4 Reasons Why Watermarks Are Useless

If you’re thinking of watermarking your images, think again. Here’s 4 reasons why I think watermarks are useless. Keep reading to learn more.

So many novice photographers are interested in watermarking their images. I get it, I used to do it. We all want some sort of recognition for our work, as well as some protection.

However, over time and talking to other photographers I came to realize they are simply useless. Why are they useless? Well, there are four simple reasons.

They Get in the Way

If you want your images to shine in all their glory, they should be shown whole. However, watermarks usually get in the way, obstructing the view to some details in the image.

Watermark Across the Image

Those details may be secondary, but they are a part of the image so they shouldn’t be covered. Besides, the watermark may compete for your viewers attention. What do you want your audience to see? Your photograph or your watermark?

Watermark in the Corner

They are Easy to Remove

Photoshop and other photo editing tools have improved so much lately in their ability to “remove unwanted objects”, that nowadays it’s fairly easy to remove a watermark from an image and then reuse it for any other purpose. So much for protecting your images.

Affinity Photo’s Inpainting Brush

Can’t Be Tracked for “Exposure”

Many novice photographers do TFD (time for downloads) work, in essence doing some sort of exchange of services with models, makeup artists, designers, etc. It’s a common practice that gives you experience. Gaining experience is great, but these exchanges are usually done for “exposure”; you know, the promise of promoting the photographer’s work in the model, MUA, or designer’s social media. That’s why many photographers deliver their exchange work with a watermark.

Whether this is fair or not is up for debate but, in practical terms, the watermark itself cannot be tracked to determine if the “exposure” was effective. What can be tracked are mentions and tags.

Social Media Metrics – Facebook
Social Media Metrics – Instagram

You could deliver your work without watermark and ensure that you are mentioned every time the images are used in social media. Social media mentions can be tracked if you use the business tools that Facebook, Instagram and others provide, and these tools give you objective data to measure your images’ exposure.

Does Not Protect Your Work

Finally, I’ve heard so many times that the watermark or metadat is a way to protect your copyright. Please, do me a favor and ask an Intellectual Property lawyer. They will most likely tell you: No, watermarks do not give you any protection.

The way to protect your work and provide a legal basis for any copyright dispute is to register your images. Where? It depends on your country, but in the US you do it in the US Copyright Office, in Mexico with the Instituto Nacional del Derechos de Autor, in Chile with the Departamento de Derechos Intelectuales, in the UK with the Intellectual Property Office.

In the end, it’s up to you to watermark your images. Just be aware that watermarks don’t provide any protection, are easy to remove, they get in the way of your work and they don’t provide any measure of exposure. That’s why I think watermarks are useless.

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  1. I have mixed feelings about watermarks… but I suggest its use.
    “They Get in the Way” – that’s precisely the point. Who really wants to see and use/pay for a good work makes contact.
    “They are Easy to Remove”. Yes, but between similar images with watermark and without, who wants to use it clearly goes the easy way.
    “Can’t Be Tracked for “Exposure””. Yes, watermarks aren’t searcheable, but they can lead to a contact if they’re more than a small name on the corner.
    “Does Not Protect Your Work”. That really depends on the country. In some countries, the signature on an image is the only way to get an abuse punished when discovered.

    A watermark protects the image by informing people that you are indeed the owner of that image, that you are a professional and that you intend to protect your image. It makes making the images less appealing to thieves.
    It is your brand. Imagery is your product. Brand everything! Branding helps build recognition. Recognition leads to more jobs (as long as your work is good).
    When an image is stolen your property still markets for you (as long as the watermark is not cropped).
    So… I use it, but I guess it’s just a matter of oppinion 🙂

    1. Thanks for your insights! I guess that, in the end, it’s up to the photographer to watermark his/her images or not. I just don’t see value in it anymore 🙂

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