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Should You Watermark Your Photos?

Vijith Menon Oct 26, 2020
Downloading images is pretty much a Google search away, often with the original owners of the photos not getting their due. We'll tell you the purpose of watermarking your photos, which will protect your property from copyright infringement.


Playboy used an invisible watermark in its magazines to detect if its material was posted illegally on a website.
Photographs capture the beauty and essence of the moment in a single click. It can be the sun hitting the cobwebs of a spider's home and glistening in the light, or the smile of joy on the face of a happy child. Artist/photographers are proud to show off their work so as to attract interested buyers.
With the help of photo-sharing sites, it's easy to display your work to a mass audience. If it's easy to upload your photos, it shouldn't come as a surprise if your hard work has been displayed on some other site too, or that millions of users have saved it as their desktop wallpaper without giving due credit to the photographer, which is you.
Since many artists like to sign their work as proof of their originality, some others disagree that this would dissuade the viewer from clicking on it and thus reduce the exposure. We try to figure out the answer to this conundrum by answering the question - should you watermark your photos?

What is a Digital Watermark?

A watermark is a pattern or image hidden behind an image as a means to identify the owner of the photograph. This helps in settling any disputes in a court of law regarding the owner of the photograph. Since the Internet allows far more exposure, it's acceptable to embed a digital watermark in your photo.
The term 'digital watermark' was coined in 1992 by Andrew Tirkel and Charles Osborne. Two types of digital watermarking exist - visible ones that are displayed on every photograph, and invisible ones that are detected using a special method. Digital watermarking helps in copyright protection and hidden communication.
But amateur photographers who have been wronged tend to go overboard with this. Instead of subtly placing it on a photograph, they paste it all over. The right thing to do would be signing your name alongside a copyright symbol. It's even better to include your name in the meta data of the photograph to further cement your ownership over the image.

Requirements of a Watermark

● The watermark should be difficult to remove, and blend in easily with the original image.
● It should be robust to survive any image modification software.
● It should be legible enough to stand as evidence in a court of law.
● It should be small and subtle enough to provide the right information about the photographer.

Importance of Watermarking Photos

● Watermarking images with the copyright symbol (©) helps protect the owner of the photograph against copyright infringement.
● Leaving a watermark helps create a brand name, which is vital for marketing.
● It serves as a calling card for people interested in your work, and lets you get wider exposure.
● A watermark helps you get credit on photo-sharing websites.
● If the image is used anywhere else without your permission, you can trace such cases.

Cons of a Watermark

● A watermark can be distracting enough to discourage your viewer from downloading or clicking on it.
● If displayed in a small corner, some people hardly bother about it, and download the image anyway.
● It can send out the wrong message to the average user, signifying the photographer's name is more important than the subject.
To combat the illegal downloads of your photos, you can register it on websites that are part of the Digital Watermarking Alliance. They can provide you with software to better protect your images. Watermarking has also been used in e-books and digital audio to battle online piracy.
As we have seen, there are many pros and cons concerning the use of watermarks, and you should take them into consideration before deciding what to do to your collection of photos.