“In my day, we didn’t need watermarks!”
It used to be that you’d post something on your blog and it pretty much stayed associated with your blog. There were fewer bloggers (and no social media users) back then, and a higher percentage of us seemed to understand ownership and copyright and nifty things like that. (Not everyone – it wasn’t a perfect world back then, either.)
But then social media arrived on the scene, and big “aggregator” blogs grew up, and we’ve ended up in a culture where people are sharing more and more, and looking for more and more stuff to share. And, with exponentially more people doing this sharing, the amount of misuse out there is staggering.
If you’re a blogger nowadays, I highly recommend that you start watermarking any photos you consider important. I won’t lie; it’s a right pain in the patootie, and something I am still trying to retrain my brain to do. But the way the crafty web works, watermarking gives you a fighting chance at keeping your name associated with your creations.
Why watermarks matter now
Hoo Boy, are there a lot of ways that you and your beautiful blog images can be torn asunder! Shall I share an example? OK… a while back, I made this tutorial for Singleton buttons for CraftStylish.com. On that website, the project is clearly attributed to me.
…However, on Pinterest recently, I ran across the pin above, which represents someone taking most of the images out of my tutorial, leaving off my name and CraftStylish, and just posting them as a visual how-to. Now, I don’t blame the pinner, Knitting Guru, for this; she was repinning this, from a Spanish website called Pinspire. Knitting Guru had no way to know she was repinning stolen content. Heck, I can’t even tell if the Pinspire pinner had nefarious intent!
Niiiiice. And then 46 people have repinned Knitting Guru’s pin. None of them has any way to know that this is my work, nor any way to know that it was misappropriated. And yet this stolen version spreads all over.
Another example: this sharpening pin cushion how-to of mine has been repinned many times from the pin above. As you can see, the pin is attributed not to my blog, but to spilledagain.blogspot.com. What’s worse is that spilledagain.blogspot.com has been made private, so anyone clicking through any of those pins lands on a dead-end. Nobody actually gets to my tutorial, because the original pin was bad.
Image by Hans Gerwitz, via Flickr
So, yeah. Pinterest alone has spawned a whole mess of mis-attribution. But Pinterest isn’t our only problem.
Curation and sharing present other hazards for bloggers. As the web has grown, more and more blogs have sprung up that collect and share links to other people’s stuff. Many of these do so with respect to creators, but for every blog that does, there are dozens of smaller sites run by uninformed (or non-caring) folks who just share the photos without any credits or links at all. And if your photo ends up on one of those sites, it might as well be in the public domain – it’s nearly impossible to track it down as it’s re-shared and re-pinned.
Image by vividbreeze, via Flickr
…But even the aggregator blogs that do respect creators present hazards for bloggers. I’ll say something a little controversial now. It’s true that aggregator blogs bring us bursts of traffic when they link to us, and we should be grateful for that. But… I have to wonder sometimes: when people see a project of mine on, say, CRAFT or CraftGossip or Tip Junkie, how often do they actually recognize that project as coming from me?
The big websites have an identity of their own, and readers rely on them to present “lots of ideas” – and hell, I read all of them for that very reason. But when the same project gets shared by, say, Geek Crafts, and then picked up by Neatorama, and Neatorama credits Geek Crafts for the find, and then I share the link on Sulia and credit Neatorama, where does this leave the original creator?
Again, a watermark on any photos these sites might share at least gives you a shot at keeping your own name in there somewhere. (And no offense meant at all to the sites mentioned above. I’m not finding fault here; just observing phenomena.)
Image by luciano.martins, via Flickr
See what I mean? Releasing images into the wild is really releasing them into the wild nowadays! But if your images are watermarked, then no matter what kind of bumpy journey they take on the internet, you can make sure your blog’s name and URL goes along with them, and people can still get back to you.
How do you watermark, then?
The method you use to add watermarks depends entirely on what kind of photo-editing software you like to use. If you use Photoshop, for example, it has text capability built in, and you can easily add your blog’s name and URL as you’re doing your other edits. A Google search for “how to add watermarks in Photoshop [the version you have]“ will yield you tutorials for lots of different methods.
If you edit your images in Picasa, you can add a simple watermark as part of the process of exporting your images after editing.
If you use iPhoto, then you’re stuck importing your photos into a separate tool for watermarking after you’ve edited them. (*sends a raised-eyebrow glare to Apple*)
I’m currently using Picmarkr for this purpose, and it’s pretty easy. The watermarks aren’t all that fancy, but they work. You can even pull images from your Flickr account or Facebook and add watermarks, and then export them right back.
There’s also Pixlr, which I quite like for both edits and watermarks. it’s a free online tool. Play around with several options and see what’s easiest for you.
Image by reway2007, via Flickr