I have written about watermarking images a few times over the life of this blog and have been swayed for and against. It is topic where opinions are balanced between showing your work online and trying to protect it. To be honest if you don’t want your images stolen don’t share them. This is harsh but it is also true. There is no sure fire way of preventing people from stealing your images, you can deter them by placing obstacles in their way, although in the end all you need to do is to take a screen grab and its stolen.
At first I was not in favor of watermarking. My opinion was that watermarks can take away from the image. The more complex your watermark the harder it will be to remove. Of course a watermark can be cropped out. This means that a watermark needs to be large or that was my thinking. A large watermark would take over the image and for me when looking at an image, I want to look at the image not the watermark.
I don’t know why but my mind was swayed to thinking watermarks were a good idea. It was possibly because there was a lot of press at the time about images being stolen. I then began watermarking my images with what I thought was a good watermark. It was largish, definitely not small and would have been difficult to remove. Deep down I didn’t like it but I kept with it for a while until I was sick of adding the watermarks. I was being lazy it was an automated step in Photoshop that took one click to apply.
I had swung back to no watermarks thinking, well why would someone steal my images they are not that good. Of course all it took was to find that people had been stealing my images including one fellow Word Presser.
I discovered that they had been stolen, because I was reading “Stop Stealing Photos” a blog shaming photo thieves and out of curiosity did a reverse image search on my images. I suppose this was a kick up the backside I needed to really think about how I was treating my images. Was I just orphaning my images and leaving them out there on the web.I came back to seeing watermarks as important for a few reasons but not the only thing I could do to help keep my image mine.
Personally I think a watermark should be small enough not to detract from an image but large enough not to be easily cropped without compromising the composition. I don’t think a watermark should be placed over an important element of an image as this takes away from the image. I also think you need to use a neutral color and tone so that it stands out but doesn’t conflict with the other tones of the image. These are my personal preferences but these preferences also subconsciously decide how much attention I will pay to an image or even a blog. If I can’t see the image, I am not going to spend any more time on it.
By putting a watermark on your image it can be a deterrent for people wanting to take it. It can also be used as evidence when the thief alternately says “I didn’t realize it was yours.”, you can’t claim ignorance when it is written there plain as day. Watermarking can also be used as advertising who you are, on my images I have my twitter handle because if you google it you will get my twitter page and information about me. Although watermarking is not the only thing you can do. You can also add the metadata with copyright information to help your claim when you say an image has been stolen and if the thief looks at it then they will know who owns the image.
These are alternately steps that a determined thief will remove or even our own technology will. Several social media sites actually strip the metadata from images to make their upload size smaller.
Other steps you can take is to embed images in a flash file or remove the option of right click on the image. These layers of protection are nothing against the power of Print Screen.
Images are going to be stolen and this is the first thing I came to realize. Small business, maybe startups and even bigger businesses see images online as fair game. They want a stock image but don’t want to pay or don’t even know where to find stock images, but they do know there are images on google. Even I would find images of my favorite bands as a teenager with AltaVista and print out their pixelated representation.
Even more shocking recently there was an article where an employee of Facebook and a graduate from Stanford but a video tutorial online about how to remove watermarks from class pictures. I think these shows how blasé people are when it comes to copyrights of images. I have even explained to people that when you buy a print from a photographer (for example a child’s portrait) this doesn’t mean you can scan it and take the file to your nearest photo lab and make copies. Copyright theft is talked a lot in public when it comes to films and music and not so much when it comes to photography, I have only read one article in a national paper ever and this was in the consumer help section (big bad photographer suing poor hair salon who stole their pictures and the hair salon wanted help!)
In understanding that it doesn’t matter what I do and my images most likely will be stolen I started to see water marking as a way of deterring and proving ownership while advertising who I am.
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