There are people on many points of the spectrum in terms of watermark opinions. My point of view… calm yourselves people. Why on earth would you destroy your image with giant logos, your name brazenly plastered across your subject? We get it! You took the picture. Thank you for displaying your website in 200pt font. There is a time and place for promotion.
I am fully in support of adding a watermark or unobtrusive logo to your images. It is important to market yourself when you post photos online. Depending on where they are posted there is not always opportunity to add credit for your work, so a watermark provides a way to sign your work. For the sake of this article I’ll refer to any logo, photographer name, company name, or website as a watermark.
Different Methods for Watermarking Your Photography
Different photographers go about watermarking their work in different ways. Some add borders to their images and place their watermark in that space. This is an effective strategy for not harming the work by not placing any elements on the shot itself. Another pro to that method is if you use a consistent style or look to your border you can begin to brand work as unique through that look. I do however I find these to be distracting. Sometimes a border just isn’t appropriate for certain images.
Some photographers have automatic watermark generators where their logo/name automatically is put on all of their images in a predetermined spot. Sometimes this is a specific corner of the image, or right across the centre. This can be helpful if you are processing a lot of images and don’t want to go through the work of adding your watermark to each image individually. The major downside of this approach is having a fixed spot for your watermark could ruin some images by it being placed in a not ideal spot in relation to the composition of the photo. Also depending on the design it can be unreadable based on font colours and the image background colours.
The other method which is the approach I use is to add a small piece of text that either has my name or my website within the image. For this I always place it strategically based on the composition of the photo. I try to keep it noticeable but unobtrusive. Some would argue that this method can interfere with the composition of the photo. It is also much more time consuming as I customize the colour and opacity based on each individual image.
Why Watermark Your Photography?
The main reason we watermark our work is to give ourselves credit when we publish our photos online. Not meant to say wow we’re awesome, but moreso to provide us with future business leads. Should a stranger see our work and like it they may be compelled to hire us for a future shoot. Providing a name or website can help a potential client find a way to get into contact with you when the image gets onto the interwebs.
As much effort as we exercise to try and control our work and where it goes the reality is once images are on the internet you have no idea where they can end up. Yes there is a certain degree of tracking through exif data or photo searches, but in the end once someone downloads it they can alter, pass on and do whatever to your photos. It is unfortunate, but it is reality.
How to Make Your Watermark?
Different photographers have different approaches to creating their watermarks. Some use just their name, perhaps their name followed by “Photography”, some use their website URL, while others create elaborate logos. All fine options in my opinion if done tastefully. Using your name can be effective if you show up well in search engine results and if those results are ones you want potential clients to see. Because our digital presence gets spread out without our control you want to make sure you want people to see what is associated with your name. You also need to consider how common your name is. There may be several “Sam Jones” Photography websites and you don’t want to send your potential clients to other websites that show up better than you in search engines.
Using your website is also a good option. It provides a nice way to get traffic directly to your site, and have people go exactly where you want them to. Make sure if you chose this option you have an easy to read and type URL. If it is something complicated you may lose some traffic. Also make sure you choose a common or sensible URL extension. Don’t purchase a .net, .org, .info extension. Stick to either .com if available or your country code. Lastly, if you use an image based logo make sure there is a way for someone to search you; whether you have a company name or website within that logo. There is no point to watermarking your work if it does not provide a way for people to find you. Your beautifully designed initials within an aperture image may look great, but doesn’t help people find you.
Removing or Cropping Watermarks
This is generally the biggest concern when considering the type of watermarking you do. Again, once it’s on the internet there is not much you can do. People will crop out, or remove your logo entirely. People who maliciously steal others’ work will always find a way. Don’t bother slapping a logo across your entire image to try and make it harder for someone to remove. If someone is determined they can find ways to remove your logo, so you may as well not ruin your image. Another frustration here is the dreaded Instagram. Damn you square cropping! Often models will #instagram #instapost #instagottasharewithtoomanyhashtags the work you did together. While great for introducing your work to a wider audience, your logo often ends up cropped out. In these scenarios you can always ask your model to slap on a link, or give a shout out to you. It’s all about communication folks.
Are Watermarks the Artistic Devil?
No, they are not the devil to art. Used wisely it can be a helpful marketing tool. Used poorly can make you look like a tool. (See what I did there, I used the word tool to describe an implement or instrument to perform a task with while using the same word to describe you as a person of low intelligence and poor decision making… I digress). Use them, get your name out there, just don’t butcher your images with them.