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Photography by Nicholas Wall

Should you Watermark?

Should you Watermark?

Should you watermark your photos? And is it “professional” using a watermark?

Before you can answer either of those questions you have to ask yourself another question: Why are you watermarking?


Let’s go with the first answer: Watermarking to “protect” your images from copyright infringement online.

You could use the biggest most elaborate watermark that prevents anyone from ever stealing your photo.



But then again it is protected only because the picture becomes almost unusable. And in this case you do look like a very unprofessional photographer. Usually when you see these ridiculous, distracting watermarks the quality of the photo would not tempt anyone to steal it. The only time I can see using something like this is if it’s a “paparazzi” where it’s strictly about the content (nothing to do with the quality). And even in that case you better still have register it to US Copyright Office before releasing. After you register you can use a neat little tool called Tineye where you can do a reverse image search by uploading your photo and crawler go through the web looking for any website that are using your photos (Google also has a reverse image search tool). If you find someone using your photos it might just be your lucky day – $$.



Now for the second answer: Watermarking for branding and promotional purposes.

If done correctly watermarks can add a certain elegance to your photos and give it that professional look plus it shows the viewer right away who the photo is from and it a nice free way to promote your photography studio. Keep it simple, clean, and out of the main focus of the photo. You want it to be noticeable but not distracting.




And the third answer:

There are times when you want to protect your photos from clients stealing them. This I believe is probably the most difficult issue to deal with. You want to prevent clients from saving (or screen capturing) your photos and just cropping out your watermark then printing them or posting to Facebook, etc without your permission and with no recognition of your hard work. Most portrait photographers nowadays wouldn’t mind the client posting their photos to Facebook as long as the client keeps the watermark and/or gives credit to the photographer.

When it comes to clients ordering unauthorized prints from proofs that is a much bigger deal. Many photographers make the bulk of their income from selling prints. One way of trying to solve this is to use a non-distracting, relatively small watermark in the center of the photo – small enough so that it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the photo but large enough to where the client would have to use a good deal of Photoshop to remove it. Ultimately the best solution would be just to let your client know what they can and can’t do with your photos – the key word being YOUR. You always own the copyright to the photos even after a client pays you. They are paying you to take their picture, not to own the rights to your photo.





Watermarks are not evil; they are a tool but need to be used correctly and in the right situations.