To watermark or not to watermark.
Once you publish an image to the internet it is there to be viewed, shared or copied, by millions of people. This is actually the reason why you posted the photograph, so that hopefully, many, many people will admire your work. There is a downside to making your image visible on social media or websites. When it is shared by someone else and they either give you no credit, or even worse, make out that that the photo is their own, it is quite understandable to feel abused, violated and confused by what you can, or can’t do, to protect your intellectual property. Can a watermark actually protect your image?
There are two schools of thought to using watermarks to protect your images.
On one hand, if a person really wants to take your image, a little knowledge of Photoshop can strip that image of the watermark quite easily. So really what’s the use of a watermark? Most people will give you the credit that you seek, so if a small minority do the wrong thing it’s no big deal. If the image means that much to you then don’t put it out there for public viewing.
Unfortunately there will always be an unscrupulous person looking to gain from your work. A very good example of this are certain travel companies on Instagram, who think because you use a certain hash tag, then that image is free to use for their particular location without credit to the actual photographer. This happens quite often when a photographer has tagged a large resort, then the regions tourism group shares the image, tagging the resort and other sponsors, but not the photographer.
What can you do to stop this? Well you can sue them for intellectual copyright theft. (This has been done in Australia with a positive result.) Ask them to stop using your image. Ask that they give you credit or you can give them an invoice for payment. You can also simply forget it and say what the heck. You can stop sharing your photos, or you can watermark your images.
(Please be aware that some of these large Instagram accounts won’t repost a photo if it has a watermark. If you want your photo reposted, and one repost could bring in many thousands of likes, then don’t use a watermark.)
This image above was watermarked for Instagram with a simple @bestplacesqld which is the owners Instagram account name.
It’s your brand. So use it.
There’s a lot of advantages to sharing your images online, be it social media or a website or blog. The obvious advantage is getting your images seen by others, which in turn can lead to business opportunities or print sales. Watermarking images can be used for a lot more than simply protecting your photographs from theft. Perhaps we should say that you are branding your images, instead of using the term watermarking.
Branding your images is a great way to lift your profile, introducing your business, or your self personally, to the world. A store or factory always have their brand on the front door, on the wrapper or goods that they are selling. Branding is a way of telling consumers that this is what they are looking for. People come to know what a company, business, group or person is about, because they recognize the brand.
Branding may not stop the theft of your images, but you may sleep happier every night knowing that you have a least stopped some of the bleeding of your photos from social media accounts, simply because you applied a watermark.
We all like to get credit for what we do, no matter what it is. A pat on the back is all it takes sometimes for a person to climb to greater heights. We take images so that we can share them with others. Whether we get paid or not is irrelevant, most photographers take photos because it’s something we love doing. If your going to share that photo, put your brand on it so people will get to know you. It doesn’t need to be big or bold, just a simple, small, yet elegant, sign, will suffice. Don’t try to make your watermark the focal point of the image, it should always be the image itself you are trying to showcase.
The photo above has our local business brand name as a watermark which we use in all offline, online and social media use.
It’s entirely your choice.
Now that we have pointed out the advantages and disadvantages of watermarking your images, it’s entirely up to you what side of the argument you will side with. My personal thoughts are a small watermark on the bottom right corner is okay and that the watermark is there purely for branding purposes.
Your watermark won’t stop thieves, yet you will have the watermark on your image where someone shared without credit. Yes, they could still crop your brand out if they want, but most of the time, where it has been shared without credit, this has been done in a somewhat innocent, “I just wanted to show you this lovely photo” type of way.
Above all, stop thinking about those that do steal others work. It simply reduces your enjoyment of the social media experience.