Stop! 5 Reasons Not To Watermark Your Images

Often times when working on improving your online presence or page ranking in Google search results, you find a copy of your Facebook business page in a directory website

ugly watermark Build Your Online Presence
source: Envato Markets

1. Watermarks can easily be removed

The most obvious reason is that watermarks can easily be removed. Remember to Stop! before adding an ugly water mark to your professional images because if someone wants it bad enough, they can simploy remove it with a number of different tools, including free ones. In addition to apps that can remove water marks without needing any knowledge of a program like Photoshop, many timeser. A thief can simply crop the watermark or logo out of the image. In no way, shape or form, does a simple watermark protect you. The only exception to this is a full image watermark, the kind that stock photography companies use to protect images. These are impossible to remove completely.

Can you imagine the legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson ruining his careful compositions with a watermark? By Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

2. Watermarks ruin the composition and distract from the original design

The second reason many photographers use watermarks is that it makes them feel professional. Most well-known wedding or commercial photographers I admire don’t use a watermark. In fact, a large poorly designed watermark is one of the things I see as a sign that a photographer is just starting out. Having consistently high-quality work is what makes you appear professional. If you do have a watermark I urge you to have a designer help you create it and to keep it small and unobtrusive. You’ve spent thousands of dollars on gear and years of your life to get that perfect shot with a composition that draws you into the image. Why on earth would you put a distracting watermark across your photo? The majority of watermarks look ugly at a tiny size. The only thing that should be added to the image is your signature on the white border around the image when you print it out and sign it personally as a limited edition print. This is the only classy way to add to a perfect image. It actually adds value! (If you do want to use a watermark I suggest placing it vertically on one side to not distract the viewer.)

I’m guilty of using watermarks during my first few years in wedding photography. I stopped when I realized it detracted from my work and was a pain to place on every photo. Look at the photographers you admire, the very best, and see if they use watermarks. I’ll bet you many don’t.

4. No One Can Read Your Watermark Anyway

Watermarks are often impossible to read. Especially if you use any kind of calligraphy font. No one is going to see your itsy bitsy watermark and say “I want to hire this photographer! Now, I’m going to spend the next few minutes figuring out what the logo says, and then search blindly through Google to find the photographer.” If someone wants to credit you they will in the caption or post. Preferably with a link directly to your website. If you do use a watermark make sure it is easily legible at very small sizes. If it isn’t legible, it only diminishes your work.

5. A Watermark is not a Signature

Many artists sign their work. Painters sign their paintings, and photographers sign prints. This is not the same as a watermark. The point of the signature is to assure the authenticity of the painting or print. A signature is never very prominent on a painting, and prints are signed around the edge in the margin. Why? To not detract from the piece itself. A watermark floating somewhere ON the photo draws attention away from experiencing the photo as it was meant to be experienced.

This is a great point brought up by one of our community members, Chris Brashear. As your brand evolves, so will your logo. Imagine having to dig up all your old photos and re-watermarking them to match your current logo. It is nearly impossible. And if you don’t replace your previously watermarked photos with your updated watermarks, your brand becomes diluted and confused.

Alternative ways to protect your intellectual property

blackburn furniture period style loboy woodturning sign Build Your Online Presence
Reproduction fine furniure William and Mary Desk by Blackburn Furniture Makers & Wood Turners

When you want to protect your work as much as possible, the only effective way is more on the side searching using several listed tools to see who is using your images. There are powerfull tools that can help track down your digial assets without having to add a distracting element to your photo.

Here are some examples

Google Image Search (free) (free & paid)
ImageRaider (free & paid)
Digimarc (paid)

Each of these services will search the internet for unauthorized use of your image. Should you search to see if someone is using EVERY image you post? No. That would take forever, and not all of your photos are really that valuable. But for your very best photos or photos that are newsworthy, these services are a great way to track down misuse and pursue legal action.

How to protect your images with meta data

Whether you are an experienced user of Photoshop and other Adobe or gaphic design programs or not, you can add copyright and meta data to your images. See below for easy instructions.

When adding a signature, follow these guidelines

If you do use a watermark here are my best practice suggestions:

1. Keep your watermark simple and monochromatic. (No color and minimal use of graphics.)
2. Keep it as small as possible while being legible. Can you read it well at 2084 on the long side? (Facebook sized.) The example above is even smaller at 900px wide.
3. Use a vertical watermark. It is still legible but the viewer won’t get distracted trying to read it every time they view the photo.
4. Put your watermark on the edge of the photo. Yes, it’s easier to crop out, but it serves its main purpose and those that want to remove your watermark will remove it no matter where it is placed.

Further readings: What you need to know – Intellectual Property, Copyright, Trademarks & Patents The Right Way (easy)

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