How to Copyright Photos in 2024 (A Comprehensive Guide)

Banner on Copyrighting Photos

When it comes to capturing or creating original images, many photographers and designers ask how to copyright photos. If you capture a photo or design an image, you automatically own that photo or image. Then, why do you need to copyright photos? As long as the images are in your arsenal, it doesn’t matter whether you copyright your images or not.

But when you share them online or on any other platform, the need for copyrighting arises. But why? Anyone can deploy these images and claim ownership of your images illegitimately. Copyrighting images, however, lets you protect your images from ripping off by casual online users. Now, the question is how to copyright photos.

Before we touch on the process of copyrighting images, it’s key to comprehend what copyright is basically. Simply put, copyright is the right to copy. From the photographic point of view, it refers to a photographer’s exclusive right to reproduce or publish his original work, create derivative works based on it, and distribute copies as well as display it in public.

The original creator also reserves the right to authorize others to leverage or reproduce his piece of work. Registering photographs with the U.S. copyright office, you will notch up concrete evidence that you own the copyright on your work.

If you get photos snapped by a professional photographer, it’s key for you to secure copyright from the photographer. Many emerging photographers remain casual about enlightening their clients about image copyright and usage. Due to their lack of knowledge, they think they own the images and use them as they wish.

Table of Contents

Types of works falling under Copyright

How to Copyright and Protect Your Photos

Begin the Process Registering with U.S. Copyright Office

How to Register a Copyright of your Photos

Don’t Forget to Save your Evidence of Copyright Ownership

Add an Official Copyright Notice and Information in your Image

Add a Watermark with Photo Retouching Software

How to know if an Image is copyrighted

Be Nifty while Publishing your Photos Online

How to Enforce a Copyright Claim

How to Copyright Photos for Free

Types of works falling under Copyright

There are two types of works falling under copyright- published and unpublished. Generally, the photos that you use for your blog or website, are unpublished as they don’t get distributed to the public in copies. Likewise, the photos that you leverage on social media platforms are unpublished as well. But think about stock photos, they are published as they get dished out to the public in copies.

Let’s throw light on how you can copyright your images to keep them secure from others. Keep in mind that copyright laws differ from country to country. We, in this write-up, will touch on the copyright laws existing in the USA.

1. Begin the Process Registering With U.S. Copyright Office

Even though a photograph automatically belongs to you after you shoot it, you should formally register the photo with the U.S. copyright office. This will help you to sue anyone who infringes the copyright and claim ownership of it illegitimately. Registration with the office will provide substantial evidence that you are the owner of the photograph. You can do the registration of copyright online or through the mail.

In case you register copyright within statutory time limits, you can claim and gather statutory damages of up to $150,000 for every violation. Filing a lawsuit for damages is possible even you hang on to register until the day you decide to file.

Try to avoid registering with a third-party non-governmental service. They may offer documented evidence of the dates of your works but you are likely to face difficulties in case you register with them. You can’t sue in the U.S. law court for copyright infringement unless you register with the U.S. copyright office.

How to Register a Copyright of Your Photos

You can file copyright of your images both electronically and through the mail. But filing online is facile, smooth, and quicker. You can register both a single photograph and an entire body of published work.

  • At first, head to and click Register a Copyright.

Copyright Registration

  • Then, you have to define that you want to copyright a photo.

Photography Category for Copyright

  • Next, click on the Register a Photograph link.

Registration Link

  • Thereafter, you have to create a user account and after you log in, click on the Register a New Claim.

Log-in dialogue box

  • After that, you will be asked 3 questions and you have to answer them to initiate the registration process. You will then be asked about the type of work you intend to register. Select the Work of the Visual Arts from the dropdown menu.
  • Finally, fill out the form showing up on the screen as detailed as possible. In case you exclude any key information, it will just delay the process. Once you submit your form with all the required information to the copyright office, you have to pay $35 for a single photograph along with dispatching a copy of your photograph.

Don’t Forget to Save Your Evidence of Copyright Ownership

After a few months of registration, you will receive a formal copyright certificate via mail. Secure it in a place to get it when required. You can receive a duplicate copy of it when necessary.

The U.S. copyright office doesn’t have any particular way to know who is the actual owner of a document or photograph. The registration certificate is the only evidence that you claimed to be the owner of the photograph.

Keep in mind that registering copyright doesn’t substantiate that you are the original owner of a piece of work. It’s very much possible that someone before you crafted the work as well. In that case, claiming the ownership of the work can come under copyright infringement. To resolve the issue, you have to put forth strong and convincing evidence in your favor.

2. Add an Official Copyright Notice and Information in Your Image

Before you publish your image online, add copyright symbol © followed by the year of publication and then the name of the copyright owner. In addition, add relevant copyright information in your image as it will discourage online users from stealing the image. The image can read information like this- “We copyrighted the image and we reserve the right to sue in the case of infringement.”

Copyright Notice

Removing or modifying copyright information, however, is also a copyright violation after you published and distributed your image. Likewise, you may deploy technical countermeasures to ward off unauthorized copying and distribution. If anyone attempts to overlook these countermeasures may also fall under copyright infringement.

3. Add a Watermark With Photo Retouching Software

Watermark can be your company name or company logo that you have to use in your photograph with any photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or any other software you are comfortable with. Adding a watermark is a fabulous way to showcase your image and promote it without apprehending that it can be stolen.

Copyright Notice and Watermark

Apart from them, you can take advantage of online watermark services like Watermark-Images. There are many online catalogs using company names in the middle of the photographs that impede others from reusing it for their objectives.

How to Know if an Image Is Copyrighted

There are several ways to know if an image is copyrighted. Check out the link below to know the ins and outs about an image and whether it’s copyrighted.

Be Nifty While Publishing Your Photos Online

The online world is vast with billions of people having access to it. Scores of photos are available online of which some are copyrighted while others are not. When it comes to copyrighted images, many Internet browsers reuse these images without giving due credits, leaving aside paying for a license. Some of them even attempt to slightly tweak these images to claim ownership.

When you intend to post photos online, go through the terms and conditions of the membership sites. As you know that you are the owner of your photos, you have to protect them. Make sure that you have read the fine print to not give up any rights.

If you want Internet users to leverage your photos without stealing them, mention in your photos explicitly about giving due credits. In addition, disable the right-click when you post an image to hinder Internet users to copy and save your image.

How to Enforce a Copyright Claim

Depending on the situation, there are various ways to enforce a copyright claim. The most extreme way is to approach and communicate with a lawyer. This way, however, isn’t always required. If you don’t bother someone deploying your photos but want attribution, just get in touch with the owner of the website. Clarify your stand and in most cases, the owner will comply with your requirements and keep the content intact.

If, however, you want your photos to be taken away from a particular website, make use of the legal system. You can write down a cease-and-desist letter to the website owner yourself or through a lawyer. But if you are looking for a simpler option, DMCA takedown is the best and you can get loads of templates online.

Apart from the above techniques, you can also dispatch them an invoice asking to pay for the usage of your photos. If the company has a big budget, they won’t hesitate to pay to avoid trouble.

How to Copyright Photos for Free

We have discussed above how you can copyright your photos but in that way, you will be charged for registration by U.S. copyright office. There are, however, free ways that you can adopt to copyright your photos but no doubt, they can’t replace the official way of copyrighting photos as there are legal issues with it. There are 3 steps you have to follow to copyright your image.

  • Open your image with photo editing software and you will find various freeware and proprietary options to watermark it. So, just watermark it.
  • Add a copyright notice to your image mentioning your name or company’s name, copyright symbol, and the year of first publication.
  • Visit the website of the non-profit to post your image under their license. They promote the sharing of creative properties while maintaining the rights of original copyright holders. Your images may be used or copied by others but you will be attributed to the usage by this organization.

To conclude, we would like to state that content whether textual or visual that you produce, you are its legal owner. Hence, it should be protected and this is where copyright comes into play. It’s a very key factor when it comes to publishing content online.

Every content publisher must know the ins and outs of copyright to protect his content from theft. Whether it’s registering a copyright or claiming copyright, you should be conversant about every step of the process.