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Watermarking images in your website galleries has always been a highly debated topic in the photography industry. On one hand, watermarks can help deter theft of your images and encourage more sales. On the other hand, they can also take away from the aesthetic of the image and be removed by determined thieves.

The one key takeaway every photographer should know is this: If you put it online, you are essentially giving it away. There is no guaranteed way to prevent an image from being taken by a mildly technically capable person. However, with a watermark on an image it can still be positive even if someone does steal it from your website.

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of watermarking images on your website, and what makes a good watermark.

Pros of Watermarking Images

Adding a watermark to your gallery images provides the following benefits:

Theft Prevention

One of the main reasons to watermark images on your website is to prevent theft. By adding a watermark to your images, you are making it more difficult for someone to steal your work and pass it off as their own. This is especially important if you are selling your images on your website, as it will help protect your revenue and prevent others from profiting from your hard work.

Encourage More Sales

Another advantage of watermarking images is that it can encourage more sales. By branding your images with your logo or website URL, you are promoting your business and making it easier for potential customers to find you. This can lead to increased visibility and more sales opportunities for your business.

Credit with Social Sharing

In addition, watermarking your images can help establish a sense of ownership and credibility. By including your name, logo, or website URL in the image, you are communicating to your audience that this is your work and that it is of professional quality. This can increase the perceived value of your images and help establish your brand in the marketplace. If the image is taken and shared online, your professional brand is on the image for all to see and gives you easy marketing.

Cons of Watermarking Images

While watermarking images can have many benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider.

Aesthetics

One of the biggest drawbacks is that watermarks can detract from the aesthetic of the image. A large, obtrusive watermark can take away from the beauty and impact of your work and may turn off potential customers.

Not guaranteed theft prevention

While watermarks can be seen as a deterrent to help prevent theft, they can be removed by determined thieves. Someone who is determined to steal your work can remove the watermark in Photoshop by cropping it out if it’s put only in the corner of your image.

Other Methods of Image Protection Instead of Watermarks

If you are adding watermarks to your site solely for security and theft prevention, you may have also considered technical ways of blocking users from getting your images. One common approach to protecting images on a website is to disable right-clicking or disabling drag/drop via JavaScript. This technique will likely prevent most people from stealing images from your site, but it will not stop someone with a little technical knowledge from finding the source URL for the image of your web page and accessing the image directly without any protection.

Oh, and there is always screenshots and there is no JavaScript to prevent it.

Sunshine Photo Cart also offers right-click and drag-drop image protection by default as one of its features.

What Makes a Good Watermark

When it comes to watermarking your images, it is important to strike a balance between protection and aesthetics. A good watermark should be large enough to be noticeable, but not so large that it detracts from the image. Additionally, it should be placed in a location that is not easily cropped out, and it should be easily visible on all devices, including both desktop and mobile.

Another key aspect of a good watermark is its design. The watermark should be easily recognizable and match the style and aesthetic of your brand. It should also be legible and clearly display your name, logo, or website URL.

It is also important to consider the opacity of your watermark. A watermark that is too transparent may not be effective in deterring theft, while a watermark that is too opaque may detract from the overall aesthetic of the image. Striking the right balance between visibility and opacity is essential for creating an effective watermark.

Finding the right balance of size, opacity, and design of a watermark can be a challenge and may require testing different options.

Should I include watermarks on images I am selling?

You likely have two different types of galleries on your website: Portfolio and Client/Selling galleries. I personally feel no watermarks should ever be used in a portfolio gallery as the goal is to showcase your best work. As outlined above, watermarks can detract from the aesthetics of an image and betrays the goal of a portfolio in the first place.

When it comes to your online sales galleries theft is a much larger concern. It is not uncommon for clients to take low-resolution images from these galleries and share them on social media websites. Since there is not a 100% guaranteed way of stopping image theft, watermarks are a great way to at least get credit for the image should it be stolen and shared.

How Sunshine Photo Cart Handles Watermarks

Sunshine Photo Cart is built to help you sell photos on your own WordPress website. It comes with watermarking capabilities that allow you to upload any image (preferably a transparent .png) and choose the opacity, placement, and size in relation to the image it is being applied to.

Because Sunshine applies watermarks to all images in a gallery the same it can be a challenge to find a design, placement, and opacity that works for every image and may require testing different options to get the best balance.

Derek Ashauer
Derek Ashauer, developer of the Sunshine Photo Cart WordPress plugin, has dedicated over 10 years to developing and supporting this effective tool for photographers. His expertise in the WordPress platform extends beyond this plugin with over 15 years of experience in building client sites. Derek's work centers on enhancing the functionality and profitability of client galleries for photographers, showcasing his commitment to supporting their business growth.