Why I Dont Watermark My Photos

April 15 2013

What makes a good photograph?

The answer is that it's subjective. What's good to one person is trash to another. There may be certain guidelines that experts say can improve a photo, but at the end of the day the individual gets their way.

Now, I'm not very good at guessing what makes a photo important to someone else, but I do know that if I take a good photo of you or someone you love, you're going to like it.

That's the only trick I know that seems to get people every time. The fact that it is of, them.

Now, let me ask you a question: If I take a good photo of you, do you want someone else's name on the bottom of your photo?

No! You don't!

That's annoying.

That photo means way more to you than the photographer. That's your face.

Now, there do happen to be many good reasons in favor of watermarking- from branding to marketing, to professional style, but in my mind they all fall flat because none of them accomplish the most important fundamental of business:

Serve your customer!

Watermarking doesn't help the subject, in fact, they resent it. Watermarking is all about you and your business and I think fundamentally that is a backwards way of doing things.

I think you should be able to look your clients in the eye and be able to tell them : "I am doing everything in my power to serve you to the best of my ability. Everything I do is somehow focused on serving you."

Watermarking does nothing to serve them.

Given the subjective nature of beauty and the difficulty to take photographs that other people find important, why would you EVER put something in your photo which you know will have no personal value to anyone?

So then you say it's branding. That you need to be putting your name out there or no one will know who took the photos and then you'll never get any business.

Well. I disagree.

Do you know how you get business? It's all based off of doing good work and making a personal connection.

No one contacts you about doing their photos because they saw a watermark, they contact you because they asked their friend or co-worker where they got their awesome photos done and they get referred to you.

A personal connection is a thousand times stronger than a watermark.

There are very few situations in life where it is constructive to worry. If you're worried that if you stop water-marking that you'll lose business, shift the energy you're spending worrying into preparing more for your shoots and you'll get a far better return on your time.

Doing good work gets you jobs. People talking to people gets you jobs. Putting something irrelevant to the person who cares most about the photo all over the bottom corner of the frame does not get you jobs.

So then you say - "But if I don't watermark my photos, people will steal them!"

Good. Let them.

That's what happens when you do good work.

The best thing about being a photographer is that you get paid for making the photographs, not selling them individually.

This is not the music industry where we lose out when someone illegally downloads our content.

When someone books us for a wedding, we get paid. To try and squeeze money off of prints after the fact makes us look weak and penny-pinching. By now everyone knows they can go to Costco and get all the 4X6 prints they want for 13 cents each. They can make Shutterfly albums for $50. The days of adding on extra and getting double your money are over.

Charging for prints isn't the way to go. It's not even worth the trouble of taking the order, getting the print made, and delivering it because of how cheaply people can just go do it themselves.

I actually assume people are downloading my photos off of facebook and making prints.

I showed up at a wedding once and there was a whole table of photos from the engagement shoot I did with the couple that were straight off of facebook.

In short, worrying about losing business because you don't watermark is wasted energy.

Worry is the absence of faith that your work is good enough to get you jobs.

So instead of watermarking, do better work.

Game on.

- Nathan