Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's with the watermarks?

A lot of people don't like watermarks. To them, they're just a way of saying to anyone viewing your photo "I don't trust you."  While I can certainly appreciate and understand this viewpoint, watermarks do a few very useful things: 

  1. First, they tell you who owns the rights to the photo (typically the photographer.)  So that's a nice bit of extra advertising, which most of us starving artists need.
  2. Second, watermarks prevent overt theft from people who try to pass on others' work as their own and get paid for it (through licensing, prints, stock, etc.)
  3. Third, watermarks prevent unintentional copyright infringement. Who hasn't looked at a nice photo and said "that'd look great on my blog." (or webpage, social networking page, etc.)  While that person didn't intend to steal, someone else viewing their page might have.  And once it's in their hands, there's no way of telling where the photo will go or who might be reprinting it or selling it.  
Some photographers are happy to let you use one of unwatermarked photos as long as you credit the work (typically captioned under the photo) and get prior written permission (usually email suffices.)  And you must honor the agreed usage - if you have a blog and someone gives you permission to use their photo only on that blog, don't put it on your website, too afterward - unless you ask and get permission again.   

So, the bottom line is, while we photographers trust most people, we do have to protect our photos.  As someone I know says "you gotta keep the honest people honest." 

So that's a little watermark 101.  Fascinating, eh?

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