? That’s the typical width of a website’s main text column. It’s the standard width of a VGA monitor, and a Flickr image.

Why 1,024 pixels? That’s the typical maximum width of a website page. It’s the standard width of an XGA monitor, and a large Flickr image.

side in
480iPhone 1–4, Android (HVGA)
640Flickr default, VGA monitor
728Leaderboard ad
960iPhone 4S
1,024iPad 1&2, Flickr large, XGA monitor
2,048New iPad
3,000A 10-inch printed picture at 300dpi
4,00012 megapixel image


Printing usually requires about three times the detail of computer display (for example, 300 dots-per-inch vs. 100 dpi). Thus, when printed on a brochure or postcard, the photo’s size is reduced by about a third. For example, a 640-pixel-wide photo show on a 100dpi computer display is 6.4 inches wide, but only 2.1 inches on a 300dpi print. So, if you keep your images to 640 pixels or less, it’s unlikely that someone will print your photo on a brochure, book or magazine. And, if they do, it certainly won’t be on the cover or a full-page spread.


Many websites, such as Flickr, will automatically resize your images upon upload. For your own website, you can resize your images in Photoshop with Image > Image Size.

Limiting the size in a license

If you’re licensing your images directly, you can include a condition that the client not display the image online above a certain size. Shutterstock, for example, limits the size to 800 pixels.

“By this Agreement, Shutterstock grants you a personal, non-exclusive, non-transferable, right to use and reproduce Images .. on web sites, provided that no Image is displayed at a resolution greater than 800 x 600 pixels.”
Shutterstock standard license.

Online image resizer tools

4. Watermark


Add transparent text or a logo on top of each photo.

WHATA light transparent image over the photo
HOWPhotoshop (with a © symbol or logo),
other image-editing software, or an online service
WHOMost stock agencies and many photographers
PROLooks professional.
CONRequires effort and degrades the displayed image.

The only way to ensure that your copyright info remains displayed with the image is to write it all over the image. Big, bold letters covering most of the photo are almost impossible to completely remove in Photoshop.

An attractive way to do this is to add, on top of the photo, a transparent image, called a watermark. This can look very professional, and is the method of choice for many microstock companies. A typical watermark is a PNG file with about 40% opacity.

Small watermarks can bely removed in Photoshop, so consider including diagonal lines which cover the full dimensions of the photo and make removal harder.


Visible watermarks are good if you’re distributing images directly. If you’re uploading your photos to microstock agencies, don’t add a watermark as they will add their own.

“Do not embed your own watermark, website name, or copyright notice in your images. We protect your images with our own watermark, which is applied when your image is accepted to our site.”
Shutterstock, Submitter Guidelines.

How to add a watermark

Photoshop Watermark

Design a watermark as an image file. You can use text, copyright information, contact info, and/or a logo. Something simple and distinctive is good. Save this as an uncompressed image, such as .png or .psd. Place the watermark image as a layer on top of your photo, then flatten the combined image and save as a .jpg. You can automate the process with a batch action.

Batch Watermarking in Photoshop

Do a search online for batch watermarking in Photoshop or try these sites:

Online Watermark

Free online watermarking services:

Watermark software

Some image-hosting sites offer automatic watermarking as an option.

Server Watermark

If you host your own site, you can automate the process of adding visible watermarks by a PHP script.

Here is some more info on how to watermark all your uploaded images using PHP:

5. Frame


Write your contact info on some white space added below the photo.

HOWAdd a white block below the photo with identification text
PROKeeps your contact info attached to the photo
CONTakes some time and effort

Another approach to watermarking is to add your name and contact information to the photo itself but in a separate area below. This can be called a visible footer or a image frame. Shutterstock does this with their comp images.

In Photoshop, increase the “Canvas Size” below the photo. Use a white background and add a layer of black text. For multiple images, you can set up a batch action in Photoshop to quickly add the same contact info to multiple photos. If you don’t want the credit info to be visible on your site, you can hide it with a little HTML/CSS.

<div style="height:200px; overflow:hidden;">
<img src="photograph.jpg" alt="" />

6. File Name

WHATAdd your contact info to the file name
PROSimple, can be done as a batch process
CONOnly informative, can easily be ignored or removed

One way to help your contact info stay with your file is to put it in the file name. If someone simply copies and pastes your image, your copyright and contact details will remain attached.


Drawback: The user can easily change the file name.

Batch processing

There are programs which can easily and quickly change the text of a group of file names. I use A Better Finder Rename.

Batch renaming utilities

7. Metadata


Include your data as a file attached to the image which can be read by image editors and online. Also known as headers, tags, Exif data, IPTC headers.

WHATText attached to the image file
HOWUsing File Info in Photoshop
WHOMicrostock agencies add metadata to their images
PROEasy, free, informative
CONCan be removed


  1. Introduction
  2. Formats
  3. Exif vs. IPTC
  4. Metadata in RAW files
  5. Metadata & microstock
  6. Drawbacks of metadata
  7. Metadata Viewers
    1. Operating systems
    2. Online
    3. Browser extensions
    4. Desktop applications
  8. Metadata Editors
    1. Free
    2. Paid
  9. Editing metadata in Photoshop
  10. Making a Template
  11. Resources


Digital image files allow you to add text fields called “metadata” that label the image. You can include your copyright notice, contact details, and a wealth of other information as metadata. Unless removed by someone, metadata will stay attached to your image even if it gets copied and pasted around the Web.

There are several overlapping metadata schema (tags), including Exif and IPT, but they are essentially the same, storing standard ASCII text in a data file which is attached as a header to the image file. Metadata “tags” can be written by the camera or be input directly by you via photo-processing software such as Photoshop.

Microstock agencies may delete or change the metadata before licensing. digital watermark, tracking, fingerprinting. Metadata can be removed (stripped) from photos.

Read more about metadata.

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