How to Copyright Photos in Lightroom

by Jan 6, 2022Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How to Copyright Photos in Lightroom

In this tutorial, I’ll explain how to copyright photos in Lightroom easily using a simple Metadata Preset.

When you take a photograph, you as the creator automatically have the copyright (unless you are doing the work for someone else and then it comes down to your contract). The problem with this is that others don’t know the copyright status of the image. To be effective, you need a way to share this with others, especially when they might not even know who created the photo. Fortunately, Lightroom has a solution that allows you to copyright your photos in a way that others can read and understand.

Changing a Photos Metadata

Metadata is information about or that describes that photo. This can include information about the camera used photo, the camera settings, keywords describing the photo, and the importantly the Copyright status or license.

Digital images can use a standard for storing this metadata called IPTC. This can be read and understood by editing applications like Lightroom that support the IPTC standards. Which in turn allows people to see the copyright information.

In addition to being able to read the copyright information in an image, you can use Lightroom to edit or add this. It can even automatically apply the copyright when you import images to your Lightroom Catalog.

Photo Copyright Information in Lightroom

If you open the Library module where you organise your photos in Lightroom, you should see the Metadata panel on the right of the interface.

Lightroom Meta data panel in the Library Module

It’s in the Metadata panel that we can view the copyright information for an image as well as make changes. Here is a close-up of the panel showing the default information for a selected photo.

Lightroom Metadata panel showing Copyright information

In the panel you can see the copyright and creator information (1) has been updated with my name and the year of the copyright. There are a couple of other pieces of copyright information that aren’t showed here but we will get to those later.

It’s quite possible that your Metadata panel isn’t showing the copyright fields seen in the screenshot above. The information displayed in the panel is controlled by a small drop-down at the top (2). There are several options to choose from with each showing different information fields for the image. Be sure to pick the “default” option to see the same view as above.

Editing Copyright Information

After selecting a photo in the Library module, you can edit its copyright information by clicking the Copyright field in the Metadata panel. You are then able to enter or change the details.

This can be useful but is very repetitive and time consuming, especially if you have a lot of photos to update. It’s much better to create a preset which you can use to apply copyright information with a couple of clicks. A preset like this allows you to apply the same copyright information to multiple images at the same time.

To apply a Metadata preset to an image, first select the image or images you want to update in the Library module. Then click preset drop-down (3) at the top of the Metadata panel where you can select the preset to apply from the list. It’s that simple.

Creating a Copyright Preset in Lightroom

When you click the preset drop-down at the top of the Metadata panel you will see a list of presets you can use. At the bottom of the list is another option to “Edit Presets”.

Edit Presets option in Lightroom

This opens the edit Metadata preset dialog where you can enter the copyright information you want to save as a preset. As mentioned above, this is also referred to as IPTC information.

Entering Copyright information as a Metadata Template

It’s possible that some of the fields in your Metadata preset have been pre-populated. To avoid saving this information as part of the preset click on the box to the left of the section headings.

The heading checkboxes can be empty, have a tick mark, or display dash mark. To prevent any data from being saved as part of the template be sure the checkbox is empty. The only checkbox that should have a tick dash mark next to it should be the IPTC copyright section.

As you enter the copyright information to each of the fields, you see a blue tick mark appear to the right of that field. This indicates the data you entered will be saved for that field. As with the heading checkboxes, it’s possible to unselect these to prevent them being saved. When you’ve entered information to all four fields, a tick mark will appear to the left of the IPTC copyright section heading. If you only complete some of the fields, a dash mark is displayed instead.

After entering your copyright information, click the done button at the bottom of the dialog. You are then be prompted by Lightroom to save the changes as a new preset. Select the save option and enter the name of the new preset. After saving, the new preset is available in the preset drop-down at the top of the Metadata panel.

Editing Existing Copyright Presets

As well as creating a new copyright preset, you can edit existing presets using the drop-down at the top of the Metadata panel. To do this, first apply the preset that you want to edit to an image. Then click the preset drop-down at the top of the Metadata panel, choosing the “Edit Preset” option.

When the Edit Metadata Preset dialog opens, you should see the existing copyright information pre-populated in the fields. You can now edit the information to make the changes you want to apply.

After making changes, you should see the name in the drop-down change to say “(edited)”. You can then click the drop-down and select the option to “Update Preset…” from the list.

Updating an existing Metadata Preset in Lightroom

Your changes are then saved to the preset and can then be applied to any image. It’s important to realise that the changes only affect images you subsequently apply the preset to. They aren’t applied retrospectively to existing images.

Applying Copyright Information on Import

As mentioned above, it’s possible to automatically apply copyright information when importing images to Lightroom. You can do this in the “Import Photos” dialog.

Applying copyright information during import to Lightroom

When the import dialog appears, there is a panel on the right side of the screen titled “apply during import”. This contains options to select Develop Settings, Metadata, and add Keywords to the images being imported. In the Metadata section click the drop-down and select the Metadata template you want to apply. These are the same templates that are available in the Metadata panel of the Library module. The information is then applied to every image that successfully imported to the Lightroom Catalog.

Summary of How to Copyright Photos in Lightroom

Using the Metadata templates in Lightroom, it’s quick and easy to apply copyright information to either batches or individual images. It’s also possible to select in Metadata template to apply automatically to all images as they are imported to Lightroom. If you have existing template set up the copyright information, you can also edit these from the library module. Best practice is to create a single Copyright template which you can update each year with the new date. Some people choose not to include a date, but a date is required for a Copyright notice to be effective.

I hope this tutorial has helped you create your own copyright presets or understand how to edit existing presets. This is an important element in organising and managing your photography. If you’d like to know more about how I organise my photos, I explain a simple system in this article. Alternatively, you may like to refer to my book “Adobe Lightroom CC: mastering the library module” which explains how to use the Library module in depth.

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