This Is Not My Beautiful Picture Of A Fish: PicScout Makes Sure Photographers Get Theirs

As a professional blogger (TM) I find myself dealing with lots of photographs. While the majority of them are press shots of devices, many times we need the odd photograph of a local Best Buy or a hairless mole rat. In very rare cases, the owners of said photos ask us to remove the photos, which we do. Now, however, there’s a better way to tell if a photo is part of a stock photo collection or has been uploaded by a professional photographer and/or costs something to use. It’s called PicScout ImageExchange and, at its heart, basically adds a little icon to photos that belong to others in Internet Explorer and Firefox. Clicking the icon brings up a purchase page and you’re all done, happily motoring through the countryside with your fresh, new image.

The service lets you can buy the photo from the stock agency or the actual photographer and then use the photo in your own projects. The system also includes a service called ImageTracker that allows photographers to tag their photos and then scan the Internet for unauthorized usage.

The website itself is arguably bad simply because it’s quite barren with little real explanation and is thus discouraging to the average photographer on the go. Simply put, the service is essentially a tagging system for photos that does not depend on anything embedded in the photo. You could feasibly Photoshop a photo to within an inch of its life and PicScout would still find it.

Non-intrusive, highly scalable technology identifies unique patterns within an image
PicScout digitally fingerprints your images with proprietary technology and includes them in the ImageIRC
Without dependence on embedded code, correct matching survives many forms or generations of alterations, even matching highly manipulated images to original sources.
PicScout crawls the web and identifies matches, even when images have been cropped, colorized or altered significantly, including watermark removal
PicScout documents each commercial use with a screen capture and full company details and generates regularly scheduled client reports

On the user’s end all you really see is, thanks to PicScout’s plugin, is the little icon. In many cases, that’s all that’s needed to turn a photography thief into a customer.

The service has been around for a few years now but they’ve recently released an API for programmers as well as features to help track your images in the wild. The service can also help content creators track the popularity of their images on the Internet.

While the service has yet to help me in finding a picture of a naked mole rat, its nice to know photographers – and the people who love them – have some recourse when it comes to figuring out whom to pay.