6 Tips for Protecting Your IP as a Photographer


Becoming a professional photographer takes hard work and dedication; the last thing you want is for somebody to help themselves to your work. In this article, we’ll share six tips for protecting your IP as a photographer. 

The world of professional photography is highly competitive, and it takes a great deal of graft and determination to make it. Media law firms may have found that the advent of the internet has brought with it an increase in IP claims by professional photographers.

In this article, we’re sharing our six tips for protecting your intellectual property as a photographer.


Putting watermarks on your photos is a good way of discouraging people from using your work without permission. Watermarks are images which are transposed onto your photographs – often running across or throughout the image.

These watermarks can only be removed once a person has paid or gained permission to use the photograph. This is effective as it deems the image ‘useless’ with the watermark in place, and so discourages people from using the image on their digital and physical presence.


Protecting your photographs with copyright is a really sensible idea if you’re making a living as a photographer. As well as discouraging people from using your work without permission, copyright also puts the law on your side should you need to take legal action against somebody who has used your photos without your permission.

Registering your copyright costs £47.50 for five years or £79.00 for 10 years – an investment which can save you a lot of hassle should a dispute arise. 


Including credits on your photographs is a great habit to get into and can help to prevent ambiguity. In some instances, when somebody finds a photograph online which has no watermark or credit, they will assume that they are allowed to copy it and use it for their own purposes. Including a credit can remove any confusion as to the ownership of the work. 


Professional photographers often work with other professionals, such as models and editors who will receive copies of this work. In some cases, these professionals will feel that they have unlimited rights regarding the work, including making alterations and publishing wherever they like.

For this reason, the professional photographer should always ensure that contracts with these professionals are drawn up and signed. The contract should lay out clear conditions of use for any and all photographs. This way, you can make it clear that you retain the rights to the work.

Similarly, if you enter your photography into a competition, or are commissioned by a large company, make sure that you read all of the terms and conditions carefully. Sometimes, there will be a clause stating that the competition organiser will either own the work or have unlimited rights in using the work.


Creating an online library in which to display your work has a number of benefits. To begin with, this creates a fantastic showcase for your work which will hopefully increase sales and encourage new commissions.

Secondly, by entering photographs into your library with dates and credits, you have a solid record of ownership. This is extremely helpful in the event that a third party attempts to claim the work as their own, as it allows you to prove that you had access to the images before they did. 


Putting a number of measures in place to prevent people using your photographs is great – but what if somebody has already nabbed your images without your permission? The professional photographer should get into the habit of regular monitoring to identify any unlawful use of their images online. This can be done in a few ways, including: 

  • Google image search: Running a Google image search for your photographs is a simple way of monitoring the internet for copies of your images and is free of charge.
  • Monitoring systems: If you don’t have the time to monitor your images manually, you can get hold of a system such as Pixy. These systems allow you to connect a number of platforms and sites, for example, Instagram and Dropbox. The system will then crawl the internet to find possible cases of infringement.

Monitoring the internet for copies of your work allows you to act quickly in the event of an infringement and prevent others from profiting from your images. Should you find such an infringement, your response in the first instance should be to contact the offender and ask them to remove the images that they have published. If this does not work, you may need to consider hiring an intellectual property solicitor to help you to take legal action against the offender.

Getting Smart with Intellectual Property

As a professional photographer, your images are your business and your livelihood. Protecting your work is of paramount importance. Even if you decide, in some instances, to allow others to use your work free of charge, you should still ensure that the work is credited to yourself in order for it to be recognised as your intellectual property.

When it comes to commercial use of your work, it’s always a good idea to secure the services of an IP solicitor who will be able to advise you of your rights and help you to draw up bulletproof contracts to protect them. 


Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained legal professional. Be sure to consult a legal professional if you’re seeking advice about intellectual property and copyright. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.