How to Protect Images With a Watermarked Photo – Everything You Need to Know!

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How to Protect Images with a Watermarked Photo – Everything You Need to Know!

Spend any time these days on social media sites or in a search engine looking at images, and you will undoubtedly see watermarked photos.  Have you wondered what a watermark is and if, when, and why you should watermark your photos?  It’s a valid question in today’s digital and social media-driven culture.  In this post, we will talk about how to create and use a watermark to protect images online. 

What are Watermarked Photos Anyway?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s start with the basics.  A watermark is a small, personalized design.  Sometimes a watermark uses a logo or a name over the top or near the edge of an image.  Most often, the text or logo is created as a translucent screen so you can see details of the photo through it.

WATERMARK didn’t make my list of 10 Need to Know Terms for the Beginner, but you should check it out for the ten words that did!!!

Portrait-Photographer-Holland-Michigan-Lexi-Arthur
A photo with a watermark in the lower right corner

Watermarks for Photos – The Great Debate

You will find photographers who stand firmly on either side of this debate.  Ultimately it is your choice as the artist.  And isn’t that part of the fun of being your photography boss?  You get to make all the fun decisions!  There are compelling reasons to watermark occasionally, and there are also reasons to avoid it.

Image Stealing… It’s a real thing

A watermark may (or may not) reduce the likelihood that someone will use your image without your permission.  Some folks are well-intentioned and/or unaware of copyright infringement laws in the best-case scenario.  If your image gets used without your knowledge and your watermark stays intact, then at least those viewing it will have an opportunity to see from where the image came and may even look up your info, providing potential new business for you.

On the flip side, some may want to use your image and specifically wish to take credit or at the least give you no credit for your work, which is called “copyright infringement.”  You can find a formal definition HERE.  A user can edit or crop out your watermark and post your photo wherever they’d like.  Copyright infringement is especially simple if you choose to place your watermark in a small corner or an area of the image with minimal detail.  Several apps readily available will do just that with merely a few quick clicks.

An alternative here is to place a large logo or print directly over the entire photo, making it less likely (but not impossible) for someone to alter the image and remove the mark.  This technique can be used for image proofs, and you will remove it before the final delivery to a client.  However, that doesn’t come without drawbacks since a giant watermark can distract a client when viewing proofs.

“Locks only keep the honest people out”

If your main reason for watermarking is image protection, there are better ways.  As my dad always said about locking your car, “locks only keep the honest people out.”  We can say the same thing regarding adding watermarks.  If someone wants to steal your image, that little mark isn’t going to prevent image theft.  Image theft is a very real thing today, and watermarked photos are still subject to being stolen.  Someone who wants to use your photo for online image theft can right click images, choose “save image” and use that image wherever they would like – on social media websites, blogs, or even in printed materials.  Stolen images are everywhere.

Branding and Marketing

If you are shooting professionally, you have worked hard to brand yourself with a name and a logo.  When your images are used online, either with or without your permission or knowledge, then a well-placed and clear watermark that includes your logo can point viewers directly back to your website, thus pointing clients your way!  Win!!!

On the flip side, if your watermark is small and not readable or different from your name or logo, then it may only serve as a distraction from the beautiful image you’ve created.  The solution here is simple.  If you choose to process your photos using a watermark, make it clear and recognizable.

Is a Photography Watermark The Mark of a Professional?

Some believe that only professionals watermark photos these days.  In today’s world of high-quality DSLR photography, it is easy to buy a “fancy” camera and take a few photos of friends and call yourself a Pro.  It is also relatively simple to place a watermark on your image and give the impression of being a pro.  Plenty of apps are available that will quickly and easily add a watermark.

However, a professional requires much more than an expensive camera and a watermark.  If that wasn’t true, then I could go out and buy a costly oven and put on one of those fancy white chef’s hats and call myself a professional cook.  It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  The truth is that a real professional takes hundreds, if not thousands of hours studying their craft and perfecting their techniques.  In the many photography forums I belong to online, I have seen plenty of debates about what makes a pro.  THIS ARTICLE from Digital Photography School does a great job breaking it down.

But I digress.  My point here is simple.  If you want to look like a pro, you don’t need to rely on a watermark.  You DO need to work hard on honing your skill so that your work stands on its own.  Here’s a perfect example.  Which do you consider a pro photo?  Does watermarking photographs make a difference?  Which photographer would you choose to hire?

Reba with watermark pre-SPS
This photo was taken with a Canon DSLR several years ago before hundreds of hours of specialized photography training
Reba with watermark after SPS
Same dog several years later as a professional

If you are still shooting with your DSLR or Mirrorless on the Auto mode, then now is the perfect time to start shooting in manual.  I cover the basics in  Your Ultimate Guide to Shooting in Manual Mode

If you’ve mastered manual mode, but haven’t begun processing your photos after the shoot, now is the time!  You can peek at what a difference editing can make in The Power of Editing – Taking A Photo from Average to Astounding!

Let’s Talk Composition

I touched on it a minute ago, but let’s talk a little more about how a photo watermark affects the composition of your image.  If you’ve worked hard to get your shot lined up exactly how you want and spent precious time in post-processing, I’m guessing you’re pretty proud of your photo, and you want the viewer to see your work as it stands.  It only makes sense then that slapping a big ole watermark across the center of your masterpiece will take away from the viewing experience.  If you are looking to identify your photo for framing and sale, you can choose to sign and date your photo along an edge, preferably on the matte or on a thin border surrounding the image.  In addition to identifying your work, a signature will increase its value when sold.

So, after all of those pros and cons, you can see that there’s not a simple answer.  Again – you’ll find arguments for both sides. 

Which Team are You on?

Team NO WAY! No Photography Watermark for me!

If you are NOT absolutely sold on a photographer watermark (or want to choose to use one sometimes, but not every time), there are alternate ways to identify your photos when used online.  First, you will want to add your copyright info into your photo’s metadata.  This metadata is called EXIF data, which stands for Exchangeable Image File Format. Adding info is easily done in ADOBE LIGHTROOM when you import your photos.  Metadata is information embedded into the digital file’s code and never leaves it.  If you find yourself in a serious battle over a stolen image, this will be a life-saver!

metadata upon import
When importing photos, look to the right of the screen and use the “Apply During Import” function.

If you are using your photos in a blog, like I am, you can choose to disable right click options in your posts.  Of course, you must know that there are ways around this, too. A clever image thief will be able to screenshot or snip a clip of your image.  See?  Dad was right.  Locks only keep the honest people out.  If someone wants to use your image badly enough, they will find a way around your attempts to keep your content safe.  I prefer not to disable right click on my blog because if someone wants to steal my image, then at least I know the EXIF data will contain my copyright information.

If you want to know where your images are being used without your consent, you can run a reverse image search on GOOGLE or TinEye.com for free.  Now you get to decide if you want to follow up with those who may be using your images without your permission.

Team YES!  I will watermark my photos!

When you opt to watermark a photo, here are a few guidelines to follow when creating yours.

First, remember KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid (or Silly if you prefer the more PC version).  Stay away from fancy, unreadable fonts and fancy graphics.  Choose a basic monochromatic image that works in black or white translucency.  Be sure and use your unique name or an easily recognizable symbol, which will make it easy for a viewer to do a quick image search and find your website or Facebook page.

How to create your Watermark

Finally, let’s talk about how to create a watermark for photos.  LIGHTROOM makes it simple with a feature that allows you to place your watermark on photos as you export them.

First, right-click on your image, then select “export.”

Export Menu

When the menu opens, scroll down to the watermark section and click on the drop-down menu.  From that menu, choose “Edit Watermark.”  You can see that I have experimented with many variations of my watermark.

watermark drop down

You’re Almost There!

At this point, you will have all of the options you need to create your watermark.  First, select “Graphic” on the top-right if using a graphic.  Next, click on “choose image” and upload it here.  Remember that your image logo file will need to have a transparent background.  These files are usually PNG format rather than JPG.  If you don’t have one with a transparent background, it will end up with a box around it and look like a sticker.

If you prefer a basic, simple copyright mark, you can choose “Text” on top, then type any words you choose into the box beneath the photo.  The Text Options section allows you to select your text’s font, size, and color.

As you scroll down the menu, you will find the option to adjust the opacity.  The anchor point tells the logo where to appear on the photo.  Now is the time to go ahead and slide the sliders and click the buttons to see your result.  The preview will show on the image you are exporting so you can choose the look you like.

watermark menu bottom

Even a Watermark Needs a Name!

When you have it all set up just the way you like it, click “Save” and give your new watermark a name!  I choose to name mine descriptively to remember what it will look like before deciding.  Remember that first photo with all the listings?  Each one of those is my watermark in a different location or size.  Truthfully, some are old and ready to delete, but it is fun to see where I started and where I am now.

Finally – once you’ve saved this watermark’s format and given it a name, it becomes even simpler to apply your watermark on export.  All you have to do when you’re ready to export is scroll down to the watermark section, and rather than click on edit and go through all of those details again, click on the watermark you created, and it will do the rest of the work.  If you are exporting multiple photos, it will apply that mark to every shot.

watermark drop down

For more photography tips, check out 5 Things Your Camera Won’t Tell You About Aperture Blades and F-Stops

Voila!  Now you know the essentials about watermarking photos!  You can make your own decision about what, why, when, and how to apply your very own watermark on pictures!  Please leave a comment below if you have any questions and be sure and follow me on FACEBOOK and PINTEREST!  I love to connect with my readers, so be sure and show me your latest images!

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2 thoughts on “How to Protect Images With a Watermarked Photo – Everything You Need to Know!”

    • Yay! Thank you so much! I hope she loves my blog as much as I enjoy yours! And no matter how much practice I get as a photographer, there’s always days when I shoot by the 100 to 1 rule. lol! You’re not alone!

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