Watermarks have been around forever. Before digital, it was a photographer’s signature in the corner of a print. Then when the digital world arrived, you would find a watermark anywhere on a photograph. At the beginning of the digital era, while we adapted to how images could be used, there was good reason to use a watermark. But today, with net knowledge being much stronger, does the watermark still hold a place in the photography world?
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Why Do People Use Watermarks for Photography?
Traditionally, people use watermarks to protect their work. When the internet came about, people were not accustomed to others stealing their work and passing it off as their own or printing it to hang on the wall. To prevent someone from stealing an image, photographers would plaster a big watermark over it (usually their name). And if someone did still steal it, people would know who created the image and who owned the copyright.
I’ll state my position quickly; watermarks are often ugly. Most photographers use generic templates and give little thought to where they place them. The amount of times I’ve seen a beautiful landscape photograph spoilt by the photographer putting their watermark in the center of it is saddening. In my opinion, a picture should never include a distraction. Every photograph should keep the viewer’s attention for as long as possible. That’s not going to happen when you splash a big “Hey, look, here’s my name!” watermark over your image.
If you insist on having a watermark, please (I’m begging you) create your own or have a designer create one for you. A generic template oozes laziness and takes away the attention from your photographic voice. And also think about where you place it. Don’t put it at the center of a photograph or anywhere on the photograph altogether. I suggest putting a border around your image and placing the watermark in the bottom left or right-hand corner, where it’s not as obvious. Again, this is for those who insist on having one. But my response to that is: why do you need one?
Ways to Protect Your Photographs Without a Watermark
Now that we’re all a lot more internet savvy, I don’t believe there’s a reason to use a watermark to protect your work. There are several ways you can protect against the misuse of your images, ensuring people don’t make money off of them or pass them off as their own. There are also methods to stop people from accessing your images and stealing them with the idea of printing.
Add your name to the metadata: Most editing tools allow photographers to add information to an image’s metadata. You can add your name, website, and copyright. This method allows you to show the work belongs to you without ruining the impact of your image.
Disable Right Click: The number of times I see photographers leave right-click enabled on their website is concerning. Allowing people to right-click on an image gives them the ability to save your photograph and then do as they please with it. Most website builders provide the option to disable right-click, which stops people from downloading your photographs.
Resize your work: Most people don’t need to have hi-resolution images online. Smartphones are the leading device used to view photography online. With their relatively small screens, you don’t need hi-resolution quality in order for your photographs to look good. Resize them and reduce the DPI. Doing this means you don’t need to worry about people downloading your images for print, as they would look so bad nobody would consider doing it.
How to Check If Someone Is Using Your Photograph Online
If you’re concerned your photographs are being used elsewhere without your consent, there are some quick and easy ways to check. Google Images, for example, allows you to search by uploading an image and shows you everywhere on the internet you can find the image. Let’s say someone else is using your image on Instagram, you can report the account and request that it be removed. Obviously, doing this for all your images would be time-consuming. But for your stellar shots, it’s worth doing from time to time.
I’ll double down on the opinion that watermarks are ugly and pointless. A lot of new photographers use them because they believe it’s the right thing to do or because they feel it looks cool: it isn’t, and it doesn’t. The other methods listed above can protect your work. If it were 2002, I’d give a long list of reasons why you need a watermark. But it’s 2022, and it’s time for watermarks to go away.
Do you like watermarks? Why do you still use one? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.