The reactions have been mixed about the changes I made to my watermark on the last blog post, but I’ve made the executive decision– the new watermarking, sans logo, is here to stay! Several people have said that they miss my signature logo on the photos, but my main rationale is that I will still keep my signature logo as part of my branding (but we’re working on a revamped version of it), and it will appear elsewhere on my blog, stationery, business cards, etc. However, the simpler, text-only “anna wu photography” in typewriter font will serve my purposes much better. I was especially thinking of some of the pitfalls of my previous watermarking, which I discuss more at the end of this post.
I went through quite a bit of reasoning to get here, so I thought I’d share what went through my head. Perhaps you’ll reconsider your own watermarks, or maybe this will just make you hyperaware of those little stamps on other people’s photos!
1. Why watermark my photos?
I can think of three main reasons for watermarking: 1) copyright protection– identifying your photos so others can’t easily steal them; 2) informational– letting people know whose photos they are so they can find you to get more information or hire you; and 3) branding– to give people a sense of what your brand is all about, and to promote brand recognition when people see your watermarked photos.
Effective watermarks accomplish all three to some degree, but we need to individually prioritize these functions for ourselves. For me, the informational function is primary. It’s most important for people to know where to find me if they’re interested in more information. My watermark won’t necessarily make it impractical for someone to steal my photos (they just sit on the bottom of the photo), and I’ve opted for a pretty subtle branding through the selection of this typewriter font, so the copyright protection and branding functions still exist, but for other reasons I’ll explain below, they’re just not primary.
Plus, some photographers decide not to watermark their photos or not to watermark every single photo. These functions aren’t served exclusively by watermarks (your photos are supposed to speak for themselves, after all!), and again, it’s up to your how you use them.
2. Who will see my watermark, and how will they encounter it?
For any photographer, there are be three primary audience types: loyal followers, peripheral followers, and complete strangers. The way these audiences approach your watermark will be slightly different.
Loyal followers don’t need your watermarks. They already know who you are and what you do. Just don’t contradict what they like about you, and you’re off to a fine start.
Peripheral followers are those people who may have encountered your work more than once; they might be friends of friends on Facebook or other photographers in the industry who have some connections to your work, but they haven’t necessarily been sold on you yet. Here, branding is probably more important, as these folks are probably not going to great lengths to visit your website or blog directly, so the watermarked photos they view from elsewhere (facebook, a wedding publication, or some other website) may be their only interaction with your brand.
Complete strangers are the wild card. They may or may not be viewing your photos on your website. But you need to convince them to get there and to stay. So your watermarks need to do a bit more work, covering all the functions it possibly can. Plus, you don’t want a stranger to not like your work because of an ineffective watermark. But we’ll talk more about those potential drawbacks in #5 below.
3. Where do I want my watermark?
So now we get down to the nitty gritty. Ok, I know I want a watermark. But what kind? Here come the examples. I have no intention of stealing these photographers’ images, so click on any photo to link to their websites.
Two choices for where to put your watermark: on the photo itself, or on a frame around your photos. I would say most photographers watermark on the photo itself. It helps with copyright protection slightly, since someone could easily crop the photo without taking the frame with it (even though taking a photo either way is not legal). Other than that, the watermark also becomes a more integral part of the photo when it’s placed inside the frame. Infinite variations of these two options are possible:
Frame around the photo:
4. Which style of watermarking suits me best?
And then the watermark itself. I went text-only, but again, you can see that there are endlessly different ways you could do this.
Text Only: unobtrusive. The text can be styled, or not.
Graphic Logo + Text: Probably the most common, since most people have a graphic logo as part of their branding, and they want to indicate who they are in text.
Logo Only: Relies heavily on an identifiable logo and brand recognition or contextual indications of who you are.
Finally, a side note on color: some watermarks use color whereas most are just shades of white and black. For me, loud colors are really distracting. But some people like it, and it fits other styles better than mine.
5. Is my watermark working for me or against me?
Here are some of the considerations that every photographer should make in reevaluating their watermarks. The biggest downside to watermarking is that it can take away from the photos themselves, and lead to these common pitfalls:
Intrusive/Distracting. The more I look at other photographers’ work, the more I’ve been noticing watermarks and the subtle things about photography that aren’t the photographs themselves. I sometimes find myself scrolling through ten photos at a time and only looking at where they placed the watermarks or what color it was or how strange the logo looked, and only when I reach the bottom do I realize I haven’t even looked at any of the photos. Not everyone will be as strangely captivated by watermarks, but viewers are frequently distracted by them to a lesser degree. How much do you want them to be looking at your watermarks? Is it telling something essential about your brand? Or is it just preventing them from looking at your photos?
Stylistically Misleading/Dominating. What if I really just don’t like your watermark, and I really just can’t get past that? In the ideal world, your watermark and your photography and everything about your branding is so seamlessly integrated and consistent that someone who likes one part of your work should like the whole package. But that’s just not true. If your logo isn’t up to par, or if it doesn’t perfectly match the style you want to convey, it can easily turn off people who might otherwise love your photography. An example for me is Apertura. While I really appreciate their photography, I just really don’t like their red logo on every image, and in fact, it’s so distracting that I can’t really separate the images from the logo.
Most photographers would agree that they want their photographs to speak for themselves. Of course, most marketing professionals will tell you that you can do better than that, and you need to do better than that. Without branding, you might have nice photos, but you’ll probably be lacking in clients. Deciding how to watermark photos is just one little piece of the giant puzzle.
So what do you think? Leave your comments below!