Watermarks are the scars of Satan. At best a watermark will flag you to the world as a pompous and vain-glorious amateur. At worst you will ruin a perfectly average photograph. Let’s face it – no one’s going to steal your picture of a lop-sided and over-saturated sunset or a dribbling toddler in a paddling pool. A watermark does not make your photograph any better. A watermark does not make you any more important. A watermark simply sits there smugly waiting for a round of applause. Hear that? Tumbleweed. You suck.
But the unlicensed use of imagery is an everyday irritant. Technically we own the intellectual copyright on a photograph and a third party has to ask our permission to use it. We’ve never refused a request to use one of our images. A credit would be nice. A simple “thank you”. It’s not always about the money. Great. Except that doesn’t always apply in the real world. In this golden age of anti-social media it is as easy as sin to simply steal an image and claim it for your own purpose. We’ll probably never know about your lazy arse
Water-marking is one solution. So is revenge. If some plinky-plonky bouzouki minstrels in Greece want to use a photograph to advertise their god-awful jamboree, then I’m going to demand they play songs I actually like. Only fair. Similarly, if Nike were foolhardy enough to use an image without our permission for a billboard campaign then I don’t see why I couldn’t walk into one of their shops and help myself to all their shoes. This is exactly what Henry Rollins did in a Tokyo bootleg record store. He simply picked up armfuls of illegal CDs – including one of his own – and dumped them on the counter. The clerk nodded and grinned and began to ring them up. When he got to Rollins’ own CD, he paused. We could see panic in his eyes. He looked up at Henry. Henry stared back at the little guy. The guy handed Henry back his CD and shook his hand. Then he pushed all the CDs back over the counter and held open the door. I never knew Henry Rollins liked Aerosmith.
Water-marking your photograph is like parading your penis in public. It shouts: STOP! WAIT! LOOK AT ME! LAUGH! The vast majority of photo thefts remain unsolved. This is because no one cares. In our experience people are more than happy to credit us, trade favours or even pay us some money. We’re always flattered that anyone noticed us at all. Personally I would be delighted if Killing Joke stole one of our photographs. Defacing an image for the sake of your own sense of self-importance is a vanity. The belief that a watermark will somehow add kudos to the image – that everyone will pause as they scroll through newsfeeds and tweets and take just a second to think Wow! They Know How To Frame A Giraffe For Sure! – is a delusion. In a matter of seconds your giraffe will have disappeared forever. The poor beast will have slipped from the newsfeeds and slowly sunk to the bottom of the world-wide-abyss. The giraffe might have survived if only you’d just scratched the whole watermark thing. You bastard! You just killed a giraffe!
So…water-marking photographs not only makes you look like a fool but also endangers the animal kingdom. Happy now?