People are often surprised that I don’t watermark my photos. I fully understand the reasons most people have for watermarking, but I have a hard time believing any photograph looks better with a watermark. I have seen so many bad watermarks in my time that I’ve been conditioned to wince whenever I notice a watermark on a photo. They draw my eye away from the content of the photograph, especially when the photographer has decided to get a bit creative with their typography.

Something I only realised when I started thinking about writing this post was that I want my photos to look their best online. I don’t consider prints to be the end product for my photos. I do sell prints, of course, but I don’t want to reserve the unaltered view of my photographs to those select few who are kind enough to part with their hard-earned cash for them.

There are obvious downsides to not watermarking. I’ve seen hundreds of uncredited uses of my photos. Thankfully most are benign non-commercial uses, and I don’t release the full-resolution files into the wild, but occasionally I have to send a shirty email to a company using my photos for promotion or marketing. Luckily my photos are quite well known and a lot of my followers on social media are quick to tell me if they find my photos floating about in places they shouldn’t!

Does it bother me that people don’t know that they’re my photos? Not really. I’m probably missing out on some Likes, Faves and other magical Internet points when people share my work without credit, but I’m pretty easy to find on the Internet if people want to find me. Just searching for “lego photography” will point people at my best known photos.

The interesting flip-side to that is that I often get praised for photos that aren’t mine, but that’s a nice problem to have!

– Mike

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8 years ago

I totally agree with you on the hideous big watermarks, why do people use them? It’s the photograph you’re suppposed to show, not your typographical bravado. I also agree that a watermark makes little or no difference in how your photos move around, they are posted with or without permission regardless. Or, in my case, sometimes cropped so that the watermark is left out. Like you, I also get these kind notifications from people pointing out an unauthorized post. I sometimes comment on those posts and the people who are responsible are usually very apologetic and fix the post with… Read more »

8 years ago

I really love this topic, and I am for sure gonna post further on this. For me there is a lot of subtle differences in this. First watermark vs signature. I believe until you have reached that iconic style that clearly identifies you, using a beautifully crafted, being part of the image, signature helps to identify the artist. I sign almost all my pictures with Me2, and this is just like a painter put his name on the canvas. It is my signature, and i will put it where i believe it sits right on the digital image. If you… Read more »

8 years ago

I don’t think it’s really possible to prevent people from using your pictures without your permission. Music, film and video industries have tried for years without success wasting millions for that. I don’t see how a single photographer could do better. The only way to really prevent someone using a picture is by uploading only low resolution of it with a big watermark in the middle. But then what’s the point to upload it? I’ve seen many great photographers do that. It’s sad but I decided because of the big watermarks it was not worth to follow them. That’s why… Read more »

8 years ago

I watermark my photos because they have been stolen before and I don’t want that to happen again. The Toy community has deleted many photo thiefs’ accounts. It’s incredible how we help us. – Matías

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