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Stamp your photographic prints

Protect your copyright and more


Stamping pictures that you take with a copyright notice tells the world that you own the copyright to them.
Stamping pictures that you take with a copyright notice tells the world that you own the copyright to them.

COPYRIGHT TO A PHOTOGRAPH EXISTS AS SOON AS IT IS CREATED.

Your pictures are automatically copyrighted (in most countries) when you take them. "Copyright" to a photograph refers to the exclusive right, granted by law for a certain number of years, to produce or reproduce a photograph or any substantial part of it. It is illegal for anyone to copy, use, display or distribute your copyrighted photographs without your consent. Copyright protection is generally provided to the "author" of an original work - in the case of photographs, to the photographer.

YOUR CLIENT OR EMPLOYER MAY OWN THE COPYRIGHT TO YOUR WORK

Important note - In some countries (Canada, in particular), if your photographs are created on a commission or "made for hire" basis, it is your employer - not you - who may be considered to be the author. This occurs when you are hired to make a photograph by a person or company and you do not have a signed agreement beforehand that states that you will own the copyright. As incredible as it may seem, the person or company who hired you as a photographer owns the copyright to your work once you have been paid for it.


PROTECT YOUR COPYRIGHT

In order to protect your photographs from being copied or used by others without your consent, it pays to place a copyright statement - a notice of copyright - on them (and sometimes embedded right in them, as in the case of digital images.)

The simplest way to do this is to print or write "Copyright" followed by your name on the back of a print or on a slide's cardboard frame. Alternately, you can use the symbol for copyright, a circle with a "C" inside it ( ), or the abbreviation "copr." (If your photograph is published, the notice of copyright should also contain the year it was first published after the copyright symbol or word.) But, copyright marking a photo by hand with only your name is not too professional-looking and also doesn't provide sufficient information for people to find you if they wish to obtain your consent to publish or copy one of your images, or simply to order reprints.

STAMP YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

Before giving your prints to anyone, it is wise to stamp the reverse sides to identify the pictures as being under your copyright.

This stamp imprint from the back of a photographic print contains a copyright symbol before the studio name, plus a lot of other helpful information.
This stamp imprint from the back of a photographic print contains a copyright symbol before the studio name, plus a lot of other helpful information.

Three stamps let you provide notice of copyright, image filing information and the date the picture was taken.
Three stamps let you provide notice of copyright, image filing information and the date the picture was taken.

STAMPING CAN ACCOMPLISH MORE THAN NOTICE OF COPYRIGHT

Two, sometimes even three stamps, on your images can save you a lot of aggravation down the road, and can even increase your business.

  • (1) In the image on the left, the largest stamp's imprint establishes that the photograph is copyrighted. It has a small copyright symbol followed by the studio name. There is also a rectangular border or box below the studio name for the job number and the negative frame number. Below the box is the studio address and telephone number.
  • (2) The second stamp's imprint goes inside the box, and contains (a) the job, assignment or customer number, followed by (b) a letter that identifies the negatives, and (c) the actual negative frame number for that print. This system works where each photo assignment (wedding, commercial shoot, portrait session, etc.) is given a job number by you (e.g. 741). The first roll of film used for that assignment, or job, is called "A;" the second roll is "B;" and so on. So, the full idenitifying frame number is 741A 01A for job 741, negative set A, frame No. 1A. This is a special stamp you will have to custom order. Be sure its size fits within the box.
  • (3) Sometimes, a third stamp is used to add the date that the pictures were taken. The date stamp is an off-the-shelf item at most stationery stores. Although date-stamping involves an extra step, it can be a highly-appreciated one. Many people are grateful in years to come, when they can't recall exactly when the picture was taken, to discover that their photographs were date-stamped.


USE FAST-DRYING INK FOR PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTS

You can't use just any stamp pad ink to stamp the backs of your prints. You need a quick-drying ink that is especially made for photographic paper. One type, sometimes called "Proof Ink," is a fast-drying ink for stamping on both sides of RC (resin-coated) photo papers. (To find out what a "proof" is, visit Viewing your wedding pictures.)

If you use normal stamp pad ink, it takes forever to dry, and will probably smudge and transfer over to the front surfaces of prints that you stack beneath the stamped print, often even after waiting for ten, twenty or more minutes for the ink to dry. Your prints may even stick together and become damaged. Your photo dealer or local rubber stamp supplier should be able to get fast-drying, photo paper stamp-pad ink for you. If not, we get ours from The Veach Company, 37007 S. Oak Street, Kennewick, WA, USA 99337. You can visit their website at www.veachco.com/ . Click on "Products, "Accessories," then on "Proof kit" or this quick-link will take you right to it: http://www.veachco.com/proof_kit.htm 

This well-used pad of fast-drying, photo paper ink has identified many prints. The bottle contains proof ink remover, which can be used to refresh the pad when it dries, and also to remove ink from surfaces.
This well-used pad of fast-drying, photo paper ink has identified many prints. The bottle contains proof ink remover, which can be used to refresh the pad when it dries, and also to remove ink from surfaces.

A fully-capitalized, boldly-printed stamp or one that clearly spells out the meaning of copyright is used by some photographers.
A fully-capitalized, boldly-printed stamp or one that clearly spells out the meaning of copyright is used by some photographers.

DESIGN YOUR OWN STAMP

You are not limited, by any means, to using rubber stamps that fit a particular design or size, or that contain specific wording, although the wording must meet legal requirements for proper copyright notification in your jurisdiction. Some photographers may use a very large stamp (mainly for enlargements) when they want to be sure that it cannot be missed, whereas others might want to use more wordage to clearly express that their photograph is not to be copied, used or distributed without their prior consent.

Reputable photo labs and copy shops will not reproduce an image that is copyright-stamped without the photographer's consent.


DISCLAIMER

Please note that we are neither lawyers nor experts in copyright law, and opinions expressed on this web site with respect to copyright law and associated rights may not necessarily be accurate, particularly in your country where laws may be different or changed from time to time, and should not be relied upon as being correct. We advise anyone with copyright issues to seek the advice of trained legal counsel.