The subject I am talking about in this article starts with a funny Facebook post. Someone recently posted on Facebook, in Shona though but I will put it in English. She posted, “Photographers, why do you put watermarks of your brand name or logo on pictures of me I would have paid in for in full?” There were of course several responses. One of them read, “My former employer once sent me to get her a customized cap for her husband as his birthday was coming up. So after writing the custom message, do not these dudes put their label on the cap too? She fumed” This all sounds hilarious but I thought I should discuss it because there are fundamental issues to explore here.

Why Photographers Watermark Their Images

There are several valid reasons why photographers watermark their images. One of them is making it easy for prospective clients to identify their brand. If pictures are nicely done and someone sees them if the watermark is there it is easy to identify the brand. The other reason is also about protecting one’s work. Essentially a photographer would not want someone else to take credit for work they did not do. Some can also use a watermark as a deterrent for no one else to print out the pictures. If someone removes the watermark, that reduces its original quality in the process. Thus the photographer would want to ensure it is only them that get to print them if the client wants that. That of course means extra income. In summary, the 3 core reasons why photographers watermark photos are marketing the brand, preventing incidents of unauthorized theft or duplication, and ensuring credit are attributed to the rightful person.

A Critical Look At The Above – There Are Varying Opinions

Arguments For Are Good Only In Theory

Watermarking a photo does seem to protect against the above-mentioned issues but not so much. A watermark can be easily removed in the majority of cases. There are so many mobile apps, even in-built mobile phone photo editing features one can use to remove watermarks. If the watermark is placed near the edge-most parts of the photo can simply be cropped out. So the arguments for watermarking might just be at best theoretical and thus irrelevant. In fact, there is roughly a balanced distribution of photographers for and against watermarking photos.

Some so many professional photographers used to watermark but shifted their course later. They did this premised on how that the arguments for are not as valid. They also noticed that most clients find the watermarks intrusive and unpleasant on the visual integrity of the photos. This is actually true because many people crop out the watermarks. This brings me to another important talking point. Clients might not mind if you find less intrusive ways of watermarking the photos. An appropriate scenario would be to place a watermark that is not so obvious but strategically noticeable too. If you can strike that balance clients might not mind you putting watermarks. It is about the size, nature, and positioning of the watermark.

Who Is The Actual Copyright Owner?

This must be clearly understood because it is actually contextual. If a photographer is taking unsolicited photos (ethical ones of course), they are the copyright owner. For example, a photographer can take pictures of food, landscapes and the like. The arguments for watermarking here will strongly apply. I recall several incidents where photographers would discover their images were being used for commercial purposes without their consent. Thus watermarking would not only be a safeguard but also a potential avenue for getting paid in the event someone wants to use their photos.

However, it becomes a different scenario if they are solicited photos. I am referring to when clients approach a photographer for photoshoots. In this case, the copyright owner is actually the client given the sensitive nature of personal photos. If the photographer were to want to use them for other purposes, they would have to seek the consent of the client. This even applies to using them for advertising their photography business. You see, at times photographers even do that without seeking permission. Clients must understand that how their photos are used is up to them. The photographer does not have exclusive rights to your photos unless you give them. When all is said and done you can ask a photographer to not watermark your photos. You are entitled to make such requests or stipulations.

In principle, you must talk about these things before any pictures are taken. Frankly, so many people are actually oblivious of the other aspects involved in getting pictures taken. Do you know that you can and should get written contracts/agreements that stipulate the terms of the deal? At times photographers and even clients get away with so much simply because there is no legally binding agreement. If there is a contractual agreement it can iron out so many sticky issues. Have you ever thought of how photographers can at times use your pictures without your consent?