Today’s blog post is inspired by a study of how users search for images on the Internet. That study shows that most people search for images using search engines, with 35% of study participants explicitly mentioning Google Image Search. Only 14% of users search for images on stock agency websites.

We live in a time when users can easily download images directly from Google search. These images can then be reused, often in violation of the copyright of the image creator.

For some time now, Google has been providing copyright information for images on its Image Search. Recently, the licensable label has been added to this information. That badge has the role of informing users about the possibility of legally purchasing an image.

Obviously, the image creator must provide this information for this information to be displayed. If this information meets Google’s requirements, the copyright information will be displayed in searches, along with a link to the image license.

Why this is important for photographers

I believe that adding copyright information and buying the image can help promote my portfolio and increase microstock agencies’ sales. I am particularly interested in having the „licensed” badge shown on my Adobe Stock images, as this is the agency that currently pays the highest sales commission. In this regard, I intend to use my blog to „push” my images on the first page of Google Search, with the „licensed” badge and a link to Adobe Stock. Thus, I hope to increase my microstock sales.

On the other hand, adding the correct information to image metadata helps Google better understand what those images contain, and as such, I hope to get better indexing. This aspect is essential for articles with little text and many photos.

What information shall we add to the images?

I want to have as much relevant information displayed on Google searches. There are two categories of such information that Google may display:

Author, credit, and copyright information

Google implemented in the fall of 2018. The information is included in the image file through the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) standard.

The following fields will need to be filled in to display this information:

Creator. According to the IPTC specifications, this field „contains the name of the photographer, but in cases where the photographer should not be identified, the name of a company or organization may be appropriate.” I fill in this field with my name „Teodor Costachioiu”.

Credits. Contains information on „credit to the person (s) and/or organization(s) requested by the image provider to be used for publication. This is a free text field.” I usually fill in this field with my name and a link to the portfolio „Teodor Costachioiu | https://costachioiu.com”.

Copyright Information. The definition for this field is: „Contains any necessary copyright notice for claiming the intellectual property for artwork or an object in the image and should identify the current owner of the copyright of this work with associated intellectual property rights.” Usually, I fill this field with the text „© 2021 Teodor Costachioiu | All rights reserved”, where instead of 2021, I put the year in which I took the respective image.

Information on how to purchase a license for an image

This information can be included either directly in the image via IPTC metadata or added separately using structured data. Google introduced this in August 2020.

Regardless of the method you choose, the following fields are required in order to display this information:

Web statement of rights. Here is the web address where the license information can be found. In the case of Adobe Stock, this field contains the text „https://stock.adobe.com/license-terms”.

Licensor URL. This field contains the link to the image on Adobe Stock – such as https://stock.adobe.com/images/the-red-ravine/129412972.

Creative Commons licenses

In advanced image search https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search, Google allows you to filter results for displaying only Creative Commons-licensed images.

If you want to publish pictures on the web with this license, fill in the Web statement of rights field with a link to the desired Creative Commons license – choose from https://creativecommons.org/choose/.

The Licensor URL field is filled in with a link to the image. It can be hosted on your website or any other cloud data storage service (Flickr, Google Photos, Dropbox, etc.).

I may choose to offer under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license images that do not meet stock agencies’ requirements. This license obliges re-users to grant credit to the image creator. One may only use these images for non-commercial purposes.

Methods to add image license information

In order to tell Google which images are licensed, photographers must add this information to the photos published on the site either directly in the image via IPTC metadata or by adding structured data according to schema.org.

My favorite method is to use IPTC because metadata needs to be added only once and is kept even if an image is moved elsewhere or published in multiple places on the site. This metadata remains in the picture even if it is downloaded to the computer.

A major disadvantage of this method is that we need a website that preserves metadata in images. In the case of WordPress, it uses GD as a standard for image processing. The problem is that GD removes the license information metadata. In order to keep the metadata intact, it is necessary to stop using GD and replace it with Imagemagick. The big problem here is that the hosting company where the site is hosted has to offer Imagemagick. Some companies have installed it, and it can be activated by the user. For other hosting companies one must open a support ticket. Finally, some companies do not offer Imagemagick. In this situation, the site has to be moved to another hosting company. One can also add license information using structured data, either manually or through separate modules.

Other platforms such as blogger.com also delete metadata. In this case, the only way to display the license information is through structured data, being necessary to know a little HTML. In the case of blogger.com there are no additional modules to do this, the license information must be added manually.

When including the license data in the IPTC, there is another potential problem: the structured data take precedence over the information in the IPTC. This means that if I have other elements on a blog page that contain structured data (such as a recipe), the images on the blog will be labeled according to the structured data. As such, in Google searches, I will have the recipe badge on the image and not the „licensable” one.

On the other hand, the disadvantage of using structured data is that it is not permanently linked to the image. The information must be added again each time the image is moved to another article or if the image is published in several articles. In the case of images downloaded from a site that uses structured data, the license and copyright information are lost.

With all this in mind, I have chosen to include the copyright information and purchase the license for images in the IPTC. On the website side, I use WordPress; the site is currently hosted by Hosterion, which gives me the ability to disable GD and enable Imagemagick from the control panel.

How to fill copyright information and the possibility to purchase a license in IPTC

I will show you how to fill in all this information in IPTC using Adobe Lightroom and Photo Mechanic. I use the latter, it seems more productive than Lightroom, and it has a bigger screen font.

Filling the required information in Adobe Lightroom

To show you how to fill in the copyright data and the possibility to purchase a license in Lightroom, I will start with an image of an old house in Bucovina. In Lightroom, we will go to the Library and go to the metadata tab.

We start with the image of an old house in Adobe Lightroom. We go to Library and select metadata tab.

In the Metadata tab we select IPTC from the dropdown menu.

We will fill in the information about the author, name, and description of the image. Google uses the Author field to display information about the author of the picture.

Next, go down and fill in the Credit line, Copyright, and copyright information URL fields. Google uses the credit and copyright fields to provide information about the author of the image. The Copyright info URL field is required to display the „licensable” badge. It is that Web statement of rights that I wrote about above.

Next, we go to IPTC Extension.

We find the Licensor field. Then we click on it to expand it.

Here we fill in the name and the URL where users can download the image. The URL shown here is Licensor URL, the second information required to display the „licensable” badge in Google searches.

We save the image. The image is now ready to be uploaded to the web.

Filling IPTC information in Photo Mechanic

Photo Mechanic is my favorite when I have to add metadata to images. It is more intuitive, and the process of editing the information is better organized. It also has the ability to copy-paste for metadata, which makes my job easier when I tag multiple images from the same set.

If you want to try it, you can download a 30-day trial version. The license costs 139USD + VAT.

To complete the information in Photo Mechanic we will go to the image folder, select the folded image and click on the i button to edit the IPTC metadata.

We will fill in the necessary information about the content of the image: title, description, and keywords. Note that WordPress knows how to use this information, so when uploading the image to the blog, this information will be taken from the image EXIF.

Next, we complete Image Rights: Creator / Photographer, Copyright, and Credit. We will also fill in the Copyright URL; it corresponds to the Web Statement of Rights.

The information regarding the web address where users can buy the image is a bit hidden. To complete it, go to Licensors and click on the EDIT button.

A new window opens. We can enter the name of the stock agency and the web address to buy the image.

Click OK, go back to metadata, save and that’s it.

Testing the results

Once the information is completed, we can perform a test of its correctness. For this, I will use Get IPTC Photo Metadata.

The site allows us three options: we can provide the image’s web address directly, upload an image from the computer, or provide the address of a web page where the image is located. In the latter case, a list of the images on that page will be displayed, from which we will choose the picture for which we want to display the information.

I chose the option to upload the image from the example above from the PC.

We then click on Search engine fields to see exactly the information that Google will use.

We see here that all the information Google needs is populated. Structured data corresponding to IPTC information is also generated. This structured data may be used to provide information to Google on sites that do not retain all of the IPTC information. Here it is a bit more complicated, I will explain in another blog how it can be implemented.