Thoughts: I’m against watermarking photos

Yes, my photo was stolen. I know of at least one incident like that, maybe it happened a few more times (it’s hard to tell really unless someone informs you of such a case). It’s sad and makes me angry because someone else gets attention because of my own work. Of course my work is on Creative Commons licence (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported) but it doesn’t mean it’s free nor that one can put his name under any of the images.

One of the commonly used ways to protect your photos against stealing is putting a watermark on them. However, I’m not really happy about doing so for several reasons:

  1. If you put watermark near the border then stealing an image is still a very easy thing as it is just enough to crop the watermark out. And so many photographers put it right there.
  2. If you put a watermark in the area with many details or in a place that is important to the image perception you actually make the image weaker. What you can do instead is to put a watermark in a non-important part of the image (eg. over the sky or road) but in such a case it might turn out that it is still very easy to remove it by cloning or using a content-aware feature in Photoshop.
  3. It is distracting. If I make a photo I often want viewers to focus on a certain part of the image or lead their eyes into something in the picture. By putting a watermark I can ruin that because there is a great chance that they will first look at the watermark and only after that at the picture itself.
  4. One of the options is to make sure watermark fits well into the image (in a sense that it becomes part of it) but to be honest I haven’t seen it executed well up to now.

For the reasons mentioned above I won’t use traditional watermarks in my images. The only watermarking I can consider is digital watermarking which is a combination of bits put into the image file and which doesn’t change the look of the image. Another thing I started to do recently is to upload a smaller version of the photos.

2017-01-17T19:42:59+00:00 December 16th, 2012|Posted in: hdr, thoughts, warsaw|
  • Take it as a complement. I keep file size too small for even the best algorithms to enlarge for print. Also process at 8 Bit for the web. Any enlargement using Genuine Factuals will produce banding.
    Whilst I am here does Elements 11 support 16 Bit. I use Elements 9 and so far have seen no reason to upgrade. Have a good Christmas and don’t worry.

    PS..It wasn’t me….If I steal an image I ask first.

  • Elements 11 doesn’t support 16 Bit images more than 10 does to the best of my knowledge, i.e. you can open a 16 bit image but to use layers you will have to convert it to 8 bit.

    And obviously I know it wasn’t you 😉

  • Jane

    I completely agree with you on all accounts Wojciech. There are far too many ways to ‘steal’ an image. My feeling is that if someone has no conscience nor respect for a photographer’s copyrights, than they will take any photo they find without any sense of guilt. I suppose if I want to look at it from an optimistic perspective, if they want a photo of mine that badly, I guess it’s a ‘backhanded’ compliment.

  • Yes, that’s the good point Jane but I would be happier if they just told me they like my picture.

  • I agree with Adrian, I take it as a compliment, place a large enough image online and people will take it. Sizing images and watermarking in combination will at least slow down the perpetrator. I have heard of a new method to take images when RIGHT Click is disabled and that is, Screen Shot your image and save as Jpeg. I tend not to worry and lose sleep, just enjoy the ride.

    Happy Shooting everyone and Merry Christmas.

  • Watermarking is the only time tested way that deters theft,with tools like Mass Watermark that makes the job easier you should not hesitate a bit to watermark photos.