"Why Do You Have To Put Your Watermark All Over Our Photos?!" - Here's Why...

Dear Reader, I apologise in advance if any of my words and explanations sound somewhat angry but I am writing from a place of experience, having had my work recently used without my consent and subsequently having had to delete all of my Blog content as well as re-designing my website!

I suspect that many people do not fully understand why professional photographers appear to be so precious, and downright mean, about posting images online, and insist on splashing their name or a copyright mark right in the middle of it. 

I also suspect that most are wrong in their assumptions as to why this practice is, now more than ever, an absolute must and  the reason why I am making this post. 

First of all, let's clarify the main issue at hand: Photographs taken by me, as a professional, are much more than merely "just pictures" - They are the lifeblood of my business, the result of hours of work, many years of training and business investment and someone's beloved memories, and simply because they are not a physical print it does not mean that their unauthorised use it is not theft - This is what Copyright law is about. Watermarking is a commonly used way of providing clear and visible authorship information.

The unauthorised usage of images is actual theft under UK Copyright Law and no different from taking a physical item. This is applicable to any photograph, be it in print or posted online, from a professional or amateur photographer alike.

''Professional photography theft and misuse is a reality, and one we face more and more every day. The issue is so widespread that there are now websites dedicated to naming-and-shaming photographers and businesses who steal from other photographers and pass off images as their own''

So why am I choosing to now bring up this subject? 

It is simply a perfect storm of having always wanted to put this on record, having been asked by clients in the past why I choose to watermark all my images online, and the more recent theft of my own photos and their use without my permission or knowledge in a Chinese site. 

"Does that mean that watermarking does not work, I hear you ask?"

No, it does not... At the time I found this out I immediately assumed the images of  a whole wedding were taken from my website and the watermarked removed, and immediately took all the image galleries and Blog down to ensure every image was marked quite clearly.

However, what I came to realise was that my work, and that wedding in particular, was recently featured at an online Weddings Website (with my permission) and as the website needs the images not to be watermarked, this is where the images were stolen from. Of this I have no doubt. 

Although I do not blame the website which featured my work, I will no longer be taking part in such online features unless my work is fully and clearly watermarked. Lesson learned.

As for the offending site, I am currently pursuing them for copyright breach.

For those who may still think that a watermark is simply a way to stop you from sharing your images with your family and friends, this is not the case... I actively encourage my clients to share their photos on social media and even provide web-ready images for that purpose. All I ask is that the watermark not be cropped off.

The next time you wonder why wedding or portrait images are being put online with a watermark all over remember that these images are the actual product from a photographer's business and how we earn our living, and this is why we seek to protect these from being illegally used.

Andrea de Gabriel