I’m going to get this out of the way first: I don’t like watermarks. I use them, but I don’t like putting them on my photos.

Oh sure, I can name all the reasons that many of us put watermarks on our photos. People can more easily find and quickly identify your photos, it makes it more difficult to steal them, and on and on.

And sure, it helps. I’ve been contacted by numerous people who found my website and contacted me about purchasing prints or publishing my work in magazines.

But there’s one more reason why photographers might watermark their images.

The most commonly overlooked reason to watermark photos

Even at midnight, these trucks are ready to race your way and help you with copyright infringement. Just kidding. It’s a night photo to demonstrate my ever-so-slightly-too-obvious watermark.

People are always quick to say, “Well, anyone who really wants to steal your photo can easily remove your watermark or crop it out. And that is absolutely true.

However, there’s a catch to that. You might say that the removal of your watermark indicates that the alleged infringer knew that this was wrong and tried to cover it up. In legal terms, removal of your watermark makes it easier to indicate willful infringement.

In other words, it’s far more challenging for the defendant to claim, “Well, I didn’t know.”

Demonstrating intent

The idea here, of course, is that demonstrating intent makes your claim for damages against the infringer stronger.

After all, it’s challenging for someone to argue that they didn’t know when they had to remove your watermark. Is this foolproof? Of course not. What is?

The defense may attempt to claim negligence. Negligence is a less culpable mental state than willful infringement, after all.

Did I mention that I don’t like watermarks?

I’m not trying to talk anyone into using watermarks. I have a love/hate relationship with them myself. I’ve sometimes gone years without putting them on, only to reverse course.

Watermarks don’t have to be obtrusive. A small subtle logo or words are sufficient. I lessen the opacity on mine so they are not as obvious. But admittedly, I could probably make them even less obtrusive, and maybe I’ll work on that.

Want to be even more sure about protecting your photos?

Copyright them at the U.S. Copyright Office. Sure, you own the copyright when you initially create your photograph. But like demonstrating willful infringement, actually having a copyright in hand helps you make a considerably more airtight case.

Here’s my disclaimer!

This is my opinion. I am not a lawyer. I am not sleeping with a lawyer. I don’t even play a lawyer on TV. I don’t know a tort from a tart.

If you feel this is interesting information, I invite you to explore the wide world of copyright infringement more.