Watermarks and Logos. What photographers want you to know but don't always tell you.
I find it really frustrating when I see images destroyed by poor cropping or image filters, a photographer’s logo/watermark partially or completely cropped out, or an image screenshot from a photographer’s website and then re-shared without photographer’s permission or without giving credit to the photographer.
I often wonder if the the photographer explained to the client the importance of the watermark/logo and/or why the image should not be altered. Image cropping and altering used to happen to me in the beginning of my photography career. It still does but not nearly as much nowadays. I do have the guidelines for using my images in my service agreement and I do cover these with my clients.
So what’s the big deal? Why do photographers get so bent out of shape over this. Some don't. But for those that do, I'll explain a few reasons why. Photographers want to make sure that their images are presented in the most attractive way possible. They spend countless hours editing so the images will be a quality representation of their work whether in print or online. Part of the reason photographers want to control the quality of the online image is to protect their brand. Sometimes the logo/watermark will deter internet photo thieves from stealing their image to reuse as their own or creating memes, etc. Let's look at a flip side of this. If an image has been altered (without permission) by the use of social media and smartphone filters and now looks drastically different yet still has the photographer's logo/watermark, this may deter potential clients from hiring the photographer. And finally, photographers simply use the logo/watermark as free advertising and business promotion. If the logo is not present and the client made no mention of the source, the viewer may not know who to contact if they are interested in the photographer's work and services. So these are extremely important reasons to leave the logo/watermark in tact and refrain from altering without permission. Did you know that screenshots or saving images and then reposting degrades the image quality each time you save and send/post/share? Countless times, I have seen blurry or distorted images because of this. It appears to the viewer that the photographer’s work is poor quality (for those that care about quality). So now you have potentially hurt the photographer's reputation without intention. But did you know this is also considered stealing and is technically punishable by law if you do not have permission? Photographers are no different from painters. They don't want their work duplicated in poor quality/taste or without permission and they want to be known for their work.
Here are some things photographers do to protect their work that you may not know about. 1. They post “low resolution” images instead of high resolution on social media platforms. What is this, you ask? Well, low resolution images look 'great' on a computer, tablet, or smartphone screen, but as soon as you save those images to a drive, and take them to your local print shop one of two things is going to to happen. Your print shop will see the photographer logo (if included) and refuse to print them without a verifiable permission slip or you will print them and they’ll be so blurry you can barely make out the image. This won't happen with high resolution images which maintain the image quality and can generally be printed up to poster size when clients pay (usually significantly more) for the rights to reprint them 2. Many photographers add their copyright information to the EXIF data of their images. You cannot see this information by viewing the image but it's hidden down in the file itself and renaming won’t get rid of it. So for example if a blogger steals an image (let’s say with no logo) and tries to pass it off as his/her own, the photographer still has proof the image belongs to him/her and can not only request you remove the image but sue you in a court of law. OUCH! While most photographers don't take it that far, you can google many cases where photographers have been awarded monetary damages for this very serious offense.
Now, a determined thief will always find a way to steal an image. I’ve even seen people hang blurry pictures on their walls with the words “proof” splattered across the front of their faces. Heaven help these people for they either know not or simply don't care about the hard work of the photographer. But I am sharing this in hopes that you will respect the work of photographers. Photography is a real business and professional photographers put a lot of time and effort into your photos. If you enjoy their work, why not leave their logo in tact and promote them? Also pay them what they are worth and buy the prints (or digitals)! If a lawsuit, or simply respect doesn't deter you, think about what can potentially happen to your photo if it does not have protection when shared online. Here is an article with a perfect example. My heart went out to this couple for so many reasons. ( http://www.essence.com/2016/03/21/my-wedding-photo-became-viral-meme ) I hope this post has been insightful and helps you gain new respect for your photographer. Thank you for reading.