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The Pros and Cons of Using Watermarks on Your Product Photos

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(Photo by Organic Headshots)

Digital watermarks are an effective way to protect and identify your work. They’re especially useful if you are a photographer or graphic designer with work listed for sale online. Artists also occasionally utilize them when sending proofs to customers and then remove them when the final version is delivered.

Watermarks are typically a transparent version of your logo or business name superimposed over your image. Ideally you want to place it so that it can’t be easily edited out, but this isn’t always 100% foolproof (more on that later). There are a few ways to add them to your photos. You can use a photo editing program and set your layer to a low opacity (so it’s very faint but still noticeable), or you can even use smartphone apps to add them. A professional graphic designer can also help you with watermarks if you don’t feel comfortable making them yourself.

Pros:

Protects Your Work

Watermarks are a deterrent to those who poach images without permission and post them on various websites and social media platforms. Usually they will just move on to someone else who doesn’t use them. This is the most common reason to use watermarks on your item photos. Image theft for profit happens much more than you would think. Photographers and those who sell wall art online can benefit from using watermarks, as can those who make digital downloads (like signage, party invitations, and calendar pages). Since I make jewelry I don’t use watermarks (unless I have professional product shots taken and the photographer adds their own), but if I ever branched into wall art I would definitely consider them.

Looks Professional

This is a much debated topic, but some believe using watermarks can make your products appear more professional. It shows that you care enough about your work to protect it and ensure only your paying customers will have complete access. To maintain professionalism always use a clear, streamlined watermark that is free of typos and other mistakes.

Brands Your Images

Watermarks can also serve as a branding tool for your business. Including your website, an email address, and other identifying details in the watermark can help draw in business when people view your work. Don’t make this too large or too small to read, and keep it only to the most pertinent information that a possible customer might need. If you feel uncomfortable putting the watermark right in the middle of your image you can position it in a corner.

Cons:

Can Limit Features on Blogs and Websites

A lot of blogs, websites, and online magazines shy away from featuring photos with watermarks. This is mainly because they can be distracting and not flow with the look of the publication. It’s definitely something to consider if you want your work to be seen by a wider audience.

Can Often be Removed

Websites that use photos without permission will often take the watermarks out with photo editing software. This generally is done by those who want to profit from or sell “knock-offs” of existing items or photographs, not by blogs who feature handmade businesses and artists. I’ve also seen instances where photos are simply cropped so that the area with the watermark is cut off. Sometimes it is also possible for people to save and print out your work. It’s an unfortunate reality that this can still happen no matter what precautions you take with your work.

Time Consuming

Adding watermarks to our photos takes time, and they might just get edited or cropped out if someone really wants to take them. Consider if it’s worth your time when deciding whether you want to use this tool. In the end it’s a personal decision, and every artist is different.

Do you use watermarks on your item photos?