Watermarking…Is It Important?

by kristelmead

Today I’m going to write about watermarking – something I’ve been thinking about for some time now.  If you have visited my website, you know that my photos are watermarked with “Kristel Mead Photography.”  I didn’t come to this decision lightly: “this decision” being to use what I chose as my watermark and not something else.

And then I came across an article that made me question everything about watermarking.  The article is titled “Dear New Photographer,” and has a section called Get Over Your Goddamn Watermark Already.  Then, I did some research.  Because everyone watermarks their photographs, right?  Not necessarily the case – the jury is still out whether or not watermarking your images is a requirement or an annoyance.  And then there’s the debate of, if you watermark, do you use your name, business name, business logo, website…there’s the deemed less professional ©, or full-written “copyright,” and “do not reproduce without permission” or something of the like.  My personal favorites are business name or logo.

Whichever watermark you choose for yourself, there is another debate on placement and opacity.

[Can photographers catch a break?  While some photographers and photography clubs have members who are nice, accepting, accommodating, and appreciate differences among other photographer’s work, I do feel that there are equally as many who are overly critical, that their way -right or wrong- is THE way.  Like many things, there is more than one way to get to Rome, and we all have to do what feels right to us.  So overall, do what works for you, but never stop learning and growing.]

The idea of the watermark is that it 1. allows viewers to know who created the photo (assuming they aren’t viewing it directly from your website or social media page, etc., then it should be obvious the photo is yours), as well as 2. to prevent others from stealing/claiming your work.  I have personal experience with a photo that I took early in my career that I had uploaded to Facebook.  A family member took my photo and made it their profile picture without giving photo credit to me, thereby by omission passing off my work as theirs.  This was early and before I had a watermark.  It put me off.  The image today is not one of my better photos, but nonetheless, it’s a matter of ownership for me.  If you’re an author, you don’t take someone else’s story, rip off the cover and title page, and hand it in to your editor as your manuscript, right?  Or bake a Stouffer’s delicious lasagna and say you made it from scratch?  (OK, so we might joke that the frozen dinner was ours, or the cupcakes we bought from the grocery store were made from scratch in our kitchen, but how many people actually pass of pre-made as from-scratch?)  It’s dishonest, and I like to think that the majority of people are better than that…at least they have the potential to be better than that.

Putting a watermark on your image does not make it impenetrable to others from editing or cropping our your watermark, either.  It is super easy to crop a photo, especially if your watermark is in a corner.  And it takes anyone familiar with photo editing software only a matter of minutes to fudge out a watermark altogether.  And there’s an argument that if your watermark is small, less visible, and in a corner, someone might not take the effort to get rid of it.  I think regardless of what you do to protect your work with visible watermarks, someone with an agenda and a few minutes will take the effort to remove your watermark.

Also, if you place a large watermark in the center of your image, or tiled all over your image, you run the risk of deterring viewers from your work.  And it’s your work, not your watermark, that you are trying to sell, right?  This is one argument I have come across in the “against watermarking” blogs I have come across.  While I do find large, tiled, and largely opaque watermarks to be distracting, I think a watermark should be viewed as an afterthought in regards to its placement and size.  Your photographs should be the primary focus of attention, which then leads the viewer to ask, “Who created this?”, at which they scan the corners or bottom strip of your image to find your name, logo, or website.  (See watermark placement options here, that will not detract from your artwork).

All that being said, which are my personal opinions, there’s always others who do things differently; their own way.  For example, Clark Little Photography.  (I am in love with Clark Little’s work and ingenuity.)  If you go to his online gallery, while the thumbnails have no watermark, “Clark Little Photography” is watermarked in the center of every photo when viewed at a larger size.

I, personally, will probably always watermark.  It’s a decision based on my desire to show ownership.  While there are many posts that discuss the necessity for watermarking, as well as those written by those who abhor watermarking, ultimately how you choose to watermark, if you watermark at all, is your decision.  It’s your work, and your business, after all.  Right?


Don’t forget, if you came here via WordPress or direct link, to check out my photography page at www.kristelmeadphotography.com as well as to visit and like my facebook page, www.facebook.com/kristelmeadphotography