A watermark is a visual element that is applied to an image, photograph, or video. A watermark is usually a logo or copyright information. However, it can provide more than this. It can contain contact information, important text or any other information to protect the visual content below it, depending on its design.

What does it mean for content creators to be protected by watermarks?

Many photographers have discovered that digital images can be difficult to protect once they are uploaded to the internet. Even if you have filed a copyright request with the Federal Copyright Office you might find your photo used on a website or social media without your permission.

You can either send a cease-and-desist letter to the person who used your image or file a complaint on the social media platform from which you saw it. It can take some time to stop the unauthorised use of your images.

Because watermarks attach your information to an image, they protect content creators. This allows you to still be credited when someone shares your work, unless they remove it, which can lead to a headache.

Watermarks: Who uses them?

Digital watermarks are used most often by brands, photographers, and content creators. Watermarks were initially created to protect criminals from counterfeiting banknotes and checks as well as other financial documents.

A U.S. $10 bill will show you the watermarks that prevent currency counterfeiting. You’ll see a faint image embedded in paper currency if you hold it up to the light.

Although digital watermarking may not be as common as what you find in currency or checks, it provides creators with the same level of protection.

Are watermarking images always a good idea or a bad idea?

Watermarks are a controversial topic for both photographers and content creators. Even if you are a Photoshop expert, it is possible to remove a digital watermark. However, some photographers don’t see the value in using them. Others photographers don’t like the look of watermarks and don’t want to add a watermark overlay.

Many photographers who are on the opposite side of the debate believe that a digital signature is a reasonable way to protect their digital work. These photographers use different watermarks for different purposes.

Which type of watermark should I use for my photos?

It’s a good idea first to determine your goal before you start using a visible watermark. Are you looking for a watermark that covers the entire image to discourage potential thieves from taking your digital files? You want something that isn’t too distracting from the image, but still informs viewers about the origin of the work.

These are some common watermarks that you should consider along with their best uses.

1. Proofing watermarks

Designers and photographers often show clients early versions with a low-opacity overlay text. Images can be protected by using words like “Proof”, “Draft” or “Version X”. Watermarks are both obvious and unattractive.

2. Watermarks for logos

For content creators and photographers, a watermark with your logo in one corner can be a great choice. These watermarks are easy to create in Photoshop or Lightroom and can be applied to multiple images in a batch action to reduce time.

Logo watermarks work best when simple logos are easy to read. It will be very small so ensure that the design is not too complicated. If they really want to use your image, they can crop it out if it is placed in a corner.

3. Informative watermarks

A faint watermark with your website address, phone number or email address can help viewers find you. It can be placed over any part of the image and is easier to remove than logo watermarks in the corners.

Additional watermark tips

These are some additional details to consider when you’re deciding whether or not to add watermarks on your work.

  • Watermarks that are placed over an image with complex textures will be more difficult to remove.
  • Good watermarks are visible but not distracting. A garish watermark will not ruin the appearance of your image.
  • You should save separate watermarked versions of your images. This will prevent you from accidentally replacing your original image by a watermarked one.