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Do not use watermarks in photography!

21 March - 2022
by Vincent Moleveld


It is a common misconception watermarks are needed in photography to prevent piracy online, or to make your work appear more professional. Let us explain why this is not the case. And convince you not to use watermarks.

1: A watermark is not the same as a signature

Signing work of course is normal practice in art. Painters and photographers sign their work to guarantee authenticity of their painting or print. The correct place to sign/number a photo is on the white border around the image. This is usual when it concerns a limited edition print, and the signature may add value.

A watermark is applied to an image to protect its use and make it harder to copy (for example: bank notes, stamps). A digital watermark is added to a photo as a warning the image may not be copied or used without your approval.

2: A watermark does not always prevent theft

There is a lot of research into creating (near) invisible watermarks for online use that are hard to remove. Unfortunately, it is often easy to remove a watermark in a few clicks, and small watermarks on the edge of a photo can be cut off by cropping the image. In other words: a simple watermark does not protect against misuse of your photo. Only a full-image watermark does, the type stock photo companies use.


3: A watermark does not make your work appear more professional

It is sometimes thought a watermark will make you look more professional as a photographer. But a watermark distracts from your work. Or worse: a watermark may prevent magazines, blogs or social media channels to feature or share your work. A disruptive watermark may clash with their house style, or they simply do not wish to invest time removing the watermark and will just ignore your work. Do not create this obstacle. The only way to make your work look professional is to create high-quality work!


4: Other disadvantages of using watermarks

‘Home made’ watermarks are often not the best. The font may be hard to read, the lettering too small or the logo is obscure. This does not help your work, and does not guarantee your name being mentioned as it should be done in credits: in the caption or post, with a link to your website.

With your work evolving, you might consider a new logo/watermark. To not create confusion about your brand, you would have to replace all watermarks on your previous images with your new watermarks. Think about the work!



So, no watermarks please. They do not make your work look more professional, and they do not always prevent online theft.

Of course, you want to protect your work. There are other ways to keep an eye on how your photos are used, and whether this is in accordance with copyright. For instance, the following services can track down images: Google Image Search (free), Digimarc (paid), and ImageRaider (free and paid options).

Related: How to photograph your artwork?