Watermark Photography — Essential Guide

Watermark photography looks irritating but to be honest, it is quite essential in this day and age when digital theft is on the rise. Imagine you are scrolling through Google, hoping to find some images to complement an upcoming project. Then, you find the perfect photograph, but there’s a problem. There’s a huge clump of writing in the corner that is virtually unavoidable if you want to use the photo. Or maybe the writing is in the smack-dab center of the pictures. Or, better yet, the words make a fun little pattern all throughout the photograph, making it unusable.

What you have encountered at least once in your life if you have ever tried to use public photographs is a watermark. Watermarks can come in many shapes and sizes. A watermark can appear as just someone’s name. It can also come in the form of a transparent picture that is unique to the photographer or artist. No matter what it looks like, that transparent thing that is taking up a good amount of space on your photograph is defined as a watermark.

There are many different reasons why a photographer may choose to watermark his or her photos. Whatever the reason, it is important to understand the significance of watermarks.

What is Watermarking?

Just as painters usually put their signatures in the corner of their canvases as the final touch, photographers utilize a watermark to represent their signature on their digital work. As mentioned before, watermarks can come in various shapes, sizes, and designs, but every watermark has distinct characteristics.

Before watermarks were created and the digital world was a mere idea, organizations and publications used to print stamps on the back of different images in order to identify the sources of the images. Some people even resorted to using embossing seals that left raised marks on their prints.

There have been versions of watermark photography before where a commercial photographer would send watermarked proofs to a client. Watermarked proofs are prints that are marked with the word “PROOF”, and they are to be weeded through and selected by the client for their final prints. The proof marks were always small enough to see the image still, but the fact that they had the word “PROOF” written all over it made people want to buy the actual images instead.

Watermark photography technically originated in the art of papermaking, but when it comes to photography, a watermark is a superimposed logo, image, or text that is placed over a photograph. This is usually used as a method of identification for the image’s creator. So, however it may look, a watermark is supposed to symbolize a sort of signature. Painters can easily sign their names, so why can’t photographers take the liberty to create their own identifier for the world?

The History of Watermarking

Watermarking did not just start with the introduction of Web 2.0 but rather has a long history that traces back all the way to the early 19th century. When paper was created by hand, it was typical for a watermark to be produced with a thin wire that was shaped to form a certain design or letters. It was then sewn into the mold that they would use to make the actual paper.

Because of this, if you were to hold a sheet of paper up to the light back then, the watermark could be identified and read. It was used to identify the maker of the paper or the paper broker in some cases. Similar to how it is used now, a watermark was quintessential in identifying the maker.

Thomas Gravell came to the scene in 1975 after discovering a means of inexpensively and accurately reproducing watermarks. After his discovery, he became an authority on American varieties. He spent a majority of the last part of his life finding, identifying, and reproducing a large amount of early American watermarks. These watermarks were for several esteemed institutions.

In 1979, a man by the name of George Miller published a catalog along with Gravell called American Watermarks, 1690-1835. This catalog contained 700 illustrations, and it became the main source of information when it came to watermarks.

It wasn’t until 1995 when two Virginia Tech professors created an online, searchable database of up to 7,000 different images from the Gravell Watermark collection. This was the first time you could search for images that had visible watermarks on them.

Watermark Protection

One of the main reasons people utilize watermarks for their creations is to have that piece of work be watermark-protected. In contemporary times, original digital content is constantly at risk of suffering from a variety of issues such as infringement of copyrights and not enough artistic protection. Copyright protection and data piracy have both become serious issues.

One of the solutions to these problems is digital watermarking. It is a technique where you insert data, which is referred to as a watermark or a label, into a multimedia file. The embedding is performed in a way where it can be extracted or detected by the owner. This gives the owner the power and resources to make necessary assertions about modifications that are illegal.

Illegal modifications refer to any modifications done on the content that is not approved by the owner. When discussing watermark photography, it is important to consider the legal protection it gives. If someone were to illegally use your watermarked image without written permission, he or she would be directly infringing on the copyright of that image.

Breaking the law this way can result in multiple fines, court attendance, and even jail time. This is all for using an image without permission from the owner! Watermark protection guarantees that the creator of an image is rightly paid his or her dues before anyone else decides to use the image. The concept is a product of stricter digital regulations that allow people to create, share, and market their art without having to worry about someone stealing it.

Watermark Software

If you have an interest in creating your own watermark, there are a few crucial things you have to take into consideration first. Watermark software is essentially a computer program that does the job for you. It places watermarks over your photos so that you do not have to do it manually. Depending on the software you choose, you can process photos individually or in a batch at a rapid speed.

Watermark software also gives you the reign to create your own watermark to individualize your brand or business. Whether you are looking to create a logo, an image, or text, software gives you the ability to customize, edit, and control where your watermark goes. You can opt for a basic design or something more intricate as long as you have software to do so.

A good watermark program will allow you more tools and features that can bump your graphic up to the next level. Here, you will be able to add effects like shadowing or background, and change the opacity to how you desire. It will also be a place where you can alter the size and position.

A few popular choices for watermark photography software are Photoshop, Visual Watermark, and Watermarkly. Photoshop is priced at $699, but if you choose this option, you will also be introduced to a world of editing tools and features unlike any other. Visual Watermark is priced at a much more reasonable $19.95, and Watermarkly is also $19.95 if bought online.

You can always watermark your pictures for free, but most photographers opt for a convenient app or program where they can focus all their work in one place. When choosing a place to create your watermark, it is important to consider exactly what you are looking to create. If you do not mind something simple, a free app or program may be the choice for you. If you are looking to grow your brand or business, purchasing Photoshop may bring you more gain in the future.

Creating a Watermark

To make your own watermark, all you need is an idea for a design, the necessary tools, and a desire to learn. To give you an example of the process of creating a watermark, here is a step-by-step guide using the free Lightroom app, which is available on an iPhone or any mobile device.

  1. Download Lightroom from the app store or from Google Play.
  2. Navigate to the settings icon located in the upper right-hand corner.
  3. Click on Watermarking.
  4. In the text box, type whatever text that you want to use for your watermark.
  5. From here, you can tap anywhere on the photo the app has provided as an example to decide where you want to add your watermark on your own photo.
  6. Utilizing the sliders at the bottom of the screen, you can make the text larger or smaller and more or less opaque.
  7. To confirm the usage of your watermark in a photo, simply tap the share icon when you are ready.
  8. Hit Export as, More Options, and Include Watermark.

Easy as pie, right? Most apps and programs that you can use for watermarking are this easy to navigate since watermarking photography has become such a prominent part of sharing images online. Now, we will guide you through using another app called Watermark Photo, which is also free, to create a bulk watermark.

  1. Download Watermark Photo.
  2. Click on Watermark Multiple Photos from the home screen.
  3. You will be redirected to your photo library where you can select the images that you want to watermark.
  4. Hit done.
  5. Now, choose from any of the custom stickers, imported logos, text, or signature options to create your specialized watermark.
  6. Tap on the checkmark once you have finished, and you will find that your photos will automatically save to your photo library.

Whether you want to create your own watermark or use the features from a specific app, it is not a difficult process. Once you have done it once or twice, it will probably be the easier part of your editing routine.

Using Watermarks

Although you may only be familiar with watermarks because they tend to invade pictures that you want to use, there are actually many uses of watermarks. Digital watermarking is the most well-known method, but it is important to remember that watermarking began as a manual task.

Watermarks are also used in print. They are best known for being utilized in signing banknotes, but you can also find them frequently used in the marking of important documents. Things like passports, stamps, and envelopes will usually have a watermark to prevent counterfeiting, but it is also used for identification purposes.

When it comes to digital works, a watermark typically shows up as a semi transparent stamp that can be superimposed onto documents as well, though they are typically used to watermark photos and videos to discourage online misuse and stealth. Photographers and graphic designers will use watermarks the most in their work to display their information and how to contact them.

Although they are used practically everywhere, not many people are aware of the legal backings of a watermark. If someone were to illegally remove the watermark from your photo, he or she can be fined an amount between $2,500 and $25,000. This is in addition to attorneys’ fees and damages caused by the infringement.

Watermarking Debates

As of late, many photographers and artists have been debating the use of watermarks and their importance. The discussion about whether watermarking is worth it or not has been ongoing ever since terms like SEO-friendly and artist individuality came into the conversation.

The reason why photographers would be encouraged to create a watermark for their work is to claim their images, market themselves, and prevent theft and misuse. Because of the evolution of watermarking, people have claimed that watermarking encourages a competitive, money-hungry, and auction-based stench to digital art. It is true that some disregard the initial purposes of watermarking to propel their work to the tops of Google searches, but there is still authenticity involved.

A few reasons why you should want to watermark your photos is because it encourages print sales, it prevents online theft, it maintains credit every time it is shared or reproduced, it reinforces the photographer’s studio or brand, and it prevents theft of production files.

Firstly, before digital cameras and the exponential rise of the internet, photographers had to present proofs to their clients before finalizing their images. The debate stems from the fact that with the introduction of digital content, a client would be unable to properly steal a photographer’s best work. This means that print files are typically four times as large as the files that they share online. If a client were to illegally print offline, they would most likely be met with only 5% of the original image quality. This defeats the purpose of a watermark since stealing the original photo would be impossible to do.

Another debate over watermarking comes from the fact that watermarking does not grant complete ownership of an image. Just because you post your photo on a public forum with a watermark does not mean that some people would not take it as an invitation to steal your content. On the other hand, if you were to post without the watermark, you could still file a DMCA complaint and pursue legal action if you find that someone has stolen it.

Anti-watermarkers also believe that they can be ugly and distracting, so they would prefer a client to appreciate their work, share it, and leave some nice reviews. For some photographers, exposure is the most important aspect of digital content, which is why watermarking seems excessive and unnecessary if your goal is to share your work.

The debates over the effectiveness of watermarking are ongoing and have been ever since their creation. It all comes down to the individual photographer and if he or she values the advantages of watermarking over the disadvantages.

Advantages of Watermarking

There are many advantages to watermarking your photography or art, and some would argue that it is the only way to officially claim your work. Not only does it help identify your work, but watermarking photography also ensures that you have secured your work. About 78% of photographers have claimed that their photos were stolen at one point.

Another advantage is that if someone does decide to steal a watermarked photo of yours, you can legally take him or her to court to receive payment or justice for the crime. Even if you have discovered that someone has removed your watermark to replace it with his or her own, you have the power and ability to bring the legal system into it to get your dues.

For many photographers, watermarking means that they can consistently share their contact information with anyone who falls upon their content. Some like to include their name, logo, and website address so that if anyone wants to use their services, it is readily available with every photo. This is definitely a win-win.

Watermarking photography is also a method of marketing in a way. Because you are sharing your photos online, they are already available for any internet user to see and spread. Any photographer or artist would claim that this is not enough. That’s where the watermark comes into play. It is beneficial when viewers can actually recall the name of the photographer or artist and where to find that person.

Lastly, watermarks also protect your pictures from misuse. For example, if you wanted to express something personal and specific with your photograph, a watermark keeps it from being used in the wrong spaces by the wrong people. Whether you intend to make an impact or speak on a particular social issue, you can watermark it to make sure that you know exactly where and how it will be used by interested people.

Although some people may claim that the advantages of watermarking far supersede the disadvantages, there are a few notable debates when it comes to watermarking photography.

Disadvantages of Watermarking

As much as watermarking photography can come in handy, there are a few disadvantages that keep people hesitant to do so. One thing that many people can agree on about whether they watermark their content or not is that it is another task that you have to do in your editing process. Although it is quite simple to do so, it takes up some time that some people may consider a waste.

This is especially true for people who do not have already-made watermarks. Those without a watermark software, understanding of how to do it, and an impatience to do so will often cite watermarking as a disadvantage of digital content.

Another disadvantage is that watermarking an image does not necessarily guarantee that it will not get stolen or altered to some capacity. As the technological world grows, so does the expertise when it comes to virtually scamming people. There is always a risk involved when you decide to put your works online, but some people believe that watermarking should completely eradicate this risk. If someone is savvy enough to remove your watermark or use your image without your knowledge, they are proving the naysayers correct.

Another big concern is that watermarks are a waste of time due to the fact that there is specialized software that can remove any watermark from anywhere. Not many people attempt to do this illegal act, but it is always a possibility. This takes away from the core purpose of watermarks and their functionality. Luckily, deleting a watermark is also illegal, so if you wanted to, you could take the perpetrator to court.

In Conclusion

There are many different reasons why a photographer or artist can choose to watermark his or her work. Whether it be artistic license, a desire to actually profit from his or her work, or some other reason, it is important to know the significance of a watermark.

As the technological world grows faster and larger, claiming your work in a sea of artists can prove crucial to your career. But there are several reasons why people are deciding to stop watermarking their photography and going the traditional route. All in all, wherever the future takes us, watermarks essentially last forever.

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