Thursday, January 31

Why Do My Pictures Have To Carry Your Watermark When I Post Them On Facebook?

Ah, this is a question that gets posed to professional photographers a lot, and something that they explain to their clients over and over again. So, I have decided to explain the importance of photographer's watermarks, when displaying professional photographs online.

While it may just be a snap of the shutter to you, when a photographer takes your photograph they consider it their ART! They take time to contemplate and work the lighting, the posing, the mood and feel of a photograph before even snapping that shutter. While it may not seem like it during a photo shoot, there is a lot going on behind the scenes, even if only in the photographer's mind, for creating that perfect picture for their client. Nobody would consider erasing the signature from a painting or drawing, however people think nothing of cropping a photograph to exclude the watermark the photographer has put on it, to brand the artwork as their creation.

Central Florida Model Photography

Removing a photographer's watermark is considered disrespectful within the photography community. A professional (or any serious) photographer doesn't simply take a picture and then download the file and give it to you. They take that photograph and edit it, enhance it, and spend time making it the most beautiful shot that they can. They don't want to hand over to their clients the equivalent of what a twelve year old kid with an iPhone could take. Just  because they have a "nice camera" doesn't mean they produce "picture perfect" photos straight from it every time. For most there is an actual artistic process behind processing their final images that their clients see.

We often hear people say, "Oh, you take good pictures. You must have a nice camera." This is akin to saying to a professional chef that he makes an excellent meal, therefore he must have a nice stove! If that was the case, wouldn't we all buy a nice stove (or camera), and have no need for a professional chef (or photographer)? No – there is time, training, and an art behind preparing a gourmet meal, just as there is behind creating a professional portrait, or capturing your wedding day to perfection. Shouldn't the artist get the credit for creating such a beautiful memory for you?

Certainly, most photographers don't require that their watermark remain in place on a final print. And many make the bulk of their income by providing their customers with high quality prints of their clients sessions or special days. But, these prints are generally meant for personal use, to hang in their private residences.

Many clients also purchase their high-resolution images from their photographers, along with a print release, so they can have the pictures printed at the lab of their choice, or print them themselves on a color printer at home. (I could go into why this is a TERRIBLE idea and the printing is best left to the professionals, but that is another article.) But a "print release" is just that. It is permission to print the pictures watermark free, not display them online. When a photographer hands over that disk they are not giving their clients carte blanche permission to plaster the photographs anywhere they like.

Keep in mind, most photography contracts include the fact that such a print release does not give you exclusive rights to do as you please with the photographs, or the right to alter them in any way. Copyright generally is retained by the person who created the artwork (your photographer), unless arrangements have been made in advance, and proper fees have been paid for the photographer to relinquish their copyright to the client. I do have a separate article that explains why most photographer's retain the copyright to their work, if you care to read it.

However, that being said, with the advent of social media and online sharing, most photographers now offer their clients "sneak peeks" or "previews" of their sessions, which they will watermark and allow them to share online. This is a courtesy to clients, because everyone likes to share beautiful pictures of their families, children, or even themselves, with friends and family online. By allowing a watermarked image to be displayed and shared in this fashion it benefits the client, and it offers the photographer a way to advertise their art, without being tacky or overbearing about it.

Being able to share socially helps keep advertising costs down, which helps keep the overhead of a photographer's business down, so they can make their services affordable to their customers. Most photographers rely heavily on word of mouth, Facebook, and referrals for business. By posting watermarked images online for clients to share, it is with the expectation that potential new clients will see our work and visit our websites, and hopefully book us for their next photography session or event. When customers crop out the watermark, and remove the identifying information of the photographer and copyright owner, that becomes impossible.

Also, cropping out the watermark from a professional photo takes away a layer of security that protects us both from copyright infringement from third parties. There are third parties out there who are happy to take a photograph and use it for all kinds of nefarious purposes. Would you really want to find your face superimposed on someone else's body, perhaps in an unsavory fashion, because someone uploaded your un-watermarked image to a stock photo site for monetary gain? My guess is you would not. Some would argue, well anyone can do that anyway by simply downloading the photo and cropping it themselves. Sure, it's possible. However, by maintaining the watermark, and only sharing images that are optimized for online viewing (web resolution, rather than the high resolution pics a photographer may give you on disc), photographers may have a better chance of fighting copyright infringements like this, if need be.

And, another quick note about the pitfalls of cropping out watermarks from a photo. When you crop a photo, that a photographer has taken time and care to present in a certain fashion, you DESTROY the image. You ruin the framing, intended composition, and other important aspects of the image. The reason a photograph looks the way it does is because the photographer intended it to look that way! When a subject is placed in certain position in a photograph (let's say off-center), and a light source is framed a certain way, it was not done by mistake! It was done because the photographer intended it to be that way. I can't tell you how many times a client will look at a picture that has been lovingly edited and presented in a certain fashion, absolutely love it, but then ask that I crop it or center it in a different way, only to be shocked (even when I have warned them), when the photograph no longer has the appeal that the first one did to them. Like I said...PHOTOGRAPHY IS AN ART!

Nora Kramer is a Central Florida based model photography, senior picture photographer, and family portrait photographer who services Orlando and it's surrounding areas, including Deland, Deltona, Debary, Orange City, Sanford, Lake Mary, Longwood, Altamonte Springs, Maitland, Winter Park and Winter Springs.

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