There’s two sides, or more, to every story. The topic of watermarking image gets photographers animated.
Watermarking, in current times, is a term used loosely to describe:
- Branding of your images in a subtle way, such as across the bottom or even on a solid color bar to one side of an image.
- Marking a solid logo and/or copyright across your image, disturbing part of the subject. The watermark may be opaque, partially transparent or even embossed.
- Digitally labeling your image with a copyright that is not actually visible.
The big question for photographers is “should you watermark your images, and if so how?” In this article I am referring to showing your name, studio name, copyright information or other identifiers on web images. I am not referring to prints.
The major reasons photographers add a watermark or branding to their images are:
- Establish copyright: This tells others the name of the copyright owner and creator of the image.
- Branding: This shows others who you are and often where they can find you and more of your work.
- Protecting: If placed in certain prominent areas of the photo, it makes removal more difficult, though likely not impossible. This can cut down on sharing, but also can make it harder for clients to take a web image get it printed. Some printers disregard watermark and will print it anyway. Some customers will take the time to remove one if it is not hard to remove.
- Advertising: Since it’s a fact that photos get shared, and customers will want to post your images to social networking sites and through emails, you might as well get the advertising benefit too.
- Expose thieves: At least if you add your watermark and branding in a hard to remove location, if a customer prints from the web image, it will be obvious to all.
In the digital word we live in, with social sharing sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and others, images do get shared. When they are shared, if you watermark your photos with your name and/or web address, you are getting credit and exposure. If you do not want the photo floating around, I suppose you could have a message stating that too. It cannot stop sharing, but could make it more embarrassing for those who do.
Knowing all of the above, why would any smart photographer skip adding their copyright, logo, or name on an image? We asked around and here’s what we learned.
Then why would you dare skip watermarking:
- It is distracting: Watermarks cover up important elements of the photo. They ruin the essence of the image.
- It is arrogant: In a discussion with Katja Hentschel, a professional photographer in Berlin, Germany, she explained, “I think watermarked pictures are less likely to be shared. I think they send a message of slight arrogance in saying it must under no circumstances ever surface anywhere without its proper reference. I personally am happy to see that my photos are being shared, and while it’s never nice to see them without credit, I’m still glad people like them, feel inspired by them and want to share them with friends and followers.”
- It shows self-confidence of the photographer: Katja expressed that “by not watermarking photos the photographer shows confidence in his work and style. I do recognize the photography of my favorite artists, bloggers, photographers, regardless of a by-standing reference.”
- Allows the photo to shine (photos look better without text all over them): As José Navarro explained in response to our question on Facebook, “you should be thinking about the mood, expectation and request for engagement a great photo provides….not an ugly watermark which takes over 60% of the image.”
Now it’s your turn. Tell us if you watermark and/or brand your images. What info do you add to your photo and where do you add it? Do you think it is best to add your “mark” or leave it off? We’d love to read what you think in the comments below.