Should I Watermark My Photos?

To watermark or not to watermark, that is the question. Often it is a good idea to put your name on the images you place on the internet – especially if they may be re-shared or, worse, stolen. Although theft is less likely that you think, it still happens and a benign way to prevent that and gain some peace of mind is through watermarking. Here’s how I do it and a few alternatives…

First, why? Why go to the trouble of watermarking your photos? There are two main reasons:

  1. You think they could be stolen.
  2. You think they could be shared.

If you are uploading full resolution images then someone could take them from the internet and use them in their own ad copy or print and frame them without your knowledge. I’ve seen that happen, to me, firsthand. I’ve seen my photos on others websites, stripped and used in various ways with photo-manipulation, etc.

I use TinEye (www.tineye.com) image search to see where my images may be on the internet. I select one of my images and right click on it to run TinEye in my browser (see their website for how this works), and then TinEye goes out and searches everywhere my image may be on the internet. It is surprising to see the results. If my images are watermarked, then I don’t worry so much if I find them.

For example, one of my stock photo images has been used on people’s websites and all over where it is not supposed to be used. Here is a screen view of the TinEye results (see below). Click on the image below to do the same search on TinEye that I just did, so you can see how it works.

tineye

I do not upload full-resolution original-sized images anywhere except my Smugmug site where I sell my photos and occasionally to my Flickr account if it’s a photo I don’t care much about losing. Smugmug takes precautions to not allow download of the full-size files, and there is even an automatic watermarking feature that watermarks the image on the screen but not on a print. However, I’ve found that customers object to seeing watermarks on images they intend to buy as they are not sure if the watermark will be carried over into the purchased image, so I don’t use the Smugmug watermarking right now.

I recommend you watermark your images always if you put them on any social sharing site (and which one isn’t, right). Definitely Facebook. Facebook no longer displays my title, caption, and copyright notice unless I type it into their “say something about this photo” box. It used to put my copyright information from the IPTC field (entered in Lightroom in my case), but not any more. This, I found, is because Facebook can not guarantee the photo will not be passed around (duh) or stolen and used somewhere.

Another reason to watermark your photos is if you think they will be shared. Why? I use this to drive traffic to my site. By putting my website address in the watermark I find that people will type it in and go to my site to see what is there (and hopefully buy something). This makes your photos work for you by reaching a wider audience than the one they were originally shared with.

Now, how to do it:

I use Adobe Lightroom to watermark my images. Lightroom has an easy way to do this in their export dialog. It becomes as simple as choosing some text (often “© Copyright Lars Lentz. All Rights Reserved. http://www.larslentzphotography.com”;), choosing a font, choosing a density (transparency), location, and exporting an image. It is simple, but Lightroom is fairly expensive at around $200.

A free, online alternative may be Picmarkr (www.picmarkr.com). This service marks your photos with a watermark after you upload your photo to their website. I tried it and it works fairly well.

Another free possibility is, if you use Flickr, to use their image editing tool. It can add text to any photo to make a watermark.

ppa_logo

An additional resource, for everything about copyrighting images, can be found at the Professional Photographers of America website (www.ppa.com). The PPA has a copyright kit that can be downloaded and several useful links.

There are several good reasons for watermarking your images and I suggest that you do this on any of your photos that you will put on the internet!

Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope you enjoyed it.