Breaking the "Rules" with Style AND Perfection - Photos that work!
New Opportunities to Submit Your Photos - Follow This to Improve Your Chances of Success

Watermarks on photos - Not Good, The Bad and The UGLY

Marie Kazalia abstract plaid1lrg
      Abstract Plaid #1
     © 2010 Marie Kazalia
     Artist Oil, Alkyd Paints on Canvas

What do you think of digital watermarks and such? I cringe when I see them.

Marie Kazalia


This is a good point to bring up during this photography series on ASK Harriete.  When you say digital watermarks, I want to focus on the watermarks on images of art or craft Manpainting-- not about the digital watermarks on STOCK PHOTOS intended to drive the purchase of the photo (like the left image). 

I wrote about watermarks once before, but I wanted to bring this up again and be very clear. Putting a watermark, icon, signature on top of, over, near, or in the corner of photographic images of art or craft is a huge mistake. Don't do it.

Watermark When I see a watermark on a photo, I refuse to try to look through it or past it.  The photo is ruined.  Instead, I move on.  And I believe most people react similarly.

That's my opinion.  Now here is a more rational consideration. 

The greatest value of posting images online is to get more visibility. All of the many possible venues (whether on Facebook, Crafthaus, Flickr, or your own website) help to expose your images to a larger audience.  The Internet is based on the exchange of ideas and images, yours included!  Based on the concept of the Long tail, the Internet is a fabulous opportunity to enable a widely dispersed audience to find, appreciate, and share their work.

Goof Off Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman
Goof Off/Goof Up Flower Pin
 © 2011 Harriete Estel Berman
Recycled tin cans, screws.

A watermark on a photographic image discourages any blog, website, writer, or online marketplace from copying and sharing your images. Watermarks disfigure the images. It is akin to putting the images in a virtual closet with the door shut!


HAND PICK  Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman
Hand Pick Flower Pin
© 2011Harriete Estel Berman
Recycled tin cans, screw,

If the purpose of a watermark on your photos is to  "protect" them from being stolen or copied, then the Internet is the wrong place for your images.  This is the wrong approach to protect your work.



There are many more effective options for protecting your work:

  • Create a unique unmistakable signature style; 
  • Develop a technique that is not used by other artists or makers;
  • Pursue recognizable subject matter that establishes your reputation;
  • Pursue unique content issues;
  • Continue developing your techniques and style so that impostors are always behind you.
  • Create a strong identity for your name and your work (then impostors will be seen as just that, impostors). If a person wants to buy a Zac Posen dress, they will buy Zac Posen. If a person wants a Harriete Estel Berman, they will buy a Harriete Estel Berman. Copycats are "also rats."

Other options for protecting your work are: 

  • Post smaller images (e.g. 200px x 200px x 72dpi). This is not recommended, but it is a better alternative than a watermark on your images. 
  • Use FLASH for your images. FLASH images are more difficult to copy. This is not recommended either. Flash can not be rendered by most phones or I-PAD type technology. Thus your website is not viewable online by the new mobile technologies. (A future post will provide more information on this issue.)

OK, you got it! Watermarks on photos are OUT!

Fantastic  Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman is constructed from recycled materials.
  Fantastic Flower Pin
  © 2011Harriete Estel Berman
  Recycled tin cans, screw,

QUALITY PHOTOS are your secret to success.~ Your photographic images can travel at the speed of light, work 24 hours a day, shrink to the size of a stamp, and expand to super viewing size.  



Another point of view on watermarks is in a post titled "Should You Watermark Art You Are Posting Online" by Jason Horejs.

Related Post to the watermark issue is when museums post your images on their website, use your images for catalogs, calendars or loan your artwork to other institutions. In these examples, they would not want a watermarked image. Read about how they handle copyright and images in the post Copyright and a Non-Exclusive License.


Previous posts in the series Side-By-Side Comparisons of Different Photos:

Breaking the "Rules" with Style AND Perfection - Photos that work!

Side-By-Side Comparisons - the White Background, Can You Cut It?

Side-By-Side Photos - Website Backgrounds Should be Consistent

Side-By-Side Photos -Clean or Complex Backgrounds?

Side-By-Side Photo Comparisons - Backgrounds with Texture or Pattern?

Side-By-Side Photo Comparisons: Colorful or Discordant?

Side-By-Side Comparisons of Different Photos: Black Hole or Super Sophisticated?

Side-By-Side Comparisons of Different photos - the graduated background. Stunning or stupefying?

Side-By-Side Comparisons of Different Photos - the white background. Trendy or Technique?

Are You Being Judged by the Style of Your Images?

The photographers are revealed!

This post was updated on January 27, 2022.