Photo sharing does not always default to the safest methods, according to Ignite Images. says not even IT support services, like those offered by, are enough to protect against your photos being used without permission on other sites. It is up to you to take the necessary steps towards protecting your hard work from:

  • People who take your work but are unaware of breaking any laws
  • People who know they are stealing but are only using the photos for personal use
  • People who know they are stealing and are trying to gain something from your work

Each one of these cases has their own ways of being handled and dealt with, and by taking the necessary steps, you can protect your photos from being stolen and ensure your creative work is not being misused.


Typically, in most countries, copyright is provided automatically when photos are created and you will not have to file for a copyright. However, to be on the safe side, you can always register for copyright, especially if it is an important piece of work you do not want just anyone to use without your permission. If your photos were used improperly, this can make pursuing a lawsuit easier, and it also makes it more likely that you’ll win the case. Just having the copyright isn’t enough, though, if no one knows that your work is copyrighted. To help with that, you can add the copyright in your photos’ metadata, such as in the “creator,” or “copyright” section. You still have to be careful about uploading pictures as certain websites remove the metadata information, thus erasing your copyright claim. You will have to make sure that your photo can be saved with its metadata before uploading it, so you do not lose your copyright claim. Alternatively, you can also include the copyright claim in the photo’s description.

Uploading to Your Own Website

Uploading your information to the third-party sites can be risky since each website has its own copyright policies you must learn and understand. For that reason, having your own website and uploading all your work there, can make the whole process a lot easier. There are several protection methods you can use when uploading to your website. However, make sure you’ve got a web host with enough storage so you don’t exceed your limits and get restricted by your hosting company.

Disable Right-Click

Right-clicking on a picture you see online quickly opens up a menu where you can save the picture. If you are running your own website there is an option to remove right-clicking, thus removing the “Save As” option.

Add a Watermark

Adding a watermark does potentially lower the overall aesthetic of the image, but it also makes it less desirable to thieves. You are marking the photo as yours with some form of text or image that could be almost invisible or even be a compliment to the image so that even if thieves still steal and use it, others will know that the image is yours.


Tiling is one of the most time-consuming methods because it requires you to break down your photo, upload pieces separately, and then assemble them back together online. Thieves will then have to download each piece and put them back together again to use, which could deter them. But this also means more work for you that could potentially slow down your server. It is a useful method, but not one that is used often.

Hidden Layers

One of the easiest methods you can use is utilizing layers. You can place a transparent image over your photograph before uploading so that your photo looks normal, but when downloaded thieves only get the clear foreground image, not your photo background.

Compress or Upload Low-Resolution Images

If you are aiming to sell photos to potential customers, upload the image in low-resolution. You can still show the image clients will be buying while stopping others from easily downloading the high-quality image. You can also compress your photos for the same reasons as it will further limit what thieves can do with the lower quality image.


If you plan on selling your images online, you have to protect yourself. By incorporating licenses, you are setting permissions and boundaries for how your photos can be used. There are several licenses you can register for, and you can pick which one fits your work best.

Creative Commons

This is an excellent option if you do not care about making money on your photo, but do care how it is used and if others can make a profit from it.


This covers photos that have been sold to a market to promote a product or service.


This can be confused for the commercial license since they are similar in uses, but the difference is that editorial licenses are used only for journalistic or editorial purposes, not to sell a product.


This is for photos taken for a client’s personal use (weddings, graduations, etc.).

Exclusive Licenses

It restricts how the photo can be used by both client and photographer.

Non-Exclusive Licenses

You are able to share the same image to multiple clients, not just the one who initially asked for it.

Unlimited Licenses

This license gives free reign to both the client and photographer to use the image as they wish, but it can also lead to legal issues if the image is misused.

Taking the necessary steps to protect your photos online is essential to protect you and your creative work. You want to share the images you have taken, and potentially make a profit from them, but it is not as easy to protect as it is easy to steal and reuse images. To prevent that, you have to pursue one or more of the tips we have suggested. By doing so, you can upload your images knowing they will be safe.