Watermarking your shop photos – why it’s a bad idea

I saw a discussion within one of the teams I am in on Etsy a few days ago which started off with someone listing some  reasons as to why you should definitely watermark your photos. I disagreed with pretty much every single one of them.

I made my opinion known in the thread, yet people continued to answer the original post with things like “ooo thank you I will definitely be watermarking all my photos from now on” and short of yelling STOP right there, I felt helpless in telling them the other side of the story as many don’t read the rest of the thread (and when there’s like 6 pages or more of thread to be honest, who has time to!?).

Starting another thread with “why not to watermark your photos” felt like a personal attack on the person who wrote the other post, and I didn’t want to do that. But it did feel like a subject I would like to put out there for more than the people who are in that particular team. I see watermarked photos on sites like Etsy and Folksy so often it’s obvious some people think they’re a good thing, but I would like to give a few reasons as to why they really could turn people off  buying from your shop.

So, down to those reasons why I think watermarking your photos could be damaging to your shop sales:

  • First and foremost as this seems to be many people’s reason for watermarking their photos – contrary to what seems to be popular belief, the steeling or “pirating” of images is not actually that rife, it would be highly unlikely for most shops on sites like Etsy and Folksy to ever have their images stolen
  • Following on from that last point – if you were for example, selling art, prints or photography and you felt the need to watermark your photos then remember this – the photos you upload to your shop will only be 72dpi (screen resolution). Anyone who attempts to print these out for their personal gain is going to get a very, very poor image quality as print quality needs to be 300dpi. They are therefore unlikely to get any monetary gain from your work, at best they’ll end up with a badly pixelated image in their bedroom wall. Just be careful you’re not uploading high (print) quality images to the web
  • Watermarking is something that is more often than not, done badly. What is meant to be a subtle kiss of a branding icon is turned into some kind of pink shouting monster or the handmade shop version of the person in front of you at a gig with an umbrella – it obscures the very item you’re trying to see
Bad Watermarking example

It pains me to do this but I have actually seen people watermark THIS badly. This is a great example of what NOT to do.

  • Getting featured in treasuries and therefore your chances of appearing on the front page of Etsy will be slim, at best. Not once have I ever seen a watermarked image on the front page of Etsy – I’m not saying it’s never happened as obviously I haven’t been able to personally witness every change to the Etsy front page, but it’s rare. I personally would never include a watermarked photos in one of my treasury lists
  • Getting featured on blogs, like above, will be difficult. People like to feature beautiful images where the item is clearly visible. If the blogger is using the image without your permission and not giving you any credit then do take it further, but chances are they will give credit, and people may then go to your shop from it. People using your images in their blogs (when you get a mention) is great publicity. Heck, even if you don’t get a mention, people could still come to your shop should they search for the item in google and you’ve tagged your items correctly 😉 A watermarked photo probably won’t get a chance in the first place
  • There was an argument that when people search for things and look through google images, you’re shop will be getting some valuable advertising. Lets say you watermark your photos well. People see who the item is by, great. But do they then click further? Maybe not, because they know where they can get that item. Without a watermark they have no way of knowing where to get that item unless they click on the photo – and once they click on the photo, they’re in your shop, where you can amaze them with all your other wonderful items and well, you never know, next might come a sale!
Better Watermark Example

This is an example of some better watermarking, it's a lot more subtle - barely visible. Hopefully afer reading this post you won't feel the need but please, if you do, make it this subtle. If you have trouble doing it, get a graphic designer on the job.

Now, seeing as many people will still fear their images being stolen and still insist on (badly) watermarking their photos I now offer you a challenge!

The Challenge

If you are a regular reader of my blog, follower on Twitter or Facebook perhaps then you may be aware that in my day job I am a graphic designer. What I would like to prove is that a watermark can be removed from most photos. So I would like some volunteers to submit to me a photo from their shop which they have watermarked, and I will attempt to remove it, thus rendering the image free of it’s watery shackles and open to the evil image pirates of the world wide web. I would be especially interested in receiving photos from people who have had their images stolen and resorted to watermarking as a deterrent.


To challenge me please leave a comment with a link to your item photo plus why you think watermarking is a good idea and I will pick some to take on!

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4 Comments

  1. Lena

     /  May 13, 2011

    Thanks for the post, Linzi. It was really interesting and I definitely agree with you!

    Reply
  2. I totally agree! I gave several reasons for not adding watermarks on that very same thread and to my dismay people keep chiming in saying what a great idea it is 😦 Sad and fustrating. Boo’urns. Anyways, I love your post! Hopefully people thinking of watermarking… will think twice.

    Reply
  3. COMPLETELY AGREE!!!
    xoxo
    bB
    please stop by and say hi
    http://www.itsybitsybrianna.wordpress.com

    Reply
  4. Very interesting post. I’m not on etsy but have sometimes not used great items for my Folksy Friday posts because they are watermarked. I’d be interested to see your challenge too
    Gemxxx

    Reply

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