Why Professional Photographers Should Not Watermark Their Photos

When we first started  taking pictures professionally, it seemed like one of the natural steps was to come up with a watermark. Nearly everyone does it, right?

The concept of the watermark is simple – put your name/branding on your photos so when people consume those photos they are associating them with your brand/company. The question is, do you want your image–which you captured with an expensive DSLR, edited with expensive equipment, crafted and framed with your distinct eye–to be blemished with a watermark? That’s for you to decide, but for us, the answer is a resounding no. Here are a few reasons why people use watermarks with our reasoning not to use them that follows.

Watermarks make my images appear professional. Well, they will definitely make it feel like you’re being more professional.  Whether they actually make your images appear professional is really ultimately your opinion, but we feel that more than 99% of the photos we see with watermarks do the exact opposite. Here’s a good example.

lin & Jirsa

Cute photo. Establishes a mood. Good use of natural lighting. Well styled. Except, the first thing your eyes are drawn to is the white watermark in the bottom of the photo. This is how most of our brains work. We’re naturally drawn to read text first, no matter where it is on the image, and especially if it’s written left to right. This watermark has sufficiently taken away from the overall experience of viewing the image. That’s sad.

Watermarks help brand my images and bring in new business. This isn’t a complete stretch, but it really depends on how you  want to brand yourself. When we see an image with a watermark it immediately turns us off. That’s bad branding. That doesn’t mean everyone will feel this way, but it’s something to consider. Additionally, most of the photographers we follow, we didn’t find because they had a watermark – we found them because they consistently take quality pictures, and have an interesting style. Do that and the need for a watermark becomes less and less important.

I need a watermark to protect my images from being stolen. Do you actually? It’s hard enough to profit from your own images, the chances of someone else profiting off them is extremely rare. Additionally, it’s quite easy for a graphic designer to remove a watermark without too much trouble. Anyone that really wants to steal your image, still can. If a blogger uses it on his site and you happen to find out, you can shoot them a message to have the photo linked out to your site. Worst case scenario, you gain some new traffic. Best case, you gain traffic and maybe a new client or two. If your image was watermarked, it probably wouldn’t have been used and the traffic never comes.

The decision to use a watermark in photography is a personal one, and there are arguments for using one in certain cases. We do have one (see below), but it’s extremely subtle and we have never used it on a photograph (except for the example below). We use it to sign letters or contracts more than anything.

Watermark in photography

Watermarking seems to be one of those things that photographers started doing and everyone kind of followed suit. But, if you really look at the top notch photographers out there, you don’t know them because of their watermark, you know them because of their photographs.

If you’re still not convinced, there’s always this, “What If Famous Photos Were Ruined By Watermarks” blog post from Gizmodo.