How do you utilize Watermarks, and what’s your rationale behind it?

ZenBrianZenBrian Administrator Posts: 1,689
Protecting your work is always important, and a constant worry on the minds of many photographers. In Sid Hoelzell’s blog post about Copyrighting and Copyright Law, he brings up some very good points about registering your work and setting clear usage boundaries for each shoot. On an immediate and more basic level, Watermarking your images can be a great source of both protection and marketing. How to best utilize watermarks varies depends on who you ask…so I ask you…

How do you utilize Watermarks, and what’s your rationale behind it? 125 votes

I don’t use watermarks
19% 24 votes
I use a generic one to deter screenshots, but haven’t put much thought into it.
8% 10 votes
I use my logo/URL, it's great marketing and it doesn't detract from the images
55% 69 votes
I plaster my logo/text dead center, no screenshots will be usable!
17% 22 votes
Thanks!

Brian
Zenfolio Support
image


Check out my site! www.bussierephoto.com
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Comments

  • EdZenEdZen Member, Administrator Posts: 76
    I use a small watermark of my URL only. It is in the bottom right corner. Yes, it could easily get cropped out and my image stolen, but I just can't see using a watermark that ruins the look of the photo. I am not a pro photographer, however, and only do this as a hobby for now. If I were to do this as my living, maybe I'd think differently.
    Ed Caggiani
    Check out my photos at www.CaggianiPhoto.com
  • Nicky JamesonNicky Jameson TorontoMember Posts: 107
    edited July 2013
    I use a digital watermark that's invisible and can be tracked if it's on a website being used. It includes my copyright info in it. I have thought about a visible watermark but I always find it ruins the enjoyment of the photograph and so prefer not to visibly watermark. I do it digitally through Digimark (and yes it's a paid service). I don't watermark the originals, as they aren't able to be accessed and should anyone wish to purchase they would purchase the originals. I think regardless of whether you're pro or not, if you value your works it's worth doing what you can to protect your copyright.

    Oh, and my response to the poll is "none of the above."
    Nicky Jameson
    NickyJamesonphotos
  • EvanChungPhotographyEvanChungPhotography San Francisco Bay AreaMember Posts: 18
    I definitely watermark! Not too obtrusive but it's important not only from a security standpoint but also as a marketing strategy when driving traffic to the site from social media.
  • I use a digital watermark that's invisible and can be tracked if it's on a website being used. It includes my copyright info in it. I have thought about a visible watermark but I always find it ruins the enjoyment of the photograph and so prefer not to visibly watermark. I do it digitally through Digimark (and yes it's a paid service). I don't watermark the originals, as they aren't able to be accessed and should anyone wish to purchase they would purchase the originals. I think regardless of whether you're pro or not, if you value your works it's worth doing what you can to protect your copyright.

    Oh, and my response to the poll is "none of the above."
    Nicky Jameson
    NickyJamesonphotos

    How exactly does that work Nicky? How can it be tracked?
  • Christopher NunezChristopher Nunez Member Posts: 2
    edited August 2013
    I like the watermarks but I wish I have more default style options from Zen, nothing fancy but more fonts available. I use it just to give the would be stealing my photos a hard time. But of course there is nothing much you can do to prevent it, or just keep your photos to your local hard drives.
  • Tim KamppinenTim Kamppinen Member Posts: 47
    It varies for me. In an online gallery where people can order prints, I have a watermark with a copyright symbol and my logo. I have it set up so that it doesn't go right in the center but slightly lower than that, so it's usually not right over someone's face but still can't really be cropped out. However, when I post photos on facebook I use just my logo (no copyright symbol) and I put it one of the bottom corners so it's not too intrusive but everyone still knows who took the photo. The key is that I only put photos on facebook after they buy a print (with the exception of one or two preview shots per session). So even if they copy it and print it, I already got paid.
  • It varies for me depending on the gallery and type of photography. I strongly agree that watermarks can be a great asset and marketing tool while deterring theft. I also feel they can be distracting from the image if used improperly or if not set up in a clean and simple way. My feeling is that if choose to not use a watermark and someone takes a screen shot of your image and make a post card out of it, that's a bit of a bummer, but not the end of the world. I've spoken to many people on this topic and it's amazing how varied the opinions are even when speaking to photographers at Nat Geo. Some use them and some don't.

    Keep this thread going and see what other's are saying!
  • Jeremy RasnicJeremy Rasnic Member Posts: 2
    I don't use watermarks or logos/name on prints because I don't like them on other people's prints that I look at. It's like buying a shirt with the tag sewn on the front, outside portion of it. Where does your eye go? Straight to the one thing that doesn't belong. I believe the same holds true with watermarks and logos. Let the viewer enjoy the print for what it is without being hindered by something else on your print vying for attention. Just my 2 cents.
  • I don't use them on prints at all, no no no.
    Just on the online versions.

    Selling a print with your watermark on it will result in some very disappointed customers.
  • Nicky JamesonNicky Jameson TorontoMember Posts: 107
    edited August 2013

    I use a digital watermark that's invisible and can be tracked if it's on a website being used. It includes my copyright info in it. I have thought about a visible watermark but I always find it ruins the enjoyment of the photograph and so prefer not to visibly watermark. I do it digitally through Digimark (and yes it's a paid service). I don't watermark the originals, as they aren't able to be accessed and should anyone wish to purchase they would purchase the originals. I think regardless of whether you're pro or not, if you value your works it's worth doing what you can to protect your copyright.

    Oh, and my response to the poll is "none of the above."

    Nicky Jameson
    NickyJamesonphotos

    How exactly does that work Nicky? How can it be tracked?
    When you subscribe the Digimark service you are given a unique ID # and you can put in your url or the url to the Digimark site if you don't have a website. The watermark contains your copyright info plus usage info (i.e, protected by copyright, do not use). Digimark does a scan of websites on the net, and produces a report and if your pic turns up on another site you can see which site it is and can approach them to take it down. You can make the watermark more or less visible, there's a range. The scan cannot track behind things like password protected sites , so there are some limitations, but the peace of mind of the overall is worth it.

    If you go to my blog Nickyjameson.com I have a logo in my footer which tells visitors that my images are digitally watermarked. If you click that logo it takes you to the Digimark site... check it out. I realise that if someone is determined to steal your images they will do it, but to me there is no reason for me to help them do it. They are mine, not theirs and it's up to artists to protect their work. BTW there are 2 levels of watermarking service I use the cheaper one as I don't upload 1,000's of images, but you can easily include the cost of whatever level into your photography charges. I haven't had to ask anyone to take down images because recent reports tell me there aren't any that are being used on sites without permission. I also don't put hours of time into scouring the net to see if my images are being used. Most times when they have been used people have written to ask my permission.
    Nicky
    Nickyjamesonphotos
  • Nicky JamesonNicky Jameson TorontoMember Posts: 107
    edited August 2013
    One other related thing that influences my watermarking is that it also depends where I am posting images and what else I do to them.
    On Flickr, where I was very active until they ruined it in the mash-up (a result of which I found Zenfolio) I would upload full-resolution but not allow downloading at all. I never watermarked my images. I found several were reblogged to places like Tumbler... but they had links back and credits so that was ok. Right-click was diasabled, but again, it only goes so far. When I became more serious I reduced the sizes to around 1024 x 960 or similar before I uploaded photos. I have just started on Google+ again (+nickyjameson if you want to connect with me there) and I reduce the size as above and digitally watermark my images.If people want to view them they can do so on in my Zenfolio Galleries.

    Facebook is a very different animal. I think FB makes photos look horrible (from a photography perspective) and that's the reason I've been delaying setting up a Facebook Page. On Facebook they almost encourage you to take other's photos. So on FB I will only be posting links to my photos (from either Zenfolio or my blog) or post photos that I'm not too bothered about if they steal it. Photos I post on my personal profile are almost always linked (that way they don't have the chance to take ownership) or from my phone. One may ask why bother with Facebook... well the fact is it is still worth having some kind of profile there if you want exposure because Facebook is still very big and and has lots of users - just link everything back to your main site. And potential customers are there too. I am finding Google+ much better than FB for photography in every respect.

    Nicky
    Nickyjamesonphotos
  • Laura Adams PhotoLaura Adams Photo South East MichiganMember Posts: 5
    I recently had someone right-click and save a thumbnail (which Zenfolio doesn't give us the option to watermark - WHY NOT?) I honestly never thought this would be an issue because they're pretty small as opposed to gallery images, but after searching the forum on Zenfolio, I'm not the only one who has had this issue. The person saved the thumbnail, cropped it, and uploaded it to her FB. Yes, the quality is awful but thieves don't care much about that, they care about putting it on their social media any way they can get it. Yes, she MUST have like the image - but why pay for it when she could pirate it? NO, she wouldn't have done this if my thumbnails were watermarked, too - a big © over her face? Nope, she'd have either left it alone or purchased the image.

    Come on, Zenfolio, give us the option to watermark the thumbnails with a plain old generic ©... I'd use it.
    http://www.LauraAdamsPhotographicArt.com

    Professional Equine Photography| fine art | Portraiture Services | Conceptual Art | Commissioned Digital Artwork



    Visit me on Facebook: Facebook.com/LauraAdamsPhotographicArt

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  • Nicky JamesonNicky Jameson TorontoMember Posts: 107

    I don't use watermarks or logos/name on prints because I don't like them on other people's prints that I look at. It's like buying a shirt with the tag sewn on the front, outside portion of it. Where does your eye go? Straight to the one thing that doesn't belong. I believe the same holds true with watermarks and logos. Let the viewer enjoy the print for what it is without being hindered by something else on your print vying for attention. Just my 2 cents.

    I would never use a watermark on a print...just digital/online.
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,449
    So, its ok for me to screen grab your images and make prints myself. Nice 1098x734 grab will make some nice 6x9 prints. Maybe some of my friends will even buy them from me. You obviously are not trying to make a living with your photography work. If you were, I think you might look at things differently.

    FYI - You do very nice work. Definitely worth stealing! Just my $2,000 dollars.

  • Jeremy RasnicJeremy Rasnic Member Posts: 2
    Kevin,

    I don't know who you were directing your comment to, but if it were directed at me, here's my response (if it wasn't, just ignore what I'm about to write):

    It would not be okay for you to screen grab my images and make prints to sell or otherwise. My hope would be that you would purchase them and that you would have enough conviction or a decent enough moral compass to do the right thing. However, I know that not everyone cares. People download music without paying, movies without paying, prints without paying. A logo or otherwise will not prevent you from taking a screenshot, removing/obscuring a logo or watermark (there is software out there that will do this) and doing the very same thing. I don't think it prevents anyone from stealing my work. I've seen pictures on social media that have a watermark all the way across them. The poster did not want the picture enough to buy it and wasn't bothered enough by the watermark to not post it. Either way, the photographer didn't get paid.

    My goal is not to encourage people to steal- my goal is to encourage them to appreciate my prints. I don't want to detract from them with something that I don't think prevents theft. I also don't want to be a legalist about it either. If I find my images on someone else's sight, I ask them if they would like to purchase a digital copy or buy a print. If I don't get a response, I then ask them to take the image down or again, to take me up on my offer. The last thing I want to do is to turn someone off who likes my work from actually buying a print from me. I think the best way to not sell a print is to quickly send out a cease/desist order.

    It kind of reminds me of a local print shop that is next door to a quality restaurant. The restaurant gets a lot of traffic due to their great service. The print shop winds of getting a lot of overflow traffic. One time I parked in their lot and when I came back from lunch I found a note on my windshield that said, "parking in this lot is reserved for print shop patrons only. Next time your car will be towed at your expense.". Guess who doesn't do business at that print shop? Guess who would do business there if the note would have said, "Hey, we noticed you like eating next door? Well, how about you stop in our print shop and get %25 off your order with this coupon.". It's all about how you market yourself and I just don't buy into the watermark/logo on the prints.

    Now, I wouldn't be opposed to the digitally embedded watermark that was brought up above as it doesn't detract from the image. However, it would be great if we had the ability to embed something like that into a compressed jpg file- like a bit marker.
  • andreasweberandreasweber Stuttgart, GermanyMember Posts: 1,001

    So, its ok for me to screen grab your images and make prints myself.

    And if they don't constantly watch you at the grocery store it's o.k. to stuff your pockets...
  • LyonsLyons Member Posts: 1
    Most images i post online are to be viewed on a screen so they are low dpi and "quality" until they are bought and then i upload to the vendor the high res image so if someone wants to screen capture they can but if they do the dirty and print them, they get an inferior copy. Alternatively i may also watermark the pictures in the middle particularly on sights like flickr, less often on zenofile. On zenofile i use a corner watermark.
    The problem i have (yet have not experienced thankfully) are people grabbing the photo THEN saying that they produced it and use it for commercial purposes for their own profit.
  • I don't use watermarks or logos/name on prints because I don't like them on other people's prints that I look at. It's like buying a shirt with the tag sewn on the front, outside portion of it. Where does your eye go? Straight to the one thing that doesn't belong. I believe the same holds true with watermarks and logos. Let the viewer enjoy the print for what it is without being hindered by something else on your print vying for attention. Just my 2 cents.

    You mean like the iconic logos that grace the front of shirts? Got plenty of "Polos" and athletic shirts with the brand logo.

    I also have artists paintings with the artist signature splashing prominently on the image.

    How about the fact you buy a car and it has the logo on all three sides?

    It's actually considered good practice to "brand" your products.

    But that also means putting some thought into the practice, so the brand compliments the individual work. Not just designing a mark and throwing it on the same spot.

    I also do not like to use site based "watermarks" except when no choice, simply because they act a pseudo layers and there are ways to work around it, especially flash based vs. Mac products.
  • GPPGPP Oahu, HawaiiMember Posts: 30
    How does a digi,ark protect againsts screen captures?

    I use a digital watermark that's invisible and can be tracked if it's on a website being used. It includes my copyright info in it. I have thought about a visible watermark but I always find it ruins the enjoyment of the photograph and so prefer not to visibly watermark. I do it digitally through Digimark (and yes it's a paid service). I don't watermark the originals, as they aren't able to be accessed and should anyone wish to purchase they would purchase the originals. I think regardless of whether you're pro or not, if you value your works it's worth doing what you can to protect your copyright.

    Oh, and my response to the poll is "none of the above."

    Nicky Jameson
    NickyJamesonphotos

    How exactly does that work Nicky? How can it be tracked?
    When you subscribe the Digimark service you are given a unique ID # and you can put in your url or the url to the Digimark site if you don't have a website. The watermark contains your copyright info plus usage info (i.e, protected by copyright, do not use). Digimark does a scan of websites on the net, and produces a report and if your pic turns up on another site you can see which site it is and can approach them to take it down. You can make the watermark more or less visible, there's a range. The scan cannot track behind things like password protected sites , so there are some limitations, but the peace of mind of the overall is worth it.

    If you go to my blog Nickyjameson.com I have a logo in my footer which tells visitors that my images are digitally watermarked. If you click that logo it takes you to the Digimark site... check it out. I realise that if someone is determined to steal your images they will do it, but to me there is no reason for me to help them do it. They are mine, not theirs and it's up to artists to protect their work. BTW there are 2 levels of watermarking service I use the cheaper one as I don't upload 1,000's of images, but you can easily include the cost of whatever level into your photography charges. I haven't had to ask anyone to take down images because recent reports tell me there aren't any that are being used on sites without permission. I also don't put hours of time into scouring the net to see if my images are being used. Most times when they have been used people have written to ask my permission.
    Nicky
    Nickyjamesonphotos
  • If I do use my watermark it is barely visible, small, and right across the lower middle. I do this for most of my things that might have "stealable" interest. For my event coverage, if someone wants their own photo that bad, They can have it. I think (my own opinion) people are more put off by me assuming I don't trust them and showing it.
  • I have been a professional Photographer since the mid 1970's. In the film-days copyright abuse was a very lucrative 'business' , I made a lot of money with several copyright cases ending up in court. In this digital age though 'sharing' has become such a common place that it is becoming harder and harder to effectuate a follow-up on copyright abuse. I tend to say " get a life " and simply say " hey that's great they like my work " .... Adding a advertising web site address / logo in the 'shared' images is then the very best way to do and hope it results in work. Having said that , if you ever can catch a big fish using your work without permission : GO FOR IT !!
  • We're so glad this topic came up. We're currently on the fence, but have found that placing our custom watermark just about halfway between dead-center and the bottom of the photo, with an opacity of 60%, is to our liking. We agree, it sucks to see it there, and wrecks the artistic value of viewing the image without it, but we want to encourage people to purchase the clean digital copies or order prints. We've already noticed more orders coming in by doing this.
  • Nicky JamesonNicky Jameson TorontoMember Posts: 107
    edited October 2013
    The more I see photographs the less I like them with watermarks plastered across them. I know why they are there and it is sad that they are necessary, but still, as a consumer I do feel it takes away from the enjoyment of the image. I was just reading a site called "stop stealing photos stopstealingphotos.tumblr.com which alerts photographers about image theft as well as writes about the theft on a wall of shame, and it was an eye opener to see the lengths to which people went to remove watermarks and crop the photographs in order to pass stolen photos off as their own. So sometimes even having a watermark doesn't help.
  • Rodger PodlogarRodger Podlogar Member Posts: 1
    Look at an image that contains a watermark and what's the first thing you see? The watermark. Your brain will recognize text before it will recognizing the image, so what the watermark does is distract the viewer from the image. Does the watermark protect the image? Any 14 year old kid with PhotoShop can remove a watermark in less time than it took you to make it.
  • Karen MaysKaren Mays Member Posts: 3
    I don't waste my energy worrying about thieves, there is nothing that you can do that will make a person who steals to buy instead. However it is pretty easy to turn off a potential buyer, so I'd rather put the effort into the people who matter to my business than worry over those who will never count for anything as far as I'm concerned. Having said that I also am careful not to give images away, I have a watermark that is clear and easy to read so people can find me easily if they view a shared image online. The watermark is about 1/3 of the way up, slightly bigger than it could be, most certainly uncroppable. The idea is that it is still neat enough that people will WANT to download and share the images which will give me exposure and further bookings. I'm fully confident of my photography skills and believe realistic pricing that those who want to buy will buy regardless, and my consistent sales and repeat business supports that view.
    Funnily enough most of my customers buy the digital file AND the print.
  • Karen MaysKaren Mays Member Posts: 3
    Not worrying about theft also saves me time. How long does it take to wade through the internet trying to find your images? I've got better things to do than get my knickers in a knot over people whom I can't control, and I need to get my customers photo's prepared and if not, I have a life outside to enjoy.
  • Nicky JamesonNicky Jameson TorontoMember Posts: 107
    edited February 2014
    This thread is still going... fantastic.

    I have to say I've come close to watermarking my images... I always cave in and don't do it. I just feel it interferes. If I did it would be with my website url for branding. With all these sharing sites it kind of makes sense to brand your images.
    What I can say is that image theft is rampant and seems to be getting worse. On GooglePlus there seem to be several people with tens of thousands of followers, who are using other photographer's images and claiming as their own removing the original watermark. Many of them choose photographers who are not themselves on G+. The other day I emailed a photographer to let him know how his images were being used without his permission on G+ (as only the original owner can file a DMCA). Yesterday, a photog friend told me of a large company that was using his image.... after being ignored by the company when he wrote to them he wrote to their legal dept and the photo was removed pronto. Every day the site stopstealingphotos.com site gets notice about photogs whose work is being used sans permission (one even had a Zen site which was taken down) I think it's not just screen grabs, it's people actually stealing the photos and using them as their own - even to get business. Granted some do it unwittingly and it's a case of education (no excuse) but others know exactly what they are doing. On one hand I don't worry too much about it (I don't have time to devote to tracking down infringers) but I am proactive whenever I come across it. I find that even photographers are often ambivalent... perhaps if more pursued protection of their work it would send a message. Some get quite snarky when other photogs DO assert their rights. It's very strange and surprising that it is so divisive.
    Anyway, apart from digitally watermarking mine I haven't physically added a watermark yet...I always wonder if I should. I've seen it done quite tastefully,however I still find my eye is always drawn to the watermark first... it's a distraction, but it certainly makes sense.
    Hope the thread keeps going.
  • Nicky JamesonNicky Jameson TorontoMember Posts: 107
    edited February 2014
    Some resources for anyone considering unobtrusive watermarking to protect copyright.
    http://www.uconomix.com/Products/uMark/Default.aspx (I am trying it out and it's pretty impressive)
    http://www.imagewitness.com/index.php - for tracking images (also going to investigate this, sounds better than Digimarc and it's cheaper) and
    Five Things You Can Do to Protect Your Online Images an excellent article from a lawyer/attorney who actually works on behalf of photographers and advocates clear inclusion of copyright on and in photographs you post online. I have to say I really am reconsidering including a watermark on the photos I share.... it's a great way to brand as well as protect images. It may not stop image theft but it can discourage or make it difficult for would-be infringers. Please share these resources with others if you find them useful.
  • Nicky JamesonNicky Jameson TorontoMember Posts: 107
    GPP said:

    How does a digi,ark protect againsts screen captures?
    It doesn't. It tracks if the photos are being used where they shouldn't be.


    I use a digital watermark that's invisible and can be tracked if it's on a website being used. It includes my copyright info in it. I have thought about a visible watermark but I always find it ruins the enjoyment of the photograph and so prefer not to visibly watermark. I do it digitally through Digimark (and yes it's a paid service). I don't watermark the originals, as they aren't able to be accessed and should anyone wish to purchase they would purchase the originals. I think regardless of whether you're pro or not, if you value your works it's worth doing what you can to protect your copyright.

    Oh, and my response to the poll is "none of the above."

    Nicky Jameson
    NickyJamesonphotos

    How exactly does that work Nicky? How can it be tracked?
    When you subscribe the Digimark service you are given a unique ID # and you can put in your url or the url to the Digimark site if you don't have a website. The watermark contains your copyright info plus usage info (i.e, protected by copyright, do not use). Digimark does a scan of websites on the net, and produces a report and if your pic turns up on another site you can see which site it is and can approach them to take it down. You can make the watermark more or less visible, there's a range. The scan cannot track behind things like password protected sites , so there are some limitations, but the peace of mind of the overall is worth it.

    If you go to my blog Nickyjameson.com I have a logo in my footer which tells visitors that my images are digitally watermarked. If you click that logo it takes you to the Digimark site... check it out. I realise that if someone is determined to steal your images they will do it, but to me there is no reason for me to help them do it. They are mine, not theirs and it's up to artists to protect their work. BTW there are 2 levels of watermarking service I use the cheaper one as I don't upload 1,000's of images, but you can easily include the cost of whatever level into your photography charges. I haven't had to ask anyone to take down images because recent reports tell me there aren't any that are being used on sites without permission. I also don't put hours of time into scouring the net to see if my images are being used. Most times when they have been used people have written to ask my permission.
    Nicky
    Nickyjamesonphotos
  • Nicky JamesonNicky Jameson TorontoMember Posts: 107
    You can be vigilant without "worrying about theft" 24 hours. There is a balance and people who do care about how their work is used online are not "getting their panties in a twist." Personally I think it's a photographers duty to do what they can to protect their work, whether that be asking people to take down images, checking every so often that images are not being used without permission or prosecuting as appropriate and at the very least being aware of their rights and remedies.

    It's good to see that most do care if their work is misused. If I happen to come across someone using a photographer's work without permission I make it a point to let the photographer know so that they can file a DMCA if they wish - it's entirely up to them but it can get the message across quite effectively.
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