After I got interested in photography over the period of lockdown, I have decided to print my photographs. What things should I keep in mind before going?

Also, what measures should I take so that my photographs are not stolen by the printing-person?

PS :- I am going to print it at the local photography shop.
This question is slightly different from this one, I want to mainly ask about avoiding my photos from being stolen.

  • 49
    Why on earth would you think someone might want to steal your photos? Let's assume for a minute that a beginner photographer is not going to be taking Pulitzer-winning shots, then all that's left is if the photos contain confidential information. If they do, then they'll probably take a copy for themselves & you'll be none the wiser, unless they're worth blackmailing you for. If they're worth blackmailing you for, then why on earth are you taking them to a happy snaps in the first place?
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 31, 2021 at 13:01
  • 40
    Stolen for what purpose? It’s important for us to know the reason they would be stolen to determine appropriate ways to mitigate.
    – Tim
    Oct 31, 2021 at 23:01
  • 3
    And would anyone even see them? Back in the film era I had a very black cat. I always printed film of her at a pro place because while they would make the same misprints the drug store would they would reprint just those shots. I generally didn't even need to point to the problem, when called to their attention the immediately saw what had happened and overrode the computer to reprint them properly. Had anyone seen them in the process I doubt I would have even seen the bad prints. Nov 1, 2021 at 2:42
  • 2
    (What was happening is that the computer would consider the shots overexposed and print it dark enough to lose all detail of my cat. Print it as shot and the cat looked right but the background was of course overexposed.) Nov 1, 2021 at 2:45
  • 13
    What do you mean, stolen? Like taken and not returned? Or copied/watched? Are you taking naked selfies? Documenting your career in hard crime? Taking pictures of classified documents for resale purposes? Don't have them printed.
    – Stian
    Nov 1, 2021 at 7:56

9 Answers 9


To absolutely prevent a print shop from stealing your photos, buy or rent a printer and print the photographs yourself.

This will also require buying appropriate paper. And perhaps color calibration for the paper and printer, although using the printer manufacturer’s branded paper often gives pretty good results without calibration.

  • 3
    If by "stealing" the OP means compromised privacy/identity, printers are no better.
    – Trang Oul
    Nov 1, 2021 at 18:22
  • 15
    @TrangOul Seems like a very weird definition of "stealing" Nov 1, 2021 at 23:24
  • 1
    Be aware however, that professional printers tend to cache their print jobs on non-volatile storage. Some even give you the option to recall a number of previous jobs; others simply leave intermediate data lying around in de-allocated storage blocks. Depending on the (hypothetical) attacker's digital forensics capabilities and your amount of paranoia, those risks may or may not be acceptable. Nov 3, 2021 at 14:34
  • @DavidFoerster I admit that my answer does not address the possibility of the print shop breaking into the premises. Now I have to rethink my vote for the “use a reputable shop” answer because a bad print shop adversary could attack the good print shop. Nov 3, 2021 at 17:24

Use a reputable shop.

A shop with a good reputation, that wishes to keep that reputation (and therefore its customers), will be motivated to behave honestly.

If the trust is broken for some reason, then we have courts to restitute the victim, and possibly impose punitive damages. A court case is very bad for a business's credibility.

  • "A court case is very bad for a business's credibility." If your favorite print shop next door were in a lawsuit with another customer, how would you learn about that?
    – Philipp
    Nov 2, 2021 at 10:51
  • 7
    Usual means - local paper, word of mouth, etc. Nov 2, 2021 at 11:45
  • @Philipp Nowadays you don't even need to sue: a simple post in Facebook already works wonders. Of course, if you mention in the post that you are suing the shop, the effect will be worse still. Nov 3, 2021 at 9:32

First off, I suspect that you are being influenced by Dunning-Kruger fallacy to even think about such a scenario of your photos being stolen. I am sorry to crush your expectations, but let's get back down to Earth and be realistic: if you think that around 1.5 years one could get from a complete beginner to someone so good that their photos are "worth" being stolen like that, then you are vastly underestimating all the time and effort needed to get successful in this domain. I don't deny that your photos could be, indeed, beautiful, but it is a delusional naïveté to assume that they are so sophisticated and original that all the print shops are potential thieves, teetering on the brink on committing a copyright infringement crime as soon as they get hold of your photos. Believe me, these shops regularly see millions of sophisticated and original photos. What reason do you have to think that yours are special?

And to answer the question about how to prevent your photos from being stolen by the print shop: don't be a world class photographer, and you won't have any reason to worry about it.

  • 8
    There are certain types of photos that might be more prone to being stolen... I'd recommend not printing those at all.
    – xiota
    Nov 1, 2021 at 17:22
  • 2
    @xiota Correct. But I'd expect the author to have enough common sense not to attempt printing their nudes, etc.
    – Mad Chad
    Nov 1, 2021 at 17:26
  • 16
    A picture is worth a thousand words :)
    – xenoid
    Nov 1, 2021 at 20:54
  • While I agree with everything you've said, I think this is actually a bad answer
    – osullic
    Nov 3, 2021 at 10:53

Even a small photo lab processes thousands of photos from different people daily. Aside from a quick quality check, they don't even look at a majority of the photos.

All sorts of photos pass by them, and they typically have little interest in stealing customers' photos. Many photos are even thrown away because customers don't bother to pick them up, far past what's reasonable for the lab to hold onto them.

If you are concerned about the people at a particular lab, use a different one.


Another option - don't print them at all.

Instead, keep them entirely digital, using a monitor to view or display the photos. There used to be "digital photo frames" which would cycle though a set of images which may fill the purpose.

  • 1
    If OPs photos are worth a million (chances are they aren't), then they're not safe on his home computer either. In fact, I would be more worried about external thieves/hackers than about the print shop (in reality I wouldn't worry about either).
    – gerrit
    Nov 2, 2021 at 8:23

You could embed a digital watermark. That way, if the images get stolen and used on the internet, you could prove their provenance. I've never done it myself, so I don't speak from experience. Since you own the copyright on your images, you could then sue the shop. You could even tell the print shop such a watermark is present to persuade them to not steal your images. I can't imagine them doing so in any case.

  • 5
    Pretty tough to embed a digital watermark on a printed photo ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 1, 2021 at 16:55
  • @Tetsujin I think the OP isn’t worried about someone stealing his print, he’s worried about the shop stealing his file.
    – Eric S
    Nov 1, 2021 at 17:18
  • 1
    Similarly, you could post a watermarked version of your photo online in place where it is time stamped. This establishes a timeline so that in the extremely unlikely scenario the print shop steals and uses it, you can show prior ownership. Use a scaled down/reduced quality version with a big obnoxious watermark with your name clearly visible to prevent reuse of this version by other people.
    – anjama
    Nov 1, 2021 at 17:42
  • 3
    Another similar approach to watermarking is to simply crop out some image data from the borders before printing. Then if it comes to a legal situation, you can show only you have the original image with the removed data
    – anjama
    Nov 1, 2021 at 17:45
  • 1
    @Tetsujin, Once a long time ago, an employer asked me to find a way to watermark digital photos such that the watermark would not be obvious to a casual viewer, but could be recovered from a print. What I came up with, wasn't good enough to please him, but within certain limits, it worked. I no longer have the code, but it was based on dithering the hue and saturation in parts of the picture, but leaving the lightness alone. If you split the watermarked image into HLS channels, you could sort of see the watermark, but if you then did an unsharp mask on those channels, it really popped out... Nov 5, 2021 at 21:20

It's like with code, scientific papers or with anything precious. Either it's so bad or common it's not worth stealing or it'll be stolen - eventually.

Physical security won't help because of always having a larger force (up to war weapons) to break the defence. Psychological security, e.g. by keeping it in your head or obscuring it (secret/password/...) won't help due to social engineering and us not being machines. Digital security? If it's shiny enough, it'll be pirated/cracked the next possible day once more than the creator has an access to it and if it's running.


  • diamonds/gold/cash and visible robberies
  • passwords and pulling the info from you over a beer or drugging you or resulting to violence
  • software - heh, ask Adobe, Microsoft and others
  • photo/video/DRM - decrypted, copied to others' profiles, impersonation or the old way of just dumping it to CD and selling on the streets

Don't try to prevent it because you never will once the thing is shared with more than one person. Instead, build your own "brand", your reputation, and eventually it'll be others recognizing your work even if somebody else steals it.

And also, some creators virtually mine on the stealing due to it increasing the popularity between people who wouldn't even consider buying, so for the next thing you come with they might be either more willing to buy or at least spread the word which might eventually get you the money, popularity or other things you might seek.


How do I prevent my photos being stolen by the print shop?

You need to physically stand behind the person and breathe down their neck the entire time they are processing your order and make some outlandish requests like "prove to me that your computer isn't secretly copying the files in the background".

This way you are 100% guaranteed that a print shop will not be able steal anything because they will refuse to do business with you outright.

Now, I humbly ask you not to steal my advice because I have plans to use it and become a millionaire.

  • 3
    "This way you are 100% guaranteed that a print shop will not be able steal anything because they will refuse to do business with you outright."
    – xiota
    Nov 4, 2021 at 1:28

There are legal principals involved. To make a claim of copyright requires that the work be known.

So put digital versions of the photos on a webpage and put a copyright notice on the webpage. Then the dated files make the actual historical claim for each photo.

Or for photos of very particular interest, copyright the photos with the copyright office.

Well essentially, it doesn't matter if the work is stolen, it only matters that royalties be paid if the stolen work should become popular and successful. Also, correct authorship, or artist, must be noted. Along these lines, the thief becomes the agent !

Furthermore, a digital photo could be a cryptographic NFT. And why are most NFT's only cartoons ?

  • 1
    “To make a claim of copyright requires that the work be known”. Could you please cite the basis for this statement? It contradicts my understanding.
    – Eric S
    Nov 2, 2021 at 23:00
  • The copyright office doesn't require that the work be published but they require a copy of the work at the date of the copyright application. These are, of course, public records. If something is claimed on a date then it has to be known what is claimed on that date. Now a work held privately could just have a self-written copyright notice on it that no one sees but the thief. But civil litigation would require a belated filing with the copyright office. That filing with the copyright office would essentially just be a legal deposition concerning a past date of creation.
    – S Spring
    Nov 3, 2021 at 1:37
  • However, any process that publicly sets a date of creation that tends to mimic the method of the copyright office.
    – S Spring
    Nov 3, 2021 at 2:01

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