I’ve been religiously using watermarks on my photography for almost a year. I invested money into a good watermark, I developed design rules about using my watermark (had to be a certain size and always 50% opacity), but I’m stopping as of today. Why? After weighing up the pros and cons, and realising I could debate every pro, I convinced myself I was doing more harm than good.
So here’s my brain’s brutal honesty when it came to the “Should I use a watermark?” debate!
It protects your image from being stolen.
Yes and no, but more of a no. Sure, it may seem like having your logo embedded into your image means if someone downloads it and posts it on their page someone will call bullshit and slam the uploader as a thief. Alas, your intellectual property is protected!
Or they could just remove it. Software that can remove a watermark with a few clicks are ten a penny. Quicker still they can just crop it out. Some people are lazy, though, and may skip this step. If they do, then your watermark has some protective power. But it’s not a security guard.
If you really want to protect your image, you need to be adding copyright information to the metadata of your images upon import (this is really easy to do in Lightroom).
It’s good advertising.
Eh, kind of. Because every man and his dog are taking photos, it’s very hard to have a unique style that stands out and becomes recognisable. So a watermark will make your work instantly recognisable if it gets shared around, right? If an image is shared without permission and your watermark isn’t removed or copped out, then it can help viewers direct themselves to the real source and find more of your work. But if it is shared with permission, 9 times out of 10 that page will credit you and link to your profile anyway. So your watermark isn’t really doing much.
It’s also almost impossible to measure how effective your watermark is from a marketing point of view, and even if you could the numbers would be so dismal it wouldn’t even be worth measuring.
It makes your work look more professional.
This solely depends on whether your watermark is actually good. If you’ve typed it up on Photoshop using a stock-standard font, or you have a large ugly graphic, this will make you look more like an amateur.
Handwritten signatures/logos are the way to go, and a beautifully written one can give you a slightly professional edge. Photologo is a service that thousands of photographers use (myself included – not an ad) and they produce beautiful watermarks.
Remember though, regardless of the watermark, the photo still has to be good. A great watermark on a phone selfie won’t be doing you any favours.
It ruins your composition.
Yep. There is no composition that will benefit from a watermark. They are distracting on large areas, or they can get lost in detail and ruin that detail. I’ve recently taken photos that have more or less been ruined by my watermark because it got in the way of intimate textures. For me, this is almost the sole reason for not using one anymore.
Small watermarks aren’t legible.
The smaller you make your watermark to make it more subtle, the harder it is to read it. The main problem with this is, once you’ve uploaded your image to social media it becomes compressed and your watermark just looks like pixelated junk anyway.
It’s difficult to maintain display consistency.
Whether your watermark is an image you put on top, or a brush preset, you’re going to hard time keeping a consistently sized watermark in your gallery. Why? As soon as you change the dimension of your image the ratio will need to change as well, and it’s not always easy figuring this out. Inconsistent sizes will only backfire the professional look you are going for. And while I admit that this will probably go unnoticed by the majority of your audience, if you’re OCD like me this is a big problem.
So, what should be an evenly split debate has turned into 6 solid reasons as to why I should stop putting my watermark on my photos. I think I can finally put this one to bed.
April 2017 – Feb 2018