"How do I protect my photography and art in general?"
"As =Eitvys200 pointed out, at least 1 journal per month makes it to the top of the list and is about stealing art. Sometimes this is something small such as posting a piece to facebook, other times you see hoards of pieces on a website selling wallpapers or something similar. Regardless of how it happens, or where, it can hurt just as much to see your hard work disregarded and especially someone else profiting or taking credit.
Protecting work is a huge deal for some people, and not for others. It depends entirely on your outlook - how you view your work and indeed whether or not there needs to be some constrictions on it due to the content being a child, or family member. But how do we protect our work properly from art theft and wrongful use? The simple answer is you can't provide for every eventuality. Even if you upload your work to a website where right click -> copy is disabled, someone could, if they were that desperate, screen shot and crop. The strongest but most invasive length you can go to, to ensure that your work remains used solely by you - is to watermark slap bang in the middle of the main focus of the shot. But that detracts from your work. Some do it, some don't go to such extremes, it's up to you. Sometimes, it works...
You can however, make a watermark that is subtle yet noticeable enough to compliment and put a stamp on your photograph. Almost a signature or an autograph more than anything else. You have to accept that if someone wants your work, and there isn't a watermark in the middle but rather it's in a corner - they can crop it. But it's also good to ease up slightly on getting emotionally involved in protecting your work. Be proud of your achievements, be annoyed when someone steals it, but also allow yourself to feel a little flattered. Well, depending on what they do with it...!
Creating a logo/watermark is really simply. I'm not going to re-hash a tutorial that's already out there but instead I'll link you to this Simple Photoshop Tutorial. If you want to try it out and get stuck by all means come back to me as I've used this before to make a few logos in the past. You basically are creating a stamp that you can choose the3 colour for, resize and stamp wherever you like on whichever images need it.
It's important to make guidelines as to when you do and don't watermark your work. You can quite simply put your stamp on every single piece you do. Or you could draw up some guides. I tend to only watermark my paid work that involves people especially babies/children. Everything else I am quite happy to be submitted over the internet without a logo. I've found some bits on sites before and I've simply asked for them to be taken down or credited, and it has been done. There doesn't need to be drama.
I watermark for several reasons:
To create a professional logo/design that accompanies an image
To protect my image and deter people from copy/pasting/saving it (Watermarks, although not central to an image can deter those who might click and save.)
To promote myself and my services
The latter is the most important to me right now. When you do a wedding, or a baby shoot - the first thing that the bride/groom/mothers and fathers do is share the shots like crazy. Obviously I provide them with clean shots, but online and especially on facebook (my business page) if they start to share and tag e.t.c then my name on the logo with my website - goes with them! Free advertising!
You don't have to be a photographer to have a watermark. They can accompany all kinds of mediums of art. Watermarks help protect traditional, digital and other mediums just as much as they do photography. If you think your work is being used, or you are just curious to check then use Tineye or google images to see what's lurking out there." ~^Kaz-D
Did you also know that here on deviantART there is an option to add a watermark when you submit your images? It's quite simple and if you don't have a watermark or don't have the time to create one it's an easy way around it and a quick fix solution. The option is presented to you when you resize your submissions, it asks if you want to add a watermark or not. Check out this FAQ #332: Does deviantART have a feature that will automatically watermark my deviations?.
There are lots of useful guides and tutorials out there that can help with watermarking, copyrighting and the Do's and Don'ts.
Watermark Brush Creation Tutorial
How to Watermark
How to NOT watermark
Watermarking and Copyrighting
Previous Troubleshooting Articles...
Snaps To Professional
What Digital Camera?
Dull images on dA