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Why You Might Need to Change Your Watermark Style

Hello. It’s Amy. And I’m here to talk to you about watermarking photos. Before anyone gets defensive, you should know that I totally get it. You want to protect your pictures on the internet. You worked hard, you sacrificed family time, and you had 3 craftfails before you came up with the PERFECT project – and then you took a great shot of it! You do not want anyone to use your photo and pass it or your project off as their own. Not only that, but you want a great graphic for Pinterest that explains the project AND helps people in case it gets wrongfully pinned. I am a blogger too, so I am right there with you. We want credit for what we do, which makes sense.

I’m going to have to say though, I’m seeing far too many photos on craft blogs like the one above. They are littered with titles, text and blog names. It makes me sad, and here’s why:

I can’t see the project. First and foremost, I just don’t know where to look. But you also might be covering important details that I need to see. You already made the glitter paper flower centerpiece, but I want to make it too (I’m assuming that’s why you gave me a tutorial?). I understand that you wrote instructions, but I’m a visual person. Please let me see your amazing creation.
I don’t want to feature it. And I’m not the only one. Many big bloggers and feature sites don’t consider photos that are littered with text. And it’s not just bloggers. Companies, magazine editors, reporters and even TV shows look at our blogs too. Even if you are willing to give them a clean copy of your photo, do you really want to risk turning them off first with a visual circus?
It’s overkill. I’m positive that you don’t need so much to claim a photo as your own. So let’s move on to:

I’m not telling you to get rid of watermarks. I don’t personally use them, but I have no problem with them. And actually, they can be helpful when the original source is hard to find. There ARE ways to watermark your photos, still get pinned and not drive everyone away. So how?

Photo by Courtney O'Dell

Well, I’d like to show you with a photo – courtesy of Courtney at Sweet C’s Designs. Here’s what I think makes it successful.

  • The project gets center stage and is not impeded by graphics.
  • The blog name (watermark) is small and up in the right corner. I can read it, but it’s not huge and obtrusive.
  • The title of the project is down in the left corner, again with unobtrusive text. It’s also in a box that isn’t a bright or loud color.
  • There aren’t too many words – the photo does the talking.
So, those are my two cents. I’ve heard a lot of people suggest two additional tips, which I think are good:
1) Always have an optional photo in the post without the title of the project, for features. You can use a photo like Courtney’s for the top of the post, then at the end, just have one with your watermark.
2) Keep a clean copy of the photo with nothing on it in case you get contacted for a feature.

And finally, the last thing to keep in mind: YOU ARE ON THE INTERNET. Put a photo on your blog and you risk it getting stolen. Β While you can watermark the heck out of a photo, if someone really wants it, they will have it. I know some Photoshop experts who can have a watermark over the top of a project gone in minutes. If it’s that crucial of an idea and that important that it doesn’t get borrowed, you should probably reconsider having the photo (and project!) on your blog.

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53 Responses to “Why You Might Need to Change Your Watermark Style”

  1. Michelle L. says:

    I AM ABOUT TO WRITE A COMMENT BY MICH L! IT CONTAINS LETTERS AND WORDS! MINE!

    Heehee, I so agree, sometimes those things can be a bit much and make me wish for just a little less of a good thing. Thanks for an honest critique, Amy – I’m sure people won’t take it personally. Great tip about having a nice un-watermarked photo somewhere in your post for being featured.

    THAT WAS THE COMMENT! DON’T STEAL IT, IT IS OWNED BY ME!

  2. Kristin says:

    I am guilty of overdoing pictures, mostly because I have very few photoshop skills and I get frustrated. But less is more. And truthfully the overdone pictures get very little interest.

  3. Jenny says:

    I’ve gone through phases; sometimes I watermark, sometimes I don’t. I do like the tip on keeping a photo non-watermarked. I have submitted photos to sites before and then had to redo them because they wouldn’t feature them with the words. I’ve started putting a separate “main” photo without words in addition to any watermarked photos.

    • Simon says:

      “I’ve started putting a separate β€œmain” photo without words in addition to any watermarked photos”

      LOL! the whole idea behind watermarking is to deter another from cutting & pasting your photo you worked hours lighting and taking. What sense does it make to put one photo watermarked and the same without??! Wouldn’t they just copy the one without?? Dumb?

  4. Nat says:

    I tend to watermark the stuff that I *hope* (with crossed fingers) will get pinned or featured- that way I have less to do later. I agree that some watermarks are overkill. And can I just say, Amy, that I hope to meet you in person someday. I love the way you write, and you just seem totally cool. πŸ™‚ And I love Crafterminds. It’s been such a great resource for me. Thanks!

  5. Melissa says:

    Thank you for these tips! I’m still trying to find my happy place with graphics and watermarking. It’s easy to get carried away in photoshop:0)

    My plan is to focus my energy on the positive, making the pictures “pinnable” and not focus on the negative, photo stealing.

    • amy says:

      That is a good point – for all of blogging, really. It’s so easy to focus on the negative sometimes, but the energy should go toward the positive!

    • vani says:

      Thumbs up to that comment Melissa! “My plan is to focus my energy on the positive, making the pictures β€œpinnable” and not focus on the negative, photo stealing.”

      πŸ™‚ …

  6. Dedi says:

    so agree..hate when great shots of something I love are covered up with Watermarks..to me it ruins the creativity..I seem to focus more on the “loud” watermark than the actual photo…

  7. I think you are so right! I always put my blog name on my pictures but it is (hopefully) unobtrusive. I usually have just one photo per post that is Pinterest friendly and the rest are just the name of my blog. It can be hard to find the right balance but less is definitely more!

  8. Lowri McNabb says:

    Great article Amy. I love the project you chose to feature – though personally I feel a “Project Title” on a photo is un-necessary. If I saw that on Pinterest I would actually be LESS likely to click through and see the post as it’s all kind of spelt out for me!

    If I am approached for a project feature in an online publication or site – I usually insist the watermarked photo is used – otherwise – it gets pinned from the feature site and no-one knows where it came from OR people have to click twice to find the source… No-one has ever objected (yet!)

    I also think that having an unwatermarked pic is a bit un-necessary too – as people should really be contacting you before featuring anyway and at that stage can request an un-watermarked if needed – and YOU then get to affirm the ground rules too regarding credit…

    Always enjoy the discussion at crafterminds!

    • Kasey says:

      I am curious what did you do when you saw your stolen photo being used? Did you send them an eamil? I don’t know how I would have handled it. I one time saw a stolen photo of mine on someones desk! I did not say anything.

      As far as watermarks sometimes when I have time I use a watermark but most the time I don’t bother because I know how easy they are to take off.
      However if someone takes it off then yours is still floating around out on the net for people to see and realize is probably the original.

  9. Noel says:

    Thank you for this article. I actually got so tired of the watermark intruding on my photos that I stopped watermarking at all … I guess I’ve opened my blog to theft. I seesaw between wanting to add a watermark and not. But, if I add it back on, I’ll make certain it is subtle!

    • amy says:

      I don’t watermark either – it just isn’t what I personally want to do. πŸ˜€ I think the good news (and something that we all have to remember) is that most people online are not thieves. Even without watermarking, I’ve only had a few photos used without permission in four years time. AND I’ve known plenty of people who have had watermarked photos taken and used without permission. I personally don’t believe the watermark saves you. But that is just me, and I respect others opinions.

  10. Well done Amy. I watermark mine, but I don’t use titles. That doesn’t mean I never have. I’ve gone through stages as time has gone by. I used to watermark right across the middle, mine are translucent. Now I have them at the bottom or the side. I run the risk of someone cropping the watermark out, but so be it. πŸ™‚

    And I do want to throw in there that from the stand point of someone who features others (Craft Gossip and Copycat Crafts) I don’t mind watermarks but usually won’t feature someone if their photo has an intrusive title. And in response to Lowri’s comment above, most site’s that feature don’t ask first and by law they technically don’t have to due to fair use in copyright. Editors of large sites are busy as we all are, so unless the project is positively spectacular, chances are they won’t ask to feature you. If they can’t grab the photo right away, they’ll probably move on.

  11. Lowri McNabb says:

    Me again! – Just as an addition to the Fair Use comment – any feature on a site with ANY form of advertising would DEFINITELY not fall under the Fair Use provision….

    Online Image Copyright is something that gets me really hot under the collar – can you tell LOL

    • Hi Lowri πŸ™‚ The best thing to do if you don’t want your images and posts featured (when i say that of course, I don’t mean your post copied, I mean someone using an image to link directly to your tutorial) is to have a statement on your blog saying that no images can be used, features or otherwise, without your permission first. I haven’t checked your blog, so you may already have that in place, but stating that for anyone else that might be reading this.

      • Woops, meant to reiterate my comment above that by limiting yourself that way you run the risk of those large sites “moving on”. Everyone is very busy, so when an editor wants to feature you, they generally want to do it “now”, as soon as they discover the project. Some will send in the request, but others won’t, many will just move on and mark that blog off their list. Everyone is totally entitled to their copyright of course! πŸ™‚ I’m just trying to state the limitation that one puts on themselves by implementing such a strict requirement. I also don’t want people lifting my images, but I have a notice on my sites that says that an image may be used for the purpose of featuring without asking permission first. πŸ™‚ It’s totally up to the individual how they want to handle their own site, it’s just best if that is laid out in writing, plain as day. πŸ™‚

      • Lowri McNabb says:

        Thanks Amanda – I had a big post before that short snippet on Fair Use – but it never showed up!

        I am of the firm belief that some people (thankfully a small minority!) are always going to not care and use your images anyway – and if you REALLY don’t want that you shouldn’t put it online!

        I also have that Copyright information there to try and help people undertsnad the differece between Copying and Copyright. I have seen so many people get up in arms about their ideas being copied – and they think someone has violated their Copyright – which is course is almost never the case. One I see as unethical and one illegal!

        Thanks too for the link to my site – it has made it easier for me to deal with people who HAVE copied my images. It amazes me how they are usually indignant and think I should be flattered!
        Lowri πŸ™‚

        • heather says:

          I think the “fair use” Amanda mentioned is being used to refer to blogs covering a featured project as a news item. If you put it out on the internet, then having it covered by another online outlet as an item of news might fall under fair use.

  12. Lowri McNabb says:

    This is a great “laymans” intro to online Copyright – (from the University of New Hampshire School of Law)
    http://law.unh.edu/thomasfield/ipbasics/copyright-on-the-internet.php

    • That is a great article and definitely easy to read πŸ™‚ While you are correct about fair use not being allowed for commercial purposes, just have ads on a website does not roll them into that category. It totally depends on how the item is being used. For the purpose of this conversation though, a site like Craft Gossip or Apartment Therapy, for example, would be using the image in a news capacity, similar to a magazine or newspaper. This quoted from the article:

      “Yet, not all commercial uses are forbidden. Most magazines and newspapers are operated for profit; that they are not automatically precluded from fair use has been made clear by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

      Also, I had a look at your site and the copyright section is not only clearly available on your site but is clear and concise and a great example for other craft bloggers. Well done! Here’s Lowri’s copyright page if anyone is interested in taking a look, it’s well done and clearly written out leaving no question for a feature site πŸ™‚ http://www.papervinenz.com/p/copyright.html

  13. Peaches says:

    Ug. This is such a touchy subject. Bravo to you for taking it head on! My two cents: Nothing throws off visual mojo like a sloppy watermark. And if I was being honest here, which I am, I would estimate 99% of the watermarks floating around on craft blogs are not necessary (and could be photo shopped out *if* someone really wanted to).

    Plus, I don’t get what people are so afraid of? Most of the websites I see that do not link back are personal blogs and scraper sites. And since their relevant audience #s are Slim To None, I’m not worried about missing out on something great. It’s far more likely that a larger blog, like you mentioned, would pass on featuring a project because of watermarks or over editing. DOWN WITH WATERMARKS.

    Stepping off my soap box…

  14. Lowri McNabb says:

    I had a complete blog post copied and pasted by one of the larger scrapbook retail stores in the US – and they just addded on the end “So if you want to buy supplies to make this cool project – come to our shop here!”

    I simply emailed them (as I have done when others have copied complete posts or tutorials) and asked that they remove it. I have always been firm and polite and have not and any problems really – however it is confrontational and therefore a bit uncomfortable!

    I have been contacted my MSN asking if it was OK to feature projects and they were fine with leaving the watermark on there – they totally understood and said it was only fair as they were getting basically free content!

    The larger sites (like MSN) do not want people suing them for using images they do not own – so I imagine the larger organisations are maybe way more careful about getting permission?!?

    Great discussion πŸ™‚

  15. Melissa says:

    Does anybody have any comments regarding recipes? Specifically, my cookie in a cup recipes are really popular and people have straight cut and pasted the recipe. Sometimes giving credit, sometimes not. There are even you tube videos!

    My main issue is that my blog is still pretty new, and those sites rank higher in search results than me.

    What’s the protocol?

    • Mod Podge Amy says:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/03/AR2006010300316.html

      Hi Melissa! I found this article which may help. I don’t bake so maybe someone else can weigh in, but I know it’s a tough area. I have also known people to think that they had a completely unique recipe when in fact they did not. I’m not saying that’s you, it is just something to think about for the future. If it were me, I would credit where I found it, but I don’t know how it works in the food arena.

      • Melissa says:

        That’s a great article! Thank you!!!

        That confirms my thought that it’s a gray area.

        I totally understand what you are saying about recipes. There’s nothing new under the sun:0)

    • heather says:

      Lists of ingredients can’t be copyrighted, although the language you use to explain the recipe can.

      • Kasey says:

        In response to what Amy said about someone thinking that they had a completely unique recipe when in fact they did not. I have to agree.

        I had an indecent one time. I made these earrings using all my old scraps of chain. Put them up on ETSY and a few days later saw a pair IDENTICAL to mine. I mean even the same types of chain! I was mad at first, looked into it more only to find her’s were made and listed way before mine!

        I could not believe it. I thought my idea was so unique, I am still saddened by this, years later. I just wanted to shear with you. Not that this is what is going in in your situation. Just my story.

    • I convert recipes to gluten-free. I always credit the original source even though afterwards it’s completely different. I just feel that the original poster deserves the credit for the inspiration. I also comment on the original post and tell them what I did with a link. That way they can see what I did.

  16. If you see a photo on my site that’s not watermarked it means it came off my iphone and the quality isn’t that great to begin with. If I took the time to set up a photo shoot of my project with my DSLR then I’m doing two things with those photos. One I’m cutting the size down for the site and then I’m going to watermark it.

    Here’s an example of my “good” watermark (I need to make a good one for my craft blog) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=208471749185743&set=a.208471725852412.59819.113996655299920&type=3&theater

    For that photo after I finished processing it I saved it full sized. Then in photoshop I went to Image size and set the short end to 4 and the resolution to 100. Then I open the watermark file, I saved it as a PSD file, and drag it on to the photo. Then I go to File Save For Web and Devices and place it in a separate folder so I don’t overwrite the original. This does a few things, it optimizes the file for web viewing, it adds the watermark as a layer of protection in case it is stolen, and it makes the file small enough that it can’t be printed at any sort of quality.

    I feel like if someone wants to feature the project or photo then they can ask me. If the terms work out then I’ll send them the unwatermarked photo otherwise they can use the one that gives me credit.

  17. FYI, I write for Apartment Therapy, and they’ve just instituted a “no watermark” policy. That means that ANY kind of watermark on your photo is going to eliminate your project from being featured. Even if it’s small. Since AT is such a visual site, they want good pictures that don’t have text at all. Occasionally we’ll make an exception, and every once in a while we’ll try to contact the blogger and ask for a non-watermarked photo, but in general, if I see a good project with a texted photo, I skip it and move on. For what it’s worth. πŸ™‚

    • Beth, Although I completely understand Apartment Therapy’s stance, I do think it is kind of sad that bloggers that are trying to protect their photos (albeit with a small ghosted watermark) won’t normally be considered for a feature on AT ;-(.

      Brittany

  18. Amanda says:

    I’ve begun trying to watermark my photos. But I HATE obtrusive watermarks, so I’ve made mine faint and always put it in a place that doesn’t cover anything good up.
    I do, though, always include a main photo for my tutorials that has the title for Pinterest. I find I’m more likely to click over if I know what the photo is supposed to be, so I assume others are, too. I still always include a blank one at the end of my tutorials, though.

  19. Amber Mae says:

    Wow! I had no idea watermarking was such a controversial subject! I’ve been getting fainter and fainter with my watermarks, but I’m not removing them anytime soon. I figure I did all this work, I should get some credit/PR for it on pinterest and elsewhere. My watermark is just my logo though, I don’t do a lot of text.

  20. Amber Mae says:

    Is this sad though – I really do want to know how to make that shrinky dink necklace. Beneath the text it looks cute!

  21. I read this a few days ago, and agreed with it wholeheartedly. In fact, I think I may have even shared it on my A2D Facebook. But now, I find myself seriously considering using obnoxious watermarks.

    About four days ago, I had someone take every single photo from my absolute most popular DIY tutorial, crop off all of my watermarks (that were unobtrusive, and down in the lower left corner), create a collage with the photos, and then post them on a very popular Pinterest-type website in Poland. That picture has now spread like wildfire, being shared hundreds (possibly thousands) of times on that Polish Pinterest site, hundreds of times on Tumblr, over 38,000 times on Pinterest, and it’s been stumbled over 100,000 times on StumbleUpon from the Polish Pinterest site. And those are only the sites I’m aware of. Who knows where else it’s been shared and spread around that I just haven’t discovered yet.

    So basically, my project has gone viral, but I’m receiving no benefit from it, all because some jerk decided that he or she was entitled to my pics, and cropped off my unobtrusive watermarks.

    I know there’s no 100% foolproof way to protect pictures once they’re put online, but this experience has been so unbelievably discouraging for me. I’m very tempted to start plastering my name and URL all over my pictures because of it.

    • Kasey says:

      I am so sorry this happened to you. How did you discover all this? I know how you must feel but even a huge water mark across the middle can be eddied out.

      All I know that you can do is fallow some of the suggestions on here to contact them… I know that won’t change much.

      I am so so sorry.

      One time i sent someone home from my photo studio with the proofs of the pics I took(back when I used film πŸ™‚ they kept them and never bought anything.

      Then a few years later I was the deans office at a school and saw my proofs on the wall in a collage….use to water mark the back. So people could buy the proofs at a discount.

    • I commented on your blog too, but again this is so terrible! I’m sorry that this happened!

      I have a feeling we are going to see more of the same. Somebody please tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the spammers have taken to stealing popular images on pinterest and rediting them into long collages that show up really large on pinterest, then directing them to their own sites.

      • Kasey says:

        I feel like more needs to be done about the $%*&@!ngs spamers on Pinterest! I can not stand it. I feel so bad for the people who get ripped off

  22. Shannon Fox says:

    Uh-Oh.
    This may apply to me… I think I like to add text a wee bit much.
    I’ll be taking a closer look to see where I can reign it in a little πŸ˜‰

  23. atoviefeaft says:

    Great post!

  24. Simon says:

    As a professional graphic designer, I think “watermark” is being misused. Watermark is just that, a faded “ghostly”, see-through image or text. Not bold full color opaque text fonts over photos. Imagine if the text were made from clear crystal glass and laid on the photo, it’s transparent but you still can see it there. This is close to what a watermark should look like. Other than this it is called “text on photo” not “watermark”.

  25. Angel says:

    I saw about 20 photos of mine for a product I have on a Chinese website. None of the photos were watermarked. I watermark mine now. Lightly, in the same spot on each photo slightly over the picture, so far none have been stolen. The thing is, people will go for the easy steal. Not many will go through the trouble of trying to edit the watermark out, some, but in many cases they’ll just go to the next photo of its an easier steal than yours.

    It took me awhile to find a watermark that was unobtrusive and flowed a bit with my work. Hate that I have to do it but hated even more the moment I was looking through online catalogs and saw my photos selling their product.

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