Friday, April 19, 2013

as irritating as a watermark

So I had promised at an earlier date that I'll get to this topic in more detail, and something about tonight felt just right to finally live up to that promise.

Here it is then...

Every time you horrendously watermark an image, a puppy is stabbed to death.

little puppy pleading you not to do it

I neither claim that I'm the best photographer there is, nor that I'm the most knowledgeable about the rules of visual art, but allow me to present the case anyway.

1 - Watermarks look ugly. Often when I look at a photo with a watermark, all I can think about is that watermark. It's so distracting, but maybe that's just me.

2 - There are other services, like Tineye (and Google) that can easily help you find leechers.

3 - You don’t have to maintain two versions of each image – one with a watermark and one without. And think about all the time you'll be saving!

4 - NOT using watermarks and using creative commons helps more and more people to use your image freely for fun, which increases traffic and builds a sort of  “internet-trust." *In case of emergency, break glass and see #6

5 - As image search and image recognition get better and better, there will be no need to watermark things. In 1 year+, we'll be able to r-click an image and choose "Google-find the original creator" -- there is a bit trail to first-on-the-internet.

6 - Register your images with the copyright office, so if someone uses an image commercially without a proper license, it is an easy lawsuit.

7 - Yes, there will be leechers who steal your stuff. This is the cost of doing any business on the internet. Thinking that with a watermark, your digital creations are safe is an illusion though, because if someone was determined to steal your photo and use it, they'd very easily be able to swipe out your intricate watermark on photoshop anyway.

8 - Are you sure you even want to add a watermark or a signature? I feel like watermarked images immediately yell “nhoooob”, or worse yet, “cheap stock art!”

If you use some of the world’s finest photographers as case studies, you will see that they usually don’t ruin their artwork by averting the focus to ugly typography.

Case in point:

Henri Cartier Bresson

Herb Ritts

Diane Arbus

Ansel Adams

Anne Geddes

Annie Leibowitz

If you look at a random post from Boston’s “The Big Picture”, you will also see that not even news photographers watermark their photography these days. The Editors’ Choice picks at 500px also don’t have watermarks.

So if these guys don’t, why should you? We could safely say their work is more tempting to steal, no? Don’t let your ego come in the way of your art then.

If you don't give a damn about the pleading puppies, and want to add the watermark anyway, then at least keep in mind the following:

1 - Avoid crappy typography.

Invest in getting a designer to do your signature, because that typeface you got from DaFont REALLY doesn’t work. 

- Avoid funky fonts as you really don’t want to avert the eye from the photo itself. 
- Stick to classic san-serifs like Frutiger, Helvetica, Futura, Univers, etc. 
- Make sure the typography is legible in very small sizes, so use uppercase if possible.


Dear lord, NO.

2 - Don’t use an emblem

Sure, you might have a gorgeous symbol for your photography studio, but a logo and a signature have two very different purposes. Please don't use your logo as your signature.


3 - It's only a watermark, not a business card.

Please, by all means, avoid adding all sorts of information, like every web address you manage, the title of the image and the title of the folder category in which said image came from on your picture, which starts to seem more like a brochure!


4 - Make it SMALL

Now that you chose a legible typeface to use for your signature or watermark, make sure that it is really, really small, and consistently placed in the same location across ALL your photographs. Same margins. Same corner. Same size. Preferably on either bottom corner and not smacked right in the middle of the picture, too.

Consistency is king. Your watermark or signature is not a part of your image composition after all.

That will be all. I'd love to hear other people's take on this, so please let me know your thoughts.

Thank you, and happy shooting!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Right at this very moment

A man’s face is radiating with a gigantic smile, and his wife’s is displaying tears of happiness and relief, as they both land their eyes on their newborn child for the very first time.

A woman, carrying her son to her waist, is wearing black and weeping as she sees her husband, back from army duty, get buried in his grave.

A family are enjoying a home-made meal in their living room as they watch the kids’ favorite movie.

A five year old girl is forced to run away from home and onto the streets after her step-mother injured her head, beating her with a metal rod, and her father tied her to the rooftop for upsetting his new wife when she went to him for help.

Five women are taking a picture to show the generations elapsed between them, from great, great grandmother to grand-daughter.

A boy and his sister are running in circles in the back yard, trying to outrun their dog, and failing.

A girl and her brother are heartbroken, as they pet and cuddle their cat for the last time before they have to let her go.

Someone is asleep in a warm, cozy king bed all covered in silk, and dreaming of falling.

Someone is asleep in a corner on a cold, wet sidewalk, and dreaming of flying.

A young man is nervous, thinking about telling her how he feels.

A young woman rather likes him, but will refuse, because he reminds her too much of her father.

A group of teenagers are meeting to create an initiative that would leave a positive impact on their community.

Another group are getting together to make another Harlem Shake video.

A writer just typed the last words of his novel that he’s been working on for eight years.

A child is learning to trace the letter “A” for the very first time.

Someone has finally climbed to the peak of that mountain.

Someone has overcome a life-long personality problem.

Someone is spending the 7th day in a row, on a couch in front of the TV, watching reality shows.

Someone is tweeting about life.

Someone bumped their toe in the corner of a table.

A 50 year old woman is crying, feeling hurt and lonely, having been single all her life.

A 50 year old woman is crying, feeling hurt and lonely, having been recently divorced from her cheating ex-husband.

A man is losing his temper and insulting the woman who chose to stand by him the most.

A man is lovingly holding his partner in their living room, swaying her to soft music.

Someone dipped the tip of their paintbrush in paint, to draw the sun on a piece of white paper at school.

Someone dipped the tip of their paintbrush in paint, to place the final stroke on their masterpiece that’s going to be placed in a museum.

A man is wearing five layers of clothes and a hefty coat on top, as he attempts to go outside in the snow to get a few supplies.

A man is wearing nothing but a piece of animal skin, as he maneuvers through the jungle to hunt for sustenance.

A woman is going under the knife, to get a nose job for her already perfect nose.

A woman is going under the knife, to attempt to have her breast cancer removed.

Someone’s getting in bed to sleep.

Someone’s getting out of bed to start their day.

A child is having spaghetti and meat balls, followed with a bowl of fruit salad.

A child is knocking on car windows at an intersection, for any change spared to be able to buy the day’s single bag of chips.

A young adult has just graduated from university, with dreams of what could be given to the world.

Another has just graduated, with dreams of what could be taken from the world.

Someone is holding his little girl’s hands as she takes her first steps.

Someone is holding his mother’s hands as she struggles to walk in her old age.

Someone is speaking the truth.

A million are babbling nonsense.

Someone is taking a picture that will freeze this moment of time for as long as the picture exists.

And someone else, just like me, must also be wondering about all the different things that are happening right at this very moment.

Originally written for The Clairvoyance Collective here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

this is not what your hands are for

As I was driving to work, which is apparently when most things happen or are thought of in the day, I saw two grown up ladies and a tiny girl walking by their side, not even at the height of what seemed to be her mother’s knees.

The girl attempted to hop around her mom’s legs so that she’d be the one nearest to the street, and all of a sudden the mother slaps her back and forth across her face like there’s no tomorrow. The sight of the tiny girl being beaten up while she squinted her eyes and held her hands to her face was utterly heartbreaking.

It’s a strange and somehow horrific matter to me, how some people allow themselves to physically overpower or abuse someone else, let alone a child.

That is not what your hands are for.

For Lego, for building things, for writing, for peeling oranges, for holding, for high-fives. Yes.

But not hurting.

It’s a taboo to discuss this in our culture, even though it happens more often than not. It’s not even something people can get protected from, whether by calling the police or filing domestic violence charges. A man could beat his wife senseless or a mother could break her child’s arm and nobody would have the right to intervene.

Even scarier is that the mingling of “love” and violence becomes as confusing as it is toxic, and as complicated as it is obvious.

The mother would justify viciously slapping her girl in the middle of the street by stating she cares for her so much, she was scared she’d run off in front of a car or something. Others find beating their children an essential part of disciplining them. Men beat their wives believing that otherwise they wouldn’t have “respect”. Then the wives quickly forgive them, giving them all the excuses in the world, till it happens again, and more excuses are given.

Everything could be very easily justified these days, right?

No. Some things just aren’t right, and no bullshit should be accepted. These people are complete and utterly pathetic cowards. If they were anything but that, their actions would speak differently.

It’s not just a bruise, a fractured finger or limb, or an open lip. While the physical infliction will most probably heal, the psychological one never will.

I can imagine putting myself in that girl’s shoes, having to convince myself I didn’t deserve to be hurt, that I wasn’t responsible for what was happening to me, that I needed to ask for help somehow, and that there was another life possible for me than what I was drowning in. I can imagine the feelings of fear, terror, anxiety, unworthiness, and how it could seem absolutely hopeless.

I can imagine I’d be harboring very twisted ideas of “love”, “care”, “respect” and “responsibility”. Let alone the ideas of what should or should not be, or what’s deserved.

But no, let’s not discuss it. Let’s make it very normal by showing our actors and actresses do it, and let’s laugh about it like it’s funny. Let’s not learn or teach any other ways. Let’s not control ourselves like a creature supposedly more evolved than an animal should. To each his own!

Anything except affirming: that is not what your hands are for.

And because this happens on our TV screens, and in our homes, and happens again and again without people standing in the way of it, and because beautiful young women do not walk away, I feel compelled to convey a few things:

That violence is not acceptable, whether it’s towards a spouse or a child. Ever.

That no one is “asking for it.”

That no one “has it coming to them.”

That what abusers have come from and have seen and have been through is not an excuse, but a factor… and not something others are responsible to bear.

That you can choose something else, even when someone you love or admire does not… or won’t.

That words matter, too; that swearwords and insults and all the words we use as knives are not acceptable, in any relationship, at any time.

That choosing violence should have clear, solid consequences: losing access to someone you love.

That there are a million more choices you can make in the heat of the moment that don’t leave bruises and scars.

That we can all do better, for our own sake, and for our kids’ sake.

And simply, plainly, always: that is not what your hands are for.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A beat

A faint beat barely heard. Its mother felt it within her. Its father pressed his ear hard against her belly, trying to hear it separately from hers. He closed his eyes and a serene smile was drawn across his face as a warm wave traveled all over his body upon that brief acquaintance with the universe she contains, and the life sustained by that faint beat.

His beat grew stronger.

It regulated blood-flow, pumping quicker or slower as need be. When he ran, it ran with him. When he rested, it slowed down. The beat never abandoned him. It never let him down. It worked, constantly, every second of every day. It efficiently delivered life to every cell of his being, and allowed him all his functions.

When he anticipated, or worried, or won, or lost, he found himself clenching his fist to his chest, right above where the beat comes from, as if to tell it to calm down, or to cheer up. It was a curious thing. What’s in there to get him to feel all that intensity? Wasn’t he taught that all these different feelings are mere chemicals in the brain, trickery of the mind? Why wasn’t it that when he wanted to refer to himself in hand gestures, he pointed to it, rather than his all-powerful head?

His beat grew louder.

He found that it offered him guidance, and gave him courage. He imagined how stale everything would be without it. It whispered to him. It whispered his love’s name. It whispered what he must do. When his mind was in the right place, it whispered truth in unison. 

His beat grew truer.

It beat for a reason. It gave him passion. Through all the difficulties he faced, it gave him the strength to pick up the pieces and pull through. It reassured him of his life’s purpose, and that he must go on, for it still beat for him no matter what happened. His mind, trained, pointed him as a compass would. His beat took him there. 

As long as that journey was, he gave his all, because his beat, as it pumped through him, it pumped through all that which he touched, too. People recognized it, and were attracted to it as butterflies are attracted to a shining light amid a vast darkness. 

His beat grew weak.

Not because it had a choice to the matter, but rather for nature to take its course. And there is no evil to be found in nature. He understood that. He embraced it. He took comfort and basked in the thought of resting for a while, to return younger and stronger later. Maybe in a decade. Maybe in a hundred. But he knew he would return. In the meanwhile, he smiled as his father once did when he pressed his ears to hear his tiny beat. He smiled because at the end of his current time, all around him, were people whose beats drummed rhythmically, in harmony to his own.

Then, his beat grew silent.


This is originally published in The Clairvoyance Collective, under a common theme week titled 'Heart'.