You obtain your copyright to any project the moment you put words to paper, or ink to your sketch, or snap the photograph. The rights to your project are yours to keep. Until you sign a contract or make any agreement otherwise, you retain the rights to your work at all times. This means you have the right to pursue legal action if anyone were to use your work without permission. You might also need it if someone takes you to court, claiming you stole their ideas or work.
However, some people are not satisfied with this. Also, while you could take someone to court over exploitation of your copyrighted work, you might need to have some proof that you did create the work first. If you actually intended to sell your work, like your photographs and your text, you can register for a copyright. The United States Copyright Office will let you register your work, or groups of your work, and you will be able to get more money and make a better claim if you should ever have to go to court.
People used to say you could put copies of your work in an envelope and mail it to yourself using the United States Postal Service. It is called the “Poor Man’s Copyright Registration”. The truth is that while it might help in court proceedings, it is really better if you go ahead and register your copyright to your work officially.
You should especially copyright your work if it is something you intend to keep and resell again and again, and make a living off of your work, like a photograph or a piece of art. You should know that if you write an article or a book, usually the publishing company that purchases the work will obtain the copyright for you, and it might be better to let them do so. If you’re uncertain, it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and get the copyright registered for your project anyway. It can certainly be helpful if you should ever need to use it when you go to court over copyright violations.