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Watermarking? Is it just digital graffiti?

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Boid, Oct 9, 2012.

  1. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    We think the images and photographs we make are precious objects and try and hold on to them using ugly watermarks, scarring the purity of the image. Maybe the thinking is that some stranger who has no idea who you are, will look at the image and "Oh this is a wonderful picture. I must call this photographer and ask him to take pictures for me."

    Or it could be so that someone else who likes your image, can't post it on his blog or share it with anyone he/she feels like without acknowledging you in it. This seems more reasonable, but it does mean that the photographer has made the image THAT little bit worse by slapping some text on it and the person sharing the picture, is unable to share it in it's entirety.

    There's also a line of thought that believes watermarks make the image more... official. Like a rubber stamp on a legal document.

    Sometimes a watermark is the only common consistent design element running through a series of images in a portfolio. Weak photographs need a watermark, borrowing strength from stronger photographs in the set.

    Often really good photographers don't watermark their images, Steve McCurry comes to mind (Home | Steve McCurry). Some photographers don't even care all that much about the image. They can always make another image equally full of worth and content. After all the idea for an image is IN them, not out there. The sad fact of the matter is that we don't decide on the value of a photograph. People do.

    A photograph, much as we would like to believe otherwise, is not a work of art. A painter signing a work of art, with the same brush that drew the canvas, is not the same as slapping some text on it in Photoshop. A photograph though, has the POTENTIAL to be considered art by the viewer. I feel it's that potential which is harmed when a photographer puts a watermark on the image.

    Here's a photographer who has taken sharing to a whole new level - Rainy Alley [Photobomb] - Fort Street, Auckland ... | Aucklandia
     
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  2. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Not only do I think they mar images, I also think they usually demonstrate a narcissistic delusion about the value of the image to others ("I watermark so that no-one steals my images") ... I usually only ever see them on images that are staggering in their banality
     
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  3. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    I've often thought that it's a bit like locking your car doors while your leaving your windows wide open. The watermark can most often be totally eradicated in Photoshop with a modicum of skill. The watermark isn't really protecting the image from being stolen (most of the time). As an advertising tool, it MAY be of some use. I'm often surprised how often photos of mine (and not always good ones.....LOL) show up on someone's blog or some far-flung website. Maybe if they had a watermark, people might try to track me down and offer to pay for them.

    In the end, despite how amateurish my works are, I would never deign to sully them with a watermark.

    I don't think my mind will change if I ever start making more stealworthy images.

    I'd be more likely to do as that Auckland photographer in that link has done and give them away with some contact information. He'll likely get some money, and even if he doesn't he's spread joy and his photos were sitting idle anyways.
     
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  4. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    that sharing idea is pretty awesome! Not sure if my pictures are good enough for people to want to pick them up though :tongue:

    I put a tiny watermark on some of my images but you can't really trace it back to me (it's designed to be as unobtrusive as possible and most people wouldn't know what it meant even if they noticed), it's just in case there should one day be some kind of conflict, if someone used my image for something I'm totally against.
     
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  5. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
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  6. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    ^ yeah I've seen those before... interesting project, but it's not quite applicable to most photography...

    *has a picture in mind's eye of a photographer pressing a half developed portrait print onto the face of the model before letting it dry completely*
     
  7. Gary

    Gary SC All-Pro

    Aug 19, 2012
    Southern California
    Gary Ayala
    I don't watermark because I'm lazy. But if I had to come up with something clever about my lack of watermarks I would say this ...

    I see watermarks similar to using Henri's filed out negative carrier.

    Gary

    PS- I see photography as art, maybe not fine art, but art nonetheless.
    G
     
  8. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    I don't like watermarks; they're a great way to spoil what might otherwise have been a nice photograph to look at.
     
  9. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    The "To watermark or not to watermark" conversations always come off following the tone of the op as several other people jump on the bandwagon and agree and then like with any topic there will be some 'heretic' that comes along to disagree feeling justified in their perspective and yet oddly, even though no one might say anything negative to them, they will feel like they are in some way 'wrong' or being persecuted. So let me be the heretic here, if only briefly. Long enough to say that my web design layouts and graphics associated with those layouts have been stolen before. That my photoshop brushes and textures which I had offered freely-- provided I at the very least get a link back have also been stolen and reposted on other sites as their stock tools. As far as the middle east I might add. I have made beautiful photographs and digital art from time to time, being no pro of course, only to find them redistributed all over without a blurb of credit to me and I do think it's rather offensive. While on one hand this stealing or redistributing of my work is a compliment it's a lot like being the low guy in a business office that comes up with an idea that will make thus-and-such revolutionary and having all the higher-ups take the credit because of course the low guy is nothing but a mail room clerk and doesn't matter. It there was to be a cent in it, to help that low guy, you know.. pay his bills .. he'd never have a chance of seeing those pennies come in because his supervisor and his department manager and even the ceo's secretery is now riding on said revolutionary idea and using those pennies to fund more of their own personal empires. And.. said low man on the totem poles lives another day eating hamburger helper.

    It sounds dramatic but let me explain. If you build something and someone takes it that is stealing. If you buy something and someone takes it that is stealing. You've worked hard for it, it doesn't matter if you bought it or made it yourself, unless you have given it out or in the case of art given out permission to make others like it-- it is stealing, period. This point is not arguable. Stealing in most cultures, probably all of them, is thought of as bad. It is thought of as bad because from the time we were cave men having to hunt for food, the idea of someone else coming in and stealing the meat we spent days on the hunt for.. threatened our survival. Thus.. stealing is always seen as wrong, a crime that can be punishable in most cases whether you're lobbing the offenders hands off, fining him some agreed upon sum of money or even jailing him and removing his freedom. So why does the internet make it all okay?

    It doesn't. However, from images to sound files to secret government documents [if the hacker is good], everything found on the internet is considered free game. There is little accountability in regards to how people behave toward one another [computers make great masks] or what they do as far as ganking someone else's stuff. Bank accounts can be accessed online. Retirement benefits. Investment portfolios. So comes with this newer technology a new type of crime which can make the theft of some photographer's images seem petty and unimportant [particularly if they aren't a Steve McCurry] or maybe the low guy on the totem pole just doesn't have the funds [or knowledge] to get back all that's been taken from him. In fact it would be virtually impossible. See "The Stolen Scream". It's kinda nifty to have your stuff all over, on walls, billboards, fliers, as a statement for peace or for protest or for irritation [scream: ahhhhh!]. In fact there is a.. kind of legacy being created when you are someone like Noam-- even when you are gone your face will still be out there.

    Does that make it right? Uhm-- no. Absolutely not. But here's the thing.. You can make your images small and low resolution, you can watermark them, you can copyright them before they ever hit an electronic device and of course enforce if you have found them stolen. Or you can choose not to post anything online, ever. There's only two choices in spite of Creative Commons Licensing. Creative Commons Licensing might give the perpetrator more options to be honest because they can to some extent still use your work rather than blatantly having to steal it but freedom licenses don't protect you any more than full out do not touch my stuff copyrighting. If it is online.. it is free game and if you post it online you are knowingly and willingly accepting that what you upload is free. Free.

    I don't have much online anymore because I am still internally warring with this.. my stuff is your stuff idea. It leaves me feeling molested, uncomfortable, not flattered or appreciated or even simply acknowledged. And while I can appreciate these conversations, to watermark or not, and I read them in hopes of someone actually coming up with some foolproof method of protecting online material, I feel just as disheartened when I hear people trying to justify why no one should watermark. The reasons.. 1. Because it ruins the viewing experience [or my viewing experience and it is all about me *selfishness], 2. You aren't anyone famous [putting signatures on your images is just arrogance] *envy, 3. Because you can't stop it [stealing] from happening anyway *apathy. Okay then.. good reasons. NOT.

    My current state of mind is watermark if it makes you feel better but realize it might not protect you - don't watermark if that makes you feel better but don't rant on those that do. Unless you have something constructive to contribute as far as these conversations go in how to display properly and yet protect your images.. its all an us against them debate. I just don't think it's necessary to see who is on whose side.
     
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  10. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    OK Kristen, I'm on your side. :wink:
     
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  11. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I don't really understand why this is an issue for taking sides?

    I don't believe that my thinking that watermarking is pointless and ugly and generally applied to images that no-one would want to steal, thereby makes me into someone who believes that everything is fair game, or that copyright shouldn't exist and can be ignored, or that I'm jumping on a bandwagon. It certainly doesn't leave me feeling that someone who disagrees with me need feel persecuted ...
     
  12. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    I think Kristen is just suggesting that whether one watermarks one's images is personal choice and that a thread about one's personal choice doesn't really address the bigger problem of image theft.

    And my apologies to Kristen for boiling her well thought out and worded response to a single sentence (and further apologies if that wasn't her message). Obviously the problem of intellectual property is a thorny one in this day of the internet. And there are no solutions. As soon as someone comes up with one, the thieves will be one half step behind.

    But then having said that, doesn't that just bring us back to Rajiv's original post?
     
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  13. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    In short.. you are correct Luke. Thank you for taking the time to read what I was actually writing and not taking offense. Theft is theft. Some people don't seem to mind the theft of their images, to others, and fame has no business factoring in here, it hurts them to see things they worked hard on.. stolen. Even painters signed their art to say, hey.. this is mine, I did this, I might have sold it to him, but I created it. Until man stops sucking and stealing his fellow man's stuff.. one can expect scribblings over it. You have a license plate on your car? A vin number? You have a title and maybe a city sticker? Sure you're paying taxes but that documentation goes a long way into getting your car back if it is stolen. And yes a chop shop can dismantle it in a half hour and destroy the vin and plates.. but at least you have tried which is a lot better than parking it on the side of the road without tags and the keys in the ignition. Same thing with your house property numbers, your computer, serial numbers on and on.

    Btw I don't like watermarks.. I do think they are ugly.. but to say that a person isn't famous enough to justify them or that its arrogance that they put them there as a justification for your opinion.. or worse that they should just surrender, if its on the internet they are giving it away.. wrong. Also.. once you say do you or don't you.. you are soliciting sides, period. If someone had posted how do we try to protect our images I would have responded differently.
     
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  14. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    I can't argue with your logic (or with your zeal). Obviously you are correct. The saying is cheesy beyond words, but I think it's appropriate here.... "it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness"
     
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  15. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    Kirsten thanks for such a detailed response. You obviously have had your work misused and stolen. I haven't. So I really wouldn't know what that's like. So this post might have come from a position of ignorance. However, my observance has more to do with what a watermark actually achieves. No one (least of all me) argues for theft, being a creative person myself, I would be affronted at anyone who suggested as such. But wouldn't hiring a lawyer be something a bit more of a concrete thing to do, rather than a bunch of text, usually at the bottom of an image, which takes 5 seconds to clone over in PS? To me a watermark is akin to doing nothing to protect one's image. It just creates an illusion of having done something, and moreover ruins the image in the process. Also the parallels you've drawn between leaving a car with the keys in the ignition, having a number-plate, etc are nothing like a watermark. There is no societal sanction to a watermark, by including it on the image you're not protected by law or due process.

    Maybe you know of an instance where the watermark on an image has actually done something? I've never heard or come across an instance where it ever has, and I'd be happy to know of it.
     
  16. Briar

    Briar SC All-Pro

    Oct 27, 2010
    Scotland
    Karen
    Hmmm each to their own if someone wants to watermark their photos.

    I disagree with your comment that photography isn't art. That's a much more interesting debate than the watermark one. What photographs constitute art, well there are different schools of thought. I can't debate it while sliding about on the bus typing on an iPhone. If I could that would be art!
     
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  17. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    I think sliding about on a bus and still being able to type coherently on an iPhone, is art.
     
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  18. Gary

    Gary SC All-Pro

    Aug 19, 2012
    Southern California
    Gary Ayala
    Heretic. (Also, you left out lazy.)

    As pour moi, I am trying to reach a level of humility, where none of this matters and I truly don't give a rat's if someone steals my stuff or not. But, like all of us here, no matter how much I try ... I am still a sinner, and one of those sins is self-importance. While I don't watermark, refraining from doing so is a struggle. I want the whole world to see My name splashed across My images, like Caesar parading into Rome, my signature standing tall in the chariot, sunlight reflecting off my golden armor, trumpets blaring and dancing girls tossing rose petals across my path ... YES ... that is My image, My watermark ... but I digress.

    For clarity, my declaration that a watermark denote a sense of arrogance, is my code, what someone else does ... well that is someone else's code and my judgement calls only pertains to me. Nearly everyday I wonder whether to watermark or not to watermark ... and I conclude that there isn't any real harm in stealing "my" stuff. If facebook is filled with my images or a thief squeaks through a photo class, no skin off my nose. Even if some loser makes a buck or two from an image, it isn't like I would have gone to the same source with the same image only to find that some thief beat me to the punch. Tolerance and no watermarks will make this world a better place, open the door for world peace and would toss a chicken in every pot.

    Gary

    PS- But, on the other hand if an image is used for commercial purposes, then I would give a rat's and do something about that transgression.
    G
     
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  19. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
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  20. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    Watermarking: no. Waste of time, easily removed in photoshop or any other graphics program. How to protect one's intellectual property? Don't bother trying. Sooner or later, something will get lifted.

    My photography seems to be safe, but back in the day I used to do a LOT of themeing and skinning for various Windows applications, and found my stuff elsewhere with no credit (it was never for sale, not mine or the stolen stuff, it was all free) and it annoyed the hell out of me. Nothing to be done about it, I would email the offenders and ask them to give credit or take it down, and had virtual noses thumbed at me. I even found one of my Wordpress themes on a Polish site, they were using it for a social network, multi blog site. They had not asked to use it, but at least gave credit to me and did not try to take it for themselves. I don't do WP anymore, either.

    Where photography is concerned, I just never put full size images online anymore. If someone steals a photograph and I decide to do something about it, I have the original in proof. However, I seriously doubt anyone will steal anything of mine. If they do, and if I find out, then I will dispute it. But I'm not going to worry about it in the meantime. I've done all I can to protect my stuff. No point worrying beyond that.
     
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