Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why I Don't Watermark My Photographs

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that a photograph of mine was stolen. The image was used in an advertisement in a local newspaper. Just yesterday that issue was settled, and I received restitution.

Several friends and family members asked why I don't watermark my photographs to help prevent things like this from happening. Even they guy who stole my photograph said that a watermark might have prevented him from using it without permission (actually, he was trying to say that it was my fault that he stole my picture).
Red Field, Green Field - Tehachapi, California
This photograph was used in an advertisement without my permission.
So why don't I watermark my photographs?

1) Watermarks are a distraction to the photograph. Can you imagine a great painting with "Copyright 2014" written in bold letters across it? Or a great song with the words "This song cannot be used without permission" spoken right in the middle? That would be silly.

My photographs are my art. Watermarks take your attention away from that art. I want you to see my art and not be distracted by a copyright notice. Watermarks ruin the experience for the viewer.

2) Watermarks don't stop anyone from illegally using your photographs. Unless it is plastered in big letters right across the center, watermarks are easily cropped out or clone-stamped out. It is not all that difficult to remove watermarks from photographs, and there is free software that can help one do it. If someone is going to steal a photograph, they're going to do it whether or watermark is on it or not.

3) Watermarks make no difference to the law. The law does not change with the addition of a watermark. I own the copyright to my photographs simply because I created them. It matters not if I place a copyright notice on the image or not. It is illegal to use my photographs without my permission, period.

4) Bottom-feeders don't pay attention to the law. They don't care if they are breaking the law or not. They could care less about copyrights. They don't give one thought to the creator. They think about themselves only. Watermarks mean nothing to them.
The Beach After Sunset - San Diego, California
A company contacted me for permission to use this photograph and paid me money.
 5) Most people and businesses do indeed care about copyrights and the law, and will go about things the right way. The majority of businesses are honest and ethical, and if they want to use my photographs they'll contact me and get permission first. Watermarks do not make any difference to them, because they're already following the law and doing things the right way.

6) Watermarking photographs takes time. I already spend too much time post-processing my images, and I don't want to spend any more time in front of a computer than I have to. I'd much rather spend that time with my family or out photographing.

7) If I were to watermark my photographs, I would have to create two versions of each image: one with the watermark and one without. Doubling the digital storage necessary for my photography costs real money and complicates the filing system.

To put this simply, watermarking photographs takes time and money, accomplishes nothing, and makes one's photographs look worse. That's why I don't watermark my images.

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