Photography Watermarking is a familiar concept for all professional photographers as it’s a way to mark your work and stamp some form of recognition onto your creations. This can be in a literal sense where you brand an image with a logo of some sort – this could be along the bottom of your piece or across it, in a transparent format, so the photo’s visible but it’s covered. Or you can digitally copyright a photo, so it’s labelled but doesn’t alter the photo.
Social media is such a prominent part of our lives that it’s easier than ever before for people to claim your work as their own or simply reattribute it without any recognition of your efforts.
As a photographer, why should you watermark your work? And to keep things balanced, let’s look at a few reasons why you can swerve watermarking and how to avoid a few key mistakes:
Advantages of Watermarking your Work
One of the top reasons why watermarking your work makes sense is obviously for copyright reasons. Photography is such subjective work and so much of your personal skill and expertise goes into every photo. So ensuring that your work is protected and that there’s a record of how the work originated and that you’re the owner of the piece is important.
If you post your work online then watermarking can act as a branding/advertising tool. When someone has a positive reaction to your photos and sees them hosted somewhere online, they can find out more about you and your business. Sharing your work can lead to more leads and more exposure, especially if you include your web address.
Watermarking in a clear way with a solid logo or branding means that if people decide to share or print your photos then they’re making themselves accountable if they try to pass them off as their own work. If your watermark is difficult to remove then people will be less likely to do this, so you’re protecting your work too.
Reasons for Avoiding Watermarks
Some photographers find the act of watermarking to be distracting and something that detracts from the beauty of a photo. You’re actively choosing to alter the image and make it less appealing which can seem counter-productive. If a watermark takes over most of the photo then people won’t see how good your work is.
Watermarking photos can look overly-forceful if you completely cover a photo in solid watermarks. It can communicate the idea that the photo isn’t for everyone’s enjoyment or to be enjoyed as a piece of art – it’s strictly business. Certain photographers are just happy to see their work appreciated by people.
It can look a bit frantic to relentlessly cover all photos in watermarks, as if the photographer is very under pressure or worried they won’t retain every credit or share. Some photographers see it as a mark of their confidence if they let the photo remain mostly unscathed by watermarks.
Actionable Tips for Watermarking
It’s not over-confident to protect your work, especially if your business relies on it, but it’s good to get a balance between protection and subtly.
1. Reduce Photo Quality
Reduce the photo quality when you share them online. You can still show off your photography, but you’re incentivising a better version if people get in touch with you.
Making photos smaller with a lower resolution can act as a teaser as well where people have to engage with your brand to find a better quality image.
2. Keep Watermarks Subtle
Taking pride in your work is about adequately watermarking and ensuring the essence of a photo isn’t damaged in the process.
Don’t have an invasive watermark that bombards your whole photo otherwise people might be immediately turned off and not even give your photography the time of day it deserves. Although never underestimate people’s ability to crop your photos or use Photoshop, especially if your watermark is on the bottom of a photo – be tactical about where you place your watermark.
3. Stick to 20-30% Transparency
Having subtle watermarks with a line or two of detail across the bottom of the photo can work well. You can put the transparency level at around 20%, so people can still see how great your photos are and you’re gaining recognition for it. Or you could put it across the middle with a low transparency too. It’s up to you.
4. Add your Contact Details or Website
If you do watermark – make sure that you include essential information about yourself or how you want people to find you. Push people towards your website if you’re sharing online.
Your photos are your original work, so it’s your decision as to whether you use watermarking or not. But protecting your work and business in the digital age is recommended and can help you to build your brand and safeguard it.