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May 14th, 2015

Should You Be Watermarking Your Images?

Posted by liveBooks

You spend hours upon hours getting the perfect photo. You love everything about it and can’t wait to showcase it everywhere possible – your website, blog, Facebook, Instagram, Google+. Then your worst nightmare as a photographer happens – a few months later you notice your photo is being shared around, but with absolutely no credit to you as the photographer. In the digital age we’re living in, this scenario happens all too often. How do you protect yourself against this type of situation? Watermarking images is a constant debate in the creative community. In this post we will explore the pros and cons of watermarking. We will also lay out a few other easy options to protect your work.

Pros of Using Watermarks

Beyond helping to protect your images from theft, watermarking your images can serve a few other purposes:

  • Free Marketing – Photos get shared on the internet (and social media) at an alarming rate. Having your logo, name, or website URL in a subtle place on the photo can act as free advertising for you. This is especially effective for wedding and portrait photographers; people will always share their wedding or family photos on their personal social media pages, which in turn goes out to all of their friends, and their friends’ friends. Having that watermark not only gives you credit, but drives potential customers to your work.
  • Professionalism: Watermarks (if done correctly) have the ability to make your photos look more professional. Watermarking adds a layer of commercial into your work and can help establish your branding, especially if you have worked hard to design your logo and want it to be immediately recognizable.

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Cons of Using Watermarks:

  • Distraction – If a watermark is not subtle enough, it can distract the viewer from the main subject of your photo and can sometimes look amateurish, cheap, or arrogant.
  • Doesn’t Always Protect Your Images – While watermarking does add an extra step for would-be thieves, it does not completely protect your photos. Even someone with very little Photoshop experience can easily remove most watermarks from images and pass them off as their own.
  • Less Sharing – Watermarks are a great way to get some additional advertising for free; however, people are less likely to share heavily watermarked images on their social media accounts. Furthermore, the people who are most likely to steal your photos probably never had the intention of paying for them in the first place, watermark or not.

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Watermarking the Right Way:

In an effort to combine the best of both worlds, here are some quick tips for watermarking your images in a way that allows you to enjoy all of the pros and experience few of the cons.

  • Subtlety Is Key – Place your watermark in the bottom right-hand corner with a low opacity. This method mimics what famous artists such as Picasso have done in the past to sign their work unobtrusively.
  • Class It Up – Another option is to place a strip at the bottom of your image that brands your name with a nice font but isn’t disrupting the actual photo itself.
  • Don’t Overload – Having your name, website URL, logo, copyright symbol, etc is overload for a watermark. Choose one of these items (your URL is a great way to drive people to where you actually sell your  photos!) and use only that on the image.
  • Hide Your Logo – If you want to get really fancy, you can incorporate your logo into the photo somewhere where only you can find it. This will probably only work if the images you create are very unique, less so for everyday photos.

Other Alternatives:

Let’s take a look at some easy alternatives to watermarking your images that will still provide you some protection from theft.

  • Don’t Upload a Full-Resolution Photo Online – For social media sites where sharing is rampant, this is extremely important and in the event that your work is stolen, will be an easy way to prove the original work was yours. If you sell your photos or prints on your website, you can always upload higher-resolution files there.
  • Utilize Your Camera – Most DSLR cameras will allow you  to add some metadata directly into your photography via a menu on your camera settings. This can help make sure that every shot you take has your name, copyright, and URL injected straight into the digital thread of your image.
  • Description + Google Alerts – Most digital thieves will not bother to rename your photos, so using a description that is personal to you and setting up a Google Alert for that exact description can help let you know immediately if someone has tried to publish your work online.

Lastly, make sure you are educated on the tools out there to help you keep track of your images. TinEye is a service that allows you to submit an image to find out where it came from, how it is being used, and if modified versions of the image exist. Google Image Search is also an easy and free way to track your images – you can enter the URL or upload your image to see where it’s been or see any images that look similar to it. Whether you choose to watermark your images or not, it is always best to make sure you register your photos with the US Copyright Office.

Sources:

Why You Shouldn’t Watermark Your Photos

The Pros and Cons of Watermarks

To Watermark, or Not to Watermark?

How to Protect Your Photography Online

Watermarking Your Images: Pros & Cons

 


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