How can i find stolen photos?

One of the issues associated with the free nature of the Internet is that it leads to a lot of content theft. Music is perhaps the most commonly stolen item online, but stock photos might just take second place. Unfortunately, many stock photo providers are unaware of the fact that stealing stock photos constitutes intellectual property theft. This means that there are legal measures you can take to discourage thieves from unauthorized use of your photos. Before you can send cease and desists notices and other legal documentation to stock photo thieves, however, you've got to locate stock photos that have been lifted or used without your permission.

Found stolen images of yours? Check out how post-licensing services can help you retrieve money from them!

How Can I Find Stolen Photos?

There are several ways to go about finding your stolen stock photos. Many photographers find their photos purely by accident, but this is by no means an efficient way to keep your images safe from thieves. The most efficient way to find your stolen photos is with tools specially designed for this purpose.

PimEyes Face Recognition

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PimEyes is another useful service to locate your stolen photos. It's a unique online face search engine powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence, that uses reverse image search and facial recognition technology to find images containing given faces. All you have to do is upload a photo of the face you want to search, and their software will do the rest.

This is super useful to find images of your models, and it also works great to discover your stolen images, even if they have been modified. As long as the face is there, it'll be found.

PimEyes is a paid service, with pricing options for individuals as well as for businesses, starting at $29.99 per month.


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TinEye Image Search Screenshot
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TinEye is billed as a ireverse image search engine. By uploading your photo to TinEye or pointing to its listing on a stock photo website, TinEye will return data that can help you locate instances of theft. This tool is capable of finding an image's origins, and locating where it's being used. TinEye can also detect copies of the same image in different resolutions, which is an effective way to find stolen stock images that have been cropped or altered.

PicScout – ImageExchange

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PicScout also makes it easy to find stolen versions of your stock photos. This free service tracks images from more than 150 different stock photo agencies and photography websites, and can also be used independently to ensure your photos are protected. By using their ImageExchange feature whenever you upload a new stock photo, you'll be able to easily track where and how that photo is being used later.

How to Prevent Stock Photo Theft?

Rather than spending your free time tracking down thieves and demanding that they honor your rights, you can also protect yourself from future stock photo theft. The easiest way to prevent theft of your photos is to list them on stock photo websites that use automatic watermarking. This has become the standard at many prominent stock photo agencies, such as iStockphoto, Dreamstime, Fotolia and Shutterstock. These watermarks prominently brand an image with the logo or name of the site it was stolen from, discouraging thieves in the process. We also found this guide on how to stop people from stealing your pictures to be very helpful.

If you prefer to list and manage your own stock photos, you can also create watermarks for copies of your photos in image editing programs. Photoshop, Pixlr and even Microsoft's basic Paint program can help you add a watermark that will keep thieves from stealing unlicensed copies of your photos. Regardless of the methods you choose, keeping a close watch on stock photo theft will help you avoid unauthorized use of the images you create and list for sale.

Amos Struck
Amos Struck

Amos Struck, a renowned expert with over two decades in the stock photography industry, is known for his profound expertise in both stock imagery and artificial intelligence (AI). He is the founder of and a driving force behind the innovative AI-driven platform, His pioneering work in visual AI is marked by co-founding Ximilar AI. Amos also established the Microstock Expo Conference, a key event in the stock photography sector. As a regular speaker at major industry conferences like DMLA and a prominent member of CEPIC, he consistently contributes to the industry's growth and evolution through a blend of technological innovation and market insight.

  1. These tools are rather ineffective… There’s one free tool you can use to find duplicate photos much easier and faster.

  2. Lol. So you found someone using your photo on his website. How do you know he didn’t license it? Then someone copied it from there. How do you know which one is legit? If you don’t want anyone to buy your photos, fine. But if you send a takedown notice to someone’s provider, you should be absolutely sure, that you’re right, or otherwise that person might held you responsible for any damage you did.

    • Hi Melvin, I agree with your points here. I always recommend asking kindly where the website owner got the photo from. Sometimes it’s their Webdesign company who just put it online and sometimes they have a proper license because they bought a license from a stock agency. In general, I think being nice and to ask before you create a takedown notice is recommended.

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