GUEST POST:: BY ALEX ASHER SEARS
FACT: Every photograph you take remains yours under federal copyright law. Any photo. Even if you are paid, share copies or give someone a CD. Unless you release your rights in writing, it’s yours to say to say where it may be used publicly and receive credit.
ANOTHER FACT: Many people think that photos found online are public property. Most of these people are simply naïve and when they lift your shot and use it for their site (or Facebook page or whatever) it’s out of love for your work. I truly believe most people have no idea that they’re doing anything wrong. But it’s your work. That’s why I require all clients, commercial or private, to sign a copyright acknowledgment contract before a shoot and watermark anything that goes online.
A watermarked image kindly reminds people that you own it. Depending on your needs, you can watermark for security or identity purposes. This doesn’t guarantee your photos won’t show up on a billboard in the Czech Republic, but it does do two things. One, it puts a name to the image. Two, it’s a detractor for those looking to misuse your work. There are many programs out there that can attempt to secure your images from theft. In the end, people are going to find ways to get a photo if they really want it. But you can do simple things to make lifting your image less appealing.
When trying to protect your image, the more visible the watermark in the image, the more time someone would have to spend in Photoshop trying to remove it. That is why I choose to use a sheer band with my name that goes across the image. I place it on top, bottom or center depending on what will take away the least from the shot but deter theft.
If you’re looking for simple, effective protection, placing your WM in the center of your image adds the most security. Choosing to ghost the text can make it far less distracting but still do the trick. Painters, sculptors and filmmakers put their mark on their work, and so should you. You don’t have to use your name. If you have a website, consider incorporating it into your signature.
Since people use different types of graphic software, I’m including a great link to the About.com’s Graphic Software Watermarking site that has various step by step how-to’s for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro and more to get you started (Miss B. has links to other tutorials but if you trouble, let me know and I’ll see how I can help). Remember whatever you design, be sure that your font is legible so people can recognize the name behind the lens. Stay away from using your actual signature for identity theft reasons. But have fun and create a watermark that is as unique as your work. You do deserve the credit, after all.
Miss B here, please give a round of applause to my friend and fine photographer Alex! Thank you Alex, always happy to have conned you into coming back and divulging more of your pro secrets. As always Alex is willing to answer any burning questions you may have on her guest post. Please feel free to ask away in the comments (if you feel comfortable) because others may have that same question and are too afraid to ask. If you don't care about your fellow readers (I jest), if you don't feel comfortable asking in a public forum, just click on Alex's link above and she may be able to help you out. I'm not making any promises but maybe (she is real nice and all).