Ultimately, once you’ve posted your photos online, you’ve lost the ability to control them. This is a fact that anyone sharing data, information, and work online must understand. Images are especially prone to illicit use. There are few steps we can take to avoid our images being shared without credit and permission and those don’t really stem the tide of uncredited images being posted across the Internet.

This reality can leave photographers confused, frustrated, and violated when they find their images being used without permission. Typically, such a discovery leads them to a debate on a forum somewhere or an article like this one discussing watermarking images and whether or not there’s even a point to do so.

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[REWIND: IS SOCIAL MEDIA DESTROYING COPYRIGHT PROTECTION? – Q&A]

Anyone that has Google can pretty much remove any watermark placed on an image. So, honestly, what’s the point? Well, that’s what I want to discuss. I’ve decided after reading and engaging in various debates both online and in the forum of my mind that I will continue to watermark my images. I don’t expect that doing so will save me from the plight of copyright infringement…my reasons lie elsewhere.

Watermark Your Images For Marketing & Branding

As a photographer, branding is vitally important. My watermark is an extension of my brand and was developed with a very specific purpose in mind: to point interested individuals to my website. I want every image I process in Lightroom or Photoshop and share to have my watermark on it for that purpose. I don’t know about you, but when I see an interesting image online, I immediately start to look for who took it, and, typically, want to check out more of their work.

It’s frustrating when I find an excellent image and want to see more from the creator, but am unable to find their contact/website info or even their studio name. In my mind, that’s a failed opportunity for that photographer to gain some coveted exposure. Rather than capitalizing on my interest and drawing my attention to more of their work, we have both missed out. They’ve missed out on a potential customer, subscriber, “word of mouth” marketer and social media shares, and I’ve missed out on more of their work, reading their blog, purchasing a product from them (potentially), etc. A simple watermark with their name or their business name is all it would have taken to capitalize on my interest.

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Watermark Your Images To Retain Credit

Wait! Didn’t you start this article talking about how pointless it is to watermark images in order to get credit? Well, yes, I did, but allow me to clarify. I put a watermark on images to make it easier for those using them without permission to give me credit. Not everyone that right clicks on an image to use as their own is doing it maliciously. Sometimes, they simply don’t understand the implications of what they’re doing, and other times, they are simply taking the lazy way out.

By placing a watermark on images that I upload, I am doing everything (I know, I know, technically not everything, but you know what I mean…) I can to ensure that I receive some credit for my work. When that image is posted elsewhere on the Inter-webs, I’ll at least have my watermark with my website on there the bulk of the time. Sometimes, you just have to take what you can get. The alternative is to never share your work online.

Some Quick Tips On Watermarking Your Images

A couple things to keep in mind when you watermark images; In my opinion, the primary purpose is so people know who you are when they look at a photo you’ve taken. Keep this in mind when creating your watermark. Keep it simple and keep it in line with the rest of your branding “look.” Don’t make it too big and don’t make it too busy, there’s a reason that the most popular brands in the country have logos that are incredibly simple. That’s what people will remember. Put something incredibly distracting and busy on your images and people will more than likely form a negative perception of you and your photography as a result of their disliking your watermark.

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Conclusion

There are benefits and disadvantages to every argument and the watermarking debate is no different. I’ve shared my reasoning above. This is based on my opinion and experience only. There are others that would disagree with my thought process and suggest in varying levels of vehemence that watermarking is pointless, a distraction, and annoying. The fact of the matter is that you have to weigh the benefits/drawbacks and make the decision yourself. Personally, I take the marketer’s approach and view each image as a potential lead generating tool that may eventually lead someone to me for one reason or the other. If that never happens, I’m okay with that, but at least I’ve tried.

So, what do you think? Is watermarking images for the birds? Or is it something that is potentially valuable? Or does it fall into that middle ground where benefits are hard to discern and it strictly comes down to personal preference? Leave your thoughts in the comments as I’d love to hear back from you!

And Don’t Forget…

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CREDITS : Photographs by Michael  have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.