When I post an image online to photo sharing site (like Flickr) I put a watermark on nearly every photo I upload. I do my best to make it so the watermark does not overpower the photo – the ones I use are usually small, and sometimes even blended into the background so it’s not the first thing you look at.

Last month I had some comments on an image of mine that said the watermark I used (the basic watermark you can embed to your images using Lightroom 2) was, in a nutshell, distracting and pointless. They went on to ask why I would even use one in the first place, since if someone wanted to steal an image of mine then they could just clone it out?

Fast-forward to last week, when I discovered that one of my photos was being used illegally on a website. The funny part? My watermark was right there on the bottom-left corner of the image. The fact that my name was printed on the image probably helped in its quick removal after sending a DMCA takedown notice to the hosting agent.

So, why do I watermark? I make my living licensing images and rely on those earnings to pay my bills. I watermark to try to protect my images from theft and yes, if someone wants to steal an image then it will still happen. If someone wants to steal my car then it will happen, too, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to leave my car unlocked to make it easier for them. I would much rather share my images and add a small watermark than not share them at all.

Also, keep in mind that watermarks can also be used as a marketing tool. I oftentimes give the people I photograph “web-sized” images with my watermark on it for them to post on Facebook/Flickr/etc. If you do the same and your name and/or website is clearly visible on an image then it can make it easier for potential clients to find you if they like your photographic style.

Whether or not you watermark your images is up to you, and I personally don’t think that there is a right or wrong way of doing it. Ultimately it’s a personal choice and all photographers have different ways of displaying their photography, so choose the method that works best for you