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kmdunlap 02-20-2007 02:35 PM

How to watermark your images- tips for new TE users
If you are a new TE user you are probably excited about the potential of TE, the usefulness of gaining feedback on your images, and the general photography community here. But if you have perused any of the forums, you have likely seen that many TE users are having copyright issues with their images. Let's learn from those who have been on TE for a long time, and begin to at least watermark our images, starting with the very next upload. Otherwise eventually you will have hundreds of images on TE that are easy to steal.

Copyright issues are complicated and vary by country sometimes, and some countries don't enforce the laws (if there are any.) At the very least you can reduce the likelihood that someone will steal your image and put it on their site if you use a good watermark. If we as a community begin to watermark all our images it will reduce the amount of theft and thieves will stop using TE as a good place to steal images for their travel brochures, websites, etc. The sad fact is that many people don't recognize taking someone's image off the web and using it as a copyright infringement- some simply don't care. Copyright is a fact, not just a theory- whether you are able to enforce it or not. If you live in a place where you can't enforce your copyright you should do all that you can to protect your images.

So, about watermarks. A watermark has several purposes- first to identify who the photographer of the image is. Second, to make the viewer aware that the image is copyrighted and is your property, and third, to discourage thieves from stealing your image. In order to accomplish these purposes a watermark needs to be large enough and prominent enough that it can not be simply spot healed or patch tooled out in Photoshop. In part that means not placing it in a small dark or light corner- it should cover enough of the image to make it difficult to remove. It should have your name, and can have your website if you desire. While we don't want to watermark to be a slap in the face of the viewer, it should be clearly seen, and enough of a distraction that other sites won't be able to use it without it being obvious. Some people even put watermarks such as "This image was stolen" or other equally drastic phrases. Each photographer will have to decide for his or herself about what language is appropriate for their situation. If I took images of places copyright is not enforced I might put something like that on my image.

Now, how to create a watermark. Watermarks are simple to make, and you can use an action to record your watermark process once you are satisfied with the placement, size, and color of it. Here are the steps to making a watermark on your image- note that this is a summary of a good website reference,, although this site isn't using CS2, so the screen shots may vary. Kudos to the site maker of All Things Photography for making it simple for us to follow.

1. Open your file
2. Select the Text tool
3. Click on the image where you think you'd like the watermark.
4. Enter your text, choosing the font type, size, and color. This will create a new layer on your image with the text in it.
5. At this point you have several options- for a simple watermark just reduce the opacity of your text layer. For a fancier one you can go to Layer Effects and choose Outer or Inner Glow, or Drop Shadow, or whatever you like.

After you have played around with the watermark and gotten it how you like it, start over with a clean image (go into your history palette and click on the original Open image) and record an action. To do that:

1. Go to the Actions palette
2. Choose create a new action. It's a good idea to name your action.
3. Now hit Record, and go through and add your watermark to your image.
4. When you're done adding the watermark hit the Stop button.

Run the action before you resize and compress your files for upload to TE. I unfortunately have 3 images on TE which I did not watermark- I won't be making that mistake again. In my opinion the best defense is a good offence when it comes to copyright protection. If you are an old school TE user consider beginning to watermark now- perhaps Adam might find a way in the future for us to watermark images that are already uploaded. The more of us are watermarking the fewer images will be stolen.

Best of luck to you all in choosing your watermark phrases- if someone comes up with a really good one pass it on. :)


rafid76 02-21-2007 02:06 AM

Re: How to watermark your images- tips for new TE users
exellent info, really appreciate your time in wrting this.

bstreeck 02-23-2007 02:32 PM

Re: How to watermark your images- tips for new TE users
Watermarks in photos are a often discussed thing on all photo sites, and I seldom give my opinion, but now, I don't know why, must add something to this.

Do you really need a watermark? When contemplating this, you need to ask yourself: Is my photography really that good? Is it that distinct, that if I don't watermark it, the thief would not be able to find another picture that suits his needs just as well? Can I create a watermark that is not only visually destructive but also effective enough to justify that "slap in the face"? What am I trying to do with the watermark, prevent or prove?

IMHO, most photography presented on this site, and any other, does not need to be watermarked.

I say this because seldom can you find here a picture, which is so unique that not 50 other pictures of a similar motiv and quality can be easily found that would suit a thief just as well. Think about it: if some cheap travel agency is looking for a picture of a beautiful beach for their homepage... any problems finding such a picture on the net? Nope.

Is someone going to be able to take your TE portfolio and turn it into a 200-page high-gloss hard cover picture book about travel photography? No, no picture hosted here is suitable to be printed in a size greater than 3 inches.

How should I watermark it without destroying the visual sensation for the fellow TEer while still being effective. Most likely, you can't. The less of the picture is covered, the easier simple photoshopping will recover the picture good enough to use it for a website. The more of the picture is covered, the less enjoyable the picture is to view. Do I use a a solid font, or do I use a see through effect? The solid font destroys the picture but is rather effective. Bold letters help. See-though-stuff can often be reversed, for instance if part of it was lightened, simply by darkening.

And consider this: Someone stole your picture and used it on a travel website. What difference does it make, whether you had watermarked your image or not? The watermark was removed of course.
- Say, it's a Lithuanian site. You tell them to remove it, threaten them with a letter from your lawyer. Probably they will take it down, but maybe not. By the way, if they remove it upon receiving your letter, they will do so regardless of a watermark or not. If they don't you could try to find legal representation in Lithuania from your internet-pc in the states. But what good is it going to do? No court in Lithuania can be made to even discuss the possibility of collecting money in your name, while you sit at home and keep screaming "copyright violation!" How far are you willing to go to protect your rights?
- Let's say, the site owner is from your State. You have properly saved evidence of the theft, you get a lawyer, a court date, you file a case against him, and then, the big day comes. Nobody is going to care whether there was a watermark on the image or not, all you need to do is prove that you took the picture by providing the original jpg file in full resolution or even better the raw file and nobody is going to claim that you don't have full rights. Again, the watermark made no difference.

So what is the watermark going to do you good? Nothing. Simply, it just slaps the viewer in the face. And if your picture is really close to being truly spectacular, the 10 minutes required to remove your watermark are not going to discourage anyone from using it.

And personally, I feel that none of my photography is worth stealing. And if somebody does and I actually find out about it, and they don't react to my friendly mail telling them about their copyright infringement, well, I'm just going to let it slip. I'm not going to be able to help grinning, knowing that some moron thought my photography was good enough to steal and take risks for.

And then you do know, the kind of watermarks you instill on your images are not much of a challenge to anyone with only 5 minutes time... right?

kmdunlap 02-23-2007 02:52 PM

Re: How to watermark your images- tips for new TE users

I appreciate the time you took to reply to my post. However, as this is a matter of personal opinion and perspective I haven't much to say in reply. Everyone is free to do as they like with their property- I am a professional photographer, and as such my images are my property. I have chosen to watermark my images simply because they are mine. I have not yet had an issue with copyright infringement from this site, but if I do I absolutely will pursue my rights to my image to the best of my legal ability. If you choose not to protect your images with a watermark, or to pursue thieves of your images that is your choice and your right. If you disagree and choose not to protect your property there's no purpose in complaining about other people protecting theirs. If you dislike looking at images with watermarks then you have the option not to look at them.

To me a watermark is like a bike lock- does it prevent a professional from coming along and stealing my bike? Of course not- a pro can cut through the lock in less than 5 minutes. Does it prevent opportunity theft simply because my bike isn't locked and is free for the taking? Absolutely. The watermark is not meant to prove that the image is mine- the data embedded in the image shows that it is mine. The watermark is like the bike lock- it prevents theft from opportunity, and discourages others from trying.

I put this post up for newbies- many of whom have no idea that TE has become a huge target for photo thieves. They have a right to know what the level of theft is from this site, the problems that TE people have had enforcing their copyrights, etc. All photographers, whether professional or amateur should have the option to decide whether watermarking is for them or not, and should not feel pressure to not do it from those who think it is useless.

Your post does not make me any less inclined to watermark my images, nor will I cease to watermark them simply because someone on TE thinks it's stupid. I respect your opinion and your right to not watermark, and I simply ask that you respect mine and my choice to watermark whether you think it is useless or not.


bstreeck 02-23-2007 03:38 PM

Re: How to watermark your images- tips for new TE users
Hi Kristi,

To a point... yes. Everyone is free to decide to watermark or not to watermark. But just as you are encouraging people to do so, I am encouraging people not to do so. I feel it is ugly and unnecessary, and unless I see a true need for a watermark (that absolutely unique and amazing picture that cannot really be found here on TE or most other places on the web), such images are downrated in my mind and thus most likely in my comment/critique. In fact, I like the fact that here at TE only very seldom do you see a watermark on a picture.

I am really not sure if you are aware of how easy it is to remove such a watermark. The reason I'm pushing this aspect, is because it gives your bike-lock-analogy a new twist: An image with a watermark is like a 50 dollar bike in a 10 yard high voltage perimeter fence with a sign over the switch "Turn off here!". It just hurts everybody who touches the fence just wanting to go by, just like it destroys my ability to appreciate your photography, while the thief goes to the switch and turns it off, taking (a copy of) your bike.

I may be wrong on the following in your specific case, but there is another reason for the advocation of watermarks by some.

Professional photographers and stock photography organizations live from selling their pictures. At least here in Germany, professional photographers have admitted to suffering competition from internet stock-for-free-or-little-money amateurs. This has gone so far, that photographers here lobbied for a law, forbidding the selling of photographs if you are not a member of the photographers organization. It never passed the level of a mere suggestion, but just the fact that they were testing the waters on this, shows how worried they are.

Someone on vacation, who took a picture that just happened to turn out really good, is of huge concern for someone who spent 3000 dollars traveling into the Caribbean, lugged a lot of professional equipment there and paid the stock-photo company to sell his pictures. And for that travel website, that amateur picture might work out just as well as the professional one, and can be (legally) had for the cost of an email or at most 50 dollars or so, while the stock-photo market wants 400 for one time usage rights and can't deliver a picture with a palm tree just in that position the half-web-designer half-travel-agent wants.

By encouraging amateurs, who actually have nothing to loose (hence, a copy of the bike), to be aware of someone stealing their rights and creating the mentality, that one should not sell ones "work" too cheaply, you are of course pushing the travel agent back into the hands of the professional. This could be the mentality that prompted, or at least promotes, the paranoid call for watermarks on all TE pictures.

For the record, if any travel agent ever wants to use one of my pictures for their website (which I highly doubt): just drop me a mail and we will find a very very cheap solution for you!

kmdunlap 02-23-2007 04:17 PM

Re: How to watermark your images- tips for new TE users

As I said- this is a point which has a personal opinion element. Our opinions are vastly different, and the laws in our countries are very different as well. I certainly do not advocate special status for professional photographers. Here in the US I've never heard anything of the kind. If that is the status in Germany and you find it upsetting to encourage that practice, I certainly understand your reasoning. But every country is different. Here in the US there is no system like that, and in many countries that are the worst offenders of intellectual property rights there is not a system like that either.

My watermark alerts a potential thief that I am monitoring my image. It does not prevent a pro from swiping my image and cloning out the watermark. It doesn't prevent someone from cropping the image either and using some part of it. But it does prevent the sort of casual image theft that is going on on the web, and TE is a main target for this sort of image stealing. You feel that amateurs have nothing to lose, but that is not true. Encouraging all people to protect their images means fewer images being stolen period. Something stolen is something stolen whether you are a pro or not. Many people online use watermarks, amateurs and pros. Perhaps not on TE, but that is a choice that individuals are making. I think your images are very good quality- there is a vast range of what people consider "good enough to steal" and some of the jpegs I've seen in travel brochures and online are horrible quality. But the people who swiped those images didn't think so. :)

As I previously stated- people who are new on TE need to know that their images can be stolen. They also need to know that they can do something about that, no matter how small a thing it is, and that they have a right to what is their intellectual property, amateur or not. They also have the right to choose whether to give that image to someone for free or to sell it to them for a cost. Just because an amateur gives someone an image for free doesn't mean that that image isn't of some value.

I am perfectly aware of the difficulty level in removing a watermark- I place my watermarks individually in order to reduce obtrusiveness and yet maximize difficulty to remove. It is easy to remove a watermark from a solid space, but a space that is multi tonal and varied in texture is more difficult. It can be done but it takes longer and is very annoying. :)

Hopefully this discussion will serve to encourage new users to decide what they think about watermarks and whether they want to protect their images in this way or not. And I hope all amateur photographers will think about their images in a new light.


bstreeck 02-23-2007 04:32 PM

Re: How to watermark your images- tips for new TE users
Hi Kristi,

just to clear up a little misunderstandung: that law never entered parliament, was never written, the idea was brought to public attention to test the water, and failed. I've lived in the States (not far from you, in Wisconsin) and in Germany and actually, the legal situations in our countries are not very different.

I feel I have little or nothing to loose if someone uses my images. And no, I don't understand what an an amateur has to loose, but if they have strong feelings about it, sure, they should make their images unviewable with a huge and solid watermark... :-)

What we can fully agree on, is that everybody needs to be aware of all possible consequences of posting images on the web, and it's great if people make conscious decisions about the all things related. We are just hoping that outcome is a different one. :-)


nowalkman 10-06-2008 02:21 PM

Re: How to watermark your images- tips for new TE users
Hey gays,

I have a couple ideas for you, unfortionatly I'm packing to head out of town so I can't provide lots o' details right now.

1) Batch Watermark Creator...
Provides the ability to create and apply templates containing images, text, borders, etc.. in a batch mode. I'm currenty using this tool and it can apply wraps to 30 images in about 6 seconds... so yes it's fast.

2) Timothy Armes has created a Lightroom Plugin called Mogrify, this uses ImageMagick. I've just started to do some testing with this process, but it provides the ability to complete the action with an export. I don't yet know how quick this is.

Good luck.

momal 04-11-2015 05:11 AM

When you have CS it is impossible to open 350D RAW files. The last Camera RAW plugin is version 2.4 and that one does not include the 350D. And there won't be anymore upgrades on that version 2 plugin so there you go.....nothing.
Bridge is not inside of CS, that only arrives in CS2

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