You all know the debate about watermarks. Should we use them? Do they really help protect our photographs? There are plusses and minuses — it might help to secure your photos (well, that is until Google debunked them), but it also takes away from the clean look of a sharp photograph.

And while I’m not here to debate on whether you should utilize watermarks for copyright purposes, I am here to tell you why watermarks shouldn’t be utilized from a marketing standpoint.

There’s no call to action

As a beginning photographer, I utilized watermarks to secure my photos, in addition to getting the word out about my business. But I never once got an e-mail or a call from someone who said “I saw your watermarked photos, and would like to hire you.”

Watermarks don’t link to your website, or your social media accounts. People viewing your photos can’t click on your watermarks to learn more about you. They don’t help in generating new leads, because there’s no easy way for prospective clients to find you.

Stop the madness!

They can appear unprofessional

Depending on where you place your watermark, they can take away from the overall appeal of an image, therefore lessening the chance that someone will want to find out more about your business.

Imagine a prospective client. They see a Facebook album full of your photos, but each photo has a watermark right in the center of the photo. Half of the photos have faces that are partly covered by your watermark. That person will never think “Boy, this photographer is really professional because he/she has a watermark on every image. I should hire him/her.” Instead, they’ll think “I wish this watermark wasn’t here so I could really see the full image! I want to hire this photographer, but I don’t want to see a watermark all over the images I share online.”

Likewise, if your watermark is small and in the corner, it can easily be cropped out, giving them little to no purpose of protecting your copyright.

There are better alternatives

Simply put, there are much better ways to get the word out.

When my clients share their photos on social media, instead of putting a watermark in the lower right corner, I ask for them to tag my Facebook page or Instagram account. And most of the time, they’re happy to oblige.

Doing this achieves one main goal — leading prospective clients to your social media accounts, without them having to search around for you. They see your name in the photo caption, and they click it. That’s it. There’s no searching, and no hunting around Facebook or Instagram.

If they share your photos in a blog post, or pass them along to the local media, ask for a photo credit with a link to your website or most active social media account. Again, having easily clickable links gives you the chance to easily convert potential clients into customers.

What about copyright?

Going back to the concern about copyright and security, there are several other ways to make it known that your image is protected, and not open for sharing and use by third parties.

For me, I put a copyright statement on every image. You can set this up through Lightroom’s import process, so you never have to think twice about it. Copyright 2021, Amazing Photographer Person.

Keep in mind this isn’t an end-all solution though; some social networks (like Facebook) strip out a photo’s EXIF data, including copyright.

In that case, it’s important to keep an eye on your photos. Pixsy offers a great free service that will help you connect your social media networks to monitor the usage of the photos you post. Any time there’s a red flag, you get alerted, and they can help you with things like takedown notices and even getting some money out of companies who have chosen to use your photos without permission.

Focus on growth strategies and client relations

I understand the desire to protect your images from illegal usage. I’ve been a victim of copyright infringement a few times, including once by a major organization in my region. The fact of the matter is, that will never go away, whether your image is watermarked or not.

Watermarks don’t help to grow your business. Being smart about sharing and client relations, however, can help boost your business over time, and will ultimately be more effective than putting your branding on every image you create.