Today’s Question: A while back you commented on the watermark ‘issue’ that your preference was not to use any type of watermark as it detracted from the image, and does little to deter ‘theft’ of the photo. While I agree for the most part with your statement, I also felt that it ‘could’ add to the photo, and ‘credibility’ of the photographer. I do enjoy posting my photos on line (e.g., Instagram), but have always been leery of someone using/taking a photo without my permission. However, I noticed the other day that you posted a photo to Instagram with a watermark. Now I’m wondering if you’ve changed your perspective on this, and if not, why the watermark?
Tim’s Quick Answer: I have not changed my perspective on watermarks. I generally prefer not to have watermarks on my images. I also don’t personally worry about theft of my images. When I add a watermark to an image it is only because I either was hoping for a little self-promotion, or was teaching someone how to add a watermark to a photo.
More Detail: To be sure, a watermark on a photo can be valuable for promotional purposes. From this perspective, since I do very much want to promote myself through my photography, it would make perfect sense for me to include a watermark on photos when I share them. That watermark could simply feature my name, or my website address, for example.
However, in general I prefer not to have a watermark on my photos for purely aesthetic reasons. My hope is that I will get enough of a promotional benefit by virtue of the context of sharing the photo, even without a watermark. So, for example, when I share a photo on Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/timgreyphoto) my hope is that if someone sees a photo they like they will follow me and look at my profile and perhaps visit my website.
Much of this is philosophical, of course, and not necessarily the most effective approach in terms of self-promotion. But personally I prefer to take an approach that is a bit more subtle in terms of promotion (even though I’m not exactly subtle in most other ways).
And again, my personal preference is to not employ a watermark for purposes of deterring theft. I don’t believe that theft will really be prevented by a watermark that doesn’t significantly interfere with the photo, and I prefer not to have a watermark that interferes with the enjoyment (I hope!) of my photographic images.
Obviously all of this represents my personal preference. I prefer to only use a watermark when it provides some degree of promotional benefit, not as a theft deterrent. But I certainly understand the desire to take more significant steps to prevent the theft of photos. I simply define my priorities a little differently than other photographers (and I certainly realize that my priorities don’t necessarily align with those of many other photographers).