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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I don’t know how they came up with that number, but the sentiment behind it hits home for me. As a professional photographer and designer in the Automotive Marketing industry, I get to take a lot of interesting pictures of cars. I’ve taken some pictures that I really love, and I know others loved them too…because they stole them. What’s an artist to do to protect his work from the roving bands of internet thieves, pirates and plunderers? The only truly effective method, from the standpoints of both time and money, is watermarking.
At this point, everyone has seen a watermark even if they aren’t aware of the name. As you can see in the example to the right, watermarking is the practice of placing a tag on an image to identify the author or brand. Short of digitally encoding information (which we’ll talk about another day) watermarking is the best way to add ownership to your images. It’s not a perfect system though.
Again, take the example to the right. No one is stealing that. A good photo-manipulator could probably edit out your credit, but it wouldn’t be perfect and there is easier prey. The problem is that while no one is stealing it, no one is going to share it either. The watermark overpowers the subject and leaves you with an ugly photo. If you’re using images for marketing, then the entire point is that they are seen, liked and shared. So clearly we need to watermark in a different way.
The more tasteful method of watermarking is putting it in a corner. It leaves the image itself largely untouched but still identifies ownership. Sure, these smaller, corner watermarks are more easily edited out or even cropped out, but then the photo will be fundamentally changed, allowing you to later prove you have the original if need be. Let the beauty of the photo be the primary interest to the viewer, it will benefit you more in the end as your photo is shared and spread. Because for every 1 person who edits or crops out your watermark, 10 more will leave it untouched.
So while the corner method offers less security, it’s the better choice 99% of the time. If you absolutely, positively, 100% need the photo to not be used without your permission, then don’t upload it to the internet. If Hollywood can’t protect their billion dollar babies, how secure do you really think you can be?