Tip Share :: Photo Watermarks

Watermarks on photos – should bloggers do it?

The quick answer is I think so, and here’s why: In this day and age, when digital photos are so easy to share, I think it’s a good idea to have my website on any photos I take.

The longer answer is as follows.

It’s very easy to share photos online nowadays. Sites like Pinterest encourage sharing images, and there is a lot of it happening over there. At the heart of it, I like it because Pinterest especially has given me the opportunity to find more beautiful things that I never knew existed. The downside with Pinterest (or the internet) is that not everyone pins from a specific post or an original source, so you may find an awesome photo but have no idea where it actually came from. In that scenario, the original photographer/creator is not getting credit for their photo. What if that original photographer/creator is you?

Blogging in general can also be problematic. People can download photos to share on their own blogs without you ever knowing, and the same issue with Pinterest – lack of an original source – will come up for regular blogging, too. We Heart It is a nightmare of no credit sources, and Tumblr is frustrating because you can follow reblogging links over and over without ever really finding where an image really came from.


What bloggers can do

First thing to do is to credit original sources as you blog yourself. Not just once in a while, but every time. If you need some help, Erin over at Design by Mankind wrote this post about sourcing photos that you could take a look at for blogging guidelines. Planet June has an awesome post about how to track down creditless photo sources. And for more Pinterest tips, check out this Miss Manners: Pinterest-style post from CrafterMinds and Four Tips for Happy Pinning on Pinterest by Average Jane Crafter.

But since you can’t control every single person’s actions when it comes to crediting properly, the second thing you can do is, you guessed it, watermarking your own photos.

Professional photographers have watermarked their images for years. They do it for security reasons and to credit their work (chances are you’ve seen that), because they understand how quickly a photo can be shared online. Bloggers and artists should seriously consider doing the same.

I started watermarking my images earlier this year, after noticing that several palettes and photos of mine were pinned on Pinterest. I’m not trying to be arrogant when I do that, I’m not trying to stop people from sharing my photos, I’m simply trying to credit myself.

Don’t get me wrong, seeing photos I’ve taken or palettes I’ve made featured elsewhere is definitely flattering and why I started doing color palettes in the first place – I wanted to share them. But the problem is, not everyone credits the original source on Pinterest. After a while, someone somewhere might forget to click through or credit me, and I found myself feeling a little sad by that. Palettes are easy and fun for me to do, but no matter how easy it is, it’s still my work, and credit has become increasingly important to me the longer I work online.

So, for me, a watermark on my photos solves that problem. This way, people know who took the photo, can come find me if they want to see more, and I feel secure in knowing that for the most part, I’m going to get credit for the work I do.


The downside

That being said, a digital watermark is not entirely foolproof. It is possible to remove one if someone has the time, the tools, and really wants to steal a picture (sorry to burst the bubble). The upside is that it takes some time and skill to do that, so think of a watermark as a deterrent rather than a prevention method. The only true prevention method is to not share a single photo online anywhere at all, which isn’t the most popular option for bloggers or online sellers.

Even knowing that it could be removed, I still share and watermark my images because I’ve found that most people aren’t malicious; but not everyone knows how to credit or that they should credit people when they share photos. It’s not meanness, it’s lack of knowledge at work.

If you want to go a step further, then put a watermark in the middle of a photo or over a busy area. This makes it harder to remove, should someone want to remove it. Disabling right-clicks on your site would probably deter a lot of casual sharing, and certain embedded slideshows can prevent photos being saved. I’m a fan of resizing photos (both in size and resolution) before sharing them, too, which is pretty effective. In my opinion, there is no reason why you need to share gigantic print-ready photos online to the general internet public – but that’s another post for another time.


How to do a watermark

At the heart of it, a watermark is essentially just an icon/graphic or text over a photo; most tend to be a little transparent, too. So, all you really need is a graphic program that allows you to add text to photos. CrafterMinds has a post about Using Picnik to Watermark Photos, and I’ve got a Tip Share right here about adding text to a photo using Elements to get you started. If you’re handy with Photoshop or Elements, you can create your own watermarking brush to save time; Kim Klassen has a free video showing you how on this page.

A few quick tips:

A watermark can go anywhere, and the best place for it will change depending on the photo. Look for a place that’s not easy to crop it out, or a busy section of your image.

If, like me, you’d prefer not to have a distracting watermark, play with the opacity of the text layer (this may only work for Photoshop or Photoshop Elements; I’m not familiar enough other programs to say). Or, put it on a place on your image where it won’t stand out or on the opposite side of the focus of your image.

Stay consistent with your watermark, and make it match any branding you have (same font, same icon, etc.).

Put your URL on it, so that people can come find you. Or, if that doesn’t appeal to you, use your business or blog name, something recognizable if someone Googles you. Remember, you want your watermark to be identifiable, so that your photo is recognizable as yours.


So, tell me, do you watermark your photos?



8 Responses to Tip Share :: Photo Watermarks

  1. Brandi – what an enlightening post. Yes, with Pinterest there is an incredible profusion of photo sharing going on. Thank you for bringing the issue of proper credit to light. I’ve had a tutorial improperly labeled originally on Pinterest and it keeps getting repinned with the wrong name – very frustrating. I’ll admit I never really thought about watermarking before – they are quite distracting if they are splashed right across the center of a photo, but your example is very tasteful. I think it is important not only in helping prevent idea theft, but also for helping to create a brand.

  2. Interesting that this came up. I was helping an artist friend of mine with her blog. She does miniature oil paintings and on her blog she puts a picture of one and a little blurb about it. She asked me what I thought about watermarks. The problem is that it is not foolproof and I don’t personally like seeing the watermark, even though I completely understand why it is there. Then I stumbled on a site that she is going to look into called Digimarc.com. They provide a service where you digitally watermark your pictures so that even if it is sent all over the planet you can actually track it with the embedded code that is in the picture. Also the embedded watermark can contain contact info for you on where to buy your work and it survives any manipulating of the photos that might happen. The tracking with their software is the most interesting feature. There are different levels but for the lowest which is something I could afford at $49 or $99/year it might be something I will do in the coming year. I am with you on protecting your photos. It is a risk you take when you put things out there. I have seen photos I know friends have taken show up on sites without the linking back and that bothers me. And I am not naive to think that it is not happening with my own photos as well. Good article to make me think. Thanks for posting it!
    Enjoy the day!

  3. You make really good points…I never thought about it as making sure I get credit. I would do a watermark if I could do it in a subtle and unobtrusive way.

  4. Excellent points on watermarks, and I really appreciate your suggestion of posting a low-resolution image so that it isn’t print ready. Thank you.