Sunday, 26 February 2012

Should You Watermark Your Photographs?

Recently, on the UK Food Bloggers (UKFBA) website, there was a discussion on watermarking photos. It appears to have stemmed from a blog post written about Pinterest. For those of you who don't know, Pinterest is one of the newest social networking platforms where users can share photos. Through my, albeit limited, experience of the site, there is always a link back to the original source. So there is accreditation. I do, however, accept that there are instances where there is no credit given, and there is a very clear complaint process if this is the case.

The advantage of watermarking your images is very obvious. If someone else uses it, you name, URL, etc. are clearly visible as the original source. 

The disadvantage is that they are very often an eye sore on what might have been a great image. 

In my opinion, I think that watermarked images also look a tad arrogant. Especially when the image is not that great anyway. I certainly know that my photography is not that great. And maybe I'm coming from it from an amateur blogger point of view. I don't make any money from my blog or the photographs, so if someone "steals" it, then I'm more flattered than offended.

However, if I was a professional then I would have a very different opinion if someone used my images. Because then I'm losing money. In that case, I would totally agree that watermarking images makes sense. 

Copyright is big news at the moment, and rightly so. I think we bloggers have to be very careful. I freely admit that I have used images in the past that maybe I shouldn't have. Not so anymore. 

But let's be clear. If you don't want your images being wrongly used by other parties, don't use other peoples images with out giving any credit. It works both ways. 

On the UKFBA discussion that I mentioned earlier, someone disagreed with me. He thought that images should be watermarked, and pointed out that a photographer he knows now makes more money from seeking out people who have used his photos without a license than he does from commissions. (A sad state of affairs no matter what angle you look at it from). However, when I clicked through to this commenters blog, there were several images that did not appear to be his own - with no accreditation. A tad hypocritical. 

I fully expecting for some (most?) of you to disagree with me on this. This post is not intended to be disrespectful to anyone, and is simply my opinion. I am open to discussion.

What are your thoughts? 


  1. Happy to put in my opinion as it was me who started the discussion. I'm not a professional but what I find really irritating on Pinterest, is not being able to find my way back to the original source, esp if it is a recipe or craft tutorial. I am now putting the url of the source in the description of images I pin. However, if someone pins my image (and I have no problem with that, like you I am flattered) I would like them to be able to find their way back to my blog, so I have taken to putting a watermark along the bottom of the image with my blog url in it. Trying to make it as discreet as possible.

    More sites are blocking Pinterest, which is a shame as I love looking at the images and being inspired by others. Will be interested to hear the views of others, I guess it's each to their own in the end.

  2. Apologies, Janice. As you rightly say it was you who started the discussion and I should've let you know about this post.

    As I said, I haven't come across a picture that does not link back to the source but putting the URL in the description seems sensible.

    Just quickly want to say that I have not name the blog that I mentioned because there was another discussion that berated someone that had named a blog.

  3. I like the idea of a subtle website url at the bottom of the pic, can't say I have the time to watermark my pics at the moment. I spose if I find they are being copied, or if my blog ever gets a lot of traffic. Whilst it is just a hobby, I will probably stay as I am.

    Or am I being naive?

  4. I don't think you're being naive, Lynne. That's fair enough. Although, it is hard to say what I would actually do in that position, I feel that if I ever made an income from my blog, and the photos were central to that, I don't think I would.

  5. I have my food blog and a photography blog but i dont watermark and of my photos. It takes too much time and spoils the shot. If i were to mark the images then something small with my name or initials would be fine, i do this with my illustrations.

    1. Oh wow! Just had a quick look at your blog and I love your illustrations. I draw sometimes myself and have toyed with drawing images for posts.
      I think if you do want to watermark your images then something small is the route to go. Honestly can't recall which blog I saw today, but it had the URL stretched across the middle of the photo and it was such a shame.

  6. Firstly, how good or not the image is should not make any difference ... either you want to protect your work from being used without credit, or you don't. I don't see where arrogance comes into it.

    Adding a watermark or (c) notice to an image isn't saying "look at this image, I think it's so brilliant everyone will want to nick it"! ALL it's saying is "this image was taken by X and you should get permission if you want to use it for anything".

    Also, it's not uncommon to find crappier images nicked, to my surprise, not always the good ones.

    I've actually sold images for money, via Alamy, sometimes for hundreds of dollars, however it's not a main income stream, as I only occasionally load new images to my portfolio and it's very much a case of getting money for nothing as I'd take the images anyway.

    But when I'm talking blog images, it's not about potential loss of money I might have made selling them (they're not good enough, in the main part, in any case) but simply about wanting a credit should someone feel they are useful enough to use / share.

    On Pinterest, the thing that annoys me the most is where users don't permalink properly so I can't click through the image back to the original source. Sometimes I find a pin I like, and want to repin, but the link is wrong, and I'll spend a little time looking for the original source, and create a brand new pin of the same image but with the proper link back. I've also chosen not to repin a few where it's not been linked properly.

    Also, the ones who actually save images off the internet and upload them directly themselves, thus providing no link at all! Grrr!

    Mind you, it's just as bad when the URL points to a tumblr account, as the vast majority of the time, the tumblr user has just lifted the image without crediting the original source either, so I'm just bringing traffic to their blog, and not to the original source. Not cool.

  7. If people genuinely think that all they're doing is protecting their images then fine, and they feel the need to do that, then fine.

    I totally agree that if someone uses your image then you should be given the credit. But is that worth marring an image for? Maybe if the watermark was discreet it would look better. But would that then negate the point of having it there anyway? Certainly having one spread across the centre of the image is OTT.

    It's sad to hear that links aren't being properly done. Maybe people such as ourselves, who have a large community, are therefore made more aware of copyright. There are not many ways around this except for Pinterest to moderate pins (which would take considerable time and effort) or, as I have already said, they have a system for copyright complaints that can be utilised.

  8. I think you've summed it up pretty well comparing professional photography and 'amateur' photography. The only problem there is where do you consider your photos professional? I consider mine professional because they are taken by my partner who has a photography degree. He, however doesn't see them as his property and sizes the pictures so that if they are stolen, they'll be pixelated if anyone tries to enlarge them. He also says that if someone wants your photo that badly, they'll remove the watermark. We've looked at a few watermarks on a few photos and the majority of them he considered removable. For a watermark to work it has to really take away from the photo, so from that respect it would ruin it.

    1. Here, I define professional photographer as being paid for it and making a livelihood and amateur as not being paid for it - no matter the quality. If your boyfriend is a professional photographer, I'd argue that your photographs are professional.

      I totally agree about being able to remove watermarks, particularly if they are situated somewhere that can be easily covered up, removed, or cropped out, and that for them to work they'd ruin the image.

      What pixel size does he make the images? Does it not take away some of the image quality?

    2. I think watermark not only protect your image,but also give you recognition
      eg:if someone likes your photo they can identify you from the watermark of your company/name on your its always good to use a visible watermark in my opinion.

  9. I don't see watermarking as arrogant. A friend had a photo taken on a low quality mobile phone camera stolen and used by a company known all over the world for their advertising. While they may not be making a significant amount from this and nor would my friend have made nay money from sale of her photo, its the principle of a big company like that thinking they can just take photos from ordinary people's pages and use them in that way. They can easily afford their own photographer to take shots like hers but they chose to just take hers for free with no permission or credit. Many newspapers are also guilty of this.