This is one of those questions I give to myself over and over. Should I or should I not use watermarks in my photos. It’s a hard question, and one that every photographer has to answer for him/herself. But to give you something to think about, here are some of my thoughts on this.
Lamp on the bridge

Why yes?

  • You put your mark on the photo, showing that you are the author.
  • It will discourage some (mostly unskilled) thief’s from using you photo.
  • In some countries, the removal of a watermark is against the law and its then easier if you want to sue someone.
  • It’s easier to find you from any of your photos. Of course that can also be done through search engines, just by searching for a photo, but having the info already there, make it much easier.
  • You are always credited for every use, as the credit is just there

Why no?

  • It can be a really big distraction. You would think that a small watermark on the bottom, or a partially transparent one would not be, but it is. Especially in photos with less detail, or the ones that try to convey a certain mood. Once the eye sees the watermark, you will always notice it.
  • It can degrade the photo, taking away part of the artistic value.

What to do

  • It’s hard to suggest what to do, as everyone has a little different view of this. I would suggest finding yourself a discrete way how to add watermarks to your photos. You can try either, as also I do, to just add your name and a web address to the corner. Or you can bee more elaborate, and be inspired by Klause Herman’s photos where he blends the watermarks directly into the photo.
  • The best way to protect published images, is just not to post a big version. A small photo can’t be really used for much. Of course it takes a little experimenting before one finds a size one is comfortable with. One that is big enough to represent a photo, but small enough so it’s worthless to anyone but you.
  • Try thinking about starting using CC license. You give away some rights, but you have less people to chase because of photo usage. Especially social media shares are a great example here.
  • And in the end, if you are really scared that someone will steal your photos, and really want to prevent that, just stop sharing them. What’s not online, can’t be stolen. For instance, show only prints, never the photos.


What not to do

  • Don’t just put a huge watermark over you photo. Just don’t. Once the watermarks becomes more dominant than the photo behind it, the photo has lost all meaning. It’s a little interesting, that I seen this mostly on photos of beginners, which were not always of a very high quality. If you do this, you don’t even respect your own work at that moment.
  • Also don’t bother with blocking right click on webpages. You just making a visit to your page more frustrating and print-screen makes the whole thing worthless anyway. Once you publish a photo on the web, there is no way you can stop people from downloading it.
  • Don’t be crazy protective about your photos. There is such thing as fans, and they share your photos because they like them. They make no profit on it, and they just wan’t for more people to see your work. Attacking them will bring you nothing.

Why I use watermarks

For a long time I haven’t used watermarks. I even started sharing bigger images in that time, as HDR’s just looks better bigger. But around two years ago, there started appearing people, who shared the photos without credit, and even added their own watermark to them. I usually just look the other way when no credit is given (I would have to send many emails every day to notify everyone, and I’m in no mood to do that), but the adding of watermarks just insults me. How can someone think that adding their logo to a photo they didn’t take is OK. So I added my own watermark to my photos, and even that you could actually remove it quite easily, most of these people stopped taking them. Their skill in Photoshop was probably really minimal.

Actually, somewhere there is the line  for me, when it goes for photo usage. Once someone starts modifying them or making profit on them, they better have a bought licence from me :)

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