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!

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