How to Properly Use a Watermark (Most Aren’t)

How to use a Watermark properly from go4prophotos.com
I remember, years ago deciding that I needed a watermark before I even put any thought into why. I just knew that all the pro’s had one and since I was going4pro…that meant I needed one too!  My original watermark that I created has changed several times over.

These are my personal thoughts from my own experience…they have come through trial and error as well as through observations of trends in the industry. The first thing we need to understand is why a watermark is used.  

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A watermark is placed on an image for 3 reasons:
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1. To protect the image from being stolen, used and credited by someone else.

2. To deter clients from attempting to grab and print images pulled directly from your site.

3. (My favorite) So that if and when clients post your images elsewhere people will know how to find their way back to you!

Let’s recap, a watermark is placed to deter stealing and unauthorized printing and to help new fans find their way to your site. With those ideas in mind, I’ve been seeing a common mistake lately among photographers in that if the watermark is of such it won’t help someone newly exposed to your work find their way to your website.

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Let’s take a look at 3 watermarks and breakdown what’s going on with each one.

1. The Icon.

I’ve been seeing the icon become more and more popular as a watermark. The problem with using just the icon is that if this image showed up on someone’s Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook Feed and it was not properly tagged, a new viewer would have no idea how to identify that the photographer was me. 

1.The Icon Watermark

2. The Distracting Watermark.
 

Another popular trend is to place the full logo directly on each image. This distracts from the photography and instead brings attention to the logo design. Depending on how you look at it this could be good or bad. I remember watermarking an image several years ago and having a friend tell me (with the best intentions) that the image looked even better with the watermark, I agreed whole heartedly but couldn’t decide why that felt so unsettling. Years later I’ve decided that I’d rather my work speak volumes without needing the help of a watermark yelling “pro”.  Notice how your eye involuntarily keeps being lead back to the logo instead of the image. 

2.The Logo Watermark

3. The Simple Watermark.
 

This last watermark is actually my current watermark for Leah Remillet Photography. Its simple and understated and yet gives all the information necessary to bring new followers to my site and blog. By placing the watermark on top of the subject, I make it more difficult for someone to try to crop it out but because of the simplicity and color chosen for this image it’s doesn’t create a large distraction for the viewer. 

How to use a watermark effectively

Using watermarks effectively can help protect your images from misuse and insure that a new excited viewer can become a raving, following fan! 

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  1. Great article, my question is can’t they still crop it out depending on the placement of the simple logo?

    • Yes, it definitely could be depending on how/where it’s placed. Each photographer has their preference on how much they want to cover with their watermark. Some people stamp across the face, all over the image, etc. For me, I thought about the brand image I was trying to portray. When I go into cheaper stores you’ll see sighs about shoplifting and all of these security tags on the clothing (have you ever gotten home and they forgot to take it off? I know!! I hate that! 🙂 Anyways… when I shop in very high end stores, I don’t see such a blatant emphasis on distrust.

      I do typically watermark somewhere where it wouldn’t be to easy to crop out but I’ve just personally made the choice to want to help fans get back to me versus focus on fears of stolen images. Of course I do want to be mindful of that but just not hurting my brand perception because of it.

  2. Are you doing this in lightroom? If so where are you getting the copyright symbol?

    • It’s a brush I made and saved in Photoshop (I have it right next to my round soft brushes so it’s easy to select) and then I saved the image as a PNG and have it loaded in BlogStomp as well! To make the copyright symbol all you have to do on a MAC is hit OPTION/G (so hold down the option key + G at the same time) and I think for PC it’s ALT key and type the number 0169

      🙂

  3. Gabe says:

    This is what I’d do > http://imgur.com/HOhd77s
    A combo of 1 and 3.
    Looks professional, catches your eye and simply points you to the website.

  4. Nichole says:

    I thought about using my url for my watermark but I think it’s too long. I go back and forth because sometimes I think my full logo is intrusive but than sometimes I don’t. I guess I just need to decide.

  5. Kim Binfield says:

    Helpful post and details on making the watermark into a Photoshop brush. Thanks!

  6. Idie says:

    Yay! I’m doing it right. 🙂

  7. Sonja says:

    Thank you for sharing! And what perfect timing. I’m in
    The process if re-designing my CI…Logo, website etc.
    and I have yet to decide on the watermark.
    I always felt torn between security, aesthetics and information.
    There just doesn’t seem to be THE perfect solution.
    But I agree that information is vital. Yes, the photo can be cropped,
    but I have heard from a photographer that he found a cheap print of
    one of his wedding photographs on a customer’s wall, with the
    watermark right across the print. They said they “haven’t had
    time to order it yet”.
    So even “the big one” doesn’t prevent people from stealing.

    Thanks again! 😀

    • Totally agree! I walked into my mom’s house last year and found framed prints with my watermark!!!! I was like, “MOM! I can order you prints.” Her response… “I know, but I didn’t want to bother you.” And truth be told… They didn’t look all that bad. I mean, not awesome either but still! 😀

  8. max says:

    Great article I watermark my photos in bulk with a simple text watermark and a logo at the corner using this tool called Mass Watermark.http://masswatermark.com

  9. Tanja Olson says:

    Yes, you can set it up in LR. Use Option+G to get the copyright symbol.

    -Tanja

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