Should I watermark my images?

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Should you watermark your images?

There is no guaranteed way to stop someone stealing your images online. Overlaying some copyright information on your image gives you some protection against people stealing your shots online, but it’s far from a fail-safe method.

Reasons to watermark your images

If someone wants to buy your shot, they can easily find out who took it and get in touch.

It might put someone off stealing it (but see below - it’s very easy to remove a watermark).

It can make you look more professional.

If people share your shots online, the watermark will go with the image even if they forget to tag you or link back to your website.

Reasons not to watermark your images

It usually looks ugly, and distracts from your shot.

Anyone with Photoshop who knows how to do a simple “content-aware fill” can remove all traces of your watermark in one click.

Better ways to protect against image theft

1. Don’t post online anything you don’t want stolen

This includes commercially valuable shots, and also personal family shots. I have never posted an identifiable shot of my children online (even in nominally “private” groups) because I know how easy it is to lose control of a shot once it’s out there. If you follow me online anywhere you probably don’t even know I have two children.

2. Only post low resolution shots online

This protects against someone using your shot in a book or reproducing it anywhere in print, but not against them using it online. Learn how to down-size your shots and never post a high resolution shot anywhere. I never share a photo more than 800px wide online (that would print at 2.67 inches).

3. Sign up to a monitoring service

Services like will continuously monitor the web for usage of your images, and make it easy to issue take down notices or invoices.

4. Add a copyright notice to your EXIF data

Software like Lightroom makes it easy to tag every image you import with a copyright notice, including how to contact you. Set it up once and then forget it. It won’t stop someone stealing your image, but it makes it easy for legitimate buyers to find you.

How to watermark your images

1. In Photoshop

Create a layer over your image, and type your copyright information in the top layer. Use the Opacity slider to make the text semi-transparent. If you have a logo you can create a new Brush to make it easier to stamp your mark on your shots. On a Mac the © symbol shortcut is option-g. On Windows it is alt-0169.

2. In Lightroom

Select Lightroom > Edit Watermarks… and follow the simple instructions. You can then automatically apply your watermark when you export your shots.

3. Online

If you search for “free watermarking” you will find a wide selection of options to do simple watermarking for no charge, online.

4. Use an app

Similarly, if you search for “watermarking apps” there are many options, paid and free, and some that work both on your phone and your desktop. The paid apps usually let you save watermarks as presets to save you having to start from scratch each time.


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EditingEmma Davies