Downsampling is a common practice among those who want to protect their images online, but it comes with a drawback that many are only starting to realize.

As people began to appreciate the ease with which their images could be stolen from their websites, blogs and social media platforms, they resorted to a number of different methods to discourage this.

Perhaps the most popular of these has been the digital watermark. Not only does a watermark make it clear that an image has an owner and/or copyright holder, but its visibility also complicates things for anyone wishing to republish such an image elsewhere.

While watermarks have been shown to have some effect, they are not entirely reliable as a means of preventing unauthorized image use. It’s easy to find instances of images being used with these in place, and stories of photographers that have found their images having had these watermarks cloned or cropped out.

Read more: What makes a good watermark? 5 things to consider

Reducing the resolution of images, also known as downsampling, has been another measure adopted by photographers for the same reason, often (but not always) used in conjunction with the watermark.

The reasoning behind this is that an image with a relatively low resolution has less value to a potential thief than if it were to retain its original pixel count.

Such an image, for example, may be suitable for online display, but it may fall short of the requirements for printing.  

This practice stems from a time when high-resolution digital cameras were the preserve of professional photographers, and when such images were not widely available. Anyone wanting to use these would therefore have to purchase a license or come to some other arrangement with its creator. 

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