Reflections on a watermark

(Focal length 70mm, Shutter: 1/1500, Aperture: f8)

I have generally not used watermarks on my photos. I’ve never been entirely keen on how they look and didn’t really think that anyone would bother nabbing any of my shots for use elsewhere.

I was wrong on this second account.

People have rather liberally filched my photos from my website. A lot. Without attributing them to me or linking back to me in some way. And while I’m a nice person, this gets my back up just a tad.

Now truthfully, I’m pretty okay with people using my photos and directly linking back to my Flickr account or website, since by linking to me, they are effectively crediting me.

I’m also pretty laid-back about groups like charities using my shots. Anytime a not-for-profit group emails, asking permission to use one of my dog photos (for instance, for an SPCA fundraiser), I generally say yes and send them a nice high-res copy. These shots get a lot of requests and usage that way:

Whadda ya mean I'm in trouble?
Whadda ya mean I'm in trouble?
We're out of food!?!?!?!
We're out of food!?!?!?!

And I’m good with that. Great, even. When local community groups or small-scale tourist-generating community agencies come a-knockin’, I’m generally more than happy for them to use my photos for credit. The groups that I’ve dealt with have been really good about that, for the most part.

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

-attributed to Napolean Bonaparte

Incompetence. Or laziness. Mostly the latter, I believe, although the two are bedmates.

There have been a few times when my photos were used elsewhere, without credit, and without the user linking to me in any way. I’ve contacted a few and gotten everything from a profuse apology with the image properly credited and a box full of gifts (true story – I’ll tell you sometime. It ends well for everyone.) to no response at all.

Since I really haven’t the time or energy to track every single usage of my work down and since I choose to believe that people aren’t intrinsically evil, just often fundamentally lazy, oblivious to manners when it comes to strangers, and often lacking in the knowledge of Internet etiquette or coding, I’m stamping photos from here on in with my website address.

I know that some feel it detracts from the look of the photo. To that end, I’m making the watermark as unobtrusive as possible.

I also know that it’s perfectly possible for someone to obliterate the watermark digitally or crop the photo. I’m not an idiot. This won’t stop criminals from stealing my work (gosh, does that ever sound romantic, eh?).

What it will do is compensate for those who simply don’t know how to add captions to blog posts or who somehow download my photo to their hard-drive and can’t remember where it came from and then reuse it willy-nilly.

And I still have clean copies available for myself or for groups who might want to use them, with permission, of course.

Thoughts? Opinions?


5 Comments Add yours

  1. photobella says:

    I’ve come to believe that watermarks are a necessary step when you post images online. I also use Photoshop to embed my info into each file (although I’m still not sure how that works at all.) But I’m sure that if someone wanted to take an image neither the watermark or the file info would be much of a deterrent. It is just a reminder that the rights to the use of the photo aren’t free for the taking. It really is stealing and it shouldn’t be done but the internet makes every so darned accessible.

    1. VickyTH says:

      Yeah, it still really comes down to how much work you’re willing to do, tracking folks down and confronting them. I have no trouble with confronting them, but I am reluctant to devote time to hunting down usurpers of my copyright. You’re right about the necessity thing, though, especially if you use something like Flickr with creative commons licensing or are using photos in blog posts. People can just slurp them right up. It seems to me to be the lesser of two evils; either I don’t use watermarks and don’t share anything with anyone or I use the watermarks and let folks see what I do.

  2. Jean says:

    I’ve come to feel that watermarks are essential — I also avoid posting images at anything other than low resolution. I know that most people use images out of ignorance, unaware that they’re doing anything wrong, but that copyright reminder is a good way of making sure that the credit for those beautiful images goes to you and not to anyone else.

  3. daphot75 says:

    I totally agree with you. It’s so disappointing when I find my images on the web without credit or link.

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