About Me

Wells, BC, Canada
Richard is a working photographer and writer in B.C. His camera focuses on natural history. archeology, travel, and documentary photography. His photography blog may be found at: http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to watermark your photos, and why you should

Digital Watermarking Your Photos

For many photographers watermarking or placing your name and copyright on a photos has become just part of the routine when posting photos. But a few folks have asked me whether or not they need to, and if so, how.  So, some basic thoughts.

The answer to the first part of the question is, yes. Watermark your photos to show your name and copyright information. It may not stop unauthorized use, but it does make it obvious that the image is yours and likely will encourage folks to ask.

Like any professional or busy amateur I take a lot of photos and often they are for community groups, or friends so I like to send a few images on to folks. I no longer do this without watermarking.  The concept of "sharing, tagging or posting" anyone else's images has become completely out of hand thanks in part to Facebook. I have found my images used in Facebook profile photos, wall postings and albums, all without so much as a by-your-leave, sometimes with credit, often not. I have had images show up in slide shows, videos and numerous other forms, all without asking.

Glauberg archeological site, Germany; calender poles at dawn.
This watermark is meant to be large enough to not be cropped out but not so large
as to completely ruin the image for editorial viewing.  If the image is purchased
I send an image without the watermark.

Back in the day, as they say, I had to take a few folks to court when my images were used in brochures, books or advertising without my permission.  One book publisher came out with another title with many of my photos in it. They claimed they had bought the rights. They had not, and we settled out of court.  I settled one Small Claims court suit for misuse moments before we entered the court. My usual fee was 3 times the fee I would have charged for permission.
This watermark is meant to be large enough to obscure the image.
Now with web and digitization misuse has increased, but finding the pirated image can sometimes be easier with a Google image search.

So, the clear answer is yes, at least attempt to prevent usage by putting your name on a photo, and if you really do not want it used, make the watermark large enough to adversely affect the image. Or, do not post it.

How to watermark? This depends on the systems you are using from Aperture or iPhoto to Lightroom or Photoshop and others. There are many watermarking plugins, apps or programs that will help you watermark. A quick Google search will find them.

As I am a Mac and Nikon user I use Aperture 3 and a free Plugin called BorderFX.  It allows a text or image watermark. "Text" is when you just type the name you want on image into the plugin. An "image" watermark is similar to the image below. Your image file will have to be made with a program such as PhotoShop.

Watermark from PNG file.


BorderFX, as it's name implies, will also allow you to place borders on your images, similar to the one below.


Halstatt mine lookout, Austria. The self portrait was made with a mirror that
was part of a display at the site. It's purpose was not clear, but the effect was interesting.
This illustrates a border and watermark made with Border FX using a PNG file.
Have a quick look at Border FX and see if it will work for you.

Now this does not mean your photos will not be misused, but it at least gives you credit. Watermarks can be stripped or removed, but most users will not have the means to do this.
After several photos were borrowed for Facebook "cover" shots or reposted without permission I now watermark everything I post.
The other option, of course, is to not watermark and avoid the extra work. Be sure that your images are worth "borrowing" or stealing before you decide to take on the cost or task of doing so.

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