Why the watermarks?

Why the watermarks?

May 19, 2020 0 Comments

If you’re thinking of buying one of my prints, rest assured that the ugly watermarks you see on this site are for my online security; they won’t appear on your print.

Dog, Sydney, 1992

I hate watermarks.

I’ve been taking photographs for well over forty years. In the last decade, photography has become, due largely to the rise of smartphones for ease of capture and social media for instant global distribution, an integral part of everyday life for more people than ever before. There are now more than 3.2 billion – that’s 3,200,000,000 – images shared on social media every day.

Apart from that mind-boggling statistic, a key issue here is the concept of sharing. Now, don’t get me wrong – that’s fine. Really. Photography is great fun, and a wonderful way to stay in touch and let people see what you're up to. But the modern approach to photographs (as well as other media) on the internet seems to be, all too often, “If you can see it, you can use it.”

I’m a professional. For my entire adult life, I’ve made my living from photography. I was a commercial photographer for more than twenty years, and then I decided to concentrate on landscape and fine art, and offer my work as prints for sale. As the internet exploded, that meant incorporating the power of this amazing new medium to show people my work. The challenge continues to use the internet as a sales and marketing tool without having people help themselves to my images without so much as a by-your-leave – especially for commercial sites. I like to eat a nice meal at the end of each day just as much as anyone, and if someone uses one of my images to promote their own business, or worse, tries to sell them as their own property, they are stealing income from me.

Let me repeat: I hate watermarks. I hate that I have to to disfigure my images in order to protect my intellectual property, but it’s a considered business decision to do so.

The internet is full of arguments against watermarks:

  • “They’re ugly.”
    I agree; see above.
  • “They’re easy to remove.”
    Maybe so. There’s a slew of apps available now to do this (well, try) automatically. But if you do, it shows intent to break international copyright laws, and when you lose the court case, you’re likely to be liable for even greater damages.
  • “But people will still link back to your website!”
    Ideally – but realistically? Not unless I ask them to, and then less than one in ten. And certainly not if they've already removed my watermark.
  • “But you’ll get such good exposure if your photos are shared!”
    Only if my name is on them. I used to use an unobtrusive watermark credit line at the bottom edge of the photo; people would just crop it off. Now they’re in the centre of the image, and people will try to retouch them out. This is right up there with the requests that I work for nothing, with the same rationale. I tried paying for my mortgage with ‘exposure’; the look on my bank manager’s face was priceless.

So, my apologies if the watermarks lessen your enjoyment of my images. Copyright and intellectual property laws automatically support my right to control how my images are reproduced, and the right of attribution that goes along with it, as soon as I publish them – with or without watermarks. But as long as I see my rights being ignored, and worse, abused, I’m afraid they’re here to stay.

(By the way, my words are copyrighted, too, but feel free to share – as long as I’m credited as the author!)

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