Why I Use A Watermark…

…and why you should too.



There are almost as many opinions about watermarks on photos as there are photographers making photos.

Some, like myself, won’t share a photo online without one.

Then there are those who feel they are a waste of time because if someone wants to steel your photo they can easily remove any watermark.

Others find them too distracting, taking away from the viewing experience.

Add to this the number of people who may decide not to purchase a print due to the mistaken belief that the watermark they see will also be on any prints they buy, and it’s easy to question whether or not you should add a watermark to your photos?

As far as I’m concerned the answer is yes.


Sunrise Fire On The New Hampshire Coast.

The biggest reason I apply a watermark to almost every photo I share online has to do with branding and name recognition. When someone comes across one of my images online somewhere,  or sees a print with my signature on it, there’s no question that it is indeed mine. And since I do feel my watermark is pretty distinctive, people are more likely to remember it.

Though I do almost always watermark, to satisfy those that may find watermarks too distracting I try to reach a balance between making the watermark large enough to be noticeable, but not so large as to completely ruin the viewing experience. Regarding the last point the size of my watermark has gone through many changes over the years.

Image Theft.

The second reason I watermark my images is as a deterrent to theft. Sure, someone with halfway decent photoshop skills would be able to easily remove my watermark, however most of those people are probably halfway decent photographers themselves and are far too busy making their own photographs to bother steeling mine.

Most of them anyway.


About a week ago I received an email from someone I didn’t know alerting me that someone had stolen one of my images and was claiming it as her own. Following the link sent by the Good Samaritan, I did indeed find the above image on this woman’s Gurushots.com feed(link is not to the offending woman’s page). Now up until this point I’d never even heard of Gurushots, so I was surprised to learn of another possible photo sharing site I may use in the future,  and surprised to find one of my photos being used by someone not me claiming it as her own.

To be honest, I was most surprised that someone was kind enough to take time out of their day to look me up and let me know about it.

I won’t comment on the fact that this woman was not only dumb enough to post an obvious screenshot of my photo(the above photo is my screenshot of her screenshot), she  was doubly dumb enough to leave my watermark on the photo!

Oops, I guess I just did.

Based on the other photos in this particular woman’s feed it appears she was very good at claiming other people’s photos as her own. Oddly enough this one of mine was the only one with an obvious watermark. Did I mention stupid?

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the good people at Gurushots. They were quick and responsive when I contacted them about the misuse of my photo. Within 48 hours I had a reply, and this woman’s page had been taken down completely.

Dispel The Myth.

For those who may be hesitating purchasing one of my photos, or anyone else’s for that matter, let me be 100% clear.

My watermark will never appear on a print! Prints purchased through jeffsinon.com will have my signature digitally applied, in gold, on the lower righthand corner of the print, but it will be much smaller than the watermark. Roughly the size it would be on hand signed prints purchased directly through me.

Too Distracting?

Lastly, lets talk about how distracting watermarks can be. I admit that early on my watermark was considerably larger than the one I currently use. Same watermark, just bigger. A few people commented that they found it distracting, though the vast majority of feedback has been quite positive (So positive in fact I’ve been contacted several times over the years by people asking me to create a watermark for them).

In some cases I feel a large distracting watermark, plastered right across the middle of the image is warranted and justified. For the wedding, portrait, or event photographer who’s livelihood depends on image sales, it’s quite understandable that they put a large watermark across the middle of their images. Otherwise, what’s to stop clients from simply grabbing a screenshot of, rather than paying for, the photo they want?

As it is, even that doesn’t stop people. I’m sure many of you have seen photos shared on social media that still have the photographers watermark emblazoned across the image. Chances are the person sharing that photo just took a screen shot from the photographer’s website, without paying for the photo.

So on the off chance I wasn’t clear, I’m a strong proponent of reasonably sized, tasteful, and distinct watermarks, and use them on almost every photo I share online.

And you should too.




22 thoughts on “Why Watermark?

      1. Oh I know of both Trey’s work, and his thoughts on watermarks. And if I had his name recognition and income stream from licensing, presets, tutorials, etc, maybe I wouldn’t be so concerned about whether or not I watermarked my images. But until I do… 🙂


        1. I guess my thinking is this. When someone uses one of your photos without permission (without or without watermark), did you actually lose a sale? Were they ever going to pay you? I htink the answer is “no”. So the watermark is an ineffective deterent.

          1. Khurt, I totally agree with you. Theft deterrent is the last reason I recommend using a watermark. Branding is the biggest reason. Most but not all of the improper use of my photos has been people using them on their social media without asking permission first. Which as I regularly mention on my Facebook page is strongly encouraged, as long as you ask first and don’t alter the photo.

          1. You have a great watermark! And anyone who sees one of your photos will know it’s yours.

            And if they want to steal it, they’ll know who they’re stealing it from. LOL!! 🙂

  1. Great post Jeff! This is something I’ve wondered about for years. Any suggestions for free/cheap software or apps that will let me start doing this with as little hassle as possible? I also don’t know how I would make my logo transparent and suitable for use as a watermark…

    1. Though I haven’t used it myself, I’ve heard good things about iWatermark Pro for Mac(I seem to recall you’re a Mac user). It’s pretty affordable at $30 too.

  2. I have gone back and forth about watermarking, should I or No? Ultimately, I do. For exactly the reasons stated in your post. I agree that a tasteful watermark placed in a pleasing way will not distract the eye from the overall image. Well written!

    1. Thank you, Angela. With the internet the free-for-all it is, with the all to common attitude that “if it’s on the internet it must be free,” when it comes to images, I cant imagine not watermarking.

    1. That is my primary use of watermarks as well. As for suing, believe me, had this been used in a commercial manner, rather than someone posting it to a photo sharing site, the offender would have been sent an invoice. Should that have failed, a letter from a lawyer would have been soon to follow.

    1. I hear that all the time. Here’s the thing, while you may “only” be an amateur, wouldn’t you rather be paid if someone wants to use one of your photos, rather than have it stollen out from underneath you? If you’re sharing you photos online anywhere there’s is always the possibility of it being discovered by someone willing to pay for it. A tastefully done watermark could go along way towards making it easier for potential buyers to find you, as well as adding a small amount of deterent to theft.

      For example, I encourage the sharing of the photos on my Facebook page for personal use. The one stipulation being that they not be altered or the watermark removed or cropped out. You never know when someones facebook friend, or a friend of a friend, is going to see the photo and want to buy a print. I’ve made a few print sales this way because the photo was easily identifiable as mine.

      So while you may not actively be looking to make some money from your photography, if the right person with money to spend sees and falls in love with one of your photos, unless they find it on your blog(where the owner is obvious), thats a potential sale lost.

  3. not a professional photographer. have had my photos used in all sorts of odd places, including commercial branding sites. it’s gotten so irritating that I’ve taken to introducing blatant watermarks that are hard to remove. diminishes aesthetics for sure, but soothes the spiteful dude in me.

    1. That would aggravate me to no end. And bring out the spiteful in me as well. It’s bad enough when someone is using a photo in a personal way, such as the case with the person who commandeered the photo in question here. But had I found it being used commercially I would have done much more than seek to get it taken down.

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