Photo Thieves are real, should you Watermark or not?

With the overwhelming amount of digital images we are surrounded with on a daily basis standing out with "WOW" photographs is very important for photographer. On instagram alone around 52 million  photos are uploaded daily. Many of them are selfies and mediocre snapshot but some of them are extraordinary photos who have that "wow" factor. If you are one of those photographers, wanting to protect your images and protect your brand is a very natural and instinctive thing. But in today's digital world is watermarking the best solution to protect your photograph or does watermarking have the opposite effect of what you want?

What are the two sides and what are the advantages for both of them? Should you watermark or not?

The most obvious reason to place a watermark on your images is to protect them and to create free advertising and promotion of your name as a photographer. When people see your images they will see your name. You are guaranteed of receiving the right credit for the image. Although that is true the placement of your watermark over the entire photograph will negatively impact the viewer experience. It will obstruct the viewers ability to completely enjoy the photograph. I see you many photographers out there are using big vector images or logo's all over their imagery. Others put their name of themselves or their business multiple times across the photograph. A practice that in my mind only damages you as the experience of viewing your imagery will be rather negative then pleasant. 

Bad Watermark use. It very much obstruct the viewer and creates a Negative Experience!

Bad Watermark use. It very much obstruct the viewer and creates a Negative Experience!

How do I protect my imagery?

I use watermarks in some of my images too. When I do so I use a small font and place the watermark either in the right or left bottom corner of my images. I then reduce the opacity of my so it is barely visible and has a minimal negative impact on my viewers experience. 

The other thing I do is make sure my "Meta Data" on all my images are filled in. EXIF Copyright information is the simplest way in adding protection to your photographs. As all modern digital camera's today have the ability to store the owners and makers name and to add copyright information its a very easy way to more secure your files. 

Great Choice of Watermark Usage. It minimizes the negative effects and does not obstruct the viewer's experience. 

Great Choice of Watermark Usage. It minimizes the negative effects and does not obstruct the viewer's experience. 

One other practice I use is to only upload lower resolution files to social media. This has two benefits. The most obvious is that low resolution images are more difficult to print and if done so the end result will be poor. The other advantage is, most Social Media platform compress your images anyway. When you upload your photographs in high resolution to in example facebook, they will be compressed and the end result is not that great. Uploading a photograph that almost matches social platforms used resolution will result in less compression by the platform and in a better representation of your image. My rule of thumb is to size my photograph at 1250 pixels on the long side with a JPG compression embedding my color profile and converted to SRGB for internet. 

Sometimes I will upload images without a watermark when I think that even my low opacity small watermark will obstruct the viewer experience. 

I am not afraid that my images get stolen?

Sure, there is always a risk that your images get saved and used on someone else's profile or maybe even posted by them. Some of my photographs are shared on various platforms without that the people have asked permission to do so. In my opinion I have more benefit of people seeing my images as one way or the other they eventually will come across my profile or website and will see the real ownership of the photograph. I do not really care when John or Jane doe does so as long as my name is not being trashed and the photograph is used in a decent matter. It's great free marketing and exposure. When companies use my photograph, well thats another matter. I will write them and tell them they are using my images without permission and need to remove or pay me the usage right. If they don't respond or comply I will press charges against them. I have copyright insurance for that. 

So using a watermark or not is a personal choice. There isn't really a perfect answer weather you should use them or not. Let me know your opinion about the use of watermark in a comment below and share your experience in using them or not.