How the Pros Protect Their Photos

Yesterday I told you about a few online sites where you can upload, sell, and share your photos without giving away your rights to sell those photos. If you missed that issue, you can read it here.

While there’s never a 100% foolproof way to protect your photos, there are additional measures you can take. Watermarking and registering your copyright are two of these precautions.

You’ll find more details below…


Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

The Right Way to Travel
July 16, 2010


When it comes to copyrighting your photographs, you should know that you own the copyright to your photos the instant you press the shutter button on your camera.

You don’t need to register your copyright or write it on your photo before it becomes yours.  It’s yours the instant you create it.

That said, it’s always smart to put things in writing.

Professional Photographer Efraín Padró uses the following copyright line on all of his photos: © Efrain M. Padro, All Rights Reserved.

He embeds this information in the photograph itself with photo-editing software like Adobe Lightroom when he imports the photo from his camera onto his computer.  And he also writes this under his photos when he posts them online and in e-mails to editors.

Writing your copyright on or under your photos doesn’t provide you with any more rights to your image than you have without it.  But it does deter others from stealing it from your website when they’re reminded that you own the copyright and that taking your image without permission is a violation of copyright law.

Some photographers also choose to “watermark” their images before posting them online or sending them to editors.

A watermark is a faint image that you imprint onto your photo to discourage others from using it illegally.

With a watermark, even if someone uses the picture without permission, it will look more like a proof that alerts viewers that the picture is probably not owned by whoever is displaying it.

Here’s an example:

Many photo-editing programs like Lightroom, and online sites such as Zenfolio and SmugMug,  allow you to easily add watermarks to your photos.

Professional photographer Shelly Perry doesn’t use watermarks.  But the online stock photo agency where she sells her work,, does.

Shelly recommends that if you plan to use a watermark, you make sure it’s faint, and unobtrusive. That way, your customer will still be able to get a good idea of what the photo looks like, but they won’t be able to use it without purchasing it.

Efraín Padró doesn’t use watermarks either.  To protect his photos, Efraín displays only a small amount of them on his website at any given time and reserves the others for clients on request.

Professional photographer Rich Wagner also avoids watermarks.  As you read yesterday, Rich takes advantage of all the levels of protection that his online photo sharing program, Zenfolio, has to offer. All of his galleries are password-protected so he doesn’t need to watermark his photos. However, he does recommend a small, faint watermark if your photos aren’t safeguarded by a password.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]