Why you should Watermark your Landscape Photos

Why should you watermark your images?

We live in a digital world where our photographs are shared profusely over the Internet. The two main reasons why I watermark my images are 1) so people don’t steal them; and 2) for branding/marketing purposes.

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Theft Protection
I share an image to an average of ten sites when I post online. Frankly, it’s really easy for someone to steal an image these days. We’ve all heard horror stories of people stealing photographer’s images and claiming them as their own. I have seen friends’ images stolen and sold for profit or used to sell random products. Some photographers choose to upload images in higher resolution so they fit site specifications and are better quality for viewing. I  personally like to resize to the smallest possible resolution to help prevent reproduction of unauthorized online prints. If someone really wants to steal your online image they can. I view a watermark as a form of basic theft deterrence.

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Marketing and Branding
From a business perspective, watermarking is also important for identification and recognition. Even if you post at a smaller resolution to prevent images from being printed, you want the general public to know that you took the photograph. It’s your hard work and you deserve the credit. Considering how easy it is for images to be shared and then go viral, you want your name and brand associated with your images so people can track you down. People and pages have re-shared my images without giving me credit. If my images weren’t watermarked, the world wouldn’t know that I took them.

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Watermark Options
I personally prefer two kinds of watermarks –  logo and signature. If you have an established company logo, you should be stamping all of your photographs with it for brand continuity. A subtle yet noticeable and readable logo makes a successful watermark.

The signature seems to be the current trend; this is what I use for my watermark. You can use your actual signature if it isn’t too sloppy or, as in my case, choose a font that had discernible letters. I also include my website address. For those that have illegible signatures, the addition of your website helps with identification and drives traffic back to your site. There are also websites that charge a fee to create a watermark for you if you don’t feel like making your own.

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I know watermarks are a necessary evil for some people while others are completely against it. The question I ask you is, “What is your business model?” For marking purposes, I will always watermark my photographs because I want my images to be identified.

About Author Lace Andersen

Lace Andersen is a Kauai-based landscape photographer. She grew up in the farm town of Templeton, California and majored in Graphic Communications. She started taking basic photography classes in 2008, and discovered her passion to create and be outdoors. The major turning point in her life was April 2012 during a family vacation to Kauai. She decided to rent her own car and spend the entire week photographing the island from sunrise to sunset. It was a life changing experience. Kauai either accepts you or spits you back out. Lace was lucky to be accepted by the island and relocated immediately. She has built an award winning portfolio over the past four years and has been published numerous times. When she doesn’t have a camera in hand, you can find her hiking with friends, camping, and playing ultimate frisbee.

  • Ariel Glaze

    I see where you’re coming from, and it sounds fair. I’ll argue the opposite side for the sake of different perspective not in the spirit of antagonism, but just my experience and thoughts about it. I don’t believe in watermarks for a few reasons.
    1. It distracts from the image. Eyes gravitate to the watermark so much i begin to resent it and think how self centered. Which takes me to the next point.
    2. Feels like a desperate cry for attention. Let your images be your voice, your identity. Whenever I see the work of great photographers, I come to know they are the authors because their work is meaningful to their voice and advocacy and behold, there’s no watermark.
    3. It’s fine for brand purposes, but it is not an effective marketing tool. The times I’ve made more money from my photos was through word of mouth and referrals, hardly ever from my work posted online. The truth is people browse through online images so fast that people hardly care who the author is. It is your connection with people that really sells your work, not how good your work is.
    4. It does not deter or halt image theft at all. I’m ashamed to say that I have used images with watermark in presentations in the past, and you know what? No one ever asked me who that photographer was or who the author was; we moved on to the next image and that was the end or effectiveness of that watermark. In fact, watermarks can be cropped, photoshopped, or left alone and still not bring you recognition or revenue.

    In conclusion, watermarks are only for the satisfaction of the author and nothing else. I would much rather get your print with your autograph. Now that has value!

  • Graham Button

    Hi thanks for an informative article, I have tried various types of watermarks and have found that using a flowing signature is better than block capital letters it means more of the photo has to be removed if being being used without permission. I find the biggest protection now seems to be having an image which is too small for use elsewhere.

    • Susan M. Risk

      Thumbnails get used for jewelry making and business cards, I believe.

  • CanonMinolta

    Watermarking is to show the world who the photo belongs to. it is not a deterrent to theft (although a really small size is). A good reason to watermark is related to whether or not the photo is registered with the copy right office. Many photographers don’t register their images and that’s okay. But if you do register them and someone cuts off a watermark or otherwise destroys it, you can collect way, way more money if you sue them (assuming the thief has any money).

  • Patty J Willauer

    I agree with the watermark but a friend brought up something about my watermark on the bottom of my photos and how easy it is for someone to just crop out my watermark so now I place it in the center of my photos.

  • Deborah Bisley

    Thank you for this article, it is very interesting. Watermarking is such a controversial subject. I’d be interested to know what you do with your printed works. Do you watermark (or sign) them also? Painters proudly sign their works and I think photographers should do the same, but I understand there is a reluctance by buyers to purchase if you do this?

    • Lace Andersen

      Aloha Deborah,
      I sign all of my limited edition prints in the lower right corner, on the front. The back I write the edition number (23/100), the title of the piece, and sign. You can also include a Certificate of Authenticity with your prints. Most art collectors want prints to be signed, as it increases the value of the work.

    • Lace Andersen

      Aloha Deborah,

      I sign all of my limited edition prints in the lower right corner, on
      the front. The back I write the edition number (23/100), the title of
      the piece, and sign. You can also include a Certificate of Authenticity
      with your prints. Most art collectors want prints to be signed, as it
      increases the value of the work.

  • Here’s ANOTHER reason why you should use a watermark- and put it in a place where it’s hard to remove or obscure. I’m a calligrapher and someone used my work in an article they wrote that got posted in a publication that got over 750,000 views. She REMOVED my watermark. I could have gotten a lot of business from people knowing my website. And I only found it when I was doing an online search and came upon my own work!
    If you use descriptions on your website the photo may appear in google images – on someone else’s site. So protect yourself- don’t be a starving artist! Be an empowered artist wth your signature/logo/website. http://www.BeautiuflCalligraphy.com

    • Vic Najjar

      Lianda, I don’t understand how people would know your web address if you had used it is the person Removed your signature how would the web address have survived? How do you add that differently?

      • They cut off the bottom of the picture where the web address was. And I found it when I was doing a search online and found it being used in an article!
        I would put some identifier – your full name, or website right in the middle- so only someone who is determined can remove it (with photoshop it’s not so hard)
        But at least that gives you a chance of owning your own work.
        Good luck!

      • David Wright

        add the website in the metadata

      • Jay Patel

        Smart idea….but it can also be easily be removed using a standard tools.

  • Jackson Grey

    I can agree! Thank you very much for these tips! I recently learned about watermarking from this guide: http://www.paintshoppro.com/en/pages/watermark-photos/ and I wasn’t sure if I should watermark my photos because I am still a beginner, and I don’t know who would bother to steal my work, but you are right! And it is not bad for marketing at all 🙂

    • Lace Andersen

      Hi Jackson, yes still watermark your images. Even if you are just starting out. Its a good habit to get used to doing 🙂

    • Lace Andersen

      Hi Jackson, yes still watermark your images. Even if you are just starting out. Its a good habit to get used to doing 🙂

  • There is one more thing to consider for watermarking, besides protection and branding: when the watermark is also a valid copyright notice (in the form of: “(C) 2017 Lace Anderson”, with 2017 or whatever being the year of first publication, this is important) it strengthens potential cases against copyright infringers.

  • You have some beautiful photos! Thanks for info about watermarks… I have had several photos stolen, they just crop off the branding — but at least I tried. When I contacted the site that was using my photo, I asked them to stop and they did remove it. But of course, it was just by accident that I caught it in the first place.

    • Lace Andersen

      Thanks Janice! For some of my images that get published, I will do a reverse image search in google to make sure that no one else is using them. And yes, at least you tried. Its important for branding purposes to still watermark.