To Watermark or not to Watermark. That is the question!

This isn’t the post I am ‘supposed’ to be writing right now.

I was intending on penning a photo essay about the delightful food markets of France (and still will by the way). I had already dutifully perused my Lightroom catalogue and selected my images for the post but then a thought suddenly struck me…

“Oh I wonder if I should watermark these”?

And that was it. Enter stage left mental anguish and uber indecision!

No watermark?
No watermark?
Or a watermark?
Or a watermark?

Should I or shouldn’t I?

I am less than two weeks into my WordPress dot com journey and I ‘thought’ I had steeled myself into not watermarking my images here. On other blogs I have run previously and my personal social media channels it’s fair to say that I have been consistently inconsistent. Watermarking most images on my blogs (but excluding street art photos?!) but posting ‘clean’ photos on Facebook et al for fear of friends thinking

Gee look how good Saxon thinks he is watermarking his photography!

So I had decided that here on Thirty Summers I was going to leave the security of my images mainly to digital guardians such small image sizes, reverse-image look-up and EXIF data. That was of course until this French post got me (re)thinking!


Self doubt.

As is oft the way with ‘creative’ types I can be more than a little fickle with my emotions – to put it mildly. Often finishing something after much craft, graft and toil to only say a matter of moments later – well gee I actually hate that and in some extreme cases deleting the whole thing. (Seems however that this somehow has made it through!)

And I tell you this background because it certainly was a factor in my decision not to watermark here. I see plenty of great photographers who don’t mark their works. Photographers that inspire me to get better, to aspire to become more proficient at the art of photography. I thought – well if they don’t do it it would be arrogance and hubris on my behalf to do so.  So I haven’t – so far…

Contentment – NOT!

Even before today I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to convince myself that I have been totally happy with going watermark cold turkey. But who am I kidding. It’s been agonising sometimes.

A little like the feeling you have in your gut when you are doing a job you should do rather than one you actually love doing. Does that make sense? So with renewed indecision I set about Inter Webs today to find the definitive answer. Because there has to be a right or wrong? Surely…

Do I or don't I?
Do I or don’t I?
How subtle should it be if I do?
How subtle should it be if I do?

The Pros and Cons

As I searched I came across this excellent article by fellow-blogger Maria Dreyer who likens a watermark to a stop sign. Dreyer eloquently says…

“Sure, some will blow right through it like it’s not even there… but for many, who follow the rules, they will stop…”

Very true and it got me to thinking. What exactly are the pros and cons, as I see them, of watermarking an image.

The Pros

  • Deter theft or sharing without consent (by most)
  • Brand awareness
  • Additional layer of security alongside meta-data

The Cons

  • Can be cropped out or removed using software
  • Can detract from the image
  • Time-consuming extra step (adding the mark to the image, where to place it)
  • May limit sharing of image (attributed sharing)
Where should it go?
Where should it go?

Is Meta better?

As I mentioned at the start of this post thus far I have convinced myself just to let the meta-data behind my photos act as my safety-net here on Thirty Summers. There are a multitude of services out there that enable you to ‘reverse search’ for misappropriation of your images around the web such as IMG Embed or Pixsy. Easiest of all is good old Google actually. Just right click on your image as pictured below and have a check.

google reverse

You can see from my energetic Asturian blacksmith above – sans watermark – so far I have held strong but I am definitely wavering. In fact crumbling would be a better term. The ‘rehab’ hasn’t worked. I need to be honest with myself and admit that I just feel more comfortable watermarking. And here-in I think lies the answer.

Do what makes – You – happiest.

Put quite simply there is no fail-safe protection against image theft. How many alarms, guard dogs or high walls you use only dictates how hard your images are to steal not whether or not they can be. But in saying that do you envelop your images with so much ‘protection’ that you suffocate the aesthetic? We photographers have such a fine line to tread. It would have been easier to take up tennis surely!

The Wrap.

I begun this post – all the way back up there – torn and indecisive but some 800 words later I have clarity – thank you WordPress! I am going to watermark.

I will try to be as subtle as I can, I will take the extra time necessary to place the marks in positions that, I hope, distracts as little as possible. But ultimately I believe each of us have to make our own decisions. I’m now content with mine (for the next six minutes at least). I have also ‘slimmed down’ my mark a little to make it a little less intrusive…

st black

Time now to go work on that French food market photo essay…

A bientot.

Update. 29 January, 2016.

Well it did last about six minutes. I’ve now decided that I am not watermarking. Riskier for sure but it is saving me a massive amount of time. The dual main ‘defences’ I am using when I post now are small file sizes and thorough meta and EXIF data.

Yup, of course I know these safeguards are about as water-tight as a bath with no plug but there you go… Wish me luck!


Travel is my passion and also my career. I’ve spent my entire working-life in the travel industry with roles as diverse as tour guide, travel agent and marketing manager for some of the worlds largest travel brands. My favourite city in the world to visit is NYC and France is my most beloved country to explore. I travel to learn and observe to understand always with camera in hand.

10 thoughts on “To Watermark or not to Watermark. That is the question!

  1. See, I do watermark, and it’s an extra (but quite quick) step for me (choosing the pics to use on my blog, then editing them to the required size/cropping/rotating/lightening etc, that’s the hassle part!).

    But, oddly, I don’t watermark to prevent pic-theft (I only watermark pics I post, which are always small low-quality versions). I watermark as advertising! So if people see the pics on Twitter for instance (if they’re RTd), or if they’re used by other travel bloggers on their sites (if I’m guest-posting on their webpage, or if the website is that of a twitter chat I go on and they use on of my pics etc), then they’ll know who took them!

    It’s only a little thing, but it makes me smile!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a good point. It really is an each-to-their-own choice. I think I’m pretty content now being a non-WMer but ya just never know haha. Thanks for dropping by 🙂


  2. It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m not a photographer, I’m a writer, but photography is a hobby and people do steal words and images from blogs. As my photos have become more a part of my blog – I pretty much take all my photos now, even though they are still amateur – it’s still an extra step I think, to stop people from lifting your images and copy verbatim. I think it’s something I should start doing. It won’t stop anyone who is determined to do the wrong thing, but it will stop some people. And it ‘feels right’ to use your words. Thanks or the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problems. It’s all a matter of personal choice. Since I have written this I have chatted with a couple of Australia’s top photographers neither of whom watermark. (Note to self stop talking to people!!) Nonetheless I am content watermarking from here on in mainly because I ‘want’ to. What’s your blog and I’ll come and check it out.Thanks for your comment


  3. As a consumer, and light years away from the angst of intellectual property rights, I LIKE watermarks. I like the way they look, and how they stand for quality, and the fact that they add a dimension of ownership and intent to what could sometimes be passed over as ordinary. They are the presenter declaring “Hey, I’m sharing with you an insight or a point of view or an observation, or just whatever, so take another look” Signatures are integral to painters so why not photographers..
    So, I think all of that; but mostly I just like the way they look.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The same dilemma I have been facing. I thought to watermark my images but then I just let it go partly because of laziness and partly because of the ‘artist like let go carefree attitude .haha


    1. Yeah it takes extra time and is unlikely to stop someone who wants to be really dodgy. But – finally – I feel content that I feel happiest doing it rather than having chronic indecision. So that’s a result 🙂 Thx for your comment!


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