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Why Would You Do That?

September 04, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

One of the things it seems that I've been stumbling on the internet lately is one of the debates that many photographers face.  "Why do photographers watermark their photos?"  Let me start by saying that not all photographers do, and opinions vary wildly on whether or not we should or not, and if we do, where and how to watermark.  This stems from a couple of factors, especially in this digital age.  I'll start with the anti-watermarking argument and work my way up. 

Typical photo that is unwatermarked. UnmarkedTypical photo that is unwatermarked. Last I knew, my uncle fell into this category.  His opinion, and there are many like him.  Is that it's ugly and detracts from the picture.  If you don't want your picture stolen, it's simple...don't put it on the internet.  (In light of recent events concerning celebrities...I'm half inclined to agree with this.) The overall argument for this line of thinking is that if it's on the internet it will be stolen/used without permission and there's little to nothing that can be done about it.

Yes, everyone knows that you got this photo off of a website, and who the photographer was, but it can also impact the photo negatively. ZOMG WatermarkYes, everyone knows that you got this photo off of a website, and who the photographer was, but it can also impact the photo negatively. The second group is the "You Shall Not Steal!" group.  These are the photographers that will plaster their copyright or "PROOF" over the middle of the photograph as large as it can be so that no one WANTS to steal it, or if someone does it is glaringly obvious.  It's almost like public shaming, except most of the people that share photos like this without crediting the photographer, in my opinion, are generally to apathetic to be shamed by it in the first place. 

This watermark is like the Nike Swoosh...it's there, but it's not right over her face. Oh...that guy!This watermark is like the Nike Swoosh...it's there, but it's not right over her face. The third group is the group I fall into.  We will post our watermark or copyright on a photo, but try to do it in a way that is unobtrusive to the photo itself.  It is a way of branding.  This way people know who the photo came from.  Most of us, and I only claim to speak for myself here, basically feel that photos will be shared, with or without permission.  At least if it's shared someone, somewhere might just care who took the photo and where to find that information.  They may even *gasp* want to purchase another photo. 

Given the number of events that I do that are out of my own pocket and I don't get paid for them, I like the idea of the free advertising.  When I go to the Bike Nights on Thursdays no one is paying me to be there, but if a biker likes the photo of his bike he can share it.  Maybe his buddy needs a photographer for something, I don't know.  Hell, maybe when his buddy sees me taking a pic of his bike he'll be less apt to ask me what I'm doing.  This doesn't just happen with photographs either, think about when you drive down the street in your neighborhood.  If someone has had work on their house done, what do you see?  You see lawn signs for Acme Roofing and Siding, or John Doe & Sons Asphalt company.  It's free advertisement for them.  And you've already paid for their services.  Let's face it, if your mechanic was willing to give you free oil changes and all you had to do was put a bumper sticker on your car with his information, wouldn't you do it?  I would. 

Photos get stolen.  In that the first group of thinkers is absolutely correct.  If it's on the internet, it will get stolen/used without permission.  Putting a brand on it will not stop it, but it will at least let people know where it came from.  Me, I want my logo out there.  I want people to know me and where to find me.


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