Watermarking Your Images

Most professional photographers out there put some sort of transparent-ish watermark on their images when posting them to the web. It’s one of the few, albeit not necessarily fool-proof, ways to keep your photos from being used without your authorization. For pros, this is important not only to protect the value of the work, but often because the photos are under exclusive use license… it’s bad for both the photographer and their clients if those photos are misused.

With services like Flickr making it so simple to “borrow” images from, unauthorized use is becoming more of a problem. I can name quite a few cases where Flickr photos with All Rights Reserved clearly indicated on the web page were taken and used in magazines or websites without permission. In fact, I just stumbled upon this post with an old image of mine that was used without my permission. As a result of this kind of issue, more and more people are tagging their images with a copyright notice, and sometimes even quite a big one.

I started adding a copyright notice to my photos some months ago, once I started getting paid for some of my shots. It seemed the best way to show good faith that photos that I might sell as stock in the future haven’t been used before. Initially, I just tagged on the copyright by hand in Photoshop. I’d create a new layer, add the text, set the transparency and be done with it. This was fairly tedious and time consuming, but for most images, I was using Photoshop to do other image tweaking, so it wasn’t too terribly much overhead. After some weeks, I created a little action to do the same thing… it was flakey, and wouldn’t position the text where I wanted it to be, but it saved me the step of typing the same copyright string over and over again. I’m guessing that Image Ready, that comes along with Photoshop CS2 does some of this for you, but I haven’t played around with it much. Likewise, I’m sure there are some good Photoshop actions out there… better than the one I created… to help aid in this task.

When I started using Capture One, as you know, my workflow changed considerably. At this point, I only use Photoshop on about 5% of my photos… in those cases usually to clean up some little nit kind of thing that showed up in the macro shot that I didn’t see before-hand, or to clean up an all white background. The rest of the time, all my color and exposure correction is done in Capture One, so outputting from the raw files to the various formats and sizes is all automated. Capture One lets you set the specific file type, sizing, color profile, compression ratio, file naming and, my favorite, lets you set and place watermark a string, all as a part of the output processing. Set all these things once, and save the settings to an output type and then you can use those same settings on any batch of photos. I have different settings saved off for my TIFF files, full-sized jpegs for clients, web-sized jpegs for clients, web-sized jpegs w/watermarks for Flickr, and sized to fit my online portfolio. After I color correct a batch of photos, I just pick which output types I want and wait a few minutes for the results. Easy-peasy, and no more dinking around with watermarking manually.

Recently a question from one of my fellow Flickrites on how I watermark prompted a bit more searching for other tools that aren’t quite as pricey, and I found a couple that look interesting. I have not tried these though, so take this just as info, not as a recommendation.

First, and the one that looks the best to me, is Downsize by a company called Stunt software. This little Mac-based app lets you batch resize your images, but also do all kinds of cool stuff in the process… like add a border or a drop-shadow, round the corners, or add a watermark. It integrates with iPhoto as well, so you won’t have to worry about having to refind all your photos buried away in the crazy mac directory structure.

On PC, check out ReaWatermark2 by ReaSoft. It doesn’t do all the same cool stuff that Downsize does, but it does do transparent watermarks, including graphics.

You might also check out iWaterMark, which works on both PCs and Macs.

Once you have the tool, you need to decide what your watermark will say or look like. I like to keep mine small, so it doesn’t interfere with the image. My goal is that no one notices it on the first glance of the photo. Other folks go big, to make sure it’s clear that the work is copyrighted immediately. Here are some examples of what other Flickrites have done. There isn’t really a right or wrong here… it’s all about what you want. The images is copyrighted whether or not it has a watermark.

My copyright is just text, and reads: Ask First! © 2007 Plates & Packs LLC/Lara Ferroni http://www.platesandpacks.com/ All Rights Reserved.

That little copyright symbol, ©, on the mac, by the way, is Alt-G in most fonts.

Don’t think that adding a watermark is going to do a lot to stave off the very ambitious image thief. What it will do, however, is help let those who really don’t understand copyrights from accidentally taking your images without permission. Since I started watermarking, I’ve been surprised (and pleased) by the number of people who have sent me mail to make sure it was ok for them to use one of my images. Sometimes, it was, and I granted them limited use rights. Sometimes, I had to say no, and explain my reasons.

*Note. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on my blog. Please don’t consider this post as legal advice!

  • http://maegabriel.com/riceandnoodles Mae

    This question comes up in foodblogscool a lot. It has in fact just recently propped up again. I will link this post to the comment section of that post and i hope you don’t mind. Your explanations and software suggestions might help others on deciding which ones to use for watermarking.

    I also use a tiny text at the bottom of my photos which i generate from photoshop. But instead of typing them all the time, i just open up a psd file that i have used in the past and drag and drop the text to the new photo that i have cropped. I’m considering adding ‘All Rights Reserved’ at the end like you do on yours too – just an added clarification to the viewers, i guess.

    Thanks Lara! x

  • http://stilllifewith.com L

    Hi Mae – Yes, of course! Feel free!

    I somehow missed that particular thread, so this post is pure coincidink… but hopefully it will give folks some other ideas on how to go about watermarking!

    Sounds like your approach was a lot like the action I made, which opened up a file with the copyright string already typed in.


  • sam

    I was thinking the same thing but Mae beat me to it.
    Thanks !

  • http://www.mattbites.com matt


    There, I had to say it. I realize it’s all a personal preference but I get irked to the Nth degree when I cannot properly view an image because someone’s name is doused across the front.

    I truly understand people’s needs to control their images – heck, I am making a living off of my photography and would hate to have it stolen. But I just feel as if something a little more restrained would be in order.

    Lara’s technique of minimal watermarking is a happy medium!

  • http://stilllifewith.com L

    Matt – well, I think that we are ALL thankful that you don’t cover your gorgeous photos up!!!



  • http://www.davidlebovitz.com David

    I love the picture of the oranges. Even the watermark can’t make them look bad!

  • http://www.acmeinstantfood.blogspot.com Kevin

    Timely post! I just posted my first watermarked image on my blog. The end result was too large for my liking but, I’m a complete computer KLUTZ and need to practice this task.

  • http://thevillagevegetable.blogspot.com Linda, The Village Vegetable

    So many bloggers are doing this now. I’ve been considering it, though I agree with Matt that it ruins many photos. I also agree that L’s is one of the more discrete options and I prefer it overall. I don’t think my photos are anything worth stealing, though they have been getting better. Maybe in a few months, I’ll have the gull.

    Thanks for all the advice!

    Speaking of photo management programs, the systems administrator in my company knows I’m into photography and just gave me ACDSEE Pro. Anyone used this one? Maybe it’s old school – i’m pretty technologically challenged (i’m amazed i’ve been able to learn photoshop), but it’s new to me…

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  • http://www.elsoponcio.blogspot.com LV

    Dear L,

    I have removed your photo from my blog. I apologize for not asking for permission. I used it as a grat example o food photography. I´m a big fan of your site and your photos and would not like to harm you in any way.

    My sincere apologies.

  • http://stilllifewith.com L

    Linda – I have used ACDSEE, although it has been a while. It’s always been a pretty good management app, and I know they’ve continued to do work on it. It’s as good of a place to start as any!

    LV – Thank you. I know most of the time, people use photos that they like not to take them and claim them as their own… but just to show them off more. The main thing is to ask the photographer and respect their use requirements. Cheers!


  • http://www.jackieconnelly.com jackie

    Linda-I have used ACDSEE at the last photography job i had, I had no choice, on their PC laptops. It was alright, it got the job done, but I am so not a PC person, so my experience was a bit tainted by that. It was easy to use, worked well with photoshop.

    And to L – thanks for this great post! I’m just starting to visit your blog more regularly, so hopefully will beable to participate in the monthly challenges! There’s a great group of photogs on this site, I’m really enjoying it.

  • Harry

    What is this about? You don’t actually HAVE any watermark on your pictures.

    I mean it’s a good theoretical discussion and all, but it kind of falls apart when I click on your little thumbnails on the right and none of the large images actually have anything on them..

    At last you included some examples from other people though.

  • http://stilllifewith.com L

    Hi Harry,

    I haven’t always watermarked my work, but have for the past 6 months or so. However, the thumbnails on the top of the page are for a group of photos that belong to a lot of different contributors… they are mostly not my photos, and you are right… most of them are not watermarked.

    If you take a look at my Flickr photostream (see the 2nd group of photos labeled my photos), you’ll see a small watermark in the bottom of the image.

  • http://www.foodici.com caroline

    Hi I am new to all of this and started a blog(its all underwaterstill)
    so I hope you could guide me. I use mac and had a look at iwatermark I liked it and downloaded it and now having trouble. (In photo elements I reducue the photo size to 500 pix) then i return to iwatermark add the mark on to the reduced photo)
    I go into WORDPRESS(blog) and upload the watermark from watermark file and it will not.
    The picture has a question mark, on it
    Where and what am i doing wrong? or is it iwatermark?

  • http://stilllifewith.com L

    Hi Caroline,

    Sorry… I haven’t used iWaterMark, just added it here as a reference, so I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe one of our other readers will have some suggestions for you though.


  • http://thejavaa.com Andie Summerkiss

    Hi L,

    I love your site very much. You take such great photos and they are all very inspiring.

    I just want to add something that I learned quite recently. I have been using Mac for two months and used Jet Photo Studio to resize my images. I just found out last night that the software can also apply watermark to photos by bulk. Just drop the jpg / png / gif file to the box (any kind of image/text) and it transforms the image to the greyish watermark. That was just wonderful because I am totally clueless on photoshop. (I am not sure if you know, but I didn’t read about this from the comment above)

    Jet Photo Studio is a freeware, can be downloaded at http://www.apple.com/downloads.