How to Protect Your Photography Online (4 Effective Methods)

protect photos online

In 2016, copyright infringement has progressed to the point where it has become socially acceptable for many to grab images and use them wherever people choose. Furthermore, Google image search, along with photo sharing sites like Pinterest and Flickr, have made it astonishingly easy to search for images of near-infinite variety. In order to protect photos online, in this photo-sharing world, you only need a few quick actions.

That fatal combination can be frustrating for a professional artist or photographer trying to make a living out of their craft. You certainly want your best work to be visible online, where potential buyers can see it, but you don’t necessarily want it turned into some social meme or used for commercial purposes without your consent or reasonable recompense.

While it’s next to impossible to stop image theft online, there are several options for protecting your work that can go a long way towards discouraging it. In this article, we’ll take you through those options, highlighting the pros and cons of each.

Option #1: Use Watermarks to Discourage Image Theft

I mention watermarking first because it’s one of the most effective tools in your arsenal to fight off plagiarism. Watermarks are a great approach because they accomplish two things:

  1. It demonstrates that your work is yours and that it’s not free.
  2. It provides a means for you to promote your personal brand, website or portfolio/gallery.

There are a couple different ways to watermark an image.

1. A Simple Stamp

A stamp can come in any form you like (name, logo, website, etc.) and is best placed in the corner an image – relatively subtle, but still clearly identifiable. It lets you stake your claim on your photography without disturbing the image itself.

2. A Full Image Watermark

If you want to maintain full control of an image and greatly decrease the likelihood of theft, you can use a full image watermark. The downside to this option is it can be difficult to appreciate the beauty of your photo through a giant transparent watermark.

Shutterstock image with full watermark
Shutterstock make effective use of the full image watermark.

You can add watermarks to your photographs manually using design software, but an easier alternative is to use a WordPress plugin, such as our own Sell Media.

Option #2: Disable Right-Clicks on Your Website

This is the easiest and most common method to download images from the web; no doubt you’ve done it yourself. Simply right-click on any given image you find on the web, select Save as, and the image is as good as yours.

You can disable right-clicks on your website with some basic JavaScript, thus making it far less easy (though not impossible) for someone to steal your images. However, I recommend using a plugin like Disable Right Click as a way to protect your photos.

Disable Right Click Plugin

While this can put off less tech-savvy users, there are ways around disabling right-clicking, like the user disabling JavaScript in their browser.

Option #3: Disable Pinterest Pins to Stop Social Sharing

Pinterest has become a remarkably popular image-driven social network that enables users to pin an image to a personal Pinterest board, thus sharing it with others, or as a way to refer back to the content later.

The downside to this is that it copies your image and puts it up on Pinterest, where anyone else can share it too.

There are plugins that enable you to add a “Share on Pinterest” button to your site, but you don’t need that installed for someone to pin your content. They typically do it using their own Pinterest browser extension.

While you can find a couple of plugins that block Pinterest, they’re unrated and not recently updated. Thankfully, Pinterest has provided a very small snippet of code you can add to the <head> section of your WordPress site, which disables pinning:

<meta name="pinterest" content="nopin" />

We’d recommend using a plugin such as Insert Headers and Footers for this purpose. If you need more information, you can read the original help article from Pinterest here.

Option #4: Protect Original Photography with the Sell Media Plugin

At Graph Paper Press we offer a free plugin called Sell Media, which not only provides a means to sell photos, prints, and stock imagery – it also helps protect your images.

Sell Media plugin

With Sell Media, all original photos and images you upload are stored in a protected folder that cannot be accessed, so the image files can’t be swiped by pulling the image URL. Those images are also presented in a low-res format to the public, protecting your original hi-res photos from theft and distribution, while still advertising your images effectively.

This is just one feature of many – discover more about Sell Media here.


While eliminating image theft altogether is impossible, you do have tools available to protect photos online. We’ve covered the most effective options above; let’s recap them now:

  1. Watermark your images to discourage theft.
  2. Disable right-clicking on your website.
  3. Eliminate the ability for visitors to pin your content to Pinterest.
  4. Use the Sell Media plugin to protect the hi-res versions of your work.

Take action in accordance with the above steps and you will greatly reduce instances of copyright infringement.

Do you have any of your own tips for preventing image theft online? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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