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Mysteries of Watermarking the Photographs: to Be or Not to Be?

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To watermark or not to watermark your photos? That is the question! Watermarking is one of those endless photographers' debates of the digital era. Some say a work should be signed before publishing it online, whereas others argue that a watermark distracts from the image and does not prevent it from being copied. And as it often happens in such discussions, there is no absolute right answer. Every photographer is free to decide whether to watermark his or her images, and if so, how to do it. Let's have a look at the pros and cons, as well as at the key moments of proper watermarking.

So what is a watermark? Usually it's a name, logo, or text, superimposed over a photograph that serves to identify its author. Signing your work is an important step to take before letting it go public. Just like a painter signs in the corner of his painting, a photographer usually signs either at the back of a print, or on the mount right under the image. In the digital world, the watermark stands for the photographer's signature.

Like any signature, watermarking has its undeniable advantages:

    • By watermarking a photograph, an author expresses his or her right to sign their work.
    • The watermark makes it easy to identify the author of a photograph found online, as well as to see more of his or her work.
    • It can serve as a great marketing and self-promotion tool that may help a photographer to get noticed.
    • It may prevent from stealing the photograph: a signature may defer others from using the work without author's consent.

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On the other hand come the cons of watermarking:

  • A watermark superimposed on a photograph may ruin visual experience by distracting the viewer, obstructing the view, or simply being annoying.
  • A poorly designed watermark may work against the author instead of helping their self-promotion.
  • Almost any watermark can be more or less easily removed, so it does not actually prevent from stealing photographic work.

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So if you decide that watermarking your photos is a good idea, here are a few tips on how to keep it appropriate and professional looking:

1. Invest some effort into a properly designed watermark.

Whether you do it yourself or with the help of a professional graphic designer, make sure your logo or signature matches your photographic style and your marketing goals. Run a few tests on friends and family before applying it to your photographs and publishing them online. If you don't feel like creating a complex logo, use text, such as your name, your photography business name (if you are a professional) or even your website URL. Keep it simple but stylish, and take some time to find a clean and appropriate font (Comic Sans font does not look serious, trust us!).

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2. Size matters

Even if your watermark is impeccably designed and you are truly proud of it, choosing an appropriate size is extremely important. Use reasonable image/watermark ratio. If it's a text, make it legible (example on the left) but not overwhelming (example on the right).

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Keep it subtle

  • "Subtle" is the key word when it comes to watermarking. Lower the opacity of your watermark,
  • place it outside the frame,

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  • or instead of placing it in the usual lower right corner, hide it within the image (this may also make it more difficult to remove it)

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Do you watermark your photographs before posting them online? What is your experience regarding watermarking? Share your opinions with us!

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About the Author

Nadia Gric

Nadia Gric

Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.