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Watermarked images on website


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I got a couple of emails from people who, though told me to having enjoyed my photos, were complaining also about my © placed at the center of every photograph posted. They said © to distract alot from appreciating the image and also there are more efficient ways of protecting my images (obviously, without mentioning which ones!).

So, here is my question. If you have your personal photographic website how do you manage to protect your photos from any likely abuse?



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Because most people know how to make a printscreen, adding a watermark is the only effective action one can take to avoid his pictures being nicked and used in a proper way.




They are probably complaining because you've made it harder for them to steal your images. Reply and tell them you will sell them prints so they can appreciate them better :)

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Aaah, yes, that old chestnut.


As Philippe says, the most effective way is to add a watermark, which yes, will deter some customers, because it clearly makes the photos less attractive.  Up to you, really.


The regular options are all there:

  1. Add a watermark
  2. Add a no-right-click script
  3. Add a blank .gif over the top of the image
  4. Add a notice declaring your copyright and intention to enforce this as necessary
  5. Add a comment in your robots.txt file disallowing robots from spidering your images.

Today's browsers make it easier than ever to circumvent image theft prevention methods, so #s 2 & 3 only deter drive-by theft.  Those going to your site specifically to use your photos know how to get them and are unlikely to be put off by #4 in any case, so that leaves #1.


#5 is really only a request to search bots.  The big boys adhere to the robots.txt file, but others will choose to ignore it, so your images are easily found in any case.  Even if you do go down this route, you have to accept that the images from your site will no longer appear on Google/Bing/Yahoo etc.  Which - if you sell from your site - kinda defeats the object.


It all adds up to the same old thing: do you go all out to market your photos:

  • Enter lots of competitions regardless of the T&Cs which may give away free use of your images to 3rd parties
  • Utilise social media outlets to the full, accepting their T&Cs, where you may agree to their claim upon use of your images
  • Expose your images without watermarks to the world on your own site, accepting that yes many undoubtedly will be used on many personal and commercial sites.  But do what you can to minimise the effect by signing up to Image Rights or similar
  • sell on POD sites, where despite all your efforts on your own site, your images are at times easily accessible in any case

...or do you hide your images away from the world and never sell any?


I walk the middle line myself!


In many ways it's very akin to the retail market.  I used to work in a shop which enjoyed very high sales of unique products at very good markups.  The owner would stop selling the products as soon as other retailers caught on and began to sell the same (or similar) product.  Shoplifting (as long as it wasn't excessive) was regarded as written in to the markup.  Due to the high volume of sales, the time of the staff was better employed in concentrating on selling, rather than chasing the thieves.  I hated to see it, but I have to admit that it worked.

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I used to put a small watermark in the bottom corner of an image when I uploaded them onto websites, but after having some of my wildlife images ( which involved me getting wet, cold and sitting in a hide for endless hours and then to find the said images ending up on some womans website with the watermarks cropped out..) I now tend to take the view that it an image has value for me I water mark it where it hopefully cant be cropped out.  I do lower the opacity of the watermark so as the image is still view- able and am in the belief that if a serious purchaser is looking at the image and knows what they are looking for, they will not take too much notice of a watermark... ( could be wrong though... but dont tell my wife.. ;) )


The woman who nicked my pictures did remove them from her website and said "sorry I didn't think it would matter "   Bless her  ;)

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My watermark - which includes © name & website URL - is also at side of each image on my site.

It's a compromise - when I used dead-center watermark, too many key images lost too much effectiveness.

Makes it less convenient to steal and easier for potential users to locate me when images come up in searches.


BTW, Google Analytics can be a real eye-opener. Briefly, I use it regularly, and check WHO (service provider/location..) is visiting WHAT images on my sites - and everything shows up from government entities to providers widely blacklisted because they send no useful, benign traffic to any site.  (yes, some providers fit both types)


Don't trust any non-client to follow copyright laws, including those who most definitely know better.


- Ann

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I like Keith Morris' Flickr watermarks. Takes nothing away from the image but his name is all over the image the like google logo in Google Maps. Very effective. There's a point though. Stealing images is something that happens if you don't take precautions, however, if you plaster you image with a watermark, it really needs to be wanted for someone to take the step to license it. Not taking anything away from anyone of course. 


I think this is something Keith has down to a fine art. 

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Even on my blog -- http://edoruan2.blogspot.com  -- I use Alamy images with their full watermark. I never use Flickr or the like to display images, so I pay little attention to people grabbing my pics. However, with my sales being as bad as they've been this winter, I might welcome someone stealing an image.  :rolleyes:

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I watermark my images which are online - right across the middle (but with a degree of transparency) as it does more or less stop serious infringements of my work. Sometimes I watermark lower down but only if the middle option distracts the viewer.   By serious, I mean those using my work for commercial gain. Bloggers seem to be completely unaware what © actually means but if one can prove that the watermark was deliberately removed or cropped, then the infringer is in serious trouble as this becomes wilful use and multiplies the damages considerably.  That said, on several occasions I have found images being used commercially with my watermark clearly visible.  


If you watermark then they cannot use the defence that they were unaware that it was copyrighted.   Of course, one cannot expect buyers of images to watermark your work when placed legitimately on websites and this is where infringers find my work (and yours) and there is little that can be done.  I do embed copyright details into each image and hopefully this information will remain with the image and not be stripped.  Facebook strips all metadata which I still think is illegal but there you go!



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