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Trademarks for Photographers: The Ultimate Legal Guide

In today’s world of visual content creation, photographers play a critical role in the marketing and branding of businesses. As a photographer, you have likely invested a considerable amount of time, effort, and creativity into developing your brand and portfolio. However, in order to protect your intellectual property and prevent others from using your work without your permission, it’s essential to understand the basics of trademarks and how they apply to photography.

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Trademarks for Photographers: The Complete Guide for Your Photography Business


What is a Trademark 

A trademark is something that indicates the source of your goods and services. Most commonly, it is a word, slogan, design, or a combination of those things. Trademark rights are important because, among other things, they can entitle the rights holder to stop others from using the same or similar mark in a confusingly similar way. This prevents consumer confusion and others from riding on your hard-earned brand coat tails.

You begin developing trademark rights as soon as you start using your trademark with your goods and services. But those rights are limited, including to the geographic areas in which you are providing the services. Additional benefits—such as nationwide rights, a presumption of ownership of the mark, and the ability to use the ® registration symbol—are available if you register your trademark with the
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Given the benefits of trademark registration, it is generally advisable for photographers to register their business name as a trademark with the USPTO. It may also make sense to register any logo or slogan that is central to your branding strategy. The presumption of ownership and nationwide rights dramatically mitigates the risk that you will need to rebrand in the future. Having a federal registration also strengthens your ability to stop others from using confusingly similar marks for photography-related services. For example, you will be much more successful at having Instagram remove infringing uses of similar marks if you have a federal registration for your trademark.

Trademark versus Copyright for Photographers

As a photographer, it is important to understand the differences between a trademark and a copyright, as they offer different types of legal protection for your work.

A trademark is a symbol, word, or phrase that is used to identify a particular brand or product. Trademarks can be used to protect the name and logo of your photography business, for example. Trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and they provide legal protection against others using a similar name or logo in a way that could confuse consumers.

On the other hand, a copyright is a form of legal protection for original works of authorship, including photographs. Copyright protection gives photographers the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and display their work, as well as the right to create derivative works based on their original photographs (grab an attorney drafted copyright assignment here). Copyright protection is automatic and begins as soon as the photograph is created, without the need for registration. However, registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office can provide additional legal benefits, such as the ability to sue for damages in federal court.

In summary, a trademark protects your photography business name and logo from being used by others, while a copyright protects your original photographs and gives you the exclusive right to use and distribute them. 

Want more info on copyrights for photographers? This blog is for you

Why Are Trademarks Important to Photographers?

As a photographer, your work is your intellectual property, and you have the exclusive right to use, reproduce, and distribute it. Trademarks are essential because they help to protect your intellectual property from being used or copied without your permission. Trademarks can also help to establish your brand and protect your reputation as a photographer.

Types of Trademarks for Photographers

There are several types of trademarks that photographers can use to protect their intellectual property:

  1. Logo trademarks: Logo trademarks are used to protect logos or symbols that represent a photographer’s brand. For example, a photographer might register their logo with the USPTO to prevent others from using a similar logo to represent their own brand.

  2. Service marks: Service marks are used to protect the services that a photographer provides, such as wedding photography or event photography. By registering a service mark with the USPTO, a photographer can prevent others from using similar services to represent their own brand.

  3. Trade dress: Trade dress refers to the overall look and feel of a photographer’s brand, including the color scheme, packaging, and other visual elements. Trade dress can be protected by registering it with the USPTO.

  4. Trade names: Trade names are used to protect the name of a photographer’s business or brand. By registering a trade name with the USPTO, a photographer can prevent others from using a similar name to represent their own business.


When Should You Register Your Trademark 

Generally, you should apply to register your photography business name as a trademark as soon as you know what the name will be. Many trademark rights are based on a first-intime framework, meaning the sooner you use and register your mark, the stronger your rights will be. Moreover, if you are unable to register your mark for some reason, you will want to know this as soon as possible so you can determine whether to rebrand before you have invested significant time and money in a difficult-to-protect brand. 

Do You Need an Attorney for a Photographer Trademark Registration? 

You can file for a trademark registration without the assistance of an attorney here. But given the intricacies of the law, I generally recommend using an attorney. An experienced trademark attorney will know how to best advise you on your trademark’s registrability, prepare your application, and respond to the USPTO on various issues that might arise throughout the process. In the long run, using an
attorney will generally save you money and provide you with better results.


How to Register a Trademark for Your Photography Business On Your Own 

Registering a trademark for your photography business can be a complex process, but there are several steps that you can follow to make it easier:

  1. Conduct a trademark search: Before you can register a trademark, you need to make sure that the name, logo, or symbol you want to trademark is not already in use. You can conduct a trademark search using the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).

  2. File a trademark application: Once you have determined that your trademark is available, you can file a trademark application with the USPTO. The application will include information about your business and the trademark you want to register.

  3. Wait for examination: After you file your trademark application, it will be examined by a trademark examiner to ensure that it meets the requirements for registration. This process can take several months.

  4. Respond to office actions: If the trademark examiner has any questions or concerns about your application, they may issue an office action. You will need to respond to the office action to address any issues and move the application forward.

  5. Publication for opposition: If your trademark application is approved by the trademark examiner, it will be published for opposition. This means that anyone who believes that they would be harmed by the registration of your trademark can file an opposition.

  6. Registration: If there are no oppositions filed, your trademark will be registered, and you will receive a certificate of registration.

How Else Should You Protect Your Photography Business and Brand 

The number one thing you should do in addition to registering your trademark for your photography business is to acquire every domain name and social media username you might want to use. Unused domain names are relatively cheap and social media accounts are generally free. 

What If Someone Else Already Owns Your Desired Name or Username?

There are options for acquiring domain names and usernames from others, such as
the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy, take down requests to third party platforms, and direct negotiation. Realistically, though, these options can be expensive with low odds of success. It’s almost always better to simply pick unused domains and usernames from the get-go. That said, if that’s not possible or desirable from a branding perspective, you should reach out to an attorney to discuss your options.

Trademarks for Photographers Action Steps: 

  1. Search Google for your business name to see if others are using it: (and check out this guide for naming your business).
  2. Acquire the domain name for your business.
  3. Sign up for social media accounts.
  4. Contact a trademark attorney about registering your business name as a trademark or apply to register your mark yourself here.


As a photographer, your brand and intellectual property are essential to your success. By registering a trademark, you can protect your brand and prevent others from using your work without your permission. It’s important to understand the different types of trademarks available for photographers, including logo trademarks, service marks, trade dress, and trade names.

While the process of registering a trademark may seem daunting, it’s an important step in protecting your business and intellectual property. Conducting a trademark search, filing a trademark application, responding to office actions, and addressing opposition are all steps in the process that must be taken to secure your trademark, which is why hiring a licensed attorney is the best route to take.


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I’m Kara


Through my best-selling courses, thriving 1:1 tailored coaching experience, professional done-for-you business services, and powerful business templates, I inspire and empower photographers to take control of their businesses and realize that “Wow, I can do this!”

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Kara Hubbard, Business Coach for Photographers, Photographer Educator, Owner of Tografy, Ozo Coffee Branding

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Kara Hubbard, Business Coach for Photographers, Photographer Educator, Owner of Tografy, Whole Foods Branding

hi there!

I’m Kara Hubbard


Through my best-selling courses, thriving 1:1 tailored coaching experience, professional done-for-you business services, and powerful business templates, I inspire and empower photographers to take control of their businesses and realize that “Wow, I can do this!”
I do this by teaching photographers how to run their businesses and not how I successfully ran my own. I firmly believe that with proper business education and tailored resources anyone can build a life and business they love through the incredible art of photography.


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