How to Watermark Your Photos

Protect your digital images by watermarking your photos

A photographer reviews his photos.
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If you're putting photos online and want to protect your rights to those images, the best way to protect digital photos is by watermarking them.

With a digital photo, a watermark is a faint logo or word(s) superimposed over the top of the photo. The idea of placing a watermark on your photos is to prevent others from trying to copy and use the photo without permission. Many web sites use watermarks to show that a particular image is copyrighted, and it may not be copied and used elsewhere without the permission of the original web site.

Follow the tips below that illustrate how to use watermarks properly. After all, if you use a watermark that's too small or faint, someone could easily crop or edit out the watermark and steal the photo. And, if the watermark is too large or dark, it will dominate the photo, compromising its appearance.

Choosing Watermarking Software

Watermarking photos is a pretty easy process, provided you have the right software. Within a few minutes, you probably can complete watermarking on dozens of your photos. Here are some  watermarking software options:

  • Adobe Photoshop. Adding a text watermark in Photoshop is easy. Just use the Type tool and place a text string over the photo in gray. Edit the text to make it look like you want.
  • Microsoft Paint 3D. Adding a text watermark in this program is very similar to doing it in Photoshop. Select the Text tool, choose a color in Text Settings, draw the text box, type the word watermark and click or tap the screen to save the text on the picture. Drag it where you want.
  • Digimarc.com. The Digimarc for Images software (at Digimarc.com) can watermark your photos invisibly and then search for places where your photos are being used on the Internet, all for around $50 per year.
  • PlumAmazing.com. For about $20, you can download a Windows version of the iWatermark watermarking software from PlumAmazing.com. The site also has Mac, iPhone/iPad, and Android versions of the software.
  • Watermarker.com. AiS Watermark Pictures Protector also costs about $20 and can be downloaded from Watermarker.com.
  • WinWatermark.com. With the WinWatermark software, you'll find many options for watermarking your photos. There's a free version, a standard version and a pro version at WinWatermark.com.

Watermark Apps

Several apps are available that will allow you to manage your watermarks with a smartphone. Consider these options.

  • A+ Signature.  You can add a watermark, an annotation, or some sort of artistic border to your photos using the A+ Signature app, available through the iTunes store.
  • Marksta. You'll have a surprising number of options for customizing your watermark with the Marksta app, available through the iTunes store.

Creating a Watermark

You have several options for the actual watermark to use with your photos. Here are a few ideas.

  • Copyright. Place a copyright symbol in the watermark, and there's no question that others cannot copy the image without your permission. In word processing software, the copyright symbol usually is available using the Insert menu and the Symbol command.
  • Image. You can create an image that you then superimpose over the photo. For example, if you have a logo, use an image watermark.
  • Text. Use a text string as the watermark. For example, you can place your name, your business name, or a description of the image as the watermark.

Placing a Watermark on Your Images

To place the watermark on your photos, follow these steps.

  • Select the photos. You really only need to watermark photos that will appear in a public location on the Internet, where others can easily download them. Additionally, you only need to watermark photos that you don't want others to take and use without your permission. So don't feel like you have to watermark every photo you have ever shot. Instead, save yourself some time by only picking certain photos for watermarking.
  • Make copies. You obviously do not want to place a watermark on the original and only copy of your photos. Make copies of the photos you to watermark, and then place the watermark on the copies, thereby protecting the original photos.
  • Select the method. Select the type of watermarking software you want to use, and decide whether you want to watermark all of your photos at one time or watermark the photos individually. If you watermark each photo individually, you can make sure each watermark is placed in the location on the photo you want and looks how you want it to look. However, that process is more time consuming than watermarking a group of photos at one time.
  • Select the type and size of watermark. Choose the type of watermark you want to use. Additionally, you'll need to select the size of the watermark. A large watermark covers more of the photo, making it almost impossible for someone to just crop the watermark out of the image. As you can see in the photo included above, someone could crop the small watermark out of the image, leaving a large portion of the image still usable.
  • Apply the watermark. Using the software you picked earlier, just apply the watermark to your photos. This step probably will require the least amount of time.
  • Upload the photos. As you upload your photos that now contain the watermark, make sure you're uploading the correct copy of your image with the watermark. You may want to create a specific folder that only contains watermarked photos to help you avoid confusion.

    The Bottom Line

    Ultimately you have to decide whether the process is worth your time and expense. Very few photographers need to place a watermark on every photo they upload to a social networking website. If it's a quick snapshot of your family or a photo from a recent vacation, chances are pretty high that no one will want to steal that photo for use elsewhere. But if you've taken the time to set up a high-end photo, investing a little more time in inserting a watermark may be a good idea.