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Should I Watermark My Images?

Edits from our Pretty Pastels Collection above 

Who would think such a simple word would be such a hot topic amongst photographers? People seem to have polarizing opinions on this, but, for this post, I’ll try to be as unbiased as possible and illustrate the pros and cons of watermarking.

Reasons for Watermarking

Photographers who share their images online and choose to use a watermark usually do so for two main reasons:

1) They do not want their clients printing their own photos, as part of their packaging may include prints, and they also do not want their clients printing low-resolution images from the internet, because they want to give their clients the best possible prints, from a professional printing service.

2) They take pride in their hard work, and do not want their images reproduced/stolen, and posted on other sites without their consent.

I’m sure there are many other reasons why photographers choose to watermark their online images, but these two reasons seem to be the most common. And, they are completely valid!

The Argument Against Watermarks

Well, there’s always a flip-side to every situation. Photographers who choose not to watermark their images usually argue the following points:

1) “Watermarks are an eyesore.” I’ve heard that one a few (read: several hundred) times.

2) If people really want to steal your photos, they’re going to steal your photos.

3) If people steal your photos, it’s an easy lawsuit.

Some Points to Consider

* Let’s say you are in favor of watermarking your images. Something to keep in mind is that, unless you have a giant watermark that covers most over your image, especially the center, it is fairly easy to remove a watermark, even if someone is just using free software! If someone really, really wants to remove the watermark, they can, unless it covers the majority of the image. So, if you are concerned about people posting your images on other sites (and, sometimes, they’ll go so far as to post it as their own – that’s never a good feeling!) know that you may have to use a very large watermark in order to deter them.

* If you are concerned that your clients will take the images from your Facebook business page and try to print them on their own, you could avoid using a watermark by having a contractual agreement with your client that states that their Facebook images are strictly for Facebook and social networking sites – not to be printed/edited by them under any circumstances.

* Nine times out of ten, legitimate businesses and corporations will not steal your images. They will either contact you directly for licensing, or they will purchase from stock agencies such as Getty, Shutterstock, or Stocksy. More often than not, if your images are shared online by someone other than yourself, it will be from someone who just happens to like your photo, and wants to share it on their Tumblr or Pinterest page. And, most of the time, people will link to your original image.

* If you are concerned/curious about how your images are being used online, Google has a handy feature, reverse image search, where you can upload your image into the Google search, and find out if it is being used online. When you are on the Google Images page, click on the camera icon, above, to upload your image. 

* If, at the end of the day, you only feel comfortable sharing your images online if they have a watermark, consider creating a watermark that fits in with your style of photography, and the brand of your business. Make it fun yet subtle, as most people will notice the watermark before they notice the rest of the photo. Gayle Vehar wrote a great tutorial on creating watermarks in Lightroom, and you can read it here.

Do you watermark your images, or do you choose not to? We’d love to hear your reasons behind why you do/do not!


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