My verdict, from over 5 years in the photography and social media industry, was clear. “NO! Do not use watermarks.” I promised to write an entire post to convince you, the reader, to never use a watermark again.
Before I go through these points, I'm going to say that I had these very thoughts early in my career to justify watermarking my own images. Anyone from beginners to seasoned pros still watermark today. You may share the same opinions. I will then follow with a rebuttal and play devil's advocate on how my opinion of watermarking has completely changed recently.
1. Watermarks Don't Protect You From Piracy
It does not matter. If someone wants to steal your image, by any means they indeed will. There's the good and the bad; the pros and the cons; and that's just the nature of the beast that is the internet. They will blatantly crop out your image, screenshot your image, or if they're savvy enough, they will clone it out.
Also, there are apps out there that will remove watermarks in just a few clicks. If your watermark is toward the edge of the photo, it is even easier. A thief can simply crop the watermark or logo out of the image. In no way, shape or form, does a simple watermark protect you. The only exception to this is a full image watermark, the kind that stock photography companies use to protect images. These are impossible to remove completely.
2. You Don’t Need a Watermark to Appear Professional
This can potentially backfire if not done correctly. Contrary to looking professional, some watermarks can come across as tacky. I will put together a few examples of watermark placements that I see often on the web that can be distracting.
3. Watermarks Hurt Your Chances of Getting Published or Featured
Watermarks hinder the opportunities for getting shared because they make it impossible for companies, blogs, and social media channels (like my @flppublic Instagram account) to feature your work. When I look for images hashtagged #flppublic, any watermark or personal reference makes me skip over the image. Watermarks are just plain ugly and go against the brand image we are cultivating. This translates over to wedding blogs, lifestyle blogs, magazines and more. No one wants your watermark. No one.
4. No One Can Read Your Watermark Anyway
Watermarks are often impossible to read. Especially if you use any kind of calligraphy font. No one is going to see your small and non-readable watermark and say “I want to hire this photographer! Now, I’m going to spend the next few minutes figuring out what the logo says, and then search blindly through Google to find the photographer.” If someone wants to credit you they will in the caption or post. Preferably with a link directly to your website.