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Watermarks - A mark that is like a tattoo for a photographer's work

It may sound weird, but it is true! For many of us, our work is apart of us – it becomes who we are. We spend countless hours building up our business, portfolio, name and professional quality level – that when we are asked about watermarks, or people taking our images without our permission – it is no easy say on how to explain the importance of it to us.

This is a topic I have wanted to cover for a long time now, and with many events coming up this year - I thought now is the right time to share on why exactly I use watermarks and why they are required.

The Lowdown...

Watermarks are usually seen by many as big, ugly and distracting “me” logos. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We don’t put them there to ruin an image; but to help in a world where people are used to using peoples’ work in the way the original artist probably did not intend to.Watermarks for professional artists around the globe are used as a simple means of ownership, protection and copyright as well.

Watermarks became popular in the digital age; when stealing artworks of any form became a norm that all of us do without thinking. I myself may forget at times, sharing a photo and not realising who the original owner is - as it had already been re-shared countless times. This is why it is crucial to put an adequate watermark on your work.

Watermarks not only protect us, but the person who is in it too – especially children

The world is a big place, and the internet is far bigger. While watermarks don’t always protect us as they can still be photoshopped to a degree, putting a watermark on an image could protect the person in the image from being published elsewhere without their permission or become a victim of false advertising where another media outlet, photographer or person could falsely claim our images as their own. You may have noticed that I have two different watermark types; one where for community based events where I volunteer for - it is spread across the image at 14 percent opacity – and the other, my portrait work for example, where it is on the mid-based part of the image.

Why have two different watermarks or varying types?

When it comes to portraits I have a contract signed by the client agreeing for me to use the images online for promotional and marketing purposes; it is practically an online portfolio. Since I already have their permission, I use my simple watermark. In addition, unless the person in the image is someone famous - I use a smaller watermark as there seems to be a lower rate of taking that image since it has already been paid for by the client and they have the freedom to share wherever they wish (as long as they follow their contract agreements for use, such as crediting my work publicly and seeking permission prior to publishing in media).

When it comes to community based events, where there is also a high chance of media wanting to be involved or share the story/images - I use a different watermark – it is spread throughout the image, usually accompanied by another logo of the community, business or organisation I am working with – and watered down to a very low visibility to not ruin the image, but also still be visible enough so it would put people off from taking them to use for unauthorised use. This is because for public events, there can be issues surrounding publishing images – and often, if published with a watermark like my other work, it has been stolen, re-used and distributed without my permission or no credit given. I have even had times when my images were credited to a complete other person, with the watermark cropped out – not only making my images seem low quality, but seem like I (who spent much time) never even took them. At times I feel I may seem to other people like a pain, as I make a good deal to do the right thing for others - but it needs to be really understood that it is time, skill, effort and of course rights we are dealing with and sharing to the world.

Some beautiful children of the Greek Orthodox School of Darwin; who I loved photographing in March 2021

Having a larger watermark enables me to have some form of control over my work, but to also have a little more peace of mind that newspapers for example would likely have to publish the whole image with my logo, or contact me to have a say in what and if I want the image/s published. There may be parents, or people out there who don’t mind their children being on Facebook to share with their family – but do not wish for their child to be published in the paper, magazine or otherwise. This enables us (the community/business/organisation and myself) to protect this to a degree, and keep a little respect there for what is on our social media pages or websites – in simple terms, it helps keep people honest. The images have one origin when shared with the logo, meaning once it is shared - the logo will always be there.

I sometimes get asked the golden question, now thankfully less than before, "why don't you just take them (the watermarks) off, they are for everyone to see?"

You see, as much as I do love my work and spreading awareness - I have spent countless hours, weeks, months, years on developing myself, my business and my style. I spend a lot of time before events and sessions preparing my equipment, then taking the photographs, and then the editing, uploading and backing up of the images - which may seem easy, but it can take anywhere between 6 and 12 hours to edit a full day event depending on the conditions and type of event photographed (and to be honest, it kills your back!). I sometimes wish I did not have to go to the effort to even put a watermark; but the times I did give this a miss - I regretted it.

As an AIPP Accredited Photographer, I have a quality of work to uphold - and in addition, my work is mine and I would not want to get mixed up with anyone else's - vice versa. At times, I have photographed at events where people have seen other images and confused it with my own work. This may give a false representation of the quality of my work, which is something I have worked very hard to maintain as a photographer; and it could potentially lose clients if they did mistake my work quality too.

Watermarked images may often seem like a big promotional effort, but they really aren’t – it is an attempt to protect us, you and put off unauthorised publishing. There is a huge list of reasons why it is important for us to use watermarks - but I will leave the rest to your imagination!

Remember to always credit the original artist if known :)

Until next time,


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