You Don’t Have To Stop Watermarking Your Photography

Santa Barbara, Butterfly Beach, shore, ocean, sunrise, palm trees, light trails, Leica, Leica m10-p, montecito

I don’t have a category on my website for “public service announcement” but this article is making me think I should. There was an article titled “Stop Watermarking Your Photographs” on one of the larger photography websites recently that argued against watermarking your work. Now, I don’t normally comment on other people’s opinions but since the websites that published the article is so large and the article is so misguiding I felt an opposing view could at least balance peoples perspectives…

Here are the major points of the authors disdain for watermarks and why they make no sense. Enjoy.

Aesthetics

Let’s assume for a moment that the human brain is smart enough to differentiate between your photograph and a watermark… Because it is. The argument here is that the watermark makes your photograph so ugly that nobody will want to pay you for it. In fact, the author goes even further and states: “I would go as far as saying that your chances of getting booked would be far higher without a watermark than with one.” Normally, statements like this are considered hyperbole but in this case the author believes it, so it’s just an assumption based off of his limited expierence*.

*In no way am I suggesting he isn’t a talented photographer with vast amounts of experience. I am suggesting that he has very little experience working with outlets to select and use images in projects or publications.

Further “strengthening” his arguement, the author eases our mind by letting us know that the reason we are more likely to be booked for assignments is because the potential client will have to jump through loops to track down who took the photograph (they are more “engaged”) that they fell in love with so they can book them. Later, we will address two points where the author points to laziness as a reason not to watermark, so I’ll simply throw some logic out there… If you’re so interested in making your life easier why would you assume potential clients enjoy their lives being more difficult?

Lack Of Control Of Old Images

Next, he proposes that you simply stop watermarking because you’ll regret what your crappy watermark looks like in the future. Look, if I didn’t do everything I regret now I would have lived an incredibly boring life. We learn from our mistakes, adapt, and overcome… That is life. There are plenty of photographs I took years ago (even days ago) that I don’t like now, but I still created them. I’m not going to put my camera away because I’m afraid that the photos I take today will be crap in comparison to the photographs I take years from now. Again, logic.

Ease For Social Media

This one is where I think I decided to write this article. Because of this guys sheer laziness he is suggesting that you too join him in not watermarking your images or you risk losing potential work. Basically, if you don’t do what he suggests nobody is going to want your work. Look, if you’re simply too lazy to download one of the numerous apps that can quickly watermark and share your photographs on whatever social media you use then fine. But don’t spin it as anything other than laziness. An additional 30 seconds to post your image isn’t going to derail your business or cost you a client, I assure you.

Further, let’s discuss editing workflows. I’m 99% sure his images are post processed which means using either software on a computer (that would have the capability of watermarking images) or software on a mobile device (that may not have watermarking capabilities). Either way, there is a time commitment and adding a minute or two in order to either natively add a watermark or export to an app to add a watermark isn’t as difficult as diggin a ditch. In fact, the strength it takes you to tap a few keys or swipe at a screen is so little that I’m a bit baffled by this. Does his watermarking software require him to physically power it by running on a hamster wheel or something?

Make Your Clients Life Easier

First, I’d like to point out that this is the exact opposite of what he was suggesting earlier in his article where by making your clients life harder (to track you down) you’re making them commit to your work and making it more likely they’ll book you. Here he suggests that by leaving your watermark on your images the advertising agencies will need to take an extra step to contact you and ask for the image without a watermark to share with clients. Assuming they took the time to track you down, since your image had no watermark, couldn’t we also assume that firing off an email that takes about 30 seconds to type wouldn’t be a deal breaker?

Additionally, when clients contact me requesting images I usually get an email that includes the actual image they pulled from instagram or screen shot from other places on the internet. I’m not sure how else they would request it? “Hey, I saw your image on Instagram. It looks like it was uploaded 7 months ago, about 237 images ago. We’d like to use it.” I guess what I’m saying is that if they are taking the time to reach out to you it takes very little time and effort to request an image file that is not watermarked.

Come to think of it, I’ve never had someone ask me to remove a watermark to share with potential clients and that is where the lion share of my business comes from. Typically, when I’m contacted, the editor or client has already gotten approval for the image and is simply requesting the use of said image with some sort of contract detailing what the image would be used for if I agree.

Who Cares If Your Work Gets Stolen?

I do. The argument here is that you’ll have images stolen, it’s a fact of life, so simply throw in the towel and embrace it. You know what, I’ll probably get a cold within the next year but I’m not going to go around licking sick peoples faces. I’ll still wash my hands and shy away from anyone sneezing their snot directly into my lungs. Come on, man.

You owe it to yourself to protect your images or at least make the crooks work for them. I get satisfaction knowing that every time someone steals one of my images they have to take the time to remove my watermark. If nothing else, you elimate the excuse of “I thought it was free to use”.

Conclusion

Watermarking your images isn’t going to ruin your business or your images. It’s the digital equivelant of putting the security sign in the front yard of your house. Will it stop everyone? Nope, but it will probably stop the lazy ones.

Also, don’t be lazy. At least take the minimum steps to protect your work. I do agree with the authors conclusion that having your work stolen is inevitable and that you shouldn’t focus on that… Simply focus on the future and keep working (while protecting your images to the best of your ability because you aren’t lazy).

Am I saying you have to watermark your images? No. You should simply make the decision based on what makes you comfortable. Don’t let fear mongers bully you into forgoing the watermark based on their own expierences. There are plenty of us out there who watermark our images and have very successful results. The image has far more to do with landing potential clients than your little watermark.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. You can follow me on Instagram @PhotolisticLife if you’d like to keep up with my work.


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2 Comments

  • Oh my gosh, John, what you said makes so much sense. I can’t believe the other guy and his logic (if you can call it logic). I believe you were a bit too modest in the article, though. You are thoroughly qualified to write it because you have so much experience getting clients with your beautiful watermarked photos!!

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