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Thoughts: I'm against watermarking photos

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Yes, my photo was stolen. I know of at least one incident like that, maybe it happened a few more times (it's hard to tell really unless someone informs you of such a case). It's sad and makes me angry because someone else gets attention because of my own work. Of course my work is on Creative Commons licence (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported) but it doesn't mean it's free nor that one can put his name under any of the images.

One of the commonly used ways to protect your photos against stealing is putting a watermark on them. However, I'm not really happy about doing so for several reasons:
  1. If you put watermark near the border then stealing an image is still a very easy thing as it is just enough to crop the watermark out. And so many photographers put it right there.
  2. If you put a watermark in the area with many details or in a place that is important to the image perception you actually make the image weaker. What you can do instead is to put a watermark in a non-important part of the image (eg. over the sky or road) but in such a case it might turn out that it is still very easy to remove it by cloning or using a content-aware feature in Photoshop.
  3. It is distracting. If I make a photo I often want viewers to focus on a certain part of the image or lead their eyes into something in the picture. By putting a watermark I can ruin that because there is a great chance that they will first look at the watermark and only after that at the picture itself.
  4. One of the options is to make sure watermark fits well into the image (in a sense that it becomes part of it) but to be honest I haven't seen it executed well up to now.
For the reasons mentioned above I won't use traditional watermarks in my images. The only watermarking I can consider is digital watermarking which is a combination of bits put into the image file and which doesn't change the look of the image. Another thing I started to do recently is to upload a smaller version of the photos.

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