Most photographers don’t like watermarks in their images. Why show off the perfect balance of your photo with a distracting logo, right? However, watermarks should be considered a necessary evil, and photographers and Internet users have learned to accept it as an inevitability. In this digital age, stealing someone’s image is as simple as “right click, save as.” It doesn’t take much to perform a digital crime and violate copyright. In my opinion, watermarking is an indispensable protection in the photography world.
Why would you put a watermark on your photo?
Watermarking is one of the ways you can protect yourself from the actions of people without conscience or respect for other people’s work. Watermarking is not foolproof, but it is the easiest defense to implement. Watermarking can also serve as a form of branding or corporate advertising, and so on. A simple watermark can accomplish a lot. In this day and age, many individual and business entities (even social media channels) want to be recognized as a unique brand. As independent artists, why should photographers be left behind?
Image with a subtle watermark in the form of a signature
For starters, watermarking offers modest protection against online theft, because while the watermark can be trimmed from time to time, it’s usually not worth it. There are plenty who are persistent enough to erase a watermark by healing and cloning it, but this requires a lot of work. If the case of a stolen digital file was taken to court, having an original watermarked image would be strong evidence against someone claiming to have “found” the cropped image without the watermark.
Another advantage is that you can use your watermark to advertise your business: include your contact information, webpage, social media accounts, and so on. It can be used to direct audiences to the site where you are selling that particular image along with others. Or your information can lead viewers to your booking page. If you are into club-concert photography, you can be paid to advertise for different companies in the watermarked area of each image. Also, of course, you can just put your name or signature in there which can provide name recognition. With many photos, your name is often seen.
You can substitute the name for advertising, for example, for the bicycle
Finally, if your image is stolen but the watermark is not removed, this acts as free advertising for you.
I still dream of a file format that allows embedded trackers that cannot be deleted and that monitors the traffic and location of each copy. Until I know my desire, watermarks will have to do the job.
First, let’s address the biggest and most obvious annoyance: watermarks are distracting and can get in the way of a photo. Many people hate them for this reason, and depending on the design, they can be really distracting, especially if you use flashy colors, or place them all over an image.
Then there is the irritating group of purists who will ignore an image if they see a watermark on it. On several occasions I was told something along the lines of: “Your image looks good, but I would like you to send me a copy without a watermark so I can see it properly.” I have to explain in my defense that my watermark is in it in one of the corners of the images and it is semi-transparent. It doesn’t even cover 10% of the image, so I know it wouldn’t completely obscure the view. Why would I send a random person on the internet an image without a watermark? Isn’t this the whole point of it?
At the end, the final choice is yours. You can watermark your images with a small or large sticker, or you can leave the images as they are. If you choose to watermark images, make sure you have a copy of the original, as you will likely need them again for edits. If you plan to watermark an image online, upload a small resolution. This way, even if it is stolen from you, it may not be used much.
There is one more thing to consider while we cover this topic and that is to never post full resolution images on the Internet (watermarked or not). At the very least, you can keep the print profits this way. There are many sites that sell prints of stolen images and it can take years for someone to discover that their images are being sold without their permission. That is a loss you will probably never recover.
As I said, I don’t like to use watermarks, but I feel compelled to do so for obvious reasons. I do it in as subtle a way as possible so that the photo is not ruined.
A few tips
Keep your watermark simple and monochrome. (No color and minimal use of graphics.)
Keep it as small as possible while making it readable. Can you read it properly in 2084 on the long side? (Facebook size.)
The example above is even smaller at 900px wide.Use a vertical watermark. It’s still legible, but the viewer won’t get distracted trying to read it every time they look at the photo.
Put your watermark on the edge of the photo. Yes, it is easier to cut out, but it serves its main purpose and those who want to remove your watermark will remove it no matter where it is placed.
You can also order photo logos in various handwritings via the Internet, for example at the website Photologo. They look quite nice but after a while they all look the same. I personally prefer to make it myself. The advantage is that any comparison with production logos is eliminated. Below my own logo in large format, on pictures it is smaller.