5 Things I Do Before Publishing An Image

Portrait of Arno with Fuji XPro-1

You’ve captured that perfect moment and you’re excited to share it. We’ve all been there, but I want to make sure that my images are protected from theft and within my control. Before I publish a photo I try to follow the same workflow to help me keep track of the images, the published date, the location, and the U.S. Copyright registration number.

Retaining the correct file name and published date is extremely important when it comes to registering your images with the U.S. Copyright Office. It will also help you get fairly compensated should you encounter a copyright violation. 

Over the past few years, I have refined this process to work for me and hopefully, you will find it useful.

These are the 5 things I do before sharing an image with the world. 

Rename Images

The first thing I do is check the file name of the images. Most of the time I rename the images at import but occasionally I forget, so I like to double check. If I did neglect to do this step during the import process, I make sure to take care of it before moving on. In Lightroom this is pretty simple, you select the files and hit F2. A small window will popup allowing you to select one of the premade templates or create a custom template. The format that I like to use is YYYYMMDD-Description-Original-Name####.RAW (20160110-Description-DSC03456.RAW).

The reason I rename files before I start editing is because by the time I get to the final published image I will end up with three copies of the image – the original RAW file, the image I edited in Photoshop, and the final TIF file. The final TIF file is the only image that’s published. By renaming the files first, this will help keep everything organized if I ever need to track something down since the files will all have the same name.

Folder structure
 – Month
   – Main Folder
      – Capture (RAW files)
      – Master (Edited files)
      – Output (Final files)

Edit Images

My next step is the editing process. This varies depending on what the image will be used for and what needs to be edited. Small changes like color corrections and white balance are all done in Lightroom. If the image needs a bit more I jump into Photoshop. 

Add/update metadata and location information

After I’m done editing the image I like to update all the metadata and location information in Lightroom. This makes sure that all my contact and copyright information will be included in the final image.

More about metadata here.

Create the “final” image to be published

Since all the work on this image has been completed I create the final ready to publish image by exporting it in TIF format with all the metadata included. To make things easier I have created an Export Preset in Lightroom, all I need to do is select the location to save the final image. This Preset also adds the final image to my Lightroom catalog which also helps keep track of things.

More about creating an Export Preset here.

Add published date information to the metadata

The final image is now ready to publish. The last step in my workflow is to add the published date to the metadata. This helps me keep track of the published images when it’s time to submit them to the copyright office. I’ve created a Smart Collection in Lightroom that will search for all published images and add them to a collection. I have found that adding Published YYYY MM/DD/YY (Published 2016 01/04/16) to the IPTC Headline field works great. Lightroom puts all my published images in one collection so when I am ready to submit them to the copyright office.

More about Smart Collections here.


The final step is done when I’m ready to register the images with the U.S. Copyright Office. I use a plug-in called Export List by Alloyphoto to save the file name and published date to an Excel file. This information along with a thumbnail of each published image is what you will need to complete the registration process and will help you keep track of the items you submit for each copyright registration request.

I also use an automated service called PIXSY to identify unlicensed images use on the Internet. Their service allows you to enter the sites you publish your images to and then locates matches on the internet to find where your photos are being used. Once their tool identifies any matches for your images you can review them for unauthorized use and submit a case to their legal team to help get compensation. They provide a great service. Once a week I set aside an hour or so to review their findings. You can sign up for the free account at https://www.pixsy.com.

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