Saving Your Photos From Ugly Watermarks

I’ve never been a fan of watermarks on my photos. I did, at one point, suffer from UWS (Ugly Watermark Syndrome), but I’ve overcome it ;) I’ve always felt that a watermark really interfered with the “look”, feeling, and overall presentation of the photo. And while I’m not happy if some one takes and uses my photo without permission, I’ve always been on the mindset that:

1) Honest, well-meaning (and paying) people will not steal your photos and use them without permission.
2) No matter what you do, some one who wants to steal your photo will (that is unless you watermark it so obtrusively that nobody would want to steal your photo).

All of that said, I ran across a Google+ post of Tamara Lackey’s the other day and it reminded me that I’ve always been a fan of what she does with her photos. See, lots of people view certain styles of watermarks as not only protecting their photos, but branding them as well. And I can totally see that. But again, I think a lot of the watermarks (or “branding” marks) interfere with the photo too much. That’s why I like what Tamara does a lot. She puts a small colorful bar along side of her photos with her studio name.


She also changes the color of the bar depending on the colors in the photo, so it fits in really well. So should some one “grab” this photo from a website or a well-meaning person happen to come across her work outside of her website, they’d see this and know who’s work it was and that they’d be a quick Google search away. Btw… here’s a link to Tamara’s blog. Definitely worth visiting.

Anyway, just a thought for anyone who’s considered watermarking their photos. I visit 500px, Google+, Flickr and many other photo sites during the day and I always feel that it’s a shame to see how so many great photos get ruined by ugly watermarks. So I ask you… no, I beg you… rise up against the ugly watermark… deny the ugly watermark…. and do something better for your photos and your country ;) I’m not sure what any of that means, but it seemed like a good way to end the blog post. Have a good one! :)

  • Ryan Cooper

    I can’t agree more. I keep a pinterest board where I share all the most inspiring photography that I come across but I never share anything with a watermark. It is amazing how many amazing images are otherwise ruined by an ugly watermark.

    Tamara’s method is good, The other great thing about a bar watermark that does not actually infringe on the photo is that on your own personal website you can use CSS to hide the bar and that way viewers only see it if they save or share the image.

    • A.G. Photography

      Right, but by sharing on Pinterest for example neither the photographer nor the designer ever gets credit. So that’s a shame. This is why:

      Its not just about promotion and finding new clients, but it is about recognizing the person who made that photo that you loved so much.

      • Ryan Cooper

        Pinterest clicks through to the original source of the pin, so unless the user circumvents this by downloading the image first and pinning it from their harddrive I would say that is some credit in itself. I often use that to click through and learn more about a given photographer.

        Though tbh im using pinterest less and less since it has become so densely packed with baby, engagement, wedding, and family photos. Babies are cute and all but I am so tired of seeing endless ways of making making newborns look cute.

        • A.G. Photography

          LOL….That’s funny…I noticed no original source though when I briefly signed up for it.

          This is what I am referring to:

          If you click on that it takes you to the photo all by itself; no watermark nothing, so if I like this room and would like to contact the designer who designed it and hire that person to design my boys room I have no way of finding them out!

          People search Pinterest for inspiration, but some people might find something really nice and would like to work with the designer, or photographer of whatever image/space they saw, and in a lot of cases they have no way of doing so. The image above could become subject for copyright infringement if the photographer finds his/her image orphaned like this.

          This starts with the relationship established between the photographer and the designer. If the photographer specifies “credit” should be shown and the designer doesn’t put the credit on for either themselves or the photographer, then a lot of people could be missing out on both ends. That should change.

          • Ryan Cooper

            It links back to the link the original poster shared. So if they deep linked directly to a photo, that is where the link will point to. Pinterest has no other point of reference than the link it is given. But for example look at one of my boards, if you click on any of the images in the detail view it will send you back to the location where I found it. (likely 500px)


            But like any social network Pinterest has to leave the onus for credit on the users. I can tweet a photo or post it to facebook as well and easily circumvent any credit that those networks might try to provide. If you use pinterest the way it was designed and pin images from their pages of origin pinterest does a great job of crediting the original creator. It even includes the original title automatically from the source page. (which in the case of 500px includes the photographers name)

          • A.G. Photography

            Right, but unfortunately most people don’t do the same as you and me. It would be nice if they did, and didn’t make me use a watermark at all.

  • Sam Dickinson

    I watermark on the photo, but I keep it unobtrusive and credit everyone involved with the shoot, so it actually becomes useful (just in plain text). That way you know who the model is as well as where it came from.

  • Evan Gearing

    Nice, but I tend to disagree and I couldn’t state why any better than Miss Aniela.. Please read:

    • Matt Kloskowski

      She makes some good points. That watermark won’t hold up to some one who wants to steal the photo. It’s about a 3-second Photoshop job to get rid of it. But she makes a very good point about sharing these days. But that’s why I like Tamara’s solution better – it just looks better and would “share” very well too.

      • Lu

        Thanks for the article! I read yours and Miss Aniela’s. I don’t feel they disagree. It’s just different points on the matter. But yes, we need to watermark to get the credit. And if it is an appealing watermark even better! I didn’t do it yet…but that is why I am reading this…

  • Jeff Hartley

    Any way to set up a Tamaraesque watermark in Lightroom?

    • Matt Kloskowski

      Already on it! :-)

      • mevanecek

        Blog it, enthusiastically and with much ado!

      • Keith Schultz

        Has this been posted Matt?

  • A.G. Photography

    I almost feel like you directed this at me! (LOLOL)

    But you are absolutely right. Thanks for posting this. I’ll be sharing it if that’s alright.

    I am torn…on one hand I am like you: why ruin the photo, on the other I do want people to know who’s photo that was…I am only using a watermark on Social Media where things get shared rampantly, and its really easy to loose photos. I don’t use it on my website, and I am not on 500px, Flickr etc because of their terms.

    I am not sure about doing this in Lightroom though…I make all my watermarks in Photoshop, and size them for the size I usually use for SM. Then I set them up/import in LR.

    Lately I strayed from the bottom right corner, and I kept moving it around…I just have a HUGE pet peeve when people take something and don’t give credit, or present it as theirs.

  • Pingback: Matt Kloskowski points out an Alternative to Watermarks |

  • Dave d

    Hi Matt,

    it’s interesting that you discuss this topic today. I saw that Trey Radcliff will be having a G+ hangout with Thomas Hawk and Miss Aniela tonight at 7pm Eastern time to discuss the pros & cons on this subject,

    Might be worth the time to listen in.

    • Matt Kloskowski

      I’ll have to try to check it out. I didn’t even know until today that Trey did a post on it. I had just seen Tamara’s post and it reminded me that I’ve always liked what she did to her photos. Hopefully I can make it up to watch Trey’s show.

      • Christopher Helms

        Matt, don’t be daunted by the 2.5 hour length – it’s mostly just the first hour or so of the show that discusses the watermarks. The rest of the show is the usual sharing of photos and G+ finds.

  • Todd

    I’m a little torn here, Matt. Tamara usually works with paying clients and that in itself limits photo theft quite a bit. As a sports photographer that is trying to sell shots from a website, I almost have to watermark. You would be amazed at how much stuff gets copied and posted on facebook without any credit or financial considerations. I would love to use Tamara’s watermark idea, but not really sure if it would benefit me.

  • mevanecek

    I tend to prefer Miss Aniela’s take on the matter.

  • Blake Rudis

    I agree Matt! I am not a fan of the watermark. I did a video tutorial recently sharing my thoughts on watermarks and even though I do not care for them, I showed a way to make them just a little bit more classy and less distracting!

    I do like Tamara’s watermark though, it does make it very sharable (not a word, but should be)!

  • DaniLew

    I disagree with not having a watermark. I’ve been “found” by a few customers because some of my images were orphaned on the internet but watermarked.

    On google+ this year, Gabriele Corno became very popular with tens of thousands of followers. Come to find out he was uploading Trey, Elia, and others’ images as his own: by using screen capture since they had no watermarks.

    As for ugly watermarks; I use different watermarks depending on which site is. As flickr and facebook and google+ are free-for-all’s they get the big ugly.