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february 06 2012

Watermark and the 30% Transparency

written by: Christian Oth
Recently here at the Studio, we made the decision that all photos that get released over the web will have a watermark on them. This is not a new practice by any means. Many photographers, particularly wedding and portrait photographers, have embraced it for some time now. However, there has been some debate about whether or not it is appropriate for all social media platforms. Is the watermark necessary? Or are we just being a bit paranoid?

To begin with, I want to make it clear that this does not apply to photos that get published in a magazine, that go into an album or the hi-res files that we deliver to our clients. Simply to the ones that will be published in one capacity or another on the World Wide Web; whether on our own blog, submissions for other blogs, or web-ready files we send to our clients.

But why the heightened concern? The reality is when having your photos on the internet they become "public territory." They may start out on our blog or another's, such as Style Me Pretty, but the photos are very often re-posted on other blogs, go into inspiration galleries and are found on sites like Pinterest, etc. Although most bloggers & sites are diligent about photo credits, there are some that are not. There has also been a growing number of "Photo Pirates" out there who have used our (and other photographer's) work as their own - which is a mutually harmful practice, both for the original photographer and also for the clients.

As a photographer, I am responsible to my clients. Not only am I entrusted to document their very important day, but also to respect their privacy and identity.  Having a watermark on the image severely lessens the probability of the image being stolen or misappropriated. I say lessens, because the watermark could still be cropped or photoshopped out, but the likelihood is significantly minimized.

With these factors in mind, we moved forward with creating a non-invasive logo that could be watermarked onto the photos without being distracting.  Working with my graphic designer, Victoria Masters, we began the re-designing process. Of course, it took many rounds and many times waffling between round or square designs. In the end, it turned out the final logo would be neither round nor square, but instead square-ish!

In order to meet the challenge of not wanting the logo to take away from the photo or create a visual distraction, we decided against having colors in the logo and kept it as simple as possible. The same principal applied to the decision on the opacity of the watermark. We wanted to avoid the "baked-on" appearance, so we went with a 30% transparency, allowing the watermark to seem more like an embossing (see example below).

Maryam Sepehri and Luis Jimenez - Shawn Connell of Christian Oth StudioMaryam Sepehri and Luis Jimenez - Shawn Connell of Christian Oth StudioMaryam Sepehri and Luis Jimenez - Shawn Connell of Christian Oth Studio

As you can see in the first example above, a full, 100% opacity creates a very visible, very loud watermark which distracts not only the eye, but also creates a harshness to an otherwise gentle image. The second photo is an example of a 50% opacity watermark which is still, in our opinion, too harsh and distracting. The final image is our actual watermark at 30% opacity that is applied to our photos for web-use. The image is as such, undeterred. The composition, gentility and beauty of the image is apparent and unscathed by the watermark, however the image, it's original photographer and client are all in a sense "protected" but not inhibited.

By putting a watermark on an image we also embrace ownership of the photo; a level of quality and pride that is to be expected from us. It is a way of branding that speaks to our level of photography, our attention to detail and our love of our work. It is the same with any other brand out there, be it fashion, cars or stationery. The glorious result of which translates back to the moment when I click the shutter, creating a resounding echo in my head: will it be good enough for the watermark?



Shane Carpenter over 1 year ago

Well stated (and implemented)!

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