Watermark photos? Should you or shouldn't you?

Watermark photos? Recently there seems to have been a growth in watermarking photos. In the past it was something that only real professionals did, but now it seems that every other photographer is watermarking their pictures.

This has started me wondering - why? Why are so many photographers going out of their way to add watermarks to their pictures? They must have reasons, and here I give my opinion on watermarking photos.

What does watermarking photos involve?

Watermarking photos involves adding some words to a photo, like a stamp, that identifies the photo as your own.

It could be just your name, or it could be some sort of copyright device. Have a look at the photo below and you'll see what I mean:

Watermarking photos - is it worth it?

The watermark is clearly emblazoned across the photo.

So, now you know what a watermark is, let's go back to my original question - why do photographers watermark photos.

Why do photographers watermark photos?

One reason photographers watermark photos is because they want to protect their work. I can see the logic behind this. But let's take a step back, why do you need to protect your work?

It could be that you're concerned that someone will copy your photo off of the internet (the dastardly thieves!) and make use of it themselves.

To explore that a little further, let's take a reputable company as an example. Do you really think a reputable company trawls the internet looking for photos? Or is it more likely they engage the services of a stock photo company?

Obvious really, they make sure they do everything proper and above board, and pay for the images they use.

Ah, but not all companies are reputable, I hear you ask? True. But those who aren't are generally quite unsuccessful, and, as a consequence, are not going to be making any money anyway. So they were never going to buy your photo in the first place.

But my photos are unique, you say. And again you're quite right. Your photos are unique, at least they are to you. But to be frank, there are zillions of photos of sunsets/children/flowers/..... (insert your photo theme here)... all over the internet.

This means that if someone is looking for a sunset photo they will do a search, and pick any one of the millions out there. What are the chances that they pick yours? I'll tell you, millions to one.

In fact, I've just Googled "sunset photos" and there are 133 million results (and that took Google 0.39 seconds, apparently!). I'd have more chance of winning the lottery than I would of someone finding my sunset photo on the internet.

Suppose, by some miracle, that someone does come across your photo on the internet. What do you think they're going to do with it?

The resolution of photos on the internet is very low - you could never make a decent print from it - so what other use does it have to an image thief? None.

But perhaps one of the biggest problems I personally have with watermarks is that they really ruin a perfectly good picture.

Take a look at the photo below:

Watermarking photos - is it worth it?

See what I mean!

Lovely photo, but first impressions last, and my first impression was pretty poor.

Surely sometimes I should watermark photos

So, after saying endlessly that I don't agree with watermarking photos, I'll now contradict myself completely!

I think there is a case for adding a watermark if your purpose is to market your photography. That is, if you're in the photo business, and, after grabbing people's attention with your wonderful image, you add a watermark to tell them how to contact you.

In this case I think it's reasonable to watermark photos. The best place is in the bottom right corner of the photo - not across the middle!

There're two reasons for this; first, it doesn't get in the way of the photo itself (it's quite subtle), and second, it's where artists traditionally sign their work, so it's a bit like a 'nod' to the old school! The photo below shows what I mean:

Watermarking photos - is it worth it?

In conclusion, I realise that there are varying opinions on watermarking, and my opinion isn't the gospel on this one.

At the end of the day it's up to you as a photographer to decide what's right for you. But if your reason is simply to avoid anyone copying your photo from the internet then I think your reasons are a little misguided.

My photos? I never add watermarks, and probably never will.