Why Watermark or Brand Your Photos

18 01 2010

Casey Moore's Bike Rack : Tempe, AZ
No one likes to get ripped off and no one wants to feel cheated – I don’t care who you are.

Question: Do you host your images on popular photo sharing sites like Flickr or Facebook? If you answered yes and you do not take a moment to brand or watermark your photos you are running the risk of having your images stolen.

The topic of this post started with a question asked by my friend Devon. He asked if I could address the pros and cons of watermarking or branding self published photos. Thanks, great subject for discussion.

CONS

Aesthetics: If you are not strategic with the placement and size of the watermark or branding it may take away from the image. When placing a watermark, copyright line or logo make sure it doesn’t draw the viewer’s eye away from the subject and screw with the composition. The perception of the value of the photo to a prospective client can be lessened if you are not careful with placement.

After giving it much thought this is the only con I see when when it comes to this topic.

PROS

The list of pros far outweigh the cons. For starters, people will know who took the photo and subsequently who owns its rights. If you include  simple things like the copyright year and your website (or wherever your portfolio can be seen) it tells the viewer how old the photo is and where they can see more of your work. As photographers I believe it is our responsibility to make things as easy as possible for clients to get the information they need.

Another reason to brand your photos falls under the lines as the second point – properly branded photos will increase traffic to your websites.

Personally, I prefer a branding line over a watermark that covers up the image. Although a watermark is harder to delete and photoshop out of an image, aesthetically it’s horrid. I use a simple two line branding mark that includes my website and the copyright date. (I know that in some cases this can be cropped out and removed but after giving it some thought I’m ok with taking that risk to preserve the integrity of the photograph.)

HOW TO BRAND A PHOTO

Here is a simple overview of how I brand my photos. I process my photos in Aperture and after I make my adjustments I export the image to a work in progress folder. From here I will open the exported file in photoshop, open my .psd branding file and drag it on top of the photo. After I give placement careful thought and consideration I save the file. I will then import the altered file back into Aperture and stack the native image with the branded image (in Aperture stacking allows me to view thumbnails of the photos I use.) The last step is publishing the photograph to the platform of my choice.

My .psd branding mark is comprised of white text on a transparent background. (Download my branding mark and alter it with your own text by clicking here.)

How do you handle branding your photographs and watermarks? Leave a comment and let’s discuss…

To view my complete photography portfolio please visit www.grtaylor2photo.com

GRT2 Self Portrait July 2009

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5 responses

18 01 2010
Yaggi Photography Kent Wedding Photographers

Thanks for writing on this topic. You and I have recently discussed this and the decision to brand or not to brand is something I still battle. I feel the advertising aspect and photo credit is very important. Protecting a photo from being stolen is virtually impossible unless you only submit images to sites like Smugmug, which protect the images.
Great read and I will most likely continue to brand my images in the future.

18 01 2010
Performance Impressions Concert Photography

Great advice! Here is even another reason to watermark your photos, that is because if someone does end up stealing them and they purposely remove the copyright watermark, you may be entitled to recover more damages. That is why you should include copyright information in your watermark and also take the time to register your photos with the Copyright Office.

Here is how I watermark my photos automatically with a free program:

http://www.concertphotos.us/2010/01/how-to-add-watermarks-to-hundreds-of.html

18 01 2010
Devon

Part of the reason I’d mentioned this topic is because I am conflicted too. See, until the last few months I never got paid for my work. I mostly gave it away. Now, much of my work has been uploaded under creative commons, and the license I use there is that I want attribution, non-commercial, and if you want to download and change the photo, you need to reshare it. For a lot of day to day stuff (like my 365 day work), it’s cool and I don’t care. Like I shot the PF Chang’s the other day, and if I lock down the work with an “All Rights Reserved” then a reporter surfing the web for a photo he/she can use with an article they wrote cannot use it. If I leave it (CC) then they can and link to me. Some ways the photographer can get their name out there more if they’re willing to share. … it’s like drugs. Give some for free, to hook people for more (bad analogy but you get it).

Recently I was reading a blog post by another photographer who talks about the pros of creative commons licensing. And I am posting it here as, in part, the other side of the argument… http://www.darcynorman.net/2007/12/12/on-creative-commons-licensing/

I realize this post of Greg’s here is more about branding, and I get the fact that if I shoot a Sr Portrait gig or get paid by a band to shoot their next show, I sure the hell ain’t throwing those pics out there without licensing them. (Imagine shooting some kid for Xmas pics and his image showing up on some baby mag without Mum knowing).

I use Adobe Bridge, and sure wish it stacked for two copies. As for me, I’d have two copies of the image lying around.

Can’t wait to hear more.

19 01 2010
Erin

Thanks for starting the discussion Greg. As someone who takes a lot of photos of her kid, and other people’s kids, it is really important to remember that your unprotected images can be used unless you put the proper restrictions on them.

19 01 2010
GRTaylor2

Thanks for the comments. There are times when I use creative commons and times that I use all rights reserved. As Devon said it depends on the subject, situation and where the photos are hosted.

My Flickr photos are almost always creative commons unless they are from a contracted shoot. Whereas the work on my website (www.grtaylor2photo.com) is all rights reserved. (The difference being the resolution of the image files.) Like D’Arcy Norman said in his article, “I have a job that pays the bills…” and I want my art to be seen and crowdsourced for use but I still feel better about having my branding on the photograph to ensure proper attribution as it relates to the creative common guidelines.

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