Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why You Need to Watermark Online Images

You would think this is common sense.

However, there are still people out there giving away their work and their rights to anyone who knows how to right click or screen capture. Some of it has stemmed from blogs who love publishing work from photographers, but insist on only publishing your images if you're willing to submit them without any logo, branding, or even copyright info on them. They promise crediting your work in the text and with a link, but that doesn't protect your work once it leaves the blog with the click of a reader who loved the photo and wants to store it elsewhere.

Please don't screw yourself over.

You deserve credit for your work! Anytime it appears online in an easy to grab format (flickr, smugmug, blogs, etc.) it really needs, at the very minimum, a reference name for the original creator somewhere on the image. If people go out of their way to crop your info out without your permission, than you have the ability to take action and charge them for the use of your work (especially if you've uploaded and linked to your image on flickr where it states the permission for use as a creative commons or copyright license.) However, if you never attach your name to a photo, than you are unintentionally giving up your online rights to claim that work. You could still take action against someone, however, it would be much more difficult for them to claim they KNOWINGLY did anything wrong if they didn't have a way to get in touch with you to credit the work properly.

- If putting your name into the "I'm feeling lucky" search on Google turns up your website on the first try, than you can totally get away with just your name on your images
- If you have a commmon name, use your website instead, for example © anneruthmann.com
- If you have a common website or business name, use your logo/branding to avoid confusion with other brands or similar website names

There are ways to include copyrights and logos without interrupting a visual aesthetic- it's really not that difficult to find a solution that works for the blogger and for the photographer. It's also GREAT marketing if people love your images so much that they are downloading them to their hard drives or using them on other websites! I'm all about making it easy to share my work, as long as I get credit for the work I've created!! After-all, it's some of the best free marketing available! So, fly free pretty photos, but make sure people have a way to find your creator no matter where you end up.

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook to see her daily adventures and thoughts.


  1. Oh, so true. I recently had a problem with a client who scanned in the pictures taken by me [making it a horrible quality] and claimed that she had the copyright to them because she paid for prints... *sigh* Even our clients still need MORE education about copyrights [I educate mine... or so I thought] and imagine all those people out there who have no understanding of what a copyright is or even care about it...

  2. Thanks for the tips, I'm still on the fence as to whether I want to use watermarks on my images.

  3. Anne, do you have a recommendation as to a type of software or shortcut in PS that would help place a watermark on a batch of images in one (easy) step? I can see why some people get a little complacent about watermarking...it can be tedious. Thanks for this post!

  4. Patricia, I use a transparent PNG file and a plugin in Lightroom 2, or you it is built in in Lightroom 3.

    There are different systems that work best depending on how you work - Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.

    Hope that helps!

  5. Very nice article :) I do watermark some of mine but I may have to think about how I do it. :)


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